Sharing Love

Her name is Xiomara. She is probably five or six years old, very small for your age. She has beautiful dark eyes and hair and a beautiful smile. She came to both sessions of our Bible School during our time in El Salvador which means that she was not attending her regular school (or it might mean that she didn’t attend school at all). She would come through the door, directly to me, give me a big hug and climb up in my lap. All through our lessons, she sat by me. She spoke no English and I speak very little Spanish, but we shared love with each other. If you ask me why I do international mission work, it’s because of the children I have enjoyed working with for just a few days at a time. We enjoyed learning familiar songs in Spanish like “Jesus Loves Me,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “Father Abraham,” and even “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmitt.” (That is Scott’s personal favorite!) We played games that were familiar like “Simon Says,” “Red Light, Green Light,” and “Duck, Duck Goose.” They loved to play catch with balls and push Scott around in his wheel chair. It was not unusual for six or seven kids to be sitting with Scott in his wheelchair at any given time. We made crafts and shared familiar Bible Stories with the kids. But most of all, we shared love with them and they shared love for us. The last session was hard for all of us. As our plane took off for home from San Salvador on that Saturday, I cried because I didn’t want to leave my friends. If I could have gotten Xiomara in my suitcase, I would have brought her home with me.

You don’t have to go to El Salvador to have the same kinds of experiences here in our neighborhoods. There are many children in our community who need to feel the love of an adult hugging them and telling them that their color sheet is beautiful. They need to hear the stories of Jesus and learn more about His love for us. We will be having an opportunity to do just that on the first two weeks of June. I hope you will take an opportunity to volunteer for our Vacation Bible School. Your time with the children will be so important to you and to them. If you need more information, contact Chris Tench or sign up on our website. If you are not able to volunteer, then pray for our VBS – that we will make a difference in the lives of children all over our community.

God Bless,
Rev. Carol Cook

Life Lessons from My Crochet Basket

I have always enjoyed doing things with my hands. My grandmother taught me to sew and embroider when I was a teenager and through the years I have learned ceramics, stained glass, counted cross-stitch and quilting. Most recently, I taught myself to crochet. Crocheting for a left-handed person can be difficult because most directions and patterns are written for right-handed people. But after much practice and patience, I can do most any pattern and I find it relaxing to sit in a quiet place and focus on a pattern that will make something useful and beautiful.
While working on my latest project, it occurred to me that there are several life lessons that are reinforced as I use my hook and yarn. Here are two:

1. The old saying, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well” certainly applies to everything, including a crochet pattern. It takes practice to do even stitches with just the right tension. It is important to follow the pattern and keep up with the stitch count. Having just one stitch too few or too many makes the pattern not work. So often we go through life haphazardly, not preparing for what we know will come our way or following the guides that are there to help us. The Bible comes to mind. If we don’t familiarize ourselves with God’s word and follow the teachings found there, our lives don’t turn out useful or beautiful.

2. There are always “do overs.” When I make a mistake in reading my pattern and something doesn’t match or fit, I can pull out the stitches and correct my mistake. Sometimes I catch the mistake quickly and only have to pull out a few stitches, other times I don’t catch it until later and I have to pull out many rows of stitches. There have even been times when I have just had to start over with new thread. It’s important to remember that we get “do overs” in life, as well. We are not perfect – God knows that and is ready to forgive us when we make a mistake. It may take work to repair the mistake, but with patience and our guidebook, we can move forward.

I’m sure that you can think of other lessons, and I hope that you will. But what I want to remind myself this day is that life takes work, it takes being mindful and aware, it takes patience, it takes diligence and it cannot be lived alone. God guides me through His Word and through the work of the Holy Spirit. I need to focus on Him and the direction He gives me. I am a part of a community and can learn from and be helped by others. It is then that my life will be useful and beautiful.

I also think that we need to be reminded of these lessons in our churches. The Church is the Body of Christ. It is care and growth that requires us to be our best and give our best. Sometimes we don’t focus on God as we should. Sometimes we are selfish. Sometimes we are apathetic. Sometimes we don’t take God seriously. And from this lack of focus, the church loses its power to transform the world. God expects us to give freely and diligently of our prayer, presence, gifts, service and witness so that world can be made a useful and beautiful place. Lord, let it be so!!!

God Bless,
Rev. Carol Cook

Trust in God

As I look out my window on the rainy, spring-like morning with flowers beginning to bloom and trees beginning to bud, I am thankful for this time of year. Spring is my favorite time of year. The days are getting longer, I can get out and enjoy nature more and everything looks new and beautiful.

As I thought about the beautiful flowers, I was reminded of the passage in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount about the lilies and how God clothes them splendor. Jesus was teaching the crowd how to prioritize their lives and to not worry. That is a lesson I need to hear every day!

I must confess that I tend to be a worrier. I come by it honestly because my mother is also a worrier. If I was two minutes late getting home, she was ready to call the police. I find that my worry is usually about things that I cannot change or about things that are probably not going to happen in the future. Can you relate?
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Solomon says that we must acknowledge God in all our ways and turn over our entire life to him.

Planning is time well spent; worrying is time wasted. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference. Careful planning is thinking ahead about goals, steps, and schedules, and trusting in God’s guidance. When done well, planning can help alleviate worry. Worriers, by contrast, are consumed by fear and find it difficult to trust God. They let their plans interfere with their relationship with God.

Don’t let your worries affect your relationship with God – trust in Him to guide you and trust in the abilities He has given you to plan your life. As you look at the flowers and trees this Spring, remember that if God has taken care of their needs and clothed them beautifully, how much more He will take care of you. Amen.

God bless,
Rev. Carol Cook

Words for the Journey

My favorite psalm is Psalm 121 (I hope you will take a moment and read it). It has been called “A Psalm for Sojourners,” and was sung as the Jews journeyed to Jerusalem for religious celebrations. In verse 5, the psalmist gives beautiful images of our Lord as our Keeper, our Shade, and our Protector. These images tell us that God loves us so much that He is going to care for us as we walk through this journey called life. Things are going to happen on this journey that are difficult, there will be days when we need a shield to protect us from circumstances, people, and our own struggles. There will be times when we will need to rest by the cool shade of an oak tree on a very hot, sunny day. When difficulties arise, when we need to feel peace and rest, it is a comfort to know that God is there with oak tree or that protecting shield. What images of God help you as you journey through life? Take a moment and write them down. Maybe you see God as Shepherd, gathering us together. Or maybe you see God as Teacher, showing you the way. Whatever those images are, they help ground you in your faith and deal with the issues that come your way.
I hope that you will take a moment and reflect on how God helps you in all circumstances – maybe you have had a tough time with an illness or lost a family member or friend. Maybe God has opened a new way for you and there is much excitement in your life. Whatever comes your way, know that God is always there for you, loving, caring, protecting, shading, gathering, and teaching you on this journey of life. Amen.
God Bless,
Rev. Carol Cook

Welcome to 2018

Welcome to 2018 – a new year filled with new possibilities and opportunities. As I put up new calendars this week, I thought about all the things that will happen over the next twelve months. I thought about all the Sundays that we will worship together, I thought about all the events that we will plan and carry out, I thought about growth and change and I said a prayer that God would take control of this new year and make it something special.

My focus for our church in this new year is growth. I want us to grow in our faith and understanding of God’s work in our lives. We will be reading the Bible through this year together. I hope you have begun, but if not, you can jump in anytime. We are offering more opportunities for Bible study and small groups that will give you an opportunity to not only learn more about God’s word but also build relationships and Christian fellowship. We will continue offering opportunities for service in our community and throughout the world. We will be trying new forms of worship at our 8:45 service, continue excellent worship at our 11:00 service, and explore other ways to worship and build community. I hope you will make spiritual growth a priority this year. Worship often, find a small group, read the Bible through, find ways to serve others, pray, and practice generosity and hospitality.

Growth also includes widening our circle. We have an opportunity to invite new people and share with them how special our Chamblee First family is. We will be looking for new ways to tell people about our faith in a grace-filled, loving God. We will be looking for ways to connect new people to our church. I encourage you invite your neighbors to join you in worship, study, and service.

I am excited about this new year and look forward to working with you to discern God’s path for our future.

God’s blessings,

Rev. Carol Cook