Friday, March 28, 2008

I'm in Florida!

I'm in Lakeland, Florida! Here is my spokesman, Bruce the shark...

Here is Moffit Cancer Center where my friend, Val, is head of the pastoral care dept. This is their new research facility.

While Valerie was on the phone, I took some macro pictures of some kosher pastries in her office leftover from a rabbinic conference they had had earlier in the day. The things we do when we're trying to amuse ourselves.

We then went to see her new house which she hasn't moved into yet, and I played around with different angles of her 80's chandelier.

Jeff just came home early from work, so we're off to do the tourist thing. More later....

My Host and Hostess in Florida

I'm writing from Florida where I am vacationing with and mooching off of friends frm my college days, Jeff and Miriam. I was messing around with a website where you can put people's heads in videos and this is my first experiment (with Jeff and Miriam's hesitant permission). Miriam wanted to make sure everyone knew that her head is NOT bigger than Jeff's!

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Newsletter Article

I'm going to try to remember to post my church newsletter article. Here's this week's:

Christ Comes in The Storm. Life can be so unexpectedly cruel. Pray for Michele Vazquez of West Palm Beach, Florida and her family. This past Monday, she with her son met her husband, Rafael at Wendy’s for lunch. As they were leaving, Rafael realized the restaurant had not put the toy in his son’s child’s meal. He went back up to the counter, when a 60 year-old handyman, Edward Blake, emerged from the restroom, and without saying a word, shot 42 year old Rafael in the back, and then shot four other customers before killing himself. No words, no demands, no note, no connection with Wendy’s, no apparent reason for what the police were calling a random, senseless killing.

What would you tell that wife who described her husband as her best friend? It gets worse. Rafael was on a lunch break from a training conference where he as a firefighter and paramedic was learning to deal with incidents dealing with several injured victims at the same time. He had dedicated his life to helping and saving others, and then, at a Wendy’s counter, doing a simple act of parental love for his young son, he was shot in the back by a complete stranger. He died immediately.

The world is crazy! What would you say to this mother, her three children, and two stepchildren? What words of comfort could help her cope with a future so suddenly, and violently, and senselessly ripped apart for no apparent reason? I would counsel people who know the family not to say much at all. What can you say in the midst of the storm? I don’t know, but this situation does remind me of what might have been like for the disciples that Friday afternoon and evening of the crucifixion.

Those early followers of Christ must have been speechless, too. “How could our Lord allow these atrocities? How could He not call on the power that had raised Lazarus, fed thousands, and calmed storms to destroy His enemies? How could he cry out from the cross, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing?’” Still, behind the scenes of the chaos and tragedy, a miracle was in progress, and on the third day Christ rose from the dead. Christ did not wave His magic wand to eradicate all evil from the world. Instead He came back to the disciples, to bring them a renewed hope that through His Spirit, Christ would be with them always, to the ends of the world. He promised that He would accomplish great things through them as the Kingdom of God would spread, one life at a time, defeating evil and death through salvation. Christ was their only hope to make it in such a terrifying, uncertain world.

Not only had He come to save, but He came to walk with His followers through great victories and great tragedies. He came back to life to birth and empower His church to combat evil, comfort the grieving, encourage the brethren, and to share their hope in Christ with a dark, sad, despairing, lost world. Easter is NOT just a time of year for special worship services, but a time to remind us that Christ went to the cross to win victory for us over death, and over evil, even when evil is senseless, sudden, and vicious. I pray you will join us in the coming weeks, as we look forward to celebrating and embracing anew the wonder of Christ’s willingness to die for us that we might know the victory that no tragedy can take from us!

In Him, Andy

Catching Up

It's been a while since I've posted. I can chalk some of that up to my post fifty-first birthday depression. Kidding, of course. Just been busy. Here's a partial recap:
  • Turned 51...oh, you already knew that.
  • Officiated at two funerals. One was for a very sweet 96 year old lady named Laura whose passing was very gracious. She has been sick for several months, and in a consideralbe amount of pain these past few weeks. Her great niece went to see her on her niece's birthday. She said, "today is my birthday, but if you see Jesus and want to go on home, it's okay." Laura passed quietly within a minute. The family experienced two birthdays that day.
  • The other funeral was for a man named Otis who gave 58 years of service to the city fire department. About a quarter of the sanctuary was taken up with firefighters from our department and others from two counties. I've never officiated at a service with additional honors from the firefighters. (see picture) It was quite impressive.
  • I was honored to speak to college students at Clemson's First Baptist Church. I spoke on the gospel according to Ratatouille (Don't laugh, The Christian Film & Television Commission rated it as the number one film for families in '07). Had a great time!
  • Got to eat at the new P.F. Chang's in Augusta with my mom and cousin, Rita, who was visiting. Chang's is one of my favorite restaurants, though I have had to swear off the "Great Wall of Chocolate" cake with its 2240 calories....which reminds me.
  • I lost 10 pounds in a month and my total cholesterol went from 194 to 171! Pretty shocking....just a baby step!
  • Well, that's some of the news. Thanks for your patience. I'll be back soon...hopefully over the weekend!