Overflowing Love

[Written by Garrett Greer]

11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

Isaiah 58:11, ESV

Recently I was on a bike path in rural Georgia, it was around 98 degrees, I was hot and thirsty, and I knew it might be a while before I made it to the next source of water. Half grumbling, half praying, I questioned why it had to be so hot, wondering when I’d get some water. As I rounded a corner, I saw a man with a large white cooler, sitting in the shade, waving to come on over. While I stopped he introduced himself, his name was Rick, and he was giving out free water and Gatorade. As I reached into the deep ice of the cooler to pull out a cold drink, I tried to express how glad I was that he was there and that he was a bit of an answered prayer. At this he laughed, but told me that he wasn’t there because he was a Christian—quite the contrary. He was there because he wanted to prove that you didn’t need to be a Christian to be nice and hand out drinks to people. Apparently, a church in the area had been handing out free drinks to folks on the trail, and my new friend Rick was frustrated. He wasn’t a believer and was annoyed that people might think this sort of kindness was limited to Christians, and so he decided to give out drinks as well. We had a great conversation about how he was frustrated by Christian kindness. “They’re only doing it because God said so, I’m doing it to show you can do it just to be nice, without needing a God to tell you to do it.” This unbeliever had latched onto the idea that Christians only did nice things because they have to—and he wanted to show he could be friendly all on his own.

My run in with Rick gave me a lot to think about. I was thankful that God used Rick to quench my thirst, even when Rick didn’t acknowledge God. But I’ve also been thinking about Rick’s idea that Christians only do nice things because they have to—that we live in love because it’s a command. It’s certainly a command in Scripture, but hopefully there’s more to love than duty. When I’m doing kind things, what’s my real motivation? As a Christian do I only do nice things because I know I’m supposed to and not because of any genuine love? I hope not.  

As Christians we are supposed to be known by our love for one another (John 13:35). It sounds like Rick knew some Christians by their love, and wanted in on it, even without God. But we must remember that the reason we love one another isn’t really because we’re just nice, and it also isn’t just because “God said so.” We love one another because in Christ we’ve received so much love that there’s no other place for it to go but outwards—it simply pours forth! Christ’s sacrificial love for each of us on the cross is something that we receive and then also pour out onto those around us. Romans 12:9 asks us to “let love be genuine”—this doesn’t mean loving one another out of duty, or just pure good feelings, rather “genuine” Christian love overflows from the love we receive in Jesus. Genuine love is the only result when we truly receive Christ’s grace. We act in love and in kindness not because we have to, but because we are filled with love in Christ.

My encounter with Rick was a blessing—I got a cold drink on a hot day—but also because it challenged me to remember the reason for kindness. It’s not so that we look good to the world, it’s not so that we earn points by following God’s commands. Instead, we love one another as Christ loved us, because as his love overflows in our hearts, that manifests in kindness to the world. I pray that I might let that love pour forth in more tangible ways. Who knows, maybe soon I’ll be handing out free water and Gatorade on the side of the trail with Rick.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Romans 12:9-13, ESV

The Silent Man

[Written by Christine Cox]

As I set out our Nativity crèche, I recalled the time when my daughter as a toddler loved to play ‘house’ with our Nativity set. The figurines were so realistic, and, fragile. Only one guess what happened to one of the figurines – there he lay on the floor, shattered. The Nativity scene was so lost, looked so sad, without Joseph.

Joseph is the Silent Man, the stoic man; often under-rated, too often misunderstood, but the faithful guardian of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, protector of his family, and, like the rest of us, a sinner, in need of God’s grace for salvation.

Reflecting on a devotional reading originally from Rev. Gray Bean, PhD, we can learn and grow in virtues that Joseph, a man who spoke no words in Scripture, had exemplified.

Model of faith and compassion: In the angelic dream, Matthew 1, Joseph was troubled that his betrothed Mary was pregnant but being a ‘just man’ he desired to ‘send her away quietly’. However, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” As Joseph immediately follows the command, we see his faith in God’s word and his obedience. We also see how he exemplified gentleness and compassion to Mary, to someone he thought, at first, had betrayed him.

Model of silence and adoration: Matthew 2 relates the visit of the Magi. Though not mentioned here in Scripture, but visible in all our Nativity scenes, we can imagine that Joseph was there in the background, diligently watchful, with awe and wonderment. “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) Joseph would need this time of quietness, for the trials that were to come.

Model of strength and courage: Continuing in Matthew 2, Joseph is commanded by an angel to flee into Egypt for Herod was “about to search for the Child, to destroy Him.” In obedience, Joseph courageously leaves everything behind – everything! – his home, his livelihood, his friends and other relationships to move his family to a foreign land in order to protect them from the diabolical threat. How willing are we to leave everything behind for our Lord? “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Model of fatherhood and daily work:  Though Scripture is somewhat silent on the life of Jesus as a child, we can glean from Scripture, that Joseph was indeed a godly family man with deep love for his Son.
As a godly man, he followed the Law of Moses bringing Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord at the time of His purification. As father and leader of his family, Joseph, provided for his family as a carpenter (Matthew 13, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” and taught his Son the trade of his livelihood. (Mark 6, “Isn’t this the carpenter?”).  His fatherhood and deep love is so visible when Joseph and Mary lost their Son in Jerusalem after the Feast of the Passover when in ‘great distress they went in search for Him.’ Through all this, Jesus, God and King, was submissive to His earthly parents (Luke 2). We too can find dignity in our work and daily tasks, to share our talents, to know and do His will in our lives – “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)

And, yes, I still put out the old Nativity set – several of the animals are missing an ear, or a tail, one Magi clearly glued, but with a new and much bigger Joseph … a sweet reminder, a sweet memory.


Street-scape, Under Contruction

[Written by Christine Cox]

The ‘street-scape’ outside our office has changed. Where once I saw hills of Hoover, now houses to be homes. For years we saw the open field and wondered when the construction would commence. Plans were on the books, but nothing had been happening. Then one day I saw the ‘tools’ in place: trucks, pipes, and more trucks. It was interesting to observe this change –gradual but yet in another way, it was quick.

For days on end, trucks were going back and forth moving dirt which, from my perspective, I wondered why so long, how could the crew tolerate the monotony of back and forth – looked done to me; but, they saw something I didn’t. Then the precision of building! Everything was done so methodically – the measuring, the laying of a solid foundation, the hammering, the drilling, the brick-laying ‘dance’ – it seemed like a choreographed crew of four bricklayers. Almost in unison, a repetitive motion of scooping up and smoothing out cement on the wall and then with the other hand, laying a brick; a workflow supported by yet another man heaving piles of wet cement onto the bricklayers’ work platform.

Having never built anything, it is quite amazing to witness!

Actually, we all ‘build.’

Like the houses going up across the street, our ‘house’ needs a solid foundation.
Some of us may have been blessed with a foundation of a loving childhood home; others, experienced struggles, turmoil, and setbacks. Unlike the houses, we have an opportunity to correct a misaligned ‘plumb-line of life’ but only if we have Christ in our hearts and truly trust Him. For if our ‘house’ is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20) “we will not be shamed” and our ‘plumb line’ will be righted and healed. (1 Peter 2:6,24).

Just as the houses across the street go up brick by brick laid against the meticulous framework, with some bricks cast aside if defective, ‘our house’ is also laid brick by brick. Each of our life experiences is a brick, a building block. Some experiences cause us to grow like trees planted by streams of water, yielding much love, joy, peace (Ps 1; Galatians 5:22), in both times of happiness and in times of suffering. Yet, some experiences, we simply need to cast aside and remember that Jesus Christ heals all our wounds. (Isaiah 53)

This, however, requires work and cooperation. As I watch the construction crew, each had its particular role, cooperating with each other, not moving ahead or falling behind. We too need to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling…without grumbling” (Philippians 2:12)    In 1 Peter 2, Saint Peter gives the specifics of putting away all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander; abstain from passions of the flesh; keeping honorable conduct, living as servants of God.’ This can only be achieved if we cooperate with God’s fundamental plan for mankind – first, to love Him with all your heart, soul and mind and love others as yourself, so simply said by our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:37-39).

I now look forward to the experience of meeting new neighbors across the street, inviting them to God’s house of worship, worshiping Him together every Sunday morning; encouraging them to grow in Truth of His Word, to live out the Gospel in our community and to serve Him by serving one another.

The Journey

[Written by Liz Getz]

We have all heard the saying “it’s the journey, not the destination” and the older I have gotten the truer that has become.  Interestingly enough my life’s work is focused on the beginning and the end of that journey.  I love working with young children in our church nursery and seeing the inquisitive and growing minds as they see, do, feel and experience new things.  The simple joys of seeing children respond to you with smiles and laughs.  Although I will say the Halbrooks cuties are all pretty tough customers in the laugh department but don’t worry girls Miss Liz will eventually solve that mystery!  🙂

I spend the majority of my time around the seniors in the skilled nursing facility where I work as an HR Manager.  Even though they all seem very similar now we do try to remember they were once teachers, housewives, one was a court reporter, a dentist, career military men and even one that counted money in the cash room at Pizitz Department Store.  The one thing I have learned and see every single day is the amazing and truly unpredictable nature of the human mind.  I see these residents -many of whom have some degree of Alzheimer’s or dementia- having good days and bad days.  I see them in the course of a normal day go from being totally there to being confused and talking about people, places, and events that although real might have happened 50 years ago as if was today to back to being in the present.  They’ve told me they had just given birth to a baby girl…  to saying their parents are coming to pick them up to yelling out for a husband that has long since passed away.

You have to find humor where you can when dealing with this population because it can be hard to watch people at what is an end of life stage.  So it comical to see a 92-year-old woman sitting in a wheelchair talking about waiting to be picked up for school but worried about going because she did not have her books and did not do her lessons.  We smile at them and generally just play along as it is no longer recommended to try and bring them back to reality it can be jarring and is largely unsuccessful.  That is honestly what she thinks is happening right now.  There was a woman who told me every single day until she passed away that her husband had just died.  In her mind, she really could not get past that point and although it is not uncommon it is still incredibly sad.  We cannot decide for ourselves what events or memories our minds will be stuck on or where our mind will travel back to time after time.  I can think of plenty of things I hope I won’t be going back to again and again when I am in their shoes!

The lesson I hope to get out of this is that I want…I need… is to pay more attention to my journey.  I want to focus on the things that really matter in life.  I want the things that fill my heart and mind to not necessarily be the things that fill many of my hours like my career.  I do not want to be defined by what I do or what I am on paper.  I want to remind myself not to get too focused on any one bill to pay or deadline to meet as there will always be more where that came from.  The obligations will continue, the unexpected will happen, but I can choose how to respond in those times.  I will have to ‘adult’ on a regular basis – like it or not.   Yet the things I stress over today will usually not matter in even a month much less a year or 10 years.  I want to see the beauty in each day and never forget it is fleeting.  I want to laugh and make others laugh.  I want to feel great at the end of the day because of how I feel and made others feel and not what I have accomplished.  I want to love unapologetically both myself and others.  Above all, I want to focus on my relationship with Christ as that is the most important relationship we will ever have.

We can turn to scripture for some reminders:

“ So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

I hope we will all spend more time on our journey no matter if we are towards the beginning, the middle or the end.  Love more and fight less.  See flaws as beautiful not as failures.  Get up stronger whenever we fall.  Help someone around us even if they have not asked for it.  Give of our time not take time away from those we love.  Smile more and stress less.  This list of all the ways we can nurture ourselves and our journey is almost endless.  If we make our journey all it possibly can be then when we do get to that final destination of spending eternity in Heaven with our Lord and Savior it will be just that much sweeter!

“Still, Still, Still …”

[Written by Christine Cox]

Whenever I hear this Austrian Christmas carol, I see my mother leaning back in her armchair, listening to her favorite German Christmas carol record. A sweet stillness caressed over her, the sound of the music soothingly filling the room. As a child I ‘thought like a child’, (1 Corinthians 13:11-14), wondering what she was thinking and feeling, why the music was so soothing; now I know fully the spiritual depth of the music – that in this peaceful manger scene, as mother cradles the infant Jesus, she knows that He is the hope of salvation who now had been brought to mankind through The Incarnation.

Tradition, both written and pictorial, shows that in the stillness of prayer, Mary was greeted by the angel Gabriel. In the stillness of deep sleep, her earthly spouse, Joseph, was visited by an angel in a dream – twice. He should not fear to take Mary as his wife and then later warned him to take his family and flee to Egypt for Herod was about to destroy the Child. In the stillness of the night, our Savior was born. Still, yet the heavens were filled with angelic hosts, declaring the Glory of the Lord singing great Hosannas, Glory to the King!
In the stillness of the Upper Room, our Lord ushered in the New Covenant – a respite before they all would experience the greatest trial in history. After the Crucifixion, darkness and, I imagine, a still eeriness and a loneliness engulfed the whole land, until the Lord burst forth from the grave. It was a stillness preparing the way for His Resurrection. Saul – Paul had to be still before God was able to work through him. Peter, too, in the stillness of prayer saw the heavens open and the Lord calling him to minister to all peoples, showing no partiality that the Good News is for all nations!

In this Advent season, let us take this wonderful opportunity to break from the busyness of the season to embrace ‘stillness.’ Ponder upon His Word penetrating our souls, our interior life. And as we await with joyful expectation of this year’s Christmas celebrations, let it also be preparation as we await His second coming.

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

Audio  link,
Traditional Melody 1819
Lyrics and Translation by Tradition by Action and German Way

Still, still, still,
Weil’s Kindlein schlafen will.
Maria tut es niedersingen
Ihre keusche Brust darbringen,
Still, still, still,
Weil Kindlein schlafen will.
Still, still, still,
Let Baby sleep its fill.
Maria sings a lullaby sweet
And lays her true heart at Your feet
Still, still, still,
Let Baby sleep its fill.
Schlaf, schlaf, schlaf,
Mein liebes Kindlein, schlaf.
Die Englein tun schön musizieren
Bei dem Kindlein jubilieren,
Schlaf, schlaf, schlaf,
Mein liebes Kindlein, schlaf.
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
My precious Baby sleep.
The Angels are all music making
By the Manger jubilating
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
My precious Baby sleep.
Groß, groß, groß,
die Lieb’ ist übergroß!
Gott hat den Himmelsthron verlassen,
und muss reisen auf der Strassen.
Groß, groß, groß,
die Lieb’ ist übergroß.
Great, great, great,
the love is enormous!
God has left his heavenly throne
and must travel on the road.
Great, great, great,
the love is enormous!
Auf, auf, auf,
Ihr Adamskinder auf.
Fallet Jesum all zu Füssen,
Weil er für uns d’Sünd tut büssen.
Auf, auf, auf,
Ihr Adamskinder auf.
Rise, rise, rise,
All Adam’s children rise.
O, kneel at the feet of Jesus now,
Our sins to atone He did vow.
Rise, rise, rise,
All Adam’s children rise.
Wir, wir, wir,
Wir rufen all zu Dir:
Tu uns des Himmels Reich aufschliessen,
Wenn wir einmal sterben müssen.
Wir, wir, wir,
Wir rufen all zu Dir.

We, we, we,
We all implore Thee:
Open for us heaven’s gate
Let Your Kingdom be our fate.
We, we, we,
We all implore Thee.

April Showers Bring May Flowers …. Reflection on Motherhood

Spring Flowers[Written by Christine Cox, Ministry Admin. Asst.]
A cute little ditty, but, as I think about it in a different sort of a way, it reminds me of God’s Beauty in His Creation, marred by sin and redeemed by His Love and Mercy pouring upon the earth as April showers to bring forth a new creation. As showers bring forth new seedlings from the soil, so God’s Love and Mercy create a newness in you and me for if “anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17).”

In this month of May, flowers manifest motherhood – a flower’s beauty, the beauty of a mother’s love; the many varieties of flowers, the uniqueness of each mother’s God-given gifts; each lovely, each charming, each delightful to God for “the splendor of the rose does not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of charm. If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, Spring would lose its loveliness and there would be no wildflowers to make a meadow’s gay…so it is in the world of souls, which is the Garden of Jesus.” (Therese of Lisieux)

However, this beauty gets tarnished in this star-crazed world, where there is a constant striving for perfection, to be the first, the best – the best and perfect mother, with the best and perfect children, the best and perfect family. And, for some the subject of Mother’s Day is discouraging, not for disappointment as a mother, but for longing to be a mother, and struggling to wait on God’s timing or deal with the loss of miscarriage.
Thus, we fail to see the perfection that God actually wants. We fail to see His Love and Mercy in our struggles. He simply wants our love and trust, faith. He wants us to do His will; in His timing. Be His instrument. In this He rejoices.

Knowing our failures, He gives us wonderful examples of how He worked in and through the many mothers listed in the Bible – from our first mother Eve, to Mary, the mother of our Savior; through one, pain commenced; through the other, peace restored.
Though through Eve’s mistrust we have the wound of original sin, God showed His Love and Mercy by promising a restoration (Genesis 3:15) and then clothed Adam and Eve with garments (3:21). In Mary, called by some the ‘New Eve’, we see a deep faith as was with Abraham who “in hope believed against hope should become the father of many nations” (Romans 4:18) so Mary believed that she would become the mother of God’s Son. Through her belief, trust, and obedience mankind was blessed with its Redeemer, God’s Love and Mercy as was promised in Genesis.

And, He shows us other mothers, who were imperfect creatures, bruised and broken vessels, who were discouraged, struggling with issues and disappointments in their lives – Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, Jochebed, Hannah, Elizabeth, Eunice and Lois, to name a few – yet, we see how He poured His Love and Mercy upon them; thus, how all were part of the tapestry in salvation history. All in His perfect timing.
As each were so unique and each can be a lesson on striving how to be that beautiful new creation used by God, so each mother, each woman, today is uniquely gifted to be His instrument to our families, to our communities, and to His church.

To all Women, for we have mentored many –
Happy Mothers’ Day!

[Image Credit: Josephine E. Cox/www.photosbyjosie.com]

Reflection, then Press On

seagullsW2During this busy time of year, it is hard to take time out to reflect on the year. We are too overwhelmed, rushing to purchase stuffings for the stockings and gifts to place under the Christmas tree, lists to check twice; then, before we know it, the New Year rolls in, with those resolutions already broken.

So, it has been helpful for me, and perhaps will be for you as well, to take a moment to reflect about several developments this past year in our church community, from the perspective of office manager and ministry admin assistant.

1) Land Closing and Events – In March we closed on land which we trust God will use to bless and serve our community. Then in May, we held our first Worship Service Celebration on the land, concluding with an outdoor picnic lunch. This fall we had our first fundraiser, “Horticulture Heaven,” with all proceeds supporting our land fund. Now, at year’s end, we are making good progress to paying off the land! We thank the Lord for all He had done to accomplish this, and how He worked through the generosity of so many of you.

2) Missionary Send-off – This year we sent off our first home-grown missionary family, Derek and Laura Dougherty, MTW/Peru. Through our prayers, support and co-sponsoring “Music for Missions Benefit Concert & Auction”, we are thankful that we could be part of their “‘key moments” that God orchestrated in their lives calling them into the mission field.

3) New and Improved Website – This year we introduced to you our new brighter, more navigable, mobile-friendly website, http://www.crosscreekchurch.net. The website was designed for both the new visitor and the Cross Creek member/participant. Directly from the homepage you can quickly link to pages to learn who we are; what it means to “Grow in truth, Live in community, Serve in the kingdom;” when things are happening at Cross Creek Church; where and how to become connected. The homepage also highlights current events and photos of activities in our church community.

4) New Pathways for Financial Giving – We also researched and implemented systems for additional pathways of financial giving besides traditional check and cash. Now you can donate online directly from our website under the Contribute link on the homepage. By setting up an account you can contribute just one time or create recurring giving schedule, view your history for online giving, edit your profile. We also offer mobile app giving, by searching for and downloading “Shelby Next | Giving” from your app store. All these are done securely through Shelby Systems, Inc. cloud based program, “ShelbyNext Giving.”

5) Welcoming New Members – We host membership classes as needed throughout the year. It is a time to learn about the vision of Cross Creek and how to Grow, Live, Serve. This year we welcomed two classes. It is exciting to see how God is working in and through you, using your gifts and talents to grow His church.

We had several ‘firsts’ this year and expect more ‘firsts’ in the coming years. We continue with those tasks that make our church ‘run’, pressing on to the calling God has for each one of us.

Wearing many hats in our office, I am so thankful to be of help to our church family, always with the thought of how best to use our resources, in helping and serving our members and our community – all to God’s Glory!

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (Philippians 3:12-14, The Message)