Weekly Photo Challenge: Relax

Even a squirrel needs to relax after a morning of collecting nuts!

imgp6664

“…Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-29

This is in response to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Relax

WPC: It’s Not that Time of Year Without… (Remembering Dennis)

As Advent begins tomorrow, I was setting up my personal crèche to use as an object lesson with the children during the worship service. Starting out with only the animals and an empty manger, I plan to add figurines each week until the Christ child is added on Christmas morning.

Advent 2.jpg

As I unpacked the nativity set, I thought of Dennis. He was a youth in my first church, who gave us the nativity set nearly 30 years ago. I think of him every Christmas as I break the crèche out of the box.

Dennis had experienced a hard life by the time he came to our church at the invitation of classmates. Both of his parents had died, and he was being raised by an older sister. Short, ruddy, quiet but quick witted, Dennis quickly endeared himself to us.  After a summer youth trip to Branson in which he stabbed another youth in the leg (the truth dennisof how that happened never came out), we had a “come to Jesus talk” and he actually did come to Jesus, that is.

Along with the other youth, Dennis spent a lot of time in our home. He was included in a number of our celebrations, with him supplying the giant cookie from the Great American Cookies store where he worked in the mall. One Christmas he gave us the Fontanini nativity set and he added other figurines over the next few years.dennis-2

I moved to another church staff position in Memphis and then to Iowa, and we lost touch. I tried tracking him down through the internet and eventually found a newspaper article, touting his success in producing organic vegetables and selling them at farmers markets in Memphis. I actually emailed the business he operated, but never heard from him.

Today, my thoughts about this youth, who by now would be about 50, caused me to do a Facebook search again, and I found him. However, I quickly discovered the posts were not by him but about him. Shortly, I reached a post that expressed sorrow for his sudden death on February 15, 2012. The news was like a punch in the gut. I quickly messaged another of the “youth” from that church, who coincidentally just “friended” me on Facebook. He shared that Dennis had a heart attack and died…and “sorry, thought someone told you.”  I know that I could not have prevented his death by staying in touch, but I wish that Dennis had known how I remembered his kindness every time I’ve unpacked the nativity set he gave us so long ago.

nativity-setTomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent. We will be lighting the Hope candle, as it represents the hope the people of God had for the long awaited Messiah. Foreshadowed through the curse of the serpent in Genesis 3, promised in the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 15), and prophesied in many other Old Testament passages (Micah 5:2-3, Numbers 24:17, Isaiah 9:6), God’s people were hopeful. They longed for good news to the afflicted, comfort for the brokenhearted, the proclamation of liberty to the captives, and freedom for the imprisoned (Isaiah 61:1). And they were certain that God would fulfill His promises as He had time and time, again.

With every Advent season and every communion we are reminded of the hope that we have in Christ Jesus. The Messiah came to fulfill all that God had promised and there are still promises to be fulfilled. As a lamb led to slaughter, who did not protest (Isaiah 53:7), Jesus willingly took upon Himself my sin and suffered my death, enabling me to have eternal life with Him. He continues to give hope to all who know Him as He is coming again to receive us unto Himself. And for that, I am eternally grateful for the light of hope shines upon me.

And so, it’s not that time of the year without remembering Dennis. But knowing that Dennis and I had that “come to Jesus” talk gives me the hope that I will see him again one day…the very HOPE that causes us to celebrate the first Sunday of Advent tomorrow.

Weekly Photo Challenge – It’s Not This Time of the Year Without…

This was my 23rd Thanksgiving season with the church I pastor in Iowa. The Sunday before Thanksgiving has always been a time of gathering to worship and review the ways in which we have seen God’s blessings in the past year. Of course, it is always accompanied by some delicious food as we “break bread together.”

breaking-bread

Breaking Bread

imgp1487

BYOB (Water bottle, that is…we are Baptists after all)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100:4-5 (NIV)

This post is in response to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: It’s Not This Time of Year Without…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Magic

Having grown up in Tennessee, snow was infrequent and a holiday if it was six inches or more. Snow is much more common in Iowa, but still has a magical appeal to me as it covers the drab browns of fall and floats through the air like the freshness of white linens on a clothesline. Unlike the noise of rain, this precipitation brings a reverent silence.

church

“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

This post is in response to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

What Grief Is Not

Promoting my daughter’s blog today with a good word about what grief is not.

Anna Spindler Writes

The top of a hill in middle Tennessee was where my family convened. And when I think of the smell buried deep in my senses and the 80s clothing and the grownups talking and kids playing, I would give everything to go back for just a night. To catch the fireflies and sing the songs. To hear the guitar playing late into the night.

11 years and one week ago, I missed a call from my dad, then a text and I knew. When I called my dad, his first words were “you may want to pull over.”

The thing was, I knew. I had a feeling that my Pop’s routine surgery wouldn’t be so routine. I knew deep down, that any prayers I prayed might go unanswered. That I couldn’t outrun grief much longer.

I wept on the way home. And then my sister and I tethered loose ends…

View original post 787 more words

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shine

While in Florida for our annual family reunion earlier this month, I was taking a time exposed shot of the moon’s reflection on the Gulf of Mexico. The “bonus” was when a person searching for something on the beach momentarily aimed the flashlight in my direction.

imgp4799

Here are a few more night shots with both moon and city lights shining.

For more examples of this week’s challenge, click HERE.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Local

I went through my hometown last week and had breakfast with an old high school friend, Mike. Actually, he treated me to breakfast in his small cafe on the first floor of a 22-story office building in East Memphis. While an unfamiliar setting, it brought back memories of what epitomized local dining when his parents operated the restaurant in the community near the University of Memphis. Known for serving heaping portions of comfort food, lines extended outside during the lunch hour(s).

img_22261

A cropped portion of the print “Buntyn Memories” by Randy Thornton

My first lunch date with the woman who became my wife was at Buntyn Restaurant. I still remember having the fried chicken while she had the vegetable beef soup with fresh dinner rolls. Following seminary, we had returned to Memphis to serve on a church staff and were back for dinner eight years after that first date. Our attention was drawn to a print hanging on the wall that featured the restaurant. It happened to have been painted by the son of a church member, and I was able to purchase the print that has hung on our wall ever since, continuing to give us a touch of “local.”

Though not the same restaurant, last Wednesday’s visit to the vastly scaled down version brought back a number of memories. My friend’s mother, who operated the cash register in the glory days, was there napping in a chair.

img_22121

Presidents and celebrities adorned the walls…then and now.

The walls were covered with pictures of the Presidents that adorned the original walls, along with celebrity photos which extolled the good times and food that were enjoyed decades ago.

img_22151

Note of thanks from the Eagles.

As customers drifted in and out, mainly getting coffee and breakfast sandwiches “to go,” Mike returned to our table with every break to catch up, just as I remember his dad making the rounds at the original restaurant, conversing with his guests. My friend would occasionally ask customers if he could pray with them, including a young woman who worked in the building but came by with her 4-week old son to grab a treat. Mike knew that her 7-year old son had been dealing with a severe case of scoliosis and had been praying for him. The young mother reported that he was now out of his brace much quicker that doctors imagined. She gave credit to the Lord and the prayers of Mike and others for her son’s speedy response to treatment. I lead in a prayer of praise.

That is the epitome of “local”…that personal care and attention to the needs of others through good service and genuine interest. Mike is carrying on that tradition!

img_22211

Standing in front of the original signage for Buntyn Restaurant

For more examples of “local” click HERE.

Just Locker Room Talk?

While I had planned to write something about this latest (11 year old) revelation, my daughter, Anna, did a better job than I could have done. She writes this apolitical post about the problem of misogyny in our culture that has been highlighted (again) in another Presidential election season.

http://annaspindlerwrites.com/2016/10/14/just-locker-room-talk/

Weekly Photo Challenge: H2O

While the main feature of our vacation spot is a beach on the Gulf of Mexico, we have always enjoyed Alligator Lake and it’s occasional breaking out into the Gulf. But, only in the last few years did I discover its uniqueness to not only in the U.S., but in the world as a coastal dune lake.

imgp3102

Alligator Lake is held back from entering the Gulf by a coastal dune.

According to the Walton County Florida website:

Walton County is home to 15 named coastal dune lakes along 26 miles of coastline. These lakes are a unique geographical feature and are only found in Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, Oregon, and here in Walton County.

The brackish waters serve as a stark contrast with the clear water of the Gulf. The occasional break through due to flooding or storm surge (and the occasional human interaction), usually only last for a day before the dune is rebuilt and holds the water back for weeks. This video captured the “outfall” from Alligator Lake in our visit in 2014.

This post is in response to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Mirror

As Jen H issued this week’s challenge, she said, “This week’s challenge is all about reflections.” Reflections, mirror images, are fun to capture. Whether it is a shiny paint job or placid lake, the reflection seems to double the beauty.

The first was taken a year ago. My mother was a day away from graduating to her heavenly home and was a patient at the area hospice home. A church member’s grandmother was also a patient there and the granddaughter and her husband rode their new Harley Davidson Screaming Eagle Glide (CVO) to the home. As a diversion, I took a few minutes admire their new ride and to get a few shots of the beautiful bike. What made this picture special to me was the reflection of the hospice home in which my mother spent the last two months of her life.

imgp8486

The second image was just taken today. While it was not the most spectacular sunset, the local state park lake was relatively placid, offering a nice mirror image of the opposing bank and the sky.

imgp1957-2

For more examples of “mirror” click HERE.