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Archive for December, 2010

As we begin this new year let’s consider determining in our hearts that we are going to open the door to spiritual renewal in our lives by opening and digging into the one Book that will do it—the Bible! It can change our lives for eternity!

Pastor Bill

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WINTER AT THE SLOUGH

Several years ago I was flying to the east coast during the winter and our plane was preparing for landing at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport well after darkness had arrived. The plane descended below the clouds and the lights of the two cities came into view. I had my nose pressed against the window watching the moving sets of car lights far below me. A layer of cold mid-winter snow covered the ground.

As we dropped closer to the ground I began to notice large white flat areas, surrounded by lights, which appeared to have little black bugs flitting around on them. In fact, I saw these flat areas all around the portion of the city that I could see and I wondered what in the world they were.

Finally, as the plane got closer to the ground and we were only a few minutes from landing, I figured it out. All those flat, lighted areas, with the little black figures zipping around on them were ice skating ponds! The little black “bugs” were people skating on the ice!

I remember that scene at Minneapolis and it reminds me, again, of when I was a boy. Now, you must remember that we did not have nice, man-made ponds lighted by high pole lights for night skating when I was growing up. Oh, no! But we did have the "slough!" Yesiree! We did have the slough. And we could build a roaring bonfire on the bank next to the slough that would provide us with both light and heat.

The slough was a small body of water which had once been the course of the river which flowed through the valley. During a spring flood, many years earlier, the river had jumped its banks and searched out a completely new route for itself through the farm lands. When the flood waters receded, the former course of the river became mostly stagnant ponds filled with lily pads, cat tails, bullfrogs, turtles and bullheads—in the summer. But, during the winter time? Hey! The slough was now a perfect ice skating rink. And, like I said, we made our own light!

In the Old Testament, in the Book of Job, we find the account of a man who has been undergoing terrible trials. As you read near the end of this story, you get to a point where God begins talking to Job. At one point, beginning at 38:29-30, God says to Job: “Who is the mother of the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens? For the water turns to ice as hard as rock, and the surface of the water freezes……….”

After God seems to be done asking Job a long list of questions, Job replies in 42:2, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.”

We often give God credit for things like beautiful mountains, a spectacular sunset, and the power in a summer thunderstorm. But did you ever think of God as being the “mother of the ice” or the one who “gives birth to the frost from the heavens”? It’s something to think about the next time you strap on the old ice skates, isn’t it? Okay, you don’t have to strap on the skates to think about it. . . . . but you see what I’m getting at, right?

Prayer: Father, thank You for the intense beauty of this earth upon which we move and live and breathe. Thank you for the seasons and even the ice that covers the ponds and gives such excitement and joy to children of all ages. Thank You for loving us so very much, Father. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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If we go into the new year living with the concept that God is going to be doing great things in us, and we are going to be doing some great things for God, we will be living on the cutting edge of life.

Pastor Bill

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GROWING UP

When I was a young boy, growing up, our neighborhood did not have a youth center; we had abandoned houses and occasionally derelict barns to play in. We did not have baseball fields to play ball in; we had an alley to the west of our house we used as a stand-in for Yankee Stadium.

When I was a boy growing up we did not have any nearby ski hills to go to when the winter snows covered the ground; we would hike up a long hill and out into a farmer’s field, strap on old hickory wood skis which hung onto our overshoes with a single leather strap, and head down the hill, hoping we could make it to the bottom without falling. And the ski poles were made from bamboo.

When I was a boy growing up we did not have any place nearby to go snowboarding; in fact, we had never heard of such a thing as a snow board. But we did have the hood off an old 37′ Chevy convertible that we would drag far up to the top of a hill in a farmer’s field where several of us would climb into the overturned hood and go screaming for the bottom, twisting and turning every which way. We rarely made it all the way down without losing one or two of us over the side as we went through all the wild gyrations!

In fact, when I was a boy growing up we did not even have the round plastic saucers kids go racing down the hills on. But, if the snow was good and packed, and especially if it had been real cold and had frozen hard on the surface, we could throw the hood to our parkas over our heads, lie down on our back, and go racing for the bottom of the hill, headfirst on our backsides!

Of course, it did have to be a steep hill and we were fairly careful in picking one out which did not have too many obstructions in it!

As I think back on some of the crazy things we did when I was a young boy, I am not sure I would want any of my own kids, or grandkids, doing stunts like that. I mean—they could get hurt! . . . . . Did I ever get hurt? Well, there was this time I was getting pulled on a sled behind our old 49’ Chev, when my mother driving, and…..Oh, that’s another story.

But the things we used to do as kids make me shake my head in wonder nowadays. But, whatever, we always looked forward to snow! Really, now, aren’t you glad God gave us the various seasons including winter? In Psalms 147:15-16 we find the words: “He sends his command to the earth. His word arrives there quickly. He spreads the snow like wool. He scatters the frost like ashes”. . . . . . and kids love it!

Prayer: Father, thank You for blessing us with the beauty of spring, summer, fall and winter. Each of the seasons has its unique beauty and attraction for us. You revive us, give us rest, and renew our spirits during those periods of each year. Thanks for traveling with us, Father. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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When we accept anything other than God’s best for us is a step downward.

Pastor Bill

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God will eventually reward us for our faith in Him. He did those wise men! Merry Christmas!

 

Pastor Bill

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By Rev. Howard C. Schade

(The following story is said to have been written by Rev. Howard C. Schade, pastor of the First Reformed Church in Nyack, New York, and published in Reader’s Digest in December of 1954.)

It was mid-November, 1948, when a young, enthusiastic minister received his first pastorate. His new church at one time had been a resplendent edifice in one of the best neighborhoods of a well-known city in the eastern United States. Time, however, had taken its toll on the church and the surrounding area. Things weren’t as grand as they had once been.

The minister and his wife realized there wasn’t a lot they could do about the community, but the church was another matter. They knew that soap and water, paint and polish, and a generous supply of elbow grease could help the building regain some of its elegance in time for Christmas.

With only a month to accomplish so much, they poured out their energies. They scrubbed and waxed floors, washed accumulated grime from the pews and painted the walls. The church seemed to take on a glow of pride as Christmas crept closer. The couple couldn’t help feeling a measure of satisfaction in what they had accomplished.

Just two days before Christmas an incredible storm struck the area. The howling storm pounded the region, dumping nearly two inches of rain before moving on. The church’s old roof couldn’t take the storm’s ferocity. It sprung numerous leaks. Most were minor and hardly dampened the interior, but one massive leak was ruinous. Right behind the altar the old plaster wall became saturated, soaking up water like a dry sponge. An enormous chunk of plaster fell from the wall, leaving an ugly, gaping hole.

There was not time to repair the damage before the Christmas eve services. The pastor and his wife couldn’t help feeling all their back-breaking labor had been for naught. In their eyes the church looked worse than it had when they started.

What was the use, they thought, as the scraped up the sodden plaster.

The benefit auction they attended that evening didn’t do much to raise their spirits, until an old tablecloth was put up for bid. The instant the pastor saw it, he was ecstatic. Here, he reasoned, was the solution to his problem.

The tablecloth was gigantic, more than large enough to cover the hole in the sanctuary wall. And it was beautiful too. Obviously handmade from fine lace with gold thread running through it, it would look spectacular hanging on the church wall. He was determined to have it, and six dollars and fifty cents later it was his.

The day before Christmas was clear, but windy and cold. As he happily unlocked the church he spotted an older woman standing at the curb, apparently waiting for a bus. Knowing the next bus wouldn’t be along for at least a half-hour, he invited her to wait in the church where she would at least be warm.

In halting English she thanked him for his kindness, and casually mentioned she lived across town. She was only there that day because she was trying to get a job. A well known family in the area was looking for a housekeeper/baby-sitter. She didn’t get the job, she said, because of her poor English. She had only been in the United States a few years, she explained. She was a war refugee.

The minister said he had work to do, and headed for the sanctuary to cover the unsightly hole in the wall. She thanked him again and slipped into a pew near the back of the church. As he unfolded the tablecloth, stretched it to its full width and started fastening it to the wall, the woman suddenly shouted, “That’s mine. That’s my banquet cloth.” She rushed to the front of the church and showed the stunned minister her initials embroidered on the cloth. Breathlessly, she told him the story of the tablecloth.

“My husband and I lived in Vienna, before the war,” she said, forlornly. “We hated the Nazis, and we were going to flee to Switzerland.” In order to avoid suspicion, she went on, her husband sent her ahead. He promised to send their belongings, and then follow soon. Their worldly possessions never arrived in Switzerland, nor did her husband. “I later learned he had died in a Nazi concentration camp,” she said, fighting back the tears.

Nearly in tears himself, the minister insisted she take the cloth that obviously meant so much to her. She hesitated for a moment, and then said no. It looked beautiful on the church wall, and besides, living alone she didn’t give banquets anymore. Without another word she turned and slowly left the church to catch her bus.

At Christmas Eve services the church did look spectacular. The tablecloth seemed to glow. The gold threads sparkled in the candlelight like hundreds of tiny, golden stars. As the congregation left the church, the minister received nothing but praise about how majestic the church looked.

The minister noticed an old man, though, lingering in the church, enraptured by the altar. As he finally left he told the pastor how wonderful the church looked. Then almost as an after-thought, he said, “It is strange. Many years ago my wife had a banquet cloth like that one,” nodding toward the altar. “But that was so long ago when we lived in Vienna. My wife is dead now, killed in the war.”

It was a frigid night, but the goose bumps the minister suddenly felt all over his body and the chill running up and down his spine weren’t caused by the night air. Taking several deep breaths to steady himself, he told the man about the woman who had been in the church that morning.

“Can it be,” gasped the man, grabbing the minister’s hands, tears streaming down his cheeks, “that she is alive? Where is she? How can I find her?” For an instant the pastor felt panic. How, indeed, could he find her? He had no idea where she lived. For an instant his heart sank. Had he brought hope to an old man only to dash it out? Then he remembered the name of the family she had been interviewed by that day. Rushing to the phone he called the family residence. Hastily he explained why he had to have the woman’s name and address that instant. Minutes later, in the minister’s beat-up old car, the two men drove as quickly as possible to the woman’s apartment house.

With a mixture of apprehension and excitement, together the two men knocked on the door. The few minutes it took her to answer seemed like hours. When she finally did open the door, the minister saw the culmination of what was to him, a miracle. For an instant the husband and wife, separated for nearly a decade stared at one another, not daring to believe their eyes, and almost afraid to blink for fear the vision they were each looking at would vanish. In another instant they were in each other’s arms, tearfully, joyfully and excitedly clinging to each other. All the heartache and loneliness of ten years was wiped away. The moment each had dreamed about, but never really expected to see fulfilled had miraculously come true. They were together again, and nothing was ever going to be able to drive them apart.

Merry Christmas!

Pastor Bill

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