“George of the Jungle” aka Third Time Is a Charm

My family and I were enjoying a much needed vacation at a little resort in the Virginia mountains. Not long after lunch we decided to move from the indoor water park to the outdoor area that included a wave pool and water slide.

I vaguely recall hearing a sound that resembled a gong at the very same moment I recognized a couple of colleagues who were vacationing in the same place came into sight. We were walking one direction and they were headed the other but I certain that I saw them just as that gong sounded.

I really wanted to tell my family that I had spotted them. I really, really, wanted to call out to my colleagues and say, “Hello!”, however, it was then that I realized the “gong sound” I heard was actually coming from the sign post that the side of my head had  made contact with as I walked along.

The sound was followed by a blinding bright light and I really could not understand how whole family was able to see me and grab hold of me when this light was so bright. I couldn’t see them. How could they see me? But they did. And they gently – but laughingly – led me to a place that I could sit down and assess the damage.

My vision cleared quickly and it was pretty apparent that I had suffered no lasting damage, and so I told my family that the only reason the pole and my head met was because I had seen these friends there.

“Was that before or after you smacked your head?” one of my loving, caring, daughters asked.

I didn’t answer but just let it go until we ran into…wait, bad word choice there…until we met the folks I saw a little later in the other part of the water park.

 

 

I love this story about myself, Perhaps my love for it goes back to my childhood love of the cartoon “George of the Jungle.” Perhaps I like it because it reminds me to be humble because its hard to tell when I will next make a fool of myself.

I love this story so much that I used it in my sermon this past Sunday. When church was over, Pam, my mom, and I got into the car to head to lunch. As I drove, Pam said, “You know, Scott, you have told that story before.”

“Of course I’ve told that story before,” I responded. “It’s one of my favorite stories and I have used it everywhere we lived.”

“No,” Pam continued, “you’ve told that story here in Huntington.”

“No way! I’ve only preached seven sermons here. I may not have been updating my story database but there is no way I have used the same story twice in seven weeks!”

Pam was silent.

Later that evening, as I carefully made note of the “Massanutten Head Smack” story being used TWICE at First United Methodist Church in Huntington – July 21 and August 25 – in my now very up to date story database, I could almost hear a gong…almost see a blinding light.

But I could definitely remember that there is nothing that will humble a person more completely than the act of preaching.

To Pam…thanks for setting the record straight. You were right. I was wrong. Bet that happens a couple hundred more times in our lives.

To my congregation…I’m sorry I assaulted you with the same story twice. I hope it was better the second time around.

To poles and illustrations everywhere, I pray I don’t run into you more than once. If I do, just know I will be thinking of my old hero George.

Open

 

Open 2017

Books take up the greatest amount of space on the shelves in my office. However, there is one shelf devoted to important photos, one devoted to bacon – if you have to ask, you don’t really want to know – and one that just has some special gifts given to me over the years.

One of the treasured gifts on that shelf is a a little red fire engine given to me by Dick and Jessie one December as an early Christmas present. I laughed when I opened it and I still smile every time I see it.

It was the beginning of Advent one year and to set the tone of “waiting” I wrote an article for our church newsletter that told a long and involved story about a gift I wanted as a child one Christmas. I’ll give you the short version now. I spotted a fire engine in a store one day while shopping with my Mom. I begged her to get it for me and she said something about “Maybe for Christmas.” I didn’t stop talking about that engine until one day a suspicious looking package appeared under our Christmas tree with my name on it. It was the right height, width and length for that fire engine and to keep from jinxing anything, I shut up about it till Christmas morn.

It’s important to know that at times, my family makes Christmas gift wrapping an art in and of itself. They did with this package as well. I recall at least three layers of wrapping paper that were all covered in shipping tape under the outer layer of tissue paper. It was frustrating to open and I spent a good deal of time trying to rip into it. I remember writing about this:

“Even my older brother started to feel sorry for me and gave me a hand in opening this present. He helped me rip, pull and tear on that package. And then, when all the wrapping and tape lay in a heap around us… Well, I think I am just going to save the end of this story for Christmas Eve. Join us in worship then and I will tell the rest.

And I ended the article that way.

On December 22nd, Jessie and Dick stopped by to see me with a gift. They asked me to open it right then and sure enough it was a fire engine with a card that said, “Every little boy deserves to get the gift they really want, sometimes.”

I explained to them that I did indeed get the gift I wanted that Christmas many years ago and that I had told the story the way I did to get us all in the spirit of “waiting”. We all had a huge laugh about it and I cherish that engine even more than the original. (Well, at least it lasted longer. Seven year old boys can destroy toys in no time. A book shelf is pretty safe.)

That second engine was much easier to open too. I think that was because the givers of the gift thought I had waited long enough and they wanted to make things as simple as possible for me to receive this gift.

These days I pray that I have their eyes during Advent every year. I know the greatest gift some people could ever have this Christmas. I pray that the Spirit leads and I find just the right way to wrap it up and pass it on.

Thank you, Jessie and Dick! You’ve made every Advent, every Christmas special to this little boy, uhm, pastor.

Peace,

Scott

#RethinkChurch

#UnwrapChristmas

Neophyte

Okay. This is new and different for me. I am using my new ReMarkable tablet to write and create posts, however, the best I can do right now is post a picture of what I create. Although I appreciate comments, you can hold them about my penmanship. It will take you longer to read, but that is what experiments are all about. I’ll figure this out or some gifted reader will give me a tip.

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Neophyte

As the Palm Branches Dry…

I haven’t posted in a very long time, but really hope to do so each day of Holy Week this year. This first is a reflection on Palm Sunday, both then and now.

When I heard he was arriving in Jerusalem, I was curious but doubtful. We had heard stories of deliverance our whole lives, knew we were the chosen people of Yahweh, but it was always hard to believe that it would happen again. That was especially true because of the Romans. They terrorized us into submission. Their might and power was everywhere we turned and most of us lived our lives in constant fear – not that something big would happen – but simply that one or two soldiers would get it in their minds that someone needed to pay.

And we paid. Our families paid. Our children paid with their very lives.

So, I was doubtful when I heard rumors that someone who would be our new king was entering Jerusalem. My curiosity was fueled as I heard more stories about him. He had a band of followers. Among them was one we knew fought against the Romans.  This known freedom fighter was the treasurer of the group. I heard that great crowds followed him in the country sides and I knew, I knew that if anyone could save us from the powers that be, it would be someone who brought so many big crowds of people together. It was the only way to overthrow our oppressors.

So I joined the crowd that welcomed him to the city that day.

I expected guards with armor to be beside him. I expected weapons in the hand of every citizen of Jerusalem. I expected royalty.

palm branchBut he came riding a donkey. Children surrounded him. People waved palm branches, not weapons. But still we cried out Hosanna and welcome to the one people said would deliver us. I got caught up in the moment. I got caught up in my dreams for freedom and safety and I joined the crowd in greeting him.

As I look back on that day, I also hear stories of how the one we knew, Judas. Apparently Judas turned him over to the authorities in hopes that this would cause an insurrection. Yes, there was money involved and maybe because of that Judas was said to be his great betrayer. That may be true. It may be.

But I also know that everyone who stood, everyone who gathered to shout hosanna, also betrayed this King. They betrayed him with their expectations. They betrayed him with their desire for safety. They betrayed him with their lust for revenge.

This man, Jesus, came to save us. But he did so by turning the world of power upside down. Where we cried out for power, he gave of himself. Where we cried out for safety, he gave his very life.

They…No, not they, but I…betrayed the very one who would come to save me from myself.

Jesus met his enemy on his journey to Jerusalem. And that enemy is anyone who would make him into what they want rather than allow him and his selflessness to be Lord.

Jesus met his enemy…and the enemy is sometimes the very one who shouts Hosanna!

Clara “Greer” Kincaid – A Living Servant

Clara “Greer” Kincaid

Greer Kincaid was released from the hospital several weeks after being hit by a truck as she crossed Route 61 on her way to take one of her many daily strolls. Not many people survive getting hit by a truck. I only have known one person over seventy-five to have done so – and that was Greer.

I could tell you – in a funny and entertaining way – I hope, of the way that this post “pedestrian-versus-pick-up-septuagenarian” actually walked faster than me up Johnson Branch hollow. However, that story is not what I want to remember about Greer.

I could also tell you about – in an equally entertaining and humorous manner – of the time Greer mistook a couple of bear cubs for “big puppies” on one of those walks. But yet again, that is not what I really want to remember.

I can’t forget those things because they are very much a part of who this lady is in God’s Kingdom. She is a plucky, lucky, hard-working, grace filled, able to laugh at herself kind of servant. But the key word in story I would tell about Greer is that she is a servant.

I remember more vividly, the many times she would walk to my neighbor across the street and knock on the door until two little boys showed up in clothes she had bought them for church. She would walk them to church. She would give them a treat. She would often send those same boys home with some food. Greer is a servant.

I remember more clearly the numerous occasions that Greer would stop at another neighbor’s house – a house where someone lived who wasn’t that respected in the community. The disrespect came from some habits involving the imbibing of certain liquids. Greer didn’t pay much attention to all that. She stopped and chatted and often times shared from her garden or her canning with this person. Greer is a servant.

I will never forget the day she stopped by the parsonage with a bag of zucchini, a recipe for zucchini bread and instructions on freezing it. She also had a bag with two beautiful dresses for my daughter, Leslie. The bag with the dresses included matching tights and shoes. Greer said, “I don’t get to shop for little girls all that often. I hope you don’t mind.” Mind? She served this pastor who struggled as a single Dad to make sure his daughter was well dressed. She served as she gave this single man tools that continue to serve him well in the kitchen. Greer is a servant.

If there is a person in Kincaid who was untouched by Greer Kincaid’s giving, servant heart, it is simply because she hadn’t met them.

However, I am sure that is okay because I mean it when I say that she IS a servant. As a person of the Resurrection, I know that she lives on and I have no doubt what she is doing even this day. She’s busy. She is busy serving someone.

 

Clara Kincaid, known mainly as Greer to her fellow church members, passed away earlier this year. She was over 100 years old and a blessing. The last time I was with her, she heard my voice greeting her and she said, “That’s my Scott! Oh, I’d know that voice anywhere!” 

I was asked to be present at her Memorial to be held this weekend but cannot, so I have sent this tribute to be read. Like any set of words, it doesn’t come close to capturing who she is and what she meant to me. But it will do. It will do.