The Glass Blower

This year we have decided to take a staycation. Since we have lived in Staunton for two years now and have not really explored our surroundings, we thought it would be a great thing to do. Staunton has a wonderful artsy/cultural theme and has some great places to visit. Sometimes you can live in a place a long time and not really know what is in your hometown.

We visited several of the free museum/attractions in the area. On Friday night, Dale and Anna went to the Blackfriar Theatre. The Blackfriar is a theatre built by the American Shakespeare Center and is a replica of the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The ASC presented a “pay what you will” presentation of The Importance of Being Ernest” by Oscar Wilde. They had a great time.

Tuesday, we went to several of the local free museums/attractions. First, we went to see Jumbo the Antique Fire Engine. While we visited there, we also got a tour of the fire station in which Jumbo is located. Jumbo is the first motorized engine purchased by the Staunton Fire Department.

Next on our tour was a camera museum. They had hundreds upon hundreds of cameras. Both Dale and I recognized cameras that our families have own, including an Argus 35mm and a Kodak Instamatic. It was great. One of the cameras was a Japanese camera that saw action at Pearl Harbor. They had every kind of camera imaginable. There was a camera designed for baseball (only eight of that camera were made)

Following the camera museum were the bank museum and an acoustic music store. The music store features acoustic instruments, stand-up basses, acoustic basses, guitars, mandolins, violins, and banjos. That was fun, but the instruments were expensive.

Our favorite place of our mini-tour of Staunton was Sunspot Studios. This is a glass blowing and copper studio. It was amazing. They have live glass blowing demonstrations. At first, it was as exciting as watching paint dry, but as we watched the artist blow and form the glass something amazing happened. After that we walked around the store portion of the studio.

As we drove away from the store, Dale and I started talking about the different steps that it took to get a little round piece of purple glass formed into a beautiful vase. Dale started talking about how the glass blowing resembles each of our lives. When the glass blower starts, it is difficult to know the vision that the glass blower has for the piece that he is working on. The same thing is very true in our lives. We cannot see the vision that God has for our lives. The vase that we saw created started at a little piece of glass that we couldn’t even tell what color it was. The glass blower kept talking about the purple glass. That was not apparent to us. When God was designing us in our mother’s womb, he had a vision of what we could become as a person. The world can’t see God’s vision for our lives. Not only can others not see God’s vision for our lives, but it’s tough for us to see God’s vision – because we can only see the past and the present.

The second thing that came up is that the glass blower had to keep putting the piece in the furnace to keep it flexible. This was so that he could mold into the masterpiece that he had visioned in his mind. During most of the process, the glass was hot and orange from the heat. It had to stay hot so that the glass blower could mold it and shape it. He needed the glass to be flexible so it could become a beautiful vase. God places things in our lives, like the heat from the furnace to make us flexible so he can make us. So we can become the person he wants us to be, and do the things he wants us to do. James 1:2 comes to mind 2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

The third example that comes from is the glass blower did not have to blow a lot of air in to the vase. It was just a couple of puffs. When I think of the glass blower blowing into a vase I think of Holy Spirit blowing through our lives. We need to have Holy Spirit working in us to help guide us through our lives. The Holy Spirit helps us grow and become the masterpiece that God had the vision about us.

It has been a great staycation so far. We have had several opportunities to go swimming as well as just relax, something that typically doesn’t happen on a normal vacation. Later!

Our Heart Attitude

We must learn to stop dancing before the altar of man’s approval and to worship God solely because He is worthy of our praise.  If we perform for other’s approval when we worship God, then we’re perverting the praise meant for Him.

Kim Hill and Lisa Harper
“Contemporary Worship: What Does Worship from the Heart Look Like”
Experience God In Worship

[The authors reflect the importance of worship attitude to guard this focus.  “The style of our worship is not what’s important, the motive and intent of our heart is.  The extravagance of our worship is meant for an audience of One.”]

The Spirit Pleads for Us

[I wrote this for our weekly e-newsletter at church and thought it would be good for today.]

It was so good to be back with you on Sunday as we worshiped together.  Many of you commented on Sunday’s message and I am thankful and humbled that God used that message in a powerful way.  Isn’t it amazing the way God works and isn’t it amazing the way the Holy Spirit works?  The older I get the more amazed I become by God and His ways.  I hope that is true for you as well.

During Sunday School, we were discussing Psalm 23 and the places that restore our soul.  We were asked the places or things that do that for us.  It might not come as a surprise that one of the things that restores my soul is music—either listening to it or playing or singing.  Another thing that might come as a surprise is running is a place that restores my soul, especially when I’m not trying to run as fast as I can.  There are times on a run, where I settle in and talk to God.  That happened during this morning’s run and he reminded me of this scripture from Romans 8.

26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

One of the things that I like to do when preparing a message is to pray over it.  This week was different, because every time I tried praying, it seemed like my prayers were hitting the ceiling and bouncing back.  It was tough to pray, but I kept on persevering, even though sometimes I couldn’t even come up with the thoughts or the words.  I am so thankful that we have the Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness.  I am really glad that the Holy Spirit prayed and pleaded on my behalf for this weekend’s service even though it felt like my prayers were hitting the ceiling and coming back to me.  That should be an encouragement for all of us—that the Holy Spirit really wants to be involved in our lives—that He is living and active.

I pray that you have a wonderful week in the service of the King of kings.

Two Years Ago

It really is hard to believe that two years ago we packed up the big yellow truck in Martinsville and moved to Staunton, VA.  It was a hot and humid day.  It really doesn’t seem like that long ago, yet here we are continuing to do what God has called us to do.  It has been an amazing journey.  The two years have flown by and it hardly seems possible that two years could have flown by like that, but I guess that’s what happens when you get older.  It’s so quiet in the sanctuary as I write this morning.  Yesterday during Sunday School, we were discussing God’s overflow as written about in Psalm 23 – You anoint my head with oil and my cup overflows.  We are so blessed by God – the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.  That is so true.  I can’t ever remember being as content in life as I am right now.  God is doing some great things and I can’t wait to see what He does next.  Does that mean that everything goes exactly the way I want – of course not!  I love the chorus of the song that I just posted.

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

I believe that God works in our lives in the good times and the bad times.  Sometimes the bad times are just what we need and then there are times like this morning when I am just basking in His amazing presence.  Thank you Lord, for your many blessings…..

Sunday Night Thoughts

Here we are on a Sunday Night again.  It’s really hard to put this week into words.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The last few weeks have been crazy and it’s been hard to stay on top of everything.  This weekend really was a chance to slow down after several big weeks.

Yesterday I was able to get in a long run – running for 1:23 and covering 7.5 miles.  It really has been amazing to see how the running is coming along.  I broke out some new running clothes, since I wore out my first pair of running shorts and I really wanted a no sleeves shirt for running in the summer.  So I now I have them.  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but if you said two years ago, I would be running and enjoying it two weeks ago, I would have looked at you like you had two heads.  I have lost 37 pounds in the last two years and really enjoy getting out in the quiet and running.  It is a remarkable feeling.

That run and just being lazy for most of the rest of the day really set up today.  I was up early to get ready for today’s service.  Our lead pastor is on a mission’s trip, so that means I had a chance to preach this morning.  Let’s just say this morning was a God thing.  The Holy Spirit moved in and settled in among us.  What a wonderful, amazing service we had.  Thanks to the praise team, you did a great job.  The message went well and was well received and really spoke to many hearts this morning.  I would say that it was among one of the better messages I have preached.  Like I said, it was a God thing and he spoke through me in a most humbling way.  It is amazing to see how God will use you.

This week, we are taking a stay-cation and visiting many of the sites around Staunton and Augusta County.  I’m looking forward to pulling back a bit and charge my spirit.

Thank you Lord for a wonderful day.

Seize the Day!

Sunday Set List

Sunday, June 26, 2011
Second Sunday after Pentecost

Welcome and Announcments

Call to Worship and Invocation
Psalm 84:1-4; 15-18

Songs of Worship
Ancient of Days
Come People of the Risen King
We Will Glorify

Worship Through Prayer

Scripture Reading
Genesis 22:1-13
Romans 6:12-23

Songs of Worship
The Solid Rock
Step by Step

Worship Through Giving
Special Music

Worship Through God’s Word
Who Owns You?
Romans 6:12-23

Song of Commitment
Draw Me Close

Benediction

The Nuts and Bolts of Worship

Many of you know that last week our family traveled to Canada.  We went there to attend a blessing ceremony and a Canadian reception for Rebecca and Michael.  Over the weekend we had the opportunity to attend worship services that were much different than ours.  On Saturday, the blessing service was a full liturgical service with some singing, meaning it was primarily spoken except for the musical selections.  On Sunday, we attended church at Michael and Rebecca’s church.  They are part of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada.  This service was a sung Eucharist service.  Except for the sermon, almost all of the service was sung.  Both services were drawn from a traditional liturgy.  It really was interesting to be part of both services over the weekend.  The Sunday morning service even included incense.  It was a small building so you could really smell it.  Like I mentioned before these two services are much different than what we normally experience on a week to week basis.

The worship service of The Wesleyan Church is based on the style of service developed during the 19th century revival services and campmeetings.  There is the “song service” where we do the singing, pray and take the offering, the “preaching service,” where the pastor preaches from God’s Word, and then the “altar service.” This would be part of our liturgy.  Most Wesleyan churches that you would attend would follow this format, although most have significantly shortened the altar service.  While there are some formal and more liturgical churches, the above mentioned service is more the norm.

So why do I mention all this in my Saturday post about worship?  Last Saturday, we had a complete printed service in front of us.  In fact, except for the directions to sit, kneel, or stand and the text to the sermon.  Everything we needed was in front of us and all in the proper order.  It made it easy for someone not familiar with that style of worship service to follow along and there were several of us.

Sunday’s service was much different.  There were several things we needed — a prayer book, a hymnal, and a bulletin.  I think I should have just listened to Michael and just listened to the service, but I wanted to participate – and I like new, challenging things.  As we were sitting there, I truly wanted to get into the moment to worship just like we do at home, but I found myself distracted — distracted that the worship was so different from what I was used to.  In addition, there was the distraction of the creaky pews.  This was an old church and the pews creaked each time you moved.  The two youngest Argots tend to move around alot and thus there was much creaking behind me.  Finally, I prayed and asked God to removed some of the things that were distracting me and help me to focus on Him.  I had just about settled in, when my phone rang (really it vibrated) nobody would have known, but I had to leave the sanctuary to answer the call (which was a call from our church.)  After I answered the call, I stood at the top of the steps and listened to the homily.  I really enjoyed the message.  Bishop Carl had to preach on the Trinity (always a tough subject) but did a great job with it.  In case you didn’t know, last Sunday was Trinity Sunday.  Finally, it felt like the Spirit was working and we entered into the communion portion of the service.

We were not able to receive communion, but we did go to the altar to receive a communion blessing – that was pretty cool and was a highlight of the service.  Soon after that the service was over.

It’s interesting to see that distractions can happen in both very traditional services and very contemporary/modern services and everywhere in between.  What I thought I would do to close out today’s post is share some specific observations about the service.

  • Everytime I go to a more “formal” service, I am always amazed at the amount of scripture that is read.  Secondly, it is read and left to stand on its own.  I say this as a good thing.  No one interprets it — it is just read.  Typically there is an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament reading and a ready from one of the Gospels.  How much scripture is read in your service?  I was inspired by this and we are going to read a Psalm, an passage from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament this week.
  • Even though during the reading no one interprets it, many times the various scriptures are referenced during the relatively (to protestants) short message.
  • The other thing is that there are many prayers during the service.  In fact, a good deal of the service is spoken prayers, both by the priest and the people.  Another thing that is missing in most informal services — our services are typically known for their great music or great preaching.  Maybe we could learn something here.
  • The most difficult part of Sunday’s worship service was trying to figure out where we were.  Those who attend every Sunday I’m sure know where to be and what place to be in the prayer book and the hymnal – I felt like a complete novice – and always felt lost.
  • While this was a wonderful experience – I learned some cool things and got to worship in a completely new way – I also realized that I like the way we do things, if only we could figure out the scripture reading thing.
Wow! this ended up being much longer than I intended.  No matter what type of worship service you attend, I hope that you worship God with all that you have this weekend.  God bless!

Who Owns You?

Proper 8 (13)
June 26, 2011

Genesis 22:1-14; Psalm 13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42

1 Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

   “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

 2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

 3 The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”

 6 So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, 7 Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”

   “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

   “We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

 8 “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

 9 When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lordcalled to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

   “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

 12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

 13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son.14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

This is one of the two passages of scripture that I will be using this Sunday.  I am looking forward to preaching this Sunday.  This will be a preview of where I am going on Sunday.  This summer our lead pastor is taking us through a series on the Ten Commandments.  During the sermon on putting God first, he highlighted the scripture passage above.  This is always a difficult passage to deal with.  Why would God ask a man to sacrifice a son that he had waited so long to have.  Abraham was a hundred years old when he had Isaac.  Can you imagine waiting that long to have a son or even a child?  Sure, God had promised Abraham and finally the promise was fulfilled.  Now, God was asking him to sacrifice his son, his only son.

This seems highly unusual to us, but in the culture of the day, children were often sacrificed.  It was part of the worship practices of those living in Canaan.  While it may seem like a strange request to us, it probably didn’t seem so strange to Abraham.  We have several hints in this passage that Abraham, knew what God was up to.  Isaac asks him, “We have the wood and the fire, but where is the lamb.”  Abraham replies, “God will provide a lamb.”  Perhaps the reason why God required this of Abraham is because his only son had become an idol.  Abraham felt like he owned Isaac.  We are reminded in the passage from Romans that we obey what controls us or what owns us.  Are we owned by our sinful desires and the mess that comes from that, or are we owned by God and controlled by that?  Abraham may have been in danger of making his son an idol and that was controlling his life.  The question I have for you, is who or what is controlling you?

God-Sight…

God-sight thus begins with humility — I deserve Hell, but God has chosen to spare me — and then gets seasoned by gratitude, shaped by awe, and maintained by reverence.  Because of what God has done for me, I cannot ever look at others again in quite the same way I once did.