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Do you miss hearing church announcements? Sometimes I do. When Dorothy and I were members of the University Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, church announcement time was rotated through the ministerial staff. These were the only regular times some of the leaders would be seen by the entire congregation. One particularly good-natured staff member was the youth and college minister. On the Sunday evening of his departure to become a campus minister, he was asked to give the announcements one last time. Just as he was about to step up to the pulpit, someone handed him a note, which he read, “To owner of a car with the license plate number xxxx, your lights are on.” After he made that announcement, it was revealed to him that the staff had been passing a “car lights are on” note to him every time he gave the Sunday evening announcements. After a moment of recognition, his laughter and ours felt fitting.

Here are some church announcements you may have missed this week:

The weekly Facebook will continue in a different format. With the start of in-person worship on Easter, I have asked Kevin Avery to lead a weekly Bible study on Sunday mornings, sort of a Facebook version of Sunday School. He will begin with his forthcoming new book, Tender Creation. There will be added a new weekly feature which will seek to provide glimpses from our in-person service of the previous Sunday. This is a work in progress.

Church and Community Connections. Kevin has also been asked to help with the telephone calls to offer encouragement, prayer and conversation with friends and neighbors of the church. He will be focused on our local area to help build or rebuild relationships. If there is someone you would like for him to connect with, call him at (539) 766-0787. Add his number to your phone contacts so that you will know it is him if he calls. He will not ask about your car’s warranty.

Eastside Meals on Wheels. Tulsa Meals on Wheels is testing a new way for us to go back to delivering meals to our homebound neighbors. Our Eastside Meals on Wheels ministry is exploring a way for us to modify our rotating churches and volunteers to adapt to the new guidelines. This could begin for us by early summer.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Check your car lights. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Discoveries in Inner and Outer Space

Inner Space news from Israel this week reveals the recent discovery of additional Dead Sea Scrolls found in The Cave of Horror near the Qumran site. It is called the Cave of Horror, or the Forbidden Cave, because of its extremely dangerous location. The entrance to the cave is about 262 feet below the top of a sheer cliff. Advances in safer mountain climbing gear and techniques have now made it possible for archeologists to explore and document the contents of the cave. The Scrolls, which are in fragments like the others found some 70 years ago, date to the first and second century. The Scrolls seem to include many of the books of the Minor Prophets, written in Greek. The cave appears to have been used as a hiding place for some people escaping persecution. Other even older artifacts are being found hidden with The Scrolls. Oh, the wonder of it all.

Outer Space news from the International Space Station (ISS) this week reveals the discovery of three different kinds of new microbes, or bacteria, living and thriving in various areas of the ISS. They appear like the kind of bacteria and fungi associated with the soil and growing plants on earth, but fully adapted to live in the wiring and other unusual places in space. This gives promise that they may be useful in space agriculture. Many plant growing experiments have been conducted on the space station throughout its history. The wonder of it all.

Outer Space News from Mars involves the arrival, in February, of probes, satellites, and rovers from China, the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S.  This is a space race to find life in any form, past or present. A fossil or two would demonstrate life from the past. Ice or a liquid source might hold a microbe colony or two, indicating life, like we know it, can survive in other planets.

Would finding life on another planet, or a quite different reading of a book of the Bible found in an ancient cave alter your view of God, His power, or His word? Would it cause you to question your theology of Jesus, or even abandon your faith? Actually, science does not validate or invalidate God Almighty. God is, was and always will be God. Discoveries in inner and outer space simply give us additional insight into the wonder of God’s love. That is what His creation is all about.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Oh, the wonder of it all. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Planning for a Future Day

The big news on South Yale at Target Drive, which would be about 17th Street in a normal time, is the new construction project underway next to the Starbucks. It will be a Dunkin Donuts restaurant and drive thru. I am already planning my new work schedule for that storied time when I can regularly dine inside places again. Dorothy and I have not eaten a meal inside a restaurant since last March. My imaginary future day would go something like this. First, a healthy homemade breakfast at home, which might be followed up at the new donut place on my way to the church or to see someone. Lunch at Tally’s where conversations, sermon thoughts and illustrations come easily. After a quick check to see if the mail has arrived, to listen to phone messages and to make phone calls at church, it would be time for a stop by Sweets and Cream for an afternoon ice-cream cookie sandwich (butter pecan between two chocolate-chocolate chip cookies). They have free wi-fi there, and quiet tables for meditation and reflection on the goodness of life. Then off from there to reading and study and planning at the Starbucks before moving on for the evening activities. Some of these plans could be modified by reality, but I must start somewhere dreaming about this world slowly opening up around us.

This entire last 12 months has been a lesson in reality versus our wishes. I can not count the number of times I said to myself or out loud, I wish I could . . .  I wish I could visit… I wish we could go … I wish, I wish, I wish. But now there seems to be a growing sense that we are able to see the other side of this swamp. There is dry land ahead. But the caution remains–don’t unbuckle your seatbelts until this swamp buggy ride fully stops. There are still a couple of snakes and alligators to get past. I remember when my ideal day consisted of wanting a quiet day at home. 

As we begin to venture out, let’s make certain to encourage others to get both of their vaccinations as quickly as possible. Dream big and large but hold all plans loosely. In Luke 14:25-34, Jesus invites us to count the cost before we get ahead of ourselves and become the fool. Jesus is talking about discipleship and sacrifice as we love others into the Kingdom of God.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Plan accordingly. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Change Again and Always

I still have not recovered from the last two times we sprang forward then back. Now it is back to springing forward again on Sunday, March 14. Every day something else is changing. Some days I am confronted with multiple changes and the decisions that go with each change. Apparently, I keep asking myself the wrong question: Do I like this change? No seems to be my first standard reply to myself. I have to remind myself of my own philosophy of transformational change: Embrace change because change is embracing you. I am not always happy about the way changes on every hand are embracing me. Each day I gaze into the mirror ever hopeful for a change back of about 20 years. I go to the closet only to discover that my favorite old clothes seem to have shrunk during the night. I can’t wear some things right now, but I hope to one day if I lose a few pounds, exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep, but that would mean having to change. 

My 2020 vision for 2020 and 2021 did not factor in a year, or two, of constant, unrelenting change, adapting and chaos at every turn. Change is here again and always will be. Change takes a lot of time and energy, but so does denying it. Change is hard work, but so is battling it.  Either way I have to deal with it somehow. It is never “one and done,” once and it’s over. Embracing change has some important strategies that I am learning to implement: I may have to adapt, re-learn, discard and develop new ways, methods and routines. Pretending not to change always seems easier. With all the big and small changes thrust upon me, I must learn to grieve the losses, face my emotions honestly, and seek refuge in faith, family and friends. I must find a way to laugh or sing, somehow, each and every day. 

 Some folks believe that people cannot really change, even though they say they believe the Gospel, the power of God’s Spirit and new life in Christ. Maybe Christians are supposed to be personal examples of transformational change. “I once was lost but now I’m found. I once was blind but now I see.” Maybe we Christians have put too much emphasis on the “once was” instead of the “but now.” 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Embrace change. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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