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Posts Tagged ‘love’

Story by Brett Holmes, Pastoral Resident, 2016-2018. Photos by Susan Brown and Janet Chase.

One of my favorite movies from last year was Lady Bird, a coming-of-age comedy starring Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (although one would be forgiven for assuming it is a biopic about the former First Lady). The film follows Lady Bird through her senior year at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California and is a hilarious, heart-breaking and beautiful picture of teenage life in the early 2000s.

The story invites us into her world. Part of that world is her experiences as a senior in high school, particularly the anxiety of applying to colleges. Lady Bird desires to attend a college on the East Coast because it will allow her to get out of the staunch, soul-sucking Sacramento that she’s called home her entire life.

In one scene late in the movie, Lady Bird is meeting with the Vice Principal, Sister Sarah, to discuss an earlier incident, but the scene turns when Sister Sarah tells Lady Bird that she read her college essay.

Sister Sarah looks at Lady Bird and tells her she can see in her writing that she clearly loves Sacramento. Confused, Lady Bird asks, “I do?” Sister Sarah says, “Well, you write about Sacramento so affectionately and with such care,” to which Lady Bird deflects by saying, “I was just describing it.” Sister Sarah responds, “It comes across as love.” Lady Bird comments, “Sure, I guess I pay attention.” And, it’s here that Sister Sarah begins to home in on her message: “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”

Love and attention. Perhaps these are two sides of the same coin. When I first saw this scene, I wanted to rewind it—I wanted to listen carefully to those words from Sister Sarah all over again: “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?” Those words played in my head like a broken record for weeks after seeing the movie.

As my time at Richmond’s First Baptist Church draws to a close, I am reminded of these words. I am reminded that love and attention are so closely related that they might just be the same thing. During my time in Richmond I have been shown a lot of love and a lot of attention, but more than that I have been taught what it means to pay close attention to the lives of God’s people.

Throughout my (almost) two years as the Pastoral Resident, I have been invited into homes, hospital rooms, Sunday school rooms, but most importantly into relationships with countless loving people who call First Baptist their church home. I have had the opportunity to teach, preach, pray, cry, celebrate, and eat meals with so many wonderful people.

Love and Attention

During these last two years I have grown into a pastor because the people of First Baptist granted me the space to learn. I remember the first time I stood in the pulpit to preach and looked out at a congregation eager to give this young pastor a good ear. I remember being asked to lead retreats and getting the opportunity to invite people into the strange and beautiful mystery that is prayer. I remember going with the Lambs class to the annual Virginia Baptist Special Needs Retreat at Eagle Eyrie and how, for the one weekend in October, I was given a glimpse into their genuine love for God. I remember the overwhelming impossibility of remembering everyone’s name and having to accept that my most repeated phrase of my first year was, “I’m sorry, please remind me your name.” Yet, in spite of that you each welcomed me, loved me, and generously helped me along.

Ministry can be a daunting task. I recall early on during my time here talking with a member of the Young Professionals Sunday school class and thinking, “Why do these people trust me to answer life’s most difficult questions? What can I say that can be worth anything?” Slowly, though, that anxiety left because I began to realize (and see) that my job is not to have the answers, but to sit with the questions—to wrestle, to be present, to pay attention.

This is perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about ministry. I want to have all the answers and I want to fix problems. Yet, as Henri Nouwen said, “Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one’s own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but do not know how.” What I’ve learned about ministry at First Baptist is to pay attention to the lives of everyone around me and to pay attention to what God is doing because “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”

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Home Is Everywhere.

Story and photos by Skyler Cumbia.

Not often do we think about what home means. It means different things to different people, I suppose. To some, it is the house they grew up in. To others, it is the state they are from. And yet to others, it is wherever their shoes reside.

During the past year or so, I’ve struggled with defining “home” for myself. Whenever I returned to the States from being in another country, I would have so many mixed emotions. Only now have I begun to sort through those feelings. Even so, it is still hard.

Home Is EverywhereI almost feel I have done a disservice to people by telling them my at-the-time feelings. It’s hard to relate deep-down feelings associated with a trip; nor is it easy to simply share your soul with everyone you pass in the hall at church. Had I not truly learned valuable lessons, it would have been easy to relate every feeling and facet of my trips, but because of incredible and personal things God showed me, it was difficult to do them justice.

We are similar to trees. Their trunks, along with every branch and twig, are visible to the observer, but the most important part of the tree is underground, unseen. Like trees, as we grow spiritually, our roots grow. To share some of those spiritual lessons and personal experiences is like exposing your roots for all to see – vulnerable and uncomfortable, even painful.

Home Is EverywhereMany have asked me to recount the most memorable moments of my time abroad. I tell them some cool stories or list some pretty wacky foods that I ingested, but who am I to say that one thing I did was more important than another? No act of service is seen as greater than any other, in God’s eyes at least. But in man’s eyes there is no lack of praise for one like me – world traveler, teacher, missionary, etc. People are quick and ready to pat me on the back and wish me well, but what I’ve found to be true over the past year is that I am no better than the smallest GA giving her 25 cents to the missions offering. In the grand scheme of things, God doesn’t care about how many countries I’ve been to, what crazy foods I’ve eaten, or how many people I’ve prayed for. He cares about the motives behind my actions. As stated in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” God only cares about the love for Him and for others that I demonstrate every day. I can travel all over the world and do all of these things, but if I don’t truly love God and love others, I will never be effective.

Here are some important things I discovered while abroad.

Home Is Everywhere1. We can never pray enough. We have a tendency to become “regulars” at the drive-thru of prayer. We expect God to know our order and then we just leave. He wants to have a strong and hearty relationship with us, not one based on sides and sauces. One way to build this type of relationship is to ask God questions. Unlike humans, God does not get tired of our endless questions. He wants to have in-depth conversations with us. In my experience, life becomes clearer and more meaningful when I talk to God often. Sometimes I don’t even say “amen” because I feel like it allows the conversation to continue throughout the day. “Amen” seems so final.

2. Love appears in ways we do not expect. I learned that love isn’t always as it appears. In my blog, I described an experience I had with a child in Haiti. In that story I related the amazing ability of God to completely change my view of that little boy. I learned love can be found anywhere. And often it’s not the act that defines it, but the absence of action. When we are called to love those who are hard to love, it is nearly impossible to turn straight to love. First we have to stop being annoyed by them. We have to create the absence of that emotion before we can put anything else in its place. We’re often overwhelmed with God’s commands and don’t know where to start obeying. Well, that is one place to start.

3. Peace can exist anywhere, and in any situation. We can be surrounded by agitating events and still be at peace. In the same way, we can be in a relaxed environment and not feel at peace. Peace is a state in which we are aware of life’s difficulties, but are also keenly aware of God’s presence and we intentionally trust our past, present and future to Him.

So, one last thought.

We would do well to remember where our true home lies. Sometimes I think we put too much stock in our physical environment. Our setting often dictates our attitudes toward others and life in general. If we allow God to control our response to our surroundings, we can feel at home anywhere. In the process of discovering this, I struggled with knowing where my true home was. I knew where I was from, but these countries had also become such a part of me. I finally had to realize that none of these places is my true home. Heaven is my home. My true and final resting place.

But while I am still roaming this earth, home, to me, is anywhere my feet and my family – biological or spiritual – reside. Home is where God is. Which is, well … everywhere.

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Anna, a social work student serving wtih CHSVA, coordinated the suitcase drive with Candi Brown, FBC’s Minister to Children. Candi previously worked for CHSVA. Photo by Janet Chase.

The Children’s Home Society of Virginia (CHSVA) works with local social service agencies that provide services for children in foster care. As these children are moved from one facility to another, they often have only trash bags to “pack” their belongings in. FBC’s suitcase drive collected more than 32 suitcases and duffel bags so the kids in our area will have something permanent to use as they transition.

If you are interested in participating in this effort, look in the Sunday Morning News and the Wednesday Night News for information on a drive next fall.

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(L-R) Becky Payne and Doris Pittman were among 30 FBC staff members who helped prepare gifts in December.

A Mixteca family enjoying their gifts.

Thirty members of the FBC staff spent a morning in December stuffing Christmas stockings, wrapping gifts, writing cards, and assembling gift baskets for some 300 homeless, disadvantaged and disenfranchised members of the Richmond community.

The gifts went to a number of places:

  • Twenty-two Mixteca immigrant families, with 78 children in south Richmond
  • Seven families, with 10 children at Fresh Start for Single Women
  • 105 community missions clients who participated in the homeless breakfast December 20
  • 80 Grace Fellowship participants
  • Nine children at the Rosy Grier Youth Pavilion
  • and five other families.

The effort was coordinated by the Ministry of Christian Compassion. Gifts and items for the baskets were donated by church members and Weekday Preschool parents and children. Other items were purchased with money given to Community Missions.

Mary Willis, daughter of FBC member LaVora Sprinkle, is the church’s “connection” with the Mixteca community. She has been working for several years with a few dozen families in the Mixteca community who live in a trailer park in south Richmond. She teaches English and helps the families with the basic necessities of living.

The Mixteca are indigenous to the southern, Pacific coastal region of Mexico. Mary grew up speaking Spanish, the daughter of Southern Baptist missionaries. But even she often has a challenge communicating with some of the families. They have their own language. Many of them speak a tribal dialect within the Mixteca language.

In addition to the Christmas gifts, FBC has helped Mary with providing English classes, making repairs to some of the homes, and providing other assistance to the Mixteca families.

(l to r) Lindsey McClintock, Ralph Starling, Jim Somerville, Mary Willis, and Steve Blanchard delivered gifts to the Mixteca families a few days before Christmas.

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Harambee!

By Lynn Turner.

What does it mean to be “community and family” in the church? What does it mean to be “one body and one spirit” in the church? As Minister of Christian Community, I have found myself asking these questions over the past couple of months. I have been searching scripture that might lead us and provide some answers. There are many passages that speak to this, but the one I keep coming back to is Romans 15:5-7:

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

First, I note that this is a prayer. Paul asks God to give a “spirit of unity.” Often I think we assume that we have some control over whether we come together in unity, but the truth is unity is not a program, plan or project. Unity cannot be coerced or forced. Unity is a gift that comes down from our Father in heaven. So we must pray for God to grant it to us.

Do you see the word “unity” in “community”? Community is defined by Webster as a “unified body of individuals.” Somehow, I don’t think that we can have community until we have the spirit of unity that Paul prays for. The phrase “spirit of unity” translates a Greek word that means to “be of the same mind” or to be “like-minded.” The New Living Translation calls it “complete harmony.” I like that, because harmony is what results from many different people singing different parts, yet in proper relationship with each other so that a pleasing sound is produced. Every choir contains different parts. At any given moment, six different people might be singing six different notes. Yet every note has a precise relationship to every other note, so that the total sound produced is exactly what the composer intended. The result is beautiful harmony.

It is easy in the church to have many people pulling in many directions. That’s why the end of verse 5, “as you follow Jesus Christ,” is so crucial. If the source of unity is God, the focus of unity is Jesus Christ. As we follow Him, the church moves forward in perfect harmony. When Jesus is at the center of the church, we’ll all be pulling together in the same direction as we follow Him.

We pray for unity “so that with one heart and one mouth we might glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If we are to glorify God, we must do it together. It’s not as if you can glorify God your way, and I can glorify God my way, and each of us can glorify God individually and forget about everyone else. We need each other if we are going to truly glorify God by being “one heart and mouth” for the Lord.

And finally this passage concludes with these words from verse 7: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” I recently officiated at a wedding in which the bride and groom chose this scripture as the focus of the homily. It is a powerful word for a husband and wife, and it is a powerful word for the bride of Christ – the church. The Greek word translated “accept” is a long word that is very picturesque. It means to see another person and to open your arms to take that person to yourself. It implies taking someone by the hand and walking together as companions. We are to accept each other as Christ accepted us. How did He accept us? He accepted us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). He took us when we were hopeless and gave us hope. He loved us in spite of our sin and welcomed us when we did not deserve to be welcomed. This is a high standard, so high that we will never meet it in our own power. Only Christ Himself can give us strength to accept others this way.

Which brings me to my final thought: We can only be one with each other as we are individually one with God. When I am connected to God personally, keeping my focus on who God has created me to be, I then become clearer on what God has called me to do as a follower of Christ through the church. When my heart is in tune with God, I will be in tune with others who are seeking the same thing.

I am committed to the call of Christ in the work of the church. I am committed to my call of Christ in the work of THIS church. I am excited about the possibilities that God has in store for us as a congregation as we focus on Christ, so that, “With one heart and one mouth [we] … glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

May it be so with us. Harambee!

Lynn Turner (Turner@FBCRichmond.org) is the Senior Associate Pastor and coordinates the Ministry of Christian Community for Richmond’s First Baptist Church. She has been a part of the FBC staff since 1988. Lynn has a B.S. in education from Francis Marion University in South Carolina, an M.S. in Counseling from the University of Tennessee, and a Master of Arts in Religious Education from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas. Prior to coming to Richmond, she taught school, served as a guidance counselor in South Carolina and Texas, and was on staff at Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. She contributed to the book, Youth Ministry from the Ground Up, by Ken Dibble.

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