Entering Danger Zones

When riding down the Oregon coast highway, we came across a sign that read, "Entering danger zone for tsunami." We were on a cliff with houses overlooking the ocean. About three blocks later, "Ending danger zone for tsunami." I wouldn’t want to live in those three blocks. What would make it stop there? I began reading that tsunamis resemble a rapidly rising flood. Most are less than ten feet high when they hit land but can reach more than 100 feet high. Areas less than 25 feet above sea level and within a mile of the sea will be in the greatest danger.  

Talk about times of uncertainty? Any time unusual or unlikely things happen, we think they are times of uncertainty. Since last February, I have felt times becoming more and more uncertain, and I have used the term "times of uncertainty.” The Pine Valley United Methodist Church staff is reading a devotion book by Seedbed called “Wilderness Global Pandemic Edition.” It is about tough times and asks this question, "Can you remind me when we actually lived in certain times?" It said that uncertain times mean we see more sin and death than we are used to. We are used to being shielded from these things. We will do anything we can to shield ourselves from uncertainty. We do not like it because all we can do is hope and pray. When times are uncertain, we are not in control. We know we are going to have tough times. John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  

In Psalm 22, David voices his frustrations about not feeling God in a moment of need. But he acknowledges that even though he feels abandoned, he knows God is still God, and God is still good. God is always there to help us. Psalm 22:19, "But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me." God never abandons us.  Psalm 22:24, "For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help." With God, no one can defeat us.  Psalm 22:27-28, "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations." Think about this! WOW! We can trust God to be there with us no matter what we are going through! Psalm 22:3-5, "Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you, our ancestors put their trust; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you, they cried out and were saved; in you, they trusted and were not put to shame." And the same is true for us today! These same promises that David holds onto are for us during our suffering.  

Romans 8:38-39, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Nothing can keep us from God's love and protection. Jesus does not want us to live in fear. Nor do we want to live in fear. Psalm 91:4-5, "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings, you will find refuge and his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day..." Psalm 107:19, "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress." Psalm 118:5-6, "When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?” 

I’ll close with a quote from Corrie ten Boom: "When a train goes through a tunnel, and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer."

Service of Decommissioning

Decommissioning Picture.jpg

As I was writing blogs about tearing down Pine Valley United Methodist Church’s Building B, I heard we would have a service outside of Building B.  I was out of town the week before when details were given, and I guess I thought it was a service to give people closure.  Building B, our original Sanctuary and education building, is being torn down due to irreparable damage in its 60 years of service.  Due to the cold weather, people were invited to attend the service by sitting in their cars and tuning in on their radios, or stand/sit outside.  I was so glad I attended the “Service of Decommissioning” outdoors on Sunday, February 7.  According to Wikipedia, “deconsecration is the act of removing a religious blessing from something that had been previously consecrated by a minister or priest of that religion.  The practice is usually performed on churches to be rendered to non-religious use or demolished.” 

I have written several blogs about the groundbreaking ceremony for Building B.  On June 11, 1961, at the groundbreaking, the people, with Rev. Joyner, read, “Almighty and everlasting God, who art ever exalted yet always right; grant that we may worthily offer unto Thee, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, this ground upon which we stand, to be made holy with sacred aspiration and divine purpose, as a place upon which to build a temple and a sanctuary where thy glory shall be manifest among us, and where all people shall come to call upon thy name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.” This was the blessing they prayed upon Building B.  Through the stories of my recent blogs, you have seen this place was made holy with sacred aspiration and divine purpose.   

Pastor Tim read Matthew 7:24-28, “‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’   When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching…”  He talked about not being stuck in the sand but building on solid rock.  He reminded us how building B hosted many anonymous groups for a long time. 

The cross that previously stood in front of the Altar was front and center for the service.  The stained glass windows of the former Sanctuary were the backdrop.  It helped us remember this whole worship space gave countless services of worship and sacraments celebrated in this place.  It helped us bring to mind the ministers and lay leaders who led worship there.  We were reminded of the congregations who have gathered over the years for the Sunday services, funerals, weddings, and other celebrations that have taken place.  Our United Methodist Church Harbor District Superintendent, Tara Culp Lane, shared some memories of Building B while growing up here at PVUMC.  She even named some of her Sunday school teachers; Mrs. Woods and Mrs. Cleo Flowers. 

We all shared in the reading of the Litany of Thanksgiving:  “Blessed be the name of God, whose Word has long been proclaimed within this hallowed place.  We give You thanks, O God.  As generations have prayed their prayers and sung Your praises here, Your Spirit has blessed countless worshipers.  We have celebrated the Lord’s Supper here and been nurtured by it through our journey in faith.  We have rejoiced here as believers have confessed faith in Christ.  Here we have baptized our children and mourned our dead.  As new families have been created through marriage, we, our parents, and our children have vowed at this Altar to love, honor, and cherish always.  From within these walls, many have gone out to serve You in the world.  We give You thanks, O God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen” 

As I wrote before, Building B holds the echoes of hope and salvation for many throughout the years.  While we cherish our sacred memories created in Building B, let's remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Romans 8:38–39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  We thank God for His eternally relevant Word!  

Jill’s prior blogs about Building B: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Unlikely People

I have enjoyed our sermon series, “God’s Great Big Dysfunctional Family Tree,” at Pine Valley United Methodist Church. The Old Testament is our Spiritual family tree.  If you read it, I think you will agree. We come from a pretty dysfunctional family!  The good news is that if God can use them, He can use us!  He uses unlikely people, some we know and some we don’t.  

One such stranger was used in a mighty way in my life.  He came to my church in Greensboro.  My daughter, Ivey, was a newborn, but I was determined to go to revival.  I took her and sat in the back, having no idea that my life would be changed forever.  The speaker had been all over the newspaper - telling how dangerous it was for him to be speaking.  He should be hiding, according to many.  He was a former Hell's Angel who had been saved by the grace of God and prayed for and not given up on by his mother!  I learned about the power of prayer and the power of a praying parent that day!  I was there every night to hear his story.  It was one of the most powerful testimonies I have ever heard.  The papers were right.  He was on the Hell's Angel hit list, but with God's hedge of protection, he traveled and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ for years.  Since then he died, of natural causes and went to his heavenly home!

I am reminded of 2 Timothy 2:21, "Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work."  God can use anybody.  He needs all of us.  My story may not touch someone, but yours will.  We are all different, have different stories, and react differently.  I am sure there were times when this man thought God could never use him.  He had done really bad things.  God is not waiting for the perfect people because there are not any.  He is not waiting for the kind, gentle or loving people - He is waiting for the changed people.  The apostle Paul reminds us that even though we are not perfect, God will use us. 

Think of some of the people God used in the Bible.  I would not have chosen them, but I am sure glad He did.  I have related to them.  Thankfully, the Bible does not hide the failures, fears, and dysfunction of the characters.  I just did a study on the "Bad Girls of The Bible," and boy were there some bad girls!  Same with the men - adulterers, cheaters, and murderers.  Yep, Jesus was known for using unlikely people to share hope in a troubled world.  Elijah was suicidal.  Joseph was abused.  Moses had a speech problem.  Jonah ran from God.  Jacob was a liar.  Job was bankrupt.  David was an adulterer.  Gideon was afraid.  Peter denied Christ.  Samson was a womanizer.  Rehab was a prostitute.  And the list goes on, but my favorite - Lazarus was dead!  God's work is not reserved for the worthy!  We all have faults and issues.  Romans 3:23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." 

During the month of January, the staff was asked to do a devotional that will help them in their spiritual life and ministry.  I chose “Legacy” by Jackie Green and Lauren Green McAfee.  They use the stories of some of the women in the Bible, showing us the importance of leaving behind a spiritual legacy.  Our lives can make an eternal difference in others’ lives if we let the Holy Spirit guide us!  Nothing has changed. Those people God used were unlikely too!  Remember, Jesus is the only perfect one!  Pastor Tim always asks us for our “take away.”  My take away from this study was that God can do abundantly, exceedingly above anything that I can imagine!  I just need to trust Him to guide me!  

Jesus was born in an unlikely location and to unlikely parents!  God looks at us and sees a work in progress, not our messes.  He doesn’t see us for who we are right now. He sees us for what we can become!  God molds and makes the most unlikely people to do the most amazing things!  He will do the same in your life!  He is not finished with you yet!  I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you just have to say yes!

Grieving Through God's Goodness

The grief, after almost ten years, still comes in waves.  In the beginning, it was like a tsunami, then hurricanes, nor’easters, and so on until now an occasional storm. There is not a day I do not miss my dad!  There is not a day that I do not miss Dad and Mom together!  I was weepy on his birthday, but most days, the laughs are more, and tears are less.  I was blessed to have a good, Christian father!  The older I get, the more grateful I am for his Christian influence, taught to me through his actions.  Pine Valley United Methodist Church’s Pastor Tim mentioned in a recent sermon how many funerals he is doing right now, about one a week.  Our church family has had a lot of loss during this past year.  They have to grieve on top of an already tough year.     

Today, I was thinking; even through my dad’s death, God showed me His goodness.  He always has a lesson for us.  I always say, "don't waste the cancer,” "don't waste the COVID," and "don't waste the grief.”  Dad's death was a shock to our family, with ten precious days to say goodbye.  I remember going to church the first Sunday after Dad died, which was one of the hardest things since we always sat together.  Mom said we had to because, whatever date we chose, it would be the "first"!  I came to really dislike that word - "first.”  As I was walking in, someone asked me, "Is everything back to normal?"  Thankfully, due to my shock, the Holy Spirit kept my mouth shut!  NO!  Nothing would ever be normal again, and how could the world go on without my dad in it?  I remember my first trip to the grocery store after he died. Everyone acted like it was just another day.  Did they not know my dad had died?  

Through my own journey, I realized how people lose their loved ones and hurt long past the first year.  I remember how thankful I was after the first Christmas, first birthday, first Father's Day, first Thanksgiving.  God laid on my heart those who grieve and showed me that the grief is not over when the funeral is over.  People need to know they are being prayed for long after that first week.  People need to be encouraged.  I am amazed at how often God brings to mind those who are grieving, and I know that is Him nudging me to pray for them.  What an honor to be able to pray for someone as they go through their first year.  It is also a habit to pray for those grieving when I wake up in the middle of the night, praying that they are resting peacefully.   A lesson learned through my own trials.  

God showed me that I was not alone when I grieved.  Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  He showed me how He would help me get through this sad time.  Philippians 4:13, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."  I focused on how happy I was for my dad.  I would not bring him back to this world if I could.  Revelation 21:4, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He is standing in the presence of Almighty God!  I cannot even begin to imagine! 

I always say that my dad's death hurt so bad because our relationship was so good. “Grief never ends.  But it changes.  It is a passage, not a place to stay.  Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It’s the price of love.”  I think grieving and talking about a loss is important for our healing.  Finding people who share this common situation is a great way to bond and a great support for both of you.  No matter how long it has been.  I believe we are to use our journey to help others, and at the same time, it helps us heal.  I believe that all the suffering we go through in this life cannot compare to the joy we will experience in Heaven.  Romans 8:18, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."  Even through the mourning of my dad, God is so, so good!  Because of Jesus, I know where my dad is!  Because of Jesus, I know that I have joy because we will be together again.  So, even though I am sad, I am not burdened or troubled.  John 14:1, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me."  Thanks be to God! 

Don't waste your trial.  What is God showing you through this time?  Who can you reach out to and encourage today?  Pastor Barry is offering a grief encounter study on Wednesdays, and it is not too late to start.

Lots of Love

I think most of us have given and/or received a folded up piece of notebook paper passed to us by a third party that says, "Do you love me?  Check yes or no."  It made you feel so special (or sick depending on who it was from). Prior to Valentine’s Day, Mom would take me to the store to pick out the pack of Valentine cards to take to school.  It always included two teacher cards.  I would carefully select who got what card.  My best friends and my crush(es) got top priority.  When Valentine’s Day finally got here, we would put them in everyone’s big envelope.  Lot's of thought went into those Valentines.  Then you came home and went through all of them again!  Some came with suckers attached!  Some had candy hearts with them.  We even had a fundraiser in high school where you could send a Valentine or candy gram to someone.  Someone was very special to receive a candy gram!  I sure am glad God is not as picky as I was!  

$130.97 is the average estimated amount an individual will spend on Valentine's Day.  224 million is the estimated number of roses grown for this one day.  $18.6 billion is the projected amount American's will spend for Valentine's Day.  $1.6 billion is how much will be spent on candy.  $1.9 billion is the amount people will spend on flowers.  $4.4 billion is the amount people will spend on diamonds, gold, and silver.  (I hope my husband is one of those!)  Over 6 million will propose on Valentine's day. God didn’t spend billions of dollars on us; His gift was priceless!  He sacrificed His only Son!  The best kind of love is God's love!  His love is for everyone whether we are single, married, divorced, separated, etc.   

I think it is wonderful that we recognize a day to take the time to show affection and to tell those we care about that we love them.  1 John 4:19, "We love because he first loved us."   All of this sounds fun and nice, but the truth is it is fleeting!  After the thousands of pounds of chocolate have been eaten and we are regretting it, the millions of cards have been exchanged, and the billions of dollars have been spent, it is February 15, and Valentine's Day is over!  We go back to our daily grind, and the focus on love goes out with the candy wrappers and dead roses!  This probably happens because there is such an emphasis on a temporary, emotionally driven feeling we call love.  God sends us a very different message of love in Isaiah 54:10.  "'Though the mountains be shaken, and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you." 

God's love is not fleeting!  Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  He will never leave us or forsake us.  Hebrews 13:5, "'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"  1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."  This is God's love, which is agape love.  It is an everlasting love, unconditional love, unselfish love.  God's love is available to anyone who will hope their hearts to Him!  He does not pick and choose like I did.  He loves and wants us all!  1 Corinthians 13:8, "Love never fails..."  

So as we think about reaching out to others, let's remember to give God a gift this Valentine's Day.  I always say God gives us family units so we can understand His feelings for us.  I love quality time with my children - that is the best gift.  God is our Father, and He wants quality time with us - we are His children!  Mark 12:30, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."  Give God your heart through Jesus Christ.  Give God the gift of prayer - talking with Him.  We can listen to God by hearing, reading, studying, and meditating on His Word.  Praise Him for all the blessings He has poured on you and yours!  Praise Him for our wonderful Pine Valley United Methodist Church family!  And in case you missed it, you did get flowers; our True Love sends us flowers all the time!  Happy Valentine's Day!

In Spite Of

A friend of mine and I talked about a devotion at MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) 40 years ago! She still remembers that devotion. Johnny, our youth director, went around and asked some of the youth why they liked their friend, girlfriend, or boyfriend. He got answers like, "because they are cute,” "because they are fun,” "because they are nice,” etc. Afterward, he told them that the difference in that love and the love of Jesus is that Jesus doesn't love you because of, He loves you "in spite of!" As Pine Valley United Methodist Church’s Pastor Tim said, in spite of our sin, Jesus still offers grace. He reminded us of Cain having to pay consequences for his sin, but God still protected Cain. That was grace.

I was reminded of this during our sermon series, “God’s Great Big Dysfunctional Family Tree.” As Pastor Tim told us, the Old Testament is our Spiritual family tree. If you read it, I think you will agree; we come from a pretty dysfunctional family! The good news is that if God can use them, He can use us! He uses people in spite of our shortcomings, mess-ups, and inadequacies.

I know I have said and done many, many things I regret! While I cannot change my past, I can do better in the future. Psalm 103:10-12, "He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." David wrote this psalm. Probably having to live with his own bad decisions. Through the entire psalm, he doesn't even give excuses. He regretted his behavior but trusted God had removed them "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

I am so thankful to know God will "forget" those things that we have asked Him to forgive. When I think about Him knowing not only everything I do but everything I think! Yikes! Hebrews 4:13, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." We cannot hide anything from God! And this should make all of us uncomfortable because we are all sinful. 1 John 1:8, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

The good news is that God knows everything about us, and He still loves us! Our failures do not surprise God; in fact, He expects them. If someone knew all of our thoughts, they might not like us anymore, but God does! He loves us IN SPITE OF! He loves us in spite of our sins, our thoughts - past and future. I know my past messes, shortcomings, and inadequacies, but I know God loves me in spite of them. Moses explained God’s love to the Israelites, and it comforts me. Deuteronomy 7:7-8, “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” Our importance and abilities have nothing to do with God’s love for us.

I like the way Rick Warren put it, "God doesn’t love you because of who you are or what you’ve done, but because of who he is and what he has done." He loves us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We do not deserve it, and we cannot pay for it. Sometimes I have to tell myself, “Instead of trying to understand, accept it and say, Thank You! When we can do that, His love will change us! When we know God loves us that much we cannot give up on ourselves.

“God doesn’t love us because we are beautiful; his love makes us attractive.”

This is Amazing Grace!

I sure do miss having revival at the end of January at Pine Valley United Methodist Church.  I had just been thinking about it last week.  That Sunday morning, I went to revival!  After a lot of chaos that week and some worrying, I needed revival, and I got it on Sunday morning at PVUMC.  I do not take that for granted. Sometimes there just seems to be something extra special going on, and it was with the first song.  We sang “This Is Amazing Grace” by Phil Wickham.  “Who breaks the power of sin and darkness?  Whose love is mighty and so much stronger?  The King of glory, the King above all kings...Who brings our chaos back into order?...This is amazing grace, this is unfailing love.  That You would take my place, That You would bear my cross.”  I kept thinking about how the world can try to stop us from being encouraged and keep us from church, but God can always find a way!  Of course, He does!  Doesn’t He tell us He will never leave us?  Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Pastor Tim talked about the four don’ts we should learn from Moses.  Number one, don’t let your past deter your future.  Exodus 3:4, “When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’  And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’”  It is amazing grace that all of our past sins do not determine our future.  Philippians 3:13, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…”

Number two, don’t let your defeat define or disqualify you.  For years, I let my defeat define me and disqualify me from many opportunities that God presented.  Moses got tongue-tied, so he felt that should disqualify him.  But God told him, in Exodus 4:16-17, “He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.  But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.”  Remember, He doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called!   

Number three, Don’t let your setback silence you.  I am sure we have all wanted to give up after things didn’t go the way we thought. We let shame take over.  Pastor Tim reminded us that Moses walked around the wilderness for forty years.  What I did not know was that most scholars say that they should have gotten there in eleven days!  Not years, eleven days!  

Number four, don’t let your performance take the place of God’s presence.  We make it all about ourselves.  Exodus 33:14-15, “The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’  Then Moses said to him, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.’” If we invite the Holy Spirit in, it makes all the difference.  I When I speak, I always ask God to empty me of myself and fill me up with the Holy Spirit because I know I cannot do it myself!  Like Moses, I do not want to go there if His Presence does not go with me!  With God, look at the great things Moses did!   

When I left church Sunday, I felt like I had been to revival, and I was not the only one.  My husband, Mike, was talking about it.  We went by the grocery store and saw some church friends who said that was one of the best sermons and how it spoke to them.  Later I talked to someone who had watched online, and they said it was a great sermon, and they could only imagine that music in person!  It had been extra special.  That night I got a text from a friend in Pennsylvania who was watching online!  Isn’t it amazing how the Holy Spirit gets in there and stirs everything up in us and even comes through the television screen into our homes?!  This is amazing grace! 

The Bible tells us that all people have been blind, living in the darkness of sin.  Jesus came to earth to live and then suffer and die on the cross to save us from our sin. We have been rescued from ourselves through God’s amazing grace. That grace is free to all who accept it!  Ephesians 1:7, “In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”  We aren’t deserving of God’s love, but He pours it on us anyway.  It’s not because of who we are, but because of Who He is.  If we choose to follow Him, He sends His Holy Spirit to live in us.  That is amazing grace!

Tearing Down & Building Up Part 3

As I wrote about last week, Pine Valley United Methodist Church’s Building B must be demolished due to safety and security issues.  We all agree that “Building B” is so much more than a building.  As Linda Gregson, PVUMC Wee Care Director, said, “So many memories!  It’s not just a building but people’s beginnings where they put prayers to build it, and then where marriages began, babies were baptized, children were taught about Jesus, Wee Care began ...it’s not just a building.”  I know that is how many of you feel, so let’s continue celebrating how God used this place of worship for 59 years!   

Mary Lee Gross shared, “I have many happy memories of Building B, that we called the Fellowship Hall in 1977.  We had our first Mother/daughter banquet there around 1978. Our daughter Maryanna was one, and we had to bring our own high chairs from home.  The Koinonia class first met in the kitchen there, and then the kitchen became the choir robe and music room.  Our daughter used the parlor to dress and gather before her wedding on June 29, 2002.  I will miss it, so many memories.”  I didn’t think I had an old memory of Building B until I read this. In 1985, I was a bridesmaid at Kristin Pindell’s wedding, and we got ready in the parlor. 

I was also told, by an anonymous source, that Santa Claus was seen in Building B through the years! 

When we hear the word “church,” we automatically think of a building.  We think of the place we go to on Sundays.  We forget we aren’t just going to church, we are the church!  1 Timothy 5:7-8, “Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame.  Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  Paul describes the church as people dedicated to doing whatever it takes to help others.  In the Bible, the church is always a reference to people and not a place.  The church is a body of believers that live out the Gospel in their actions. 

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus teaches on the characteristics of His people, reflecting the character of God in the world.  The church was never about brick and mortar.  It was much greater than that!  Jesus did not leave building instructions for the church.  He intended for us to come together and He would be with us.  Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  Whenever we gather, He is present!  

Paul tells us that we are growing into a holy temple in the Lord.  Ephesians 2:21, In Him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.”  Just like the brick and mortar of Building B, we have become the dwelling place of God’s presence, the Holy Spirit.  We have solid ground under our feet.  Ephesians 2:20, “...built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”  The importance is not on a specific building; the importance is what was revealed and what was taught.  

Church family, we should be encouraged and confident that we are standing on solid, solid ground.  This is our story and let’s not forget who we truly are.  There is hope and joy, safety and love, in this household of God.  Our Father's arms are open wide.  Let’s put our trust in Jesus, in who He is and what He did for us.  

I think the group at the 1961 groundbreaking would love to know that 59 years later, God is moving in a mighty way at PVUMC!  Even during a pandemic!  Even during this time of uncertainty, PVUMC is growing.  I believe it is because of what Pastor Tim says, “We are keeping the main thing, the main thing!”  During this summer, when we gathered for worship outside, I was reminded that PVUMC is building people, not buildings. Building B holds the echoes of hope and salvation for many throughout the years.  While we cherish our sacred memories created in Building B, let's remember that the real church is a family of Christian faith!   

A new temple is under construction!  The temple is the church, us, all believers in Christ as the building blocks. This building is magnificent and will never have to be demolished!  All of the believers complement each other.  So while Building B is being torn down, our church is still being built up!  Thank you, church, for being the church and continuing to connect hearts to Christ and one another!

Tearing Down and Building Up Part 2

As I wrote about Tuesday, it has been determined that Pine Valley United Methodist Church’s Building B must be demolished due to safety and security issues.  We all agree that “Building B” is so much more than a building.  As Linda Gregson, PVUMC Wee Care Preschool Director, said it, “So many memories!  It’s not just a building but people’s beginnings where they put prayers to build it, and then where marriages began, babies were baptized, children were taught about Jesus, Wee Care began ...it’s not just a building.”   I know that is how many of you feel, so let’s continue celebrating how God used this place of worship for 59 years!   

As I said before, Pastor Tim shared a letter with us that he received from Rev. Belton Joyner, the founding minister of PVUMC. While going through some things, Rev. Joyner found the bulletin that was used June 11, 1961, at the groundbreaking day for PVUMC!  At the groundbreaking, the people, with the minister, read, “Almighty and everlasting God, who art ever exalted yet always right; grant that we may worthily offer unto Thee, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, this ground upon which we stand, to be made holy with sacred aspiration and divine purpose, as a place upon which to build a temple and a sanctuary where thy glory shall be manifest among us, and where all people shall come to call upon thy name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.”  

Here are some ways that PVUMC made this ground “holy with sacred aspiration and divine purpose” and “where all people shall come to call upon thy name; through Jesus Christ.” 

Julie Pindell remembers, “when the congregation relocated to the present sanctuary for worship, the children moved to the original sanctuary for children’s church.  After teaching a lesson on salvation to a large group of children, I gave an Altar call for anyone who wanted to give their life to Jesus’  Beautiful seven-year-old, Wendy, who came forward, knelt at the Altar, and we prayed together.  When her mother came to get her, I told her what had happened.  She was thrilled and confirmed that from conversations at home, she felt her daughter was ready to make that important decision.  Hallelujah!” 

Wee Care Preschool was established in August 1994.  Linda Gregson, Kristin Bednarczyk, Jim Van Hook, along with other dedicated church members, worked diligently to develop a quality comprehensive preschool program. The program was based on Christian values and affordability and was designed as a half-day program for 2-4-year-olds.  Wee Care Preschool doubled in size for the 1995 school year, and a state-registered Kindergarten program was also added. Further growth came with the development of the Christian Life Center in 1997.  

Wee Care’s vision is that of sharing the word of God in a loving, learning, Christian atmosphere.  It is their prayerful hope that as a staff, they provide children with a wonderful experience and a strong Christian foundation.  Their ultimate goal and vision is to be “Connecting Hearts to Christ and One Another.”   

Remember the young couple in MYF, Mike and Linda. They are all grown up now.  Mike started teaching the Koinonia Sunday school class in that first sanctuary; later, the kitchen and the Koinonia class is still going strong!     

As one person said, “The church has gotten bigger - more members and more buildings.  But it is still so welcoming, so friendly!  We love our church home and our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We will miss Building B because it has been so important in our past.  It was the center of our family's church worship and activities for many years - Services, Sunday School, revivals, UMW, UMM, meetings (thousands), children's church, VBS, musicals, plays, yard sales, homecomings, Cub Scouts, and much more.  Fifty-nine years later and PVUMC is still exalting the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This ground continues to be holy with sacred aspiration and divine purpose!  The one thing I continue to hear from visitors is that they feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as soon as they walk in. John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  The water is flowing at PVUMC!

Tearing Down And Building Up Part 1

As most of you know, it has been determined that Pine Valley United Methodist Church’s Building B must be demolished due to safety and security issues.  Through your stories, I have learned that you did call it “Building B,” but it is so much more than a building.  I like how Linda Gregson, PVUMC Wee Care Preschool Director, said it, “So many memories!  It’s not just a building but people’s beginnings where they put prayers to build it, and then where marriages began, babies were baptized, children were taught about Jesus, Wee Care began ...it’s not just a building.”   I know that is how many of you feel, so let’s celebrate how God has used this place of worship for 59 years!   

I shared, in an earlier blog, the letter that Pastor Tim received from Rev. Belton Joyner, the founding minister of PVUMC.  Rev. Joyner shared the bulletin from the groundbreaking on June 11, 1961.  The call to worship that day was, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; bring an offering and come into His courts.” This comes from Psalm 96:8, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.”  His name is glorious and excellent because He is perfect.  Because of His great works.  Because of all of the blessings He has poured on PVUMC, is pouring on PVUMC, and will continue to pour on PVUMC!.  He is due, and it is our duty to give Him glory.  Only a few of our staff members were at PVUMC in the beginning, but Theresa Meares, Bookkeeper, said when she was a little girl, she went to Brownies in Building B.  Shirley McLeod, Food Services Coordinator, told us, “lots of memories of my kids and church family in that old building.” 

Thanks to those of you who shared your memories and glory sightings from Building B! 

Julia Pindell wrote, “The original sanctuary at PVUMC was the ‘saw-toothed’ building.  The interior was an open two-story rectangular space with a small loft at one end.  The loft was for the choir and piano.  The choir was three or four volunteers, and when it was time to collect the offering, Rev. Belton Joyner would step down from the pulpit, run to the far end of the room, up the stairs and join the choir.  Then when the offertory was over, he would reverse the process, back to the pulpit and complete the service.” 

“The original kitchen for PVUMC was a very modest one, furnished with an average residential stove and refrigerator.  The youth group, back in the 1960s, included present members, Mike and Linda Page, Yvonne and David Culp, and Steve Wilkie.  They wanted to have a spaghetti supper as a fundraiser for outreach.  We made the sauce at homes in several batches.  The teens prepared salad, tea, and lemonade and planned to cook the noodles at the church to serve hot.  What we didn’t realize was that a commercial size pot of water on a residential stove will take a couple of hours to boil.  This found us scrambling to find smaller saucepans to boil water quickly as our first customers began to arrive.  The supper was a success, but a chef  gave us the tip to cook noodles ahead, freeze them and drop in hot water before serving.” 

Linda Page shared, “Mike and I were married in Bldg. B when it was the sanctuary - Aug. 31, 1968.  Rev. Al Morris was the minister. We filled up that warm little sanctuary with our relatives and friends.  The choir of about 8-12 sang from the balcony because there was no room downstairs. Jack Pindell was our Choir Director. Jack and Julia were also the youth counselors back then (called the MYF - Methodist Youth Fellowship). The younger kids once put on a play downstairs but used the MYF as the speakers. My voice was the part of a loud little kid who yelled out ‘Pregnant!’ when they were describing Mary.”  

The Nunalees moved to Wilmington and decided to visit churches near our Pine Valley Estates home.  We visited PVUMC (they only had one building, later called Building B).  Dean Morton and Louie Clark were greeters that Sunday and they visited us the next week.  Al Morris was the pastor.  The church was so welcoming, so friendly.  We never visited anywhere else!  We joined and have happily been members for over 47 years. 

The church office was the first room on the right.  It housed the pastor and the secretary.  The main part of the building was built in 1961, and four classrooms were added in 1968.  At some point, Pastor Lovell Aills moved into the second room on the right, making a nice large office.  The pastor's office remained there through the building of the new sanctuary (1974) and the new Fellowship Hall building (1986), at which time pastor Billy Seate moved into his new FH office.  At some point, the secretary (Marie Sammons) needed a larger, nicer desk, and Tom had an extra one at Cross Seed Co., which he donated to the church.  Then some years later, the church was going to get rid of that desk, and Tom bought it for $50 and still uses it in his office.” 

During the breaking of the ground in 1961, the minister said, “That a church may rise here in which the Gospel of her Lord shall be proclaimed.”  I believe PVUMC is a church in which the Gospel of the Lord is proclaimed, 59 years later!  I pray that we will continue to be guided and governed by the Holy Spirit and that people will know that PVUMC is a place where they can come and call upon Jesus! 

The World Needs Your Music

When Pat heard that Jim’s health was declining, he wanted to do something for Jim and his wife, Laurel.  Pat was good friends with Jim, and they had enjoyed many good times at church and on Jim’s sailboat.  Pat decided that he would take his guitar and sing Christmas songs with Jim.  Pat’s wife suggested he invite another choir member to go. That choir member invited another choir member.  Four of them went to Jim’s and sang Christmas songs from the yard.  Pat said Jim had a smile from ear to ear, and you could feel the love! I did not have the honor of knowing Jim, but I do know he loved the choir and had seen him perform in some of the Pine Valley United Methodist Church’s shows!   

Pat got a text from Jim’s wife saying they had brought Christmas to all.  She said they brought so much joy to both of them.  She said Jim had missed choir and his church family so much.  Music had always been a part of his life, especially at Christmas, and that had been sorely missed in 2020.  She said it was the highlight of the week for them to come and sing.   

Of course, Pat said it brought Christmas to them, and they were so blessed by that evening.  When we let God use us as a blessing to others, we are always blessed.  We are told in God’s Word that when we want to encourage others, we will find an inexpressible joy in the process.  1 Peter 1:8, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…”  Everyone needs to be encouraged and appreciated, and we have all been given that ability to bless others.  God blesses us and makes us a blessing to others.   

A week and a half later, Jim went to be with his Lord and Savior.  Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  When I reached out to Laurel about this blog, she said they had missed their church family so much this year.  She said that night’s visit brought such joy and peace.  She said it brought the spirit of Christmas and Christ’s gift to us into our hearts.  What a blessing to Pat and the others that they acted on what I believe was a nudge from God.  They were able to have a wonderful evening of fellowship with part of their church family.  Thankfully, Pat did not put this nudge off because God’s never early, never late, but always on time.     

God calls us all to be servants.  Our Savior spent a large portion of His earthly ministry in the presence of the sick--healing and comforting those who were experiencing hard times.  Matthew 20:28, “...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus tells us when we demonstrate compassion to the hungry, thirsty, lonely, and sick that we are doing it to Him.  People going through a tough time or are homebound can feel neglected or forgotten.   

As Pastor Tim reminded us  Sunday, we are our brother’s keeper, not just our birth brothers. Genesis 4:9, “‘Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’  ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’”  Yes, we are!  We are brothers and sisters in Christ, by the blood of Jesus.  We are to set aside our own opinions, personal preferences, and our own pleasures to show love to others.  Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” 

As always, I am so honored to be a part of such a loving and giving church!  PVUMC, thanks again for showing us the love of Jesus through your actions!  Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus and having a servant’s heart!  

Reach Out and Touch Someone

In the 1980's AT&T had a jingle, "Reach Out And Touch Someone."  My, how times have changed.  I was thinking how people are scared to touch anyone or anything.  If you drop food off to someone with COVID, you put the food on the porch, and then after you leave, they come out and get it.  Instead of hugging someone and thanking them, you wave through the door. I had this on my mind Sunday when Pine Valley United Methodist Church’s Pastor Tim said, “It’s Heart Checking, Burden Bearing, Grace Living Time.”  

I thought about the leper, and it broke my heart thinking about his isolation.  This man began to have sores on his body, more and more. Luke 5:12, "And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus..."  He had to leave his family, his home, his work and go live with other lepers.  He had to leave everything he knew and loved, not for a short while, but for the rest of his life. There was no cure, so he would never be able to comfort his crying wife, hug his children or provide for them.  His family could bring him food every day but not get close.  They would leave it at a certain place, and when they left, he could pick it up. According to Jewish law, Leviticus 13:45 tells us, "Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face..."  And the worse part to me is the rest of that verse, "...and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’"  Although I know the physical damage of leprosy is horrible, I think the mental and emotional damage would be the worst!  

One day the leper saw a small group of people following a man who was teaching them.  He heard the name "Jesus" and wanted to hear this teacher.  As Jesus and the men got closer, he knew what the law told him to do.  He yelled, "Unclean! Unclean!  Stay away from me!  I have leprosy!"  Jesus kept getting closer, and the man shouted, "Unclean" louder!  He began to cover himself and hobble away, but Jesus was so close he could look into His eyes.  He didn’t see fear, rejection, or judgment.  He saw love!  Wonder how long it had been since he saw love in someone's eyes?  And I bet that was the moment he fell down.  Luke 5:12, "While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy.  When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.'”  The NKJV reads, "And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”  Implored is more than a request.  It is pleading and begging.  Luke 5:13, "Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' And immediately the leprosy left him." 

Jesus could have healed the man without touching him. He could have spoken healing.  I believe Jesus knew this leper needed love as much as healing.  Wonder how long it had been since he had had human touch?  Jesus reached out and touched the man with compassion.  I learned there was another reason Jesus showed love.  He had just told four disciples that he would teach them how to be fishers of men.  Maybe this was the first lesson.  You have to love men to catch them.  Look past the scars and rotting flesh and love them.  

During this time of social distancing, God still shows us ways to reach out and touch someone. As Pastor Tim reminded us Sunday, we, too, must show Christian love. “If we find ourselves letting our political ideology, our personal preferences, or our own pleasures come before our love for one another, then we are on the wrong road.” If God can use Cain and Able, He can use us!  We are our brother’s keeper, and they need our love!  If we are going to be effective in our evangelism, we must reach out and touch someone! 

Humble Contemplation

Pine Valley United Methodist Church‘s Pastor Barry used 1 Timothy 2:1-2, MSG, in his devotional Monday.  "The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quiet about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation."  He said, “our lives today can easily resemble the lives that Paul was describing to Timothy in their time.”  His instructions were to pray; every way; for everyone; for rulers, for our rulers...to rule well...so OUR lives may be lived quietly, simply, and in humble contemplation.   

While I was sick, I realized one day that I was not getting better.  I was too tired to talk and had not said much in four or five days; mostly, I just slept.  One evening my daughter told me she was going to call a friend to come pray over me.  I remember thinking, “Who would want to come to this house?”  Within minutes my doorbell rang, and my family put a chair at the glass front door.  My friends had me put my hand on the glass while they put theirs on the other side and prayed over me.  All I could do was weep.  Partly because I was sick, partly because I was tired, partly because of the love shown and a lot of tears from the relief of hearing, “Jesus, we know you have the power to heal! Thank You, Jesus!”  

And that is when I began to turn around.  I know Jesus has the power to heal and gives that power to us through His name, but I seemed to have forgotten.  You see, I had been wallowing in my misery and had not been raising any hallelujahs!  I needed a fellow believer to remind me and let me hear it.  When I sat back down in the den, I kept saying, “Thank You, Jesus!”  I said it over and over the next few days, and it turned my mindset around.  We have to feel better when we are praising God!  I have thought a lot about that night.  The witness my daughter saw and anyone who may have been walking by.  I will tell you if I had witnessed that, as a passer-by, I would have had tears in my eyes, and I would have stopped and prayed.  I believe it was a reminder that prayer cannot be stopped.  God always brings a way to our mind!     

The love these friends showed my family and me was overwhelming.  They dropped everything and came!  They showed God’s love.  They lived out Romans 12:10-12, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  My friends and family agreed on the power of prayer.  Matthew 18:19, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”  They showed compassion through James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  Confidence was shown through 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  Through my friends' compassion and cooperation, they showed me their confidence in God’s Word.   

It seems today, we all know someone going through a tough time.  Let’s be in prayer for those people.  Not only will it benefit them, but it benefits us to pray for others.  When we are part of something like that, it helps praise flow naturally from our hearts.  Like David, the more we praise God, the more we find to praise Him for!  Psalm 103:15-19, “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.  But from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.  The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.”  We are to praise God in every circumstance, no matter what is going on.  This will give us joy and please God.  Psalm 150:2, “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.” 

Ezekiel recorded these words from God, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”   God said He was looking for “someone.”  Could you be that someone who could stand in the gap for another person?  Praying for someone is not just a nice gesture or just words.  When we tell someone we will pray for them, we are putting on God’s armor and heading to the front lines of battle on their behalf.  What a wonderful gift we can give each other!  

Thank You For Your Servant's Heart

God’s timing was perfect for Pine Valley United Methodist Church’s Pastor Tim’s Saturday afternoon devotional.  John 14:25-27, “All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  How do you get this peace?  Get into God’s presence, His Word, and pray.  The way this world is going, many of us are confused and troubled.  “Let not our hearts be troubled.”  It reminded me of the last few weeks.   

At a time when I had been so disappointed in the corruption and darkness of this world, God gave me time to rest and watch His people do His work.  He showed me His hands and feet through friends, family, neighbors, and my church family!  I have been overwhelmed by the acts of kindness my family has been shown during our bout with COVID. Overwhelmed by the many meals, grocery runs, cards, food, calls, texts, and especially the prayers!  Even a special Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas day dinner were delivered!  The smiles, as you waved through the door, were so special.  Many checked on my mom and took her food while I could not.  So many people are going through hard times, and it is so wonderful for them to see Jesus through the actions of others.  When you are praising God, your heart cannot be troubled! 

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  We are all called to be ministers.  I read there are 58 phrases in the Bible regarding “love one another,” “care for one another, ” “help one another,” and “support one another,” etc.  That is what God intends for us to do.  Even Jesus came to be a servant.  Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus is the ultimate example of selflessness.  He went out of His way to talk to the woman at the well.  He healed lepers.  He washed His disciple’s feet.  And the ultimate sacrifice, He died on the cross for our sins. 

Scripture calls us to serve others in love.  Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”  A servant’s heart helps others without expecting something in return.  They serve in appreciation of God’s gifts they have been given. 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  These experiences inspire us to be better than we are. I am reminded of Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  Every knife becomes dull with use.  A knife won't sharpen itself.  Nothing weaker than iron can sharpen iron.  A godly friend can sharpen us in the areas where they are strong.  Proverbs 13:20 reminds us of this.  “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”  We are to continuously grow as a Christian, which means it is important to choose friends who will help sharpen us.   

A real friend is able to meet our spiritual needs through prayer.  They have faith and believe God is in control and remind us of this truth.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  The Bible says, Job 6:14, “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.”  There are opportunities to serve all around us.  If you ask God to help you find a need, He will put someone in your path.  Let’s consider their needs and serve them gladly.  Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  We are told in Hebrews 6:10, “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.”  You will be rewarded in Heaven. PVUMC, I have watched you serve each other, especially during this last year, and I am humbled to be part of this church family! I leave you with Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”  

Hallelujah!

In a recent staff meeting at Pine Valley United Methodist Church, we listened to a song that I love, "Hallelujah Christmas" by Cloverton.  You have probably heard it.  The song goes through Jesus' life from birth, life, death, and resurrection.  After each verse, they sing, "Hallelujah," which means, "praise the Lord!"  The last verse is, "I know You came to rescue me - This baby boy would grow to be - A man and one day die for me and you - My sins would drive the nails in You - That rugged cross was my cross, too - Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah - Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah - Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah." 

All during 2020, I have tried to thank God for the hard times because that is when we grow.  But it is hard!  Yet, when I sit and list my blessings, I see there have been plenty in 2020.  Some were hidden, and I believe we will not realize some until later.  But we need to learn from Jesus.  "Still, every breath You drew was Hallelujah."  Jesus praised God, and He knew the ending of the story.  We are to praise God in all things.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 

Although 2020 has been horrible in so many ways, I see it as a revival to many.  For me, I have a deeper trust in God.  I have had to remind myself daily that He is in control no matter how crazy this world gets.  When you think it can't get any crazier, it does!  But I say out loud, "I trust You, God!"  And that settles my soul.  When I believe that God is in charge, then it is well with my soul!  Psalm 84:4, "Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you."  

I can think of other things I am thankful for from 2020.  I had my daughter home for three months, and she lives 3000 miles away.  Because of social distancing, our family of four ate at the table together every day!  She has been able to come back for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which was not supposed to happen.  Trying to make sure my uncle was still laughing, I began sending him jokes.  By April, it had begun a ministry of writing letters of encouragement and jokes to over 40 seniors who are not getting out much.  By praying for these people on a regular basis, I have made so many new friends!  I do not take worshipping in my church for granted anymore.  I also do not take singing with my church family for granted anymore!  And who knows what other blessings will come about?  2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 

I am choosing to begin my days with a hallelujah!  There will come a day when we have no more tears, sickness, or pain.  1 Peter 1:3-5, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."

Celebrate Christmas

I remember, as a child, getting so excited when the Christmas specials came on television.  I also loved watching the Christmas musicals.  It seemed to get me in the spirit!  And even now, the best is when we start singing the Christmas carols at Pine Valley United Methodist Church!  While it always brought excitement to me, I now think it brings hope, which is exciting. This morning, as I was in my office, writing this, I heard, “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  In the hall was Mr. Pat and Mrs. Linda, wearing reindeer antlers, going from classroom to classroom singing with the children. As they ended with “Silent Night,” I thought of how that was as much for me as the children!  It was for all God’s children!   And it still brings an exciting hope to me! 

In my Advent small group, we studied the lyrics to “Joy To The World.” “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.  Let earth receive her King  Let every heart prepare Him room…”  We shared how we need to prepare more room for God in our life.  We also agreed that in a year as tough as 2020, it is nice to remember, “He rules the world with truth and grace...” This is something we are going to hold onto.  While we are filled with joy that Jesus was born, we had never thought about Advent as a time to anticipate His second coming.  We almost did not do the study because “it is such a busy time of year!”  Exactly, that is why we needed to do it now!  Preparing Him room!  We shared that we couldn’t wait till we sang “Joy To The World” because we would never sing it the same again. 1 Peter 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you…”  

This year, especially, I think people are looking for hope.  What is hope?  Hope is a feeling of expectation.  Hope is also defined as a feeling of trust.  I don’t think I have ever thought of hope in that way.  When we have hope in God, we have a feeling of trust, which gives us peace.  Peace that only God can give.  Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Well, Sunday, we sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” which was what I needed. The words brought comfort as we sang, “that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.  Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.”  Then we sang “Joy To The World,” and I could not help but think of my Advent small group.  

  If you were not in the spirit before, you were after this!  As Pastor Tim said, it is nothing short of a miracle that, among a pandemic, we were able to have a Christmas musical.  Thanks to Karl, Camille, Maura, and Taylor for a wonderful celebration bringing hope to all!  The chancel choir was all dressed up in their tuxedos and shimmering black tops with red masks!  James Taylor, with his radio voice, was the narrator.  Someone just told me he has done radio!  “The Little Drummer Boy'' was one of my favorites because I love the David Bowie/Bing Crosby version.  I did not know “All Is Well,” but it was another favorite because of the lyrics, “All is well all is well.  Lift up your voices and sing.  Born is now Emmanuel.  Born is our Lord and Savior.”  With God in control, all is well!  A simple and powerful message of hope!  But the song that stuck with me was, “We Need A Little Christmas” because we do “need a little Christmas right this very minute!”  That sums up 2020 to me!   

I am always so proud of IGNITE!  They practiced, were socially distanced, and wore masks to give us a Christmas musical!  When Christmas comes, I always hope we will sing, “Angels We Have Heard On High,” and that is what they started with!  PVUMC is so blessed to have so many youths praising God through song.  All of the soloists did a fantastic job!  The Bridge Band played “Noel,” featuring Ashley Stein!  “Noel” means Christmas or “to be born,” and it was beautiful to hear this worship!  When you left the musical, you had been to a celebration!   

“Celebrate Christmas” was a perfect title for this musical because that is what they did!  They celebrated Jesus!  When it was over, Karl said he hoped we had found hope today.  We did!  If you are looking for hope this season, celebrate Christmas through praise and worship!  You cannot be in the midst of worship and praise and not have hope!  While the musical is over and December 25 has passed, we can still celebrate Jesus!  Thank you to our Chancel choir, IGNITE, Bridge Band, musicians, tech support, staff, and volunteers.  

Video Links below

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A Joyful New Year...Again!

As I was deciding what to write for the new year, I ran across last year's post.  I decided it is exactly what we need again.  After 2020, we need to remember God wants good for us.  God is compassionate.  God wants to guide our path.  We are to look ahead and leave 2020 behind!  And we are not to fear the future!  God never changes.  Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  We need the Truth, God’s Word, which never changes. Joshua 21:45, “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; everyone was fulfilled.”  

 

A Joyful New Year

God's Plans for our future are good!

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."  Jeremiah 29:11

 

God's compassion is new every morning!  

"Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore I hope in Him!'”  Jeremiah 29:11

 

Seek God for the Future.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways  acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.   Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Look Ahead, Not Behind

"Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:13-14

 

Do Not Fear The Future!

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God..."  Philippians 4:6

 

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Father God, I love you and adore you!  This morning I want to say happy birthday, Jesus!  This morning I want to celebrate Jesus, His birth, and His life!  Thank you for sending Your Son to earth, in human form, to feel all of the emotions we would experience.  Thank You for bringing life and hope to us all!  Thank You, Jesus, for dying on the cross for my sins.  Thank You, Jesus, for rising from the dead three days later so that every Christmas, we can celebrate the gift of eternal life!

We live in a broken world that needs good news!  Make that good news real in our hearts.  Let us remember that You never change.  Your Word tells us that Your love never changes.  You are a constant in our life!  God, “help me be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ child.”    

I wait with anticipation for your return, to see Jesus face to face!  Until then, help me to further Your Kingdom.  Help me to use my resources wisely, to serve You!  Help me to shine Your light brightly!  And don’t let me go anywhere where Your Presence is not with me!   

It is in the precious and Holy name of Jesus, I pray!  Amen!

Merry Christmas, Pine Valley United Methodist Church family!  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

I'll Be Home For Christmas

The other day as I listened to Christmas music, I heard Brett Eldridge sing, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”  This song was written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent in honor of soldiers overseas who longed to be home at Christmas, but no one wanted to record it.  With so many soldiers fighting in World War II, music executives felt it was too sad for families during the most joyous time of year.  Mr. Gannon sang the song for Bing Crosby on the golf course.  In 1943, Bing Crosby recorded the song as the B-side to his hit, “White Christmas.”  Instead of it being too sad,  it filled the soldiers with hope.  When he played a holiday show for the troops, this was the most requested song.  “I’ll be home for Christmas. You can plan on me.  Please have snow and mistletoe And presents by the tree.  Christmas Eve will find me where the love light gleams.  I’ll be home for Christmas, If only in my dreams.”   

I thought of how different this Christmas is for so many people.  Many of us are not getting together with a large group of family and friends.  Many people will be alone this Christmas.  So many people have lost loved ones this year.  I want to be filled with Christmas joy right now, but sometimes that is hard.  As Pine Valley United Methodist Church’s Pastor Tim said Sunday, we can focus on God and have peace and joy.  Peace that only God can give.  Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Those families and soldiers were experiencing tough, uncertain times.  They, too, were looking for hope.  These hard times, no matter what year or century, are sure to make us re-evaluate and reprioritize what is most valuable in our lives.  

This song really made me think about “home.”  You know the sayings, “Home is where the heart is.” or “Home is where your Momma is.”  I think those are true.  Home is not a physical address.  But, really, where is home?  According to Webster, our home is where we reside, our place of origin, our familiar setting.  1 Peter 2:11 says our home is not in this world.  “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.”  In Ecclesiastes 12:5, Solomon said, “Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets.”  He knew that God’s children’s forever home would be with their Lord and Savior.  Many of our loved ones now live in their forever home.  We miss them terribly, and things will never be the same, but I would not call my Dad back here for anything!  He is in his forever celebration, experiencing a joy we cannot imagine.  He is home for Christmas and all eternity!   

What a day of rejoicing it will be when we are all together again!  John 14:23, “Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  John 14:2-3, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  Where is “home” this Christmas?  It is captured in a name.  Immanuel.  Matthew 1:23, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).   

Think about Mary and Joseph and how far from home they were on that first Christmas.  Nothing was familiar, they were tired from traveling so far, and Mary was about to give birth.  Then there was nowhere for them except a cave where animals were kept.  Their baby lay in a feeding trough for animals.  But that stable was turned into their Christmas home!  Jesus made the difference!  Angels, shepherds, the three wise men, all rejoiced!  Later Jesus would have to leave His heavenly home and come to earth to live and die for our sins so that we can have an eternal home with Him.  Christmas means celebrating Jesus, so where He is, we can celebrate Him.  If He is living in us, we are home!  Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Merry Christmas!  

Christmas Outreach 2020

I remember my first Christmas at Pine Valley United Methodist Church.  I was blown away by the annual Christmas outreach serving over 5000 meals.  I never knew I could have so much fun washing collards!  It was the first time I was able to get involved and I met some special friends in that kitchen that I hold dear to my heart.  I found it exciting to buy the items to be donated and serve the meals.  My husband and a friend delivered meals.  I was so proud to belong to a church that served the community in such a way.  While 2020 has been a year of challenges, we continue to see so many blessings poured on PVUMC!  And I continue to be even more proud of PVUMC and the way God has shown our different ministries how to “pivot” or, as someone else said, to “creatively adapt and adjust to those challenges.” While we have unique challenges in social distancing and food safety and handling, we will still provide for our community, just in new and different ways.  Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?  Romans 12:4-5, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” 

Thankfully, PVUMC was already streaming services online before COVID.  Quickly, we were doing Bible studies, Pastor’s Coffee Hour, Pastor Tim’s Saturday afternoon devotion and singing, etc.  I have relatives and friends from all over watching our services online.  We have people from different countries watching online!  We had three ladies join at Sunday’s 11:15 service this month who had never been to PVUMC in person….only online.  They did our online Bible study and worship.  In my Bible study we had a lady come visit when she was in town because she feels this is her church even though she lives in Pittsburgh!  The man came to fill our church drink machine and saw Pastor Tim.  He said, “Hey, Pastor Tim!  I enjoy watching you every Sunday morning on television before I go to my church!”  God is working!  Even in our weakness, when we came together as the church, the presence of Jesus shone through. Ephesians 2:22, “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” 

We are to represent Christ while on this earth, showing His love to everyone we meet.  We are called to invite others into our community of faith.  In a community, people care for each other.  They use their gifts to help each other.  Hebrews 13:16, “Don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God."  Many people serve inside our  church, but by going outside the church walls, we show God’s love to many who have never seen it.  Ephesians 4:1, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”  Paul is saying, “all of you, together, are to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”  We are responsible for more than our own spiritual health!  We have all been called!   

Here are some of the ways PVUMC will provide for our community.  Send Christmas cards to our beloved seniors who are in care facilities. Adopt a homebound senior by safely preparing and delivering a homemade meal. Donate dark crew socks and a $10 Chick-fil-A gift card for those who are homeless or in recovery programs.   Donate specific grocery items to make Christmas pantry bags for community call-ins or walk-ins. Sign and donate a Christmas card to put in gift bags.  Volunteer to assemble homeless, recovery, and pantry bags or to make deliveries of these bags. In addition, the church will supply homeless shelters with bulk size grocery items for a Christmas week meal as well as devotion books for those in recovery.  PVUMC United Methodist Men are supplying toboggan hats, and two adult Sunday School classes are supplying blankets for the unsheltered population in our community.” 

“Material donations will be collected starting Sunday, December 6, and will end on Sunday, December 20. You may also drop off a monetary donation at the church or through Pushpay with "Christmas Outreach" in the notes field.  Volunteer sign up sheets will be in the CLC on Sundays and in the Fellowship Hall the rest of the week. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing, we must limit the volunteer activities to those who have signed up.”  How can you help?  Visit the Christmas Eve Outreach 2020 webpage for some suggestions.