Hugging Trees and Thanking God

Posted under Blog Posts on April 16th, 2014 by Greg

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

Do you remember when you first discovered that the world, the earth is a beautiful place? Perhaps you were on a family vacation and you were gripped by exploding autumn colors in the Great Smoky Mountains. Or you hiked with your parents to a waterfall and for the first time were overwhelmed as the mist enfolded you and the water thundered down. When was it that you discovered the beauty of creation? Staring at Orion galloping across the evening sky or peering through the telescope to see the craters of the moon?

Early in college I took an interest in ecology and the environment and found myself accused of being a tree-hugger. Well I must confess I am. I love trees. Many mornings you might see me walking around this campus admiring the stately live oaks, redbuds, and Japanese Maples that mark our church grounds. With great affection I remember the first tree I fell in love with when I was a boy. It was a giant sycamore that to this day still looms over a creek through the pasture bottoms where the dairy cows graze before the afternoon milking. When we were small children my daddy and grandparents would take us to that spot to play in the sand alongside that sycamore whose roots reached beneath the creek itself and the massive limbs shaded us from the scorching summer sun.

This time of year trees around us are shaking off winter’s sleep and opening up delicate new leaves for the year. I have a maple tree in our front yard given to me as a seedling six or so years ago by Jack Thompson, a church member who loved beauty through nature and architecture. He died four years ago about this time of year but his gift to me lives on. It is growing a fine canopy of leaves and the limbs may be sturdy enough to hold a bird house this year. Jack gave me the gift of a tree whose shade he would not live to see.

I wonder what gifts I am leaving behind that will give shade to the weary and inspiration to the seeker? Will it be words spoken or written? Will it be laughter or integrity or a hopeful attitude? What gifts will live on when I am gone? Surely, hopefully, prayerfully it will be something more than just “stuff.” What about you?

Gifts that live on are part of the larger narrative of Easter. Easter is not simply a celebration of a particular Sunday once a year. Liturgists remind us that Easter is a season that carries us into the year. Even now God is offering new life to all who are willing to receive it. There are more gifts to behold and accept and so life can begin anew today, right now. And not only are there gifts of grace that are waiting for you, you too have the chance to bless, to care, to love, and to show mercy. These are the gifts that truly live on when we are no more on this earth.

The silence of Holy Saturday is broken by the Alleluia of the One who makes all things new. May this be for you a promise realized.

Shaded by peace,

Greg

Another Golf Story…Sort of…

Posted under Blog Posts on April 9th, 2014 by Greg

Preachers love stories – hearing them; telling them; sharing them; and even – if necessary and it is good for the kingdom’s sake – making them up! From this preacher, you will not likely hear me tell a golf story. I have never played the game and outside of knowing that the little white ball is supposed to go in the little hole conveniently marked by a flag, I know very little about it. I know that even if I were to try to tell a golf story I would invariably get the facts wrong, or mess up the punch line, or say something that would leave the better-informed among you thinking less of me.

Amy was mildly embarrassed of me and a bit indignant during my first golf outing here in Augusta. Someone was very generous and thoughtful by providing an opportunity for us to attend The Masters – perhaps you have heard of it? Anyway, at hole 13 (at least I think that was the hole; I remember there were lots of beautiful azaleas and some water, yet for some reason no one was fishing) a golfer was preparing to “tee off” and I politely asked the question, in an appropriate hushed tone because everyone else was whispering, “is that where they whack the ball?” Amy told me to be quiet and eat my pimento cheese sandwich. Now when I attend I just keep my thoughts to myself and make small talk about all the lovely shrubs, flowers and trees.

Even though I know very little about golf and have no intention to take up the game, I look forward to this annual event when the entire world seems to be focused on Augusta. This will be my ninth year for Masters Week and I actually can say I appreciate the game and hope to make it out on the course for at least one of those days. For some The Masters is the celebration of a pastime, a hobby, a sport, a game, or the pinnacle of the year.

You do not have to like golf to get swept up in the excitement. The city readies itself for the legends of the game and for the thousands upon thousands of visitors that will descend up us. Even though it comes at a great inconvenience and we avoid Washington Road at all costs unless we are actually going to one of the rounds, it is a thrill to get caught up with the crowd; to feel the euphoria building and breathe in the spring air of Masters Week. It is as if we could almost believe God sends this sunshine for our special week.

This week we will read in the Gospels of getting “swept up” in the euphoria of Palm Sunday, anticipating Easter. Of course it is those days between parades, between the crowds that are really telling. That is when the living is no longer easy, and the euphoria has dissipated giving way to denials and betrayals and shame and rejection. We want to stay in the parade or rush to the New Day of Easter, but the real living comes when the parade stops, the “world” returns home and we are left with our fickle convictions and disappointments.

You see, we need one another, we really do. We are not just “event people,” stringing together emotional and spiritual highs and hoping to fashion for ourselves a whole life. We need each other in the seasons and out. The church is the “tent of meeting”, that is, the place of coming together, but it is all too easy to be just another face in the crowd attending yet another event. Church is not so much a place where we gather or an event in which we attend. Church is about people, connected with one another following the Christ.

As we get ready for Easter I encourage you to seek ways of better belonging and engagement through the community of faith. What is important, even essential, is to get connected, to belong, because in time the parade will stop, the cameras will turn away and focus on someplace else and the crowds will have dispersed. The questions we then will face are: who am I? Whose am I? where do I stand; where will I go?

Peace be with you,

Greg

Mr. Goodbar

Posted under Blog Posts on March 26th, 2014 by Greg

Years ago when I was just a fledgling young adult I stumbled upon a stack of old candy bar wrappers that my grandmother had carefully saved through the years. A dozen or so “Mr. Goodbar” wrappers had been devotedly pressed like wildflowers on exhibit and preserved as a mute testimony to my grandfather’s attempt at romance.

My grandfather, Papa, attended Rockville Academy, in rural Putnam County. The school is still standing with a historical marker designating it as the oldest consolidated rural school in Georgia and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. His memories of his years attending that farm school live on in the stories he shared with us. He laughed about the recollection of a school holiday when as boys they led a cow (or was it a mule?) up the stairs of the schoolhouse and locked her in for the duration of the break. Then there was the time when, along with some accomplices, he took a mason jar, placed it over the hole of a nest of yellow-jackets and filled it to the brim. Later in the afternoon someone rolled the jar down the aisle of the classroom releasing the now very angry yellow-jackets and affectively releasing class for the day. Corporal punishment was in use and was no doubt used frequently.

For reasons I am not clear, by the time Papa was a teenager he began attending Eatonton Academy – the school in town which was also the same school house attended by my daddy, and later my sister, brothers and me. It was there he moved from pranks with cows and yellow-jackets to taking notice of girls. If a girl sat in front of him and her pigtails got just close enough to his desktop, the chances were good he would take the opportunity to dip one in the ink well. Many times he talked about the time he took a sewing needle and stuck it through the callous of his big toe and then proceeded to prod the backsides of unsuspecting ladies seated nearby. Yes, Papa was real ladies’ man.

One lady, however, caught his eye and kept him. He traded pranks for generous tokens of affection. In the 1930s a Mr. Goodbar candy bar was a luxury that could be secured with a nickel. He bought several, slipping them to Mabel Dennis during study hall. The rest, as they say, is history. I have some of those wrappers as a nod to nostalgia, family history and young love. Boys and girls grown up, hard work wears you down, and life soon catches up with you. My grandparents are buried in the church cemetery of Philadelphia United Methodist Church, bordered by hay fields and cow pastures. One day all that is left of me will go out there too, unless my progeny think otherwise.

Has love ever pushed you to act foolish or wasteful or careless? I hope so. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant…” so says the Apostle Paul. Love is also messy and risky. Love can cause you to do things and say things you thought not possible.

May you and I be known for that kind of love – patient, kind, not envious or boastful or arrogant…foolish, wasteful, careless and messy. May we fall in love with those who need to be loved the most, which, when you think about it, doesn’t really leave anybody out. May we love the work of God, the mission of God, already at work in our world and through others. And may we attempt to do that which we did not think possible.

Because God loves, we love too. There will be tokens in eternity that will tell the story.

It is a rather foolish thought I know. But I have Mr. Goodbar wrappers to remind me it’s possible.

Love you,

Greg

A Little Walt Whitman is Good for the Soul

Posted under Blog Posts on March 19th, 2014 by Greg

This is me a few years from now

I dream’d in a dream I saw a city invincible,
to the attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth,
I dream’d that was the new city of Friends.

I keep a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass on the end table by my reading chair. I read snatches of his lines in the early morning before digging into whatever book I am working through at the time. There is just something about those 19th century American Romantics that have me returning to their waters time and again to drink. You have heard me cite the following quote by Henry David Thoreau – another American Romantic – before, but it is worth repeating:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately; to front only the essentials in life and see what it had to teach me. And not, when I came to die, discover that I had never lived.

Those few words make me want to grab my walking stick parked in a corner in our house and head out to the wooded hills with my wife in hand to see what there is to see. The words of Whitman and Thoreau have lasted so long because they speak to the heart of the human condition – the desire to live faithfully and deliberately. It is also a reminder of the importance of abiding together.

It is part of the church’s responsibility to bear upon our consciences that God created us to live not in isolation but in community, and to do so with a holy intentionality. So many – too many – trudge through life going through the mechanics of work, family, responsibilities and other routines and fail to actually live. The Bible reminds us that we each play an important and significant role:
As it is, there are many members, yet one body … [25] that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. [26] If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. (1 Corinthians 12:20, 25-26)

My prayer for the church (and all her members) is two-fold: 1) that each of us discover how indispensable we are in this community of faith, and 2) that we may live our lives fully, abundantly and faithfully. And when we falter, may we live in the generosity of God’s grace for another day.

This Dude abides,

Greg

Stump Removal

Posted under Blog Posts on March 12th, 2014 by Greg

Okay, the stump was not that big

It took four weeks of intermittent, hard labor but I have taken care of a stump in our front yard…mostly. It all started with the ice storm – ICE2K14, or icepocalypse, or whatever you want to call that event one month ago. We had several trees come down during the storm including one right in front of the house. It was one of those tall yellow pines that bless our community with its electric-yellow dusty pollen every year. Unlike all of the other trees that fell on and around our place, this one fell right at the roots, creating a modest size root ball of Georgia red clay and knotted, spidery roots still clenching to the earth from which it came.

As of last night I finally dug, clawed and hacked my way down the hole to sever the remaining roots including the infamous tap root. When I emerged from the hole gripping the tap root I looked as though I had just caught an 80 pound channel cat. This stump is only about 24 inches in diameter but the hole I dug to get to it is about 20 feet deep. Well, maybe not twenty feet, but it was deep. Combined with the depth of the hole and the weight of the now severed stump I am looking for back up (two young men who happen to share my last name as well as part of my DNA) to help me lift the tangled mass of pine and mud out.

I plan to keep my day job if you good folks will permit. Preaching is much easier.

Of course whatever it is we do in life, if we do it well, takes effort and strength. Ask a parent. Or a teacher. Or a utility lineman. Or…well, you get the point.

What is it in your life that has you digging, clawing, working and struggling? What inspires you to see it through, whatever “it” is? The truth is most of what we confront in life is much more complex and difficult than removing a stump.

The Apostle Paul closes out his letter to the church of Corinth with these words: “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (16:13-14) I especially like those last words: Let all that you do be done in love.

There are plenty of stumps out there, and this one of mine is not the first or the last. Sometimes I am strong enough and other times I am not. Sometimes I have courage to face the obstacles and other times my heart melts with doubt and fear. One thing I can do and will do and that is to love. In the end it will root anything out.

Paul did not say it, but he could have – love is knotted, love is messy, love is difficult, and love tough. And love is worth it.

Ashes to Ashes

Posted under Blog Posts on March 4th, 2014 by Greg

I love the rich breadth of Christianity, which means I am open to “new” ways of experiencing community with fellow believers. Observing Ash Wednesday (this year it is on March 5) is an old practice for believers around the world but fairly new to most Baptists. For the last several years we have held an Ash Wednesday service and the have been some of the most memorable and poignant services of the year.

In fact, the ashes we use are compliments of our sister congregation, The Church of the Good Shepherd. The first year we hosted the Ash Wednesday service the thoughtful chair of the altar guild offered to give me a can of ashes, saving me the trouble of burning, sifting and mixing the ash mixture. She had the prepared ashes waiting for me at their church.

When I arrived to pick up the can (formally cashews, which I am sure was a surprise for anybody reaching in for a few nuts). On the lid of the can was written: Ashes – Greg DeLoach (he is not in here). This is an important disclaimer of which I am happy to confirm.

Yet is this not what Ash Wednesday is about? – a time to reflect on our own mortality as well as repentance. Philosophers have long exclaimed that the way to prepare for life is to contemplate death. Morbid? I don’t think so. Often Jesus spoke of the need to release one’s life (which is in itself an enormous act of faith) in order to gain it (Matthew 10:7; 16:25). Furthermore Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Jesus’ journey to the deadly timbers of the cross.

We are surrounded by silly symbols of our anxieties that oftentimes are manifested in over-consumption and violence. Yet we are all, in the end, destined to be no more than a can of ashes on this earth. Ash Wednesday and Lent call on us to ignore the anxious voices that cannot believe in anything but the self, and listen to the voice of the One, who out of dust, breathed in each the breath of life. There will come a day when our breath returns to the Creator.

Finally the ashes that mark us on Ash Wednesday are an invitation to follow. For me this season is an important reminder that whatever it is I face or will face in my life – and one can scarcely imagine what awaits us in our lifetime – its scope does not exceed the reach of God. I do not know how I will face all that confronts me, but then again that is not my primary concern. I am called to follow on this journey.

I am blessed to join with you in the journey too. Please, if you can, join with the church family tonight to pray, reflect and be marked to follow. “…you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) First Baptist Church of Augusta will be observing this service at 6:15 PM in our sanctuary. There we begin the time of waiting and following to the cross, the grave, and blessed Easter morning.

Greg

Snow Day 2014

Posted under Blog Posts on February 5th, 2014 by Greg

It seems like the “Snowpocalypse” of last week is a distant memory. All traces of snow are gone and our friends in Atlanta have returned to normal routines. Living in Georgia all of my life, I have had very few snow days, so nearly every one of them is memorable. I can easily recall one winter ice storm when I was a little boy that took down power lines and waited along with befuddled dairy cows needing badly to be milked for Georgia Power to restore our electricity.

Even though out lives no longer revolve around the school calendar, there was still a bit of hopeful anticipation to see if local schools will be cancelled. Throughout Tuesday we tracked on television and on the internet the progress of the cold front that was promising to bring us snow, ice and sleet from the heavens. Some, especially those that work outside, saw this as an ominous foreboding. Others, especially students, saw this as a gift from the Creator. I saw this as a nice diversion.

This was the first Snow Day without children in the house. When I suggested to Amy we go outside and make snow angles and build a snow fort guarded by a snowman, she politely ignored me as she read the paper from the comfort of her rocking chair. She will be the first to tell you, however, that she loves to welcome its rare arrival.

What is so special about a fresh snowfall that even the most cynical among us cannot refuse? Is it the wonderful blanket of silence that morning snow leaves or those mysterious tracks left behind by some bird, rabbit or squirrel cutting across the yard and into the woods? Have you ever watched a sunset surrounded by snowfall? Breathtaking. Maybe we all just look forward to the chance to redeem our childhood with a snowball fight or building a snowman (or snowwoman).

Snow is beautiful too in its covering up of the old and dead remnants of summer. Outside my front porch is a stand of lifeless brush that once was a thick patch of lantana. It is a little melancholy, poking through all that snow, but poignant too in its’ on way. What was lush and alive and ready to be dug up and cast away is given a fresh cloak and a fresh perspective.

Maybe that is why so many of us like the snow – it helps us see the same old world differently. It covers the scars and gashes, blankets over and makes all things smooth. Food tastes better, coffee tastes richer and the fireplace feels warmer. Sure, it is all temporary, but even if it is just for a moment we who are blessed with shelter and other basic necessities may be blessed in its offering.

I love this passage from Isaiah:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. (55:10-13)

Nothing of God is wasted. Nothing of God is unnecessary. Nothing of God is lost. I hope that through snowfall and scripture and other acts of testimony we may more faithfully see God moving about in our lives. Goodness knows in this world of hateful rhetoric and meaningless violence we need to see things and one another as God would.

I close with a wonderful poem I filed away not too many years ago by David Budbill.
“Winter: Tonight: Sunset”
Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first

through the woods, then out into the open fields
past a couple of trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop

and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,
green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.

I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age
and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening

a prayer for being here, today, now, alive
in this life, in this evening, under this sky.

Don’t I Know You?

Posted under Blog Posts on January 28th, 2014 by Greg

Not so many days ago I was involved in a rather innocent exchange with a gentlemen seated to my right at a banquet. His name was Dr. Clarence Williams. We were seated at the head table because I was invited to give greetings on behalf of the religious community and Dr. Williams was invited to give greetings on behalf of the medical community. Between mouthfuls of food – I never let conversation interfere with eating – he asked me where I was from. I shrugged and said, “Eatonton; you probably never heard of it.” His reply was quick and said that yes, in fact, he did know it quite well. “I taught at the High School for a few years before I went to the Medical College. My wife is from Eatonton. In fact I know some Deloaches.” I proceeded to name the DeLoaches in my family and he shook his head and said, “I remember Greg DeLoach, is he any kin?” “Well that’s me,” I blurted out.

It turns out he taught while I was in high school and although I never had him for a class, he remembered me attending a class next door. I wondered, and still do, what in the world did I do, say, or how did I behave that would cause him to remember me thirty years later. As I ponder this, I am not sure I want to know the answer. Still, I was touched that he reached across three decades to connect with me.

A couple of days later during Wednesday night dinner I am wandering from table to table (are you picking up that food is an underlying theme in my life?) and Sophia, age four, gave me a big hug and a bigger smile and asked, “Did you see me last week?” I honestly could not remember, but instead of engaging her in a nuanced dialogue around the limits of middle-age memory, I said, “You know, I think I did.” She responded with great delight, “Noooo….I wasn’t here!” Howls of laughter from parents and grandparents filled the fellowship hall.

There are times when I will casually greet someone and be asked, “Did you miss me? I have been out of town travelling.” Or, “I have been sick,” or something like that.

To be noticed…deep down we all want to know we mattered to someone else. While out of shyness, modesty or just simply introversion there are some who want to be as inconspicuous as possible, I think everyone wants to matter to someone else.

Church – wherever you may go – can be a big place. Church should never be so big, however, where we no longer matter to one another. Jesus noticed a solitary widow offering meager coins to a Temple treasury when others were busy with the wealth of others; he saw little children coming to be blessed when others saw distractions needing to be shooed away; he saw a woman stooped with infirmity when others only saw a breach in protocol.

One of the great missions of the church is to see: to see injustice; to see brokenness; to see loneliness; to see pain; to see joy; to see opportunity; to see others. We are here to pay attention to each other and to all others and take notice. It is a call to look in the eyes of Jesus and see the freedom that awaits because we do not have to be captive anymore. It is also a call to see with the eyes of Jesus those who are bound and fettered, lost and lonely, the least and the last, and set them free.

And when we see with the eyes of Jesus, or when we are seen by Jesus, the darkest powers no longer have a hold anymore.

“Don’t I know you?” is a holy claim and a sacred commission.

I am grateful for those who took notice of me and took me in.

Greg

Seeing Things in Hi-Def

Posted under Blog Posts on January 22nd, 2014 by Greg

Our TV is not quite that big!

We bought a TV. There, I said it. I have confessed our indulgence. We are conspicuous consumers just like everyone else. For the first six or so months of our marriage we did not even own a television. Amy’s grandmother gave us her old set, complete with knobs that changed all thirteen channels! Back then we did not have cable, just an antenna on the roof. I discovered that if I climbed up on the roof and carefully turned the antenna I could pick up most of the channels on the knob. That television was old when it was given to us and it lasted for ten or more years. Lightening finally took it out, which brought joy to my life. Finally we can buy a television with a remote control!

We bought this current one not because we wanted the latest model, but, quite frankly, our old set was getting smaller and smaller. Actually, our eyes are getting weaker and weaker. For the last year or so we would take turns getting up from the sofa and walk to the set in order to read the score of the ball game or the scroll announcing weather alerts. I argued that we did not need a bigger TV, we just needed “his and hers” binoculars. “It would be like going to the opera,” I said. Amy reminded me that she hates the opera. So last week we upgraded from a 30 inch screen to a 40 inch one!

We discovered with our new television that a lot has changed over the years in regards to television technology. For starters, there is color. Okay, I am joking with that last line. Still, it feels to us like we have entered a whole different generation. It is a High-Definition TV, although we do not have high definition cable, so outside of size I am unclear of its benefits. It is also called a “Smart TV” which is another way for manufacturers to say, “If you are over 40 you are not going to understand it.” It is a good thing I work with several young ministers who are both High Definition and Smart!

We did not need a new television. In the end, we wanted one. And when you want something bad enough, you often find a way to get it. Somehow I do not seem to have enough money to pay three more cents per gallon for gas, or buy name-brand yogurt in the grocery story, but I can spare a little extra for the convenience of more screen size in our living room. We have all been there in one form or another.

Do your wants ever get ahead of your needs? I suspect that for many of us we have so thoroughly blended our wants and needs that we have a hard time distinguishing between the two.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a list (a pyramid actually) called a hierarchy of needs. We need air to breath, food to eat, and shelter to protect. We also need friends to love, confidence to inspire and morality to organize.

Part of the role of the faith community is to help us sort through our wants so that we can more clearly understand what it is we really need. We want comforts and conveniences, but what we need is trust and faith. We want assurances and personal gain, but what we need is a greater capacity to love and serve. We want to feel better but what we need is to do better.

The faith journey is a pilgrimage of sorting between wants and needs. In Luke 18 Jesus is approached by a blind man and Jesus asks the question: “What do you want me to do for you?” The man responded, “Lord, let me see again.” (v. 42)

Not a bad prayer for those of us whose eyes have been clouded to the point we are not sure what to look for in life. May Christ open our eyes that we may see what is most needed in our lives and on this good earth.

Peace,

Greg

Jingle Bells and Shotgun Shells

Posted under Blog Posts on December 11th, 2013 by Greg

Have you ever retrieved mistletoe from treetops? There really is only one way – a twelve-gauge shotgun. I know this sounds a bit drastic, but take my word for it the stuff grows in out of the way spots on a tree. First you find an oak tree whose branches are marked with the distinctive green clumps of mistletoe. Next you take careful aim, squeeze the trigger and – BLAM – you have mistletoe showering down on the ground. Today school rules prohibit public displays of affection but when I was in middle school mistletoe was the perfect tool for soliciting affection from cute 7th graders. On any given day during the Christmas season I could be seen boarding the school bus with feed sacks full of mistletoe.

I wonder why we don’t use mistletoe in the Hanging of the Green service? Along with the draping of garlands, lighting of the Chrismon tree and hanging of wreaths we could post mistletoe above all the doorways of the sanctuary. Think of the implications – every time you entered the house of worship you stood a reasonable chance of getting pecked on the cheek (of course Gloria Patrick does this anytime of year with or without mistletoe).

Before you think I am too off the wall turn to your Bibles. In several of Paul’s letters he exhorted the believers to greet one another with a “Holy Kiss” (Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; II Corinthians 13:12; I Thessalonians 5:26). Perhaps a kiss to someone outside the family is just too much for some of us to take in, but I dare say there is not one of us who would not appreciate being the recipient of someone else’s affection. For some, church is the only place they can go to get a hug or a tender handshake.

It is easy to only hear and take in the bad news going on in our world and our lives. As a result affection is often viewed with suspicion, even fear. The message for many is that you are not loved, not good enough, not worthy. What better time than Christmas to remind all those who enter the house of worship that they are welcome and they are loved? Indeed, isn’t that THE message of Christmas? “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

See you this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. Who knows…I just might have some mistletoe in my coat pocket!

Blessed and joyous Christmas,

Greg