Last Sunday I quizzed a few people on how their holiday went. The overwhelming consensus was that it was relaxed and enjoyable. Food prep was easier. Timing everything out, so as the be done together, wasn’t a problem. No real cleaning because there were no guests. The Covid dictates had a positive after all. Then my thoughts turned to Christmas. I believe we’ve stolen Christmas from ourselves. It’s been a slow progression over the last few decades and it has taken its toll. We’ve accepted the common wisdom that Christmas is all about parties, decorating “over-the-top”, hosting lavish dinners, along with lavish presents. It has not only robbed us of Advent, but robbed us of enjoying the season. How often have you said on December 26th: “I’m glad it’s over, I’m exhausted!”
I think back on my youthful Christmases. We did little things to prepare and had fun doing it! Sticking whole cloves into an orange and arranging them around the house was aromatic and fun. Stringing whole cranberries for the tree with needle and thread, and doing the same with popcorn was a healthy competition, as well. (Aside from the occasional poked finger!) Early on we decorated and put up the tree on Christmas Eve so as not to rush the celebration. Then there was helping Mom bake things ahead: like delicious fruit cake—not the store bought which tastes like chalk—not to mention: making rosettes. It was simpler and made for a memorable time. The days weren’t rushed through, they were savored. And the holy day was actually relaxing.
Today, Christmas comes in a smiley Amazon van. You can literally order everything you wish for and get rushed delivery. But it’s hard to get heated up over gifts you cannot personally examine, food that you guess its taste, decorations that appear to be like every store in any mall, and no real family traditions.—Note that I don’t include sitting around a computer or phone to “order” Christmas-in-a-van as an uplifting family time, because it isn’t.
The modern day “cancel culture” has hi-jacked Christmas. Everything is store-bought. Everything is about what modernists think it is about and then they superimpose it on us. They ignore the soul-searching of Advent. They ignore going to church on Christmas Eve, or at bare minimum it’s an afterthought. They ignore the Christmas story and all the richness it provides to the soul. Christmas has become cold for many because outside of money, they are not emotionally invested in it. And make no mistake, Christmas IS an emotional time. Christmas is meant to be joyous and joy is an amazing emotion.
I write this because I don’t want that to be you. Slow down and savor these next few weeks. Don’t let society dictate what gives rest for your soul and a warm glow to your heart. Christ came without any frills. Yet His coming brought inner joy to all. Savor the season and embrace His simplicity however you can. And never forget, at Christmas He embraces you with love, compassion, and joy! Then, despite all the frustration of 2020, His Christmas coming will be the best one you’ve ever had!
Pastor Thomas H. Fox
- We will have church decorating on Tues. Dec. 8th around 6:30 til about 8. Although food is out, there might be a pot of chili in the kitchen to fortify you after work…..
- The Children’s program will be on Dec. 13th during the normal church service. Remember to sit as family groups and social distance as well.
- As we wind down the year, the church has been greatly blest in 2020. The LiveStreaming has been a God send. We invoked the emergency powers act to fund this early on and after delays in purchasing our own equipment, basically it is all here and being installed as time permits. Total cost will be about $13,000, but we now have a very professional venue. A huge thanks goes out to Seth Cordes for making this all happen!!!
- For the 1st 11 months of 2020 we took in offerings of: $111,735. The budget for 2020 is: $138,875. Last year in Dec. we took in around $25,000. So, make-up offerings and the special gifts some contribute should put us on track if all goes well this December. We’ll see. Anyway, in a tough year God’s people were blest and have shown it.
- The local food pantry is appreciative of the food donations and gift cards that were delivered to them before Thanksgiving. Their larder has been under a lot of stress.
- Note that Christmas Eve is on a Thursday night and Christmas Day falls on a Friday. Then a day’s break and the final Sunday of 2020 is the 27th. Keep all that in mind.
- The huge pine in the wires at the parsonage along with the dying ash tree have been removed and stumps ground. Hopefully, no more ice storm worries.
Tori and Tessa:
The girls are getting wooly. Dad hasn’t gotten out the clippers for a bit. But they are chipper and happy. Mom puts on about 2-3 miles with both per day and another 2 with Tessa by herself. She’s got boundless energy. Tessa “wears” her winter coat all the time, but Tori gets a jacket on cold days. She likes it as it makes her feel safe and special. Red has always been her favorite color. Festive, you know. Right now both are settling down for the equivalent of: “a long winter’s nap” by lying in the sunbeam as it journey’s through the windows. We can all learn from that. Time marches on and why not enjoy it in languid sunshine? One thought: Where would we be with the sun to warm our bodies and the Son of righteousness to warm our souls? Sometimes dogs are smarter than we are……
This morning my WSJ had an article about: “Covid Fatigue.” I could add: Election Fatigue, Hurricane Fatigue, Winter might come early Fatigue, and a whole host of other ones! What’s going on in the world? Everyone longs to “get back to normal.” But will we ever have “normal” again? Last night I read a brief article on “mask fatigue” and the view of some that we’ll have mask wear with us throughout the foreseeable future! ARGGH!
No human being can prophesy the future apart from God. But some do a pretty good job of reading history and extrapolating trends for the future. One such book is called: “The Fourth Turning” written years ago by: Strauss and Howe. Their premise is that history is cyclical and in general terms repeats itself over time. The time of those “repeats” is about 75 years mirroring the seasons of: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. In America they would mirror: The Revolution to the Civil War (Spring), The Civil war to the Depression (Summer) and WWII, the Depression to about 1990 (Fall), and then the final turning of societal cycles through current times. We live in this 4th turning currently, or Winter in their view. This is when a nation totally changes and is a time of upheaval. All the societal “norms” are questioned and upended—political, financial, and cultural. And finally a new Spring “time” emerges of positivity. If they are right, and I think they are, it will be (is) a roller-coaster ride! No wonder we all feel as if our moorings have been pulled out from under us….Their book is intriguing, disquieting, and a bit scary.
Currently, I long for good news. I’m totally sick of bad news. I want to emerge from the chaos and discord of darkness and walk out onto that “warm, sunlit upland” that Churchill once spoke of. And that is exactly where the Christian Church fills the void!
Good news. That’s the meaning of the Gospel, the good news of salvation in Christ. It comes from the Greek word “euangellion” or evangel. It means the good news that the angels spoke concerning the birth of Christ and the salvation He earned for all people. Evangelize means to speak and share this good news. It means to get people to turn from darkness into God’s marvelous light. Or to venture out of the foreboding woods into that “warm, sunlit upland.” That upland is ultimately heaven, and God’s grace in Christ is what propels us onward and upward.
Change can be good and/or bad. Right now, most of us are conflicted over the status of the world. Covid has made this disquiet worse. The media has piled on by accentuating the negative and following their age-old dictum: “If it bleeds, it leads.” I want good news! I want to hear of families that work, of people that care for others and seek to build up instead of tear down. So do you. And Church is the place to find it. For we have the ultimate in Good News! News that always uplifts, forgives, and comforts us. So, hold on to Jesus, better yet, have Him hold on to you amid the maelstrom. For Spring will come, the birds will happily sing, and the spring zephyrs will sooth your woes. Christ makes it so….
Pastor Thomas H. Fox
Remote services go forward. The holidays (if we escape another lockdown) should be interesting! Attendance is slowly creeping upward. Aside from Columbus Day weekend we averaged close to 50 for October. Giving was about $10,600. We’re holding our own thanks to your faithfulness. Today I got news from the synod that they are, too. Good News!
No one directly connected with the church has contracted Covid. More good news! Although A. J. Hafner’s father in Chicago still remains hospitalized with it. Pray for him.
We will have Thanksgiving Eve service on Wednesday November 25th at: 7:30 p.m. If you cannot have a bunch of folks for a group meal, it means that the cook will have less work to do at your home. Good News for them.
Today it is still snowing and I’m grateful we spend 2 weeks cleaning, sorting stuff, and painting the garage and shed. The snow shovels were easier to find. Also, the garage door hardware and cables, springs, and pulleys needed an overhaul. This was done earlier this week before the snow and cold. Timing is everything.
TORI AND TESSA are having a great time today playing in the snow! Tori hates the cold rain and the gloomy clouds. She’s a sun worshipper! Tessa doesn’t care about the weather and just is fun-loving and excited about smells. So today, both were crazy running, rolling, and shoveling snow (Tessa) with her nose! I think we can learn something from them about lemonade from lemons.—I’m going to try remembering that as I go out shortly and chip away at the driveways. BTW: It’s a good thing the paving project is waiting for Spring. It doesn’t appear to be a great Fall for it. Timing, timing.
One last bit of info: Last Saturday around noon I walked out the back door of the hall. I saw movement straight ahead and a big doe and a 6 point buck ambled off toward the neighbor’s woods behind the hall. Who says we live in the city?…
Genesis 1:27 states: “so God created man in his own image.” What does that mean? We’ve always taught (correctly so) that it means we were created without sin, without any evil afflicting or affecting us. We were perfect in every way. However, I’m beginning to think that there is more to it than that. We also were created as sensory beings. Humans have 5 senses: smell, taste, touch, hearing, and seeing. So, we have a nose, taste buds, sensory touch receptors, ears, and eyes. The animals share in these things, too. Why? Why did God give us such important gifts? Why did He dream them up? I’m beginning to think that they are an integral part of God, His image, as well.
We know that God “sees” things here on earth and beyond. Recall Sodom and Gomorrah, where God speaks of going down to earth and “seeing” their evil. Likewise, God “hears” things, such as the prayers of His faithful. I can think of the passage: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” That’s talking about grace and the sacraments of blessing, but conversely, it argues for God being about to relate to our ability to “taste.” Smell? “Let my prayers be set before Thee as incense.” Incense smells good. Does God smell sweet, aromas? Apparently, yes. I cannot find a specific passage about “touch.” But He does touch our souls with His grace, so again, I believe you can say He relates to our sense of touch because He also possesses it.
Now, theologians have a fancy term to help us understand all this. It’s called: Scripture employs “anthropomorphic” language. That is, man centered language that descriptively applies man “stuff” to God, in order to help us relate to Him. So, does God have eyes, a nose, a mouth and tongue, ears, and skin receptors? No. He’s a Spirit being. But then, God intimately knows all about senses, gave them to us, and relates to them. Is that because He possesses such ability innately? I would say: Yes. Getting back to Genesis, that also is part of the “image of God.”
I’ve read that smell is the most powerful sense. Thinking back to my youth, when everyone raked the Fall leaves into the gutter on the street and then burned them, that burning leaves aroma immediately returns whenever I think about it. Also, Sunday roast beef permeating the house after church is truly unforgettable.
We possess all sorts of taste buds in our mouth. They change a bit over time, too. That’s why as you get older, you tend to like pickles, “bitter,” more than just sweets. Our hearing stems from little crystals within the eardrum that vibrate and pick up sound. What would life be like with no sounds to fill our heads? Eyes are obvious. Colors, shades, shapes and the interplay of light are vital for enjoying life. They enrich and help keep us from danger. And as for touch, well, a loving touch is truly a gift from God. It evokes joy and calmness. Whereas a sharp slap does the opposite.
I write all this because to me it means that we have a God Who can truly relate to us. He’s not some distant Entity. He’s literally “up close and personal.” And if you downplay God’s sensory abilities, just remember that once Jesus was born and assumed our flesh, all our senses were taken into the Godhead, too. But personally, I believe that they were already there and I find that comforting….Pastor Thomas H. Fox Sept. 30, 2020
September was a busy month around the church The weather was fabulous for working outdoors. So. We finished oil staining the parsonage deck in two coats. Hooray! I also oil stained the back of the parsonage after giving it a really good scrape. The trustees, on the heels of taking down and redoing the old, rotted church portico, redid the soffit and fascia on the back of the house with non-rotting materials. It looks terrific! The Pastor also engaged in various minor repairs on the outside of the parsonage. (My muscles got a work-out!) The trustees were active and are appreciated.
At a voter’s meeting we agreed to repave the entirety of the asphalt at a cost of: $62,000. The paver’s schedule has filled up, so this will occur in the Spring. Also, this fall the dying ash tree in front of the parsonage and the white pine in the wires will be removed by a tree service.
Speaking of projects, ON SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3RD WE WILL HAVE THE CHURCH CLEAN-UP FROM ABOUT 9 TIL NOONISH. We need everyone of all ages!!! So come, even for a few hours, if you can.
Sunday School is progressing along with Bible Class. The new arrangement of the hall facilitates social distancing, etc. Sorry, no food after church until the governor gives the go-ahead. Confirmation classes will be held on Wednesday’s from 4 til 5 starting on the 7th.
Everyone is healthy for now. Fred Laffin has eye issues, loss of sight, in one eye that the doctors are analyzing, and also will have knee surgery later this month. Our prayers are with him. The shut-ins are o.k. as of last check. Although, like you, they long for a covid-free life and all that goes with it.
Also, congratulations to Derrick and Camile Ward as they are expecting in late March.
Giving for September was approximately: $11,400. God is good. Additionally, some of the Live-Streaming equipment has been installed and the “crew” is working logistical kinks. Many of our churches have gone with live-streaming. The only negative is that some folks are tempted to use it instead of attending regular services. I remind all: in person participation is still the best! “Let us not forsake the ASSEMBLING of our ourselves together, as the manner of some is.”
One last item: this week the organ repair folks came back to install the big item they repaired in the great organ. It sounds great.
TORI AND TESSA:
Our oldest member really likes Tessa and Tori stories in this venue. Here’s a new one:
Tori has always been a fastidious little dog. She hates getting wet and makes us take her out with an umbrella when it rains—covering her, not us. Meanwhile, Tessa just plows through all kinds of weather. Anyway, they tacitly accept baths, but don’t like it when Papa digs out the clippers! Tori resigns herself to it, but afterwards likes looking prim and proper. Tessa fights it at every turn. And then races around when it’s all done. ‘The girls’ are very opposite—Tomboy Tessa and Fastidious Tori. Ah, life goes on.
Why do we call it: Labor Day? Shouldn’t it be: Labor-Free Day? But, truth-be-told AND if you grew up in a work-ethic household, you probably labored a lot on that holiday weekend.
A couple of years ago I wrote a lengthy newsletter on trichotomy vs. dichotomy. You can hold to either position and still be a good Christian. But I concluded that I support the trichotomist position. The former (dichotomy) says that humans are comprised of a body and a soul. The later (trichotomy) says that we are: body, soul, and spirit. References to both are found throughout Scripture. So, what does all this have to do with Labor Day?
Obviously, we all possess a body. We have skin (the largest organ in the body), bones, tendons, organs, muscles, and the like. We all try to take care of our bodies, too. We exercise, walk, eat in a healthy manner, get our rest to rejuvenate the body, and even relax so as to help it heal. I guess Labor Day is about doing so in most people’s minds.
When it comes to our souls, what do we do to rejuvenate and take care of that vital part of us? After all, the soul is even more important than the body in that it is eternal. Recall the passage: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word which comes from the mouth of God.” You cannot live without your soul, so you cannot let it sleep. You cannot take a break from your soul, either, unlike ceasing your work-out regime. The soul is just “there” and always laboring. So what are you doing to strengthen your soul? Are you feeding it with God’s Word regularly? Are you communing regularly? Are you praying regularly?—Asking God to protect and defend you from Satanic attacks? God’s Word is the original “soul food.” Use it. That’s what Christ says in the above passage.
Then we come to our spirit. Everyone has a spirit. It’s the unseen aspect of our being that animates us giving us: drive and a purpose in life. I would say it has emotional components. Your spirit helps you to be happy, content, and grateful. Sometimes your spirit feels overwhelmed, listless, or sad. Let’s face it, if you feel stuck-in-the-mud on certain days, it’s because your spirit has run out of gas! When people die “their spirit departs from them.” Your spirit is really what makes you, you. A person. A unique creation of God. How all three of these components: body, soul, and spirit work together and are intertwined is a great mystery and also a gift from God. They make human life unique.
So, what can we do to enhance them, or at least prolong our lives in a better way? Labor Day should be about resting the body, the soul, and the spirit. But rest for the body gets all the attention, doesn’t it? So, how about calming the soul through daily prayer? How about “restoring the soul” Ps. 23, through ongoing worship and home devotions—along with pondering our blessings? These “enhancers” spill over into the spirit, too. That’s because the Holy Spirit works and uses them to uplift our spirits. This spiritual link with Him began when you were converted (probably that means your baptism for most of you). Thereby He drew you into a oneness with God. Faith in Christ has pulled you into God’s spiritual realm.
All of us have times when our spirit is broken, or close to it. Do you even think about the fact that rest for the spirit is even more vital than rest for the body? The Greater Spirit doesn’t want us to cut ourselves off from His vitality! He can and does repair us because He’s also our Maker, Preserver, and Comforter. In short, He knows what to do and how to do it to make us “right” again.
For most, Labor Day in America means rest for the body. That’s fine, well, and good. But people need rest for their soul, and rest for their spirit, too. In fact, I would submit that that kind of rest is even more important. Alas, it is usually forgotten and overlooked until we become dried up husks internally. God’s prescription to prevent this from happening is the same today as it was during Christ’s time. “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word which comes from the mouth of God.” So, this Labor Day weekend, don’t just eat the food off the grill, but the Divine food that sustains forever. Be a new you! Our wise God makes it all possible….For nothing is impossible with God.
Pastor Thomas H. Fox
- Our remote service production team: Seth Cordes and Jon Larson, are taking a break over Labor Day. It is well-deserved. They, too, are refreshing their bodies, souls, and spirits. Seth finally received the new cameras he ordered and will be installing them. That, along with other AV equipment will cost approximately $10,000 when it’s all in place. What a blessing.
- The trustees are finished work on repairing the front entrance area. Cost was minimal (mainly the dumpster fee). They will plan on fixing the fascia and soffit on the back of the parsonage at minimal cost, as well.
- Hooray! The parsonage deck is now fully stained!
- Everything starts up again on the 13th. Bible study will be starting a new book of the New Testament.
- Esther Lowrey, our oldest member, has her 93rd birthday over Labor Day weekend. Best wishes to her and God’s continued blessings.
- We had one Sunday in August where more than 50 were in attendance. We looked like we had our church back. Let’s keep it going. Or as the old hymn line says: “There still is room!”
- Giving for August was over $11,000. Regular, weekly, make-up giving is a huge blessing!
- On the 13th we will also have a voter’s meeting on asphalting the drives and parking lot. We have three quotes.
- The Fall clean-up should be held in early October. We’ll keep you apprised.