Monday, August 31, 2015

Guest Post: "What If?"

Many of us may know or recognize the popular Christian song “Blessings” by Laura Story. It’s a beautiful song about her faith that was put through the unexpected fires of life in 2006 when her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Their life would never be the same. How does one find blessings at that point? Do we need to redefine what God’s “blessings” could mean?

What if Your blessings came through raindrops, what if Your healing comes through tears?... What if trials of this life, are Your mercies in disguise? 

Life is filled with things we don’t expect, but the Bible urges us to respond by trusting God and continuing to worship Him. The words of James 1:2 (consider it a great joy…whenever you experience various trials) challenge us to find a hopeful, joyful place. What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy? We will always have more questions than answers in our life. To find joy in our trials we need to choose to interpret our circumstances based on what we know and hold to be true about God. 1 Thessalonians 5: 18 urges us to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I would like to share a story about Fanny Crosby from a book by Patrick and Barbara Kavanaugh called Devotions from the World of Music: “Frances Jane Crosby, better known as ‘Fanny’ has written more hymns than anyone else…a total of 8,000! She didn’t start writing hymns until the age of 44, but she lived 95 years and often wrote as many as 8 hymns each day. At one point, she was under contract with the publisher Biglow and Main to submit three hymns each week for publication. Familiar hymns include: To God Be the Glory, Tell Me the Story of Jesus, and Blessed Assurance.

All of these accomplishments would be outstanding for any hymn writer, but it is even more remarkable when we learn that Fanny Crosby was blind. As a baby of six weeks old, she was blinded permanently by a doctor’s improper treatment, yet she had no bitterness in her heart. Her positive attitude is an inspiration to us all in finding a blessing in disguise.

“A minister once said to her, ‘I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when He showered so many other gifts upon you’. But she exclaimed, ‘Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I should have been born blind?’ When the astonished preacher asked, ‘Why?’ she responded, ‘Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!’

Laura has redefined blessings from God in her life. She says “there is a blessedness that comes through waiting on the Lord. There’s an intimacy that comes in our walk with the Lord through walking through that valley. There’s a reliance on His word that we only know when everything else fades away…” What if we made a list of all the blessings in our own lives and asked God to forgive any feelings of ingratitude for what we have in our life. Would we then allow Him to fill our hearts with cheerful thankfulness?

Kaitlyn Davros is the Associate Director of Music and Organist. Here at Sardis, Kaitlyn’s expertise is engaged as she plays the organ, piano, and keyboards for our traditional and contemporary worship services, accompanies the sanctuary choir, occasionally rings in the bell choirs, and assists in growing our music ministry, especially the children and youth music programs.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Gust Post: "This Journey is in His Hands"

One could say I’ve always been the kind of person that tries to do everything on his own and when all else fails, I call on God. My entire life up until March 2015 was pretty much this way. Don’t misunderstand; although God and I have had a great relationship and we have communicated a lot over the years, I have been going about things all wrong. Regardless of my faith and wavering trust in Him, I was about to learn I was too involved and He wasn’t involved enough.

Prostate cancer – a word I never imagined using or knowing much about in my life. The first indication of “cancer” was at my annual physical in February of 2013. At this time my PSA, a blood test which indicates IF you have cancer of the prostate, came back at 4.3. When looking at PSA levels, anything over 2.0 is suspect and you must proceed with more testing. In March of 2014, a biopsy confirmed the cancer.

The first step of treatment was to have hormone injections and radiation treatments. In March of 2015, after a year of treatments, I learned that nothing had worked. The PSA continued to rise and I was told it was time to try chemo. I was told by my doctor that IF the chemo worked, I would have at most 12-14 months left to live. After 3 months of chemo, I learned yet again that it wasn’t working; my body simply wasn’t responding to any treatment. The doctor then put me on a chemo pill which is where I am today.

All the treatments and the news of my time on earth possibly being cut short was sobering to say the least. Needless to say, my entire perspective OF and ON life changed. I no longer had control nor could I fix this “cancer” I have. The biggest change was the realization that this was something only GOD could handle. It was time for me to lay everything at His feet and let His Will be done.

Here is where things get interesting. The Thursday following the news, I was scheduled to have lunch with my friend Mark Slimer. Mark had taken the liberty to invite Jacob Hare to join us. Although Mark asked if I minded Jacob joining us, I told him no, the more the merrier! I figured this would allow me the chance to meet and spend time with one of the newest additions to our church. We had a great lunch and the fellowship was nothing short of super.

On Sunday of the same week, Jacob called me aside before the service and said he recently had a bad day. Typically when that happens, Jacob thinks of someone who has more problems than he does and he thought of me. He said he always feels better by doing this and he lifted me up in prayer for a solution to my cancer.Since retirement, my wife Sylvia and I have established a routine of spending the morning hours drinking coffee, discussing our day, our children, etc. This routine has become important to us both as we never had this while I was working. This particular Monday, the day AFTER talking to Jacob, I had an early appointment and was gone from the house until around noon. When I got back, Sylvia greeted me with “we are going to Germany to get your cancer treated.” Can you imagine the shock? Before I could even digest what she was saying, she began telling me why.

With me not around that morning, Sylvia called an old friend, Liz Bemis, with whom she hadn’t spoken to in over a year…just to catch up. My condition came up in the conversation and Liz told Sylvia of a friend of hers who had unexpectedly dropped by to share his good news of having had his prostate cancer cured. It seems he had heard about the treatments offered in Germany (my understanding is they are not FDA approved), went there and was now cancer free.

After getting as many details as she could from Liz, Sylvia hit the internet focusing on research of cancer treatments in Germany and found a wealth of information. The cancer treatments they perform are called Hyperthermia (the belief that heat kills cancer cells) and, as it turns out, are not new treatments at all. They are very common in other countries but not in the United States. In fact, Germany has numerous clinics and hospitals that offer and specialize in the treatments.

While going over Sylvia’s extensive research as well as the testimonials, I was convinced to give it a try. All of a sudden a light came on in my head. Could it be that God was showing us a path to be taken as an answer to our prayers? There were too many coincidences and neither of us believe in “coincidence”.

It was now Monday around 1:00pm. Remember, I had just had lunch with Mark on Thursday, met Jacob and then Jacob happened to pray for me over the weekend. Now it’s Monday and we learn that Germany could possibly have a cure for cancer? To add to all of this, both mine and Sylvia’s passports had expired, we had no dog sitter, no airline reservations and most importantly, we had not even checked to see if the clinic in Germany could take us on such short notice.

As it turns out, our oldest daughter Shannon just “happened” to be at our house spending a few days and agreed to see what we could do and how fast. The clinic had an immediate opening, Shannon arranged for passports in four days, our youngest daughter Stacey had just moved from Virginia to Wingate and could keep our dogs. Shannon found a non-stop flight to match the clinic’s schedule, etc. “Coincidence”? I don’t believe it.With a great many people praying for me, we go to Germany, I receive the treatments, get another MRI and the doctor tells me that the cancer has not spread. Most importantly, the doctor in Germany believes it can be controlled and give me more time here on Earth. Sylvia and I leave Germany after 3 weeks and come home with a new outlook on life. The treatments will require a follow up trip(s) to see how successful they were and what, if any, new areas to be treated.

Beginning with Mark Slimer introducing me to Jacob through having the support of my local doctor, I have lost count of the stepping stones that have been laid in my path. Other than God Himself, there is no “silver bullet” of course. I don’t know IF my cancer will be cured or controlled but I DO KNOW that by turning over the entire issue to God I am in His hands and not my own and THAT is a very comforting feeling.

I humbly ask for your continued prayers and support as my journey from cancer is far from over. I am currently waiting on the latest PSA results and headed back out to Germany on Saturday, August 15th. My wife and I will stay for a minimum of 3 weeks. The treatments for cancer in the United States are just not working and God has put Germany in my path. It is up to me to follow His lead and trust in Him with all I have. Some days this is extremely hard but I know without a doubt it is what I’m supposed to do. If you wish to follow my journey, please follow me on Facebook through the page “Dad’s Journey.” My daughter updates this every few days and will update daily while I’m in Germany. Should you not do Facebook and wish to stay updated, feel free to email my daughter Shannon at

Many thanks for your support and prayers and just for caring…there are no words to express my appreciation. Love to you all, Steve

Steve and Sylvia Woodrow, both retired and members of Sardis Presbyterian since 2011, spend their time between Charlotte and Blowing Rock.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Guest Post: "Life is Too Short"

When I was growing up, (admittedly, that process may not be complete yet), my father used to talk about having “diarrhea of the mouth”. Usually it was in reference to one of his three children but the older we get, I’m more convinced it applies to him equally – you just can’t tell him that. This past Father’s Day we spent over an hour on the phone, which, for us, broke a record. I’m not generally a phone-talker and because he and I are at completely opposite ends of the political spectrum, sometimes I’m not even a dad-talker. This call was no exception but at least we managed to end it on a positive note. Over the years, our family gatherings have consisted more of eggshells than warm-fuzzies. I ask myself… is this really how my family is meant to spend what time it has left? At each other’s throats talking (nee “yelling”) about things that haven’t changed since the dawn of time.

Life is too short for angst.

About once a year I get “friended” on Facebook by a person who is a “used to be” in my repertoire of friends. She and I had a bit of a falling out ten or so years ago (okay, it was a pretty major falling out) and I decided that we would both lead much happier lives apart… or at least I would. I suppose I was wrong in speaking for her because the request still keeps coming, almost like clockwork, and I ask myself… am I holding a grudge? Truly doing what is best for me, and in turn, her? Just not interested, realizing that there must not have been much there to begin with? I just don’t know but it bugs me enough to think about accepting the request when I see it come through.

Life is too short for being unforgiving.

On July 31st, I received an email from one of my co-professors. “Just wanted you to know”, it said. “The woman who was killed in the early morning accident on I-77 yesterday was Stephanie’s daughter.” Stephanie taught with us. I spent the next five minutes at my desk in a bit of shock, my mind racing between the sadness of someone dying so young, (especially when, as of the time this is being written, the facts and cause of the accident are a bit murky and suspicious), and guilt that the day before I’d been celebrating my birthday by feeding the giraffes and goats at Riverbanks Zoo (always a fun pastime of mine) and touring our state house in Columbia. I wondered what Stephanie’s last words to her daughter were and I hoped that the last time they’d seen each other, they’d managed to have as much fun as I’d had the day before.

Life is too short to waste time.

James 4:14 tells us that we do not know what tomorrow will bring. Our life is a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. While we are everything to God, our lives are amazingly short… sometimes too short. We have so little time to LIVE and yet we spend so much of our time trying NOT to by filling our seconds, minutes and days with things that won’t matter to us in two weeks, much less two years. I won’t say that every phone call with my dad will end on a positive note but I can say that I’m more likely to call on other non-holiday occasions just for the chance to give it a try. I won’t say that I will or that I won’t open myself to the potential from hurt from a former friend again, but it’s possible when I remember that hurt means we’re living every bit as happiness. And who knows if I’ll spend every day telling the people I love that I love them, and living in harmony and happiness with them… but I’ll try to when I remember the words of James because life is indeed just too short.

Heather Eddy is the Assistant Director of Christian Education here at Sardis. When she is not working with the Sardis children’s programs or assisting the Fellowship Committee, she spends time teaching Anatomy and Physiology to pre-Nursing college students and CPR to anyone who cares to know it, traveling around the country with her roommate and best friend Michelle, and attempting to train her cats.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Guest Post: "God's Wonder"

I love going on vacations and trips that have no itinerary or solid plans so that I can just be. Whether it’s to Be in the moment, Be on the trail or Be sitting next to the ocean, I can find peace. I don’t want to have to think about what’s next or if I am going to have enough time here, etc. This is why Nick and I took our honeymoon in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where we could just BE. We camped, hiked, swam, played with bears, and never had to think about rushing to the next activity and missing some of the beauty and wonder out there in our world.

I find myself rushing through life some days and missing the beauty of God’s world. However, the last evening of our honeymoon, Nick and I decided to hike along the rocks on the shore of Lake Superior in Copper Harbor to watch the sunset. As we hiked along the black rocks, I was overwhelmed with the vastness of God’s creation and felt at home and safe. The shoreline of Lake Superior is very rugged and suffers through many challenging winters and storms. However, there is a rugged beauty about that northern Michigan environment. The way the wind blows, the crisp air off the water, the rugged rocks, and trees in the dense forest are all marvelous and took my breath away.

Sitting on the rocks, watching the sunset, at Lake Superior is where I felt at home and at peace in the world. I could feel God’s presence surrounding Nick and I as we celebrated one week of being married. After the sun disappeared into the water of the horizon, I noticed a poem written on a sign that is still lingering with me today and has helped me see God’s beauty here in Charlotte too. It reminded me that everything created has a purpose and that we may feel so alone sometimes, but God is always around.

I Asked by Christina Brandmeier

I asked the sun,
If it would keep shining
I thought you might like
Some light to guide you

I asked the water in the harbor
If it would mind sitting pretty
I thought it might help                  
Keep you calm                 
I asked the trees in the forest   
If they would stay standing tall and strong
I thought sometimes you might wish you had
Shelter from the storm                

I asked the rocks to hold you steady
Because I know that life will shake you
And I asked the lake to keep rolling onto shore
To greet your dreams and wash your worries away
I asked the wind
If it would kindly carry your prayers up to the sky
I thought you might enjoy
A faithful passenger

I asked the beauty
If it would stay together for you
Because I thought you're always going to need
A place where you can breathe.

Kaitlyn Davros is the Associate Director of Music and Organist. Here at Sardis, Kaitlyn’s expertise is engaged as she plays the organ, piano, and keyboards for our traditional and contemporary worship services, accompanies the sanctuary choir, occasionally rings in the bell choirs, and assists in growing our music ministry, especially the children and youth music programs.