Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Can You Hear Me Now?

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about events of the past week. Now, I’m not taking any kind of position here, just wanted to share something I’ve been mulling over. First, we had the inauguration of President Trump. There are a lot of reasons that people give for why he is now our president. I’ve come to a personal conclusion that one of those reasons is that people didn’t take his candidacy seriously. People laughed about him running for president and made jokes about those who supported him. Now he had his share of flaky people at his rallies and unfortunately that was where the media focused. Flaky candidate, flaky supporters, big joke; only they won.

Second, we had the Women’s March. So what does the media focus on here, the flakes and they had their share. When you only focus on the flakes, then it is so much easier to write them off and make them a big joke. Every movement, every protest, every march has flakes in their midst. I’ve been in enough protests and marches to know. But, it would be as much a mistake to try and write them off as it was to try and write President Trump and his people off as a joke.
Those who wrote off Trump as a bad joke made a grave mistake. Those who write off those who participated in the Women’s March and their concerns do so at their own peril. This is not to say that is a matter of agreeing with either camp, but if we don’t at least give one another a serious hearing, we are in error. The concerns and complaints of Trump’s supporters weren’t taken seriously, if they were heard at all and now he is the President. Will the Trump camp make the same mistake themselves? Will they disregard millions? I just think we need to try to listen, without trying to formulate a response before we’ve heard them out. Good luck pretending that either will disappear.
Proverbs 18:13   
To answer before listening—
    that is folly and shame.
James 1:19
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Praying for Those in Authority

Today the United States of America is inaugurating a new President. One of the amazing things I love about my country is this smooth and peaceful transition of power. I know many are boycotting watching the inauguration or even listening to news about it. I won’t be one of those, because I find the whole event as such a powerful statement of who we are as a nation, the leaders of often opposing ideologies cordially great one another and their families to pass the baton of leadership.

There was moment that is engraved in my memory of the 2008 inauguration, when President Obama was being sworn in and President Bush was leaving office. There was a moment when the two men shook hands and embraced. It wasn’t one of those hugs that you see after a game when opponents congratulate each other. It seemed like a cross between the sincerity of passing a heavy burden and responsibility, knowing the toll it takes, and a blessing. No longer were they adversaries of different political parties, but more like brothers who share something few ever understand. At least that is how I’ll always see it.

At every church I have pastored, we have a congregational prayer time, where we receive prayer requests for specific concerns. One thing that I always include is a prayer for those in positions of authority; in government, in the church, and on our jobs. We have been praying for President Obama for the past eight years, as we have for presidents before him. We will now be praying for President Trump.

It is my belief that, as Christians, we are called to do just this. I do not see it as an option.

"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions,

and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

For kings, and for all that are in authority;

that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour"

(I Timothy 2:1-3).

A few years back, we had a visitor at Shiloh UMC, where I am currently pastor, who approached me after service. He said that he couldn’t pray for our current president and administration. I simply told him that I didn’t think that you could be obedient to scripture and do that. He smiled, walked out of the church, and never came back. Many mistake “praying for” with “agreeing with” and that isn’t how it works.

We are called to pray for our enemies, as well as those we like or who are of like minds with us. We’re called to pray out the love that has been poured out on us. It doesn’t call on us to agree with them or to approve of immoral, unethical acts. In our praying we’re not to turn a blind eye to injustice or hate. But, we are called to walk in love and pray for them. As the man who visited the church, many will disagree, but I continue to pray for those in authority.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Where ya' been?

Yeah, I know it has been awhile since I posted anything and I apologize profusely if there's anyone that really cares. The fact is that I'd like to get back doing this just so I can have a point of expression and getting my thoughts together. I'll probably be doing some reviewing, sharing some stuff that is way past due and some more current.

I am no longer appointed to the Mount Airy Charge as their pastor, though we do stay in touch. Joanne and I continue going to The White Fall Farm Pumpkin Hunt every October, where we get to see many of our folks from the three churches on the charge.

This is now my fifth year as pastor of Shiloh UMC in Lynchburg VA. When Joanne and I were dating and attending Shiloh, it was a little country church. Now, it is still a little country church, but in the middle of businesses and urban sprawl.

Shiloh UMC, 18121 Forest Rd, Lynchburg VA 24502

Shiloh UMC is the church that Joanne grew up attending. It is also the church where Joanne and I were married in 1971. We walked in the door this time having family and friends who already attend.

 A lot has happened since we've been here and I hope to share some of that with you. We have a great congregation that is amazingly hospitable and welcoming.

Joanne and I now have six grandchildren, with a possible seventh. More on that later. We love them all dearly and just don't get to see them often enough. Maybe retirement will resolve some of that.

Our daughter, Courtney, and her Husband, Dave Harrington have (left to right) Thomas, Levi, Taisie, and Lila. The Harrington crew live in New York state, where Dave is the pastor of Community Gospel Church. Joanne and I got to spend Christmas with them this year.

Jeremiah and Kate have Leah and Jeremiah. They live just outside of Lynchburg, up on a mountain, where they have bees and chickens.

Well, I guess that's about it for now. If I get to talking too much about the church and family I may just overstay me welcome. I'll try to do better this time and keep a regular schedule of posting. As always, I appreciate your support and comments. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Baptism of Jeremiah Luther Johnson

Every so often, as a pastor, you get to do something that almost scares you, because you don't know exactly how you'll handle it. On Sunday 22 October 2012, it was one of those times. I had the priviledge of baptizing my youngest grandchild, Jeremiah Luther Johnson at Shiloh UMC.
We got a large seashell to hold the baptism water and a smaller shell to for pouring the water. Joanne fixed the altar to look like water pouring over the sides.


 During the early part of the service baby Jeremiah was just squealing. I wasn't a mad or upset squeal, he was just sounding off. I told them to pass him up to me and that I would calm him. I immediately realized that that was not a smart decision. But, it worked just fine. I held him through the entire sermon and all he did was chew on my cross.

The pouring and the blessing of the water.

When I started to lean Jeremiah back, he started to get fussy, but as soon as I pured the water he grinned.

Following the baptism, I started to sing "Jesus Loves You" to him, by the time i finished the entire congregation was singing along. Afterall, in the United Methodist Church, baptism involves the entire church.
Immediate and extended Johnson and Allen family.

My father and me.

 Jeremiah and Kate, proud parents.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pumpkin Hunt at White Fall Farm 2012 Weekend One

Well, it is officially Fall and we're into October, so it must be time for the The Pumpkin Hunt at White Fall Farm. The year Joanne and I agreed to handle the Concession Stand. We got real lucky for our first weekend with the help, because we needed it. Jeremiah and Kate had agreed to help us, so they were there with the kids, Leah and Jeremiah. Our daughter, Courtney, was visiting from New York state with Levi and Lila, they helped too. 

It took us over an hour to get the canopy set up the first Saturday, then we realized we didn't bring the cover. Fortunately there was a spare tarp available. We decided to leave the frame up for the whole month, just taking the cover off each night. We had crock pots and a grill to warm up, coolers to load with drinks and ice, hot dogs to grill, and BBQ to cook. Kate chopped the onions, since Joanne was concerned about me using anything sharp. There were chips, cookies, animal crackers, and Cracker Jacks to set out. Being the first weekend,everything took longer to get arranged and organized.
Leah had her own jug of apple juice that we had to keep putting away and retrieving for her. Levi was a big help unloading boxes and helping with Baby Jeremiah. Levi pushed that baby stroller all around the fields and castle.

Courtney and Joanne did most of the order taking and kept track of the money. I'm not sure they trust me with that either. Kate and I did the hot dog and BBQ prep. The kids had the run of the Pumpkin Hunt, except when they took a break to eat.

Fortunately the first weekend isn't the busiest time. While we had quite a bit of business, we had the chance to get our ducks in row and get a flow going.

The kids and the adults love the wheat box. Imagine a big sandbox, but instead of sand it is full of wheat kernels. When we got home we had about a cup of wheat from what was in the kid's pockets. With a smaller crowd there we felt much more comfortable letting the kids run off to the wheat box, pumpkin painting, the corn maze, or the haybale castle. 

 The kids love the hay bale castle.
They don't just love climbing through the castle, they also love siding down from the third level.
The hay rides required an adult to ride with the smaller children, so all of us took turns riding with the kids. I'm not sure how many rides Levi, Lila, and Leah went on, all I know is they used all of us to ride along with them.
White Fall Farm is peaceful and tranquil. Except for occasionally hearing the tractor start up, all you hear is the wind in the trees, children laughing and squealing, and the farm animals sounds. If it has been awhile since you've experienced something that, come on down and spend the day. Bring a chair, sit on the hay bales under the trees, climb the hay bale castle and sit on the top, soak it all in.

I have never seen such a variety of pumpkins and gourds.

Leah and Lila did the famous Pumpkin Hunt. The Pumpkin Hunt throws hundreds of small pumpkin out in a field. Children are let loose to find as many as they can in a certain amount of time. Then all the kids gather together and count their pumpkins. The child who has found the most in each age group wins a carving pumpkin. Every child walks away with two of the small pumpkins that they found.
In all the times that we've come to the Pumpkin Hunt, I've seen families and generations reconnect. Its just that kind of place. This year it was our turn, we brought our own generations. It really doesn't get much better than this.

While we were disappointed that Courtney's husdand Dave and our two oldest grandchildren, Thomas and Taisie, weren't able to come in for the week; it was a delight to have so much of our family join us at the Pumpkin Hunt. It is nice to be able to share something that has been such a joy for Joanne and me over the last 5 years. My Walt Disney World in Pittsylvania County. You really need to check this out, you really do.

I want to thank Donna Adams, Joanne Johnson, and Courtney Harrington for taking so many of the photos. I really slacked off on my picture taking job. I'll try to do better in the coming weeks.