Monday, November 21, 2011
BLESSING WEEK 2011
This is Thanksgiving Week - "Blessing" week. Shown in the picture are 2010 Thanksgiving Volunteers at Central Community Church (Riverside, CA, with Pastor Eric Denton).
A few days ago our North Avenue Family gathered for yet another Blessings Banquet. This year proved to be one of our larger dinners. Plentiful food, tastily prepared by the family’s many family cooks, produced a familial atmosphere of genuine caring and happiness. This blessed event left us keenly aware of blessings, abundant both long and short term.
We Warner’s arrived in Battle Creek late in August 1973, to assume leadership of then Capital Avenue Church of God. Coming from California’s Bay Area, our children thought we had landed in the jumping off place. Our move introduced us to a declining ministry at an inner-city church--a new experience.
Over three years, we saw wholesome progress and some of our most difficult times ever. Reduced mortgages, downscaled debt, and stabilized membership, signaled renewal. We purchased 10 acres in the city’s SW quadrant, and eventually sold the facility. Our relationship did not, however, prove long term, and we eventually moved on.
This November 20th, Dr. Bill Jones conducted the final service for that congregation. After about 130 years, it is now closed, sine die. I never thought I would live to see the day they closed, but they were terminally dysfunctional. Even the oldest congregation of the Church of God in Michigan is subject to such measures, and this ministry will now continue, scattered elsewhere.
Of course, I am saddened, but fifteen years into retirement, we are part of North Avenue’s family, a congregation that spun off from Capital Avenue through the "strange politics" that replaced Pastor Emma Burgess with young Henry Hartman of Kalamazoo. The recent Blessings Banquet, thereby, serves as a reminder to me of blessings too numerous to enumerate here.
Greatest of all blessings, is that so beautifully captured by Dottie Rambo, when writing, “He looked beyond my deeds, and saw my need.” That brings all of us to our knees! Good health allowed me to continue to travel several years with Michigan’s Interfaith Council on Alcohol Problems (MICAP) and give more than a dozen years in various capacities with Reformation Publishers, while becoming a care-giver. For these, I am grateful!
I am blessed by the nearly 65 years with the mate for whom I am now primary caregiver. Doctors said she would not finish the year 1948---In September 1947, Air Force Doctors gave her 3-12 months of life---but here we are … such as we are … blessed beyond measure! These have been years greatly blessed by our involvement in the North Avenue family. This marvelously loving church family of more than 400, is wonderfully shepherded by Jim and Susan Sparks, Jim (Lisa) Sirks & Dennis (Jan) Siddal.
I am also appreciative of the good works of the Capital Avenue (1st) Church over the past century. Talking to someone at church this week, I discovered "Hope’s uncle" was V. A. Wilcox who reported to the Gospel Trumpet in 1913 on his leadership at Capital Avenue. As we continue to worship at North Avenue, we want the good things that happened at Capital Avenue to continue, while avoiding the pitfalls that brought dysfunction and demise.
I have discovered in my 80+ years that God has a way of sorting out our lives. We often pay a high price for the bad judgments we make, but God sifts through the good and the bad, as much as we allow Him, and He transforms this accumulation into His creative good. God, as The Creative God, is not yet through creating.
While humanity has now learned to recycle profitably, we can take lessons from History‘s Great Recycler. The greatest lesson of the 7 last words of Christ on the cross is God’s ability to transform humanity’s worst into God’s Best. I tried to capture that thought when writing Conclusions From the Cross in 2002. It is a lesson that releases [un-dams] a fountain of blessing - when we can confess our worst, and trust ourselves to the best of His transforming re-creation.
Pastor Sparks enlarged my understanding of this when concluding his recent sermon series on David. King David was the shepherd boy become King ... a man after God’s own heart. But, how could this adulterous husband and bloody soldier be a man after God’s own heart? By daring to honestly examine himself, confess his sin, and trust in the mercies of God. “The mercies of God are always safer than the securities of humanity.”
We will continue to live in a world polluted by the violence of wars and rumors of war, says the Bible. That is our delemma. Nonetheless, reaffirms the Bible, even as the violence of the human heart escalates, the goodness of Divine Grace proves ever the more powerful (Romans 5:20).
Here and there, human hearts are being transformed and peaceful relationships continue to expand and grow, like the tiny seed of life in the womb of a pregnant mother.And for this, we can continue to be thankful to God -
“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1, KJV) - This is Warner’s World,