Archive for January, 2011

January 10th, 2011

Snow Day

Posted in Blog Posts by Greg

Living in Georgia all of my life, I have had very few snow days, so nearly every one of them is memorable. I can easily recall one winter ice storm when I was a little boy that took down power lines and waited along with befuddled dairy cows needing badly to be milked for Georgia Power to restore our electricity. Even now, where school is a fading distant memory, there is a bit of hopeful anticipation to see if our school will be cancelled. Throughout Sunday we tracked on television and on the internet the progress of the cold front that was promising to bring us snow, ice and sleet from the heavens. Some, especially those that work outside, saw this as an ominous foreboding. Others, especially students, saw this as a gift from the Creator. I saw this as a nice diversion.

Getting up at my usual hour Monday morning I soon found out that there would be no hospital visits, Rotary Club, or a staff meeting on my agenda. I could not even see our road. Instead, it would be lots of hot coffee, intervals outside with the family, and working by way of the laptop for most of the day. Wet, mushy, thick and cold – snow day!

What is so special about a fresh snowfall that even the most cynical among us cannot refuse? Is it the wonderful blanket of silence that morning snow leaves or those mysterious tracks left behind by some bird, rabbit or squirrel cutting across the yard and into the woods? Have you ever watched a sunset surrounded by snowfall? Breathtaking. Maybe we all just look forward to the chance to redeem our childhood with a snowball fight or building a snowman (or snowwoman).

Snow is beautiful too in its covering up of the old and dead remnants of summer. Outside my front porch is a stand of lifeless brush that once was a thick patch of lantana. It is a little melancholy, poking through all that snow, but poignant too in its on way. What was lush and alive and ready to be dug up and cast away is given a fresh cloak and a fresh perspective.

Maybe that is why so many of us like the snow – it helps us see the same old world differently. It covers the scars and gashes, blankets over and makes all things smooth. Food tastes better, coffee tastes richer and the fireplace feels warmer. Sure, it is all temporary, but even if it is just for a moment we who are blessed with shelter and other basic necessities may be blessed in its offering. 

I love this passage from Isaiah:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. (55:10-13)

Nothing of God is wasted. Nothing of God is unnecessary. Nothing of God is lost. This Sunday I will be preaching a sermon entitled “Changing Your Focus.” I hope that through snowfall and scripture and other acts of testimony we may more faithfully see God moving about in our lives. Goodness knows in this world of hateful rhetoric and meaningless violence we need to see things and one another as God would.

I close with a wonderful poem I filed away not too many years ago by David Budbill.

“Winter: Tonight: Sunset”

Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first

through the woods, then out into the open fields
past a couple of trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop

and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,
green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.

I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age
and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening

a prayer for being here, today, now, alive
in this life, in this evening, under this sky.

January 5th, 2011

Beginning (or just continuing) the Journey

Posted in Blog Posts by Greg

How do you begin a journey? Do you have to have all the details worked out before making that first step or do you just tromp ahead and let the surprises be the point? Amy is a planner and loves to make (and strictly abide by) lists. I, on the other hand, tend to just plunge ahead, impulsive and at times foolish.

Last week Amy and I “tromped” into the New Year by making a small journey of sorts. My beloved and I hiked five miles through nearly a foot of snow near the Amicalola Falls in North Georgia and then spent a cozy night at the Len Foote Hike Inn. You can only access this inn by hiking in and hiking out. Perhaps the term “inn” is a bit generous. It is rustic, bare-bones, and no-frills. They do provide a hot meal at night and one more in the morning before sending us back out into the snow to hike back down the mountain. It was a lovely way to close out the year and prepare for the start of a new year.

In this particular jaunt, Amy depended on me for the details since I do most of the hiking and backpacking. Wanting to make a good impression, I worked a bit harder on some of the details and she, likewise, trusted me with some of the surprises. Fortunately our surprises were mostly positive and even when things were less pleasant than planned (like frigid temperatures in our bunk room) we made plans to adjust (I brought a winter sleeping bag that was warm and toasty).

In these early days of 2011 I wonder how we are planning our own faith journey. It is indeed a journey and like all good jaunts it has its fair share of surprises. Starting this Sunday I will be teaching a class on Beginning Christianity. It is for anyone interested in learning more about their faith or discovering what it means to follow Jesus for the first time.

Really, we are all just beginners, are we not? Each waking moment we carry out halting steps into new paths. Sometimes we are prepared and other times we are completely surprised, even lost. That is why we need one another – the community of faith – because we make the trek together.

I invite you to join me in this journey for six weeks, beginning January 9 through February 27. We will meet at 10 AM sharp in room 203 in the Adult Building. The sessions are as follows:

Session 1: Getting Started

Session 2: What Jesus Did

                        Read Mark 1-3

Session 3: What Jesus Taught

                        Read Mark 4-6; Matthew 5-7 (The Sermon on the Mount)

Session 4: Why Jesus Died

                        Read Mark 14-15

Session 5: Jesus Lives! Can We Know Him?

                        Read Mark 7-9, 16

Session 6:  Being Baptist, Being Christian

                        Read Mark 10-13

Happy traveling!