A Message from Pastor Craig

Do you remember the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral? How long ago was that? COVID has messed up my sense of time – so it’s hard for me to intuit how long ago things like that were.

Last April marked the two-year anniversary of that fire. The other night Janice and I watched a couple of documentary presentations on where things stand today. It’s taking a long time to fix. Archeologists sift through every bagful of debris collected. They find 15th Century nails, for instance, and preserve them. That takes time. Off-site carpenters construct replacement beams, and the beams to support other beams. It all takes time. One of the most time-consuming tasks involve the removal of damaged structure. You can’t just go up there and start tearing things down. You will fall through undetected damaged walls or ceilings just trying to get at the visually damaged structure. It’s a huge task.

The process of dismantling the charred ruins from the fire fascinated me. They have to start at the top if they are to preserve as much as possible. So, they decided to build scaffolding all around the building including all the way around the top. (That structure in and of itself has its own beauty.) Carpenters, precariously hanging a hundred feet up, hang down like cave divers to access the charred material.

So… hanging from scaffolding on a rope more than a hundred feet up, secured by a harness around their waist, they are expected to yank out big pieces of wood, sometimes charred, sometimes not. But what do they brace against to pull on these things? They can’t hold on or plant their feet on the actual building. It might all come crashing down. When you rope down a cave, the cave wall serves as an
anchoring point. But not for the spidermen of Notre Dame! It’s nearly impossible work.

Which led me to think about our lives. Sometimes we feel like we are hanging from a thread. And the struggles of life make us feel like we are hanging way above a terrifying precipice. Now, God has gifted us with skills and gifts to “hang in there.” Those gifts and graces enable us to get through all of life, not just the scary parts.

But with all that equipment, with all those skills and resources, it’s really hard to navigate without anchor points. What’s going through my head is the image of launching a boat. If you’re on the dock and you put one foot in the boat and then push off with the other foot, the boat will drift away from the dock. Why? Because the dock is anchored in the ground and you can push away from it. However, try to launch the same boat while you’re floating in the water—how well is that going to go? You can’t push it because you have no solid point from which to push.

So it is with life. It’s hard to launch without an anchoring point. There has to be some solid reference point for leverage. We live in a fluid ever-changing world where things that we thought grounded us shift all the time. But God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). God is immovable (Psalm 144:1). In our lives, when we need an anchoring point or when we need an immovable reference point—God is that.

And that’s what church is for. It’s so that children can learn where the reference points of life are. Knowing where the ground is allows you to fly with confidence. Knowing what is immovable allows you to press against it and move the things that need to move. Not having those strongholds to stand on makes life hard, like pulling remnants of a fire while dangling on a rope way up in the cupulas of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Scriptures only serve as reference points for us when we know them. Singing the Psalms and reading the Gospels, and hearing the Word proclaimed will offer us those handles to hang on to when confronted with the realities of this life we know as the present.

Leaning on the anchor points, Craig

Bless the Lord who is my immovable Rock. He gives me strength and skill in battle.  He is always kind and loving to me; he is my fortress, my tower of strength and safety, my deliverer. He stands before me as a shield.  Psalm 144:1,2

A Message from Pastor Craig

So, it was Labor Day and we drove down to Lake Boca Raton. It’s funny how people buy boats to get away from it all, and then end up all bunched together on one sand bar. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was great seeing hundreds of boats, and jet skis, and paddle boarders and kayaks, and… well, something I had never seen before.

Have you seen kids being pulled behind a boat sitting in some kind of inflatable tube? They buzz right along, flying at the speed of the boat, bouncing with the waves or the wake of the boat, holding on tight as the driver tries to knock them off with vertical or lateral g-forces. I’ve enjoyed the challenge and the ultimate defeat as you fly off into the water. It’s fun.

Well, I saw someone, it appeared to be a larger adult, following behind a boat, but on his stomach. He wasn’t sitting on an inflatable—he was head-first, skimming his tummy on the water. That seemed either one, uncomfortable, or two, a great challenge (or both). But as I watched him, I didn’t see a rope behind the boat he was following. And then, he took a left turn, and just started wandering around the big blob of boats and people on the sand bar.

What?!? His speed did not decrease. He was just skimming along, he looked like he was swimming at some outlandish speed, except that his arms weren’t moving and neither were his legs. He kept going, and going, till he disappeared from sight. Again, what?!?

Earlier I had seen two guys on electric hydrofoils. Have you seen those? They look like they are walking on water. Standing on a board, an engine and propeller below the water elevates the board above the water surface, and off they go. That looked like fun!

It also made me think that if you took that apparatus to the Sea of Galilee, some might think that you were walking on water like Jesus did.  The thought almost sounded sacrilegious, but I started thinking about how technology nowadays can make routine of what seemed miraculous years ago. Advances in medicine for instance. Or the speed of travel. Or talking to someone on another continent while sitting up in a tree.  Or…. technology has certainly changed our perspective on things.

I think that we have grown accustomed to taking our needs to technology instead of to the Lord. Blame can fly all over but technology has not solved the COVID problem. Technology has not solved the hunger issues of our country and the world. And technology helps us mitigate the power of nature, but not solve its disasters. And technology has not solved the condition of my soul. My body can hover over the water while on my feet or on my belly, but without the miracle of Grace, I cannot remedy the hurts, hang-ups and habits of my life. I can appear in front of a group of kids in Sunday School class in Florida while I am standing on a rural street in Kenya, but I can’t fix the mistrust created by a broken relationship. Through technology we can do amazing things (like read any translation of the Bible on my phone, or watch a streamed worship service), but only God can solve the true condition of our humanity.

Jesus walked unaided by technology on the water one night out on the Sea of Galilee. He calmed the storms of the waters and calmed the fears in His disciples’ hearts. He can do the same today. Jesus is still in the healing business today. Ours is to reach out to Him, and not the latest technological advances (cool as they may be!). Test your faith. Pray. And see what God can do. Not the hydrofoil.

Preaching to myself,

Craig

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5,6

A Message from Pastor Craig

Have you thought about sacred spaces? Is there a sacred place in your life? By a sacred space I mean a place that because of an experience, its architecture, or the activity in it, you are drawn to a conversation or experience with God.

I walked into somebody else’s sacred space the other day. I was down in Dania Beach, and went to check out the old First United Methodist Church of Dania. Years ago a group of us worked hard at keeping a United Methodist presence there on US-1, but a few years ago they sold the church. I wanted to see what has happened to it.

The building has big gold domes on it. There are crosses on those domes, indicating that some version of Orthodox church has taken over.  As I walked around the building, an older lady shuffled towards the church from the parking lot. As I looked her way, she immediately started shaking her head.  “Do you speak English?” I asked her. She shook her head with more vigor. But she motioned me to follow her. We went to the front door which was unlocked, and I, mistakenly, held the door for her. She shook her head. I insisted. The AC felt great—why wouldn’t she go in?

When the woman saw my stubbornness, she raised her eyebrows a little, and then—out there on US1—she began a whole ritual of genuflecting, crossing herself, and kissing the ground, and… I saw why she wanted to spare me holding the door for her. When she was done, she looked at me, smiled, and walked in. I smiled too, but looked down, and put my hand on my forehead in apology and reverence.

What we would call the Narthex—the gathering space inside the building before you enter the Sanctuary proper—was a store. You could buy any number of icons and iconography. You could stock up on thin prayer candles. I don’t know what else they had, it was all in Russian. The storekeeper welcomed me and answered my questions.

Then I walked into the Sanctuary. I had worshiped there with an African American church—the lively music still resonating in my head.  But…

Now.. The front 2/3’s of the pews had been removed. They had covered the chancel with tall curtains covering the whole front, providing the backdrop for large icons, life-sized icons of Jesus, Mary and angels, and an altar full of flowers with candles burning all over. I had walked into Russia, right there on US1 in Dania Beach.

As you looked around the Sanctuary, the icons got smaller but more prevalent. In that open area left by the pews, way to the left, was a prayer station where my older Russian guide prepared herself for prayer.

I sat away from her very aware that she had invited me into her sacred space. It wasn’t as sacred to me—too many memories of the church past flooded my heart. But I could tell I was in a sacred space, and I could see whose, right there in front of me. So it became sacred to me too.  And I prayed. Too cheap to buy a candle though.

I hope this place today is sacred for you. I hope that church this morning provides a physical space to connect with the transcendent, that the space we carve out with brick and mortar, but also the space we carve out in the course of this day, will allow for us to meet God here—to find His comfort, to find His will, to find fellowship in our worship.

If I knew how to genuflect and cross myself, I would have done so on my way out of that most amazing space. A Russian lady had invited me to encounter God that afternoon, and I did. I was grateful.

Back home,

Craig

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name. For the LORD is good, and His loving devotion endures forever; His faithfulness continues to all generations.   Psalm 100:4,5

A Message from Pastor Craig

Often when people see my car they ask “why in the world does a pastor drive a Corvette?” Since it’s showing up at church now, I thought I would share the story with you.

On Good Friday in 2013, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. On that day the oncologist told me that I had 6 months to a year to live, a hard diagnosis to receive at age 50, particularly when I had never smoked or been exposed to asbestos, the more common explanations for the illness.

There were long nights following that diagnosis. I never lost my faith, I never doubted God, but the prospect of leaving my wife behind, of not standing to cheer my younger son’s high school graduation, made me truly sad, and desirous to live. I prayed for healing—thought about treatments. And being a car guy, decided that if God saw me through this, I would celebrate by buying a Corvette. Notice I wasn’t bargaining with God, I just would celebrate.

Shopping for Corvettes on the Internet was comforting; it was a distraction from the diagnosis and the rounds of chemo that I did. I looked at cars while I did treatment, while I continued to work, and before I knew it, two years had gone by. That second Easter time I decided that I would go back to my primary care doctor, somebody I hadn’t visited with for two years (if you’re going to die in six months, who cares about the
condition of your prostate or cholesterol!). My doctor was an atheist Jew whom I had enjoyed as a thinker and as a doctor, a person with whom I shared openly my faith, and he his lack of it. Visiting with him he told me, pointing out something that I had noticed already, that the oncologists would never tell me that I was in remission, never mind cured, because when you’re diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer of any type, the best they will say is that they can’t see it. Not that it’s gone, or that there’s been a cure—never that.

God hadn’t, and still hasn’t, told me that I’ve been healed. He can, and He has spoken to me on other occasions, but He hasn’t (and it’s His prerogative – God has been more than fair to me and owes me nothing!). It turns out the doctors will never tell me that I’m cured. And yet, talking with my primary care doctor I was very aware that I was, and am, healthy. So right then and there, in Dr. Zimmerman’s office, I decided I was buying a Corvette!

I had seen this yellow Corvette for sale for about a month. It was bright, and beautiful, and while six years old only had 1,200 miles on it. And, it was half the price of the ones that were that nice with that many miles.

What’s up with that?! The ad said that it had a rebuilt title (a rebuilt title means that the State has branded the car as having been in such a bad accident that the car was totaled), but went on to say that you don’t drive the title, you drive the car. Indeed! And it said that Ravenswood Body Shop fixed it. It was odd that a shop like that would be mentioned, but their shop was behind one of the Methodist churches I was responsible for, and I knew them. They only did high end stuff. So I visited with them, and they raved about the car, that the damage really wasn’t that bad, told me about the owner, and how he had fixed it and upgraded it and then put it in his private collection, etc. So I called.

Turns out this was a Hertz Rental Car (it actually is a designated model – ZHZ) from California. Some guy rented it, took out all the insurances on it, and went jumping with it. On his last jump, going too fast over the railroad tracks, he ripped the front end off, and then on the way down, ripped the back end off. And the car was totaled, bestowing upon it the rebuilt title, and hence the very low price. I bought the car for a song. And in this crazy market, it’s worth about that same today, seven years later.

And here’s the thing. The car was built perfectly in 2008. A couple of months later it was marred by sin. And then it was purchased by a wealthy car collector in Ft. Lauderdale who had Ravenswood restore it to its original state and then some. I’ve named the car “Redemption.”

You and I were created in the image of God. We were created perfectly. But sin, both by nature and nurture, has marred our perfection, and our relationship to that Creator. But on an Easter long ago, Jesus purchased our marred souls with the blood of His sacrifice, and we have been
redeemed. There’s a bright yellow Corvette out in the parking lot that tells me that story every day. If you’d like a ride, or want to talk about
redemption, just let me know.

Yakking away, Craig

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.  Ephesians 1:7,8a

A Message from Pastor Craig

I hurt myself playing a video game. That sounds really dumb, doesn’t it? Or clumsy, or something? How can you physically hurt yourself in a simulated world? Oh, let me count the ways!

My younger son loves car racing. He’s involved in a team that builds cars and enters them into collegiate level competitions. He even has a driving simulator. He took an abandoned car frame from the team’s graveyard, put a seat into it, replaced the windshield with three concave monitors, added a computer where the engine went, and replaced the game controller with hydraulic gas and brake pedals, and—this is where the rub comes—a force feedback steering wheel. In the right mode, the realism of what you experience with those monitors can make a weak stomach seasick. It’s really amazing what the graphics can do!

My problem was with the steering wheel. I was scooting around the Sebring racetrack in a supped up yellow Corvette. The gas pedal requires the same amount of pressure that a real race car does. So do the brakes which is actually quite a lot. And the steering wheel, that fancy piece of machinery, fights you when you steer. It literally has its own motor that counters your input, getting easier to turn the faster you go (like a real car).

But around the last corner, I decided to try a burnout, or at least make the rear end break loose. Well, it worked, and too much, because I crashed the car into the wall. In a simulation game that should just end the race, or mess up the performance of the car, but in this case, it also simulated the rotation of steering wheel, which went crazy in the collision with the wall. And my thumb wasn’t ready for that jolt. Ouch!

This may all sound quite technical…and it is, really. But the bottom line is that the equipment may simulate car driving, but it physically hurt me. The notion that a simulator should not hurt you is kind of like that lie of a dictum – “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Did you ever hear that irreversible binomial before? (Sorry – look that up).

It’s not true! While you can understand why a kid would say that to the jerk that is insulting him or her and the premise seems accurate that it takes physical objects to inflict physical harm, the conclusion that words can’t hurt you is about as sound logic as expecting not to get hurt in a car simulator. In Proverbs 12:18 the writer of wisdom says: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” The connection between the physical pain of a sword cut and words is direct here. And the converse carries as well – a kind word can heal the body. Pretty amazing.

Jesus took this truth and gave it a deeper spiritual meaning when he said “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Mt 15:10,11). Now, obviously Jesus had not been introduced to Watermelon Hard Mountain Dew. But he suggests that what words are what get us into trouble, and hurt us not just, say, in childhood, but hurt us eternally.

We live in a world where a machine asks us (I’m thinking Facebook here) “What’s on your mind” encouraging us to test Jesus’ dictum every time we log on. Job wisely said (in Job 13:5) “If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.” This is good social media advice.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can ruin me” should be how the irreversible binomial children’s rhyme goes. As adults we should pay attention.

Yakking away,

Craig

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

A Message from Pastor Craig

What’s the difference between being frugal and being cheap? I consider frugality a virtue, being cheap more of a character flaw. This trait runs deep in me – shopping for clothes is relegated to the clearance rack, buying a car can’t be done without some sense of a giveaway, toothpaste has to come on a palette from Costco. (So do hot dogs, but don’t get me started). And yes, I look for the best bang for the buck at restaurants, too. Calories per dollar is an objective measure. The number of adjectives a sandwich has increases its value as well (so the longest name at Panera would be the sandwich of choice – “Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT” for instance).

This last week I went to Panera with the other pastors of our church. We had a good time together talking about all kinds of things. In line, I told Kernie about my “number of adjectives” theory, but against my frugal instinct, ordered the old school comfort lunch – a grilled cheese (they add the adjective “Classic” since there are no other ingredients to season the name) sandwich and tomato soup. In my defense, it was one of the cheaper options.

But then….the cashier told me that that combination was an “unadvertised special.” Looking at her incredulously, I asked “what?!”  “Yes,” she said,  “you want a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, right?”  I nodded.  “Yeah, it’s not on the board, but we have a special on it.” The price was even lower!  I LOVE this country!

What’s an unadvertised special anyway? What purpose does an unadvertised special serve? I was ready to pay the
advertised price. I had settled on those items. All they did was lower the price (which is AWESOME.  But still…). In a retail store, an unadvertised special will entice you with the special purchase price when you walk by the item. But here at Panera, there were no indications of the special, no incentives offered to buy the sandwich. It was at the discretion of the cashier to inform me that I had selected the magic combo (kind of like finding the “Daily Double” on Jeopardy).

I was thankful for the offer. I smiled and it kind of made my day. The frugal in me was amply rewarded that day at Panera. I was the beneficiary of unmerited favor that Tuesday afternoon.

Do you know what the difference is between grace and mercy? Mercy is not getting something bad you do deserve. Grace is getting something good that you don’t deserve. I didn’t do anything to earn the favor of the price reduction (unlike, say, having the price reduced because I had enough points on my Panera card).

I think the advertised special of the Christian faith is salvation. It’s eternal life. It’s a life pardoned from the wages of sin.  But there are a lot of unadvertised specials too. Like love…and joy…and peace…and patience (this is starting to sound like Galatians 5). An unadvertised special of the faith is community. I find friends and colleagues and comfort in the people who call themselves of The Way. And each of those specials, of which there are an infinite number more, are of infinite more worth than the Panera deal too.

The life of the apprentice of Jesus is one large dose of grace. It is, maybe, one big unadvertised special. Whether you are frugal or a connoisseur of the finest, what God has to offer is way greater than the price of admission—which is free in the first place. My kind of price!

Back from lunch,

Craig.

…in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:7-9

A Message from Pastor Craig

Are you a news junkie?  I confess that I am, even if I don’t necessarily retain all that I read or listen to. I read multiple news sources in the morning, watch the 6:30 news in the evening, and get all kinds of updates on denominational and church news during the day.  I don’t know how much that changes anything, but I do consume a lot of news.

So, it seems odd that I missed this bit of curious news from the AP.  Back in June, the AP reported (and apparently was not picked up by anybody that I read) that somebody lost a crate full of homing pigeons on an (particularly bumpy?) exit off of I-95 in Daytona. The homing pigeons were found cowering around the guardrail where they fell, all bunched
together, going nowhere.

A couple of things here:

  1. Why do these kinds of things happen only in Florida? Do you know that the Internet has this thing called “Florida Man?”  It’s a meme for “only in Florida” dumb things that happen. You can look it up on Wikipedia!  These kind of things really lend credence to the “Flori-duh!” reputation we have.  Even our birds struggle!  And…
  2. Homing pigeons should find their way home, shouldn’t they? Have you ever been to a funeral where they release homing pigeons? They are amazing to watch as they flutter out of their cages, soar upward, and suddenly all turn in the same direction and dart home. These birds have been used in wartime to relay messages back and forth. They are amazing. So what’s up with these guys? They were freed from their cage, but didn’t go anywhere.

 

Now, pointing fingers is dangerous, right? Regarding point one above, a lot of crazy things happen in Florida because we have such a populous state. When you consider that we are the third largest state by population and have so many
tourists to boot, crazy things will happen just by the law of averages.

But point two brings me some pause too.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has “set eternity on the human heart (NIV).”  God instilled a “homing” device in us that orients us towards Him. I think instinctually, when, say, we go to the beach in the evening and see the wonder of the universe peak through one star at a time, we are drawn “home.”  We are drawn towards the creator of the vastness we see, and the relative minuteness of our own selves.

That reaction seems “natural,” and the Scriptures tell us it is. But how often, like those cowering pigeons on I-95, do we huddle with other heaven-oriented souls and fritter our lives away either in worry or doubt or just plumb laziness?  Sometimes I think I watch the news just to enjoy the company of those for whom the day has been worse than mine. I huddle by the seeming safety of the screen like those pigeons by the pole on I-95.

Life is more fun when you’re flying home. We are fully human when we are moving heavenward. We are fulfilled when we’re moving—not when we’re cowering. God’s voice is a siren on the waters beckoning us home. Are you listening?

Going home,

Craig

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. Psalm 19:1,2

 

A Message from Pastor Craig

Shade is what I look for in a walk. So walking the beach for any distance is fun, but it requires a lot of work and exposure to the sun.  So I like parks with lots of trees or neighborhoods with lots of tree cover. Finding 5 miles of that though, can be elusive.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

The other day the sun was setting and I decided to walk to the ocean. Now, Palmetto Park Road qualifies neither as a park (although there is one you walk by) nor a neighborhood street lined with trees. It’s busy and noisy, and not the most scenic although pretty churches line the section I walk.

But it’s the way to get to the ocean. I like the beach, but it’s the ocean that I love. There’s something about the ocean that makes you walk several miles to just stand on the South Beach Pavilion and stare at… well, not much really. There might be a boat or two out there, the clouds might have interesting forms, but pretty much, for as far as the eye can see, all you see is water. Just water. Only water. And yet, you can stare at it for hours. Why? Maybe it’s because 70% or something of our composition is water. Maybe we know that without water these is no life, so we find security in it. Maybe we dream of travel, of mastering the water with whatever navigable vessel we have.

Personally, I watch waves. I look for the surfable wave. I don’t have to be surfing (I love body surfing – more on that in a second) to watch for the good waves; there’s some little delight in predicting which one will break in the right way to make for a long ride. Watching actual surfers figure that out too is fun.

As a teenager I participated in a youth group that went on campouts to the most surfable beaches in Costa Rica. As a teenager I decided that what I liked about body surfing the most was feeling the power of the ocean propelling me faster and farther than I could do on my own. The power of rushing water, at times powerful enough to rip my shorts off and sometimes powerful enough to pound me into the sand, reminded me that there was a power in very close proximity to me that was immense. That power could kill me. That power could ruin my day. And it could make me smile like there was no tomorrow.

You know where I’m headed here. As humans we tend to fill our heads with the notion that we are the greatest power out there. Or that there is no power that we cannot tame. No. As anybody who has gone through a powerful hurricane will tell you, no, you can’t tame all the powers to be. Anyone who has seen a volcano explode or mud slide will attest to the notion that there are many powers that are greater than our own.

God is the greatest of those. God is a force that cannot be contained. God’s power is not something that we can predict or control. For a reason, Proverbs says “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” God’s power is not like a little pond which is pretty to look at. The Lord’s power is like the ocean, slow like the tide sometimes, swift as a hurricane at others, delightful like a wave breaking the whole length of the beach, beautiful like a coral reef.

Like the ocean, you can ride the tidal changes, you can surf the waves of God’s power. You can be buoyed by it, and be overcome by it. Fearing the ocean is the beginning of a good day at the beach, right? You don’t go in if it’s angry. Fear is recognizing your limits, not being paralyzed by them.

You can stare at the ocean for hours. Why? Because it speaks to a power that is not our own. A power that is beautiful and life giving, but not taken for granted because it is so much bigger than we are. I hope today in church will be that kind of
experience for you.

Ready to get out on the water,

Craig

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20

A Message from Pastor Craig

Did you know that bears eat oranges? I didn’t until Janice looked it up on her phone on our last venture across State Rd. 70. Have you driven that way across the state? It’s an odyssey in Floricana (the spell checker didn’t like that word – you know what I mean: the Florida version of Americana).

You go through Indiantown (I know, it’s not on 70, but from here you have to go by it), and Okeechobee and Arcadia, which are all throwback towns of a more rural and simple life. They also express the modern realities of our country with the realities of farmworkers in our state, immigration issues and the like. They speak to the Florida of yesterday and today.

And then there’s just the vastness of the, I don’t know, prairie? The miles of open area are reminiscent of the Everglades, but it’s dry (for the most part, after all it is north of the lake). Driving amongst those pastures, and acres upon acres of sod farms and orange groves, Janice noticed this last time (we’ve been back and forth a lot over the last two months) a warning sign for bears. Bears?

I’ve seen bears in western New York. Walking on Janice’s family hunting grounds, I’ve come too close to them.  Driving around that area I’ve seen them on the road too. You stop for bears in the woods and on the highway. But in Florida?! Hence Janice’s google search. And yup, they eat oranges. And they’ve got just a couple of oranges out there on Rt. 70!

If the bears made me cringe a little, the cows made me laugh. Brahma bulls, brown cows (not the drink), and black cows dot many of the fields out there. I found many of them lying on the ground. I suppose if I had to be out in that heat, I would lie down too. The most settled ones lay in the ponds.  That’s what made me laugh.

If I had to drink from that water, I would not be happy that Bessy sat herself down in the “water bowl.” Think yellow water at the water park. The farmers have these huge blue pool-like containers to water their herds. I would drink from those things
exclusively once I saw one of my own in the pond!

As humans we know (save that one obnoxious kid in grade school) that it’s inconsiderate to just plop yourself down (so to speak) in the water like that. We know that water needs to be untroubled to be potable, and we know not to impose our
comfort on the needs of others. But it’s tempting sometimes, right? Sometimes our opinions, our will, our wants can crowd into the life of other people, and we have to choose what to do. As humans, we know not only what we can do, but what we ought to do. Sometimes those are two very different things. OK, maybe it’s not just sometimes. The apostle Paul flat out said in Romans 7:15 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” We know we ought not to do something, but we do it anyway.  We know we should do some things, and we don’t. Paul is kind to himself (and us) when he says he “doesn’t understand” his attitude. I’m afraid I do understand my own. My preference, my wants, too often trump what I know is right. Think of that big chocolate cookie sitting in the fridge – you know you shouldn’t add all that sugar to your body, but…

In that Romans text Paul talks about sin. When he wrote to his friend Titus, he encouraged everyone “to malign no one, and to be peaceable and gentle, showing full consideration to everyone” (Titus 3:2).  I think we can be completely counter-cultural if we were to show “full consideration to everyone.”  This is not what we see in American culture today.  And God has shown us a better way. Let’s try it. Let’s sit BY the pool, not IN the pool.

Flying along in my U-Haul,

Craig

 Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech will have the king as a friend. Proverbs 22:11 (NLT)

A Message from Pastor Craig

Boxes.  Boxes.  Boxes.  Boxes still in my office, boxes still at home—we decided we needed to get a change of scenery so Janice and I went for a drive. I decided to take Janice to a world famous and historically established cultural icon in South Florida. I am speaking, of course, of the Swap Shop.  Have you been to the Swap Shop?  Half County Fair, half Flea Market, half car museum (that’s why I go) and half Drive-in movie theater, the Swap Shop is a microcosm of South Florida’s cultural realities. For those of you working on my math, I will simply tell you that I majored in letters, not numbers. And I don’t do that well with letters!

I’ve been to the Swap Shop before, back when it was half circus too. That circus was free—my price—and we went when our boys were younger.  They marveled at the elephants and the Ferraris, and our younger son spent all his money on the only driving simulator that I’ve seen with a clutch pedal. He LOVED that thing. And was good at it.

This time that arcade game sat torn apart in a graveyard of video games off to one corner. This time the go-fast cars were still there (the circus was long gone), but many of the shops inside were shuttered and outside not a third of the vendors have returned. I still managed to buy an HDMI cable for $3 (I am, after all, the last of the big spenders!).  And we ignored the carnival rides this time just as we have in the past.

As we went from one place to another in Broward, we found that masks were required in some places, and in others not. It was different than Palm Beach County. Different areas deal with COVID in different ways, I suppose. 

And, different aspects of our own lives emerge from the pandemic in different ways too. We may be freer to go to the grocery store, not so much to the movie theater. We might go to school before we went back to church.
Eating out may have to do with how many employees they have, I don’t know. What I do know is that our spiritual lives cannot be neglected like some other areas of our lives have been. Our Bibles cannot look like the abandoned video arcade at the Swap Shop that my son loved so much. For many people, the most sold book in history lies carefully placed on a shelf, covered with the dust that belies its importance.

How we live out our faith is something that demanded a decision from us every day before the pandemic and continued during it. As we emerge from whatever the craziness has been for each one of us for the last 16 months or so, how we are going to nurture our souls is something that we all have to figure out.

Personally, I have had the privilege of never stopping being in the Sanctuary. For many, staying out of the building remains an issue. But our faith is not based on the building. It’s based on who Jesus is in our lives. And that part of us, that deepest part of us, that is our spiritual beings, has to be nourished, has to be dusted off. And I believe that gathering with brothers and sisters matters in that.

God wants to speak into every aspect of our lives. Let’s make sure we are making ourselves available to that Voice.  The Word of God is alive, active, and personal.  Let’s listen for it.

Back in church,

Craig

 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   Matthew 4:4