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.

Outsiders Grace

I sat at the end of the bench.  If there were a spot beyond the end of the bench, I would have gladly sat there.  The floor was a thought but Coach would not allow it.  The corner at the end would just have to do.

Greg, Walter and a few others had the best seats.  They were the starters.  Their seats were empty right then simply because they were out of the floor playing the game of basketball.  It was the United Methodist Youth team v. the Baptist Youth team in the remnants of the city of Mt. Hope, sometime in February of 1977.

I probably would not remember the date very well but forty laps at a practice that week kind of burned it into my brain.  When you are the ninth man on the team, you hardly think anyone would notice that you aren’t at practice so I blew one off that week to go see “King Kong”.  (It was the 1976 version with Jessica Lang and almost any eleven year old boy might choose laps to watch Jessica Lang.)  When I showed up for the next day’s practice the coach simply asked where I was and when I fessed up to being at a movie he thought it was worth forty laps.  At least he did not make the whole team run them.  They would have finished a long time before I did and each time they would have passed me the taunting would have been unbearable.

Perhaps that is why I was hiding in the little corner on the end of the bench so well at that moment.  It was not the laps.  It was not the impending taunts.  The Coaches were way to close for any of that to take place but I knew the locker room was just a couple of short basketball periods away.  The real taunting would start then.

I had played in the game.  It was a rule in our little church league that everyone got to play one quarter.  The coaches decided to put our weaker links out on the court in the second period and I marched out with them.  I remember Coach Groves words well, “Just play good defense.  Don’t let them score too much and when you get the ball, get it to Greg.  He can work it from there.”

Well, I played pretty good defense most of the time anyway.  I was the shortest guy on our team and could often sneak around without being noticed and occasionally steal the ball.  Shooting?  Forget it?  I was about 1 for 30 from the free throw line, another place I would never stand except during those interminable practices.

basketball net

But something strange happened in that game before I found my corner of the bench.  The other team had the ball.  One of their not-so-good players took a rather wild shot and it bounced off the front of the rim like a bullet and came right towards me.  I didn’t think.  I didn’t hear Greg yelling for the ball.  I dribbled twice and worked my way into the lane and shot…

…And scored…

…For the other team.
I didn’t even wait for the Coach to pull me out when I heard the laughing Baptists congratulating me for the extra two points.  I simply walked to the bench.  Grabbed my corner and stayed there till the end of the game.  I knew the taunting would come in the locker room.  It almost always did.  Meanwhile, I sat on my little corner of the end of the bench.

Even now, I still find myself sitting on the edge of the end of a pew from time to time.  I have even caught myself moving forward on those huge cushy seats that they give preachers to perch upon during the rest of the worship service.  Every once in a while, it is a comfort to sit on the edge and wonder what kind of grace it is going to take to allow God to use me the way God wants to use me.  Trust me, I am far enough forward in my seat as I type this to feel the back wheels of the chair lifting off the ground.

Sometimes, I know that being on the outside, well, that’s the only place to find true grace.

Daily Prompt – The Outsiders