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Monday, April 12 2021

I normally do not post pictures of myself but today I am. This picture is not a picture of beauty but it is a picture of God’s amazing Grace, Mercy, and Hand of Protection.

This is a story of God’s Unfailing Love and His Amazing Grace.

Friday afternoon, Kristen Doty and I went out to lunch to enjoy time together. Our conversation centered around God. His divine appointments for each of us and for our church. We chatted for 2 hours about God and His hand on each of us. We discussed how satan had been attacking our families. We talked about how satan was trying everything in his limited power to stop God’s mission for us, but how God prevails, always! We shared how satan was attacking not only our families but our church families. We talked about the world crisis of hatred, lack of morals, and values. We talked about our vision to open a coffee shop where everyone was welcome. Where everyone would have value and know that they are loved.

Two hours later… We had gotten up to leave, we were walking to our cars, still discussing God’s hand on our lives and how grateful we are to serve a merciful, loving God. We had sat for two hours, so my legs were a tad “wobbly”. Most of you all know I have MS, and my legs do what they want when they want to. So, as we were walking along my leg just stopped, refusing to make any movement forward, but my body did not have any part of that, my upper torso kept going. Unfortunately, when the upper half decides to keep on moving in a forward direction, and the lower half does not there is usually a less than happy landing. Well, that day was no different. I landed a full force “face-plant” on the sidewalk. I hit with so much force that it knocked the wind out of me for a second. I was bleeding from my forehead, my nose, my mouth.  What is incredible is, as I was falling, I saw this scarred hand come up and cover my face. I know that it was the hand of God. God’s hand took the full impact of what I should have taken, but God’s hand of protection was there. I know I was the recipient of the Hand of God covering me, protecting me from the full impact! Just as He took each of our sins upon the Cross that day. 

I need to back up just for a hair. I have been on many medicines that have a negative impact on bone density for many years. In reality, I should have the bone density of a 90 plus-year-old, but by the grace of God my bone density at 66 is that of a 48-year-old…So what could have been/should have been, a skull fracture, broken eye sockets, broken cheek, broken nose, broken jaw/chin, broken hand, broken teeth, and broken knee cap…ended up with just a busted lip, banged up nose, sore hands and sore right knee (remember my left leg refused to join in the party lol).

I managed to sit up. It was not under my own power, that I can attest to. But as I was sitting there security drove by. I flagged her down. At that point Pastor Kristen had gone back to the restaurant to get some ice. The manager of the restaurant came back with her and offered assistance. AT that point I knew my legs would not cooperate so I just continued to sit there with ice on my face.  The security guard had tried to help me up but still, my left leg refused to cooperate.  She radioed some other security guards. They were concerned about everything. And I mean everything. They were overly concerned that I was going to sue the company, I’m sure. I did my best to reassure them that I was not suing anyone. That I live with this and have fallen before and will undoubtedly fall again.

Kristen and I did our best to lighten the mood for them, laughing with them once they stopped trying to “play doctor” and diagnose the severity of my injuries so to speak.  It was 10-15 minutes of them trying to figure out what to do and Kristen and I trying to put them at ease. The security team told us that they were unable to assist me in getting to my feet, so they called fire/rescue. The paramedics arrived, helped me up. They did all the work. They got me to my feet, asked me for some information. Of course, the first question they ask all “older” people is “are you on blood thinners?” Why does everyone think that anyone over 60 MUST be on blood thinners lol. When I responded with a no, they looked shocked but continued to gather my info and ultimately decide that I was okay to head home on my own. In other words, they assessed that I was coherent, aware of time, place, and circumstances. I was alert and oriented to my surroundings, so I was okay to leave.

Prayerfully, we made a positive impact on those around us, to see the hand of Christ through the circumstances. I pray that we honored God during this time. Both Pastor Kristen and I stated several times, that God had his hand on me or things would have been so much worse.

Ultimately, we saw the hand of God’s protection written all over our entire afternoon. From our delicious meal to enjoying our conversation together to being the light of Christ to others when things could have been different.
God’s promise to be with us during life’s struggles is a promise He keeps. His Word is true today, yesterday, and tomorrow. His love for us knows no bounds. He is with us in the big things and in the small things.

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Posted by: Pastor Debbie Frederick AT 05:20 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, October 09 2020
Perfect Harmony

There is so much hate, so much anger. We point fingers and blame, blame, blame. We call names, we make judgements of others all in the name of self-righteousness and pride. We cry out for justice with the same mouths we use to dehumanize and degrade others; so where is the justice? Because justice comes from a place of love and courage. There is nothing loving or brave about calling people names and making them feel less than because you disagree. In our efforts to make ourselves feel better by name calling and judging, we actually chip away at our own humanity. In that battle, there are no winners, only losers on all sides.

What if instead of pointing fingers at others for the problems in the world, we pointed the finger first at ourselves? If we want to change the world, we have to be willing to change ourselves first. If we think we don’t need to change, then we’re part of the problem. Every one of us has room for improvement. I wonder, what if before we went to social media to vent our anger and hurl insults, we stepped out of our bubble of existence and sat with someone different than us to hear their story? What if, before going to social media to complain about the ills of society, we offered our time to a local food bank, a homeless shelter, or big brother/big sister program, etc?

Anyone can sit at a computer and type out angry thoughts or hit the share button under the inflammatory post of another, but what does it accomplish? We feel better for a few moments but does anything really change? Sometimes, things do change-for the worse. Those angry words, those inflammatory posts stir up more anger and more division. Is that the change we’re looking for? Sure, there may be a small minority that thrives off of division and strife, but for the majority of people, we want the same things. We want others to see their value and their purpose; we want to be unified in seeing one another become the best that they can be; ultimately we want good for others, not harm.

This is the change worth striving for, but that change is hard because it has to start with us first. And let’s be honest, we want others to change for us, not the other way around. Even as I type those words, I hear the pushback, “I don’t need to change for anyone.” What if the anyone you need to change for is yourself. Have we looked inside ourselves to see the depth of the hate and anger that dwells in our hearts and pours out on others? Judging by the state of our society, I would say most likely not. It’s self-sabotage to cry out for justice and love for all while throwing stones of insults and accusations. When did it become acceptable to build ourselves up by tearing others down? Is that who we really want to be? Because with every insult, with every derogatory name thrown out, with every demeaning post that is who we are.

 I remember a Coke ad from the 70s where people of all nationalities, ethnicities, and backgrounds sang together in ‘perfect harmony.’ I remember thinking that this was a world I wanted to live in. Some might call it a pipe-dream. But isn’t the world made for dreamers? Doesn’t the world need people who dream about justice and respect for all? Doesn’t the world need people who dream about all people feeling valued and full of purpose? Doesn’t the world need people who dream of working towards hope, and peace and love for all?

Excuse me, while I go buy a case of Coke and make some friends, whose life experiences may be different than mine, so that I can learn, understand, and change.

-Pastor Kristen

Posted by: Pastor Kristen AT 10:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, May 05 2020
Spiritual Sequestering?

I have been called a social butterfly all my life. I love to be around people, hug my friends and spend quality time chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee, a bible study, or a meal. I love our zoom meetings but I truly miss, no, I NEED “real” contact with others. Life works best for me when I can be out and about enjoying time with family and friends.

My husband, on the other hand, prefers to sit home and spend time checking his email and sports scores. He loves being in our office at home and being able to work. He tells everyone how much he “loves working from home”. He can eat lunch when he chooses, read sports headlines in between phone calls, classes and emails. He feels as though this is the best of both worlds, work and home.

I, on the other hand, have had more than my “fill” of our quality daytime hours together. When I am studying for a devotional or writing a sermon or working on another aspect of ministry, he forgets that I too am working. He will walk out of the office and start talking to me. I will admit that sometimes I “huff” at him and point to the headphones on my ears. Sometimes I stare at him with my ”can’t you see I am working” look. He will grab a snack and walk back into the office.   

This “stay at home order” is tough on both of us. It was even tough on our dogs at first. They were out of their routines. I was reviewing a few blogs that I had written a few years ago when I realized I was doing the same thing now that I did 5 years ago. I was working on MY agenda and not allowing God to direct it for His purpose. I was so busy grumbling about how much more work I have had, how my husband is disrupting my schedule because of this “COVID pandemic”, that I have forgotten to take time to just breathe and follow God’s lead for my day.

I am working on restructuring my thought process. Instead of seeing the daily interruptions by Tom, the dogs, and the multitude of phone calls, as limitations of being “quarantined at home”, I am working on shifting my thoughts to finding this as a time of “spiritual sequestering”. A time to sit back and seek God more closely.  Finding the time to just be still and know that God is still on the throne and He has a purpose for allowing me to shift from the busyness of life to seek a time to sit in His lap and thrive in the presence of God and allow Him to permeate and refresh my soul.

How are you handling this time? Are you finding our “quarantine” aka “social distancing” as a time of frustration, fear, anger, and inconvenience or are you seeking time with your Heavenly Father to hear just how much he treasures time with you? Can you restructure your mindset to seek a “spiritual sequestering” to just be in the presence of God? Only God can provide you the peace, strength, comfort, and safety that this time in our world cannot. God treasures the time He has together with you.

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my solid rock, my fortress, my rescuer. My God is my rock— I take refuge in him! — he’s my shield, my salvation’s strength, my place of safety.

Posted by: Pastor Debbie Frederick AT 01:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, February 09 2020
Pouring Into Others

Sawgrass Family,

I wanted to share a short story with you that I hope will encourage you in your walk of faith. After our service last night about examining ourselves for biases and judgements, Jay and I went to a local restaurant for dinner. As we walked toward the entrance, we recognized one of the men from our hopeful community sitting on a bench. We approached him, reintroduced ourselves and sat down to talk with him and see how he was doing.

Before we got up to leave, we asked if we could pray for him. He responded with a bold, “Yes, please!” When we finished our prayer and got up, he asked us to sit down again so that he could pray for us. We responded with, “Yes, please!” It was a beautiful and humbling moment as we felt that we had witnessed the kindness of one, like the widow in Mark 12 who gave all she had. This man had given back what he had- the power of his prayer! Through our tears, we saw clearly the beauty of our Lord in that moment.

I share this story to remind you that God sees you, God hears you and He wants to bless you in your faithful obedience. Start each day at the feet of Jesus; listening to His plans for your day and then stand strong knowing that the Creator of the Universe is watching over you.

Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.


Pastor Kristen

Posted by: AT 12:23 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, May 29 2019
Love One Another

John 13:34 New Living Translation (NLT)

34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

Jesus says this to the disciples after washing their feet. They had no idea what was about to happen to Jesus and what this love really meant.

This becomes clear, when Peter declares on this same night-

“I’m ready to die for you.”

38 Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.

Sometimes, we respond that way, too. We are feeling good with Jesus and we want to follow Him everywhere and anywhere, until everywhere and anywhere gets really hard. Let’s be honest- loving people is hard!

If we are to love one another, we must first grasp tightly to the love Jesus has for us. We must examine how it was, that He loved us.

First, He knew who He was. His identity, His hope, His confidence, and His purpose were rooted in the Father.

Paul tells us ..

Philippians 2:6-7 New International Version (NIV)

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature
of a servant,


Jesus didn’t come to do acts of service, He came as a servant.  That is something we need to look into our own hearts and ask ourselves- do we choose to do acts of service, or do we see ourselves as servants?

As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to live a life worthy of our high calling- that calling is to be servants.

Because of that high calling, we should be brought into humility before a Holy God.

The greatest delight of the meek and humble, is to enjoy the free unmerited mercy and grace of God. Our longings are satisfied in God. Our identity and our confidence are in God, and when we understand that, we are free to be a servant to all. When we are available to be His servant, we are united in our care for one another.

In our humility before a great God, we recognize our own imperfections, not just everyone else’s imperfections.

When our imperfections are brought to light against the mercy and grace of Jesus, we see what He accomplished on the cross, and it’s our responsibility to maintain that unity by the Spirit living in us.

We must break the chains that tie us to this world and keep us from living for the world yet to come. Only when we break those chains, will we begin to see Jesus and all that He has done for us in love. He has been patient and long-suffering with us, and to honor Him and please Him, we should want to behave similarly with those around us.

In the spirit, instead of being puffed up and self-righteous, we will be lowly and humble- we will be living as servants, not  just choosing to do acts of service.

Instead of impatient and resentful, with the spirit we will be longsuffering and forgiving. That will open the door for peace and unity and love to flourish.

Ephesians 4:16 New Living Translation (NLT)

16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

To love one another, we have to first recognize and respond to the love of God, as Jesus said, “Love as I have loved you.” We can’t possibly love one another until we fully embrace His love first. Only then can we truly love in ways that matter!

Posted by: Pastor Kristen AT 08:55 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, December 06 2018
Breaking Down Walls

There is much talk these days about fences and walls. Drive through most neighborhoods today and you will see fences. They come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. In every case, a fence is designed to keep something in or keep something out. The truth is that fences help us feel safe.

At my home, I have a fence to separate my front yard from my backyard. If I want to be friendly, I can sit on my front porch. If I want privacy and wish to be alone, I can sit on my back patio. The fence is the separation between the two. It is the barrier between the front, which everyone is allowed to see, and the back, which is where we spend most of our time and actually live.

 What if we looked at our lives as a yard, where we kept the place in front of the fence shiny and clean for everyone to see but the back, behind the fence, was the real us that we kept private and hidden from others? Is that what community and fellowship looks like in the life of a believer or are we called to something more?

Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:21) This is true community, and the true fellowship that God wants us to know and experience. It is crucial for our spiritual growth.

We can pray by ourselves, we can read the Word by ourselves, we can even watch a worship service from the comfort of our couch at home if we want. But the one thing that we see in the early church is that there was power when believers came together and responded to the work of the Holy Spirit! There was a oneness, and a strong sense of community, fellowship and family.

Acts 2:42-43 (NASB)

 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe;

One of God’s plans for our spiritual growth is that we live connected lives with Him and with one another. But we can’t experience that kind of community and fellowship if we keep living behind our fences.

We’re born building fences and walls that hide, protect, or confine who we really are—to keep us separated from God and one another. But the Good News is that Jesus tore down the veil(the fence) between us and God so that we could experience true community. That is the starting point of knowing true community with one another.

Through Christ, God has made us a family, a community of faith—it is our God-given support system. We gather together on Sundays and during the week for Bible studies. We sing songs, smile, read scripture, break bread all while we stand behind our fences, where it’s comfortable and safe. We are very careful what we reveal to people from behind the fence even to the point that we may create a false picture of what we are dealing with in life.

Our problem is that from behind our fences, we can’t embrace one another in a family crisis. From behind our fences, we can’t see what’s happening over in someone else’s “yard” when they need help and encouragement. Our fences impede our community. We have to tear down our fences to fully know someone.

If we are going to truly experience community/fellowship, then that means being intentional about loving one another.. And loving each other is impossible to do from behind a fence.

The early church in Acts 2, was intentional about spending time together. Even in their spiritual persecution, they found strength in community and fellowship. We may not be facing persecution, but we do have battles. They are called fear, doubt, discouragement, temptation, rejection, and failure.

 God hasn’t left us alone. He has given us each other to run the race, and fight the battles.

Hebrews 3:13(NASB)

13 But encourage one another day after day

Hebrews 10:24-24(NIV)

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,

Community is finding ways to encourage one another – it’s spurring one another on to love and good deeds—beyond church service and sermons.

It’s seeing beyond the fences that have been built and offering to help out, maybe even babysit the kids!

 It’s bringing a meal in times of crisis. It’s having those “go-to” numbers in your cell phone when you break down. It’s knowing who to call when you want to go on a double date or to catch a movie.

 It’s inviting someone into your home for dinner. It’s teaming up when you have a church service project and working alongside friends. It’s enjoying one another—and helping each other to enjoy serving Jesus.

That’s community! It serves to sharpen us for God’s purposes and plans.

Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

When we embrace the knowledge that Jesus crashed the fence(the barrier) between us and God, and we stop trying to rebuild it between us and those around us, we experience authentic community like the early church.

If we are truly going to experience spiritual growth and transforming faith, , then we can’t live behind a fence. To become more like Christ, to truly love one another, we need to knock down our fences and embrace fellowship and community.  

Posted by: Pastor Kristen AT 07:58 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, October 16 2018

The circus can conjure up all kinds of memories for us- the light hearted moments with the clowns, the bravery of the lion tamers, and the dexterity of the animals all amidst the aroma of popcorn and cotton candy. But there is always one moment in the show when silence takes over pushing people to the edge of their seats- the moment when the tightrope walker takes the first step onto the wire.  I believe it’s because we all understand on some level that our individual lives are a balancing act, too.

We are always trying to do the right thing for our families, for our friends, for our career, and for God. With each step, we wonder if it’s the right one or if our misstep will throw everything else off balance. And to make it all the more difficult, as we walk along our tightrope called life, things are thrown at as from all sides, seemingly trying to knock us down. Things from little annoyances to full blown life changing drama, all disguised as unsolvable problems.

As I envision life as steps on a tightrope, I can’t help but think of that moment for Peter when he stepped out of the boat onto the raging Sea of Galilee.

When Peter stepped out, it was a moment of surrender. As his hand let go of the boat, Peter was giving up control. In his surrender, he was yielding to and trusting Jesus to guide his steps to safely reach the other side of the raging sea. But when Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he faltered and started to sink.

In our striving for balance on the tightrope of life, we too begin to falter when we take our eyes off Jesus and let the realities of the world shake us. In those moments, we must examine ourselves in the light of Jesus and seek to fully surrender our hearts towards Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 does NOT say, “Trust in the Lord with some of your heart, lean on your own understanding and in some of your ways trust Him.” It’s all or nothing! A balanced life lived for the Lord requires and even demands our surrender.

Surrender looks different for different people, even in similar circumstances. For some, surrender is giving up control, for others it is giving up self-promotion or pride or even our own plans and agendas. Ultimately, it is a daily, transformational process with the Lord. As we falter or start to sink, our first instinct is to grab on tight to whatever we can. But in the kingdom, the real answer to our imbalance is in learning to let go. In our surrender, the circus quiets down, the raging seas quell and our steps are guided safely towards Jesus our refuge, and safety net.

Oswald Chambers describes holy surrender as a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ, Himself. Do the actions and decisions we make each day reflect that level of surrender? Is Jesus the focus of our devotion, our priorities, and our surrender? If life seems out of balance, maybe there is something pulling us off kilter that we need to surrender. Search your heart and ask God what you need to surrender in order to walk with Him further and higher than you ever imagined on your own.

Posted by: Pastor Kristen AT 06:44 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, April 05 2018
My Father is Always Working and So Am I

But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” –John 5:17 (NLT)

Starting back in the 70s, there was a popular radio show hosted by a man called Paul Harvey. He presented stories that would draw listeners in but he would hold back a key element of the story till the very end.  Then he would conclude with a now famous line, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

In addition to his iconic voice and gifted storytelling, our human curiosity and desire to be ‘in the know’ made for a very popular program.  Humans have always had a curiosity and a desire to know things. It has given us great inventions and technological advances throughout history but it has also brought down nations and kingdoms in the name of espionage and brought down individuals as we sought after the gossip of our neighbors and friends. Our desire to know has driven a news industry that provides 24/7 coverage and when they run out of news to share, they will sensationalize smaller news items into what we now call, ‘fake news.’

Our desire to know can be a double-edged sword in our spiritual life, too. God, why aren’t you fixing this? God, where are you? Why aren’t you directing me? God, why are you allowing this? Our desire to know and understand can be a hindrance in our spiritual life. We look to scripture for answers but when we read the stories of others’ problems and trials, we approach them already ‘knowing the rest of the story’ and we try to ascribe that approach to our own lives. ‘God, why won’t you tell us the rest of our story?’

Knee deep in our trials and sufferings, we ask why? how? and what now? as echoes of “God will never leave you nor forsake you” reverberates in our soul. If God will never leave me, then why don’t I see Him? Why don’t I get answers or relief from my pain? In our search for information and answers, we look to the Word for the same neat and tidy story endings that our Bible characters experienced, like a modern-day sitcom where all problems are wrapped up in 30 minutes or less.

We forget that it was 13 years from the time that Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers until he became overseer to the Pharaoh in Egypt. It took Noah over 60 years of ark building before the first raindrop fell.  And poor Abraham, never saw the fulfillment of God’s promise to him before he passed from this world. We miss the big picture of the Biblical stories when we focus on the beginning and end and disregard the journey in the middle. In fact, the endings lose their wow factor when we undervalue the journey before them.

God is always working and working for our good towards His purpose for us even when we can’t see it. Joseph goes through extensive trials, from his brothers selling him into slavery and even to prison for things he didn’t do and God appears silent and unseen to him the whole time. Until in one moment, God’s plan and purpose is revealed. And it is in that moment that God’s glory bursts on the scene, displayed for all to see.

In my own life, I have been praying for over a year for a resolution and God’s will in several areas of my life and ministry and yet, here I wait. In two separate incidents over the past two weeks, He has reminded me that He is indeed working behind the scenes in preparation for His glory to be revealed.

As I prayer walked around the church building, I could hear God telling me to look closer at the path around me and there poking out of the dried and withered grass was a lone purple flower in all its beauty. A few steps more and this time yellow flowers rising up through the dead grass. A few days later, I was doing some much needed yard work in the backyard. Much to my surprise, there was an overgrown tomato plant taking over one area of the yard and covering up a passionflower vine. In fact there were over 20 tomato plants that had sprouted up across the backyard. How had they gone unnoticed before? It was as if God was revealing pieces of His work and His glory to remind me of His sovereignty and His timing. In the hard times, when we can’t see God working, we have to trust and have faith that He is working because His Word says He is.

Our heavenly Father chose us before the foundation of the world to do the good things he has planned for us. In Christ, we have destiny and God will never leave us. He will always get us to our destination in Jesus, no matter how we feel and no matter what God leaves unseen till His revelation. Be encouraged brothers and sisters, we serve a God who never tires of doing a new thing in us, through us and for us even when we aren’t able to see it!

Where are you seeing God’s revelation of Himself? What issues are you facing that you need to turn over to Him for restoration in His timing?

Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)

19 For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.



Posted by: Kristen Doty AT 10:03 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, November 29 2017
Tis the Season to Show Compassion

Grace Vanderbilt lived a life of luxury in the early 1900s. She was a New York socialite referred to as the “Head of Society.”  Following her husband’s death in 1942, she was forced to sell her 58 room mansion and move into a 28 room home called the Gardener’s Cottage. Living with her in this new home, were eighteen servants, yet in a Time magazine article she was quoted as saying, “I’m all alone.” Imagine that!

Psychologists tell us that we are living in the loneliest of times. The technology that was supposed to bring us all together, has only pushed us further apart.  Despite our access to social media and connections with people 24/7, we are the loneliest people ever. During the holidays, it becomes even worse for people. As we connect with loved ones and celebrate the joy we have in our Savior’s birth, let’s remember to reflect His glory and compassion for others.

As we continue to Love in Ways that Matter, remember to have compassion and to take the time to listen and find the miracles in the moments. Even a warm smile can go a long way in letting someone know that you care. Jesus came as a babe in the manger to set the captives free and in doing that, adopt us into the family of God. May we remember that we are not alone. There are lives all around us. People made in the image of God who may need a glimpse of hope, a taste of grace, and a little bit of love.  When we shine the light of Christ this season, we will experience the miracle of that first Christmas so many years ago.


Pastor Kristen

Posted by: Kristen Doty AT 08:27 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, August 26 2017

Statement from the General Director: Charlottesville


Paul Goodloe McIntire was an investment genius, whose savvy management of stock portfolios in both Chicago and New York empowered him to be one of his hometown's preeminent philanthropists. Inspired by the City Beautiful movement dramatically brought to life at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, he dedicated himself to funding monumental public spaces, city parks and squares, most often featuring heroic sculpture. He was born in 1860 and polished his fortune in New York City before retiring in 1918; he then returned to the beloved city of his birth: Charlottesville, Virginia.

McIntire was a son of the South. The Old South. His father was the mayor of Charlottesville during the Civil War and negotiated the city's surrender to Union troops, saving its buildings and leafy neighborhoods from the firestorms that engulfed Fredericksburg and Richmond. As a young man, he attended Charlottesville's famed University of Virginia, studying under Thomas Jefferson's elegant Rotunda. He would become one of the University's most extravagant donors, endowing chairs and schools that still bear his name.

And, McIntire gave Charlottesville a statue of Robert E. Lee, straddling the horse Traveler, commanding Lee Park in the heart of the city-the park itself a gift from this wealthy favorite son, who required that access to the park be for "whites only." He also gave the city Washington Park, named to honor Booker T. Washington, asking that it be reserved for "colored children." No statues there.

In the week following the unveiling of Lee's statue in 1924 (at a ceremony in which the Confederate general was proclaimed, "the greatest man who ever lived"), the Ku Klux Klan burned crosses across the town and set bombs around a Charlottesville church popular with the African-American community. Events in Charlottesville mirrored the tenor of the times, as the Klan was in its ascendancy. During the 1920s, up to 25,000 Klansmen, in full regalia-white hoods and all the rest-annually marched proudly down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., in a show of force not lost on the minority communities they sought to both marginalize and terrorize.

There were more black Americans living (and enslaved) in Charlottesville and the surrounding Albemarle County, Virginia, before and during the Civil War than there were white Americans. When Lee's statue took the stage in the 1920s, about 35 percent of the city's population had descended from those slaves. Memorializing the vanguard of the Confederacy and celebrated by the Klan, Lee Park and its statue received mixed reviews, then and now. People of color in Charlottesville during the McIntire years, and for years, after had no voice in municipal government, having been systemically denied effective representation by Jim Crow-era laws and processes designed to move them to the sidelines. African American slaves built iconic local landmarks (like Jefferson's Monticello and much of the University of Virginia campus) but were not represented as contributors in any public space, while those who owned people as property were raised up as heroes decades after losing the War.

In May 2016, after some years of community debate, the city of Charlottesville established a "Blue Ribbon Commission" to explore the future of the Lee statue (and another one similar, also a 1920s McIntire gift, of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, proudly on a pedestal elsewhere in town). The Commission managed many months of public conversation and research-often contentious and dubbed "a moment of rupture" by one Commission member-and released its findings in December 2016. The City Council voted in March 2017 to remove and "reinterpret" the Lee monument; this decision was challenged in court; the case remains unresolved, before the bench. This controversy and the Charlottesville story became a cause for the erstwhile guardians of white supremacy, nationwide.

In May 2017, white nationalist (and University of Virginia graduate) Richard Spencer and about a hundred others joined in an after-dark protest of the city's plans, chanting "Russia is our friend," "blood and soil" (a Nazi refrain), and "we will not be replaced" (white supremacist-speak declaring that ethnic diversity will render white Americans an "endangered" minority in "their own" country).

In August 2017, Spencer and others aligned with his tribe marched once more through town at night, torch-bearing, chanting the same, only this time hundreds strong. Defiant. Angry. And, armed. The newsreel captures of preppy and black-shirted white dudes snaking with torches through otherwise silent streets, loudly voicing toxic phrases like, "Jews will not replace us," are a chilling reprise of a world my father (and so many millions more like him) suited up to erase more than seventy years ago.

On the next day, Nazi and Confederate battle flags marched in tandem, ultimately destined for a face-off with protestors adamantly opposed to the racism and white supremacy both have been used to promote in two different centuries-and now a third. The violence, injury, and death that ensued has been the stuff of a thousand headlines and a stable of talking heads on TV in the days since, not to mention government officials, religious leaders, corporate execs, and so many more.

I share all this history to better understand the stage upon which these events have walked. The Civil War frame, the scourge of slavery, the context of the statue, a city's honest attempt to process how it should today tell its own story with public spaces and art, and the specter of racism which haunts the whole, all encompass the proscenium. Watching the drama unfold, it is time to speak up.

My Terms of Employment at Church of God Ministries specifically prohibit me from making statements that are political in tone or that carry politically-charged content. This parameter is rooted deeply in our Movement's DNA, historically apolitical and also fearful that any one voice be seen as speaking for church (in the way denominational hierarchies are prone to embrace). Consequently, Church of God Ministries during my tenure (and long before) has not issued statements in response to man-made headlines. However, in this instance, given the temperature of the controversies and requests from the field-and after consultation with our General Assembly chair Diana Swoope, and the Assembly's chair-elect, Tim Clarke-I am releasing this reply. I own the content, drawing from the General Assembly's actions and voice on behalf of the church, over time.

The Church of God must provide no quarter to racism of any kind and has consistently rebuked white supremacy. Its General Assembly has many times (beginning in 1956) unambiguously opposed racism, racial segregation, political and social barriers to racial harmony and reconciliation, and racial discrimination of all kinds.

"We base our stand toward basic human rights on the teaching of the Scriptures. God has 'made of one blood all nations of men' (Acts 17:26). 'For we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ...for we are all one in Jesus Christ' (Galatians 3:26, 28). The first of these speaks as to origin, the second as to relationship. We believe that in the Church of God there should be no racial barriers because we are all brethren in Christ. We believe that man was made in the image of God, that every person is of intrinsic worth before God, and that every individual has a right to the fullest possible opportunities for the development of life abundant and eternal. We believe that these rights are given by God and that the church has a responsibility to defend them and work for their guarantee." (General Assembly Statement on Race, June 1964)

The Church of God has also consistently acknowledged the intentionality required to overcome hell's default temptation to divide on racial lines. Responding to racially charged injustice in 2015, the General Assembly overwhelmingly endorsed this text:

"We resolve to express our compassion and concern (in the face of racism and racial injustice) in the following six ways:

Leadership-we call on pastors and leaders to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to live out a countercultural lifestyle that works to expose and repent of the sin of racial division and acknowledges the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Prayer-we pray for healing, repentance, unity and peace, and we plead for God's mercy on our nation and on those who are compliant with the racial violence and racial disparities being manifested in the church and in the systems of this world;

Lament-we mourn in solidarity and sympathy with the people of (Charleston's) Emanuel AME Church and the families, congregations and communities affected by the traumatic impact of these incidents, and we confess our past and present failure to walk faithfully and consistently in the light of our belief in a God who has no respect of persons;

Forgiveness-we affirm radical forgiveness of the persons whose motivation for doing harm to others is racial hatred and discrimination, acknowledging what Jesus taught and showed us by His death on the cross, that love is stronger than hate;

Justice-we acknowledge that ministers in our own General Assembly and fellow congregants have been victims of racial profiling, we stand for justice to be administered on their behalf in a fair and impartial manner, we urgently call for justice in all cases of racially-motivated violence, and we support those agencies and officials who enforce the law and administer justice equitably to ensure the safety and security of all of our citizens, congregations and communities;

Vision of reconciliation-we commit ourselves as people of Christian faith to envision, strategize and work toward the realization of a reconciled church, nation and world." (General Assembly Resolution on Race, June 2015)

In a world of soundbites and 140-character Twitter posts, it is easy to overlook the seminal contexts and histories of "moments of rupture." It is easy to drive by a story without pausing to explore the stage-framing events. We must all be committed to studying, listening, and thoughtfully responding in a world so desperately broken, divided, and tense. Charlottesville has become a kind of emblem, a marker for our time. It has already become a shorthand for controversy, media debate, tragedy, and the resurgence of ideas many thought vanquished years ago.

But, whatever the lens, we stand united in our defiance of racism and our vociferous opposition to all ideologies and conduct clothed by white supremacy. As followers of Jesus, transformed by His Holy Spirit, we will be neither separated or tiered by race, ethnicity, national origin, culture, gender, or economic station. We are loved equally by Him-and we must love others the same.

Charlottesville's long journey to the present hour, wrestling with a complex history that has not always honored all who call it home, has become a flashlight shining into every corner of the country. From Jefferson's plantation to Lee's defense of slavery to McIntire's vision of segregated public spaces crowned by Confederate statues to Klan autographs on twentieth century history to today's reality, let us "come to a thorough awareness that there is a disparity between our vision for reconciliation and the actual experience of many of our brothers and sisters; And, let us learn to listen to the stories our brothers and sisters share, express in word and deed our feelings of empathy, and commit to walk together as we boldly stand against every form of racism." (General Assembly of the Church of God, June 2015)

Be bold. Reclaim what hell has stolen. Jesus is the subject. The Way. The Truth. And, the Life.

I am, humbly, your brother in Christ.

Jim Lyon signature

Jim Lyon

General Director

Posted by: Kristen Doty AT 08:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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