Friday, January 20, 2017

Today, the world feels, to me, muddied and gloomy. So I got to thinking about being clear and bright. I wrote with this perspective during my weekly sermon preparation. I got all finished and uploaded my text to the church website, then decided I should go out in the world and take my own advice from the message and look for some way to shed a little light in the world. I started by helping my son repair a flat tire on his commuting bike, and also teach him a little better how to manage it himself next time. That went well, and I felt good about it. I was driving toward my place from his through a quiet neighborhood when a flying car startled me. Really, when I saw the white sedan spinning up about six feet off the ground my first conclusion was "flying car!" But then the car twisted and landed with a crunch on the road near the tree the driver had just rammed. I rushed to park out of the way and ran toward the accident, reaching for my phone, seeing someone already there calling and so I yelled "Is someone calling 911!?" The answer was yes so I kept going to up to the black underside of the car. Other neighbors congregated quickly around the car, voicing concerns for the driver, checking signals and information, and making sure among ourselves we were doing what we could. I circled the car and spotted the driver inside, conscious but bleeding from a couple of injuries. She was an elderly lady, hanging mostly upside down, looking confused and, I think, feeling embarrassed. I could talk to her through the broken out driver side window, now on top, and I could see her through the spiderweb cracks of the windshield. She wasn't able to talk, so I said a few assuring things -- the facts and the truth, that people were with her, help was on the way, and everything would be OK. I put my hand on the windshield and prayed. The lady couldn't quite touch the windshield but she reached back to me. I could have said, "I have, and always will be, your friend" but chased that silliness away quickly. First a policewoman arrived, then other policepeople then some firepeople, then finally an ambulance with medics. A young woman stepped up to a policeman and said she saw everything. I hung by while she talked about first noticing the lady driving erratically some miles away, followed her and tried to phone for help, and then saw her lose control and ram the tree. All this time a lot of us were balancing staying out of the way with being ready to help. So now to the photo. As the witness talked to the officer, cold rain continued to fall. So a young woman who had been lingering, watching for a chance to help, stepped up and covered the two with her umbrella. The gesture was so sweet I needed to try to capture the moment, and I think I did. Afterward I introduced myself to the witness and thanked her for keeping an eye out for all of us. We shook hands and it was great. So, I went out to shine some light, and found a couple of dozen people shining their lights to help an injured neighbor. If one Good Samaritan was enough in the Bible story, just think how bright the world is with lots of them letting their lights shine, as today. I may not be the brightest bulb, but I hope I can always up the lumins just a little. By the way, the little lady got extracted from her car and taken to the hospital to get some TLC. I pray she is OK.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

We are wrapping up Christmas activites here at Forest Grove United Methodist Church. I have many good memories from this year, ranging from an especially engaging Christmas Eve service to a very successful outreach program for needy families to heartfelt, beautiful seasonal music and stories. We even got some snow during Advent this year, a rarity here in the temperate rain forest of western Oregon. The snowy weather came at just the opportune time to cause us to postpone a Christmas benefit music concert. But we finally pulled it off last Sunday, January 1, on, by my count, the 8th Day of Christmas. The program, like everything else this year, seemed especially beautiful, heartfelt, and magical. Christmas day, the First Day of Christmas, came on Sunday this year, a rather inconvenient time, oddly enough. Christmas is so very secularized that going to worship on Christmas morning is harder than usual. To make it a little easier I decided to invite folks to come to church "as you are", even if that meant still in jammies. We set out an array of costumes and props so we could, impromptu, reenact the Christmas story with a narrator telling the tale. I felt delighted to see more folks than I expected arrive early, a lot of them still wearing PJs, and dig right in to the costumes. In short order our congregation became shepherds, magi, angels, innkeepers, animals, Mary and Joseph, and even a star. This photo sums up my delight in this relaxed, church family day. One of our dear older ladies found a fuzzy critter costume that fit her and so she came to the manger of Christ as gentle beast. I smile in my deepest heart thinking about that. This is a church where you can, indeed, be who you are, or who you remember you were, or who you've always wanted to be. The memories of smiles, laughter, and joy in the telling of the story of the birth of Christ, where absolutely everyone continues to be welcome, are now added to my most precious of heavenly treasures.
BTW credit to Tim Gunther for this shot. Tim is a member of our congregation and a pro photographer ( He portrayed Joseph, who had a terrific sight line to some wonderful photos. If you want to see more you can visit the church FaceBook page. Bring up the website, and click on the FaceBook icon. See you next time! God bless.