Monday, December 20, 2010

Mustard Seed Christmas

Our Sunday School class at First Baptist Church, the "Mustard Seeds" gathered Saturday, December 17, for our annual Christmas party.

Debbie and her husband Harry (not pictured) hosted us again this year. They are gracious hosts. They make decorating for Christmas and art!
We enjoyed talking and singing Christmas carols.

Lewis Meyers (standing) who has has taught the class for years led the group in singing Christmas carols.
John and Charlotte ham it up.
Last year the party was interrupted by a small electrical fire in the bathroom wall and a visit by the Henrico County Fire Department (see post from Dec 2009) Several of us wore play fire hats to commemorate the ocassion.
Every baptist gathering has to include a lot of food and this was no exception.

The Mustard Seeds are an exceptional group of people. They are serious about their faith, they are committed to following Christ. They are serious prayer warriors. They are active in ministry and missions and they are generous when presented with an opportunity for ministry or missions. They also enjoy good food and fellowship!

It reminds me of Philippians 1 where Paul says: "I thank my God every time I remember you in all my prayers for all of you. I always pray with joy in all my prayers for all of you because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ."
Philippians 1: 3-6.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Miracle in Newby

We are visiting with Charlotte's father in the small community of Newby, Texas and woke up this morning to a surprise. A branch off of a large oak tree in the front yard fell off during the night.

Charlotte's dad sleeps in a hospital bed. The tree fell just inches from where he sleeps.
The miracle was that the branch was very large and heavy. The tips of the smaller branches hit the house, but the only damage was a torn screen!

To give you a perspective, the part of the tree that broke off was at least 18 inches in diameter. That branch is about eight feet off of the ground.

The branch fell during the night. Charlotte heard something but could not figure out what the noise was. We didn't discover the damage until the next morning.

It reminds me of the words in Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer Projects

In May we started doing some painting. We painted our guest room and the extra bathroom.

The guest room was painted white, but the trim needed a lot of work. On the previous paint job we didn't properly prime the trim, so as we tried to prepare it, the old paint started peeling off. It made a simple job rather complicated.

The bathroom had old wall paper, a vertical green stripe. It really looked out of date. Stripping the wall paper required renting steamer and getting the old off, then patching the wall board. In addition we sanded the cabinets, primed the whole thing and repainted. In the process we decided new faucets, light fixtures and towel racks would be appropriate.

We only had the weekends to do the work so it took about six weekends to get it all done. I was very pleased with the result. Those commercials that show someone doing a job quickly and easily so they can get back to their lives are very misleading! We had company coming and that was the motivation to get the job done.
All in all we were very pleased with the results. It is amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do for a room!
"From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him." Proverbs 12:14

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Life goes on!

Matthew turned five this week! He celebrated with a group of his friends. On Sunday afternoon he just had to come over a show off his pirate's hat and eye patch. I thought he had a pretty gnarly snarl to go with it.

It has been a couple of months since I have posted on this blog. The last post was about a good friend who passed away. The joy of watching children grow has a way of washing away grief. Children represent hope for the future.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

Ecclesiastes 3:1,2,4

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A good friend is gone!

Jay Christie passed away yesterday morning, April 17, 2009. He was only forty eight years old. It was a hard day for me.

Charlotte and I have known Jay for over twenty years. We taught a Sunday School class for single adults and Jay was a leader in that group. Jay has done well as a professional working with Mercer Human Resource Consulting and twelve years ago he married Robyne whom he loved dearly.

We have reconnected in the last few years since we are now at First Baptist Church. When we first met Jay he was young, strong and healthy. But, what has defined much of his life has been a long list of physical problems including two kidney transplants and two rounds of Hodgkin's Lymphoma. We have walked with him through many of the hard times.

This week I was able to stop by his room in the SICU unit. Jay was already in a coma and we were not able to talk. I prayed earnestly for God to reach down and heal him. There were many others doing the same thing. God in His wisdom had different plans. I will admit that I often do not understand why God does things the way He does. So, I will trust Him now and ask Him why one day when everything will be much clearer.

Sometimes it seems trite to say, "he's in a better place." But he really is. What helped me the most was a story that a lady at church told me. She said that Friday morning around two or three in the morning, she was awake and praying for Jay when she saw something in the corner near the ceiling that looked like Jay, clothed in radiant white followed by what looked like angels. He turned and said, 'take care of Robyne for me.' Then he was gone. It reminded me that there is another dimension to life that we cannot see. Jay is no longer struggling. He is no longer taking any medications. He feels good! He is more than happy, he is filled with heartfelt joy. It told me that God really did have better plans for Jay.

It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul said in Romans chapter 8:18-21:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We who are believers really can look forward to being in 'a better place.'


CHRISTIE, Phillip Jay Jr., born December 12, 1961, passed into the arms of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on April 17, 2010. Jay is survived by his wife, Robyne Bentley Christie; his beloved puppies, Nalani and Noah; parents, Phillip and Frances Christie; sister, Peggy Elfers and her husband, Steve; and nieces, Caroline and Catherine. He is also survived by in-laws, Clayton and Sunny Bentley, Lynne and Steve Smith; and nephews, Phillip and William Smith. He graduated with honors from the College of William & Mary and the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. He was employed for 22 years at Mercer Human Resources Consulting. Jay lived his life as a humble man with a high level of integrity. The Lord came first in his life, followed by Robyne and the rest of his family. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to UNOS.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Quick Trip to Texas

We traveled to Texas last weekend in order to spend a few days with Charlotte's dad, Arvol Willingham.
We had a great visit. I think he lives for the days when his daughters come to visit.

As an added treat it is bluebonnet season in Texas. Bluebonnets are all over the place on the sides of the roads. The bluebonnets last only a couple of weeks then they are gone for the season.
Indian Paintbrushes are also common at this time of the year.
Saturday, a half dozen horses wandered onto Arvol's property. It seems that they had gotten loose and were causing a traffic hazard on a nearby highway. The sheriff's deputy asked that we allow the horses to stay on the property until the owner came to get them.
One of our chores was to burn a pile of brush that had been accumulating for three years. I was getting nervous when the flames got so high. Fortunately, those flames died down within minutes so the fire did not get out of hand!
Arvol is a musician that plays the piano and the guitar. He has entertained groups with his music for many years.
I managed to pick up a straw hat at a local flea market so that I will be able to fit in when I travel in Texas. When I got home a neighbor said, "It looks very Reagonesque!"

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God."
My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.
How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.
Psalm 31: 14-16, 19

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lloyd Atkinson retired last Thursday, April 1, after thirty-one years of service with the International Mission Board.
Lloyd and his wife, Sue, started as missionaries in Chile where they served together for several years. Later Lloyd accepted an administrative role in the Western South America Office. In the early 1980's Lloyd moved to the Office of Mission Personnel where he served as a Consultant, Department Director and ultimately Vice President.

Their daughter Jennifer was there with her children.

Debbie Williamson has worked in the office for many years. For the past three years she was the team leader for the Administrative Services Team under Lloyd's leadership.

Lloyd and Sue's son John and his wife Justine were there to honor Lloyd.

Carolyn Jackson and Jerry DeOliveira are two of the many retirees who were at the reception to honor Lloyd. IMB president, Jerry Rankin, was there to present Lloyd with his retirement certificate and gift and to honor Lloyd for his contribution to the work of the IMB.
During his work in the Office of Mission Personnel Lloyd oversaw the appointment of over five thousand career and two year missionaries to assignments in virtually every corner of the world. In the process he has been involved in making sure that the Good News of the Gospel his proclaimed to every people, language and nation.
I have worked directly under Lloyd for the past nineteen years. I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for his work and the way he supported me in my work. I always felt like Lloyd would back me when there was a question about my work. In addition, Lloyd was always good about keeping me informed about issues of significance that I needed to be aware of.
Lloyd made sure that everyone in the office felt comfortable sharing their concerns about issues that were on their minds. Lloyd demonstrated genuine concern about each person in the office.
During my time at the IMB I have been privileged to know a number of amazing people who have dedicated themselves to supporting the global mission enterprise from behind the scenes. Lloyd certainly represents the highest levels of commitment and dedication to faithful service.
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
Matthew 25:21

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Week in Louisville

I spent last week in Louisville, KY on the campus of Southern Seminary. The week started with the normal routine of interviewing students who are interested in serving as missionaries. But, this was also Global Missions Week on campus, so there were some additional events with the seminary. The week ended with a Missions Expo, which is a new venture for the IMB where prospective missionaries come for a three day conference where they consider the strategic needs for new personnel around the world.

The Strategic Deployment team was responsible for leading the Expo. We gathered one evening for dinner at a local Italian restaurant and broke bread together. In this case that meant breaking loaves of freshly baked bread and dipping it in a mixture of olive oil and cracked pepper, awesome!

One of the deployment consultants has the knack of taking doodles to a new level. I watched him do this several times.

As a part of the Global Missions Week, the hall of the Honeycutt Center was turned into a "Hall of Prayer for the Nations" with flags from around the world and table displaying artifacts and opportunities for ministry. One of the consultants (on the left) is talking to a couple that is interested in the South America.
Another consultant is talking to a student that is interested in the needs in Asia.

The Missions Expo consisted of small group discussions, individual interviews, large group presentations on IMB strategic directions and presentations on the people groups around the world who have no opportunity to hear about Christ. Part of the conference consists of small group discussions.

The final session on Saturday morning started with praise.

One of the IMB leaders challenged the group with the decisions that they need to make.

On Saturday afternoon, the consultants discussed each participant and the skills, gifts and their potential for possibly matching one of the needs we have. The great tragedy is that the IMB cannot possibly send all of those who want to go even though they are gifted, called and dedicated.
For years I have quoted the scripture passage from Luke 10: 1-2
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
My thinking has been that the workers are few. We now find ourselves in a situation where we have truly committed, trained capable and experienced people who will not be able to go because we do not have the resources in hand to support them. My prayer is that Southern Baptists will step up to the plate and provide the resources needed to support those who are ready to go to the ends of the earth.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Weekend getaway

Charlotte and I traveled to New England a couple of weeks ago to visit with family and simply enjoy the area.
Above is Leigh's Pond in southern Main. Note, even though the temperature was in the 50's there is still ice on the pond.

That is not snow, it is ice on the pond.

It was cool enough for a jacket.
Charlotte is on the pier at Fort Foster Park. The park is the home of what was once a fort that protected the entrance into Portsmouth Harbor.
There are several beaches in the park. I found this rock formation on one of the beaches fascinating.

The multiple colors and the water movement have a unique beauty.
There is an old hymn that reflects some of my thinking:
For the beauty of the earth, For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Getting Healthy

Over the past several months Charlotte and I have been participating in a weight loss program through the Zaccharias Ganey Health Institute here in Richmond. The plan starts with ten weeks of nutrition lectures and exercise classes that include thirty minutes of weight training and thirty minutes of aerobic work three times each week.

The aerobic work is done on either a treadmill, a stationary bicycle or an elliptical machine. I started on the bicycle and graduated to the elliptical machine.

Before starting the program we checked our triglycerides, HDL and LDL levels. I also had an A1c test run to check my blood sugar level. The blood work was checked again after the first ten weeks.
They also measured my waist, hips, neck, as well as weight, BMI both before and after.

They also tested our VO2 levels which measure the amount of oxygen our hearts handle and different levels of activity.
During the first ten weeks I lost thirteen pounds, three inches in the waist, and two inches in the hips. My HDL cholesterol improved while the LDL improved as well. My A1c level dropped as well.
I have dealt with Type 2 diabetes for several years. During the ten weeks my doctor eliminated one of the medications and cut the others in half. The A1c is a measure of blood sugar over a three month period. That level dropped even with the drop in medications.
Since completing the initial ten weeks, we have entered into a continuation program that focuses primarily on various exercise classes. I have lost an additional nine pounds and seen continued improvement in cholesterol levels and eliminated one more diabetic medication.
Charlotte participated to encourage me. She has not seen the same amount of weight loss but she has managed to drop three dress sizes! That of course means a who new wardrobe!
Getting healthy is a matter of stewardship of the body that God has given us.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ministry Fair

Today, First Baptist had a ministry fair to highlight the church's various ministries. It was also a chance to enlist others to participate in those ministries.
Sarah Williams (left) and another team member are talking to people about the member equipping ministry.
Candi Brown, Children's Minister, was dressed as an Egyptian princess, promoting the theme for this summer's Vacation Bible School.

Diane Dinsmore and Jane Pearson were surrounded by the puppets that are a part of their ministry.

Fran Hudgins was there to share about the hospitality ministry.

Steve Blanchard, Associate Pastor for Christian Compassion, was deep in a conversation with two of the ladies.
Billy Davis has been a volunteer chaplain with Central Virginia Raceway Ministries for seven years. The ministry serves NASCAR events at the Richmond International Raceway.
Ruth Hodge (right) has been involved in a ministry that helps new members assimilate into the congregation for many years.
Brenda Andrews (right) leads a ministry that provides showers, food and clothes to homeless in the community three days a week.
The church has a significant outreach to refugees in the community. There is a group of about fifty Bhutanese refugees who are in church every Sunday.
Rick Belfower speaks to a member about the church's compassion ministry.
I counted fifty-nine different ministry groups represented at the fair. The fair came at the end of the annual stewardship emphasis. Stewardship involves using our time and abilities just as much as it means giving our money. A church is filled with members who all have different skills, abilities and spiritual gifts. For the church to function effectively every member should use their abilities for the benefit of the church. I often suggest that a person should be involved in a ministry that capitalizes on their known abilities. But, in addition, we participate in a ministry that allows us to explore whether we have a gift or not.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4: 11-13