Reflections on Faith and Community
In this blog, you will find weekly reflections on life and faith. My hope is that, in some way, they will prove helpful to you in your daily living. May God bless you on the spiritual journey.
Andrew S. Odom
A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. (Luke 8:23)
The tornadoes hit. We know that it will happen sometimes, that we are not immune from natural disasters, but still, we hope it never comes. It did on Sunday. One of the tornadoes ripped through my old neighborhood in Preston Hollow. After the storm, I began seeing posts from friends. My friend’s pizzeria at Preston and Royal is gone. Another friends parents live right behind there, and their street looks like a warzone. Still another friend’s house that he grew up in was destroyed. The Home Depot on Forest that was destroyed is right next to where my wife, Denise, works at Presbyterian Village North. Fortunately every one is alright. There were no deaths related to the storm, and I am thankful.
Still, when a storm hits so close to home, it does something to you. You feel robbed of something special, like a thief walked in and took one of your cherished things from you. It hurts and leaves you a little empty inside. This is where the community of faith can turn the tide. When someone has been hurt or feels rejected or threatened, the offerings of other people can be a Godsend. In the case of the tornadoes, it has been all the outreach of those I know to make sure others are alright. The past couple of days have been a flurry of making sure people are ok and safe. It is a hopeful sign of our true selves, reminding us all that, deep down, we aren’t the ogres we think we are and are, in fact, good souls who love and care for one another. I can’t help but think of it as a gift of God.
Published on 10/21/2019 @ 7:47 PM CDT
Published on 10/14/2019 @ 12:30 PM CDT
Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. (Luke 18:1)
Do you pray? If so, how do you pray? If not, do you find yourself wanting to? This Sunday we are going to read the parable from Luke 18 that Jesus tells, and we are going to talk about it. I am looking forward to it, because I happen to believe that prayer can be a game changer in a person’s life.
I will admit, though, that I used to think I wasn’t good at praying. The reason I didn’t think I prayed well is because I had a very narrow view of what prayer should look like. I used to think that if it wasn’t done in a church or in a secluded space somewhere and that if I didn’t get down on my knees and sit there for a good long time, then it wasn’t prayer. Since I didn’t do those things consistently, I didn’t think I was very good at praying. That’s what I used to think.
One day, though, a friend of mine who happened to be a pastor asked me something when I was telling her how I wasn’t good at prayer.
She said, “Tell me, do you talk to God or think about God?”
“Well, yes,” I replied. “I think about God a lot.”
“That might just be how you pray,” she told me.
I had never considered that every thought I had about God or every question I would ask of God was a form of prayer. It changed how I looked at it. When you put it that way, I will bet a good number of us pray more often than we thought we did. Oh, I do get down on my knees from time to time, and it is a good practice for me. But, most of my prayers come in the form of ongoing thought about God, those times when I find myself pondering God’s mystery. Prayer comes in many forms. Perhaps the better question to ask is not whether you pray or not, but how do you pray?
Published on 10/07/2019 @ 8:05 PM CDT
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
This past weekend, a group of us from CCPC flew to Allentown, New Jersey to be part of the 10th Anniversary of Villages in Partnership, a Malawi mission that we have been a partner with for a number of years now. It was an incredible celebration that included a fundraiser banquet on Saturday night, followed by a vibrant service of worship Sunday morning at Allentown Presbyterian Church. The weekend raised $414,000 for VIP, all of which will go to help the most vulnerable in southern Malawi, a country that constantly ranks in the top five of the poorest countries on the planet.
Here are a few statistics of Malawi:
- A population of 18.5 million people
- 1 million orphans
- Annual gross national income of $650 per person
- Almost 50% of the population moderately or severely underweight
- Mother’s mean age at first birth: 18
- 85% live as subsistence farmers
- Average life expectancy is 61
- 10% of the adult population living with HIV/AIDS
As Liz Heinzel-Nelson, director of VIP, is quick to remind you, there are real people behind these numbers. So, 10 years ago, Villages in Partnership started the mission of “being there” for the Sakata Villages in southern Malawi. They have been there through famine, flood, and disease. They have been there through hunger and heartache. And because they have been there, things have drastically improved. In short, our partnership with VIP has made a huge difference in the lives of people. One thing the people of Malawi continue to say when we go is this, “Don’t ever leave us.” And we won’t. We will continue being there.
Published on 09/23/2019 @ 10:50 PM CDT
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)
The other day, I thought of a story from my childhood that I shared with you in a sermon a few years back. I thought I might share it again here as some stories are worth repeating.
When I was growing up, my best friend had an uncle named Ron. We loved Uncle Ron. He was funny and crass and full of life. But one thing we learned quickly was that you did not want to upset him. We had seen how he got when he occasionally lost his temper, and we never wanted to be the recipients of what we saw, never.
One summer Uncle Ron asked us to wash his brand new Ford Bronco. He ordered the works, and we eagerly accepted. The day came for us to do the job, and we gave it our all: wash, wax, buff, the entire enchilada. And then it happened. Without thinking, my friend and I crawled on top of the truck to wax and buff the roof. Almost immediately the roof bent in leaving a huge dent that could not be hidden.
Who was going to tell Uncle Ron? Not me! You do it, you’re his nephew. No way! Should we tell him at all? I mean, he’s going to kill us, like really kill us. We finally decided to do it together. If we went together, maybe two of us would make it out alive. With shaky knees and quivering lips we entered Uncle Ron’s study to confess our mistake. There he sat behind his desk like Don Corleone in The Godfather. We were terrified. He listened to our confession, and without saying a word, he walked out to the truck to look at the roof.
“Where is it?” he asked.
“Right here,” we told him, pointing to what was completely obvious.
“I don’t see anything,” he replied. He then pulled out $40. “You did a fine job boys.”
A few weeks later, I noticed that the roof had been repaired.
Sometimes in this life as we stand there with shaky knees and quivering lips knowing that we are going to get the full brunt of all that is coming to us, we experience something different. We experience instead a glimpse of the unmerited unearned favor of God. It is more than just being forgiven for something you have done. It is grace.
Published on 09/14/2019 @ 9:34 PM CDT