Friday, June 27, 2014

Guest Post: "Before You Were Born"

Have you ever, or had someone share with you, their first ultrasound picture in their pregnancy?  One came to me this week with much excitement.  If you haven’t seen them, they usually have an arrow pointing to a ‘peanut’ like shape and the word 'BABY' typed by it. It is one more verification for the parents-to-be that indeed they are going to have a baby.  While it is later when they can determine the gender of the baby, this picture is treasured by parents. 

I am planning to teach a class in the fall that includes an overview of the prophet Jeremiah. I have always loved the fifth verse in the first chapter.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you...
 Before you were born I set you apart…"
God knew us, (note that it is past tense, as is formed) as he did Jeremiah, before we were born or the tiny ‘peanut-like’ shape of a modern ultrasound picture. Actually, God says in this verse that he knew us before we were conceived. He knew us before we were in the womb.This is amazing grace.  The child in the womb has done nothing to deserve this attention by God, or so we would think. Yet God knows it and plans for it.  Later in Jeremiah, we do learn that God has plans for us.

As I have meditated on this verse this week, I felt the realization that for all that God knows about me, I know so much less about God.  While it will be impossible for me to ever know God as well as he knows me, I should strive to know him better than I do. How can I measure if my relationship with him has grown from the first days when I was aware of God, or even when I declared Christ to be my Lord and Savior?

The other part of this verse is that God set Jeremiah apart for a particular role, for Jeremiah, to be a prophet. If God knows us, then it follows that he has a purpose for our lives, a purpose for us alone to fulfill. That makes knowing God even more important. Being set apart means that God has sanctified us. We are set by God and for God.

As we enjoy the quieter schedule of the summer, it is a good time to think about how well I know God and his purpose for my life.  It can be a time of evaluating our spirituality. Am I spending enough time getting to know our God that knows me completely? How can I allow more time to develop my relationship with God?  Does it mean I need to give up something in order to have time to work on this relationship?  In God’s wisdom and grace, I have been selected by Him. The question is, how am I responding to that calling, that blessing, and that trust?

Back to the ‘peanut’ in the ultrasound picture.  We do not know anything about this little one. We do not know anything about what it will grow up to be (God knows its gender, just not anyone else). But we can be assured that as a child of God, it is chosen and set apart by God and for God.  This truth should give us great comfort in this world.  If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

So with this knowledge we wait for all those children who will come to us. And we will celebrate as a Church family each birth and baptism.  May we all continue to grow in our knowledge, love and understanding of the God who has always known us and called us.

Renda Brinson is the Director of Christian Education. She lives in Matthews with her husband, Earl and dog, Daisy. Renda has four grown sons, and five grandchildren with one on the way! If you enjoy her writing, you should check out her blog at

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Guest Post: "The Five Senses of Bayonnais"

The start of summer means one thing for the Brownlee clan; we are heading to the beach.  I always enjoyed going to the beach, and still do today.  I can sit on the beach for hours especially late in the afternoon when it’s not so crowded, and just relax.

I just love the cool breeze, the sound of the waves, the smell of the ocean, my feet in the sand, and just looking for miles and miles wondering what’s on the other side of the ocean. 

I feel at peace when I’m at the beach.  I feel God is with me, and allows me to see his beauty shine in so many ways.  I feel I’m one with Him, and can sit and finally have a conversation with Him.  The busyness of a young family going from place to place, a stressful job, and just keeping up, sometimes I drift away.  Thank goodness we get times like this where we can experience God’s beauty and spend time with Him outside of our busy lives. As I sit here relaxing once more at the beach, I think about the senses I experienced in Bayonnais just a few months ago.

In March, I was fortunate enough to go on our mission trip to Haiti, a first for me.  I was definitely taken out of my comfort zone immediately when we landed in Port Au Prince and on our long four hour bus journey to our final destination.  How would I ever experience God’s beauty in one of the poorest countries in the world? 

While riding on the bus, I saw two men getting their daily water from a water canal littered with trash.  I saw mud huts in the blazing sun with no shade knowing they would be gone once the first bad storm that came through the island.  I smelled burning trash throughout Port Au Prince just reeking the area, and wondering would I smell this all week.

We no longer had the comforts of home.  No more TV, internet, or phone service to keep me occupied.  No more AC to keep cool during the day.  No more hot water to take a shower, and doing everything you could to make sure you didn’t drink the water. I had to sleep in small quarters with five other men that I hardly knew at the time, with one snoring so loud I thought the roof was going to blow off. How was this mission trip going to “change my life”?  As I look back, God was smiling and laughing at me knowing I was in for a real treat.

So what did I experience?  How did I experience God’s beauty? 

SEE: I saw so many things that I could go on for days.  I’m a visual person so it was easy for me to finally take off those blinders and see what God wanted to show me.  He showed me his natural beauty of a tropical island that showcased beautiful mountain views, glorious blue water and banana and mango trees canvassing the island.  He showed me the most beautiful eyes of kids just wanting to be loved, kids that were so determined to have a better life regardless of their circumstances.

HEAR: I heard the beautiful sounds of kids screaming and hollering in their native Creole language while playing soccer.  I tried to keep up with these kids, but their passion of the game overruled an out of shape American.  I heard familiar Hymns at church when I knew God was with me.  I heard the sounds of roosters crowing early in the morning to kick off our day.

TOUCH:  I felt the roughness of boys' feet that lacked shoes and were just worn down from the many miles of walking on a daily basis.  I felt the concrete building of the medical clinic that our congregation has graciously financed for a community so needing it.  I felt the hugs of so many kids and I wish I could have packed a few with me before leaving.

SMELL:  I smelled fresh green peppers just picked from the fields, knowing that the work to grow and sell to neighboring cities would help this community continue to grow.  I smelled the red beans and rice cooking daily for all the kids to eat while at school, knowing this was probably their only meal for the day. They thanked God for feeding them the food they desperately needed.

TASTE:  I tasted the wonderful meals our caregivers cooked for us daily and feeling so guilty eating while others around us were starving.  I tasted the freshest bananas I’ve ever experienced.  Tasted what mission trips are all about and just wanting more of God’s love.

So has my life changed since this brief trip to Haiti?  Possibly, but more important to me is there is a world out there that God wants me to experience.  Maybe God is happy, and glad I finally opened my ears and listened to Him.  Maybe He wants me to realize that He speaks to me daily and that I don’t need a big blue ocean to experience his love and to carry on a conversation.  As I continue to grow in my faith, I hope just maybe I don’t wait until our annual trip to the beach to see, feel, and hear God’s beauty.

How did you experience God’s beauty today?

Rob Brownlee has been a member of Sardis since 2000.  He is happily married to Kristi Gallimore and they have three girls that keep them quite busy.  Rob enjoys playing golf, gardening, and just being outdoors.  Most of his time is spent with his girls, and loves coaching them in soccer and basketball. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Guest Post: "At Seventeen"

“Remember, those who win the game, lose the love they sought to gain. Indebentures of quality, and dubious integrity. Their small town eyes will gape at you in dull surprise when payment due exceeds accounts received… at seventeen.”

Come on. You know you love the song. Okay, if you’re over 35, maybe you’ve at least heard of it. (If not, or if you need a refresher, click on the video above. “At Seventeen” by Janis Ian was released in 1975 and reached number one that same year and is still played often, to the delight of those of us who knew all too well the “Friday night charades of youth”.

While walking one day, I was listening to my iPod (yes, I do in fact have something other than Fleetwood Mac on there, and yes, this song is one of them) and my brain somehow, like a broken record, got stuck on the end of the second verse above. It may only be because I now have a friend who is in finance and she happens to work in accounts payable, which I gather is the opposite of accounts receivable, both of which she talks about a lot (the only business class I had in college was called, “Where to Find the Business Office to Pay Your Tuition” so normally anything remotely business related goes in one ear and out the other). This lyric stayed inside my head though, suggesting that marriage comes as something expected to only certain types of girls and they can soon discover, popularity isn’t all they think it to be. It refers to the “dull surprise” these girls get when, after signing on for what we called in college, the M.R.S. Degree, they get the tables turned on them when what little they put into it isn’t enough to compensate for all that was expected of them.

I could write a book on what I don’t know about marriage but I do suspect that much like the relationship between a husband and wife, our relationship with God must be similar in that BOTH parties contribute. Note that I am NOT speaking of whether or not we are acceptable to God once we are Christian. While we are to be Christ-like and strive for perfection, He well understands the enormity of the gap between HIS perfection and our sorry-selves. Nor am I suggesting that once we are Christian He requires us to feed the coffers in payback for what he’s done for us. Our sins have been paid for by Christ Jesus. We owe him nothing for them. 

However, the Christian who is living the life He desires us to, will display with at the very least, sincerity of thought, word and action… a true understanding of all He has done for us. If we do not contribute back from our own desire and love for Him, the daily relationship He wants to have with us suffers. He paid and continues to pay into us with an amazing plan for our lives. Would it not make sense then, for us to pay into Him? Do we really think it right to accept a gift without sincere thanks? Would it be right to accept Christ and then ignore the responsibility we have to glorify God by putting effort back into our relationship with Him?
Many times I think I put into it far less into this relationship with Him than I should. It’s very easy to look like I’m putting in 110% and yet I’m in “dull surprise” when He takes me down a path that enlightens me to the fact that after becoming a Christian, there are still expectations between me and the God who saved me. Relationships are indeed two way streets and when only one party contributes to the account… it suffers. Do you, like me, need to dust off a bible or prayer book, or find at least five extra minutes in the day to work on the relationship? He’s constantly in devotion to us. I think we do in fact owe Him that much back.

Heather Eddy is the Assistant Director of Christian Education. She is a guest post crowd favorite, and we look forward to hearing more from her this sumer. Heather is currently spending her summer preparing to take Sardis children through the wilderness of Vacation Bible School, and her college students through the wilderness of Pre-Nursing Anatomy and Physiology. Somewhere in there, she'll find time to visit the Statue of Liberty over the 4th of July.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Blog With Me

Peter Merholz is credited with coining the phrase, “blog” by splitting the word “weblog” into “we blog”.   Have you ever tried your hand at blogging?   It’s a fun exercise and gives you the opportunity to toss your thoughts into cyberspace.     I am surprised by the comments I receive about my blog from all over the country.   The nice thing is that the comments are always positive and thoughtful and make me think.  I guess it is true, “you just never know how far your words (or blog) will travel.”

Since summer is poking its head around the corner, I will be taking a respite from blog writing until September 1, when I hope to have a fresh kettle of thoughts and observations to share.  In the meantime, I would like to keep my blog alive by inviting other members of the Sardis staff and YOU to be one of my summer guest bloggers!

I have recruited Nikki Livingston, our Director of Communications, and she will be at the helm this summer setting this all up.   Here is how it works:

Visit the sign-up site here, and pick what week you would like to blog. Click the check box by the week you want, then on the bottom of the screen click on “Submit and Sign Up.”  You will be asked to fill in your information.  When you are finished, click on “Sign Up Now” at the bottom. Then start writing! Submit your blog post along with a short bio and picture to Nikki Livingston at . You can also email Nikki to find available weeks or for any questions.

I hope you will take me up on my offer and treat all of us with some of your musings about life and faith.   So what do you think?  Will you be my guest?