An Empty Chair This Holiday

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I wrote this blog a while back but wanted to repost it based on the people around me who have had a horrible year, losing significant people in their lives and who will never to be the same. 

This holiday is different. There's an empty chair. It's not the same. 

Tradition constantly changes through death and birth. Each Christmas Eve we would go to my mom's after church service. When we had children, the stay wasn't as long. Then my mom died and Christmas Eve was never the same. New locations, new traditions, new people (babies), less people (death)...the cycle of life.

My heart truly goes out to all of you that have lost a loved one and have to go through these holidays without them. So many of you have lost grandparents, parents, children and friends recently. Many of you are still in a fog. The memories of the lost person multiply based on the shared memories of this season. It's extremely difficult to process this throughout the year, let alone the holidays! 

Some of you know of someone who is dealing with this right now. I want to encourage you to do all you can for those grieving this year. Reach out to them. Pray for them. Be there for them. Talk about their loss - the good memories you have or open the door for them to talk about it. Let's not tip toe around someone who is grieving. Let's love them. We cannot fathom what they are feeling. even if we also lost someone. Every hurt feels different. 

Most people (not all) want to talk about their loved one they lost. Most, based on my experience, do not want to go about their lives as if nothing happened. For us on the outside, that's the easy way. We can just "sweep it under the rug" and avoid a possibly emotional conversation. But that's not beneficial.  You can be different. You can help them in this process. Maybe you've been through this already-if that's the case, you're the perfect person to help them here. 

Before I lost my parents, I was not someone who helped others grieve. Some of it was because I didn't know what it felt like. I never experienced this type of loss before. Some of it, quite frankly, was selfishness. It didn't affect me so I didn't have to deal with it. Sorry, but that's who I was before Christ. 

So I leave you with this list of asks:

  • Remember those who have lost loved ones
  • Reach out to them
  • Encourage them
  • Be there for them
  • Talk to them about their loss
  • LOVE them

This will be a very difficult holiday season for too many. Let's do what we can to help them.

Most people are in need of a Christmas presence, not so much the Christmas presents.

 

 

What If It's True?

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It's the age old question for all of us. What if it's true? By it, I mean the Bible. What if everything it said was true? What would that look like to those of us that are Christians? Would we, ourselves, live differently? I imagine the hypocrisy meter would lessen. We'd have to rid of worry in our life. (that alone worries me) (Matthew 6:31 and Philippians 4:6) We'd have to trust God fully (Proverbs 3:5-6, John 14:1 and Romans 9:32), not periodically or only on Sundays at church. 24/7. We'd have to make disciples which means we'd have to talk to others about Christ (awkward!) (Matthew 28:19). Most importantly, we'd have to actually love people. (Matthew 22:36-40, 1 John 4:20, and 1 Thessalonians 3:12) I mean, really love them where it showed and it was clear. Actions not just words. (Psalm 119:5, Proverbs 16:3, and James 2:14). It would mean that when some tragedy happened in this world (and there's been plenty of this!) our first reaction would be LOVE, compassion, empathy and a "how can I help?" attitude. Not a need to state our opinion on why the tragedy happened, just sympathy and this unusual amount of grace that this Jesus we're following would have shown in the midst of all this. You see, based on my reading of this Book, isn't He the one we should be emulating?

How about for those of us that are not Christians? If you were told that this book was 100% accurate, what would tomorrow look like for you? To know that God loved you so much that He sent His son to die on a cross for you. (John 3:16) To know that this life is so short but has eternal ramifications. To know that all of these hectic, chaotic and stressful times are temporary. To know that someday, upon us coming to accept Christ into our heart, all of the pain, all of the tragedy, and all of the sadness will soon be gone forever. What would it be like for you to know of the HOPE that comes from Him.  

I truly believe the Word of God. Once I read of all the evidence in Christ rising from the dead, the rest of the stories (the parting of the Red Sea, Jonah being swallowed by a fish, Noah's ark, Samson, the fiery furnace and the lion's den) all of these seemed easier to believe.

Whether you're a believer or not, what if you commit to reading the Bible for 15 minutes a day? What if you take this chance, and see if it makes any difference in your life.  I believe with my whole heart that it will change your life.  It is the Book that can save you from an eternity apart from God and apart from everyone you've ever known.  

15 minutes a day can have eternal ramifications.

You Had Me at Hello

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First impressions. They're so important. I remember going to a restaurant years ago with about eight of my friends. Eight! That's a big check! All the restaurant's staff continued to walk by us without a greeting or even eye contact. It went on for a rather long time so we decided to try elsewhere. For the record, that restaurant has since gone out of business. Not much of a surprise.  

We always remember our first impression of any place. Isn't that why Walmart decided to hire the front door greeter? It's those first impressions that are often remembered the most. Whether it's a Walmart, a restaurant or even a church, we are generally full of assumptions based on that initial interaction. 

I remember a long time ago coming here to Fellowship Church. A gentleman named Rich Hall greeted me enthusiastically at the front door with a smile, his wife Barbara introduced herself, then Ben Lord, who worked the coffee bar offered me a cup of coffee and snack. I then walked into the Auditorium and Pastor Andy came up to my wife and I and introduced himself. None of this was overwhelming. It was all heartfelt and sincere. FC, in the words of the movie Jerry Maguire, 'had me at hello'....... Sorry, I had to. 

I recently went to a nice restaurant with my wife....so nice that they had one of those Crumb Scrapers/ Sweepers. I joked to my wife in front of the waiter that we should get one of those to impress the family at Thanksgiving. The waiter ended up coming back and gave us one! That is next level customer service! This is what I want at our church. I want us to go to beyond expectations.

We don't point to a bathroom, we lead them there. We don't say hi, we introduce ourselves and get to know them. We remember their name next week (even if we have to cheat and write it down somewhere). We do our best to develop a relationship with them ourselves, then we introduce them down the road to others we feel they would get along with nicely. We encourage them (comfortably) to get involved, whether it's serving or in a group. We know it's the best way they will get to know others. We do all we can to make their Fellowship Church experience the best it can be. Because if we get it right and they continue coming, the chances of them being introduced to Jesus Christ get better and better. And once that happens everyone celebrates! Life change- up and to the right. It all matters! 

So let me ask all of you: Where do you think we can go as a church to do even better? What have you seen somewhere else that you think would work nicely here? Who among your fellow FCers should be on our Greeting Team? How about you, would you like to get more involved

It starts with us but can end with eternal ramifications!