A Message from Pastor Craig: 4-17-2022

OK, so, this didn’t happen 100 years ago or 10 years ago for that matter. Did you see this in the news? San Francisco has several competing companies testing their autonomous driving cars. They peddle the idea as taxis operating in a defined area of the city, and right now you can sign up and get on a waiting list for a free ride. I’m all for technology and everything, and would take a ride from a risk basis, but…. I love to drive!  And to let “Nobody” drive, I just don’t know.

Oh, yes, speaking of “Nobody.” Last week one of these autonomous driving cars got pulled over by a cop. Now, that’s just funny in and of itself. At first blush it seemed a little incredulous to me as those cars never exceed the speed limit. But, it turns out the cop stopped it for not having its lights on. Built into the software of these cars, is a protocol of what to do when the car senses flashing lights and a siren. It hits the gas and goes for a chase! I’m kidding. It pulls over immediately, then looks for the safest place to park which this car did. Somebody videoed the cop trying to figure out what was going on. The cop was a little confused. I mean, if Nobody is driving, and Nobody makes a mistake, who do you give a ticket to?

It turns out that those cars have a number to call for this very thing. In this case the company figured out that somebody had flipped the headlight switch to off and didn’t return it to automatic when they set it loose. The cop bought the explanation and, indeed, nobody got a ticket.

They blamed it on “human error.” All the “autonomous” stuff had worked, but somebody had switched the headlights off, maybe while cleaning it or something. I wonder if God sees our bodies kind of the same way – that He programmed them OK, that they were actually “programmed” perfectly to start with, and then “human error” came into being. Now, the Creation story tells us that the error was actually instigated by an outside force that humans were introduced to by the devil.  And we’ve been living with the “bugs” in the programming ever since.

Today is Easter. (Happy Easter BTW!). Today we celebrate the remedy to our “human error” conundrum.  Our errors, call them sin, disrupted our relationship with God. We deserve to be pulled over. But Jesus paid the price for our errored ways, and so it’s not that no one gets ticketed, it’s that the penalty has already been paid. Our sins have been forgiven. This is the reason for our Hallelujahs today. (Have you noticed we haven’t sung a hallelujah during Lent?)

Today we sing praise to God for all He has done, but particularly for taking on our sin so that we could enjoy our relationship with God forever. This is big people!  Really big!

Again, Happy Easter!

Craig

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

A Message from Pastor Craig: 4-10-2022

Palm Sunday is this odd day in Lent.  Lent starts with Ash Wednesday, a service that reminds you of your sin and mortality.  It sets the mood for Lent.  This week is Holy Week, marked by somber (yet really significant – both the Seder meal and Good Friday are going to be inspiring and contemplative) services.  And yet here is this celebratory Sunday amidst it all.  How’s that?  Well, for one thing, every Sunday is a celebration of Easter.  We don’t worship on the Sabbath because Easter so changed everything.  As Christians we celebrate the new life, the new relationship with God that Easter brought.  It literally changed everything – for us personally and for us as humankind.  (And the day we worship).

We want to be transformed and transformational.  The term “Good News” has been so used in our churches that we forget that indeed we have learned “good news” about the meaning of life, the purpose it carries, and the explanations of where it started and where it goes.  We have been the recipients of it, and need to share it.

The sharing of the Good News happens in different ways.  We share it from the pulpit.  We share it in Sunday School.  We share it through missionaries nearby and far away.  And I think that Easter makes us mindful of those who bear good news.  Isaiah had a funny way of saying that.  In Isaiah 52:7 he says:  “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet”?  What?  What is that?  What does that mean?  Have you ever brought good news to somebody?  Maybe somebody was in trouble, and you told them help is on the way.  Maybe somebody was financially in trouble, and you brought a little cash to pay their bills – they are so grateful, they can’t thank you enough. They might poetically say blessed are your feet for bringing them help.

I was delivering food for Branches in Miami years ago, and I remember one particular lady – precisely because she was so grateful.  That ministry mattered to her. Branches is an urban ministry in Dade
County.  A similar ministry in Palm Beach County is called CROS (Christians Reaching Out to Society) Ministries.  As a church we have supported CROS for years. Our own Rev. Juanita Goode is the Director of Engagement for them.  I am one who would say of CROS “how beautiful are the feet of them who bring good tidings.” (I wouldn’t say “on the mountains” because, well, we don’t have mountains.) CROS brings hope daily to people who need food in pockets of our county that are truly needy.   I want to invite you to consider an Easter gift to the mission emphasis this month which is CROS.  They are our feet in our own backyard.

Grateful for what we are able to do together,

Craig

O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”  Isaiah 40:9 (NLT)

A Message from Pastor Craig: 4-3-2022

At 150 feet, the Statue of Liberty is the tallest, and by far the tallest, statue in the continental United States.  Around 4 million people go yearly to celebrate this great symbol of our country: a symbol of freedom (her name is Lady Liberty after all), a symbol of our country desiring to be a beacon for those seeking freedom, a symbol of welcoming everyone who comes from afar.

That’s the tallest statue in the continental US (there is a taller one in Puerto Rico).  Do you know where the second tallest statue is in the US? Hallandale. Yes, Hallandale in Broward County (just south of Ft.
Lauderdale). Yes, just down the street basically and my guess is that you didn’t even know it was there, much less have seen it. That’s not a judgmental statement because I’ve seen it and wouldn’t blame you for not having heard about it.

This statue is right on US1 and is a 110-foot tall. The statue is of a horse with big wings, named Pegasus from Greek mythology, and a dragon coiled up that Pegasus is pouncing on. It’s a lot wider and longer than the Statue of Liberty, but not nearly as tall. While everyone who goes to bet on horses at Gulfstream Racetrack or shops at The Village at Gulfstream Park has seen it, I dare say few others have. Thousands drive by because it’s US1, but I didn’t see anybody stopping to take a picture when I drove by the other day (how many New Yorkers have never been to the Statue of Liberty?)

I was dumbfounded by the colossus, I mean Pegasus.  It’s really huge. Surrounded by trees, buildings and urbanization in general, it doesn’t stand out like the Statue of Liberty there in the Hudson River. You don’t get a good view of it until you are right in front of it. So when I read that somebody paid $30 million to put it there, I couldn’t help but ask “Why?” 

Built in 2012, the developers of Gulfstream, which would now include a mall and a bunch of condos, decided to build an entrance to beat all entrances.  “OK…”  In my mind they could have given a $35 million rebate to all the residents, and have spent the money better.

And a Pegasus?  Why that?  Was that the best definer of their values and aspirations?  Well, Gulfstream is known for its horses, and I suppose that there’s something to be said for a flying horse, I mean, a symbol of strength and freedom that can slay dragons.  But still.

I will say that you should go see it – only here in South Florida do you find the second largest statue in the US. You have to go to Butte, Montana to see the next tallest one after all.

But at the end of the day, as artistic expressions go, I think this one was a waste of money. The Statue of
Liberty cost $250,000 (or $5 million in today’s money).  It’s symbolism is much deeper, and obviously more meaningful to 4.5 million people that visit it. And the third one?  It’s a Madonna, a symbol of gratitude built with the contributions of many in that area of Montana.

Jesus said: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not
destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 16:19,20).  Now, moth and rust will not destroy the copper statue, but the idea Jesus communicates is that we should invest in things that last forever – that our energies should go to spiritual things, and the spiritual nurture of others.

Where is your money going? Is it building Pegasus or is it building the Kingdom of God? While sometimes I worry that a lot of my money goes into things that disappear quickly (have you SEEN the price of gas!), I was encouraged, when I learned about the big sculpture down there in Hallandale, to be mindful of the way I spend my resources, and to focus them on things that matter.

Back home,

Craig

As good stewards of the manifold grace of God, each of you should use whatever gift he has received to serve one another.  1 Peter 4:10

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

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