Archive for April, 2015

Story and photos by Jeannie Dortch.

The silence in me will love the divine silence.—Eckhart Tolle

My husband and I live far from the city in a community mostly inhabited by trees. Our nearest people neighbors are not visible, and, most of the time, silence is the loudest noise we hear. It is a peaceful existence in a place where we moved after our children were grown.

Walking regularly on our property brings me great joy and has offered me special moments to notice how similar and dissimilar we are to the trees that surround us. They are full of differences and idiosyncrasies too, but reside in close proximity with less enmity than we humans usually experience among ourselves. Lessons in getting along abound.

A community of peace speaks out.

A lonely leader

I have noticed that trees grow in harmony with their neighbors, no matter the species. Short, tall, fat, thin, bushy or gnarled, they touch rather than shove, bowing to accommodate when necessary. The only dominance, that of height and size, comes naturally. Pride is not an issue. Some are able to bend in adverse circumstances while others rely on their roots to keep them secure in turmoil.

People fret over the grass being greener in other places. This is not a concern in the community of trees. They flourish right where they are, scattering their seeds and letting nature do the rest. The woods are a mixture of young and old, lovers, loners, and leaders, those from big families or small, in and out of fashion, as well as in or out of others’ business. Whatever traits I see in them, however, they all seem to reveal God’s glory and display the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1).

How easily trees adapt to their surroundings, accommodating space in the most efficient way. Just this simple observation reminds me to be less selfish and shortsighted with others.

Help us learn from nature, O Lord, from the natural community you have placed around us. Busy lives steal our ability or desire to contemplate the messages you send us through trees. How can the world say, “Where is God?” when you live and demonstrate your love and justice in every plant and creature on earth, including ourselves.

When the sun reveals its majesty at daybreak, it fills me and the woods with promises of new growth, a grace free for the taking. I absorb God’s love, the trees take in His light, but all of us receive our sustenance from the same source.

Mornings spent in the woods affirm the timeless lessons in the Bible. The circle of life is mimicked from season to season in each tree’s growth rings. None of us escapes death. But God has filled the Earth with nature to whisper the wisdom of living amicably along the journey. Like a lover who carves his beloved’s initials within an etched tree heart, God has inscribed all our names on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16), a reminder that everyone and everything is His.

Below are more inhabitants of the author’s community.

A community of peace speaks out.

Fear of letting go

A community of peace speaks out.

Popping buttons

A community of peace speaks out.

A nose for news

A community of peace speaks out.

Fashion conscious

A community of peace speaks out.

The bone yard

A community of peace speaks out.


A community of peace speaks out.

Sick or well

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How to keep on living the good and beautiful lifeBy Jim Somerville.

During the Season of Lent, the members and friends of Richmond’s First Baptist Church studied a book called The Good and Beautiful Life, by James Bryan Smith. Some of them met in homes, some in Sunday school classes, some came to the Journey to the Cross services, and some did all of the above.  It was a powerful community-building exercise, and I think we all learned a great deal.

So, now what?

The original plan was this: that we would spend the Season of Lent learning about the Good and Beautiful Life, that we would spend the Season of Easter living the Good and Beautiful Life, and then spend the Season of Pentecost sharing the Good and Beautiful Life.

Learning, living, sharing.  Got it?

According to that plan we are now in the Great Fifty Days of the Easter season (April 5 through May 23), the season of living the life.  But how do we do that?  Or, rather, how do we keep on doing it?

Here’s one suggestion:

The Good and Beautiful Life is essentially a study of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.  James Bryan Smith’s premise is that in these chapters Jesus explains what life in God’s kingdom looks like and what it would take to live it.  The life of the kingdom is the good and beautiful life, Smith argues, and if we could learn to do what Jesus says we would know that.

So, try this.

In the remainder of this season, all the way up to May 24, the Day of Pentecost, try reading the Sermon on the Mount as a kind of daily devotion.  If you’re reading this on your computer, you can simply click HERE and go to a page that has the whole sermon waiting for you in the New Revised Standard Version.  Click that same link tomorrow and try reading it in a different version, the Message, or the NIV.  Maybe you could read a different version every day, just to keep it fresh.

My hope is this: that if you saturate yourself in that sermon, if you sink down into its message day after day, you will begin to live the life it describes.  You will trust God more.  You will hate others less.  You will pluck up the seed of sin before it can take root.  You will know that you are blessed.  You will be like the one who built his house on a rock.

Try it!  Live it!  And then get ready to share it.

A life like this will be too good and beautiful to keep to yourself.

 This post originally appeared in JimsBlog, the Pastor’s blog, on April 13, 2015.

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Reported by Ann Evans. Photos by Susan Beach and Billy Burford.

Ann Evans interviewed Billy Burford, past FBC Associate Pastor, Ministry of Support, for this story.

Ann Evans (AE): How did First Riders start?
Billy Burford (BB): David Beach, Charlie Finley and I had lunch and talked about getting the motorcycle riders KSU and ready to ride! of FBC, and any other motorcycle enthusiasts, together for a ride. Our first ride was in April 2007. We now regularly have riders from Second Baptist. And we have a few “celebrities” who often join us – Bruce Heilman, past president of University of Richmond, and Jim White, past editor of the Religious Herald.

KSU and ready to ride!AE: What is the goal of First Riders?
BB: To enjoy God’s creation, to experience the freedom of riding a motorcycle, and to have fellowship. In addition to having a good ride with fellow bikers, we also help support Kingdom events like readying Camp Alkulana for summer (Richmond Baptist Association’s camp for low-income and at-risk children) and Thunder in the Hills (an annual Christian motorcycle weekend retreat).

AE: When are the rides?
BB:  The third Saturday of each month from April to October. We normally meet in First Baptist Church Robinson Street parking lot at 9:30 am with five or six bikers KSU and ready to ride by 10 am.

KSU and ready to ride!AE: Where do you ride?
BB: Anywhere there’s a road!

While the rides meander through Virginia’s beautiful scenery and stop to enjoy great local food, we do visit interesting destinations. Some recent ones include: Jamestown/Williamsburg, Graves Mountain, Urbanna, Carl’s Ice Cream Shop in Fredericksburg, Fort Monroe, and the “five and dime” ride (Rt 5 and Rt 10) to the Surry Ferry.

KSU and ready to ride!Editor’s Note: For more information contact Carl Evans: 804-795-1545. For anyone interested in learning to ride a motorcycle, there are First Riders available to help you pass your VA motorcycle license requirements.

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