I write these words early on a dreary, cold, rain-soaked morning. The darkness and the solitude seem appropriate as I put the final touches on the publicity for events and programs which will be part of our Lenten program. Over in the sanctuary, there are folks who are praying – or will soon be praying – to ready their spirits for the Lenten journey to come.
I write these words two days after the rash of texts and phone calls that told us that my brother’s wife had suffered a stroke, was not responding, and yes, had then left us and slipped into the mystery. She was the “other” Linda Walling – I have her in my phone as “Linda Walling 2” but she preferred the moniker “Queenie.” I have no idea how or why the rest of the family bestowed that nickname on her, but it kind of fit other than that she had a certain regal air about her. She was still a child when she lost her parents and was raised by relatives. She and Dale married when his boys were still pretty young, and she brought a great deal of love not just to Dale but to Max and Sam. In addition, she has two sons and two granddaughters. She will be deeply missed.
I write these words in the wake of the painful United Methodist deliberations about who can be ordained to ministry and who can be married to one another. We have good Methodist colleagues in ministry who feel deeply violated by the outcome of the vote, and we all have friends in Methodist congregations who are now left to suffer through one more judgment about the rightness of their loves.
I write these words with a congregation in mind that is enduring surgeries and illnesses, grief and mourning, loss and anxiety. I have often heard it said that “a mother can only be as happy as her least happy child.” It makes you wonder if a pastor can only be as happy as his or her least happy congregant. Probably not, but it is a reminder that we – you and I – are at every moment tied in love to someone who is walking uphill and carrying a burden.
I write these words . . . well, you get the gist of what I am saying. Lent will be upon us soon. Lent – those days of death and darkness . . . that season of sin and sadness. Lent – that wilderness time that is a reminder that Jesus spent time in the desert. Indeed, there is nothing that we experience that our Lord has not shared with all humanity. The Gospels assure us that the only path to resurrection is through the rough country . . . that the only true experience of resurrection is revealed in loss.
So, join me in the journey.
Write your words – your experiences of the painful quiet and the dark loneliness of our spirits’ winters.
Blessings and Peace,
And a Postscript . . .
And let me offer you a little heads-up about a new offering for us beginning this summer. Some of our worshipers have come to find communion by Intinction – that is by taking bread and dipping it into the cup – to be a most meaningful way to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. So, for the next several weeks, we will have one of our Deacons presenting a plate with bread and a chalice with juice somewhere at the front of the sanctuary. It could be a little rough as we work out the logistics, so bear with us. For most of you, the wafer and cup of juice will be served to you in the pews. But if you are one of those who prefers a loaf and a cup to dip in, find our Intinction Station.
It has been said that one hundred is the new seventy-five. (Okay, maybe that had not been said until I just wrote the words, but from this time forth, let it be said.) This weekend, we will celebrate Jim Boswell’s one hundredth birthday. On Sunday, after worship, we shall reassemble in the Parlor to sing and eat cake. It will be sort of a prelude to the Super Bowl activities scheduled for later in the day which I am guessing will be anticlimactic to the Boswell celebration. The fact is that we are getting fairly proficient at this centennial celebrating, having had a little bash in September when Catherine Cubberley hit the century mark.
At any rate, I thought I should try to put our dear friend’s time among us into some kind of perspective. So, consider the following: Jim was born on February 2, 1919 – a Sunday. Woodrow Wilson was President, and World War I had ended just three months earlier. Jackie Robinson was born three days before and Eva Gabor was born nine days after Jim. That year, the most popular boy’s name was “John.” So while our party will be on the 3rd, we note that Jim’s actual date of birth is the 2nd. That is to say, when we finally get around to singing “Happy Birthday,” we will technically be celebrating Jim’s 100.00003rd birthday. That is because more than 36,500 days have come and gone since Jim entered this world.
If he is average (which he most certainly is not), he has spent more than 12,000 of those days sleeping. By another measurement, he has been knocking around earth for more than 50 million minutes . . . more than 3 billion seconds – his first billion seconds of life passed sometime on October 11th, 1950. From another perspective, I can tell you that there have been 1,237 full moons in Jim’s lifetime. (Do you wonder which one he enjoyed the most – I’m guessing it may have been one involving Mozelle).
Okay – here is something interesting. In dog years, Jim is now 465 years old. (Doesn’t matter – he still has the firmest paw shake I have ever felt.) Well, enough of my foolishness. I know I speak for all of us when I say that we are looking forward to Sunday. Jim is a wonderful family man, a giving friend, a national hero and an extraordinary man of faith, and as always in such moments, we can say that we have been the ones truly blessed by his days among us.
o, assemble on Sunday.
Bring a card with you that shares some of your memories and affections for this good man.
And let the candles be lit and the cake be cut.
Blessings and Peace,
#fccwilsonnc #ncdisciples #ccdoc #turning100 #100yearsyoung #century #happybirthday
There are moments which define life and faith and work and the ties that bind. There are moments that open our eyes and tell us more than we knew or even suspected. The Christmas Day community lunch went off with hardly a hitch. Leslie Kendall spent December overseeing weddings, so she tasked Bob with the duty of organizing the event. That assignment might have been daunting for many folks, but Bob is the consummate planner. Plus, Leslie handed Bob a notebook . . . a very thick notebook . . . with an abundance of memos.
So, in the weeks leading up to the event, people signed up to bring tableware, fruit, candy, green beans, fruit cocktail, and punch . . . and they brought it all. The CWF anchored the desert table with a dozen cakes while others added to the decadence. Plas-tic ware got wrapped and tied in napkins. Tables were set-up and decorated. The preced-ing weekend, Robert Wells and Ricky Brown cooked extra Boston Butts (the original donat-ed butts had been delivered to others because the CMF had such a successful sale).
The day came, and the Episcopalians showed up with potatoes. The Methodists opened their doors for some post-meal gifting. Kathy Sandifer took up her station at the piano. Theresa Mathis gave instructions to some 60-70 volunteers. The doors were thrown open. The banquet was on! I am told that we served a record 233 men, women and children.
Now some of you may be wondering what the preacher’s job is for an event this immense. By Christmas day, ministers are in a state of some exhaustion. We are moving slowly, so this preacher tries to stay out of the way. I put up half of a sign . . . I unlocked one door . . . I located some extra garbage bags. The rest of the time, I chit-chatted with volunteers and guests.
It was in pursuit of this last ministerial function that one of our volunteers told me that one of the children at the table she was serving said to her, "This is my best Christmas ever!"
There are moments which define life and faith and work and the ties that bind. There are moments that open our eyes and tell us more than we knew or even suspected.
To imagine that a child of some unknown age could say that a meal in a church fellowship hall constituted the very best of his Christmases, however many that had been – 5, 7, 10. A glass of punch and a plate of food . . . a bag of fruit and candies . . . a couple of moments to pick out a toy in the hallway outside the food area . . . a couple of people offering a smile and a greeting – to try to imagine how that makes for the best Christmas ever will bring you to tears.
Someone asked me whether I thought there were more children this year than in previous years. It seemed like it to this observer. I can’t really say. What I can say is that when you break it all down, a fellowship hall can serve as a kind of stable – it has a barn-like quality, after all. It is large and mostly empty until you fill it with hay or tables or whatever. But of all the places through which I wandered this season, I am pretty sure that it was in our fellowship hall/stable/banquet room that Christmas was most alive.
Presumably, Bob has returned Leslie’s notebook though it may be a little thicker now. On we go, into 2019 – Ring out the old, ring in the new!
Blessings and Peace,
One of the Walling holiday traditions is watching the classic, Christmas Vacation. Kristen and Ryan have watched it with Linda and me for most of their lives, and we put it on the television again this year while they were home for Thanksgiving. We have memorized virtually every line, and we stop and back up the recording to play through our favorite quotes.
There are other movies that we will watch: I put on Fred Claus every year; Ryan has Elf with Buddy’s (Will Ferrell) four food groups (candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup); Linda and Kristen have their Hallmark movies. Other assorted flicks get regular air time when we are together at Christmas: Skipping Christmas, Four Christmases, Deck the Halls, and Santa Clause 1,2, 3, and up. A fight almost broke out this year over the merits of Prancer – I said, Absolutely; Kristen said, Probably; Ryan said, Not even Top 25; and Linda asked, Have I seen it? And yes, we reach back for the classics from time-to-time: White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life.
But, I digress – back to Christmas Vacation. In the absurd chance that you have not seen the movie, Chevy Chase plays Clark Griswold, a bumbling guy who is trying to pull off the perfect Christmas for his wife, two children, and visiting parents and in-laws. This involves decorating his house with 250 strands of lights, 100 individual bulbs per strand, for a grand total of 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights. Everything goes wrong: his wife’s idiot cousin shows up; his boss is meaner than Scrooge, and along with his own terrible decisions, soon his perfect Christmas is crashing . . . and by “crashing,” you should be thinking SWAT Team.
On a side note, this is the 30th anniversary of the premier of the movie, which has led to Hallmark creating special ornaments which Linda found and gave to each child. I did even better – she gave me a pair of eggnog glasses that are shaped like a moose head, complete with antlers. (You had to see the movie.)
So, my favorite line above all my other favorite lines, comes when a squirrel gets loose in the house and terrifies everyone. They are hiding behind Clark who is working up the courage to capture the squirrel, when his father steps out, squares his shoulders, and says with determination, I’m going in with him! I hoot and howl. I replay the line five times. I high-five Ryan and promise him that when the moment comes, I too will go in with him.
Yes, that is how a minister’s family prepares for Christmas. We are not proud of ourselves. But what we learned long ago due to the hideous December schedules of not one, but two ministers, is that there has never been, nor will there ever be, a perfect Christmas. We have been left to find the hope and the peace, the joy and the love in the margins amid microwave meals and finding out at 1am Christmas morning that we have twenty gifts to wrap and no scotch tape (see if there’s a Christmas movie on . . . it’s going to be a long night.) Not that you need to worry about us . . . we have always found the Christmas spirit, sooner or later.
As for the first Christmas, my guess is that it was more like the Griswold-Walling Christmases than the ones you see on Christmas cards. A pregnant woman riding a hundred miles on a bouncing donkey . . . no room at the hotel . . . sleeping in a barn . . . scruffy shepherds knocking on the door. A squirrel loose in the stable would have been the least of their problems.
But they found the meaning of the night – the hope, the peace, the joy, the love. They discovered the gift from God. As shall we again this year . . . as shall we.
Blessings and Peace,
#fccwilsonnc #ncdisciples #wanderings #christmasvacation #advent #calmandbright #hope #ccdoc
Careful What You Pray For
What more can you tell us, you ask me, as I move to the second sermon in this series that could just as well be titled, Things That I Have Learned Sitting at the Foot of John Glover. Well, over the years, John has told me a half-dozen times that it is best to be careful about what you ask for.
The advice surfaced again early this summer after we had planted the Season of Faith garden. We hit an immediate dry spell, so I was fretting about all the young sprouts that had fought through the ground. They were young, fragile, without much in the way of root systems. As a result, they were forever wilting. In the city, we would know what to do – turn on the sprinkler. And we actually had a hose and a sprinkler running from a faucet coming out of a well next to the garden. But you will understand that that is a lot of watering for a garden that is 40 acres . . . er, a fourth of an acre. Whatever, John is used to farming hundreds of acres, and for the most part, it just won’t work to go to Lowe’s and get garden hoses.
No, when you are farming over against gardening, you have to irrigate the old-fashioned way – by imploring the Almighty to help.
Which is what some of us were doing. There were all the bad jokes about how the preacher has connections with the good Lord and therefore should take responsibility for getting some rain. And one Saturday morning, I laughingly made the promise: I guarantee we will have rain . . . by Tuesday. Our Secretary of Agriculture cringed. He said, Slow down, Preacher! I looked his way, and he was shaking his head. My daddy told me a long time ago that a dry July can hurt you, but a wet July can ruin you.
I thought about his words of caution after Hurricane Florence dumped ten inches of rain on us. I went out to the garden to try to pick the last eggplants and okra, but I had to sink into the mud a half-dozen inches to get to them. The wind and rain had pretty much demolished everything, even the pumpkins we were hoping to harvest this fall. And yes, it was a wet September, not July, but John’s point stood out nonetheless. You think you want rain? Be careful.
And life its ownself regularly furnishes us ample proof that we may not be able to discern what would be good for us. Fortune Magazine tells us that the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards says nearly a third of lottery winners declare bankruptcy—meaning they were worse off than before they became rich. Other studies show that lottery winners frequently become estranged from family and friends, and incur a greater incidence of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, and suicide than the average American.
It might lead one to conclude that maybe wealth is not all it is cracked up to be . . . or fame . . . or big careers . . . or whatever it is that we fall asleep at night dreaming about.
Perhaps we do well to distinguish here between praying and wanting. The Gospels record Jesus as assuring us that if we believe we will receive what we are praying for, we will indeed receive it. I have seen enough unanswered prayers to have my doubts though, of course, it could be that caveat – maybe people fail in prayer because they don’t really believe. Or maybe it is that other condition that Jesus is recorded saying elsewhere – that God gives
good things to those who ask, suggesting that there needs to be a rightness, a wholeness, to what we are asking for.
Or perhaps we do not have to distinguish between our prayers and those things we ask for in other ways. Ask for rain/pray for rain – I think John’s caution may apply to either.
But let’s move to get on point for today seed which is sprouting in our church’s life. What is it that we want? What are we asking for God to create in our life together here at Tarboro and Vance?
Well, here – and all the other places where I have been part of church as a minister or a lay person – I have heard church members talk about what they want for the church. Mostly, it has been to grow. Occasionally, someone has probed that ask: why do you want the church to grow? At times, someone has been able to articulate a sense of evangelistic calling . . . of bringing others closer to God.
But sometimes, the rationale for growth has been more awkward: to pay the bills . . . to replace members who have moved or died or gone to care facilities. Sometimes, the reason for wanting growth has been to put some people in the pews so the sanctuary won’t seem empty. (It is like going to a movie and there are only 5 other people in the theater – it is weird. When the bad guy jumps out, there is no angst or energy around us.) Maybe it is fair to ask how self-serving some prayers sound in the ear of God.
And here is the other thing – and I am fairly sure you have witnessed this as well from time to time. Sometimes, the church will experience a growth spurt . . . but what often follows is some irritation at what those newcomers are doing and saying.
I arrive some Sunday morning half-way through the first hymn – just like I always do – and somebody is sitting in my pew . . . the very pew that I have been sitting in since I graduated out of the nursery. What’s going on here?
Nothing can evoke the language of we and they like the arrival of some new folks.
I want the church to grow!
Well, be careful what you ask for, because if God sees fit to answer that prayer, then everything I love may get another look:
music . .
communion . . .
video screens in the sanctuary . . .
the translation of the Lord’s Prayer . . .
the time of the worship services.
Of course, numerical growth is not the only thing to ask for our church. Maybe it is to become a launching pad for service to our community and the world. Maybe it is to be a well where spirits are nourished and lives are refashioned. Maybe it is to become a place of intellectual depth where people can raise questions and hear more than just the pablum of religious words. Maybe it is something that no one but you has thought of yet but which could transform lives.
But whatever you ask for with respect to First Christian Church, be careful. Be careful. And maybe when we think it through, what we should really ask for is nothing . . . just for God to keep things like they have always been. Yes, that would be the safest thing to ask for.
Because if we ask for something more, any answer will come with a whole set of demands of us. For sure, the sprouting and growth is God’s miracle, but there is still much for us to do – the weeding . . . the fertilizing . . . the watering . . . the harvesting.
We can’t ask and then sit back and watch. We can’t ask and then say, But I’m too old or I’m too young or I’m too busy or I’m too whatever.
Our theme is sprouting. And maybe we should have thought about it more carefully before we chose this theme that if taken seriously will demand so much of us.
We should be surprised.
He told us – if we wanted to follow him, it could only be by going all in. Loving him above all else. With all our hearts and strength.
What do you want for First Christian Church?
Just be careful how you answer that question.
Be careful what you ask for.
A sermon preached by Gary L. Walling to the congregation of First Christian Church of Wilson, North Carolina on October 7, 2019.
I got an email a couple of weeks asking my thoughts about the ways that lay people are “knowingly/unknowingly contributing to the decline within the local church.” This colleague, who is writing a book, was asking a number of ministers to offer their initial thoughts. A follow-up email this past week suggested that the laity has lost its sense of hospitality and are not welcoming people who are different.
I decided to weigh in.
I stood up for you.
You are welcome.
First, I said that while there is probably plenty to blame on laypeople, it strikes me that there is plenty of fault to go around – including the failings of ministers and the atmosphere in the larger culture. Second, I said that it is not clear to me that churches which are less open to a diversity of visitors are suffering over those churches that are highly welcoming. In fact, these last two churches that I have served seem to me to be more welcoming than most in the community . . . welcoming of people who are diverse in race, sexual orientation, and economic status and who are differently-able. It has not been clear to me that such openness has made these churches more popular than many neighbor congregations. Don’t get me wrong – I am all in on diversity and hospitality and openness. It is just that some things you do because they are right and godly, not because they offer a competitive advantage. (I also suggested that because a more pluralistic society is where our country is headed, I believe that in time most churches will become more accepting and welcoming of people who are “different”. . . because, in time, those people will come to be seen as not different at all.)
I wrote much more to my friend, but one other observation I offered was that even the way we tend to formulate the question is problematic. To be asking what is causing the decline in churches is to subtly suggest that churches deserve to exist and flourish as what they have been. The point is that if there is one thing that laypeople – and ministers, as well – do to turn-off people, it is probably the way that we cling to existing structures. Those of us in church tend to love the church we have known much more than the newcomers do.
Now, let me get to the point I want to put to all of you.
We seem to be in agreement that we like worshiping together.
We get to see everyone when we are in one service . . . the mass of people is greater . . . there is more energy . . . there is an efficiency, especially with respect to staff time and building set-up. For all those reasons and more, I hear us saying we should move back to one service.
But then, the wrestling starts: I like a less formal setting . . . with an earlier time, the day opens up for other activities . . . I am afraid we will lose guitars . . . I am afraid we will lose the pipe organ . . . if we stay at 10am, Sunday School is too early . . . if we move Sunday School, when would we count money?
And so on and so on.
Change is hard.
Curiously, it has occurred, our decision probably would be easier if we were starting a brand-new church – there would be no history to guide or restrict us.
We had a listening session a few weeks ago and decided to extend the single 10 o’clock service through this month, promising to gather again. And so we shall: Wednesday, October 10th at 6pm. It may be less a listening session and more a push to find the way we will follow for the rest of the year. So, come join us. But bring a spirit of openness . . . and trust . . . and adventure.
We can do this.
We CAN make this work,
God bless us.
Blessings and Peace,
#ccdoc #ncdisciples #fccwilsonnc #churchgrowth #wecandothis #grow #sprout #ourseasonoffaith #unity #weareone #welcometoourfamily #wilsonnc
How's your spiritual garden sprouting?
Is your soil fertile and always ready for planting?
What's already growing in your garden?
Are you growing plants from seeds you planted?
Or are your growing spiritual transplants?
Are you observant enough to notice and pull worrisome spiritual weeds?
Are you in spiritual drought … waiting and hoping for rain?
Is your garden open to new possibilities – new plant varieties, techniques or relationships?
Do you need help developing a more productive spiritual green thumb?
The seventh edition of Our Season of Faith (OSOF), which opens Sunday, September 23, will turn each of us inward to our spiritual gardens and ask all those questions. And more.
During OSOF's five weeks, we will examine this year's theme, Sprout!, by planting three “thought” seeds: how to sprout our personal faith, how to sprout our church on the inside and how to sprout our church on the outside in the community.
Then, we will watch our gardens, watered with conversation, meditation, study and prayer, to see what the seeds produce. Every thriving garden needs a gifted planter.
And OSOF is fortunate to enjoy the services of a great one. Be sure to meet and greet The Planter on Kickoff Sunday. In many ways, OSOF will have a different look this year.
Materials will be delivered electronically for the first time, available at your computer in-box and on the church website. For those who depend on paper and ink, the USPS will handle delivery.
Right on time.
The traditional two-week devotional book will be replaced by a three-week personal study – one week for each of the three seeds – complete with daily insightful questions and thoughtful readings. And for three Sprouting Sundays – one for each seed – we will gather at 9 a.m. in the Fellowship Hall before worship at 10 a.m. in the sanctuary to consider what grew in our spiritual gardens during the week.
In the end, when the crops are grown and harvested, we will have clearer understandings about how each of us can sprout spiritually and how our church can sprout both inside and out. How well our gardens grow will depend entirely on us – what kind of spiritual farmers we are – how willing we are to water and weed for the entire five-week sprouting season.
On Harvest Sunday, October 28, when we gather to present our annual giving commitments for 2019, the congregation will share a lunch meal of items prepared from produce (peas, corn, okra, peppers, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, eggplants and pie pumpkins) grown in the quarter-acre Our Season of Faith garden at the Glover Farm in Elm City. (By the way, John Glover is OSOF's Secretary of Agriculture.)
Get ready to plant.
Get ready to sprout.
#ourseasonoffaith #fccwilsonnc #ccdoc #doc #disciplesofchrist #growth #sprout #reborn #harvest #stewardship #bountifulgiving
My grandmother lived to be 99 years old. We called her “Nano,” and she was in remarkably good health for most of her years, keeping an active church life and painting landscapes up until she was about 95. I doubt that anyone would have predicted her longevity—her brother and sister died at relatively young ages, and she was a lifelong smoker. Somewhere in the midst of my obnoxious teenage years, I started calling her the old bat—I cannot believe now that my parents didn’t smack me good, but she loved it. It gave her a certain status in the collection of her grandchildren’s friends who were in and out of the house.
My favorite story about Nano has to do with her assault on turning 100, and it is a story we are not sure is true. The last five years of her life, she lived to hear Willard Scott (the NBC Today Show weatherman, for you youngsters) call her name out on air, which he did each week for folks who had passed the century mark. But she died about two months prior to her 100th birthday. Six months later, my mother shared with me that she had taken possession of the family Bible and some other records, and there was no mention of Florence Hogue until the age of 14 or so—there was a Myrtle who dropped out of the family annals about that time who was about 16. My mom is not sure, but she thinks Nano might have changed her name and age as a teenager—becoming something of a spinster in the eyes of that era—and if so, she seems not to have told anyone. Of course, those of you who are quick with the math will realize that if this is true, she made it to 100, but she couldn’t tell anyone, not even her only child, that she had been living a lie for most of her life. Great story, and if it isn’t true, it should be.
Well, many of you are aware that we have in our midst, a dear lady who is about to turn one hundred—honestly and without challenge. On Sunday, September 23rd, Catherine Cubberley will do what only 1 in almost 6,000 Americans do. We should celebrate.
And celebrate we shall. The Elders are working at getting Catherine and her friends and family to be with us for our worship service that Sunday, and we will hold a reception at 11am following the 10am service to greet Mrs. Cubberley, share a few stories and honor her remarkable accomplishment. Plans are just starting, but you can rest assured that there will be cake . . . perhaps a party hat or two . . . and who knows what else. So, all of you get along over to the Hallmark store and get yourself a card to bring with you that day.
The only thing left to say is that five months from now, we will do it all over again as we help Jim Boswell celebrate his 100th. And the only other thing left to say after that is that while we celebrate these lives, we find ourselves giving thanks for the blessed lifetime of faith and witness that has been poured out in our midst. Catherine and Jim—thanks be to God for generous lifetimes of love and grace poured out before us.
Blessings and Peace,
#fccwilsonnc #ncdisciples #happy100th #100yearsyoung #ccdoc #theyareourheroes
I have been in a couple of places lately where all the cylinders did not seem to be firing: a warehouse store, a restaurant, an emergency room. What I mean is that people were moving slowly, if at all. If I tried to make eye contact with someone working there, what I mostly got was an immediate glance in another direction or at a computer screen. If I was persistent, I generally got short answers as the person stepped in a different direction.
I have been on the phone lately, talking to a couple of companies that seemed to have more important business to transact than talking to me: an internet store where I needed to make a return, a doctor’s office, a customer service entity. I say I was talking to these customer service representatives, but if I was striving for accuracy, I would say that I was on hold with these folks. And when I was actually engaged in conversation, it seemed to me that there existed a discernible lack of enthusiasm about the issues that had prompted my calls.
I launched a little problem-solving expedition a couple of weeks ago on behalf of a person who needed help getting some services to which we believed she was entitled. This required navigating a monolithic bureaucratic agency. Need I say more?
I entered the drive-through of one of our local establishments not long ago to order a breakfast sandwich and a large coffee – two Stevia, no cream. Twenty minutes later, I had my coffee – with cream and what I would judge to be no sweeteners. I did not drive away with a breakfast sandwich since they had run out. Understandable – it was already 7:30 am.
Now, believe it or not, my intent here is not to gripe or to tell anyone under the age of thirty how it was back in the day. No, what I want to report is that at every one of the establishments I have referenced above, I could also relay other very positive experiences – either eventually during these recent encounters or at some other call or visit. At every one of these enterprises, I have had occasions when someone greeted me with a smile or a cheery voice and worked diligently to serve or solve. Each time before the exchange ended, the person working with me checked to make sure that he or she had done everything they could to meet my needs. And they expressed their hope that the rest of my day would be wonderful, and they did it in a tone of voice that made me believe them.
How? Why? Explain it. I don’t know. Maybe I caught a few brand-new employees who hadn’t yet become cynical and irritated because of all the rudeness they endure on a daily, even hourly, basis. Perhaps. And in truth, I think what we most often pass forward is not the beautiful stuff. Rather, when someone treats us rudely, we are quite apt to treat the next person who walks in front of us in a foul way. Someone lies to us, we probably will be inclined to judge that the next person we meet is lying. Linda and I talk about this from time to time – she works in a world of people who have their hustle on, and yet it is crucial to her work that she not make any assumptions about the person who is walking into Hope Station. Because otherwise, we rob everyone of dignity. We can be strong and determined, but to banish trust and good-will from our encounters with our fellow-human beings is disastrous.
I think from time to time about an old Jimmy Buffet song about a happy streetsweeper:
He said, "It's my job to be cleaning up this mess
And that's enough reason to go for me
It's my job to be better than the rest
And that makes the day for me"
I’m not saying it is easy. I am not saying it comes naturally.
But it almost seems like living out faith to me . . .
being a light for our community . . .
being salt for our world.
Blessings and Peace,
Out at the end of our driveway, Linda has planted a garden where before there was only roots and hardscrabble ground. Looks pretty good, if I may say so. Anyway, I was watering the garden one morning last weekend while Linda was in Florida, when a woman who was out walking her dog passed by. She said, Your wife did a lovely job with the garden. I replied, Thank you. She helped me quite a bit. The woman hesitated before resuming her walk, but I heard her say under her breath, Your wife is the only one I ever saw working on it. Yes, some of our neighbors are busybodies.
The next day, I was out at the Glovers’ farm hoeing in our “Season of Faith” garden. I was using my new 2-prong/hoe with a telescoping, 34-inch handle (Lowes, $17.98) when John walked up, examined my work and said, So you actually can do a little farming. I did not like his attitude.
I ended up talking to my brother and complaining that my farming prowess has not been garnering the respect I feel I am due. I figured Dale would understand since he has completed all of the coursework and has received the title of “Master Gardener.” He keeps all of the Kansas family stocked throughout the summer with okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peppers, squash and such. Anyway, Dale says, You know, Gary, I hear that the federal government pays some farmers not to grow crops. His voice trailed off, Maybe you could get in on that. Third child – need I say more?
Well, disrespect aside, I think this Season of Faith garden is going to prove to be a blessing – to me, at least. After our Saturday planting session, Linda and I got away to the beach for a couple of days, but on our journey back to Wilson, we traveled on the back roads: NC-50 out of Holly Ridge, staying north on NC-41, then on to NC-111. There are a lot of farms along that stretch. It was near dusk, the end of the work day, and everything seemed quiet. Faint memories floated through my head of some days spent a half century ago at a farmhouse sitting on a couple hundred acres of land between Sherman and Van Alstyne, Texas. Rocking on a porch . . . burning the day’s trash . . . looking out on the fields as darkness fell. Pure nostalgia wrested from no more than a handful of days in my life.
The thing is this: City life has made us look at work in different ways. Something to be done . . . something necessary . . . productive even. But not always something to be embraced. Vacations have become about getting away . . . far away. And I cannot tell you how many of my friends and family members talk for years about retiring before they actually can pull the trigger. I know a barrel of folks, who when they were fifty-some-odd years old with a life expectancy of eighty-plus, could not let a day pass without talking about the day they would retire.
But there I was, standing with my co-workers in a plowed field with a hoe in my hands as darkness began to envelope me. The half dozen rows that we had worked were pretty with the darker, up-turned soil showing and the nut grass chopped out. I even allowed myself a few minutes to wonder and worry about whether it was going to rain. Someone said we even had a couple of peppers on the plants – eight days of a garden and we already had a harvest on our hands. God is good, I know, but that doesn’t even begin to say it properly.
So, I hope you get away for a few days this summer. Away from your work. But I also hope you get to spend a few evenings surveying what you have accomplished here: a mowed yard, a painted fence, a mighty barbeque . . . whatever. And I hope you can taste and see that life is good and work can be holy. And that God blesses all of it. Amen and amen.
And remember one more thing –
I can hoe with the best of them, and don’t you forget it, John Glover.
Blessings and Peace,
#fccwilsonnc #ncdisciples #wanderings #revgarywalling #ccdoc #gardening #ourseasonoffaith #faithblog #allarewelcome #taketimeforyourself #icangardentoo
These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.