The Heartbeat
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” – Colossians 3:2

It was about 13 years ago now that I became quite convinced that the U.S. was on the verge of going to war against North Korea. Various news reports seemed to support my conviction. I was certain that perilous times were right around the corner for both nations. Clearly I was wrong.

My error was prompted by two things: 1. What I was selectively watching, listening to and reading, and 2. My feelings. Thus my "conviction" was predicated upon faulty information and my gut-level feelings about what I had read. In the end, both were misleading.

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." – 1 Peter 5:5

Like Franklin Graham, I viewed Donald J. Trump's victory in 2016 as an intervention by God into the future of America. I was amazed how Trump overcame obstacle after obstacle (usually found in the form of some asinine comment made by him or yet another revelation of a dark event in his past) that had stood in his way. That he actually made it all the way to winning the presidency seemed almost miraculous. And so I hoped and prayed for his good success. As I said to a friend at the time, "Donald Trump has the capacity to become either one of America's greatest presidents or one of its worst."

Last November (2019) we weren’t wearing masks or social distancing. Then in 2020 came the pandemic and much has changed. Yet, there are some things that will never change…the church for one thing.

My husband and I live in a retirement community and since this is an older age community, there have been restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 virus. As a visitor driving on to our campus, now you must check in to have your temperature taken and answer questions similar to the requirements at any medical facility to determine if you are safe for the older residents who reside here. Social distancing and masks are still mandatory like many other public places.

Last Sunday was our annual congregational business meeting as well as our 10-year celebration. It is humbling to be reminded that the building of the church is Christ's principle work today and that we are part of that. As for the congregational meeting, for the second year in a row, by a unanimous vote, all officers were affirmed and the budget was approved. This may not seem significant to you but as one who has been at nearly 40 of these meetings and NEVER saw things being approved by a unanimous vote it is really quite amazing.

As suggested at the meeting, this November is a very busy month for Burning Hearts, so let me explain what I mean…

This is a big Sunday. If we weren't still in the midst of the coronavirus, the elders have agreed that we would be doing more to highlight this day. So, presuming things have returned to some sense of normalcy by next summer, hopefully then we will have a more official "celebration": inviting former members and attenders to come, hearing from some who may now be far away, rejoicing in God's mercy and goodness to us through these years.

Much has changed for many in these 10 years. For example:

  • A number of our earliest people are now with the Lord (Doris Carter, Jim Cohen, Jeanne Coleman, Diane Dickson, Zach Flick, Doris Flick, David and Esther Livingston, Marian Luce, Fran Pollack, Larry Ross, Tom Solanto, Susan Stover, and John Wagner (did I forget any?))
  • Just consider that every child you now see at Burning Hearts under the age of 10, did not even exist back when we started!
  • And, of course, a number of people moved away or have moved on.

I recently ordered copies of a book – one book for each family unit here at Burning Hearts. The books are a gift to you. And what is the book? It is entitled Reconstruction in America. I will tell you WHY I ordered these books for you all, but first let me give you a bit of my personal background as it relates to race relationships.

I grew up in Michigan, attending all-white schools and an all-white church. The only black person I came to know back then was a black maid who came to our house one day a week to clean. I was too young and naïve to be aware of racial tensions, problems or injustices. I do recall that there was a man who attended the church my dad pastored who was part of the John Birch Society. I didn't know what that meant, but I knew it had something to do with opposing Martin Luther King, Jr.

During the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school we moved to Phoenix, Arizona. There I attended a high school that had only one black student: a girl, whose parents brought her to school each day in their Rolls Royce.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" – John 21:15 (NIV)

Following the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there are recorded for us a number of times in which the disciples interacted with Jesus. In John chapter 21, the recorded interaction took place following the disciples, at Peter's prompting, having just spent a night fishing – a night in which they caught nothing. Come early morning, they were ready to quit when a man on shore called to them, challenging them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. They did so and brought in the haul of a lifetime: 153 large fish! To any fisherman, this was truly a fisherman's dream catch. Realizing that the man on shore was Jesus, they immediately headed in. Bringing ashore some of the fish they cooked them and ate. It is at this point that Jesus asked Peter the question noted in the quotation above: "Do you truly love me more than these?"

The following are thoughts on a variety of unrelated subjects, in no particular order...

COVID-19

The recent statement by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that only 6% of the 200,000+ deaths attributed to the coronavirus involved people without known co-morbidities is huge. What this means is that if you are free of the list of co-morbidities (such as obesity, diabetes, COPD, etc), the likelihood of you getting the coronavirus and dying from it is statistically negligible.

Nursery Worker Volunteers

Nursery coordinator Patti Stone says that while she is still open to more volunteers, the nursery is currently fully staffed. Thank you!

Kitchenette

Within a week of announcing the need/desire for some donated cabinetry for our yet to be installed kitchenette (after January 1), we had a generous offer of exactly what we were looking for! So another Thank you!

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." – 1 Peter 4:10

During last Sunday's sermon I referenced both Nate Garland (our Director of Praise) and Chris Wert (one of our elders). As it turned out, neither of them was in the service. Where were they? On vacation? Out golfing? Taking the day off and skipping church? No. Nate was helping his wife with the young children in Toddler Time and Chris was teaching the elementary age children in Children's Church. Wow! What an example of leaders who are workers.

The church is the greatest volunteer organization on the face of the earth. Nothing else even begins to compare in terms of the hours and devotion of its members. As things would be, Nate Garland is also an employee of the church. But he does not earn one dime more for his helping his wife with the young children in Toddler Time. Nor does he earn one dime less if he were not to help. But other than Nate and me (Pastor Doug), no one EARNS any money doing their work at Burning Hearts.

"And he said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." – Luke 12:15

Back in 2004 I attended the annual hot rod show in York for what they call the Street Rod Nationals. Although I have always had a great interest in cars I never got into hot rods. So this was a new experience for me. As I recall I had my son, David, along with me. It was a beautiful day and the cars were really quite impressive. As we looked over the cars slowly we began to talk about what we liked or didn't like. And as time went by, as many of the cars had "For Sale" signs on them we began to learn just how much money it would take to buy one of the cars that we liked. These fifteen years later I can only imagine that the prices have gone up since back then. But the "bottom line" was that we concluded it would take about $50,000 to buy what we thought we might like.

"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will." – Ephesians 1:11 (ESV)

When I was growing up, I looked for four-leaf clovers. But I never found one. Then, about 10 years ago, while outside in summer, I said to Ruth, "My whole life I've been looking for a four-leaf clover and I have never found one." Ruth looked down, bent over and WHILE PICKING A FOUR-LEAF CLOVER (!!!!!) said, "You mean like this?" I was incredulous. How did she do that? Since then I have found a good number of four-leaf clovers…probably one or two per summer. When I find one I generally encase it in transparent tape and mark the date I found it. Our daughter, Esther, borrowed a book from me some months back and when about half-way through the book found one of my dated four-leaf clovers in the book.

But this year…ah, yes, this year…the terrible year no one will ever forget…this year I have not found a single four-leaf clover. What can I say? It fits the year.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." - Ecclesiastes 3:1

As you read this, I am assuming that all went well yesterday for Ruth's and my third child, Esther, and her much delayed wedding to Marcus Shand. I say "much delayed" because the wedding had originally been scheduled for June 6. Then, because of COVID, it was moved to July 4. And then, again because of COVID, it was moved to September 5. But we all agreed that it was not about to be moved again. So, even though I am writing this BEFORE the wedding I am assuming it took place. Hopefully it "came off without a hitch."

Because of the wedding I am blessed to have my dad, two sisters (Shirley and Marilou) and my younger sister's husband (Wayne) in town this morning, along with the all of our children. I am hoping that many of them will still be in town so as to be here at church this morning. Many of you are already familiar with my dad. Unlike my sisters, he will be staying with us for a month or so.

1865 was the year that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Only 5 days earlier General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant and the American Civil War came to an end. 1865 was also the year when the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified (abolishing slavery), and it was the year the Salvation Army was founded. It was also the year that Charles Darwin's book, Origin of the Species, was first published.

1945 was the year that atomic bombs were dropped on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the two deadliest days in the history of mankind. 1945 was also the end of WWII. Guitarist Eric Clapton and singer Carly Simon were both born that year.

"One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." – Romans 14:5

I recently saw a number of articles that piqued my interest:

Should you have the opportunity to take a summer vacation, and should you find you have more time than things to do, here are some films that I would recommend for your viewing during that time...

Amadeus: The music of Mozart, great acting, and a captivating story. One of my personal favorites.

The Artist: A modern black and white silent movie. Who would have imagined, right? Great story and a reminder that even with changes in life there can still be a future.

Ben Hur: If you have never read the book, watch this 1959 classic starring Charlton Heston. The chariot race scene is considered among the greatest 8 minutes of cinema ever filmed. The film exalts Christ.

"Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you." – Luke 10:19

It has always been a gripe of mine that Christians often take Bible verses that were written to a specific audience and then try and generalize that verse so as to make it apply to everyone. The most common example of this is Jeremiah 29:11 ("For I know the plans I have for you…plans for welfare, and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope"). Jeremiah 29:11 was addressed to Israel, based upon them having a repentant heart. But we tend to hear it being applied to every believer regardless of what is going on in their life.

With that in mind, it is important to note the context of Luke 10:19 (quoted above). Luke 10:19 was addressed to the 72 followers of Christ who had been sent out by Christ. It was not addressed to you or to me.

"For everything there is a season…" – Ecclesiastes 3:1

On this very hot day, in this most difficult of years, allow me to take your thoughts elsewhere: back to a winter day when I was just a teenager, living in Michigan. By this point in my life, it had been several years since my dad had started collecting horse drawn carriages, most built in the mid to late 1800s. As we had carriages it only made sense that we would also get horses, and so we did. And as my two sisters and I each had our own lengthy list of chores, mine included taking care of the horses. So early each morning I would make my way to the barn to make sure they had water and hay; late at night I made sure they again had water and hay, but this time I would also give them grain. Every few days I would clean out the stalls and put down fresh straw. My sisters and I would brush them down and, in the summer, give them baths with water from a hose. The greatest number of horses we had at any one time was eight. By the time I was 14 I had purchased my own palomino quarter horse for $750. Working at an upholstery shop at $1.25/hour it took me a long time to pay for that horse, plus a saddle and bridle.

"Let God be true though everyone were a liar." – Romans 3:4 (ESV)

It was about eight years ago that Ruth, Jonathan and I visited Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. This was not my first visit to that house. As one who used to be a museum manager (overseeing an 18th century house, and regularly giving tours to the public) how a property is presented is of special interest to me. It was immediately evident, upon this latest visit to Jefferson's home, that change was in the wind. Sure, we were reminded of Jefferson's role in this nation's founding, his special role in helping to draft (and write) the Declaration of Independence, his role as President of the United States and his procuring of the Louisiana Purchase. His keen intellect, his architectural skills, and his theological musings – all these were again brought to our attention. But this time, something else was not merely mentioned but was, instead, the focus of the tour: Jefferson's owning of slaves, dependence upon those slaves, mistreatment of those slaves, impregnating of at least one of those slaves and eventual sale of those slaves (to help pay off his many debts as he was, for all his skills, a poor money manager). In short it was as if it was the determination of those overseeing the museum house that Thomas Jefferson be taken off of his pedestal and that we all begin to see him as he truly was: a very flawed man.

This past Thursday night, a number of church leaders were invited to attend the monthly Elders' meeting to discuss plans for future church meetings. When in early May the elders proposed our current two-service format (masked; masks optional) with the chairs being set up so as to maximize social distancing, we were pleased with how well it has worked out. But the desire to get back to a single service, have a nursery and classes for both children and adults has not been lost. So with that in mind we met on Thursday. The prayer going into that meeting was for wisdom and unity.

We believe that God answered our prayer. For after lengthy discussion, we unanimously came to a number of decisions. All of these "decisions" are considered tentative as it is impossible to know what the state of things (in regards to the coronavirus) will be two months or more from now. One of the elders was unable to attend the meeting and so all of these points will be reviewed again at the August Elders' meeting. We are committed to unanimity on these decisions. But so that you might know where we think we should be going, here is what we agreed upon…

"Wretched man that I am…" Romans 7:24a

In last Sunday's sermon, I mentioned, in passing, my surprise at the toppling of a statue of Francis Scott Key, the composer of our National Anthem. I had learned, somewhere along the line, that Key was an outspoken Christian and the author of a number of Christian hymns. Having witnessed the Battle of Baltimore in September, 1814 and seeing the U.S. flag still flying "by the dawn's early light," he composed The Star Spangled Banner. The motto "In God we Trust" (found on all U.S. coins/money) is attributed to Key and that song.

So I questioned why anyone would want to tear down a statue of Francis Scott Key. I understand the taking down of those monuments meant to honor those who were part of the Confederacy, but why Key?

Sunday afternoon I received a kindly worded email from a woman challenging me to do some research on Key. I told her I would and here is what I learned: Francis Scott Key, though a devout Episcopalian (and Christian), owned 6 slaves. As a U.S. Attorney working in the District of Columbia he took a number of cases in which he defended slave owners. And while he also was somewhat influenced by the abolitionists of his day, all in all his legal and personal record is one of being an anti-abolitionist. And thus the toppling of his statue.

"Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name." – Genesis 2:19

While attending Westminster Theological Seminary, I went with some other students to New York City to meet with a Chinese Christian pastor. That pastor (whose name I do not recall) arranged for us to see a Broadway play and also went with us to the top of the World Trade Center building while we were in town. While on the observation floor of that building and looking out over the city skyline, I entered into a deep conversation with this Chinese pastor. Along the way I made the comment, "I'm not very creative." This man immediately rebuked me (and rightly so) reminding me that I was a son of Adam, made not only in his image but also in the image of God. "Our God is a creator, and he made Adam in his image, making him also a creator. You also were meant to create. Never say you are not creative." Adam's creativity is seen in the very earliest of acts that we read of him: the naming of the animals. That may seem like a simple enough task except that there were and are literally thousands of different animals (Wikipedia suggests that there are currently 8.7 million species!). Okay, so I got it: don't ever suggest that any person is not creative. We may be disobedient to what we were meant to be, but we are all sons of Adam, meant to reflect the likeness and image of God.

Upcoming Events

Fall Bible Study
05 Nov 2020 - 07:00PM
Fall Bible Study
12 Nov 2020 - 07:00PM
BraveHearts Breakfast and Service Day
14 Nov 2020 - 07:00AM
Getting Ready for Christmas
04 Dec 2020 - 07:00PM