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It could happen in 2015

There sets before me four calendars for 2015. Never mind that more than one calendar opens the possibility of error for what is put down in one and not in another. With caution I’m making sure already planned events are in all. Not the issue, okay?

At issue for me is the observation that we have in front of us 365 days of opportunity unspoiled. People say things they didn’t mean to say. We neglect to say things we ought, and intend. So far, nothing has been said in 2015 that gives cause for sorrow, regret or embarrassment. No good or kind word of comfort or encouragement has gone wanting. So far, I’ve hurt no one’s feelings nor they mine. I haven’t lost my temper and gone off half—cocked and I haven’t told a joke that wasn’t so funny after all.

Hallelujah, I haven’t preached a sermon with an error in scripture or fact! I haven’t promised to do something that went undone. 2015 is a perfectly clean slate for all of us. This is what we might call an opportunity. It’s a precious moment. I’m not going to make a New Year’s Resolution to be perfect this go round.

I’d love to get through a year without a misdeed or misspeak, without annoying those I love and irritating anyone else. As such annual resolutions go it would rank higher than losing that unsightly tonnage that damnably requires BOTH diet and exercise! (I am sporting a new step—counting Fitbit and all the cookies and cake are almost gone. We’ll see.)

All this reminds me of the old version of the old hymn, “Faith of our Fathers.” Faith of our Father’s, we will love both friend and foe in all our strife, and teach thee too as love knows how, by kindly word and virtuous life. It could happen in 2015; it’s not been ruled out yet! Now, fellowship brunches are the first Sunday and Board meetings are the second Tuesday of every other month beginning in January, in all 4 calendars.

Glad to be your pastor,

Arnold

 
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December 2014

July 2016 seems a million years from now but it’s only 18 months away and in some ways that’s right around the corner. It’s on my mind because that’s when the Disciple Men of the United States and Canada will hold Sessions ’16, their next quadrennial meeting.

I’ve been active with that organization as a token preacher over several years and this year I agreed to help locate dynamic, encouraging, intelligent speakers. (Have you any idea how hard it is to find people with those qualities, and will make a commitment to come spend a part of their July with a bunch of other men?) Today I have met with some real success and I’m about to bust with relief and pride.

Dean Phelps is coming. He’s that fellow who was our interim regional minister, and visited us one Sunday and played his guitar. Judging by how well we responded to him I’d imagine he’ll be a hit at the big event. Alvin O. Jackson said he’d come. Dr. Jackson is senior minister of the Park Avenue Christian Church in New York, and a wonderful preacher. Some of you have visited that church and you know what I mean. Finally, Todd Adams, Associate General Minister of the Christian Church is willing to be with us and he has much to share with churchmen that will encourage them and help their churches.

This is turning out to be such a line up of fine speakers I’m even in hopes we can fill a vanload of our men to make the trip. I know everyone there will have a great experience. Besides, it’s not going to be that long a trip. Imagine our great fortune, meeting at the Texas Christian University!

And, Oh Yeah, one of those dynamic, encouraging, intelligent speakers will be with us this very Sunday. Come meet Todd Adams at 10:15, at a reception hosted by the CWF Executive Committee. Come meet our new regional minister, Pamela Holt, too. What a treat this is for us!

Glad to be your pastor,

Arnold

 
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A Pastor, and a member!

My freezer is loaded with ham parts: a little meat, some fat and a lot of bones. They’ve been saved for the cooker of butter beans I hope to make for the Bean—O—Rama. I’ll also be baking a Jam Cake with blackberries sent by my brother, Robert. At the same time I’m plotting what sort of pie will sell when we have the International Affairs Seminar’s Dessert Auction in February. None of the above is part of my job description. Then again, yes, it is. It isn’t part of my ministerial duties but it’s something I do as a member of this congregation. (Yes, I’m a member here too!)

My dear friend, Don Nutt, isn’t a member of this church but he’s an avid reader of The Duncan Christian. Often times he remarks on all the things going on around here all the time. He’s right, there’s something going on everyday. I think it surprises him I’m not in on all of it. I’ve never cooked for John 6:35 and I’ve never helped with the Christmas trees, going up or coming down. I don’t sponsor youth group events and I don’t greet folks on a Sunday morning. God forbid I become one of those preachers who sings in the choir! There are lots of things done around here and not by me. I celebrate those who do them and we’re a better church because of them.

Kelly and I make a pledge and work to honor it. Our capital commitment is about finished and most of that will become regular giving. I give over and above to things that come along. Every year a bunny cake has my name on it and if a kid’s selling cookies, rolls or soup they can sign me up. I’ve a growing RADA Cutlery collection. When we have a new cookbook (purple cover please) I’ll contribute recipes, and buy several copies. I serve on a cook team for Wednesday Unite and I take my turn on God’s Love…It’s Cookin’.

I do all the above and I do them cheerfully. I know my dinky participation adds to the whole and the whole means kids have life-transforming experiences.

It means the Gospel is shared with outreach giving. It means people are nurtured in body and soul. It means people (like Don Nutt!) have reason to come through our doors and see new reasons to come back.

Glad to be your pastor, and a member too!

Arnold

 
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A few words of praise for the Nose.

During Halloween we get a happy melancholy that comes with crisp weather and turning colors. At Thanksgiving we talk about our blessings a lot. During Christmas we’re overwhelmed by them, from those we love and the many memories of those we have loved. On New Year’s Eve we even have a sloppy drinking song whose words we may not understand but that translates well enough to our hearts. I’m impressed that many of the great memories of the “holiday season” are triggered by sights and sounds. Odds are you agree.

However, I fear the nose gets short shrift. At least for me, there are smells that do the same trick. Obviously, the aromas of evergreen and a roasting turkey, a cinnamon scented candle, nutmeg and clove. There are more common scents that touch my heart via my stubby proboscis. For one, on a cold wet day such as this I smell the coal burning fires once so common in Clarksville, Tennessee. My mind catches a whiff of a pile of fallen leaves and I sure remember the smell of them burning. In my mind there are few smells happier than a Spaulding catcher’s mitt; a leather coat can make me feel 11. Around that same time I was an involuntary scholar at the Howell Grammar School which was a few blocks from a Garrett Snuff factory. To this day fresh tobacco takes me back to a great place.

English Leather was a brand new thing and my cousin, David, and I sprayed it on ourselves until the people at Parks—Belk Department Store shooed us away. Diesel fumes may make some cough and run but I remember an adventure at the Greyhound Bus Depot in Nashville. The thought of a refinery odor makes me want nacho chips, since the first Mexican restaurant I ever went to was right near the Champlin refinery in Enid. A drive by a pulpwood mill might turn up many a nose but it takes me to Camden, Arkansas when my daughter, Kate, accepted that as the ordinary fragrance of trees cooking. It seems God blesses us with all the senses and each can add to the litany of blessings to be counted and named. How about you? What blessings can you credit to the nose God gave you?

Glad to be your pastor,

Arnold

 
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Springers & Beagle Hounds

Beagle HoundOver the past few days I’ve spent time with Georgia and Charlie, the canine members of my daughter’s family. They’re English Springer Spaniels, and credits to their breed. I love Springers, and pretty uniformly. One of the things about purebred dogs with la—dee—da pedigrees is that you almost know what you’re getting. Springers want to please you, and tend to remember what you wanted.

Foolishly, we now have Beagle Hounds, and the operative word is Hound. They don’t care to please you; they just don’t want to be caught. Still, I knew the risk before Elvis came into the building. Kelly doesn’t share my enthusiasm for purebred dogs. On principal she has a soft spot for rescue dogs of any pedigree, and none. In fact, the more starved, mangy and abused she finds them, the better. God looks at us in both ways.

God loves us when we’re fine, beautiful and well groomed. A lot of such well pedigreed folk are as hell bent to get their way as a Beagle, and God loves them, too. Though it baffles some of the clean and well kept, there is equal love for the dirty, ill kept and chronically disadvantaged. God has a special interest in the welfare of these who are Without. The Lord takes a jaundiced view of the more jaundiced attitudes we might take on the Without. God blesses us all and we bless God as we transcend the issues noted above. Let’s do that.

Glad to be your pastor,

Arnold

 
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Church Can Be Fun

Church can be such fun. For instance, this week we’ll have a dessert auction to help Britany Bailey and Conner Kinnaird go to the International Affairs Seminar in New York and Washington. I know a few guys who’ll push their friends into bidding up, getting them to pay more for more cakes and pies than they planned on. Great fun! In the bargain, our 2 youth will fly off with brand new friends to 2 of the most exciting cities on earth. How’d you like to be 17 on that trip? Fun.

Then there’s next week! Next week is Bean—O—Rama and the Gathering Hall will be full of friends and neighbors enjoying great times and great meals. (All for $7 and tickets still available, but not at the door!) I’m looking forward to baking a coconut cake and, like all the rest, that will be tons of fun.

Church is fun. It goes on all the time. There are ice cream socials and visits from Santa every year and sometimes talent/no—talent shows. Every week there’s wonderful music played and sung. On Christmas Eve we join with home folks and folks come home; we cry joyfully as we sing Silent Night. Our vans get workouts hauling youth and seniors on ski trips, mission trips, shopping trips and excursions of all kinds. So much fun. One might think having fun is what its all about.

Then there’s Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday isn’t fun; no fun at all. Ash Wednesday interrupts a perfectly good time to watch nothing on TV, do homework or pay bills. It’s a 40 minute service about sin, repentance and mortality. It reminds us our good times are balanced out with times in the hospital and visits to cemeteries. Think of it as the Christian Day of Atonement. That’s so little fun we just naturally want to pass on it. It’s inconvenient and painful.

Of course, Ash Wednesday and Lent take us with Jesus on his trip to the Cross. That might have been inconvenient and painful for him, you think? I hope as many of us as possible will inconvenience ourselves and come join one another for the Ash Wednesday service. It will be well done but I promise you it won’t be fun.

Glad to be your pastor, Arnold

 
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