Hermit Island is one of my favorite places to visit in the whole world. I haven't traveled a ton. But you know what I mean. Our family goes there every summer. It's pretty much the same thing. Year after year. And still there's a familiarity to it that I find so comforting. The beaches are the same. The amenities (for better or worse) are the same. We camp there. And it feels like home.
It's a funny thing. I don't think that I'm alone, when I say that I like to be in familiar places and see familiar faces. I like to know what to expect, when I go somewhere new. I like being in my comfort zone. I like routine. I'm not one to actively seek out something outside of my comfort zone. That's just who I am. And I think that God made me that way. Why should I?
But then I think about what I'd miss out, if I stayed where I'm comfortable all the time. I would have missed out on seeing Mary Poppins in New York City this year. I would have missed out on running a 5k the last couple of years. I would have missed out on meeting some new friends and going to some new places. I don't want to be the person who missed out on a bunch of things, because I had butterflies. Because, in the end, I really am glad of getting outside of my comfort zone.
When I first came to South Londonderry, I was way beyond my comfort zone. I was nervous about a lot of things. But one thing was so clear, when I became a part of First Baptist Church. It was a place full of friendly people who cared a whole lot about me and my family. And not just because I'm their pastor. I see them embrace new people often, and it warms my heart. They want to share the love of Jesus with everyone. I've been a part of this church for over three years. And it feels like home.
If you're looking for a comfortable place, where you want to be with people who embrace you and care about you, come. It might be outside your comfort zone. But I promise. It will be so worth it.
An answered prayer. I made two birthday cakes for two very special people! Thank you for your prayers. I cannot express how much your prayers have meant. I am on the mend; however, from what I understand, it's going to be a while before I'm completely back to normal.
I made an applesauce cake with cream cheese frosting for my son. And the picture above is the chocolate cake with chocolate frosting I made for my daughter. That's the one I'm going to write about today.
This recipe is not one I've made before. Sarah picked it out from her cookbook. We made it together. It was special. I used a square cake pan. I know. It doesn't look square. I'll get to that in a bit. When I was flipping it over on the rack, only some of the cake came out. I was bummed. My wonderful husband cut the remaining pieces out of the pan for me. I had a plan, though. I was convinced I didn't have to make another one. I had a vision of piling all the pieces on top. I was convinced that I could make it work.
I knew that I wanted to have a circle cake, so it would fit on the cake plate. I needed something to trace. I used the cover of the round storage container that holds our peanut butter. We don't keep our natural peanut butter in the jar. One of my brilliant friends recommended mixing it, so the oils aren't all at the top making a huge mess every time we make a sandwich. Brilliant. I cut my cake. That went relatively well.
I didn't really want to make a double batch of frosting. I knew that I needed something to make all my pieces "stick" together. Since I had the peanut butter out, I slathered a layer on top of the circle piece. It was a spur of the moment decision. I carefully placed the biggest cake pieces on top. Then I started filling it in with little pieces. They weren't stuck together by anything. I just piled pieces (crumbs really) on top. I told myself, at least it will taste good.
Next, it needed to be frosted. Now the color of the frosting was slightly lighter than the cake, so the crumbs that were inevitably coming off and mixing with the frosting were so obvious. Not to mention that the top of the cake was not even. It was pretty bumpy. Don't forget it was just a bunch of cake pieces on there. I kept telling myself, at least it will taste good.
Since it was bumpy on top and I could clearly see the crumbs in the frosting, I decided to look through the cabinets to find something to put on top. I just wanted to distract from the bumps. I had no desire to go out to the store. I found some brown sugar. I sprinkled some of that on top. I found a few other things to sprinkle on top. I wasn't convinced that it looked any better. At least it will taste good. And maybe it won't look so bad in the pictures that I take to remember this day forever.
My husband said that it looked pretty nice. To be honest I thought he was being nice. We had a nice slice of chocolate cake after dinner that night. It did taste good. Especially with the peanut butter.
But here's the strange part. We had some people over later on, and they remarked how nice the cake looked. And that was after it was cut. I'll admit that I was a little surprised, because I knew how not put together it was on the inside.
I felt like it was all smoke and mirrors. It might look good, but it's just a big mess.
It got me thinking. For those of us who are regular attenders to Sunday worship services, do we feel like our lives as we present them on Sunday morning are all smoke and mirrors? We might look like everything's a-ok, but it really isn't.
For those of us who are not regular attenders, do we feel like we'd have to be all smoke and mirrors to fit in at church? Does that become a roadblock?
I know that the answer may be yes to both. And I know that our God is so much bigger than that. He knows it all. There is no way that we can be all smoke and mirrors to Him who created us. Our church should be a reflection of that.
Let us be a group of people who doesn't feel like we have to be all smoke and mirrors, when we enter the church building (or in our case the town hall). Let us be a group of people who can be honest enough to our friends and family that we don't have pretend that we live perfect lives. We are just a group of people who recognize that we are so in need of a Savior, Jesus. And we desire to follow our Savior, Jesus. Together.
I have this friend. She's the most honest person I know. I mean that in a good way. She's warm and endearing and is willing to say what's on her mind. In a good way. She's a Christian, and she's just plain honest.
Completely changing the subject. Or maybe not. Can I be honest? I'm pretty good at the stiff upper lip. Most of the time. But I'm going to be honest. I need some prayer.
Four weeks ago I got a tickle in my throat. It turned into a cough. Then it just got worse from there. I just went to the doctor for the second time yesterday. The last time I went to the doctor for sickness was, like, a decade ago. I have pneumonia. And now I'm starting my second round of antibiotics as well as cough medecine. Can I be honest? I don't want to be sick anymore.
I'm trying to not wallow in self pity. I've tried to be optimistic. I know that I'm not the only one who is sick. From what I hear a lot of people are. But can I be honest? I want to be healthy. For my children. For my husband. For my church.
I am going to ask you all to pray for me. I just want to be healthy. My little Daniel is turning one on Saturday. I want to make him a cake. Can you pray that I'll be able to make him one? My little Sarah is turning three on Monday. Can you pray that I'll be able to make her a cake? I know I could buy them cakes, but I'd really like to be able to bake them myself.
I want to be honest. This hasn't been easy. But I have to say that I'm so thankful to be in a church family that has already been so good to my family. We've been eating a lot of yummy meals. The family has chipped in to help.
Can I be honest? This is one of the best parts about being in a church family. There's so much to be said for being a part of a community that is just "there" for you. So, if you needed a reason to come check First Baptist out, there is one. Out of many. To be honest we'd love to have you! You don't have to have life all together or figured out to check us out.
And if you're sick, please let me know. To be honest, I'd like to pray for you.
This picture is of a Starburst. It’s been sitting in the pocket of a jacket I wear to church every once in a while. (Please don’t judge me on how often I wash it.) It’s been hanging out in that pocket for at least two years. I know this, because I know where this Starburst comes from. The church I interned at before coming to Vermont. (I know. I know. I should really wash the jacket.)
Every time I’ve put on that jacket and stuck my hand in my pocket, I am reminded of my friends back at that church. They are the ones who supported and encouraged me to become a pastor. Before being there, I didn’t know what I was going to do after finishing school. (Before then, I only felt God calling me to go to school. He gave me no indication of what would happen after the diploma.) I sometimes talk about them, not because I really want to go back to Portsmouth, NH. (I know that God wants me to be exactly where I am, and I hope to be here for a very long time.) I sometimes talk about them, because they were so crucial in me coming to South Londonderry.
So this Starburst isn’t just a Starburst. It represents a memory of some friends in the faith who have supported me in this journey that God has placed before me in my life. Since coming to South Londonderry, I have felt
nothing but support. It’s quite a wonderful thing to be with a group of people
who are always cheering you on!
That’s what it’s like to be a part of a church. Sharing. Encouraging. Praying. Loving. Helping. So if you haven’t checked us out before and any of that seems appealing, jump on in. Come see for yourself what we’re all about. Because we’re here for you. (By the way, Easter is on April 8th, and lots of people usually come that Sunday to the service, which can be a bit less intimidating.) If you’re already a part of our church, invite and welcome your friends into our community. We’re always excited to have more!
Oh, and if you’re curious on how I remember that that Starburst came from my previous church, I’ll tell you. The pastor usually had candy on his office door on Sundays. There was never chocolate because of potential messes. I would never buy Starbursts, because I prefer chocolate. Funny, huh?
Today ends our week long celebration. Two hundred years is a long time. A lot has happened. Just last week we discovered that the former church building had regular old windows before the stained glass. There have been disagreements and splits and all sorts of things that aren’t pretty. We also found out recently that we almost became a federated church (How we could be Baptists and Methodists, I am really not sure.). There was a mural for the one hundred year anniversary that we will never forget. There’s a lot to remember.
I have only been here for a year and a half. In the history of the church that isn’t all that long. There’s going to be a lot remembered, though, in this time period. Two hundred year anniversaries will do that. Church fires will do that. Baptisms and dedications and lives being changed because of Jesus will do that.
What will happen in the future? I really can’t say. There’s a lot to be excited about. God has plans for us. I know He does. There will probably will be some good times and some not so good times. There will be potlucks and Bible Studies. There will be building projects and new members. It’s exciting to think about all the things that God will do in the little old town of South Londonderry.
What I leave you with today is this: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has been a part of our church (meaning the people) for all two hundred years. He is with us today as we celebrate the new life we have in Christ. He will be with us in the future as we discover God’s plan for us. And the best part is that Jesus never changes.
I got distracted today. It looked so inviting outside. The rest of the family was out there exploring. I just couldn’t resist. So we were out there today, and I discovered something. Here’s a picture:
If it’s not obvious what it is, I can tell you. It’s a big old stump. The tree was cut down before my time here at the house. Out of the stump little shoots are growing like crazy. It reminded Chris and me of a couple of things.
It reminded Chris of an image from the book of Isaiah: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (11:1 NIV). It’s okay if you’re like, woah, that doesn’t make much sense. It’s basically a promise of a Savior in the Old Testament. The rest of the chapter describes this Savior and what life will be like after this Savior comes. This Savior is Jesus Christ who between then and now came to earth to save us. Jesus was a decedent of Jesse. It’s sort of a family tree reference.
This stump reminded me of our church. We went through a great tragedy last year in the form of the fire. Like that big old tree being destroyed, our building was destroyed. There’s something quite beautiful, though, that’s coming out of the stump: new life. Our church is also experiencing new life. This tree represents what God is doing in our little church community.
For those of you who live outside of our little community and have been praying for us: Thank you! You have done more than anyone on earth will give you credit for doing. Know that we are doing well.
For those of you who are a part of our church community: Thank you! You have been so incredibly flexible. Know that each one of you is part of our community (myself included), because God planned it that way.
I am the first to admit that I'm not much of a housekeeper. I find myself saying things like: "I'm messy most of the time, until people come over." I want the house looking okay. At the same time I don't want people to think I'm a fake, so that's why I feel it necessary to tell people that I don't have life all together.
Then, I get to some weeks where we have a bunch of meetings at our house. I like having them at my house. I like that it forces me to be more on top of the general pick up that needs to be done.
My question is: If I continue to consistently keep the house picked up, at what point do I change my way of labeling myself as a housekeeper? When do I say: "I'm okay at keeping up with the dishes?"
I don't quite know the answer completely. It got me thinking though. Sometimes when we start going to church for worship, we don't get it all. For some of us that happens when we're a baby. For others of us that happens when we we're 42. There's all that christianese (a.k.a. Christian language) that we don't get. We feel kind of fake. After some time we get more comfortable and feel less fake. So my thought today is: When you're at church worshiping God with a bunch of other people, remember that we're all at different points of our journey and encourage one another. It's not a race. Thank God!
Here it is again. Another snow storm. Kids are jumping with joy. Parents are scrambling to find care. Our driveway's already been plowed once this morning. If the models keep going like they are now, we may get another big storm Wednesday into Thursday of next week. That's what my husband tells me. He know a fair amount about weather. I work from home (for the most part), so stormy weather doesn't create many complications for me. Snow makes me happy. My husband is always in a good mood, when it snows. It's infectious in our household.
There's joy that kids all over have from not having school today. That joy that I see every time my husband tells me a storm may be coming is nothing compared to the joy that we are to have when faced with trials. You may be thinking, "What?" James writes about this joy: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4 NIV).
As a church community we have faced trials. We will face trials in the future. It's important to keep a proper perspective in the midst of them. God is using these trials to make us into mature Christians. It's up to us to persevere and do good. This joy may not be completely present today or a year from now. There will be pure joy one day. I can promise you that.
There are some years that go by in our lives in which we easily forget. On Chris and my last wedding anniversary we were reminiscing on what we had done on each of our anniversaries.
It took us a good ten minutes to remember our forth anniversary. Finally it dawned on us that it was a very busy week - a big meeting, a graduation for a sister, and cleaning (what we did to get through seminary) all in the span of a few days. Guess what we did on our anniversary? That's right - we cleaned. We went out for lunch, but that was about it. I remember sharing a crab cake. That's about it.
Our fifth anniversary, on the other hand, was more memorable. I got the day off from nannying (what I did before coming to Vermont). They gave it to me. I didn't even ask. What a great gift. Chris and I were living in Portsmouth, NH. It was a beautiful day. We walked around the city, got coffee, and went to the park. In the evening we went to a seafood restaurant for dinner, and then walked to a bakery for dessert. It was extra special, because we were expecting our first child. No one but us knew at the time, so I could still fit in a nice non-maternity dress. It's one to remember.
I will always remember 2010. You may be thinking about the fire at this point. That's only one part of what I'll remember. My immediate family grew. Our family moved (three times). Chris and I are no longer thinking about the future as much. We were in a very special wedding. We went to a difficult funeral. We took a big trip to see my brother. We grew our first garden (Our little one is still enjoying the butternut squash!). Some of these things are more memorable than others, but it's been a year to remember.
We want you all to know that we are so glad that God brought us here to South Londonderry. Out of the challenges resulting from the fire this church community has seen God at work. It's been amazing to be a part of it all. We hope with the 200th anniversary of First Baptist this year that 2011 will be a memorable one! Join us and help make that happen.
This is the time of year that we all prepare for December 25th. We all have that blessed expectation, right? We're all excited to share in all our family traditions, right? It's supposed to be the happiest time of year. Sometimes it is. What if it's not? What if the amount of shopping or Christmas cards or missing someone just seems overwhelming?
You are not alone. It can be a tough time of year. I'm not going to give you the type of advice that seems impractical or won't make things better. I am going to tell you that there's a bunch of us who genuinely care about each other that gather together every Sunday morning to worship God (see home page).
We don't have life all figured out. (In fact we know that life is messy and difficult at times.) We do want to learn and grow and help one another. If that sounds good to you, check us out. See if we are who we say we are. Feel free to come a couple minutes late and stand just inside the front entrance (and drink copious amounts of coffee that you'll find to your right). If being right there feels comfortable, feel free to stay right there for the service. Just come as you are.
This is written by Kathleen Blackey, follower of Jesus and co-pastor at First Baptist Church.