Pastor’s Letter – August 2018 July 26, 2018

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You’d never know by her modesty, but Mary Divers was with the Tampa Bay organization before the Buccaneers ever had their first player. That was in 1976.  .

In fact, Mary’s daughter, Jill has been a key player in the organization for 40 years.

Mary was born in Grayson County, Virginia and when she was six years old, her parents moved with her and her brother to North Carolina.  At UNC Greensboro, she studied music, but then got her degree in accounting.

After her start with the Buccaneers, Mary eventually wound up in Roanoke where she met her husband, Jack.  They fell head over heels in love with each other, eloped to get married one month after they met, and enjoyed a happy marriage until Jack tragically died in 1985.

Mary had the distinction of moving to Prescott, Arizona for a college degree in writing when she was 72 years young.  She used her interest in literature as a volunteer tutor in public schools, focusing on third graders. Among her greatest joys was turning reluctant kids onto a love of reading.  One of her students grew up to write a New York Times bestseller on the timely topic, A Line Becomes a Border about life as a border patrol in Texas..

Mary’s life has remained full.  For years she volunteered for the Forest Service, first in Prescott, then in Southwest Virginia when she returned to her native home.  She has a bundle of stories about her life in the park service.  (There was a period of time when he packed a pistol!)    She not only maintained and cleaned picnic sites, she also sponsored music and art shows at trail sites.

Wherever she goes, Mary has brought life.  Where she lived for several years in Damascus, Virginia (population 900), things got dull and she started a Red Hat Society that put on a number of charity events.

Mary has used her music talents by playing piano for a number of churches.  However, her arthritis has put her piano into retirement.

One of our newer members, Mary is someone you’ll be amply rewarded by getting to know.  Ask her about her connection with famous railroad photographer O. Winston Link.  pastorsign

Pastor’s Letter – July 2018 July 10, 2018

Liz

Spending some time with Liz Alls, member of Trinity since 1958, reminds me how each of us has a story to tell.  Growing up in Page County, Liz was oldest of seven children (Sue Short Kinzie of Trinity is her youngest sister.)

Liz’s father died in a automobile accident when she was 15.  She became “parent” to her younger siblings when her mother then had to go to work to support the family.

To those who knew her, it was no surprise.  Liz became a school teacher.  Liz had dreamed of being one since the first grade.  She says she would have never fulfilled her goal without the help of leaders in her small community to see she got scholarship funds to pay her way through Madison College.

She and her first husband Sid Hansbrough moved to Roanoke, compliments of Sid’s employer, N&W Railroad.  Her gifts at teaching were quickly noticed and after successful stints at several Roanoke elementary schools, she was appointed by the School Board to be a resource staff person to do on-the-job teacher training and consultation.

She capped off her long career by becoming principal of Preston Park and finally of Westside (1000 students!).  On her retirement, a huge party was thrown in her honor and then Mayor David Bowers, following a glowing tribute, announced Roanoke’s declaration of “Elizabeth Alls Day.”

Liz enjoyed an active life at Trinity as well.  She taught Sunday School for many years.  She and Sid were leaders of our youth group which during their tenure numbered around 30 kids.

With Sid’s death from cancer, Liz was a widow for 10 years before meeting her second husband Don Alls when he and his young son Donnie started attending church here.

What are the secrets of her success?  “Always being fair and honest with my kids,” she says.  “They learned I always kept my word.” “Respect for each child for their individuality,” she adds, “regardless of their grades or conduct; each had a different personality and set of needs.”

Liz also learned that in working with children around discipline, how to develop a collaborative relationship.  For a youngster creating a classroom disturbance, she’d sit down with the child, point out the problem, and say, “How are we going to solve this?”

Liz has a plethora of stories to tell from her years of experience, many of them heartwarming, funny and precious.  She is well worth getting to know.

Pastor’s Letter – June 2018 June 7, 2018

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Have you heard about the “butterfly effect”?  The great, recently deceased, mathematician Anatole Katok demonstrated how a disturbance as slight as the flapping wing of a butterfly in one region of the atmosphere may cause a major event like a hurricane in another.

 

If butterfly wings can do that, think what our every day interactions might trigger. My favorite example is a story about Ron Crawford.  When he was in Luther League as a teenager at Trinity, his youth advisor was named Zeke Newcomb.  One day, he happened to notice Ron drawing a poster for Luther League and he asked Ron what he was going to do when he grew up.  “I don’t know,” Ron replied.  “Maybe be an engineer.”  “I see that you love to draw,” said Zeke; “You might want to take a drafting class.”  So Ron did and that class led him one thing into another into his career as an architect.

Ron enjoyed great success in his field.  His firm became a premier company in the US in Senior Living Architecture.  Ron was designer of Roanoke’s Class A Brandon Oaks Retirement Center.  His firm had 13 employees when he started and it grew to having 104 offices across the country at the time he retired.  Ron’s firm built several Westminster-Century residences in Virginia, the Presbyterian Home in Richmond, and numerous other senior living sites around the country.

A single remark became a seed that produced such an incredible harvest.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?  We never know what a single act or comment might yield.pastorsign

Pastor’s Letter – April 2018 March 29, 2018

Remember “April Love” sung by Pat Boone?  What a way to describe the empty tomb of a crucified Jesus that begins our month!  With God all things are possible.  Death has been transformed into a doorway to new life.

           How fitting that this month of Love is ushered in by Easter.  In the flush of spring, our souls are awakened, our senses aroused.  Celebration is in the air.

“Come, you faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness!”  Easter – Resurrection Day – April, when God brings our dry bones together into a dance of life.  The Lord of the dance summons us, with nail-marked hands outstretched.  “Can’t dance,” you say?  Say yes anyway and let the Lord sweep you off your feet.  How wonderful it feels to be so loved that His joy is not complete without ours.

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Pastor’s Letter – March 2018 March 5, 2018

 

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Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha?  Martha’s busy in the kitchen hastily putting dinner together for Jesus and his friends. She’s working herself to a frenzy while her sister Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to him talk.

Martha finally has enough.  She bursts into the living room and demands that Jesus get her sister to come help.

“Calm down, Martha,” Jesus replies.  “Mary has chosen the better part.”

Poor Martha.  Can we not sympathize?  But aren’t we also intrigued by Jesus’ response?  What does he mean, “the better part?”  One writer says his first and last duty is to find God, see God, belong to God and everything else is secondary.

I like to think that living in the presence of God only enhances the value of everything else in our lives. It’s not like God comes first and people come second.  Rather I’m given eyes to see God in all people and in all things, bringing light to our darkness and healing where there is brokenness.

The Lenten season is a call to come home to God, to ourselves, to our purposes in life, the ultimate movement of heart and spirit.

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Pastor’s Letter – February 2018 February 8, 2018

Using a birthday analogy, February is the “push” month of our Christian pregnancy.  We have been in labor all winter long.  What sustains us through the ordeal is the anticipation of a new life to come, ready to exit the womb.  That time is near.  Our participation in the process is now called for.

And what of the labor pains?  They are known by another name: Lent.  This six-week period set aside by the church summons us to engage with what God is doing through us.  We are being challenged to exercise certain disciplines (call it prenatal training).  What disciplines?  For centuries in the life of the church, they included fasting and prayer.  In Lent we are all recruited to journey with Jesus to the birthing chamber of the Cross.  We are propelled on Good Friday through the dark tunnel of a solemn Saturday and then expelled on Easter morning as new creatures of the Risen Christ.

Resurrection is not only a promise of life beyond the “birth canal” of death.  It also renders the gift of empowerment to live fully in the present to the glory of God.  Of course, no one is without struggle, even in our state of post-Easter grace.  But now we experience pain in a different way as does a mother in childbirth.  We work with, not against, God for the joy that is to come.

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Pastor’s Letter – January 2018 January 11, 2018

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As we stand on the dawning edge of a new year, many of us are caught in mid-air, suspended between fear and hope.  On the one hand we face the prospect of war, continued terrorism and poisonous political divisions.  Many also are dealing with the pain of grief and the burdens of ill health in our personal lives.

 

And yet, because of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ, God continues to break into our lives and the life of the world to bring hope in the midst of uncertainty.

 

Can we say yes to the life that is held out before us or do we resist, hunker down, give in to our fears?

 

“Do not be afraid,” said the angel Gabriel when he announced to Mary that she was to bear Jesus into the world.  Some of us could use an angel like Gabriel as we are summoned into a new year.  An angel whispering in our ear on those hard-to-get-up mornings: “You are favored by God,” as he reminded Mary, “Yes, – yes, you – are picked to bear Jesus into the world.  “Who me?” “Yes, you!”  For as Mary’s angel said, “With God, all things are possible.”

 

Lord, in this new year, give us open hearts and a willing trust to live lives of holy expectation.

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Pastor’s Letter – December December 5, 2017

newthings_7782cCan you plant a tree in winter?  Deborah and I are wondering what to do with a cherry tree that’s on its last leg.  We’ve been assured by a landscaper friend that a new tree will do fine even if planted in December.

 

Winter is the season when Mother Nature’s work goes underground.  The December season of Advent is all about a pregnancy waiting to give birth.  In those times when you and I can’t find any visible signs of God, it doesn’t mean God is absent, simply hidden, not idle but diligent at work.

 

When Israelites were held in exile in far away Babylon, God kept reminding them through the prophet Isaiah, “it was I who made you, who formed you in the womb.”  (Isaiah 44:2)  It turns out that Israel’s forty year captivity was a pregnancy in disguise.  Because we can’t see God doesn’t mean God’s not present and active.

 

During the foundling church’s darkest hour, God says to the anxious and persecuted Christian:  “See I am making all things new!” (Revelation 21:5)  God works in surprising ways.  Faith is the assurance that it is in our overwhelming seasons that God does God’s best work.pastorsign

 

Pastor’s Letter – November 2017 October 31, 2017

“The church is what keeps me from being an atheist,” someone said recently.  They went on to explain how easy it is to live just for themselves and their own little world. “Worship pulls me out of myself into something larger,” they went on, “as do the relationships formed within the congregation. “the church is the voice of God calling me out of myself into the life of community.

 

In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther states”: “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead of the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith.”

 

It is natural to be self-oriented.  Through our life together in the church, God summons us to turn outward, toward one another and toward the needs of those around us.  Ironically, as Jesus once said, it’s in losing ourselves in this way that we gain the whole world.   For it is in our connections with others that we discover God.

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Pastor’s Letter – October 2017 October 4, 2017

Ayear1106gcWhen Luther arrived, he was a gift of pure grace.  This Golden Retriever puppy literally stole our hearts. We also came to learn he was quite a handful.  He required a lot of us, both in the way of love and of disciplining.  We discovered that the joy of having a dog comes only as we live out the responsibility part of      having a dog.

 

I know there are people who possess a dog just to have one.  Whether they are home or away, the dog stays penned up.  What’s the use of having a dog who is ignored?

 

I also know that many of us have a God just to have a God.  God requires a lot of us.  The joy of the relationship comes only as we live out the responsibility part.  What’s the point of having a God who gets ignored.

 

Five hundred years ago, another Luther observed that the church has lost its joy.  It suffered from God neglect.  That relationship is given to us a a gift of pure grace.  But what’s the use in having a gift that’s never unwrapped and lived out?

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