Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas after stuff

We began the process of decorating for Christmas at the church I pastor on the first of November, although we didn't light any of them until the Sunday after Thanksgiving. And our decorations at home began the day after Thanksgiving. Both inside and out, at home and church. We expanded our vision at the church, and had an array of lights and displays at the church, in addition to the inside. Pretty massive for a small church, and I was involved in a good bit of it. And our home lights and trees, deer, and snowmen, wreaths, etc, was a pretty good bit of work also. My wife takes the credit for most of the interior, and I helped her with the outside.

In addition to this, all the parties, events, and activities of church and family during the holidays is a lot of fun, but also can be tiring. And did I mention the food, and cakes, and the candy?! Needless to say, everything has left us exhausted (and fattened, lol)!

My wife posted on facebook that she loved putting the decorations up, but hated taking them down. She got a lot of response from others who concurred. We enjoy the preparations for and the times of, but are left with a tiredness that carries over for a few days, doesn't it? This week Trish and I have been taking down the decorations at home, and we will take them down at the church tonight. I'll be glad to get it all over with!

We had a great Christmas! Always enjoy our family time, and our church functions and fellowships. And I am now getting ready for the New Year. I actually began thinking about some things in November that I want to accomplish in 2010, but have had them on the back burner until now. So I've got to get my body in alignment with my spirit.

Wishing you a Happy and Blessed New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Missing faces and empty places

I am like a child at Christmas time. Although I am in my mid fifties, I enjoy the holiday now as much, or more, than ever. I love celebrating Christ's birth, and giving honor to my Savior. I love the church gatherings, the Christmas play, and blessing those in need. And I love our family time.

It is barely 6 a.m. as I write this morning, on Christmas Eve. I have already been awake for an hour, and am too excited to sleep. The stockings are hung, the tree is decorated. Gifts are underneath. In the morning Trish and I will wait for our kids to arrive. Three sons, and one daughter, all grown. One grandchild, five years old Zachary. The hung stockings are for Zach, myself (Paw Paw), and Trish (Maw Maw). The family will gather here at our home in the morning. They should all be here somewhere around 10 a.m. Well, not all. One family member will be missing when we sit down for Christmas dinner later.

Tonight at 6 p.m. we will gather across the road at mom and dad's house. My brothers and sisters will be there, their spouses, and children. It is always a house full. We will eat and open presents. It is a family tradition at Christmas time. Not sure who will make it, and who will not be able to. I do know of one face who will be missing.

My excitement and joy is tempered somewhat by the missing faces and empty places. My dad passed away in March after battling for a year with cancer. Dad's place will be empty. I am sure someone will probably be sitting in his recliner. But they wont be sitting in his seat. No one can take his place. He was the patriarch. Imperfect, he would tell you. But he taught us to work, and to treat people fairly. My brothers have a thriving business that is due to his hard work. I am the first born. I remember when the family had nothing, and mom and dad struggled. I remember not having a coat to wear to school. But daddy sacrificed for the home and family. Dad loved Jesus, and is now with him. I have peace in that. But I miss him.

Micheal, my son in law, passed away in July to a four year battle with lymphoma cancer. He had so much going for him, and he was so young. Loved God with all his heart. He was a fire fighter, and served the city of Charlotte as a building inspector. One year to the day he and Tina were wed, they discovered Michael had cancer. Over the next 4 years, treatment, more treatment. Encouraging news, discouraging news. Two stem cell transplants. Michael and Tina struggled, but they kept believing. But it was not to be. Michael's place will be empty. He will not be sitting on the couch talking to Dwayne and watching one of the football games. He will not be playing with Zach. And although it has now been several years since, my wife's mom also passed away after battling cancer. Mary is now with Jesus. Sadly, Trish's family scattered after the death of her mom, and has never been the same.

Going through some pictures on my computer this morning, I ran across one where dad was being presented a trophy by me at our first church car show, in 2008. Daddy's passion was cars. He entered 10 or so, not because he wanted to win a trophy, but to help our church out. It was a fundraiser. Another picture is of Michael. He is wearing a T shirt. You can faintly see the words "Arrgh you ready?" What you can't see is the lower line, which says, "For a cure." The occasion was at our 2007 participation in the Cancer Society Relay for Life. Our church participated, and raised over $1500 for the cause. Our slogan was "Ready for a cure" and we did the Pirate theme. Michael was an avid supporter of the cause.

I know I'm going to enjoy the celebrations with family. And I am not sure if I will say anything about missing them. It is too painful. Mom is lonely, and struggles. Tina (my daughter) has good days and bad days. I don't want to say or do anything that will make what I know to be a difficult time for them even more so. And I am hesitant to write, for I know my daughter will sometimes read my blogs. But I wanted to write this for others, who like us, will find themselves both laughing and crying this Christmas...

Because of missing faces and empty places.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have I told you lately that I love you?

I awoke with the song melody going through my head "Have I told you lately that I love you? Could I tell you once again somehow? Have I told with all my heart and soul how I adore you? Well darlin', I'm telling you now." I am sure the reason the old song came to my mind was because of this special day...

Today I celebrate my wedding anniversary with the love of my life and my best friend. Trish is a gift from God to me, and I am so blessed to have her in my life. I could not imagine it without her. We married way too young, not out of necessity, but out of love itself. Our marriage has withstood many trials and tests during the years, and her commitment has been the backbone of it.

I want to tell you about what marriage can and should be. A marriage that survives the storms is one whose trust is God, and whose love is committed and faithful. Having stated this, I want to tell you that there are no perfect marriages. And if you are a product of a failed one, it does not make you a failure. God never gives up on you.

The word of God asks a question... "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her worth is far above precious rubies?" To answer Proverbs 31, I shout, "I DID, I DID! I found one!!"

Trish, I love you. You are the most shining example of Jesus that I have ever seen. Thank you for being you. You are a precious gift.

Happy Anniversary, Sunshine! I love you!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm taking Christ out of Christmas

I see it posted everywhere. "Keep Christ in Christmas." I have echoed the sentiments of others who raise their voices to keep Christ in the holiday that celebrates his birth. But when I think about the implications of the statement, it is really the LAST thing I want to do.

Yes, I want to continue to honor the name of Jesus. And as a Christian, I am bothered that the world we live in goes to great extent to omit his name and mention during the Christmas season. I have a problem with the secular world trying to de- Christ Christmas. "Happy Holiday" has become the norm, lest we offend. So while I stand with my brothers and sisters in Christ who are offended that he is left out of their mentions, I want to say again-- I'm taking Christ out of Christmas.

The very term Christmas means a festival, or celebration of Christ. And I get that. We should celebrate him throughout the year, not just at Christmas time. The problem is that we want to keep him in something he wants to get out of. We box Jesus into our narrow minded theology, we box him into our cultures and creeds, and we box him into our own prejudices. Jesus is ok with many believers as long as he doesn't intrude into the world they live. As long as he doesn't interrupt their schedule or affect their choices.

Church, its time to get him out of the box. He isn't in a manger any more. He is the King of Glory, residing in the hearts of those who trust him. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

Here's one preacher who is for taking Christ out of Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Apple Cider

I changed the order of our midweek service somewhat tonight. We redirected our chairs toward the Christmas tree, in a half circular setting that provided more intimacy as it brought us closer together. At the close of the teaching, I asked for people to share whatever stories might be on their hearts about Christmas. Memories were shared by those in attendance. Some cried as they told of loved ones gone on. Some told of what Christmas means to them. We laughed with some and cried with others as we listened. I promised myself as I listened that I would not forget those who told of the pain of facing a Christmas without a loved one.

In the midst of the sharing, one story leaped out. It was from a young lady, who was visiting. (I'll call her Cindy, not her real name) Cindy told of how she loves to go every year to her grandmother's house. She told of how her grandmother hangs apples on the Christmas tree. And grandma makes apple cider. Cindy said that she loves her grandma's apple cider.

As she shared with us, her excitement was contagious. As I looked in her eyes, I found myself wanting some apple cider. And I don't like apple cider at all. At least I don't think I do. It has been a while since I have tasted it. I am now wondering, thinking, pondering... I'm about to run out somewhere and buy some!

Sitting at home now, two hours later, I think about her story. And I think of how I want my relationship with Christ to be like Cindy's grandma's Christmas tree and apple cider. I want others to be excited to come to the church I pastor, hear the message I preach, love on the Jesus I love. I want them to be ready and eager to come back. I want them to know that grandma's house, I mean Jesus' house, has doors that are open any time.

Cindy sold me on apple cider. Going to go get me some!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Power of Communication

These days have presented incredible opportunities to reach the harvest fields of the world via the internet. My blog has had recent visitors from across the US, and Norway, Netherlands, Indonesia, and the D.R. Entry points have been from FB, Twitter, church website, google, yahoo, and other search engines. From a little corner of the world we can reach the world!

Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook can be great resources for furthering the advancement of the gospel. I purposely mix up sharing my faith with family and fun posts. I find that if I can first connect with people, I am provided a platform that may not exist otherwise.

I encourage pastors and leaders to take advantage. Being an expert writer or communicator is not a prerequisite (I certainly am not). Just be yourself, be real, and communicate. I follow and friend some of the great leaders and communicators of our nation, and I am inspired by their posts. I also follow some who, like me, are just a local pastor in a small town church. But their message is just as great! So, get to it. Begin writing, blogging, sharing.

Salesman are using these resources to expand their sales. Let's use them to expand the kingdom!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Decision on Decisions

After answering questions and having to make the 999,999th decision of the year, I have decided to make no more decisions. Effective immediately, all decisions are postponed or ignored until January 2, 2010. All questions will be answered with answers such as "huh?, I don't know," or just plain dumb looks. My brain is on overload and needs rest. Decisions as to what kind of cake I want are not included in the decision eliminating process.

If I forget and make a decision or answer a question, I am not liable for the consequences thereof. Yes and no really means nothing during this time.

The decision to postpone, eliminate, or just plain ignore decisions results in my 1,000,000 decision. I am now taking a nap. If you have a major crisis, you may contact my youth pastor or worship leader. These guys never have to make a decision and are just waiting for you.

If you have read this far, I hope you understand I am light heartedly joking. Most pastors can relate to overload at this time of year. I am open and available to those who need me, at all times.

Pastor Ronnie

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Christmas Card

I recognized the handwriting on the envelope immediately, as I pulled the mail from the box. It was a Christmas card. The beautiful writing addressed to my wife and I was from my mom. She always hand writes all the names and addresses. Mom has never used a computer. But unlike me, you can read her writing.

I walked slowly back across the road and to the house. I hesitated at the thought of opening the card. I knew it would be a Christmas card. She has faithfully sent them out through the years. But this would be the first year...

With tears in my eyes, I read the beautiful poem and Christmas wish. And I read the signature below, "Love, Mom." You see, this is the first Christmas card I have ever received from P.O. Box 182 without two names on it. Daddy passed away in March. His name is missing.

There's a lot of joy around the Robbins' house this year. Trish and I are staying busy. Loving God, loving our church, loving our family. But there's a couple of missing spots. Those who know us know this, and I pray will forgive me for feeling the need to write about it again. Sometimes when I feel like crying, it seems to be good therapy just to put it in words. I have been hesitant to do so because of my daughter, Tina. Her husband, Michael passed away in July. Both Dad and Michael passed away due to cancer. Tina, like mom, has some good days and some bad. But mom doesn't read my blogs. Tina does. So I try to keep my thoughts to a minimum.

You never know when just a simple thing will trigger a memory. Like a Christmas card. And we are not alone in facing a Christmas with pain and adversity. I know many of you are facing some things that make this a difficult time for you. My prayers are that the Lord will give you his divine strength. And I pray you will be surrounded by family and friends who will help you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The kids

Pumped about all the activities going on around the church. Going tomorrow night with the kids to Hollywild to see the Christmas lights. I love interacting with the little ones, and seeing the reaction to their faces as their eyes light up at the beautiful sights.

Praying everyone is blessed this Christmas season.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas Town at New Harvest Church

Work has been ongoing for the past couple of weeks on Christmas lights and decorations, both inside and outside. We have always decorated the inside, and had a few outside decorations. Several weeks back I got the vision to make various scenes and put up an extensive amount of lights. We are calling it Christmas Town. The project will actually be one of several stages, and this year will begin the first phase. We are almost through with the process now.

I underestimated the time it would take, and the funds needed to complete the project. But we just about finished the process for this year. About one more work day/night, and we should be finished, barring unforeseen problems. I overloaded two areas tonight while working, and will need to check them out. I am hoping it is only a fuse, otherwise, we will have to replace some lights and wiring. I also want to go back and install timers in every area.

I hope in the future to build upon the work and have a Bethlehem area, where various scenes would appear as it were in the time of Jesus' birth.

I'll be putting up some pics shortly.