Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Doxology

The Sunday after Christmas we attended Sunday service at Full Gospel Tabernacle, the church where Dave is pastor. The sang a song titled "New Doxology". The song is a powerful worship song and just blew me away. I have always loved the Doxology and really could not imagine it changed. This rendition is faithful to the original and loses nothing of its impact. Dave told me they got it through Gateway Worship. I hope to introduce it to our congregations on the Mount Airy Charge. 

The first video is the song itself and the second video is the author giving the story of the writing of the song.

Rock Band Tryouts

For Christmas we got a Wii game for the kids, its Rock Band the Beatles. Check out the website  Courtney liked the idea of the Beatles edition, since she wouldn't have to worry about the song they were playing if she wasn't in the room. The game involves playing songs by following onscreen cues with one of four peripherals: a microphone, lead guitar, bass guitar, and drums.  A built-in vocal trainer will help you get accustomed to singing each melody. Its a lot of fun trying to keep the beat, hit the correct buttons on the guitar, and sing the songs. 

While it was a game for the kids we all got into playing. When you play it gives you points for how well you did, some did better than others.  

The guitar has a strum pad and note pads that have to be pressed at the correct times.  You can purchase additional guitars and microphones. With extra microphones the game lets you sing harmonies. With additional guitars you can play lead, rhythm, and bass parts to the songs. 
The game gets everyone playing together, instead of all by themselves. They even got me to sing with one of the songs. Fortunately, there are no photos that can be used against me in court.

Christmas Morning 2009

Christmas morning started out very calm and quiet. Joanne and I had told the kids not to wake us until 9:00. Believe it or not they actually made it to a little past 8:30 before they came downstairs. They didn't even come running down the steps like a wild herd heading for the water hole after a long dry time. 

The Christmas stockings were all hung from the stair rail. Levi had insisted that it was an absolute necessity that Joanne and I have stockings stuffed for Christmas morning.
When Levi got downstairs he just looked at the gifts that had somehow multiplied over night. We hadn't brought ours out to put under the tree until they had gone to bed and Courtney was still wrapping gifts late into the night.
Levi and Lila even posed in front of the gifts before the pandemonium started.
Even Buddy calmly posed before we started opening gifts.
Lila handed out the stockings, with some lift of help from Taisie. If you look closely you'll see that Thomas pulled a Webkinz possum out of his stocking. Levi and Taisie would go into literal screams, high shrill screams of joy, when they opened something they were excited about. I had to turn my hearing aids off.
Lila had to smell Courtney's candle, I got a digital recorder to use for my classes at Duke, Thomas got snowboarding goggles, and Taisie got one of her favorite things...clothes. 
Levi got a magic trick kit and he was doing tricks for us all morning. Dave got some nice wireless tools that he will make good use of at the church and at home. Lila got a story book and all the kids got Rock Band the Beatles to use with the Wii. More about that later.
Joanne got some lotions and assorted smelly stuff. If course, I thought she smelled just fine already. All the kids got warm blankets from the great-grandparents Johnson. Courtney got a WiiFit that she had wanted. Thomas got a snowboarding helmet. If you see a pattern developing, you're right, Thomas also got a gift certificate for snowboarding lessons at an area resort. They had originally planned on getting him a snowboard, but the size is based on your height. Since Thomas is already 5'11" and only 12 years old, it is quite likely that he'll grow some more. So they decided to wait on the board.
There are of course more things than I can mention. The kids got enough Wii games to keep them busy for some time to come. Lila and Levi had to open everything right away. It was wonderful seeing the kids so excited. We did take a break to eat breakfast and finished the morning festivities in time to eat lunch.

You know when you get to be an adult, you seem to leave behind some of that childlike excitement and expectation. I'm not sure where it goes or when it actually happens, but it does. Just being there with our grandchildren and watching them, brought some of it back.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New York Candlelight Service

We left the piles of snow in Lynchburg and headed to New York to spend Christmas with Courtney, Dave and the grandchildren. Dave is the pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Rensselaer (just outside of Albany) and they were having a Christmas Eve candlelight Service.
The service and music were great. It really set things in perspective for Christmas.

It's nice to be with the kids for Christmas. I really am thankful for congregations that allow us to be parents and grandparents. I hope they all had as much of a blessed Christmas as they made it possible for us to have, thank you all so very much.

What To Do?

When you get 16+ inches of snow....

...and the roads are not in any condition to be driving on; just what do you do?

Well, why bother doing anything?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Just a Little Snow...

Well, we have had the heaviest snow in Central Virginia since 1996. It started Friday afternoon around 3:00 and finished on Saturday around 5:00. We got 16 inches at our place. While it is beautiful to look at, it is a pain to shovel and treacherous to drive in. Now I realize that some of you are going to think, "Is that all the snow you got, what's the big deal?" The big deal is that we aren't accustomed to this and most folks don't have a clue how to drive in it.

The sad thing is we had to cancel our Sunday services on the Mount Airy Charge. Today was to be our last Sunday of Advent and this evening was to be our candlelight Christmas service. Even if the roads were cleared, it would be too much of a chance that someone might fall on ice. You really can't put people at risk.

So, Joanne and I have been camped out in the house, except for an excursion trying to get the driveway cleared yesterday. I'll try to finish today. I've made eggs, bacon, English muffins, and coffe for breakfast; yesterday and today. I also made a large crockpot of chili. Joanne has been working on getting gifts wrapped and finishing up Christmas cards. We haven't lost our electricity, cable television, or internet. So, we're quite content to wait for the city snowplows to come and clear our street. I don't think cabin fever will be something that we'll be experiencing in this house.

If I can get out tomorrow, maybe I can take some photos of the snow, before it gets all walked on and driven through. We hope all our church folks are staying warm and safe.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Where's the Line to See Jesus?

Christmas Gift from Providence UMC

Last Sunday's sermon opened with the question, "How many of you have ever seen a Thomas Kincaid painting?" I then went on to describe how Thomas Kincaid is known as the "Painter of Light". I told them about going to a Thomas Kincaid gallery in Omaha, Nebraska. There they had the paintings hanging on the walls with track lighting above each painting. The track lighting was controlled with dimmer switches on the wall and the viewer could play with the lighting on the painting. By changing the intensity of the light you could change the appearance of the painting. I told them how much I enjoyed playing the the lighting.This was all the introduction to the sermon titled "Testifying to the Light, from the text of John 1:6-8.

When I asked the opening question maybe two members at Providence UMC sheepishly raised their hands, acknowledging that they had seen a Thomas Kincaid painting. But, during the entire sermon, as I continually returned to mention Kincaid's use of light making the painting seem new, the majority of the congregation at Providence had grins on their faces. My thought was that I must be doing a good sermon and everyone was enjoying the message.

After the Sunday service at our third church, Joanne and I returned to Providence UMC for the dedication of their new Fellowship Hall and their annual Christmas lunch. When we arrived everyone was in the new building and waiting. I asked if they would like to have the dedication first before we ate. They all said, "No, let's do the present first." We had no idea what they were talking about until they pulled out a gift wrapped box and handed it to the both of us. 

We opened the box to a big surprise. Everyone broke out in laughter and cheers. What everyone had been grinning about during the sermon was not my eloquence, but that they we giving us a Thomas Kincaid print on canvas, mounted and ready to hang. They said at first they were afraid I had known about the gift, but it became clear that I was oblivious. They kept a very good secret.

If you can click on the picture and enlarge it you'll see that it is a painting of Snow White walking towards the 7 Dwarfs cottage. They know that my favorite Disney movie is "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". They also know that our grandchildren call me "Grumpy" (a mispronunciation of Grampy, a grandfather endearment name; not a statement about my normal attitude). 

This was a Delightful and loving gift. I sat yesterday holding the picture, thinking about the love and generosity of it. Also thinking about my loving God, who set me up so well that morning to receive the gift. God must love us a lot to have sent us to these three churches of the Mount Airy Charge. May God prepare you and your heart for the gift that is planned for you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Providence UMC Dedicates Their New Fellowship Hall

Providence UMC dedicated and initiated their new Fellowship Hall with their annual Christmas lunch. The congregation had decided to enclose their picnic pavilion in order that it could be used year round, not only by the church but by the community as well. They already have a community event scheduled for January. We had several guests join us for this very special day.

Of course what would a true United Methodist function be without an abundance of food. There was fried chicken, pork roast, BBQ, shrimp, ham biscuits, casseroles, baked beans, vegetables, and desserts. One of those desserts was Ann Adams' cherry cobbler, made with the cherries that she personally had climbed the tree to pick. I took an extra cholesterol pill when I got home, just as a precaution.

There may be some who don't see this Fellowship Hall as a major accomplishment. We know many churches have them. But, I would be willing to guess that none of those churches have a congregation of 10 active members. The church is understandably proud of what they have done. They have set an example of what a church, no matter the size, can accomplish when it lays hold to a vision.

This building will be used and enjoyed for many years to come.Well done Providence UMC, well done.

Advent Services at the Mount Airy Charge

We continue our celebration of Advent on the Mount Airy Charge. At St. Andrews UMC the David Adams Family read and lit the Advent candles the second week, while the A.J. Nuckols family read and lit the candles on the third week.

At Republican Grove UMC our readers are Heidi Dawson, Betty Jo Dawson, and Patricia Fisher. I have been lighting the candles each week. At Providence UMC our readers are Carl Wayne Adams, Fred Rieger, and Brian Daniels; Brian has also been lighting the candle each week.

Christmas is intended to be a transforming event, not a lovely interlude in business as usual. What we do in Advent in preparation for Christmas will be our means of getting ready for a new way of looking at life -- a new way of living.

The Prophet Malachi speaks of a messenger:

. . one who will prepare the way of the Lord

. . . one who reminds us of the covenant of God

. . . . one who refines and purifies us in faithfulness

How then do we prepare to be transformed by the coming of the Lord?

. . by allowing the light of hope to awaken our spirits?

. . . by making room for the Lord to write the covenant on our hearts?

. . . . by living in gratitude for what we receive in the Lord?

If we prepare ourselves by renewing our covenant with God, then we will be truly transformed as Christ comes again into our lives.
Joy is at the heart of the journey through Advent to Christmas: Joy in the knowledge of what God has done throughout the ages, joy in the realization that God is able and that God does change things for the better, joy in the assurance that God can enter into our lives no matter what our situation may be. The Apostle Paul calls us a life of rejoicing:

. . to live a life full of rejoicing and gentleness

. . . to put aside worry in the confidence that the Lord is near

. . . . to lift our requests in prayer, with thanksgiving

. . . . . to trust that the Peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.

Let us then consider the condition of joy in our lives.

. . Do worries sometimes seem larger than our confidence that God is near?

. . . Does the busy-ness of our lives sometime interfere in our life of prayer?

. . . . Does anxiety over the big things of the world ruin the little joys of life?

Advent is a time when we can clean out the inner stables of our lives so that new life can be born, our spirits may be refreshed, and our lives may be renewed in the joy of salvation.

"When I'm Gone" - A Tribute to the Troops

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Buddy and his split personality

Buddy is Courtney and Dave's family dog and he came along when they visited us for Thanksgiving. You really couldn't ask for a better dog for a family with kids. Thomas will lay on the floor using Buddy for a pillow or Lila will follow Buddy around with a tight hold on his nubby tail and the dog does nothing. It's like its all part of being in the family.
Now I don't know about you, but I was always taught and passed it on to my children, that you never bother a dog when it is eating or chewing on a bone. Buddy is the exception to the rule. Our 13 year old dog, Millie, growls if you come near her bowl when she's eating or even if you walk close when she's chewing a rawhide bone. Buddy could care less, he just likes having family around. 
Buddy's calm demeanor ends when the family leaves. Buddy the calm and mellow morphs into Buddy the wacko. We went out one evening and left Buddy and Millie at the house. When we returns we found that Buddy had popped a pane out of the window and shredded the curtains while jumping up to the window to see when the family returned. We thought it was just a aberration and put some cover on the window until the weekend. So when we went out another evening we thought all would be fine. Well, when we got in we found another pane out. So we covered that one until the weekend.

The next day went fine so we put it out of our mind. On Saturday, we all went to my parents for dinner, thinking that we had taken all the proper precautions to protect the window. When we got home and pulled up in front of the house, there was Buddy hanging out the second floor living room window. He had pushed the repairs out of the windows and squeezed through the space left by the now absent glass. He ripped through the screen window to finally have almost half his body hanging there in midair. My first thought was to jump from the car to run to the house and save the poor dog. By the time I got to the front door, unlocked and opened it; Buddy was at the door and bolted outside to greet his family. When I got inside, there was Millie laying on her bed looking up at me, as if to say, "I'm just too old for this kind of foolishness."

Needless to say, Buddy didn't stay home alone anymore. Dave and I replaced the panes of glass in the window and all is well.
I could make a boat load of spiritual analogies. You know, like God loving us that much or us loving God that much, but I'll let you work that one out for yourself. Buddy is still a great dog for my grandchildren.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The First Sunday of Advent and the Hanging of the Greens

The first Sunday of Advent, November 29th, we had our Hanging of the Greens service at St. Andrews  UMC. The individuals in the picture above were our readers for the various parts, some did double duty. The readers and their subjects were Emma Jean Johnson: "The Meaning of the Service", Ashley Keith: "The Christmas Poinsettia", Rachel Nuckols: "Lessons of Christmas" and "Christmas Caroling", Anita Adams: "The Paraments and Advent Colors", Nancy Waller: "The Christmas Tree", Lisa Nuckols: "The Gifts of Christmas", Stacy Wyatt: "The Advent Wreath", Dan Nuckols: "Christmas in America" and "The Christ of Christmas", and not pictured ( she did such a great job I forgot to take the picture) Judy Edwards: "The Sanctuary Evergreens". Below are the Wyatts; Bill, Stacy, and Brandon, who did the reading for the lighting of the Advent Wreath candle for the first Sunday of Advent.
Advent is a special time, it is a time that, in the midst of all hustle and rush of the season, tells us to wait. It is a time of expectancy. A time to slow down and prepare our hearts for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. But, its also about celebrating the birth of the one that was crucified, died, and rose again. If it wasn't for those events we wouldn't be celebrating Christmas at all. So, take some time during Advent to focus on what the season is supposed to be all about. Do whatever it takes; listen to Christmas music, watch Christmas programming on the television, go to a couple of Christmas cantatas (it doesn't even have to be at your church), try out a Christmas Eve Candlelight service, read the Nativity account in the Gospels on Christmas morning; you get the idea. Just don't let it be another day that you'll be glad when its over.

Family Thanksgiving

We had a really nice Thanksgiving. Courtney and Dave, along with Thomas, Taisie, Levi and Lila, drove down from Albany, New York to be with us. Jeremiah, Kate, and Leah came over for dinner. We filled up the dining room table and had to set up another table for the kids. We went out to the storage shed and pulled out two highchairs for Lila and Leah. Joanne worked very hard on the Thanksgiving meal, too hard but you can't tell her I said so. Actually, I simply tried to stay out of the way in the kitchen and watched football with Dave.

We had an abundance of food and had to leave some things on the counter for retrieval. But when we were done, there was not an abundance of leftovers. Everyone was full, contented, and ready for a nap; though it was closer to bed time for some of us. It was nice having all the kids together in one place. It doesn't happen often enough.
Courtney, Dave, and the kids, along with our nephew, Bailey, came down to the parsonage to spend the night on Saturday. The kids and Joanne all camped out in the living room for the night. They got up early Sunday morning and went to all three church services with Joanne and me. Of course, after listening to your grandfather give one sermon, the next time is a bit redundant, so you find something else to do. Levi and Lila decided to hide in the pews and draw. 
My brother, Aaron, joined us and his son, Bailey, for the service at Providence UMC. Our guests almost doubled the congregation at Providence. It was nice to have so many there. I love it when I get to have family join us.
Aaron couldn't join us at the last service, but Bailey stuck it out. At St. Andrews UMC we had the Hanging of the Greens service. The service explains the significance and meaning of the various greenery in the sanctuary. All the decorations on the tree, Chrismons, have biblical meanings and tell the Christmas story.  I was later told that the kids got a very nice compliment. Someone that they sat near them said that they were the best behaved children that they had ever seen in church. Apparently that is one thing I can't claim they inherited from their grandfather.
It was a long morning for the kids, but they did great. I know its not the style service that they're accustomed to, but again they did great. The kids weren't shy about talking to the congregations after each service. It was fun watching my church people interacting with them, telling them that they had seen their pictures on the blog. But, for me, the best part of the day was that I got to show off my family, that I talk about almost every Sunday, to all my churches.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Community Thanksgiving Services

Something I have come to look forward to each year and very much enjoy are the Community Thanksgiving services. Our first is on the Sunday evening before Thanksgiving. Republican Grove UMC and Republican Grove Baptist get together for singing, a Thanksgiving message, and fellowship. This year we met at Republican Grove Baptist and when we meet at the baptist church the Methodist pastor is the guest speaker. When they come to our church the choir from the Baptist sings, we don't have a choir but we do have Joanne. Joanne sang and played the piano, singing songs with a Thanksgiving theme. At the end of the evening there was no doubt where the talent was in our family.

Our second Community Thanksgiving service is the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving and has St. Andrews UMC joining together with three area baptist churches; Piney Grove, Straightstone, and Edge Hill. This year we met at Piney Grove Baptist and the pastor from Straightstone Baptist was the guest speaker. The choir from each church has an opportunity to sing. I may be a tad biased, but I thought the St. Andrews choir shined. Even if they did have me as a handicap. Joanne played piano for the choir and once again the true family talent was displayed.

What I really enjoy is that everyone seems to know each other, no matter which church they attend. They've been neighbors, gone to school together, and worked together for years; getting together like this is simply an extension of their lives in community.