Thursday, November 29, 2012

Psalm 100


It's a Matter of Faith---How to Give Thanks

            Two years and one week ago, Chaney and I were on our way home from church, when the song Feliz Navidad came on the radio. I love that song. It is so joyful and full of good cheer that I almost always sing along. I tried to get Chaney to sing with me, but she refused. “Why?” I asked her and she replied “it is not even Thanksgiving yet.” Nothing I did could get her to change her mind.
            As I reflected on that encounter, I began to realize that what she was telling me that I was getting things out of order. To really enjoy the gift of Christmas, the greatest gift we as a human race have ever received, God come in the flesh, I need to put it in context of all that I have to be thankful for.
            As I look forward to this afternoon and then Thursday, I think of the meal and the variety of foods, including Brussel sprouts. I will spend time with my family and enjoy football games, and the throwing there of. I will look forward to spending time with my granddaughter, and my daughter-in-law and my sons of course. And I will come back, hopefully rested, for the busyness of the next month.
            What is missing from my list of things to do? Giving thanks. So much so, that I could be accused of looking at this holiday as just the beginning of the Christmas season. It seems, especially this year, that the purpose of the day has been overlooked. Black Friday sales starting early, Christmas music on the radio already, I guess we just have given up on giving thanks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Job 19:13-27


It's a Matter of Faith---I Don't Want to Give Thanks

Life just isn't fair.  How many of us here today have used that phrase when confronted by a young child or a teenager who is demanding to be treated by their definition of fairness.  We use that phrase to help prepare our children for the inevitable fact that life is full of ups and downs and we need to learn to deal with the downs when they come our way.  Some of those downs come because of our own stupidity, like the day described in this song.
            Some of those downs come because of things others do to us.  Like a friend letting us down, not getting a job or promotion at work that you know you deserve, seeing others given awards for relatively minor contributions to society when you have sacrificed in anonymity, facing a bout of sickness, troubles at work, living with two year old and teenager children.  You know the normal down points in life.  We try to let our children know that things will happen to us that we just don't deserve and we need to hang in there and make the most of it.
            But then there are those people leave us wondering "what did they ever do to deserve what happened to them?"  Like a dear friend of mine who is one of the kindest and nicest people you would want to meet.  I count it an honor to know him and his wife, let alone to be thought of as his friend.  He has a son who refuses to talk to him.  A year and a half ago, he shared with me what happened the last time he had tried to contact his son, who is living in another country.  He said that when he called, his son answered, and after greetings were exchanged, the son asked who is this.  My friend replied, "It's your dad."  Click.  The son simply hung up the phone.  There are no words to describe the pain that the man felt.
            Or like Thomas and Elizabeth Mc Millan who are buried near the street, who saw six of his seven children die before they reached their 21st birthday.
            And then there are those who leave us wondering how in the world do they carry on with life, like Mary Verghese.
            Mary Verghese had dedicated her life to God's service and she was looking forward to a life full of service and meaning.  She had completed medical school and had begun her residency in India with Dr. Paul Brand, a pioneer in leprosy research and treatment.  She was preparing to spend her life fulfilling Christ's instruction in Matthew 25, to care for the "least of these."  These people truly were.  They were outcasts.  How better could she spend her life? 
            Mary showed great promise as a doctor and everything was progressing well in her work.  One afternoon, while she was riding in a station wagon, the young driver, impatient with the bus that was poking along in front of him, pulled out to pass.  When he saw the on coming car, he tried to step on the brake and accidentally stepped on the gas pedal.  The car veered off of a bridge and down a steep embankment.  It was at the bottom of this embankment that all of Mary's dreams were destroyed.  She had a deep gash that ran from her cheek to her chin and her legs lay useless. 
            The next few months were pure torture.  Mary lay in a hospital bed, in traction, sweating through the 110-degree days asking why?  Why did this happen to her?  What had she done?  Why was God not healing her?  Why had God forsaken her?  Then despair set in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving at Preschool


Our Preschool children had their special school-time Thanksgiving experiences.  All classes participated in a food collection.  147 food items were collected and donated to the Circle of Concern food pantry.  We talked with the children about the fact that some families do not have enough food to eat and we can help them, similar to the way the Native Americans helped the pilgrims. The Pre-K classes also had a Thanksgiving feast.  We read the book, Stone Soup, a popular European folktale, and cooked our own stone soup in a modern crock pot.  One class thought the soup tasted great; the other, not so much, although we followed the same recipe.  We made butter from whipping cream and ate it on crackers.  The children chose and made pilgrim or Native American hats. It was a lot of fun!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dinners---Mission and Giving Thanks

 St. Mark Presbyterian Church was very fortunate to have Hunter Farrell, Director of Presbyterian World Missions speak to us on Saturday Nov. 17 followed by a dinner provided by our Mission Committee.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Preschool Donates Easel to Old Ballwin Schoolhouse


Our wooden easel, made by Wray Johanning 50 years ago when Claymont Preschool at St. Mark was founded and named Claymont Nursery School, has been donated to the City of Ballwin for display in the Old Ballwin Schoolhouse. We are thrilled to donate this easel which was been useful and very well loved for so many years and by hundreds of our preschool children, to Ballwin for their historical purposes.  The Old Ballwin Schoolhouse is on Jefferson Avenue, just east of Ballwin Elementary School and behind Lowe's. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

It's a Matter of Faith: Mary Jo's Lunch


John 6:1-14

            “Are you OK?” Tim looked up to see his boss Mary Jo, standing in his doorway. “Why do you ask?” Tim responded. “You were very quiet during the status meeting?” she said. “I know the company is a little down right now, but we really are making progress in turning things around. We are actually doing OK, considering the state of the economy.”
            “I know, I know” Tim replied. “I am not worried about the company. In fact, you have really kept us from getting into the trouble a lot of financial institutions have gotten in to. No, when you were talking about the economic forecast, I started thinking about something I heard in church yesterday.”
            “What happened?” Mary Jo asked.
            “Well it’s that time of year when the church is talking about money.” Tim said.
            “It’s that way at my church too.” Mary Jo replied.
            “Well, Pastor Kim was saying how important it was that we grow to the point where we are giving God 10% of our income, because it shows that we trust God to provide for us and that we love God more than money. This kind of made me angry.”
            “Why?” Mary Jo asked.
            “Well you know what a mess the world is in. Europe is in trouble. The middle east is even worse than it was when I was a kid. Crazy people are working on getting nuclear weapons. Who knows what Russia and China are going to do? The price of Gold keeps going up, which means people are afraid. And you remember a few years ago, when the bottom dropped out of the market. Nobody saw that coming. So, even if things get better, we don’t know what the future holds. I can’t afford to be giving away that much money.”
            “I know how you feel.” Mary Jo responded. “I used to think that way too.”
            “What?” Tim said.
            “I used to think that I needed to hang on to my money.” Mary Jo said.
            “You’re not one of those tither’s, are you?” Tim said looking shocked.
            “Yes, I am” Mary Jo said with a smile on her face, “and I would highly recommend it.”
            “Why?” Tim asked, looking puzzled.
            “Because I missed out on so much when I didn’t.” Mary Jo said.
            “That doesn’t make sense.” Tim said.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Open House for Claymont Preschool

Claymont Preschool teachers celebrated the Preschool's 50th Anniversary at our annual Open House. Our very dedicated teachers represent 203 years in early childhood education, 152 of those years at Claymont Preschool.  The anniversary cake incorporated a special photo of our children in the shape of a 50, on St. Mark Church's front lawn.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How Much Do You Love Me?


Matthew 19:16-22

            October 29, 1981.  August 14, 1986.  March 3, 2000.  Those three dates are key turning points in my life education.  The events of these days were critical in helping me really get to know and appreciate my parents.  These three dates were the days that my children came into my life. 
            October 29, 1981, I held John for the first time and I sat in awe of this tiny little boy with his tiny little fingers and I wanted to protect him from every thing or person out there that might cause him pain.  I wanted him to succeed at every thing that he tried and be happy all the time.  I wanted him to have the benefit of all that I had learned in life with out having to experience the painful things that had given me the little wisdom I had.  I did not want him to have to struggle with any thing, to avoid the mistakes I had made.  Those of you who have had kids, can fill in the rest.  And most importantly, I wanted him to love me like I loved him, more than anything in the world.
            August 14, 1986, I held Tim in my arms.  I had come to a place where I knew that I could not protect him from everything out there and I knew that I couldn’t give him everything he wanted, but I still wanted him to succeed at everything he tried and be happy all the time.  I wanted him to have the benefit of all that I had learned in life with out having to experience the painful things that had given me the little wisdom I had.  I did not want him to have to struggle with any thing, to avoid the mistakes I had made.  I wanted him to get along with his brother and never fight and I wanted them to be as close as any two brothers have ever been.  And most importantly, I wanted him to love me like I loved him, more than anything in the world.
            March 3, 2000, I met Chaney for the first time.  She was an adorable little fuzz ball.  As my relationship with Kim progressed, I realized that if Kim and I were going to get married, that Chaney would be my daughter.  I remember holding her in my lap and reading a book to her and thinking that while I could not protect her from all the bad out there, I wanted to keep her from anything that might take her joy away.  I wanted her to succeed at every thing that she tried and be happy all the time.  I wanted her to have the benefit of all that I had learned in life with out having to experience the painful things that had given me the little wisdom I had.  I did not want her to have to struggle with any thing, to avoid the mistakes I had made.  And most importantly, I wanted her to love me like I loved her, more than anything in the world.