Friday, November 24, 2017

"Giving Thanks"

The changing leaves and temperature remind us that this is the season of Thanksgiving.  As a Christian, it is difficult to put my gratitude into words. God's mercy is real!

I daily thank the Lord for family, friends, health, optimism and grace.  Every day I ask the Lord for fresh opportunities to be part of His redemptive plan.

When Linda and I moved to Charlotte, it was primarily an opportunity to be close to family.  Sardis Presbyterian Church was not on our radar. Frank Wilson called out of a cloud somewhere and asked if I would visit with their Transition Team.  We enjoyed the interaction with them and subsequently, we became part of the ministry of this great congregation. Thank you for allowing us to share our gifts through the Ministry of Music and the Ministry of the Word.

Sardis Presbyterian Church is blessed with vision, creative leaders and a talented staff.  You have given me a sacred trust by allowing me to be your Interim Pastor for 27 months.  Your affirmations, counsel, generosity and hospitality have given me a lift.  Charlotte will continue to be our home and Sardis Presbyterian Church will always be very special for us.

Our prayers resonate with yours that the new pastor will enable this congregation to reach to the future unafraid.  God bless you in this marvelous season of Thanksgiving.


Friday, November 17, 2017

"Trees and Me"

This week's blog is by Dr. McKechnie's
daughter, Sheri Joseph.

I guess the answer might depend on who’s in charge of raking your yard, but is it me, or was this fall gorgeous?  The way the colors changed in the trees: gold, red, shades of purple, yellow, bright orange, I thought it was beautiful.  I loved watching the children throw leaves at each other and play tag using a huge pile as “base”.  But eventually, I get a little bummed out when I see the foliage is gone and Charlotte’s trees seem stripped.  As I had this one sad, deep thought while staring out the kitchen window eating the remnants of a burned pop tart, I noticed one of our neighbor’s huge oak trees was missing a limb.  I’d forgotten that last spring the dead limb had to be trimmed and now, with all the foliage gone, saw the scar.  The tree stands tall and proud just like a lot of others trees in Charlotte – always seemingly at risk of the dreaded Canker Worm, concrete or careless developer, but standing nonetheless.  My husband, Michael, and I had to make some decisions regarding a huge dead tree in our yard.  It was once a real stunner, but now, its slow sad death has caused us to shell out some serious dough to have it removed and pay extra to grind the stump.  Super.  I asked Michael if that was going to be my Christmas present and he just laughed.  But since its one ice storm away from making our house a memory, I’ve gotten over it.

Why do I tell you about all this?  I’m not a tree hugger.  I just see a parallel in the trees and the state of our world right now.  We’re entering into a “season of giving” as it’s usually called and the predictions are grim. Not many people seem like they’re in the mood to give or celebrate.  I can’t blame them, everywhere we go, the doom and gloom follows us. It’s enough to make us turn inward and hunker down and suffer through, but I look at the trees around us in this great city and I wonder if there isn’t a real lesson there.  When we are laid bare, all the pretty leaves gone, who are we?  Are we more giving, compassionate and kind?  Are we selfish, negative and angry?  What scars are exposed?  What needs healing?

I received an e-mail the other day about some 2nd grade teachers in Billingsville Elementary who pulled two volunteer moms aside and told them that a lot of the children were coming to school with no underwear or socks. The teachers were asking the volunteer moms to forgo plans for a class holiday party and find a way to get underwear and socks instead. That news brought me out of my own personal fear-fest and broke my heart.  All around us, people are struggling.  There is always blame and uncertainty to go around, but I believe our greatest strength is shown when we come out of ourselves to help others.  CS Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

As we go into the Advent season and put up the Christmas tree, I wonder what God is trying to shout at me.  What message was I ignoring in all the “good times” and when I finally hear God, will I even stop to listen?

My prayer for me, for you, our children, for our city, our country and our world is that we will hear God speak to us and when our lives and the lives of others are laid bare, allow God to re-plant the true joy of this season in our hearts.  Merry Christmas!


Sheri Joseph

Friday, November 10, 2017

"A Baker's Dozen"

Whenever I hear the word DOZEN, I think of eggs and donuts.  No doubt you have heard the phrase, “A baker’s dozen”. A baker’s dozen refers to not twelve donuts but thirteen.  Why the extra donut?
Seven hundred and fifty years ago, the King of England, Henry III, discovered that bakers were cheating on the weight of their products.  The laws regarding weight were strict. If a baker was found not be in compliance, the law said, a first offense meant that the baker would be dragged by horses through the dirty streets.  The second offense meant that the baker would be pilloried for one hour with garbage while held in the stocks.  The third offense meant that the baker’s ovens would be destroyed!
In order for the baker to stay within the law, he would add a thirteenth donut to the first dozen to be sure there was enough weight to the purchase.

Galatians 6:10 says, “Do good to everyone.”  Jesus said if somebody asks for your shirt, give them your sweater too.  If somebody asks you to help carry their stuff for one mile, carry it for two.  Jesus would probably suggest that if somebody asks for a dozen anything – give them thirteen, the baker’s dozen.

It is Stewardship season.  For the cause of Christ let’s do something extra, not out of fear of punishment, but out of gratitude for God’s grace in Jesus Christ.


Friday, November 3, 2017

"Will You Allow God To Use You?"

To be a Christian is to anticipate God’s surprises.  God chooses to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  In the Old Testament, David hardly looked like royal stock.  Yet, God allowed him to serve as King of Israel.  He even referred to him as a man after his own heart.  Imagine that – a murderer and an adulterer!

St. Paul was no saint!  He abused Christians before his Damascus Road experience.  Yet, God used “the chief of sinners” to spread the gospel over Asia and Europe.
Peter did not deserve a halo!  He cut the ear off of the High Priest’s servant and denied his association with Jesus three times.  Yet, God saw fit to use him as a witness to the transformational power of the Holy Spirit.

If you claim to be a “new person in Christ”, you are a catalyst in the Kingdom of God.  God wants you to fulfil a role that is uniquely yours.  We do consist of knowledge, will and emotions.  The will is important.  Will you allow God to use you?

I Corinthians 1:26-29 states, “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.”  God does not just tap the wise, the powerful, or the privileged on the shoulder for Christian service.  Rather, the Lord chooses the foolish in this world to shame the arrogant, the weak in this world to embarrass the strong, and the despised to put the powerful in touch with humility.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  These nine characteristics of the Spirit-filled person are enough to make a difference in this world.