2016 (Archived)


December 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016, we will have our Christmas Eve Service at 5:30 PM.

Sunday, December 25, 2016, on Christmas Day, we will have our worship service at 2:00 PM with no Sunday School classes meeting.

Sunday, January 1, 2017 we will have worship service only at 10:00 AM, Sunday school classes will not meet.

The Church Office will be open December 19, 2016 through December 29, 2016 from 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM Monday-Thursday.

The Church Office will be closed Monday, December 26, 2016, and Monday, January 2, 2017.

 


November 2016

As I write this newsletter article, it is Monday afternoon, October 31st.  Today, Chicago Cub fans everywhere are celebrating their World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians last night, by a score of 3-2.  That victory means the Indians have a 3-2 series advantage.  One more win for the Indians and they clinch the pennant.  The Cubs will need to win two more.  The victory is particularly special for the Cub fans, for this is the first time since 1945 that the Cubs have won a World Series game in Chicago.  This is the first World Series they have been in since 1945.  They have been close a few times since then (1984, 1989, 2003 & 2015), but they could never make it over the hump. 

This World Series appearance by the Cubs is special for my family, for my father-in-law, Don, is a life-long Cubs fan.  We, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have been hoping for this day for a long time – that he could not only see the Cubs in the World Series, but possibly see them win.

As a long suffering Cubs’ fan, he has watched expectantly each year, hoping they could somehow pull it out.  Most years were disappointments because he knew from the beginning they did not have a chance.  Other years though, particularly in those years when they made it to the League Championship Series, he had a reason to be optimistic.  The “Lovable Losers” had the right combination of hitting and fielding talent.  They were coached well and all signs seemed to point to “THIS IS THE YEAR THEY FINALLY DO IT!  HALLELUJAH!”  But then… reality would set in.  Hopes would be dashed.  And… alas.  Another disappointing year and no pennant.  Yet, as all Cubs’ fans know – there is always next year.  Maybe then.  Never give up on the Cubs.  The day will come.

*********** 

I use this example of my father-in-law and the Cubbies because in some sense, many of us are Cubs’ fans.  We are not necessarily fans of the Cubs or even baseball in general, but we know “Cubs” in our lives.  Our “Cubs” are our “Prodigals.”  They are the people we love – our children, grandchildren, spouses, and other family and friends who have wandered away from the Lord and have taken a destructive path in their lives.  They are involved in behaviors that destroy them and every relationship they have.  Addictions to substances and activities have taken them from us – either by geographic or emotional distance.

As they live these prodigal lives, we watch hopeful and prayerful that they will change their ways this time.  Everything seems to point in that direction.  They say they are going to change.  They go to some 12-step meetings or seek other treatment.  They take measures which point to them actually “coming back home” as a new man or woman.  Their desire to repair broken relationships is a hopeful sign.  They promise to turn over a new leaf and not only battle but also defeat what it is that controls and destroys them.  We think, “This is it.”  But… alas.  They slip-up.  They regress.  What controls them is just too strong.  They do not change.  They do not “come home.”  Well then… maybe next time.  Maybe then.  We never give up hope.

The Lord Jesus shares a story about this in Luke 15 in the story of the Prodigal Son.  A young man left his family and found himself in the worst of living conditions.  Destitute.  Embarrassed.  Away from home.  Yet, his father waited and watched, hopeful and prayerful his son’s return.  He did not give up on the boy – and was finally able to welcome his son home.

That story is a picture of our Heavenly Father.  Standing beside us in our worry, sorrow, and grief, he watches with us, hopeful of our loved one’s return.  He knows how our heart aches.  He hears the silent prayers and our tearful cries.  He is with us, and he is hopeful, just as we are.  As he watches with us, he does not give up on our loved one and he strengthens us as we feel we are about to falter in our wait.  He knows the disappointments we have faced and he looks to the future saying, “Maybe next year.  I do not give up hope and I want let you either.”

So I encourage you, “Hang in there.”  Don’t give up hope.  Keep watching.  Keep waiting.  That day will come.

 


October 2016

Dear Friends & Church Family:

I hope school is off to a great start.  It's time to come back to church, find a Sunday school class to join, find a bible study to learn from, and seek out a ministry in need.  It's time for a fresh start.  Join us THIS SUNDAY and EVERY SUNDAY!  9:00 AM Sunday School and 10:00 AM Worship.  Various Bible Studies are available on Wednesday nights at 6:00 PM.  We look forward to seeing you SOON!

In Christ,

Jeff Gage

 


September 2016

Dear Friends & Church Family:

I hope school is off to a great start.  It's time to come back to church, find a Sunday school class to join, find a bible study to learn from, and seek out a ministry in need.  It's time for a fresh start.  Join us THIS SUNDAY and EVERY SUNDAY!  9:00 AM Sunday School and 10:00 AM Worship.  Various Bible Studies are available on Wednesday nights at 6:00 PM.  We look forward to seeing you SOON!

In Christ,

Jeff Gage

 


August 2016

Dear Lanes Chapel Family,

Many of you have spoken with me concerning the future of the United Methodist Church (UMC), especially in light of the Western Jurisdiction’s* election of a lesbian pastor, Rev. Karen Oliveto, who is married to another woman, to the position of Bishop*.  This is very disconcerting, for this election – and her ordination as a pastor – is in blatant disregard to our Book of Discipline.  Although we proclaim that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation are of sacred value and worth, the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.  Thus, self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to serve as ordained pastors in the UMC.  Our conversations have primarily centered around, “What is next for the UMC and for Lanes Chapel?”  The short answer is “I’m not sure.  Let’s wait and see.”

We must wait and see, for in response to Rev. Oliveto’s election, the South Central Jurisdiction* asked for a ruling of law from the UMC’s Judicial Council*.  The Council will rule if this is even legal under church law.  The Council should announce its decision later this year.  So… until then, we just wait.  Wait and pray.

Pray for the future of the United Methodist Church.  Pray for the Judicial Council as it makes its decision.  Pray for Rev. Oliveto and the Western Jurisdiction.  Pray for Lanes Chapel.  Pray the Lord fills us all with wisdom, discernment, and love.  Pray that we will stay true to scripture rather than be swayed by the ways of the world.

For me this is a great challenge.  Not just a Methodist pastor, I am a life-long Methodist who has never known membership in any other church than the UMC.  I love the way we “do church.”  Our theology is so rich in grace.  Our practices reflect an openness to all who enter, regardless of race, sex or age.  I hate to see the church abused and torn in such a way.  Yet, like you, I can only wait.  Also, I know if we as a denomination start to turn down an unscriptural abhorrent path, I will be forced to surrender my credentials and serve in the ministry elsewhere.  I pray it does not come to that, but I am bracing myself for that possibility.

Please know there are many who are concerned about these developments in the denomination.  The church in Africa is growing at a very rapid rate and they are very orthodox in their beliefs and practices.  This election is very upsetting to them.  The same is true for most of us in the South Central and South Eastern Jurisdictions, as well as many conservative, orthodox Christians throughout the denomination.  Many of us are heartbroken by this election.  This kind of open rebellion hurts The Church, her witness, and our future.  It must stop!

One group that has formed in response is the Wesleyan Covenant Association.  Their website is www.wesleyancovenant.org.  They are “committed to promoting ministry that combines a high view of Scripture, Wesleyan vitality, orthodox theology, and Holy Spirit empowerment.”  This group does not wish to divide the church, only to make it stronger and more scriptural.  They will be meeting October 7th in Chicago to plan for the future.

Methodist Crossroads (www.methodistcrossroads.org) is a group of conservative Methodists that “believe United Methodism should reflect its foundation of Scriptural holiness, doctrinal faithfulness, winsome evangelism, as well as social action and advocacy in the name of Jesus Christ.”  They know as “United Methodists, we are in desperate need of a season of revival, reform, and renewal. Nothing is more vital to the future of our denomination than a fresh touch from God and a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our congregations, seminaries, boards, and agencies.”  This group is urging the Council of Bishops to oppose the election of Rev. Oliveto as bishop and to take steps to strengthen and unify the denomination.  They have a petition to that effect.  If you would like to sign it as I have, please log on to their website.  The petition is on their first page.

Also, a dependable source for news and perspective is Good News Magazine, www.goodnewsmag.org.  They are a trustworthy place to find insight and opinion in this matter.  Pray for us all.

On a brighter note, we did elect a new Bishop in the Texas Annual Conference.  Rev. Dr. Scott Jones is our new bishop.  He is an orthodox Christian whose opinions I have found valuable.  I believe we made a good choice by electing him.  Please pray for him as we move into the future.

Again, as of right now all we can do is wait and pray.  As we wait, we trust the Lord to move in a mighty way and do great things.  We know we are in the palm of His hand, protected beneath the shelter of His wings.  None of this surprises Him.  Ultimately, He is still in control.  I pray for God’s blessing on us all.

In Christ,

Jeff

Glossary 

Western Jurisdiction – the churches essentially west of the Rockies, grouped together for some leadership and programming purposes.

Bishop – the highest office of leadership in the UMC.  Bishops oversee and lead smaller geographic areas within a Jurisdiction, called Annual Conferences.  Our “Conference” is basically the eastern quarter of Texas.

South Central Jurisdiction – the churches in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and New Mexico

Judicial Council – basically our “Supreme Court”

South Eastern Jurisdiction – the churches in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. 

 


July 2016

Dear Lanes Chapel Family,

Each day we are confronted by an increasing number of news reports from all over the world and even in our own country of terrorist attacks.  Gunmen and suicide bombers wreak havoc on the lives of countless families and individuals by spreading death and destruction.  Their worldview – which is fueled by hate – dictates that all of those who do not believe as they do and will not convert to their twisted way of thinking must be eradicated.  These lunatics are hitting “soft targets” such as airport lobbies and nightclubs, and this is very scary for us all – particularly our children.  So… what are we to do?  How can we best help them in these troubling times?

To find some help in this area, I will pass-on the advice of Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family.

********* 

In helping our kids, we must first remember that each child is different and they all have varying emotional needs.  However, our response can be broken down into three basic age groups.

For children through age 7 – The first thing we must do for our children in terms of bad news is be the gatekeeper and defender.  There are some things children do not need to know.  They just need to “be kids” without the troubles of the world bombarding them.  This might mean that we have to turn off the TV, radio, or computer when they are around to keep them from seeing the pictures & video and from hearing the reports.  They do not need this news in their life.

If they should see or hear these reports and ask about them, we must reassure them that as parents & grandparents we are with them.  We are here to protect them.  Most importantly, pray with them and remind them that we rest beneath the shelter of the wings of the Lord and He watches over us and protects us.

For children age 7 to 12 – This is the age when children are starting to truly grow into their emotional identity, so emotions run wild in their hearts and minds.  When they encounter these news reports they may be stricken with great anxiety.  They might feel helpless or overwhelmed with anger or fear.  The challenge is that because they are still learning to deal with emotions, they might not know how to name those feelings.  They just know something is “not right” on the inside; they just can’t put a name on it.

If that is the case for your child, help him or her by validating those feelings and say, “It’s okay to be upset.  Things are scary right now, aren’t they?”  Then discuss with them what is going on to help them understand their emotions.

Along with this, live out your faith in front of them and involve them in your faith journey.  Read scripture with them.  Pray with them.  As with the little ones, impress upon them that God and not the government is ultimately in control and that none of this happens without His watchful eye seeing it.  No matter what, He still loves us.

Teenagers – At this age, they are starting to figure out the world, but they still need some help.  So, at this age they can have a quasi-logical discussion about the issues and what is happening around us.  Help them process their feelings and analyze the news with them from a Christian perspective.  Listen to various news sources, if you like, to get different viewpoints.  Investigate the story further to help them form an understanding of what is going on in the world around them.

As with the younger ones, take them to scripture and pray with them.  Assure them the Lord is still on His throne and He has given His power to no one.  Lead them through this time with the assurance that you have your eyes on Christ and they should do the same.

*********

Unfortunately, I don’t know that this is going to get any better.  In fact, I can see it getting worse.  However, amidst it all, I know the Lord has not looked away.  He does not drift off into little power naps.  He does not sleep at night.  He does not lose concentration.  He is our shield, our shelter, our defender, and friend.  He is with us, come what may.  Through it all we must keep our eyes on Him.  He is sovereign and we must keep our eyes, mind, and heart set upon Him.  He will lead us through this time if we just keep looking to Him.

I pray the Lord blesses us as we move into this future.  I pray He will protect us all.  I know He is in control and I trust Him with all that I have and all that I am.  I pray you do, too.

In Christ,

http://www.laneschapel.com/tinybrowser/images/jeff-sig.png

Jeff

 


June 2016

Dear Lanes Chapel Family,

To continue with our theme of staff interviews, this month, I put our new Worship Leader, Kate Wilburn to the test so you can get to know her a little better.  We are blessed to have someone with her gifts and graces on staff and we look forward to many years of ministry to together.  Welcome to Lanes Chapel, Kate!

Blessings,

Jeff

In 150 words or less, tell us about yourself. 

Heyyoooohhh!! I’m Katy Wilburn and I’m 30 years old. I am married to the most brilliant and romantic man on the planet, Mark, and I have the most BEAUTIFUL son this world has ever seen, Maverick. I grew up in Tyler, migrated to sunny Florida for a few glorious years, and just recently moved back with new child and dogs in tow. I have a degree in psychology and am a CNA, both of which I don’t use! I love Mexican food, brownies and tons of unsweet tea!

Ten Questions:

1)     Maverick was born about 10 months ago.  What have you learned about yourself and humanity and general since becoming a mother?

About myself, that I will forever come last to my child. I will give him everything that’s within my power to give regardless of the cost—minus the toys. Come Christmas time, momma sings a new song haha! I have also developed a deeper appreciation and understanding of all that my parents sacrificed for me, and how deep the Father’s love for me really is. It’s overwhelming. 

 

2)     What is your vision for our worship experience at Lanes Chapel?

Simply, to encounter God in a way that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has yet conceived”!!

 

3)     What is your favorite contemporary worship song?

Who can choose?!...Oceans by Hillsong, Running After You by Chris Mcclarney, He Is Yahweh by Cory Asbury…the list goes on…

What is your favorite Christmas carol?

Oh Holy Night for sure, especially a capella

 

4)     You lived in Florida for four years.  Besides family and friends, what did you miss most about Texas?

Tex Mex. Hands down.

 

5)     What are 6 or 7 of your favorite stations on your Pandora station list?

I don’t listen to Pandora!! The commercials make me mad!! I actually listen to a lot of podcasts by Bethel, Company of Burning Hearts, and Glory Revolution. All are awesome ministries with challenging teaching. I can’t get enough!!

 

6)     If you could have a meal with any three or four people, living or dead, real or fictional, whom would it be?  What would you eat?

Probably a company of Jesus, Holy Spirit and the Father (but we will count them as one for discussion’s sake), Enoch (who was so intimate with the Father that he simply ascended into Heaven), Queen Esther (who is a personal hero of mine), and Nathaniel (an angel of the Lord that I’ve seen). I understand that most would call me weird. J

 

7)     You’ve been stranded on a desert island with a survival manual and a Bible.  What are three other books you want to have with you and why?

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers because it’s my favorite (I’ve read it 7 times)

The Book of Enoch (because I’ll have a lot of time on my hands and he discovered God in a way that I want to)

Encyclopedia of plants (so I can know what will and won’t kill me!)

 

8)     What movie do you like to watch by yourself?

Any musical, Pride and Prejudice

With Mark?

Lord of the Rings series, The Hobbit series, and Marvel movies…we’re big nerds!

 

9)     If you could travel anywhere on an all-expenses paid trip to anywhere for two weeks, where would it be?

Europe definitely, or maybe Hawaii. We went to Hawaii for our honeymoon and loved it!

 

10) If you could have one super-power, what would it be and why?

I would be like Jean Grey on X-Men…she pretty much had them all. Cop out answer, I know. But why choose one when I can have them all??

 


May 2016

Dear Lanes Chapel Family, 

You might remember that a few years ago I did a series of “interview articles” where I asked our staff members a series of question about themselves so that we, the congregation, could get to know them better.  In keeping with that spirit, this month I am welcoming in our newest staff member, our Director of Choral Music, Mr. Kevin Pierce, with a similar feature article.  We are blessed to have Kevin on staff and we look forward to many fruitful years of ministry together.  I hope you enjoy.

Blessings,

Jeff

In 150 words or less, tell us about yourself.

I was born in OKC, OK but got to Texas as fast as possible.  I grew up in Tyler, attended school in TISD from 4th – 12th grade, and graduated from Robert E. Lee HS.  In fifth grade, I fell in love with the French horn and joined the band immediately.  By the eighth grade, I was purchasing and studying the scores to Beethoven’s symphonies and waving around a makeshift baton created with a plastic medical pipet and Silly Putty.  It seemed that band would be my entire life… until I learned to sing in college.  At the age of 21, I was forced by my Department Chair to join the University Singers at TAMU-Commerce which literally changed my life.  It was the love of singing that brought me to Lanes Chapel as I began to search for God.  I am now truly blessed to be in a position to enjoy my three greatest passions all at once: God, teaching, and music.

Ten Questions:

What is your long-term vision for our choral ministries at Lanes Chapel? To present quality sacred choral literature, and through its singing, lead the congregation worshipfully to the cross. With this goal firmly in mind, I would see the membership of the choir and the church membership grow through the enjoyment of singing.

What is your favorite classical hymn? 

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

What is your favorite contemporary Christian song?

Awakening - Chris Tomlin

You are originally a band director by education and trade.  I know as part of that training is that you must learn how to play every major instrument in the woodwind, brass, and percussion families. 

What was the worst or hardest one to learn how to play?  FLUTE!! UGH! I am sooooo bad at the flute.

What was your favorite (apart from the French horn, your instrument of choice)? I really enjoyed learning the bassoon.  I believe that if I’d had an instrument that worked all the time, I might have become quite good at it.

What is your favorite meal? My step-fathers BBQ Pork Ribs.  Soooooooo good.

Besides Megan, what three people would you like to have dinner with?  (Living or dead, real or fictional) - Eric Whitacre, Gandalf the Grey, and Alton Brown

What are 6 or 7 of your favorite stations on your Pandora station list? My current go-to is my “Gaelic Storm” station.

Christmas Radio

80’s Pop Radio

Epic Soundtracks Radio

Classical Guitar Radio

Chris Tomlin Radio

Dinner Party Radio

You’ve been stranded on a desert island with a survival manual and a Bible.  What are three other books you want to have with you and why? Flatland by Edwin Abbot - I'm still trying to wrap my head around that one, The Complete Works of Beethoven - That should me busy for a while, The Raft by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen - I've never read it, but it sounds like it could come in handy.

What movie to watch by yourself? Galaxy Quest – any time, all the time

With Megan? Whatever she wants… so long as it doesn’t have ooey-gooey emotions.

If you could travel anywhere on an all-expenses paid trip to anywhere for two weeks, where would it be? I've always wanted to ride every roller coaster east of the Mississippi River.  I think I'll start in Atlanta, GA and end in Sandusky, OH... no Dramamine required.

If you could have one super-power, what would it be and why? This may head into the realm of super-nerd, but I would want atomic transmutation.  Imagine the good you could do by altering the atomic make-up of mud to make a fruit smoothie.  It has potential!

 


April 2016

Dear Lanes Chapel Family,

Now that winter has passed and spring is here, we are seeing the continual signs of new growth all around us.  Trees are budding.  The grass is growing and getting greener.  The world is coming alive again.  Looking around reminds me of the spiritual lessons we can learn in this season.

For one, I am first reminded that spring always comes after winter.  Every year, after the period of lifeless cold, new growth comes – without fail.  The same can be true of us in our spiritual lives.  We go through hard times – spiritual “deaths” – but… we do not stay there.  The hard times will pass.  After they pass, if we have continually put our roots into Christ and our relationship with him (even in the “winters” of our lives), we will experience new growth.  Our spiritual life will return.

Next, I am always amazed at the various shades of green that appear on all the different trees and bushes – and at various times throughout the growing season.  This is similar to the spiritual growth of each one of us individually.  We all grow at different rates and at different times – and we all look different.  Even though we might hear and experience the same sermons and worship, and attend the same Sunday school and Bible study classes, we are all affected differently and we all react differently.  Thus, our spiritual growth occurs differently.  None of us is the same and we mature at different rates.

Speaking of maturity – leaf growth continues until full maturity is reached.  The tree does not just send out new buds and then stop.  No.  The growth occurs throughout the spring until the leaf is fully grown.  If the growth stopped, the new buds and young leaves could not fully support the life of the tree and the tree would die.  The same is true for us.  We must continually grow in our relationship with Christ so that our spiritual lives can be fully nourished, supported, and mature.  If we stop early in our spiritual walk, we cannot be mature and fully grown in our faith and we will “die” spiritually.  The benefit of that full growth is that we can bless others.  Like a shade tree offers a cool spot in the summer and a fruit tree offers food for the taking, we can be a blessing to others with our spiritual maturity in Christ.  We can bear fruit for his kingdom.

The last thing I will mention is mowing a pruning.  As growth continues, grass must be mowed and bushes, vines, and trees must be pruned.  Their growth has to be contained and controlled.  It might even be trained and redirected with things such as trellises.  This benefits the landowner, adds beauty to the landscape, and can improve the health of the plant.  We experience the same thing.  (See John 15:1-2)  If our spiritual growth gets unruly or out of control, the Lord might have to prune us back a little to keep us spiritually healthy.  This is not a pleasant experience.  Like a plant that has had a branch removed, it might leave a spiritual scar on our hearts.  But… it is necessary for spiritual health and for the glory of God.  Which is best for everyone. 

So, look around this spring and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation as the earth comes back to life.  Don’t just view it without considering it, though.  This new growth teaches us lessons about how we must grow for the glory of God.

God bless you all,

http://www.laneschapel.com/tinybrowser/images/jeff-sig.png 

Jeff

 


March 2016

Dear Lanes Chapel Family,

Rev. Carolyn Moore, the pastor of Mosaic United Methodist Church in Augusta, GA, was a seminary classmate of mine.  Recently, she wrote an article in the Asbury Seminary Alumni Newsletter about the nature of the church and how we as Christians, as members of the body of Christ, the church, need to consider, “What is your view of church?  Do you view church as a noun or a verb?  Are you a noun or a verb?”  She made some very good insights, and I want pass them on to you for you to ponder.

  • “Church as a noun” says I go to church. “Church as a verb” says I am the church. Are you a noun, or a verb?
  • “Church as a noun” says someone somewhere is supposed to provide the programs and I am supposed to come to them. “Church as a verb” says I am a functioning part of a body, together with a whole lot of others, and a partner in shaping my own spiritual growth. Are you a noun or a verb?
  • “Church as a noun” says someone somewhere is supposed to provide me with mission opportunities. “Church as a verb” says what motivates me ought to motivate me. Are you a noun or a verb?
  •  “Church as a noun” says the church owes me something. “Church as a verb” says if anyone owes anyone anything, I owe Jesus – not to earn my salvation, but because of what he’s done for me. My mission is defined by what Jesus has done for me. Are you a noun or a verb?
  •  “Church as a noun” is always looking for what we used to have. “Church as a verb” is looking for what’s ahead. Are you a noun or a verb?
  •  “Church as a noun” says you come here and we’ll show you Jesus. “Church as a verb” says we’ll come to you and be Jesus. Are you a noun or a verb?
  •  “Church as a noun” says, “Let’s go to church.” “Church as a verb” says, “Let’s just go.” Are you a noun or a verb?
  •  “Church as a noun” says, “Going costs too much. Can’t we just send a check?” “Church is a verb” says, “Go! Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And lo, I will be with you always.”
  • Church as a verb says, “When God moves, we move” — whatever the cost, whatever the commitment- because it is only in following the Spirit, in moving with the Spirit, and embracing change, that we find our pleasure, passion, and purpose and so bring pleasure to God.

 These are all very good points to think over, and I am glad she raises the question.  As you read through this list and think about her examples, I ask you to be honest with yourself.  “Are you a noun or a verb?”

 In Christ,

 

Jeff

 


February 2016

Dear Lanes Chapel Family,

As I sit and write this letter, I am looking out my window at the cold starkness of winter.  The grass is brown.  The sky is gray.  Except for the pines and the live oaks, the trees are bare.  Their long fingers scratch the sky, trying to rend the clouds so that a ray of sun might break through.  The wet ground further chills the cold north wind.  The starkness can be beautiful, but it is so often dreary and near depressing.

Because we live in a southern region, we don’t get much snow.  If we did get more, we could behold the beauty of a newly fallen white blanket.  We could further comprehend of how our sins have been made white as snow.  (Isaiah 1:18)  But we do not get much snow, and when we do, it is usually a very thin layer that looks only brown, grassy, and muddy.  So the cold gray of winter seems even more bleak and barren.  All of nature seems to have come to a standstill, having slowed to near death.

However, all is not dead.  Even though we do not see it, there is much going on inside the trees that seem to be stripped bare and shivering against the wind.  While we see the dormancy of winter, the root system is still quite active underground, growing, thriving… preparing for spring. 

I asked a good friend of mine, Dr. Todd Watson, an arborist and urban forester, about the life of the tree in winter and what is really happening beneath the surface when all seems dead.  He told me of the tree’s root growth in the winter and of how when spring comes, this new root growth will enable the tree to force starches and sugars into the branches to support the new growth that we see in the spring with leaves and new shoots.  The newest root system further strengthens the tree to sustain new life.

He also told me that the dormancy period of winter is also good for the tree, because if the tree does not have a dormant season through winter, or even through a periodic dry spell, the tree will begin to look drab and not as good and healthy as those that have had some hard times.  So the “hard times” of winter and the stress of periodic dry spells are actually beneficial for a tree’s health.

As he and I talked of this, I began to see that the trees offer good spiritual lessons to us.  The new root growth that occurs in the dead of winter shows us that we, in spiritually hard times, must continue to seek out Christ and bury our spiritual roots in him during those times.  Even when things are going horribly wrong for us, we must always seek his face and live, trying to deepen our relationship with him, even when he seems the farthest away.  We do that because we know that he is always with us and he always wants the best for us.  We also know the dormant times, the winters of our souls, will come to an end.  When they do, we need to be firmly grounded in Christ so that we can support the new growth that will come.  Also, that new growth needs to point to Christ and give him glory, and not us.

The other lesson that we learn is we have to know that winter will come.  Dormancy will come.  We will go through hard times – dry spells.  But… we have to remember and admit that those are actually good for us, for they make us stronger spiritually and they give us the ability to better show the love and power of God.  And those winters of the soul certainly make us more appreciative of the new growth in the spring.

I know it’s cold, but try to understand the beauty of winter.  And y’all have a good one.  Stay warm.  Stay dry.  Keep sinking your roots into Christ.  Spring will be here soon.

God bless you,

 

 

 


January 2016

Dear Lanes Chapel Family,

As most of you know by now, we will be saying “Good-bye” to one of our beloved staff members.  After 13 years of serving as our Director of Worship, Melody Hughes has decided it is time to step down.  She plans to retire (although she is too young for me to call it retirement) so she can be more available for her family.  I know she does not make this decision easily, but she knows it is the right thing to do.  We hate to see her go, but we understand her decision. 

In these 13 years of service, she had seen a lot in Lanes Chapel.  She has watched the church grow in numbers and facilities.  She oversaw and successfully navigated the waters of transition from two worship services up to three, and then to down to one large common ground service.  She has planned countless worship services and extended an infinite number of invitations to us all to join the choir.  And… I can personally attest to her penchant for sending numerous texts prodding those of us who are slow to “COOOMMMEEEE OOOOOOONNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!”

Along with being a hinge-pin in our worship life, she has also been key in our personal lives.  She has stood by your bedside when you were ill and by your side when you buried friends and family.  She has cheered at your child’s baptism and prayed with you as that same child wandered.  She has walked beside you in every stage of your life.  And she did it all while facing her own challenges of family deaths and cancer.  All the while, she remained strong and joyful, reminding us to “Give God glory!”

She has been an intricate part of our life at Lanes Chapel and is part of what makes us who we are.  She has given us the framework of what we do.  Melody is a beautiful thread and design in the tapestry of life at Lanes Chapel, and we will all miss her very much.

Her last Sunday in leadership will be January 17th.  After church that day we will celebrate her ministry with a covered dish luncheon in the Family Life Center.  I know you will want to be there as a sign of love and support to Melody and Richard.

As a personal word, I would like to thank Melody for all of her love and support.  Her encouragement is one of the reasons I was able to successfully transition into the pastorate here at Lanes Chapel.  We love you, Mel, and we will miss you.

In Christ,

Jeff

Just an extra note: I know many of you are wondering about the future of our Worship Director position.  As we begin the search for a new person, Tanya Hurst and Kevin Pierce will be leading our worship and choir.  They will do a great job and I know you will lift them up in your prayers.