A Message from Pastor Craig: 3-27-2022

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Boca Raton Army Air Field (BRAAF).  I had just learned about it from a historical marker at FAU, and found it not only interesting but insightful about our community.  After church, a friend came up and told me she had written a book about it!  She subsequently lent me a video about it, and boy! did that add to the little insight that I had gotten from the marker!

Boca Raton historians contend that the Allies winning World War II came about from our airfield here. Yep.  They make that bold of a statement. The bomb in Hiroshima may have ended it, but it was won because of a little apparatus added to our planes called radar.

We think of radar as what the cops use to get us busted for speeding.  And we think of microwave as what we heat up dinner with.  But with British technology, MIT and other scientists in this country miniaturized the microwave radar technology to the point where they could be installed in an airplane. That airplane could then go and hunt German U-boats, who had been picking off ships along our coast here, and of course elsewhere.  Germany lost 13% of their U-boat fleet in one month, and so they withdrew from our seas altogether!  Pretty amazing.  They couldn’t figure out how we could so easily figure out where they were!

There is a feeling here in Boca Raton that Boca is not properly recognized for its contribution to the war because the radar program remained classified for decades.  The history of the BRAAF was unceremoniously released from secrecy long after the war was over and the images of Hiroshima and Normandy and a soldier kissing a nurse in NY had taken over our collective remembrances of the end of the war.

Have you ever felt overlooked?  Have you ever felt like you contributed to a project and others got the credit?  Whether it was money, or intellectual property, or time, you put yourself into something just for somebody else to get credit, or maybe just to be taken for granted?  I have.  Whether in my youth, or adulthood, these things happen.

What do you do when that happens? Well, you forgive for one thing.  I don’t think we should forget them however, because those are experiences that can help us make sure we give credit where credit is due—not letting others be overlooked as we might have.

But also, when we do good for others, I think we can cash in on the credit in two ways. We can get
recognized here, or we can get recognized later by God.  Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, said: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Just before that statement He said that if people recognize what you have done, you’ve gotten your reward right then and there.

So where do you want credit? Honestly? It feels good to be recognized! It’s nice to be noticed and thanked. But then the motivation becomes the good feeling derived from the action, rather than the need itself, or the person themselves.

All those airmen who couldn’t talk about what they did for decades and decades had to live with the satisfaction that they drove the Germans away, that they succeeded in repelling the advance of an evil dictator, and that they had inflicted a mortal blow on one of the biggest wrongs of human history.

Whether it be in the theater of war, or the drama of daily life, doing good is its own reward.  Knowing that our Heavenly Father watches is just a bonus. The Giver of Life, and the One who enables us to do good, watches over us—and occasionally smiles with delight when we reflect back His character. Someday we will see that smile. That is reward enough.

Grateful for the blessings.

Craig.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  Matthew 6:1

A Message from Pastor Craig: 3-20-2022

Last night Janice handed me a card to send to my Mom, congratulating her on becoming a great grandmother. Notice I am acknowledging who the kind person is in my house. The card invited me to ponder this generational shift in our family, one that not only affected my Mom, but us too.

Let me back up. Our oldest son and his wife just had their first child last week. After a somewhat tumultuous pregnancy, Emilia Reese came into this world quite wonderfully and is just beautiful. That event made my boy a dad.  I have always delighted in Peter, and have enjoyed his ability to take on whatever task lies before him. So, his becoming a dad is all good, and a blessing for Emilia.

This all means that Janice and I are now grandparents.  We all shifted up one generation with little Emilia. I wrote to my Mom that she has now joined the ranks of an elite group of people; just culturally, not everyone gets to be a great-grandparent. Hence it’s a privilege to join those ranks. But that’s not what I was thinking about.  I was thinking about the great-grandmothers in my life—not my great-grandmothers, I never met them—but my grandmothers, who became great-grandmothers in my lifetime. They were wonderful people. My paternal grandmother was a lifelong missionary to Costa Rica, the wife of a preacher man, and a teaching nurse that started the best nursing training program in Costa Rica. She was awesome, and we loved each other very much. (I was the executor of her estate.) She was not perfect, like the rest of us, but she was truly remarkable and well known. My maternal grandmother, the stay-at-home wife of a classified ads salesman of a small city newspaper, on the other hand, was perfect. I really don’t think she sinned in the last 20 years of her life.  She was not well known, but well loved and admired by those who did.

It is to that lineage that my mom now belongs. Those were special ladies (and their husbands too!). I guess Janice and I are joining their ranks too. Those ladies loved me deeply. They did not spoil me (although my paternal grandmother did give me the coolest and most elaborate gift ever when we first got to Costa Rica) nor sugar me up and then send me home. They both wanted me to learn to love Jesus and they both modelled the life I should follow.

There is no lesson in unconditional love greater than when you have a child. I met Peter as he was delivered.  I already loved him with every ounce of my being. My love for him was complete from the get-go. That happened again with the birth of our son Drew. I love him unconditionally. Now Peter gets to experience that— that makes me smile.

Likewise, I am now experiencing love, also unconditional, that is once-removed—I love Emilia Reese
unconditionally. This helps me understand God’s love, and the agape love that God wants me to share with everybody, not just with the ones with the last name Nelson. That’s a greater challenge, of course. Love gets tested even in our families. Imagine that kind of love diffused throughout the church, the community, and the country. But God calls us to that, wherever, whenever and to whomever that might be.

I will strive to live into the models that were set for me. And to model that love for generations to come. That is the discipleship that we have been called to.

Excited to be a grandfather,

Craig.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7,8

A Message from Pastor Craig: 3-13-2022

While riding my bike yesterday, I came across a historical marker that says that my house is in what was once an Army base. Did you know that from Palmetto Park Road up to Yamato Road, and from S. Dixie
Highway over to Military Trail was all once a military base? It was huge! The numbers are pretty impressive for that old Boca Raton Army Airfield:  5820 acres and 800 structures were built on it.  All within 4 months! You can’t get a couch delivered in that time nowadays.

The numbers continue: over 5 years it was home to 100,000 people – in a day when Boca only had 700
residents. When the guys “went out on the town” there wasn’t much town to go out on! The whole base cost $12,000,000 to build. Now, a single house sells for more than that out on the beach.

On a fateful day in May of 1944, 9 airmen (they were technically Army soldiers at the time) died when their training mission in a B-34 crashed on takeoff. One of the largest tragedies in this town. On another fateful day, this time in 1947, the base was destroyed by a hurricane, and never rebuilt. Homestead Air Force Base had a similar, not identical, encounter with Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  Hurricanes are not kind to air bases!

I think it’s helpful to know our history. On a national level, our history keeps us identified as a people. Locally, it connects us too, and helps understand how we got to where we are. When we look back, we see the path that has led to the present.

And that path helps lead to the future. When events in our lives move us in a particular direction, we can get a glimpse of where we are headed. That’s why it’s important to look back and identify important times in our collective history, but also in our personal history. “Where is God leading me?” is a question that we ask often. Well, one of the answers to that is to ask “where has God led me in the past?  Where can I see God’s hand moving in my life.”  Those incidents or events or decisions that God has led us through in the past, when you start lining them up, will show a pattern, and that pattern can be projected out into the future.

I’m hesitant to say that God is predictable. Because God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). But God is consistently good. God is predictably faithful and the good that God has brought to us in the past indicates His will for the future.

I started out with a military reference. The war that is going on in Ukraine feels like it is, or could be, our war.  God’s plans, and His goodness do not include the evil perpetrated by evil and conniving people. War is outside the perfect will of God. So as we pray for God’s direction and blessing in our lives, let’s pray for the restoration of the lives of so many displaced in Ukraine. God has a plan to prosper them too.

As Easter approaches, we are reminded that the answer to whether God is ultimately good and loving was answered unequivocally with the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross. Let us always remember that and celebrate it.

Gratefully,

Craig.

He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel. The LORD is compassionate and
gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion (hesed).  Psalm 103:7,8

A Message from Pastor Craig: 3-6-2022

On February 23, a group of us from the church took a little excursion to South Dade County. It was fun just to get out of our county and go see something different.  Many in the group had not been to the Everglades National Park, and so it was truly novel for a lot of us. Some had been to the Anhinga Trail, but none of them had been to the Nike Missile Site, so it proved great fun for me to show people new things. We then got to see a ministry of the United Methodist Church in Florida City, an after-school program for migrant and poor children there. That ministry, called Branches, has been supported by our church in the past, and continues to do wonderful work with now another generation of kids. They’ve been at it since Hurricane Andrew (1992), and so they are seeing the children’s children now.

A couple of impressions. One was related to that generational thing. Generational poverty is an issue in our country that needs continued attention. Particularly in the educational arena, how we offer good schools to poor children continues to befuddle us. But here at Branches, the director Kim King-Torres, sees the kids that are coming through now as more hopeful than the ones that came through 30 years ago. Maybe the hurricane had something to do with it, but maybe it has to do with the feelings of the parents, and where they are compared to their parents. The idea that through Branches, and the church, and of course other ministries, one generation is improving over the other is a wonderful thing.

Conversely, while it was very interesting to see an actual missile, and to hear about the realities of the military back in the early sixties (like – for two years the soldiers who staffed that site lived in tents in Florida City and would truck out to the Everglades. Can you imagine 2 years in a MASH tent in South Florida? The mosquitoes back then were the size of Anhingas today (just kidding, but there were a LOT of them)).  The tales about how close we came to nuclear war with Russia (what?) 60 years ago were a little disconcerting with the news about their invasion of Ukraine ringing in our ears now. Have we progressed? The guidance systems that direct missiles have gotten a lot more sophisticated in the last 60 years, but the moral guidance does not seem to have kept pace.

Lent is a season that invites us to be introspective. And humble. The penitent feel of the season leads us to the acceptance of the freedom, and the new way of thinking, that Jesus’ death and resurrection brought.  Love, expressed in sacrifice, changed history. Love needs to do it again. I’m writing this a whole week before it will be read. I’m praying that something will have changed even in those days. God is still in the miracle-making business!

Praying for peace,

Craig.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Luke 6:31