Treasure Island

Leave it to kids to teach you stuff.  Most who know me would say I am intense, that I know my strengths and weaknesses, and generally stay away from things and projects where my comfort zone is, well, uncomfortable.  Historically, set construction, for example, simply ain’t on my list (excuse my grammar.) I have little concept of design (lines and angles) or color and I.hate.to.paint.  In case you missed it, I.HATE.TO.PAINT.

Truthfully, there is some history there. Years ago, when taking ceramics in the old Family Life Center, my friends laughed at the “red blobs” on my Christmas ornaments (one friend’s Mom felt sorry for me and rescued me by repainting and re-firing those ornaments and they are annually found on my Christmas tree).  I draw lines and angles with rulers. I paint flat surfaces under duress or pay someone. I don’t buy furniture or rugs or most stuff for the wall without consulting one of my “expert” friends. To make matters worse, Steve knows this and he asks if I have discussed my decorating ideas with them.  So – there you go.

So I found myself in a difficult place when asked to help get a boat built as a set piece. This was no little boat. This sucker was about 40 feet from bow to stern, and had masts and sails, and had to bear the weight of about 80 kids. AND it had to be constructed and mostly painted in the garage at the Christian Life Center during the one week of winter that occurred in Central Mississippi. I said yes, begrudgingly, got irritated with the process (as long as I have done production stuff this happens until somehow miraculously the idea gels), and showed up to paint. And paint. And dry brush. And prime. And even repaint. Aaarrrgh!!!!

Well the ship came together. There was one battle casualty before she finally sailed (Barbara Hamilton broke her wrist in a classic “Cille type move” of walking backwards). And then we loaded it up with kids and wow – what a transformation.

Before KidsRock started reminding me about saving up “treasures in heaven”, I had a strong reminder about this scripture: II Corinthians 9:7 ASV – Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. Yes – this verse is LOADED. And it does not apply only to money. It applies to all your resources. Even the ability to paint in the bitter cold because this will help someone tell someone about Jesus.  Steve had the same lesson the same week only his was tied to driving the church van for something. Don’t do it grudgingly. Don’t do it just because it has to be done. Do it and do it cheerfully.

The kids sang about Matthew 6:19-21 HCB – Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  The musical, Treasure Island – Searching for Riches in the Kingdom of God (by Celeste Clydesdale and David T. Clydesdale, BRENTWOOD-BENSON PUBLISHING, 2016), is a great (and true) story about what is important – that the only treasure that really matters is Jesus! It was a wonderful evening of worship and made every.single.cold.paint.stroke worth it.

Aaarrrgh!!

Still Choosing Joy!

Cille

P.S. Hats off to a great group of kids, leaders and production team members. I do believe God was honored.

Photos below are mine during construction and are the work of Rushing Images (Lane and Judy Rushing) during dress rehearsal and the presentation.

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For Such A Time As This

Reading my iPad Bible this morning, I revisited this passage in Esther 3:

“Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.”

So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.”

This struck me differently today when I read it.  Haman was mad about the Jews being different. Frankly, he was specifically upset with Mordecai because Mordecai, even in this foreign place, honored the One True King and bowed to no other. Mordecai was not afraid to be consistent in his walk with God. Haman, a power-mad, arrogant lieutenant to Xerxes, was looking for ways to work himself into even more power by self promotion. He was willing to pay his way into the graces of Xerxes and certainly cared little for the truth. He did not care really that Mordecai did not bow to the king. He cared that he could be a tattle-tale and profit from it.

In Esther 4, Mordecai goes to Queen Esther for help.  Esther had never revealed her nationality to Xerxes. Mordecai knew this and knew her witness on behalf of the God of the Ages would result in one of two things: her death and the deaths of the other Jews or the freedom of all to worship openly the God of the Ages.  Esther had concerns but Mordecai brought those into focus:

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

As we know, after prayer and fasting for three days, Esther, risking death if Xerxes refused to see her, went to see the king. Approaching the king without a direct invitation was against the law, and Xerxes did not have to grant her favor to see him. In the meantime, Haman continued to plot. Yet God stirred Xerxes’ heart to take care of honoring Mordecai for a past heroic act in the manner that Haman had desired for himself.  Smarting from that,  Haman, when face-to-face with Xerxes and Esther, had to answer her accusations of wanting to destroy her and her people. God spared (and Xerxes honored) Mordecai and Esther. Xerxes used the punishment Haman had planned for Mordecai to punish Haman.

The story is a great Old Testament story. What rattled me today are these things:

  1. How do we today treat people who are different from us?  Do we abuse/use them for our own good or advancement or to we attempt to bring them in and minister to them? Be it Jews or Muslims or other Protestants or non-believers –  are we pursuing them because of what God wants us to do for them to further His kingdom or for the advancement of our own agendas?  That question is somewhat rhetorical but it does deserve some thought and consideration and prayer.
  2. When we are called to a specific task – the “for such a time as this” type task, are we willing to respond to that call? I cannot answer that for you but I am aware of those calls in my life – the ones I responded to and the ones I (attempted) to ignore. The outcomes of obedience and the consequences of ignoring God’s call) tend to never leave you.

Haman strikes me as the kind of guy who made up his own rules as he went along. Today we find that around us in our government (both sides of the aisle), our churches, our homes, our workplaces. It is time for us to step up when we are called by God to take the lead and make a move for Him.

Just think about it. 

Still Choosing Joy!

Cille

 

 

Faith

babyBack in the late 1960s, there was a poster advertised in the back of the Baptist Training Union quarterly (yep – we had those).  The poster always intrigued me.  It said, “Faith is walking to the edge of all the light, and taking one more step.”  I first saw that some 50+ years ago and think about that often.  Hebrews 11:1 reminds us: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Just because we do not see something with our earthly eyes does not mean it does not exist or did not happen.

There are many situations we face that require us to reach deep within ourselves. We ask people to “believe” or question whether or not they have had a change of heart. And perhaps, we have to reach beyond the obvious to answer Why in order to reach the only Light that matters.

In John 8, Jesus says: I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life. Unlike the shepherds or wise men, I never physically saw Jesus.  I was not there in the fields singing with the angels or in that barn where He was born. I was not there in person with John and Mary at the foot of the cross. Unlike Mary Magdalene, I did not speak to Him in the garden or Thomas, I did not touch His side after His resurrection. Yet my belief in His Light, because of my faith, is every bit as real.

There are so many reasons to ask Why? Why has there been such catastrophe this week in East Tennessee? Why have several friends had serious accidents or health issues. Why don’t things work out they way we think they should? Why am I sweating details that are outside of my control for Carols? In context, those things are important. But, perhaps the focus is wrong.

You see, if we answer the question Why concerning Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection, then all other asking of that question resolve themselves.  I am not talking about prosperity or no hard times or total good health or that bad things will no longer happen to good people – I am saying, though, that the end – the forever living with Jesus end – is handled – and the rest stretches us to live by faith to show others that regardless of circumstances – of how much darkness there may appear to be – We.Are.His.

That Baby. That Cross. That Empty Tomb. Each piece requires faith. Each requires the other or it is just a story. All three make it His Story. Can you answer Why?

 

 

Herding Cats (Again)

carols2015-choir-and-heralds
Carols by Candlelight 2015 – photo: Judy Rushing

‘Tis the season! You can interpret that in several ways but for this topic, the “season” referenced is Carols by Candlelight.  For the 47th year, First Baptist Jackson will present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the community and to the world through a celebration of music and worship using everything from dance to painting to video and probably some things/circumstances we don’t yet know about.  In 2016, the cast, crew, Worship Choir and Orchestra, focus on answering Why? Why did Jesus have to come?  I have seldom been a “why?” asker but in this context, the question is so very valid. The question and how it is answered or how you respond to it has eternal implications. For ticket information, go to carolsbycandlelight.org. It will also be streamed from the First Jackson website and later televised.

My primary role with Carols is to get the choir ready logistically.  I do my best to place them with a friend, where they can be comfortable physically, where the musical balance and perspective is right (voice parts matter!), where a new participant can “follow the leader” with someone who has done this before – really take care of the sweating the small stuff so they can be prepared musically and not have to think to much about other details – I point, stand them up, sit them down, give instructions relative to right now, changes, being flexible, etc.  It is a journey, for sure, and it requires a couple of fairly tedious rehearsals before folks are going with the flow and we begin to lead in worship rather than be bogged down in the details.

The first “nuts and bolts” rehearsal  is on what we call “Wednesday on Tuesday” – the Tuesday night of Thanksgiving Week. This is the night we assign folks their Carols positions and walk through the processional. It is also the night we join the Worship Choir regulars with our Student and College friends who are part of this ministry. It can be (and usually is) somewhat chaotic (and fun). And as I have shared several times over the years, it is like “herding cats” – according to Wikipedia, “an idiom denoting a futile attempt to control or organize a class of entities which are uncontrollable or chaotic” and best represented by EDS in their award-winning commercial: Herding Cats. (Disclaimer: I also identify with this because professionally I am a technology project manager!) This, for the record, is not my first “cat rodeo” as I have been a part of Carols and the Worship Choir since 1981 (my 36th) and have been the logistics guru since 1988 (thus my 29th).

I am by nature a perfectionist and this is never a perfect rehearsal (or process). I am going to miss something. Some change is going to have to be made to adjust for spacing, microphones, height, someone not being there, someone I left off the list (it happens) – and I have had to learn over the years to Get.Over.It. God is honored by what I do for Him – not by my frustrations!

I answered Why? when I was nine years old. During Vacation Bible School, the pastor asked us to personalize John 3:16 KJV: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. His instructions were to replace “the world” with your name. Boom! I recall the exact feeling today that I had 50 years ago. God sent Jesus to save me. As I grew, I realized that His coming was not all and not enough. Jesus also had to die for me and come out of that earthly tomb to live again so that I could live with Him forever. And I accept, without question or reservation, that He will come back again.

So pray for us as we get ready to share with 15,000+ about Jesus. Pray that we can help others to answer that question of Why? for themselves.  Not being disrespectful, but I suspect God knows a lot more about “herding cats” than I do.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Hebrews 6:10-12 NIV

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Is Wednesday and Banff

Wow – since posting Saturday as we arrived in Jasper via train, we have been busy (still). We spent two nights in Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper National Park. On Sunday, we had a “down day” which is you are on a cruise – that is like at “at sea” day s you can catch your breath and catch up.  We were in a cabin (4 units per cabin) and after being on the train, it was like our luggage exploded!!  This was our second time there. Our cabin this time was right next to the lodge.  While there we sat by the lake and read (pretty neat place for your quiet time), walked part way around Lake Beaufort and back, watched four women play golf on the 16th green of the beautiful Jasper course (honestly – I think they were playing to say they had done it – more like a comedy show!), and listened to Ginger and Kathy tell of their witnessing the end of an elk giving birth and then she and her calf being relocated by Parks Canada to a safer location for both the guests of the Lodge and the elk and baby.  The extent of wildlife Steve and I saw at Jasper were Canadian geese and a chipmunk! We have had great food on this trip but the very best meal was a steak (Alberta Beef) that Steve, Ginger and I shared (Yes – that big) while at Jasper Park. Oh. My.

From Jasper, we headed down the Icefields Parkway, stopping at Athabasca Falls, seeing many glaciers of many types (saddle, valley, hanging), and arrive at the Columbia Icefields, the second largest icefield in Canada. We changed our coach for an ice crawler and up the side of the glacier (Athabasca Glacier) we go. This conveyance weighs many tons, have 6 tires that are worth CAN$ 30K and run at a top speed of about 11MPH.  They can handle the 18 degree grade that you have to go down and come up to get to where you need to be.  Our driver was a 3rd generation driver for Brewster Canada (largest touring company in CAN and who have the transport concession for this).  He was mid 20’s was my guess. Our driver up to the transfer station (regular bus) was 18! These kids earn a good living doing support work for the travel industry and are very much into what they do.

We headed on south from there and ended at Chateau Lake Louise at the end of the day.  Our room overlooked the lake, the Victoria Glacier, and Victoria Mountain (and two others that I do not remember). The view is stunning and is the one you see in every Alberta travel guide!  Steve and I slept in (as in missed breakfast) and then we took off on an tour up to Moraine Lake. This lake is one of those that is disappearing as the glaciers melt off. It is beautiful.

Had lunch at the Post Hotel in Lake Louise Village (http://posthotel.com) – which is a very old hotel and was built by a Swiss guy who came here backin the 1940s to teach the Canadians how to do ice climbing and mountaineering and was built in the style of Post Hotels in Switzerland. Beautiful place. Excellent lunch. Could have piled up in the lobby and spent the afternoon!

Next on to Banff Spring Lodge – the oldest of the Canadian Pacific Hotels. This is built in the style of a Scottish baronial castle. You.will.get.lost.even.with.a.map.  Our room this go looks over the Bow Valley and Bow River and the golf course. This morning we floated (raft – class 2 (as in nothing) rapids) down the Bow River and took in the sights. Beautiful.

We wrap up here in the morning and head for Calgary and the airport (and the red-eye home)! It has been a wonderful experience. Steve and I have for years been a fan of western Canada and BC nor Alberta have ever disappointed us.

Over and over this week, I have had Psalm 23 come to mind. The Lord is MY Shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul…. I can say without a doubt that my soul has been restored this week.

Looking forward to being home. Still Choosing Joy!

Cille