Spring break started off with a bang at our sleepover last night. Pizza, chips, cookies, and of course lots of laughs. We always have a blast on sleepover nights, and – as usual – Deniece and Lexi were up to their shenanigans. I don’t know how we got any sleep at all with those two cut-ups on the job! We usually enjoy a couple of these each year, and they’re a blast. We don’t get a lot of actual sleeping done, but no one seems to mind. Most importantly, we get to have some great times with our extended family.

Snow Days

Who doesn’t like a snow day? We do get them sometimes here in the south, but they’re few and far between. We’ve really been blessed with them over the last month!

First of all, we had a white Christmas! Yes, here in Mississippi – a white Christmas. It’s one of those things we dream about and we sing about, but they happen so rarely. Someone told me that the last time Water Valley had a white Christmas was 1963! I hadn’t even been born yet the last time the town had one.

And then there were those glorious days in January. I’m sure the school children all enjoyed their time off from school.

Snow days are very rare here, but they’re very special when we get them. Seeing all the snow reminds me of the great variety God has given us in this world. There are varieties of climates and varieties of animals and plants that thrive in those climates. There are varieties of geology. There are many different types of beauty throughout the world, and it’s impossible to live in one place and enjoy them all. But it is very possible to enjoy the beauty where you live. I love to travel and see new things, but seeing my hometown covered in a soft blanket of snow was very special.

It was so special that it reminded me to slow down, open my eyes a little wider, and enjoy the beauty that’s here all around me.

Happy snow days, everyone.

Youth Christmas Musical Time

For many of you this Sunday night will be the time for this year’s youth Christmas musical. The youth, however, have been living their Christmas musical for several months! They started rehearsals on their Christmas program back in August, and they’ve really been working hard.

Besides rehearsals, a lot of work goes on in the background, and we’re really blessed to have so many people who can help with so many different things. Over the years we’ve had a lot of people who have done a lot of things to help with the musicals, and we’re still benefitting from many of those.

Most of our newer members never met Mrs. Ethel King. She worked with the adult choir at the church for many years, and she worked with lines and staging for many of the youth musicals. Mandy, Sonya, Margaret, and I all remember being on stage under her direction. One year when the youth choir was traveling a lot, she decided that we needed some additional lighting for the stage, and she bought a really nice set of lights that we still use to this day.

Over the years Pam and Starr have done a lot of painting and decorating to help with the various performances. They’ve literally spent days working on scenery for the programs. Bill Bo and J.W. have done a lot of construction over the years as well. Mae Lindsey and Betty Potts have both done a lot of costume work, and that work has really enhanced the youth productions. The work that these folks have done shows up again and again year after year as the group uses and re-uses the things that have been made for them.

It’s especially interesting to me to see Mandy and Sonya and Margaret on stage. They were in the youth choir as children. At that time Starr and Pam were the adults who helped the youth learn their songs and then put on costumes and went onstage to help with the production. Now the girls are the adults on stage helping the younger ones with their programs.

And then there are the meals! Every year we have a great group of people who prepare the meals that fuel our Wednesday night rehearsals. I’ve said it many times before about our church: we eat well, and we eat often!

When you see the youth musical Sunday night, you’ll see a lot of kids who have worked really hard to put on their production. And for every child you see on stage, there were people in the background who also helped to make things happen. Come on out Sunday night, and encourage the youth in their work.

Hayride and Harvest Party 2010

We’ve just wrapped up this year’s hayride and harvest party, and what a time we had! This was one of the biggest turnouts we’ve had in several years, and it was great seeing so many folks enjoying the evening.

We always have a lot of fun at our activities, but the hayride is very special to me for several reasons.  First, it’s simple fun. It’s not a a complicated video game or an elaborate Hollywood blockbuster. It’s just a simple evening under the stars like people have enjoyed for generations, and it makes me think of simpler times. And about those stars . . . we had a beautiful night for our hayride. The sky was clear, the weather was mild, and the view was spectacular. I also really enjoy the fact that it’s something the whole family can enjoy together, and it’s a very special thing to see several generations out together.

Of course this takes a lot work and planning, and there were a lot of people who volunteered their time and services to make it such a great evening. Special thanks to all those who worked and helped: you made this a wonderful event!

Website Update

It took awhile, but our new website is up and running. There was a lot of content to be moved, and the old blog posts had to be ported over to WordPress, but at long last, it’s finished. Well . . . at least I think it’s finished. You know how it is with any project: you think and plan and organize, but sometimes things slip through the cracks. So . . . if you find any broken links, something that doesn’t look quite right, or something that just doesn’t make sense, let me know, and I’ll try to figure it out.

Using Your Talents

If you attended the youth Christmas program in December, you know that we had some great scenery – seriously, some really great scenery. Pam, Starr, and Gail spent a lot of hours working on it, and their hard work really shows. Several years ago we began using flats made from muslin stretched over wooden frames – a very similar process to that used in community and professional theatres. This year they used a new technique for shaping props they learned from a resource video in the director’s pack.

Those who have been around our church for many years will probably remember that all of our background scenery used to be painted on long sheets of paper. Each year when we wanted to put the scenery up, we spent a couple of hours with a ladder and thumbtacks laboriously aligning, hanging, and adjusting those strips of paper. Then several years ago, Bill Bo and JW were enlisted to come up with a way to hang the new flats we wanted to use.

Several times while we were painting the flats this year, Pam remarked that she thought we really needed all those years of working with the sheets paper to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to do the kind of elaborate city scene that we used this year.

This reminded me of Jesus’ parable of the talents from the book of Matthew. In this story, the men who responsibly used what they were given were blessed. They prospered and increased the talents they had been given.

This story has such a strong parallel in our practical experience with this scenery. For many years, we worked on scenery with the skills and knowledge that we had. We made some improvements along the way, but this year was such a huge increase over what we’ve done in the past. It serves to illustrate that God blesses the work of those who use their abilities in His service.

So . . . what can you do in service to God? In the Bible the word “talent” often refers to a unit of weight measurement, and this weight measurement was specifically used for weighing precious metals such as gold or silver. However, I find it fascinating that in modern English, we use the word “talent” to mean natural abilities or aptitude. How fitting it is that our abilities and aptitudes can be used in so many different ways. Painting? Music? Carpentry? Cooking? Anything you can do, God can use!

Can You Hear Me Now?

Can You Hear Me Now? This is the theme for MCYC 2009. In the lives of many youth it often seems like no one is listening. Teachers, parents, friends – sometimes it just seems like no one hears what you say. Even though this is a youth weekend, there are times when all of us feel that no one is really listening.

This will be a great time to remind everyone that SOMEONE – the most important SOMEONE – is always listening. He listens, and He cares.

This weekend’s classes will tackle four hard questions that many people ask from time to time:

Why do we fight so much?
Why does God let bad things happen?
Are you really listening, God?
It’s not a problem, really, I’m dealing with it!

These are questions that come up in the lives of many people, and sometimes they come up more than once. We don’t always get the answers that we want, and we don’t always get the answers when we want them. But God does have answers for us, and we have to listen if we want to hear them. Strangely enough, sometimes we get answers but they’re not the ones we want, and that makes it even harder to listen. As we mature though, we usually find that we’re not only more accepting of the answers, the answers also make more sense.

In all things we have assurance that God can hear us, and He is listening.

MCYC 2009

We’re down in Macon for MCYC 2009. This time around we have Chelsey Bratton, Ben Chapman, Abby Cobb, Devin Cobb, Taylor Deal, Michael Schroeder, and Cheryl Hughes. It looks like we’ll have another interesting lineup this year. Our speaker is Shane Wood from Joplin, MO. He is currently serving as the Associate Director of the Institute for Christian Resources. This year’s worship band is Four Days Late from Jacksonville, AL. Keep watching for more updates.

This year’s format is a little different. This number of classes has been reduced to four, and the weekend schedule has been modified to allow everyone to attend each of the classes. I think this will be a good change, and it will allow the students to experience the full range of content without missing out on anything. The Lakewood building is already filling up, and it looks like everyone is ready for a great time.

I loves me some Olympics!

I really enjoy watching the summer Olympics. From the opening ceremony through to the closing ceremony of the games, I will literally watch hours and hours of programming. From the high profile sports to the less popular ones, I’m glued to the television when the Olympics are on.

I enjoy watching most of the events, but I prefer single events. I enjoy the team sports, but the sports featuring individual competitors are my favorites. To me these foster such a pure spirit of competition – the pursuit of individual athletic excellence. In these events there is certainly an element of competing against other athletes, but there is also an aspect of personal excellence and striving to improve one’s personal performance.

I think this has a logical analogy with living a Christian life. Christians constantly try to improve. We constantly try to live more Christ-like lives. Each day we strive to be better than we were the day before. The big difference of course, is that we are not competing against our fellow Christians. We are trying to live better lives for our own spiritual growth and benefit, and we try to do this because it is what our Savior wants us to do.

While we’re all enjoying the spirit of Olympic competition, this is a great time to remember that we can all strive to set a new personal best every day.

Break Down the Doors

In his messages this weekend Robin has emphasized the problems that DOORS cause for Christians. People come to church, they hear the Word, they are inspired, and they’re ready to go out and win the world for God. But then they hit the doors.

Somehow as we pass through the doors of the church, everything changes. Maybe we lose our enthusiasm. Maybe we lose our determination. Maybe we once again fear ridicule or persecution. Whatever the reason, we are not the same people outside the church doors that we were inside when we felt so inspired.

Why are the doors so frighteningly transforming? If the doors are our problem, then lets find a way to break them down. Don’t let “the doors” keep you from accomplishing your Christian mission.