This is a sermon I preached at St Paul’s United Methodist in Carolina Beach, NC on May 10, 2015.

are you my god
The scripture is 1 John 5:1-6

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.  For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

As you all know, it’s Mother’s day – it is a day we celebrate the earthly heritage we received from not only our biological mother’s but also from our spiritual mothers – those women of faith that have lead us, encouraged us, and brought us to the place we are today!

For some of us this day is bittersweet as we mourn those who have left us here or those who never made their way here. Some are able to celebrate with those who sit next to them. And for some we will connect by telephone or travel later today or in the days to come.

I have been blessed in my life to have been mentored and mothered by a host of extraordinary women. I carry the lessons and the love of those women with me daily. So, I encourage you to not be bound by biology today but to think of the women in the whole body of Christ who have brought you to the family of God, celebrate them and thank them today.

As I was preparing for today the first verse reminded of a story I used to tell often, and I beg your indulgence to tell it to you today: In 1997 my parents were in an automobile accident. My sister and I had the unenviable task of burying our father while our mother was hospitalized. No doubt it is the hardest thing we have ever done in our lives. As we humans often do in horrific situations, I have held on to humorous moments from this time – like my youngest nephew, who was a young lad at the time and well-schooled by his grandmother, asking if the funeral home gave ‘senior discounts’.

While standing with my sister and her family as we stood in, for lack of a better word – a receiving line, to accept the condolence of people who are but a blur in my memory, a little old lady approached me and asked ‘are you a member of the family?’ My mouth opened to offer a “smart” reply about how I was just wandering by, had on a black suit and thought it would be fun to stand among the family members and hug too many people….instead, my mouth confirmed my lineage as Don and Libby’s youngest. Then to my surprise this stooped little old lady grabbed me in a bear hug Hulk Hogan would have envied and whispered gently in my ear how much she loved me. For me the story ended there….how funny someone would question who you were then claim their love seconds later.

A couple of years ago I made the mistake of telling this story within earshot of my mother. I received proper chastisement (because you’re never too old to be chastised by your mother) for thinking this was funny. But the words of my mother have stuck with me – she loved us, so of course she loved you!

To love the parent is to love the child!

I’ve heard Kathy Bordeaux tell several times how St Paul’s loved them before they arrived and how it was like coming home when they got here….because this church knows and loves Charles and Barbara – of course they loved Chuck and Kathy.

To love the parent is to love the child.

I dare say that none of us here today grew up with an perfect mother (or parent). Because mothers and parents are people they were flawed (although as a side note, the further my childhood is in the rear-view mirror the more nostalgic and idyllic it becomes). My parents may have been imperfect, but I have always been blessed, as you are, with the perfect parent of God.

The inverse of our first verse is also true….to know a child is to see the reflection of the parent.

Invariably when I was younger, and my family would travel back to where my mother grew up someone who knew my mother when she was a girl would say to me ‘you’re just like your mother’.

As a youngster, I hated this! For I was my own person!

As an angry teen, I would argue….I’m nothing like my mother!

As a seasoned adult, I recognize the complement. I can look in a mirror and recognize that genetics creates my reflection but I also can see that my common sense, and my can do approach comes from my mom…and I aspire to possess her strength of character and ability to have faith through life’s most difficult journeys.

It is all well and good that I reflect my imperfect earth parent. But do people see my perfect parent when they see me?

When people see us – do they see God?

In Genesis 33 verse 10 Jacob says “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.”

When people encounter you on the street do they see the reflection of God?

The scripture text for today goes on to say (beginning with verse 2): By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.  For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

If we love god, it looks like this:

  • obedience,
  • living like Jesus.
  • Our lives reflect who our God is.

are you my motherHow many of you have read the book ‘Are You My Mother?’  It’s a children’s book by P. D. Eastman (Until I looked it up for today’s sermon I always thought it was a Dr. Seuss book) published by Random House Books for Young Readers on June 12, 1960 as part of its Beginner Books series and is still considered one of the top 100 books for young readers.. The plot of the book is that this little bird goes in search of his mother and asks all kinds of creatures, including a steam shovel are you my mother?

I believe we are living in a culture in this day and age where people are wandering around like the little bird asking are you my god?

Are You My God?

  • They commit to sport teams – asking are you my god?
  • They commit to jobs and careers – asking are you my god?
  • They commit to leisure activities – asking are you my god?
  • They commit to the pursuit of happiness – asking are you my god?
  • Some even commit to motherhood (or parenthood) – asking are you my god?

We are living in a lost society. Where the majority of teenagers have NEVER been thought the doors of a Church! Where the majority of our society is not in a church on a Sunday….any Sunday! The statistics from 2004 say less than 18% or 52 million people regularly attend Church. As opposed to the 40% who claim they regularly attend church…research shows those attend less than 12 times per year.

I recently read a blog post where the author commented that ‘Modern Christianity has this mentality that church is where people meet God. While that can certainly be true in some circumstances, it should never be our focus. People meet Jesus through the way we live. Through the way we speak. Through the way we manifest unconditional love.”

Don’t get me wrong, I believe we need to be in church….I need to be in church. I need to be here to be fed. To be nourished but being a Christian isn’t about church attendance! It’s about being a faithful disciple!

It’s about living for something and reflecting our perfect parent into a world that is searching.

It is taking the real God to a world that is walking through life asking everything imaginable – Are you my God?

We are walking daily beside those who are searching!

We are living among those who are desperate to find something to believe in…

And yet, we are not reflecting our perfect parent!

Is the world seeing God in us?

Does your co-worker think of God when they think of you?

What about your next door neighbor?

Or the guy driving the car ahead, behind or merging into you?

Are they seeing God in me?

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.

Matthew 22: 35-39 says one of them, a lawyer, asked Jesus, a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And Jesus said to him, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We have a mission…..to love our neighbors!

We have a mandate to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

In yet another reflection of my earthy parents, I am an avid reader of the Readers Digest.

In the April issue they told the story of Viktor Frankl  a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna in 1941. With his career on the rise and the threat of the Nazis looming, Frankl had applied for a visa to America, which he was granted. By then, the Nazis had already started taking Jews to concentration camps, focusing on the elderly first. Frankl knew that it would be only a matter of time before the Nazis came for his parents. Once they did, he felt he had a responsibility to help them through the trauma of adjusting to camp life.  On the other hand, as a newly married man with a pregnant wife and his visa in hand, he was tempted to flee to safety in America, where he could distinguish himself even further in his field.

At a loss for what to do, Frankl set out for St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna to clear his head.  He was looking for a “hint from heaven”. When he returned home, he found it – in a piece of marble lying on the table. It was from the rubble of one of the nearby synagogues that the Nazis had destroyed.  It contained a fragment of one of the Ten Commandments – the one about honoring your father and your mother.  Frankl stayed and in September 1942 along with his wife and parents was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp. Three years later his camp was liberated, but most of his family had perished (including his wife). In 1946 he wrote a bestselling book about the experience, called Man’s Search for Meaning.

The wisdom that Frankl derived from his experiences in the camps, in the middle of imaginable human suffering, is just as relevant now as it was then: “Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone other than oneself.  The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is.”  By devoting our lives to “giving” rather than “taking”, we also acknowledge that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.

You are put here on earth for a purpose. To share God’s love!

You, we, are the conduit through which the light of God’s love is allowed to shine though to a dark and searching world. Do not hide that light! But lift your gift of God’s love and light HIGH for all the world to see…today and every day.

Join me for our closing hymn….this little light of mine.

No doubt your first question, as was mine, is what the heck is a swivel gun?

swivel gun usually refers to a small cannon, mounted on a swiveling stand or fork which allows a very wide arc of movement. Swivel guns are among the smallest types of cannon, typically measuring less than 1 m (3 ft) in length and with a bore diameter of up to 3.5 cm (1¼ in). Swivel guns were used principally aboard sailing ships, serving as short-range anti-personnel ordnance. They were not ship-sinking weapons, due to their small caliber and short range, but could do considerable damage to anyone caught in their line of fire.

swivel gun Moore's Creek Battlefield

My encounter with a swivel gun took place at Moore’s Creek National Battlefield when I reported for

Selfie de jour

Selfie de jour

duty on Saturday, January 31, 2015. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, but was quickly escorted to the trailer filled with period clothing…suit up was the command.  Let me just say, putting on clothes worn by God only knows who to do God only know what, is well, disconcerting! Especially, for this OCD chick….but I found pants, and a tunic. I was fortunate my feet are big (and wide) and the shoes provided wouldn’t fit on my feet….so I kept my own socks and shoes – whew! When I left home I swore I wouldn’t don a ‘silly’ tri-cornered hat….but I ended up in this three cornered job (I’ve been told it’s not a tricorne). The other options were tam-like or when we in the south call toboggans (for you yanks that’s a knit monstrosity).

There was a lot to learn:

  • about the gun.
  • Procedure.
  • Black Powder.
  • and working as a team (we all trained on all positions).

My plan had been to leave at lunch. There were other things I needed (and wanted) to do that day. But I was having fun. The weather was enjoyable. I had settled into the strange clothing (mostly) and most important, we were not firing the gun until after lunch!

Once the three man team takes command of the piece, the first thing done is to search the piece (ie to be sure there is no debris from previous firings). This is accomplished by using a worm ( a corkscrew type tool) down the muzzle of the gun and twisting.

Swivel Gun-worm

 Once the piece has been searched, a sponge is rammed down the muzzle to ensure any possible embers are extinguished.  This is done while the person on the right of the gun is ‘tending the vent’ which means holding his/her thumb over the vent hole to ensure no oxygen can remain in the muzzle.

Once the muzzle is clear, then a charge (pr cartridge) is placed in the muzzle and rammed to the back of the muzzle (pictured)

Swivel Gun-field command firing ramming

Once the charge is in place the command to prime is given. This means to pierce the charge by placing a pick through the vent hold. Then a quill is placed into the powder via the vent hole as well.  The quill is a small amount of black powder rolled in some flammable material (like paper).

At this point the piece is ready to fire and the command to aim is given. Those manning the gun are told to make ready (pictured) and a lintstock (smoldering rope) is touched to the quill.

Swivel Gun field command firing 2

Swivel Gun-fire

Swivel Gun-fire 2
The sound is loud. However, everyone is wearing ear protection… so it is almost impossible to know real how loud. The neatest part to me was to be able to see the fire shoot from the muzzle! Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

Swivel Gun-field command firing

Swivel Gun-swivel gun training crew

I had a great time and met some really nice people! I can’t wait for my next training….perhaps a cannon or muskets!

In January I had the opportunity to attend the sesquicentennial events for the Second Battle of Fort Fisher. Since a rainy Saturday in 2008 – I have attended the events surrounding the Second Battle of Fort Fisher . The weather isn’t always pleasant but the richness of the history flowing around the events are always worthy. After all, who doesn’t love firing of heavy artillery, people in period dress, and lectures of days long past? This year, as a part of the 150th there was a reenactment….on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, as beautiful a January day as you could wish for, I stood on the South side of the mound to watch the battle. On Sunday I watched from the north side.  As you can see from the sketch below much of the original fort has been reclaimed by the ocean; and I have no doubt the small scale of the reenactment did not come close to showing reality. However, the estimate I have heard of almost 900 reenactors and over 28, 000 spectators enjoyed a good show.

This hand-drawn overlay found at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area offices, near the site of the fort's telegraph station, shows both its massive scale and how much has been lost to erosion or demolition.  Fort Fisher's palisade, a 9-foot-high fence constructed of sharpened pine tree trunks (as opposed to the recreated cedar version that girds Federal Point today) spanned the Land Face from Shepherd's Battery to the Atlantic shoreline.  It would have extended beyond the lower right-hand corner of the photograph.  Dams constructed in the late-1800s by the US Army Corps of Engineers, spanning where blockade runners once rounded Federal Point (then Confederate Point) just southwest of the fort at New Inlet, as well as road construction during the 20th Century, altered the peninsula's shoreline.

This hand-drawn overlay found at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area offices, near the site of the fort’s telegraph station, shows both its massive scale and how much has been lost to erosion or demolition. Fort Fisher’s palisade, a 9-foot-high fence constructed of sharpened pine tree trunks (as opposed to the recreated cedar version that girds Federal Point today) spanned the Land Face from Shepherd’s Battery to the Atlantic shoreline. It would have extended beyond the lower right-hand corner of the photograph. Dams constructed in the late-1800s by the US Army Corps of Engineers, spanning where blockade runners once rounded Federal Point (then Confederate Point) just southwest of the fort at New Inlet, as well as road construction during the 20th Century, altered the peninsula’s shoreline.

Over the course of the two days I took over 500 photographs (I’m only sharing a few). I hope you will enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed taking them.

as the day began the rebel forces are seen raising the flag on the fort

as the day began the rebel forces are seen raising the flag on the fort

There were plenty of sights to see before the battle like this blacksmith showing his trade.

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 blacksmith

And this photographer taking old photographs.

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 photographer

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 rebel cannon

 

As well as all the battle encampments around the area. Although I regret leaving my visit to the Union Camp until Sunday. It rained Saturday night and Sunday morning and the weather caused those guys to breakdown early. It was gone by the time I attempted to visit (I heard it was impressive though)

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 camp

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 camp 2

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 confederate flag

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 federal forces flag

It was really neat to watch the battle develop. I took a lot of photos during the battle, both days, but this is my favorite. The fife and drum coming along behind.

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 federal forces fife and drum

  I just can’t help but love the firing of the cannons!

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 firing the cannon

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 firing the cannon 2Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 firing the cannon 1

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 federal forces 2

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 battle 2

These are a couple of photos I manipulated a bit.

flag

drums

On Saturday night we took the lantern tour. Ours was the 5:45 tour….just at dusk! It was beautiful and educational as we were able to ‘visit’ with five of the personalities associated with fort Fisher.Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 lantern tour guide

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 lantern tour

All in all it was a great weekend. I can’t recommend enough attending living history events, if possible.

I moved to Wilmington on Memorial Day weekend 1995 – it’s hard for me to believe it’s been almost 20 years! In that time I have experienced quite a few storms:

1996 hurricane Bertha hits July 12th with 105mph winds from the south. Newspaper article | Radar
1996 hurricane Fran hits Sept 5th with 105mph winds from the SSE. Heavy damage – 1 billion dollars damage, 23 killed storm surge approx 16ft. Newspaper headline | #2 | satelite image | av model error

1998 hurricane Bonnie hits August 26th with 115mph winds from the south, while turning N.E, moderate damage .
1999 Hurricane Floyd hit Sept 16th just east with 110mph winds from the south,dumps nearly 20 inches of rain here & causes heavy damage to north on Oak Island. New Hanover county reported 10 ft storm surge on sound side of Masonboro. A record 13.38 inches fell in 24 hrs.
2004  Hurricane Charley hits August 14th with 75mph winds from the SSW after hitting Florida, minor structural damage.  Also Hurricane Alex  August 3; Tropical Storm Bonnie August 12;  Tropical Storm Frances September 8; Tropical Storm Gaston August 30;  Tropical Storm Ivan September 16 and Tropical Storm Jeanne September 27
2005 Hurricane Ophelia passes just east on Sept 14th with 85mph winds from the south,western eyewall over Wilmington for a couple of hours. Widespread power outages & some minor roof damage & trees down.Ophelia Satellite image
2006 August 31 Tropical Storm Ernesto
2008 Tropical Storm Fay August 23 and Tropical Storm Hanna September 6
2010 September 3 Hurricane Earl
2011 August 27 Hurricane Irene

This morning as I awoke to the news that Tropical Storm Arthur, who was thought would just brush the coast, is now Hurricane Arthur, and we could possibly see landfall, I began to reminisce about hurricanes and storms. My first hurricane was Bertha. I guess you really don’t ever forget your first.

With Bertha I had no clue what to expect. I had experienced Hurricane Hugo in 1998 from four hours inland. With Bertha, I hemmed and hawed, I fretted and feared and in the end I stayed in my little apartment in an old historic house in Wilmington to ride it out.

I took a trip to Carolina Beach to watch her blow in; crossing the bridge back to the mainland just before the close. Coalman (my first Dalmatian) and I stocked up on essentials (stuff you can eat out of a can) and we settled in to enjoy a stormy day.

I swore after that Cat 1 storm I would never stay for another.

I remember feeling as if that old historic house was lifted off its’ foundation and slammed back to earth. I remember wandering out and around the block with Coalman during the eye of the storm.

Me and CoalmanI remember the sound of transformers blowing all over town and the 10 days I spent without electricity. TEN days in a downstairs apartment, in a questionable neighborhood, where all the windows were nailed shut for safety. There were long lines waiting for ice; price gouging for generators; and friends who took me in for meals, cold beverages and shared A/C.

This morning as I started to think about preparing for Hurricane Arthur, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my first.

As I’m reminiscing about storms, I am struck by how many storms blow into our lives. Some are afternoon thunderstorms, some are fast moving and others are long lasting. Some we can predict and others pop up and take us by surprise. However, none of us live a life without storms.

Just like the storm that is blowing through Southeastern North Carolina today, the damage caused by storms of our lives is often equal for how we react and how we prepare.

Prepare carefully.

                                 React thoughtfully.

                                                                    and Stay Safe!

Autograph Seekers Are Not the ONLY distractions

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Yesterday, I was asked to offer ‘Sticky Faith’ (the children’s message) at St Paul’s UMC in Carolina Beach….here is my message: On Friday I had the opportunity to go to Pinehurst NC to attend the Women’s US Open Golf Tournament. …

 

You Can’t Write on the Back of a Digital Picture

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I love photographs – Especially old photographs. They tell a unique and special story.  My house is decorated with photos – Some old, some new, some from adventures, or from trips, or from boring everyday life; they run the gamut …