Friday, December 31, 2010

Visiting Disney Epcot in December

When Joanne and I arrived at Epcot the first and foremost place we had planned to head to was where you get your pictures taken with the characters.
Joanne had to get her very own, up close, by herself, personal picture with Mickey. But, I was standing close by to make sure she behaved.

You might notice that I didn't get my very own,up close, personal, by myself photo with Minnie. I was told that people were waiting in line behind us and there wasn't time for that. Aha, I think I see a problem here.

This was the "Finding Nemo" Ride at the The Sea exhibit. I call this picture "Joanne on a Half Shell".
This is the Italy Pavillion in Epcot.
We had dinner Tutto Italia Ristorante in the Italy Pavilion . It was the first time we had eaten there and it was excellent. The food and service are great, the old world atmosphere is great if you're looking to slow down a bit and catch your breath.

The real highlght of the day way going to the Candlelight Processional at the American Gardens Theatre.
The event retells the story of Christmas with a special celebrity narrator, Jodi Benson was the narrator that night, accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and a mass choir.

Joanne and I had finished eating dinner and were just walking by as it was getting ready to begin and decided to try and get a seat. They escorted us to the front row, right in front of the sign language interpretor. They may not have been the best seats for seeing the entire choir and orchestra, but we were pleased. The sign language interpretor on our side of the stage was a show in herself and I mean that in as good of a way as can be inmagined. She didn't just use her her hands; she had the facial expressions and body movements all incorporated. I could imagine someone not being able to hear the music, watching her, and thinking, "That's what it sounds like."

There was a family seated next to us and when the narrator was reading, the mother and the children would be whispering. At first it was annoying, but I realized it was a different language. After the program, I spoke to the mother and asked her what she was doing. She told me that they were from Brazil and that her children didn't speak a word of English. So as the narrator was telling the story of the first Christmas in English, this mother was retelling the story to her children in Portugese. I was reminded of how we, as Christians, are to retell the story of Jesus.

Joanne was trying to sneak in the side door of the English Tea Shop. But, why? To get in line to have a picture with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, too.

Father Christmas came out to the Tea Garden and told us of the Christmas traditions in the United Kingdom. That is a ball of mistletoe atop his walking stick. When we got our picture taken with him, we had an opportunity to make use of it.

This was Brunhilda, who related the Christams traditions of Germany.
Another wonderful day at Walt Disney World.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Visiting Disney Hollywood Studios in December

The first week in December, Joanne and I went to Orlando for our yearly visit to walt Disney World. Our forst park to visit was Disney's Hollywood Studios. It was probably our last warm day during our visit, but we had a great time.
We enjoyed the rides and shows. I got to ride the Rock'nRoller Coaster twice, which is one of my all time favorite rides. We also went threw the Narnia set.

We ate at our favorite restaurant in the park, the SciFi Cafe. You are seated in seats the are like a car and watch old scifi movies. The food is great, the movies are a hoot, and the atmosphere is relaxing.

When the sun went down we headed over to the Osborne Family Christmas Lights. Christmas lights cover all the building and a lot of other things. The lights blink in time with some fantastic music like Mannheim Steamroller's "Carol of the Bells".

Every fifteen minutes there is a manufatured snow storm. Actually is small soap bubbles, but it's really cool to watch.
Even bicycle props were covered in lights.

It was a great ending for our first day at the parks. Its hard to walk away and not feel in a Christmas mood, especially if you got one of those hot cups of cocoa.

2010 Thanksgiving Service at Republic Grove UMC

This past Sunday we had our comunity Thanksgiving service at Republican Grove UMC with Republican Grove Baptist Church joining us. When the Thanksginving service is held at the Baptist church, the Methodist pastor has the joy of delivering the Thanksgiving message and vice versa. So this year we at the Methodist church hosted of brethren from across the road.

We had two excellent singers for the service, from Republican Grove baptist Church we had Cecil and from Providence UMC we had Brian Daniels. Cecil sang a Martina McBride song, "I've been Blessed" and Brian sang "Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart".

Rev. Shelton Miles, the pastor at Republican Grove Baptist Church, gave an excellent message from titled "I am Blessed". I have always enjoyed listening to Shelton. Among my many blessing here on the Mount Airy Charge, I count Shelton among the best.

Shelton was trying to explain to Joanne why she should not be taking his picture, but she wasn't listening.
A Happy Thanksgiving to you All!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

2010 Charge Conference

We had our 2010 Charge Conference at Anderson Memorial UMC in Gretna. The Mount Airy Charge was three of the nine churches represented at the conference. Our group mission project for the whole group was to collect non-perishable foods for the Northern Pittsylvania County Food Bank. The food bank had a truck waiting as we were arriving, so we could drop off our things before going into the meeting.
Larry Davies, the District Superintendent of the Lynchburg District, was meeting members of the district as they arrived.
Larry has a way of telling stories to make a point. This time he called folks up to the front to make his point. It was a call for the churches to be more intentional on reaching out to those outside the church and even those who may be antagonistic to the church.
Each church or charge was asked to give a report of where their church or churches are in ministry. The following is the report I read for the three churches of the Mount Airy Charge.

We have emphasized our call to be in ministry to Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost parts of the earth. The three churches are and have always been very good at watching over and caring for the members of their congregations, whether they are ill, homebound, or in nursing homes. Republican Grove UMC has a tradition of delivering bags of groceries to area shut-ins during the Christmas season. Prayer time on Sunday often becomes reporting time on conditions and visits. That is their Jerusalem.
They also reach and support organizations in the community the minister to people. All three churches supported area charities such as; the Halifax and Pittsylvania County food banks, The 640 Rescue Squad, God’s Pit Crew, the Society of Saint Andrew, and Mill Stone Meals on Wheels. The congregation of Saint Andrews UMC started a “Community Help Fund”, through which they donated over $500 to area families and individuals in need. They raise funds for the help Fund by selling hot dogs and drinks at a Pumpkin Patch owned by one of the members. This is their Judea. The United Methodist Women, with only three members, supports a child in the Dominican Republic and collects item for a prison ministry. Members of all three churches came together for a Haiti Support Service. We collected two truckloads of items to deliver to “Gleaning for the World” to be sent to Haiti. They also raised $400 that was sent to long term missionaries serving in Haiti. They also supported the Lynchburg District in its effort with “Stop Hunger Now” to pack over 100,000 rice packs to be sent to Haiti. This was their work for the uttermost parts of the earth. The Mount Airy Charge has expanded its vision and its call well beyond the doors of its churches.

In our bulletin each week it starts by saying that “We’re small enough to know you and large enough to love you” and it ends by stating “You are now entering the mission field”. The churches of the Mount Airy Charge have taken both of these statements to heart and continue in service to their church, their community, and their world.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks for the Thorns

I found this story in my email today. Happy Thanksgiving, in all things give thanks.


Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease.

During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren't enough, her husband's company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose annual holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come.

What's worse, Sandra's friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. "She has no idea what I'm feeling," thought Sandra with a shudder.

"Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?" she wondered aloud. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?

"Good afternoon, can I help you?" The shop clerk's approach startled her.

"I...I need an arrangement," stammered Sandra, "for Thanksgiving?"

"Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Thanksgiving Special?" asked the shop clerk. "I'm convinced that flowers tell stories," she continued. "Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?

"Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. " Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the shop clerk said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you."

Then the door's small bell rang, and the shop clerk said, "Hi Barbara...let me get your order." She politely excused herself and walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped...there were no flowers.

"Want this in a box?" asked the clerk.

Sandra watched for the customer's response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers!?! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.

"Yes, please." Barbara replied with an appreciative smile.

"You'd think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn't be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again," she said as she gently tapped her chest.

"Uh," stammered Sandra, "that lady just left with, uh... she just left with no flowers!"

"Right...I cut off the flowers. That's the Special... I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.

"Oh, come on, you can't tell me someone is willing to pay for that?" exclaimed Sandra.

"Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery."

"That same year I had lost my husband, "continued the clerk," and for the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.

"So what did you do?" asked Sandra. "I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've always thanked God for good things in life and never thought to ask Him why those good things happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important. I always enjoyed the 'flowers' of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others."

Sandra sucked in her breath as she thought about the very thing her friend had tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God."

Just then someone else walked in the shop.

"Hey, Phil!" shouted the clerk to the balding, rotund man.

"My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement... twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems!" laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.

"Those are for your wife?" asked Sandra incredulously. "Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?

"No...I'm glad you asked," Phil replied. "Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord's grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem. He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from "thorny" times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific "problem" and give thanks to Him for what that problem taught us."

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!"

"I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life." Sandra said to the clerk. "It's all too... fresh."

"Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don't resent the thorns."

Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. "I'll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please," she managed to choke out.

"I hoped you would," said the clerk gently. "I'll have them ready in a minute."

"Thank you. What do I owe you?" asked Sandra.

"Nothing." said the clerk. "Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me." The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you'd like to read it first."

It read: "Dear God, I have never thanked you for my thorns. I have thanked you a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to you along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of your rainbow look much more brilliant."

Monday, October 18, 2010

St. Andrews UMC Homecoming Sunday 2010

St. Andrews UMC had their 2010 Homecoming. We had a very nice crowd, quite a few first time visitors, along with folks that were there from some distance.  We also had our members from Republican Grove UMC and Providence UMC joining us. (I'm not really sure why everyone avoids the front pews.)
We had some special music by Maria Eakin, Jason Hall, and Jacob Wyatt. I am very appreciative of their ministering in song for us.
I got to do an unplanned children's message. When I saw that we had quite a few children with us this Sunday, I couldn't resist. I got Dave Adams to grab some varied pumpkins off the tables in the fellowship hall. I had a normal orange one, a white one, and a green one. We talked about how they all looked different, but they were still pumpkins. The I related that to people and how God sent Jesus for everyone, no matter what they looked like or were shaped like. Anyways, I think it made sense to the kids.
The choir sang "God is Here", a lovely song that was just right for the day. We may have a small choir, but we have quality. They are not intimidated by their size and are a wonderful addition to the ministry of the church.
Our guest speaker was Rev. Jacob Sahms, pastor of Blanford UMC in Petersburg, Virginia. Jacob and I were in Licensing School together several years back. There is a long story about the "Wiffle Ball Miracle", but I'll have to save that for another post. While we were disappointed that his wife, Joanne, and son, Adam, couldn't join us; we were very happy to have him be able to be here with us.
Jacob brought a message titled "Got Wonder?", using the text from Luke 17:11-19. It is the passgae about Jesus healing the ten lepers and only one returned to thank him. It was an excellent sermon for us all to hear.
After the service, we all moved to the Fellowship Hall for lunch. Homecoming season is definitely not the time of year to be worrying about adding a few punds. You can always fast a few meals before Thanksgiving.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month and they surprised Joanne and me with a special cake for the both of us. They all know that there's no Pastor Charlie without Joanne. I never cease to be thankful for having been appointed to the Mount Airy Charge. I have 3 wonderful churches with the most loving congregations you could ask for, God knew what I needed.

Of course, there was a bounty of food, no one had to leave hungry. The fried chicken was great and a few pieces made their way home with us.
There were more desserts than one person could try. Not that I didn't make a valiant effort.
After lunch and fellowship, Joanne and I headed over to the White Fall Farm Pumpkin Patch for some relaxation. I simply like hanging out there, watching the little kids and families.
It was beautiful day to be outside at the Pumpkin Patch. Apparently a whole bunch of people thought the same thing.
The Hay Bale Castle sits at the top of the hill like a crown.
The two Pygmy goats and the chickens were great entertainment. The rooster kept crowing while people threw corn kernels to him. The goats would bang heads for fun, to the joy of all the little kids (and adults).
The crowd for the Pumpkin Hunt was huge. It was fun watching the kids run all over the field trying to find the mini-pumpkins hidden in the tall grass.
Homecoming Sunday, with friends, food and fellowship.