First Christian Church of Warner Robins
Pastor's Corner
Pastor's Corner

Pastor's Corner - September 2013

In August I finished A Child’s Walk in the Wilderness:  An 8-Year-Old Boy and His Father Take on the Appalachian Trail by Paul Molyneaux.  It relates the adventures of the author and his son through the hike of the Appalachian Trail.  The beauty of this book is the wonder of an 8-year-old as he explores the world of the trail.  At one point Paul comments that he would have missed so much of what there is to see if he had not been with his son.

As I read, I relived outdoor adventures of my own; canoeing and hiking along the Grand River, wandering the trails around Bethany College, hiking to several waterfalls in the Cumberland Falls State Park in KY, and exploring Chained Rock and Cumberland Gap.  This book and my memories tied me back to the power of God’s Creation of our world.

As we get older and spend less time in the great outdoors, we begin to take for granted the world that God made.  We have been made stewards of all that God created; the water, the air, the earth, and all that lives within this creation.  It is not ours to use up and dispose of; it is ours to return to the One who made them.  This is not about whether or not Global Warning is real or fiction.  It is about our responsibility to care for Creation.

On the trail, Paul and his son clean up after themselves and others who toss trash on the ground.  They had to clean some of the shelters along the trail because hikers left all their waste behind.  A father and his little son picked up after other “responsible adults.”  We witness the same lack of concern for our environment when we see people toss cigarette butts out their car windows or empty their car ash trays in parking lots.  Hardly a week passes when one of us must pick up food containers, bottles, or other trash tossed out on Green St.  If people can be this disrespectful of Creation with trash that can be put in trash cans at home or at a business, why are we amazed when we hear of major businesses and others pouring pollutants into our water and air.

As Christians, we must do all that we can to not add to the problems of pollution.  Using less energy, and being as careful with the energy we do use can show respect for the earth and or devotion to the One who made it.  Recycling, reusing, or repurposing things we no longer need or want can be a great way to be better stewards.  Reducing the amount of chemicals that you use around your home and yard will prevent those same chemicals from getting into the air and water supply.  There are many recipes for inexpensive cleaning products that can be made at home.  Our laundry detergent is made from Fels-Naphtha soap, Borax, and washing soda.  It works as well as any detergent available and the clothes get just as clean.  Plus it is not bad for the water or earth.

We all hope to pass a better world to our children and grandchildren.  As Christians, let’s plan on returning a world to God as close as we can make it to the way God made it.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor's Corner - June 2013

Starting this month, Camp Christian will be running at full speed.  Our congregation will be well represented this summer and I would encourage everyone to consider sending notes and cards to the kids going to camp.  Because of the abuse of email being sent to campers, multiple page or even with one word per page emails, the campers will only be able to receive letters and packages.

The mailing address for camp is 3735 Dennard Hardy Road, Gordon, GA  31031-9776.  Address any mail to the name of the camper in care of Camp Christian.  Plan on it taking a couple of days for the mail to arrive, so if camp begins on Monday, mail a letter on the previous Friday.  Also, any mail sent after Wednesday will probably not reach the campers.

The first of our church family to attend camp this summer will be Juliet and Theresa Nolde at the Genesis Camp on June 7-9.  Send any mail by Thursday, June 6th.  From June 10-15, Ethan Thompson, Andrea McCleese, Gavin Edmondson, Savanna Gowin, and Taylor Hicks will be at CY camp.  The following week, June 17-22, Olivia Gowin will be at Chi Rho camp.  Due to the General Assembly, the next camp isn’t until July 16-20.  Watch the July newsletter for the names of the campers attending camp in July.

The General Assembly of the Christian Church is being held in Orlando, FL, July 13-17.  This is one of the closest sites for the Assembly.  It is a wonderful opportunity to experience the rich variety of our church and to hear messages from church leaders from all over the country.  This year there will also be opportunities to attend Learning Tracks.  They are Media and Arts in worship, Missional Transformation, Stewardship, and Spirituality.

Everything begins Saturday evening and concludes on Wednesday night with the a-cappella women’s group “Sweet Honey in the Rock”.  I had the opportunity to hear them when the Assembly was in Kansas City and they are fantastic.  A young Disciple musician, Andra Moral, will perform Monday night.  If you would like to hear either of these artists before the Assembly, I have CDs of both.

You do not have to come for the entire time; you can come in for a day or two.  In the Convention Exhibit Hall, all the ministries of our church will be on display.  All of our colleges and universities will be there as well as a book display from Cokesbury.

Our denomination is best experienced in the variety of languages, music styles and cultures that can come together and worship around the Communion Table.  We use the phrase “come and be embraced” to describe our congregation.  Come to Orlando and embrace the richness of our church.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor's Corner - May 2013

On May 12, Mother’s Day, the Chi Rho/CYF will lead worship.  Please make an effort to come and support our young people as they share their talents in worship.

If any of our church family will be graduating this year, please let me know by phone (478-718-8724) or email ( so they may be honored this month.  I would like to recognize any graduates on Pentecost Sunday, May 19.

On Pentecost, the former disciples, now Apostles came out of hiding and fear and began to share the Good News that God cares for all people, not just the wealthy and successful power brokers.  These fishermen, tax collectors, hired helpers, radicals, men, and women went out into the world they had feared and at once wished to be violently changed and began traveling and teaching and preaching.

We are now the ones to be “sent out” to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.   To quote the prophets about justice and righteousness for the powerless and to work for a time when swords are converted to plows and everyone will be free to rest in their own space confident that there is food for the family.  To love others as we have been loved by God.  To do all of these things knowing that people will think we are crazy, or peace-niks, or radicals.  To do all these things even we have to sacrifice our comfort, our security, our life.

Jesus dared the Disciples to take up their cross and follow.  This is not a reflection of some ache or pain that we experience.  It is not some hardship or discomfort through which we must pass.  Rather it is the willingness to put our very lives on the line to change the world that sees people as commodities and tools; that measures a person’s value by how much they are worth or by what they can offer to me; that releases the individual of being my brother’s and my sister’s keeper.

The Spirit of Pentecost upset the Apostle’s comfort zones; in fact, it blew their comfort zones apart.  Their comfort zone became service to others.  Look at Paul, how comfortable was his life?  He was shipwrecked, beaten, stoned, ridiculed, jailed, and finally executed.  All because he said that all power is God’s and that those who wield power in this world must answer to God and that everyone, regardless of where they are from are to be welcomed and not judged.

We have passed through the season of Lent, where we examined our walk with God to see if we are on the right path.  We have rejoiced through the Grace-filled gift of Easter.  Now is the season to roll up our sleeves and set to work preaching the gospel in all we do, and only when necessary resort to the use of words.  When you feel that Divine prodding to get out of the recliner and do, get up and go.  When your vision is opened by the Spirit to see the excess, give it away.  When you hear the call for justice and righteousness, answer it.  We ARE disciples!  We are Disciples of Christ!

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor's Corner - April 2013

I want to express my gratitude for all the words of comfort and support and all of the prayers that have gone out for my family since my father passed away on March 6, 2013.  It has been a time of thanksgiving, laughter, tears, memories and gratitude.

As a pastor, I have been around death on a regular basis.  I have lost grandmothers, and my mother, lost friends and members of the churches I have served.  Since coming to Warner Robins, I have witnessed the presentation of Military Honors at least once a year.  But we never really discuss death; rather we talk about the one that has died.  We talk about the needs of the surviving family, and/or we talk about going to be with God.

I write this column days before Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week.  For the most part, we focus upon Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Easter and skip the reality that is Good Friday.  Yet we all face that kind of event in our families and for ourselves.  Rather than avoiding the topic or stepping quietly around it, maybe we should face it head on.

Jesus died on Good Friday.  His mother and a few of the women who followed him and according to John, the disciple that Jesus loved the best, witnessed Jesus’ death.  The women then gathered with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus and prepared Jesus for a hasty burial.  This small group took it upon themselves to stay through to the end.  They witnessed the transformation from life to death.  This was not unusual in the ancient world; as a matter of fact, it is only recently that people stopped witnessing the arrival of death and the transition from life.

Today we step away; we even disguise it with cosmetics so that our loved one “looks so natural”.  We do not want to grow old and die.  We don’t want to see death in reality.  Yet without death, there can be no eternal life.

This does not mean we should all rush to die, but rather accept the reality that death occurs and that there are times when it is indeed a blessing.  We should do our best to live a full and generous life and then not fear what comes next since our faith teaches us that God is waiting for us on the other side just as God waits for us every day.

My father had been in the nursing home for 6 years.  Most of that time he did not recognize family or friends.  During the last year he spent most of his time asleep.  I am grateful that his dementia did not cause him to be angry or abusive.  I am grateful that he has found peace and is with mom again.  During the military honors that were rendered by the VFW, I met a man that had known dad for a long time.  He was the one who presented the flag after the salute and taps.  My father lives in the memories of those who knew him and the stories they shared as well as in the memories I possess.  He is with me in my heart and will never leave.  Yes, death causes us pain, but it also sweetens those memories that remain.

Do not be afraid; remember that God is with us.  Jesus quoted the 22 Psalm from the cross.  We remember the words, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me.”  But we rarely go to the Psalm and read the whole thing.  Here is how it ends.

“From thee comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.  The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord!  May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.  For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.

Yea, to him shall all the proud of the earth bow down; before him shall all who go down to the dust, and he who cannot keep himself alive.  Posterity shall serve him; men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim deliverance to a people yet unborn, that he has wrought it.”

Our God is the God of the living and those who die remain alive in our God.  Thanks be to God.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor's Corner - March 2013

There is a lot going on in March of this year.  On the last Tuesday evening in February, at 7:00 p.m., we began a study of World Religions utilizing The Great Courses DVD “Cultural Literacy for Religion:  Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know.”

This course will introduce those attending to the major religions of the world.  Everyone is welcome to attend, even if you missed a lecture or two.  Though people have differing opinions about the Supreme Court’s ruling on school prayer, consider this statement from that ruling as the reason for doing this study, “It might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.”

The Camp Christian Gala and Auction will take place on Saturday, March 16th.  This event will mark the 50th anniversary of Camp Christian.  Starting at 11:00 with appetizers and a silent auction, attendees will have an opportunity to see the Camp in a different light.  This is a formal event, so dress up and come to camp.

At 12:30, guests will enter Lavery Hall for a meal prepared by Chef Jim Torbert and a live auction.  Guests will be seated at tables covered in table cloths and be served by the members of the Youth Activities Counsel.  Tickets are $30 each and can be obtained by calling 478-743-8649 or by going to  Space is limited so make your reservations quickly.  If you want, you may also make reservations for staying overnight either Friday or Saturday.  Space is limited so respond quickly.  Gifts can also be made to the event by contacting the same phone or website.

This year we will celebrate Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Easter almost as early as they can be celebrated.  Palm Sunday is March 24.  Be in worship as we remember the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and his last week of ministry.  On Thursday, March 28, at 7:00 we will have a Maundy Thursday Service to commemorate the Last Supper.  Disciples mark this event because of the centrality of Communion to our church’s life.  We will share not only in Communion but foods that are similar to what might have been eaten in the Upper Room.  Please let Darrell know if you will be in attendance so that all may have a space at the table.

On Sunday, March 31, we will start Easter with an Easter egg hunt for the children.  If you would like to help or bring something to share, please let Darrell Vandervort or Mary Jane Rogers know by March 19.  We need these things at the church by 9:30 a.m. on Easter.  There will be goodies for everyone to share and a great opportunity to fellowship prior to entering the Sanctuary for the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ.

Come and be embraced at any or all of these events.  Learn, remember, worship, and celebrate as we journey together through March.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor's Corner - February 2013

I bought my copy of Turbo Tax for 2012 this week.  It’s time to get prepared for Tax Day.  Gather up all the income paperwork, W-2, 1099’s, etc.  Collect all the interest statements; what a laugh.  Compile the deduction receipts, medical, mortgage, higher education, etc.  Sharpen pencils, pull out the calculator and check its batteries.  There’s so much to do to prepare for a single day in April.

There is another day for which we are to prepare.  This year it is at the end of March—Easter Sunday.  On February 13, 2013 we start the preparation for Easter with Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  During Lent we are to spend our time in self-examination.  Seriously examine how well we have been living up to the claimed title of Christian.  Do we pray enough?  DO we really love our neighbor?  Do we feed, clothe, visit, and extend fellowship to the people on the edges of our society as Jesus did?

On Ash Wednesday, many people give up something they enjoy (do not confuse Lenten sacrifice as another shot at meeting your New Year’s resolutions) and devoting the resources or time spent in that enjoyable activity in more closely following the Way of Christ.  People donate to those in need, give time to help at food pantries or shelters, increase the time they spend in prayer and the study of the Bible.  Any or all of these can become tools in our preparation.

Easter is often portrayed as the end reward of our faith, but Jesus didn’t teach his disciples to do things so that they could get into Heaven; rather, Jesus taught them to act as though the Kingdom of God was NOW in the world.  Behave as if this were the Heavenly Realm on earth.  Our faith is not to be in a future reward but to prepare us for living in the present Kingdom of God that is all around us.  He taught that we were to be ambassadors for the rule of God now.  Love God with all that you are and love others as we love our selves!

In an effort to trick Jesus, he was asked if the people in Israel should pay taxes to Caesar.  He told them to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.  Thinking of all the time and work put in to preparing your taxes to meet the April 15 deadline, how does that time and energy compare with all that you do in meeting the requirement to return to God what has always belonged to God?

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor's Corner - December 2012

I write this on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Thus far, anyone with a television or a newspaper has been buried under the ads for Black Friday, which starts on Thursday, and even earlier in some places than last year.  Eat your Thanksgiving meal and give thanks, take a nap and spend the night buying stuff.  Granted we have a tradition of gift giving at Christmas, but is it possible we have gone overboard on the drive to buy?

In the Nov. 14, 2012 issue of The Christian Century, I read an article taken from the journal Weavings (Nov.-Jan.).  “Marilyn McEntyre suggests some very practical ways that American Christians can work against a self-centered consumerism and toward concerns for the neighbor and community.  Begin every day for a month asking the question, ‘What can I share today?’  ‘What do I have that might be given away?’  See if a room at church can be found to use as a ‘sharing station’ where tools, utensils, clothing or books could be stored for others’ use.  Talk on the phone with someone who may be lonely for 15 minutes two or three times a week.  Host dinner-and-documentary nights to discuss public problems with a view to finding and working for solutions.  Commit to a steady-state household.  If something new comes in, then something else goes out.  ‘Who is my neighbor?’ is a question we cannot afford to consign to cliché, McEntyre says.”

All of us have encountered people who may be borderline hoarders, and a few who may have crossed the border.  Could the attitude of our society that demands us to be huge consumers lend itself to this problem?

At Christmas we celebrate the God given gift of the infant Jesus.  We emulate this by giving gifts to others.  But does the current demand that we insanely consume goods in the name of Christmas reflect the meaning of this season?  God gave us a gift of welcome and inclusion in His family.  Jesus became a gift of learning—learning to love each other, to set aside worry, to find satisfaction in doing for others rather than others doing for us.

In a time when people are struggling with a weak economy and un- and under- employment, could we as Christians behave more like the one whose birth we are celebrating?  Give gifts to family and friends, but share with your neighbor as you are able.  Make your gifts reflect your faith rather than the latest ad on TV or the advertising push for “what everyone needs”.

May your Christmas be a blessing to you and your family, and may it lead you to be a blessing to others.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor's Corner - November 2012

In the October 3, 2012 “Christian Century” there is an article by Martha Bayne.  Martha was a journalist making ends meet as best she could.  In 2008, she needed to bring in a steady paycheck and thus became a bartender in a Chicago bar called the Hideout.  She tells how things got harder for the patrons and people could no longer afford to drop in for a beer after work, so she decided to offer food on Wednesday afternoons.

Starting in January of 2009, every Wednesday afternoon, the Hideout began providing Soup and Bread to everyone who wanted it.  Donations were accepted and directed to various hunger organizations.  Some of Martha’s friends in the food business provided 2-3 gallons of soup and would come and serve it until it was gone.  Day old bread, provided by a local bakery, rounded out the meal.  Starting with only 30 people on the first Wednesday in January, they provided soup to anyone from January through April.  People dropped in a dollar, $5, maybe $20, and by the end of April they had raised $30,000 to fight hunger.

Soup and Corn Bread will be the menu for our November Fellowship Dinner.  We will collect food supplies to share with a family or two at Thanksgiving.  Last year we covered a pair of tables in the Fellowship Hall.  Times remain hard for a lot of people.  We cannot end hunger as individuals, but together we can end some hunger, especially during a season when we are to give thanks to God for all the blessings each of us has received.

Over and over in the Bible we hear God and Jesus tell us to be aware and feed the hungry, to take care of the people pushed to the margins of survival.  Most of us during this month will sit down with family and friends and share in more food than we can eat in one sitting (often more food that we should try to eat in one sitting).  Let us truly come together in the Fellowship Hall and give thanks not for our  bounty, but for the bounty we can share with those who are on the fringes, those who are hungry, those we are called to feed.

Peter denied Jesus three times the evening of Jesus’ trial.  Later, after the Resurrection, Jesus challenged Peter three times by asking if Peter loved Him.  Each time he said yes, Jesus told him to either feed my sheep, or to feed my lambs.  This month, listen and hear Jesus ask you, “Do you love me?”  Will you answer yes and accept the response Peter received?

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor's Corner - October 2012

October 19-21 at Camp Christian Conference Center, there will be a Quilter’s Retreat.  This gathering will complete the quilt that raised money for Camp Christian.  Attendees DO NOT need to be quilters.  Individuals and couples can attend even if they do not sew.  It will be a time to relax, worship, study, and quilt for anybody interested.  If you have never been to Camp before, here is a chance to see and experience some of what the children and youth of the church rave about.  Worship and Bible study will be led by Jarda Alexander and Anita Renahan-White.  These women are newly ordained leaders of our church.  Come and share theirs gifts.

“Being the Church Now” is the theme for the Regional Assembly at First Christian Church in Decatur on November 9-10.  Dr. Chaisse L. Gillett, president of Lexington Theological Seminary will be the speaker at our worship services.  There will be programs for everyone.  Young children will have day care available, older children will get to go to either the Atlanta Zoo or to the Fernbank Museum, depending on the weather and middle school and high school youth will have their own event including the opportunity for training as a camp counselor.  Workshops are available for adults including, “A Faithful Conversation on War, Peace, and Unity,” “Developing Congregational Policies to Prevent Abuse,” “Clergy Sexual Misconduct,” “Cheap Web Tools to do Amazing Things for Your Church,” “Women’s Ministry Now,” “The Role of Regional Elders,” “Worship Outside the Box,” “Helping Your Congregation Create a Vision for Your Church,” “Performing Hand Bell Choir Rehearsal,” “Resurrecting Alexander Campbell: The Man, Message and Legacy,” “Retirement: It’s Never Too Early to Plan,” and “Congregation as Employer.”  We are allowed to send three voting delegates, but any number of people may attend.  Come and take part in the life of the regional church.

The Salvation Army is attempting to meet a need in Warner Robins.  At a certain age, children in foster care are released from the program whether they have completed high school or not.  Many of these teens have no place to go after school lets out and thus are left to their own devices or whatever might be available.  Café 3:16 is being created at 158 Manor Ct. in Warner Robins as a safe place for these teens and adults to gather.  This is a volunteer program and is in need of people who would be able to help by teaching classes of interest, such as Dance, Music, Arts, Crafts, Emergency Preparedness and Practical Life Skills for Young Adults.  Many of these youth have nowhere to go and very little of their own; therefore, Café 3:16 wants to provide toiletries: hand towels, wash cloths, wide tooth combs, nail clippers, tooth brushes and toothpaste, band-aids, razors, emery boards, shampoo/body wash combos, baby wipes, tissues, body lotion, deodorant, dental floss, feminine products, shaving cream, lip balm, Q-tips, twin size inflatable mattresses, twin sized linens, blankets, and pillows.  If you can be of service or have anything to donate, please contact them at 478-922-7585 or take items to the drop points at the Salvation Army at 96 Thomas Blvd., Warner Robins or Gena Jayne –The Chic Boutique at 145 S. Commercial Circle, Warner Robins.

Since this is the October newsletter, we must admit to the reality that the year is quickly coming to a close.  No matter how much we might want to deny or make the year last, it is now October.  Therefore, as a church, we must start making plans for the year 2013 (in spite of any residual concern regarding the Mayan calendar).

What can you do to help this congregation in 2013?  There are very obvious answers, such as show up on Sunday mornings, give gifts to the ministry of the church, oh, and one more thing…volunteer your time.  This last point is the one to discuss now.

Our church has a variety of ways people can help by giving of their time and even their talents and interests.  We have a variety of committees.  But, before you react in the normal manner---“yuk” or “boring”, try thinking of them as opportunities for mission and change.  What could be done if people with an interest, talent, or creative sense of thinking were to pitch in and help in these ministries?

To provide for the chance to take part in the work of the church, beginning on September 30 and running through October, each Committee/Ministry will have a page where interested people can sign up to take part in the work of that ministry in 2013.  There is an old adage that states that 20% of the people do 90% of the work.  As our congregation over achieves in giving to Disciples Mission, let us also over achieve in volunteering.

The focus groups in this church are Worship, Service & Fellowship, Church Growth, Membership, Outreach, Education, Stewardship, Property and Music.  Most of these are pretty clear names and usually cause specific mental images in each of us.  But, let’s not limit ourselves, or the opportunity to serve in God’s name.

What else do we do in worship?  What new opportunities for worship could be created?  How can we make special services like Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Christmas Eve even better?  Let your creativity and imagination loose.

Church Growth currently focuses on our website.  What else could we do to make our church more visible in the community?

Outreach is responsible for our mission work.  With the recent additions of Family Promise and Café 3:16 in our community, there is a need for volunteer support and other gifts, and our on-going participation in Heifer International, how could we better provide ministry to this community and beyond?

No one likes to talk about money; we only like to have it to spend.  Yet we are the stewards of all that God created.  Beyond making sure that we are able to pay bills, what else can we do to improve our stewardship as a church and as individuals?

The Church Property has been transformed in the last couple of years, but what more can we do and how can we improve what we currently use?  How do we envision improvements elsewhere in our property?

Service and Fellowship bring us together for meals and fun.  In the past we also provided for special needs, but as times have changed how can we continue to serve?  What new ways can we come together as God’s family?

Membership has kept track of addresses and developed ways to share prayer concerns and information.  They also send birthday, anniversary, get well and missing you cards to church members.  There is always a need for more people to send cards.  How else can we keep track of our family as it grows and changes?  How can we advance this ministry with modern technology?

In Education, we think of Sunday School, CCF, Chi Rho, and CYF.  But we also have Children’s Church and a nursery that may need attendants.  How else can we call people together to grow in faith and spirituality?  The old pattern of Sunday School has lost it’s luster.  How do we make it happen today?

It is difficult to provide for Music without a musician.  However, for the past two years we have done it.  What can we do to offer the beauty and sacredness of music to this church and community?  How can we create opportunities even outside of Sunday morning?

Let these questions float in your thoughts and prayers and offer your time and skills as gifts of service.  This IS NOT a lifetime commitment.  We will do it all again in 2013 and give everyone a chance to remain or try a new area.  Give of yourself.  Give the best of yourself.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor's Corner - September 2012

Last month I focused on what I learned from the book In Defense of Civility, by James Calvin Davis.  Here is the author’s concluding definition of civility from page 159.  “I like to define civility as the exercise of patience, integrity, humility, and mutual respect in civil conversation, even (or especially) with those with whom we disagree.”  (Italics are the authors).  As the madness of modern politics heats up the nation, understanding of this definition might be a benefit for everyone, if they will listen and put it into practice.

Patience is a very difficult word.  Many of us struggle to find patience and even when we find it, it never seems to be of sufficient quantity for the situation.  Patience demonstrated within conversations on difficult topics is essential, but often missing.  We get so caught up in making our point and getting ready our reply that we fail to listen to the words of the other person.  Listening is very important.  The old adage that God created us with two ears and one mouth was intended and we were to utilize them in the same proportion still holds true, especially when emotions start to rise.  It doesn’t mean we avoid hard issues; it means that we are as patient with the other person as we would hope that person will be with us.  Remember, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?

Integrity in this definition requires truthfulness in all discussions and debates.  Not the truthfulness that currently passes within political advertising, but rather the truthfulness that was expected by our grandmothers.  Grandmothers always expect more truth from grandchildren, at least mine did.  With the amazing speed with which stories can spread due to the internet and 24 hour news stations, we have to be careful to be sure that information is accurate.  As we have seen in the past, both the internet and the news media can be wrong.  We need to seek the truth and demand the full truth from all our sources, especially our leaders.

Humility is not about surrendering to others so that the conversation can end.  Rather it is about the self-realization that we truly do not have all of the answers to every problem in the known universe.  Current political rhetoric condemns people that change their mind about issues.  We seem to want our leaders to never learn anything new for fear that they might discover a better answer or a better way of solving problems.  As a pastor, I do not know everything!  There are times I may act like that isn’t the case, but I will readily admit that all of us are equally capable of discerning what God wants of us as well as all of us being able to discern better ideas and solutions than I can find.  That is why we live in community.  Each of us brings our unique gifts to the work of living harmoniously in God’s creation.  We must always be open to new information, new insight, new revelation.  None of us are too old to learn something new.

I remember being taught that I needed to earn respect.  While this is indeed true, it is not complete.  We have to start with an understanding that everyone deserves respect because they are the creation of God.  We have to respect that each person is entitled to a base of respect that can either rise or fall based upon what they do and how they do it.  When we get into sensitive discussions with another person, we have to offer them the same respect that we would like to receive.  We can often sense when someone offers little respect to others.  It is visible in the way they talk with us and look at us.  If we behave in the same manner, it does not serve us well as Christians.  Remember all the times the Gospels tell us of situations that make us little different from the Gentiles and the Pharisees?  We need to be respectful of other people and especially make it visible when that person is someone with whom we disagree.

Try to remember this definition as the political races heat up.  Remember it whenever you hit a tense situation and face difficult people.

Shalom, Darrell