Monday, July 29, 2013

Guest Post: Built my life around you...

With Mick Fleetwood before the show
On June 24th, I indulged myself in one of my passions, Fleetwood Mac, who took Time Warner Arena by storm. They are still awesome 38 years after Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the band. All things Fleetwood Mac related are an ingrained part of my life and I’m actually lucky enough to have 2 degrees of separation (that may as well be 2 light-years at times) from Stevie. That connection is partly where the interest stems from. I call it interest but friends of mine call it obsession and suggest 12-step programs.

No one, aside from my “Sister of the Moon” Michelle, can truly understand my heart’s ability to connect with the band’s story and their music. Some of my younger college students, when they hear that the band and their solo efforts comprise well over half of my iPod, and a good portion of my spending money, ask “Fleetwood who?” After I pick myself off the floor, I shake my head and don’t even try to explain.

Up close and personal
At this particular show, we were flush up against the stage directly in front of Lindsey Buckingham’s microphone. In this picture, yes, those are my arms resting on the stage at his feet. In fact, just before introducing a song from the 1987 Tango In The Night Album, Lindsey leaned down and asked us, after hearing us cheering wildly for it, if we’d even been born when that album came out.  I’m sure I’ll be flattered...once I recover from my fainting spell.

Overall, I’m rather private with most of my experiences at their shows. I have my favorite songs and moments, most of them involving the personal interactions between Nicks and Buckingham. I'll hold them tightly inside until they, as a group, or Stevie or Lindsey solo, tour again. But one of my favorite places in the show comes during a song that admittedly, isn’t even one of my top five loves.

Imagine writing a song that is so popular you can’t even hear yourself sing it because the arena audience of close to 15,000 is singing it to you (complete with cell phone glow in place of lighters). Over the years, Stevie has given myriad explanations for the song Landslide, but in 2003 finally admitted that she wrote it about her (then, possibly now–only they know for sure) boyfriend, Lindsey. (No, people under 25–Landslide was not written by the Dixie Chicks). In it she sings, “I’ve been afraid of changing, ‘cause I built my life around you. But time makes you bolder, even children get older and I’m getting older too.”

Stevie is fiercely independent; Lindsey, the type to need dependency from others. The combination apparently made for some volatile times for them in the seventies. The two were united by a mutual love for music and each other, but at the time were both slowly smothering the other in different ways. Stevie’s words, that she had designed her life around Lindsey, are backed up by the stories they tell us. Ultimately, she had committed the number one no-no: living for someone else first.

We know how easy this is. We become immersed in living for everything else other than a whole-hearted devotion and life built around the Lord. He ends up taking backseat. When we examine a typical 24 hour period, we can’t explain where the time has gone, or why we weren’t able to fit a minute in for Him. I often wonder if we can’t find five minutes here on earth, what in the world will we do with Him for eternity? And unlike Stevie, who wanted to let go of someone and feared striking out on her own, we are afraid to change to reach out to someone. To Him.

The bright side is that time itself often takes care of this dilemma for us. We grow older. Age and time bring a realization that, whether we’re still afraid of it or not, change comes. With the painful lessons of life, He molds and shapes us…and through the experience and wisdom of time we begin to build our lives around Him.

Heather Eddy, Assistant Director of Christian Education, is a guest post crowd favorite, and we look forward to hearing more from her this summer. It's rumored that she will be leading a Connect @Sardis series on Religion and Culture in 2014. If you've enjoyed her writing, you should definitely make plans to attend.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Guest Post: Hold onto your fork!

What’s more southern than fellowship and feasting?

We both grew up in Presbyterian churches in Virginia and remember so fondly the famous, covered dish suppers or potluck dinners. Tammy’s mom often made “her” macaroni salad, which was a favorite among the congregation. Some folks made their old stand-bys, while others chose to try out their new recipes. We both loved them because it was a time that our moms didn’t mind if we had a piece of chicken and 5 desserts!

How did the church come up with the notion of a potluck dinner? Wikipedia defines a potluck as a “gathering of people where each person or group of people may contribute a dish of food prepared by the person or the group of people, to be shared among the group.” Maybe churches adopted this concept from Jesus who fed a crowd of 4000 (Matthew chapter 15) with 7 loaves of bread and 4 fish and even had 7 basketfuls of leftovers! Congregations have taken the notion of breaking bread together and run with it. Not only do we break bread, we munch on fried chicken, scoop casseroles, slice pies and sip iced tea. We chew the fat while chewing our food and extend our hands in fellowship. It seems as though the covered dish supper is a cherished church ritual that is still alive today.

When we were children, our mothers would never have dreamed of purchasing a side dish for our covered dish supper, but today it seems as though many families are busy with their work schedules, running children to their commitments, just life in general. What a wonderful concept, prepare or purchase one simple dish, but yet your family gets to enjoy the fruits and labor of many! We need not lose sight of the fellowship of bonding together over a meal that we have all contributed to, whether it’s a store bought dish or homemade.

After serving at the soup kitchen recently, we were told a story of an elderly woman who was hospitalized and dying. She was visited by her minister. She asked the minister to promise her one thing when she died. He responded, “Absolutely, what is it?” She said, “Promise to bury me with a fork.” He looked puzzled and replied, “Sure I will, but may I ask why you want to be buried with a fork?”

She explained, “When I was growing up, I was always told ‘Hold onto your fork, because the best is yet to come.’ ”

We hope to see you soon at the next pot luck dinner, but remember, hold on to your fork!

Tammy Cotton and Kristen Taylor are co-chairs of the Fellowship Committee. You can find them hanging out at the Jewish Community Center pool or planning fellowship events together over a glass of wine!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Guest post: From the Hills of Haiti

Have you ever witnessed a miracle? This past week I had the privilege to again visit Pastor Actionnel Fleurisma and his new leadership team at OFCB Ministries in Bayonnais, Haiti. Every time I visit I am overwhelmed by what God has done in a remote location of an impoverished country. I am absolutely convinced that what I am witnessing is nothing short of one of God’s miracles.

In a remote mountainous area far from Port au Prince, OFCB Ministries began as a huge dream and an even greater faith. First came a school that started in 1984 with less than 100 students meeting under a mango tree. Today that school has over 2000 students and consistently produces students scoring at the top on the country’s national exams. They have now started a satellite school in an even more remote part of Bayonnais that already has 200 students. A church was built whose Sunday morning service is an inspiration in itself and whose attendance would more than fill the Sardis sanctuary.

In a community of over 80,000 people with no medical care, it had long been a dream of OFCB to build a medical facility in Bayonnais. Two years ago Pressly Gilbert and I were privileged to be visiting when the ground breaking for a new clinic took place. We watched in the days that followed as community members, mostly women, carried huge boulders on their heads all the way from the river to the building site for the foundation. Today there stands a building, which might be rudimentary by our standards, but for these people it is a gift from God. A doctor, three nurses, and a dentist staff the clinic. In a couple of weeks Pressly will talk more about the clinic in his blog.

All of this is truly amazing but what is most miraculous to me is to see the development of these new young leaders. For the most part these are all products of the OFCB School who went on to college to earn their degrees & in some cases advanced degrees. Many past up the opportunities for lucrative jobs in Port au Prince or in other countries to come back to their community and help build a new future. These are all capable, intelligent, and committed men and women dedicated to the advancement of both OFCB and the community of Bayonnais. To see them taking ownership in their future and the future of their community was beyond exciting! It is clear they have truly accepted and embrace this responsibility.

The work is far from done, but with God’s continued blessing, the generosity of you the members of Sardis as well as other church’s in the Carolinas, I am more confident than ever this will continue to be one of shining examples of what walking together in faith can accomplish. So thank you Sardis for your commitment to mission both here and abroad, it does make a difference!

In March 2014 Sardis will again sponsor a trip to Bayonnais. I hope you will prayerfully consider joining us and witnessing this miracle for yourself. 

Sam Coleman currently serves as chair of the Mission Interpretation Ministry.  He is a long time member of Sardis.  Sam lives in Davidson and when he’s not trekking back and forth on I-77, he enjoys reading, fishing, sailing, and spending time with his children and grandchildren.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Guest Post: Letting Go

People who know me might say that I can be a bit of a control freak. I do like to have things in order. I make lists. I plan ahead. I put everything on my calendar. I do things best on a schedule and a timeline. And I like to know all of my options so I can make the best choices.

But what I am working on right now is letting go. Not letting go in a way that brings chaos into my life, but rather letting go in a way that brings peace because I have handed things over to God.

I decided that there might be something to this whole idea of letting go when it suddenly hit me that the greatest blessing in my life came from a giant act of letting go. That blessing is my beautiful 18-month-old daughter. The letting go happened in the 21 months that we spent waiting to adopt her.

The beginning of the adoption process was made for someone like me. We had a long list of things to accomplish. I got to make a schedule and check things off my list. I enjoyed being in control of what I needed to do and regularly feeling like we were making progress. But once we got to the end of that long list of background checks, reference letters, scrapbooks, and personal essays, we entered the next phase of the process–the waiting period. It was during this time that I had to learn to let go. You see, I had no control over how long we would wait, nor did we even have any idea of how long that wait would be. There was nothing I could do.

Those are not easy words for me to think. Except that there was one thing I could do–and did do: pray regularly. By telling God that I trusted Him to bring us the baby we were meant to have, I was able to often feel a great peace in my heart. And by telling God that I trusted His timing, I gave myself permission to not obsess quite so much over when it might happen. I cannot say that the wait was easy in any way, but I can say that letting go made it possible for me to make it through all those months.

What are some situations in your life that need to be handed over to God?

Stephanie Vanderford is the vice-chair of the Stewardship Committee. She's been at Sardis since middle school, serving in many capacities including elder. Stephanie teaches math and economics at Providence Day School. 

Pictured are Robert, Greta and Stephanie Vanderford.