RICK’S BLOG


COME AND SEE. GO AND TELL.

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My parents always said they knew I’d eventually work in the theatre.  They knew from the moment they got in the car with me after my first “theatre experience”, because I wouldn’t stop talking about it, and talking about it, and talking about it.

My Dad had been discharged from the Army and we were returning to Washington State, from Frankfurt Germany.  We had flown (via military plane) to New York, where we picked up our VW Beetle to drive across the country back to our home in Richland, Washington.  On the way, we stopped and saw family and friends. One family, Army friends who had also been recently discharged from Frankfurt, had moved back to Kansas City, where they were from and where we visited.  One magical night they took us to STARLIGHT THEATRE, a musical Amphitheatre, still active (since 1950).  It was there I saw my first ever theatre performance, it was a live presentation of THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW.  I was hooked.

That moment sealed my fate.  It was everything: lights, set, costumes, music, dancing, laughter.  And I talked and talked about it.  Dad built me a small theatre stage where I could design sets and set my “action figures” in various roles…he thought that would shut me up, it didn’t.  Any time I heard about a theatre event, anywhere, any time, I forced my parents to take me.  And I never stopped telling everyone about it.

I couldn’t help it.  That experience was life-changing, formative.  No one had to ask me about it, I would gladly start the conversation.  It drove my parents insane.

The tables were turned however, when I made my professional opera debut.  Opera was, to my parents, the ultimate art form, we listened and watched opera on TV all my life.  When I made my debut with Seattle Opera it was, for my folks, the same as if some other parent were to see their child pitch for the majors the first time.  And my parents couldn’t stop talking about it – it drove me insane.

When I think about that moment in Kansas City, it reminds me of the Bethlehem hills shepherds.  First, they saw the greatest show on earth: an angel choir and soloist – prepared and performing solely for THEM. Then they saw the “star” of the show, the Baby Himself.  The scripture says they couldn’t help but tell everyone about the event.  It was life-changing, it was formative.  No one had to ask them about it, they willingly volunteered the information because the experience filled them so much that the words poured out.

I’m a believer that one can’t “go and tell” unless they have “come and seen”.

I believe if God has truly changed you, if you have witnessed a miracle, if you have suddenly turned around and started going in the direction of life – you can’t help but talk about it.  Likewise, if you’re not talking about it, you’ve either never really experienced it, or have forgotten.

Experiences, like meeting Jesus for oneself and suddenly experiencing things through HIS eyes, ears, heart, and mind, are life-changing, formative and so fulfilling that one cannot help to pour out the words.  One cannot help but live gratefully because of the miracle that touches anyone who “comes and sees, goes and tells”.

LUKE 2:15-20
When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough.   After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.   But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.   The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

MATTHEW 28:5-7 5
The angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples. ‘He has risen from the dead and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there.’ Listen, I have told you.”

 


CHRISTMAS. TRADITION.

CHRISTMAS. TRADITION.

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Well, the tree is up, some “gigs” have already happened, some snacks have been snarfed…and although December begins tomorrow, the season is in full swing.  AND, the Christmas music is playing in my car, on my iPAD, on my laptop and on ALEXA!  Ah, “traditions”!

Oh, how the years have changed; where I used to pull out the LPs in the back of the shelf, now I “download” it all from that mysterious “cloud” out there.  But listening to the music, while enjoying decorations and wassail, takes me back to the years that Mom & Dad would pull out the old Christmas LP’s.

The first “album” I ever purchased was the FIRESTONE CHRISTMAS ALBUM WITH JULIE ANDREWS (remember those? One quarter with a fill-up?).  I saved my quarter and begged Dad to fill up at TEXACO (against his principles, as a Richfield Oil man).  For me, Christmas is not Christmas unless I’m listening to Julie belt out those Christmas songs with the London Symphony Orchestra, and arrangements by Andre Previn.  They ARE STILL beautiful recordings, but it’s the memories that the music brings to mind, more than anything else, the “tradition” that puts me in the Christmas mood.

Memories and traditions are strong motivators.  In churches, it’s memories of days-gone-by that sometimes determine how people feel about certain times, seasons, and events in the Church.  It’s the way a song reminds us of a moment in time, in the past, that makes us want to hear it again and again during worship. And it’s the memory of the “way we’ve always done it” that keeps people from accepting change also.

And yet, the rule of life is, everything changes…except God. Ministry and church work is a good example of that.  We sang out of a hymnal  until some young guy named Bill Gaither started writing songs for us to sing…that weren’t IN our hymnal. (Of course, he’s been around long enough now that he IS in the hymnal).  How about the Pastor’s office?  I remember visiting the office of Pastor Bill, my Pastor when I was growing up in my hometown church.  His every wall was a floor to ceiling shelf, filled with Bibles, commentaries, sermons, old and new.  His office was filled with two typewriters, a mimeograph machine, a couple of phones, etc.  You reached him by stopping by or calling the church office.  Today, most of our communication is by text, phone calls, etc…which can, miraculously, be done at any time from anywhere.  I also have a wall filled with books, but can’t remember the last time I cracked one open, because MY office isn’t defined by the room in the church building, MY office is now a laptop, iPAD and iPHONE…on those things I have more than 15 Bible translations, 30 Commentaries, and various dictionaries, maps, etc. Wherever those electronic devices are, there is my office – and conversely, wherever I am my office is with me.  I miss the tradition, but I love the convenience and efficiency.

I spent some time this year listening to those Julie Andrews recordings, and asking myself, “Do I love these songs because of the memories, because I still see myself pulling that LP out of its case and placing it on the HiFi…or because the music is beautiful in itself?”  The answer surprised me: “I love them FOR the memories AND because they are beautiful songs in themselves…I love that recording for BOTH reasons. 

And so, is ”tradition” good? Or is it bad? 

Sometimes God wants us to re-visit our traditions just to affirm that they are GOOD traditions…AND sometimes He wants us to accept change, not just because it’s different and new, but because it might be what is needed at the time…to see HIM in a new way.  WE change, HE doesn’t.

I see “tradition” as comfort, but only when it doesn’t get in the way of learning, progress, and growth.  In worship, we use tradition to gain strength in the present, but when we start placing “tradition” in front of “relationship” then we have moved from “Christianity” to “Religion”, from “Relationship” to “Ritual” – and those are priorities out of whack.

I’ve always been a lover of tradition.  I love the songs JULIE ANDREWS sings on this, still my favorite Christmas album.  Now, I listen to the same songs I played on my “HiFi” on my iPHONE, the “tradition” of the LP and it’s colorful “TEXACO” cover is gone, but the core of what started that tradition is still around…the music.

I LOVE our traditions at CENTRAL CHRISTIAN, but I earnestly, and humbly, pray that I will never let my “favorite things” get in the way of God’s agenda, His truth, and the relationship we have with or without any “religious tradition”.

Now…back to “Joy To the World” with Julie Andrews!


PILGRIMS!

PILGRIMS!

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No matter how THANKSGIVING DAY is celebrated at my home (away, home, crowded, or quiet) I really love it.  As was proved THIS year, it doesn’t matter if there are twenty people or two, I will always eat too much.

THANKSGIVING DAY, because of what it is, because it’s a time when I saw my extended family and grandparents (who didn’t live in town), and because it ushers in ADVENT, THANKSGIVING has always been a favorite holiday…since I was a small boy.  Part of that was also because Mom was a really good cook.

There are many memories of Thanksgiving Days past that move to the front of my mind each year about this time…but one of the earliest, and funniest is this:

I was probably about five-years-old when, on Thanksgiving Day, I was walking down the street as we were taking care of some last-minute shopping for the meal (probably).  Coming right at us were two women, dressed in long black dresses and wearing white and black caps.  I couldn’t contain my excitement at seeing, in the flesh, these two figures approach and so I jumped up and down, pointed and yelled at the top of my lungs,

“Look!  Pilgrims!”

They were, of course…nuns.

In my defense: 1. I had never SEEN a nun, 2. I was five-years-old, 3. it was THANKSGIVINGit seemed obvious to me that they were pilgrims.

My Mom said that the good-humored sisters laughed, came to me, stooped down, and chatted.  I was awestruck, and still thought they were Pilgrims. They wished us all a happy THANKSGIVING and went on their way…as my parents attempted to explain to me who they were, and why they weren’t pilgrims…I didn’t get it.

Now, of course, I understand who they were and what happened…but as a child I only understood what I saw and experienced according to my limited knowledge, wisdom and experience.  Was my conclusion the “truth”?  Well, it wasn’t like I was deceived, all that I saw TOLD me that they were pilgrims. It was only through a little more teaching, and a few more years (which broadened my experience and gave me a bit more wisdom) that I understood TRULY what that experience was…and who those two kind women TRULY represented.

God probably smiles when we come to conclusions about who He is…according to our limited knowledge, wisdom, and experience.  There are, more-than-likely, also times when He doesn’t smile; times when He sees His children declare that, despite their limited knowledge, wisdom & experience, they have concluded once-and-for-all who HE is.

I for one am thankful, this THANKSGIVING/ADVENT, for a church that doesn’t claim to OWN God, but does claim to BELIEVE & FOLLOW Him.  As we all walk together behind our Shepherd, our King, our Jesus, we continue to have our eyes opened, our mind expanded, our faith strengthened by the continuing knowledge, wisdom and experience that He alone can give.  It is a lifetime learning experience that will continue into the next age. Although we should all share with one another the “angles” from which WE have each experienced our great Father, we should never assume that someone else’s different “angle” is WRONG.

We all “see through a glass darkly” (as Paul the Apostle reminds us) …so keep walking, keep learning, keep growing.  Let’s move into the ADVENT SEASON with a continued life of gratitude: thankful for the God of the “indescribable gift” who unfolds knowledge and wisdom to us all, in His time…not ours. 


TRUE COLORS

TRUE COLORS

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A few weeks back I stood at the grave of a friend at Anderson Memorial Park, close to I-69.  It was a brisk, early fall, day; clear, sunny, a bit chilly and beautiful.  At the end of my prayer for the family, I looked over the heads of those there to the tops of the trees in the park.  They were already starting to change color.  Just the tops, as if a giant paint brush had just barely swept over the trees in that area.  I remembered then I was told, for some reason, the trees in Memorial Park often turn first.  No one is sure why.  Maybe it’s the cool breeze that seems to be present there, maybe it’s the type of trees that grow there.  For whatever reason, there it was: an orange-topped tree reminding me, as I listened to the bugle and stood in a cemetery, that it is often through stress, cold, “change of season”, and yes – death, that our true colors are revealed.

In winter, it takes a lot of energy for a tree to keep leaves green (making chlorophyll) AND on the tree.  Lack of sunshine and water during the cold months prods the tree to “make some choices” about what to keep and what to let go.  As the green pigment dissipates, other colors are suddenly revealed, before the leaf drops of completely…some say these are the tree’s TRUE COLORS. 

I’ll speak only for myself now.  I believe that we, like trees, are going to show our “true colors” when our seasons change, when stress/winter comes, when the things that have supported our life are suddenly, or little-by-little, gone – we become who we truly are.

There, in Memorial Park, it was easy to compare a life that had been housed in a fragile body to that of a tree that had been green all summer – but now, with the passing of body that LIFE was its real self because the body had died. 

Here, in my office, I’m thinking about what I learn and teach as an Advocate for God.  The Spirit, the words of Jesus, and the example of those wise men and women who have taught and written over the centuries are all saying, “to gain your life, you must lose it” and “to find yourself, you must die to self”.  These are difficult lessons to understand, much less practice – but I think they are necessary.  I believe there is so much of us that has been put on us since birth in this world, and so much struggle to maintain the shell of our bodies which surround our souls, that it is difficult for us to see what our Father originally designed us to be; our “true colors”. 

Jesus talks a lot about “giving up” to “gain”.  But what a person “gives up” isn’t theirs to begin with, and when Jesus compares our lives (and His) to a seed that must die in the ground to become a tree – isn’t that the entire purpose of the seed?  Isn’t it our purpose to be the essence of who we are designed to be, and not all the insecurities, influences, self-motivated injuries, and world-expectations we seem to collect and cover ourselves with?

What is MY “chlorophyll”?  It is my ego.  Ego isn’t always bad, it’s just not truly who I am…it is self-identity (which is false), a paradigm built up by what I’ve experienced (which is inaccurate) and a persona built by the voices of those around me and THEIR expectations of me (which is deceptive).  If I could get rid of all that, would my “true colors” – the colors I was painted when created – be revealed?

I think the answer is, “yes”.  We see it whenever a friend is at the “end of their rope”.  Suddenly some things just don’t matter anymore.  I see it on sick beds, I see it when someone has experienced a sudden and tragic loss.  I see it when everything is lost: house, home, finances, love…it seems that when stress (cold) and lack of vision (sunshine) are combined with a new chapter of life (season) a person’s TRUE COLORS are revealed.  Sometimes the colors aren’t so pretty.  Sometimes they are – it’s what we call “character”.

How then do I live?  I’ve found that each week and day I should assess what I cling to.  Is it a “thing” (souvenirs and knick-knacks that hold memories), a “belief” (a philosophy or teaching that may not be exactly true or healthy – OR WORSE, something that keeps me from re-examining what I believe is true), a “person” (I need all the friends I can get, and I want to be able to act-in-love to everyone – but to surround myself with, and listen to, certain people is like taking poison a little at a time – you know it’s true)Next, I remind myself that my worth is only defined by the fact that God loves me and calls me by name.

Yes, I have work to do.  Yes, I have things I probably need to hold on to – but these are the things, beliefs, and persons that help me let go; the outside influences that encourage me to be the original, immortal being God first imagined and designed

I don’t know exactly who that person is right now, but I’m learning.  The reason I assess and practice all this NOW is because I’d rather not wait until I come to the end of my rope to let go.  I’d rather not be hit with the cold wind and lack of sun that reveal my true colors.

As you can tell, I was a philosophy minor in college.  But I truly believe that most of what we do for Jesus is “peel back” and “uncover” and “let go”.  I believe our true selves, like the autumn colors in Anderson, start at the top, at the head and heart, and gradually reveal themselves throughout our entire beings – when we “die to self.” 

Maybe the trees in Memorial Park turn first because in that place God wants to remind us something.  My friend Dick, whose grave I stood beside as I listened to TAPS, is in that forever home now.  He is seeing what, I like to believe, is the New Earth as it was originally designed and created.  And maybe it’s just me, but I think the trees in there are gold, orange and red…I think he sees that place as Eternal Autumn…

…because I believe everything, and everyone shows their true colors there.

 


ELECTIONS

ELECTIONS

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Well, our Republic has “flexed its muscle” once again, as Mid-Term Election Day has come and gone.  Whenever (and I should say wherever) I vote I always remember the first election that I took part in; the polls being located across the street from my dorm on campus.  It was a monumental moment for me, like driving by myself for the first time, or graduating…etc.

I thank God that I live in a country where I CAN speak my mind freely, where I can vote…where I can write a letter to King Charles, apologizing for that “tea incident” and asking him to take us back (this is usually toward the end of a big, national, campaign year, when I can’t stand yet another political ad)

I know that some of us are elated, and some disappointed in the results of yesterday’s elections…and some are surprised.  But personalities, methods and political belief aside…what is our responsibility to our government, as “Believers & Followers”?  Jesus was “actively neutral” toward the Romans; a repressive, sometimes sadistic government who mocked the people they conquered…in fact, when asked straight out about His views, he always turned the conversation back to His Father.

I’m a peacemaker inside, I don’t have much trouble with anything and tend to like everyone and see all sides of a situation…sometimes that’s not a good thing, but most of the time it is a trait that I’m thankful my father (Tom Vale, my father who knows no stranger) left to me.  So maybe it’s easier for me to say, whoever sits in the Mayor’s Office, the Senate or House Chairs, or the Oval Office…I respect the office and wish them all the best (after all, it’s only to MY benefit if they make wise and worthwhile choices). 

Paul, in his letter to the Roman Church, says, “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God.” (13:1) – in fact, ROMANS 13:1-7 is a good bunch of verses to read whenever you think of our leaders and the church.

I’ve been in leadership, and I know how difficult it is, and how fickle.  Maybe for that reason there is something that I have done for every President and Mayor, newly elected, since I’ve been involved in ministry (since around 1981) – I write them a personal letter and promise to pray for them, and their families, regularly.  I don’t agree or disagree with their reasoning or political beliefs, for me, that’s beside the point.  I only promise to lift them up in prayer on a regular basis.  Just a note; for all those letters, there are only a couple of leaders who have written me back…I’m not politically minded, but I’ve NEVER forgotten which leaders took the time to respond.

I think, as “Believers & Followers”, we have the responsibility to “honor those to whom honor is due” and to “respect those to whom we owe respect”.  As Free Americans in this Republic we have the duty to let our leaders know what we think, how else can they lead?

And here are some points to consider, for all of us this post-election day:

FOR THOSE WHOSE CANDIDATES WON:
The scripture is clear; pray, pray, pray for your leaders.  (I TIMOTHY 2:1-4) If you pray that God’s voice will be heard in their hearts, that they will be surrounded by wise counsel, that they will ALWAYS act according to what they believe is in the best interest of this land and not by selfish motive and pray that their families will be safe and secure…that is the best gift that you can give.  If and when a leader makes a choice that you wouldn’t necessarily choose, trust God to be great enough to listen to YOUR prayer and answer YOUR prayer for the Leader-in-question and know that God holds this country, as all countries, in His hand and will answer if called upon.

 FOR THOSE WHOSE CANDIDATES DID NOT WIN:
The scripture is clear; pray, pray, pray for your leaders.  (I TIMOTHY 2:1-4) If you pray that God’s voice will be heard in their hearts, that they will be surrounded by wise counsel, that they will ALWAYS act according to what they believe is in the best interest of this land and not by selfish motive and pray that their families will be safe and secure…that is the best gift that you can give.  If and when a leader makes a choice that you wouldn’t necessarily choose, trust God to be great enough to listen to YOUR prayer and answer YOUR prayer for the Leader-in-question and know that God holds this country, as all countries, in His hand and will answer if called upon.

 FOR THOSE WHO AREN’T YET SURE:
The scripture is clear; pray, pray, pray for your leaders.  (I TIMOTHY 2:1-4) If you pray that God’s voice will be heard in their hearts, that they will be surrounded by wise counsel, that they will ALWAYS act according to what they believe is in the best interest of this land and not by selfish motive and pray that their families will be safe and secure…that is the best gift that you can give.  If and when a leader makes a choice that you wouldn’t necessarily choose, trust God to be great enough to listen to YOUR prayer and answer YOUR prayer for the Leader-in-question and know that God holds this country, as all countries, in His hand and will answer if called upon.

Again, I thank God for a place where we can actually choose our leaders…come January 2025 I may be sending a letter out to our new Leaders…and come November 2024, I may be sending a letter to King Charles!

To quote Charles Dickens’ TINY TIM: “God bless us every one!” – Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, undecided…and children of God, all!


SOME CALL IT AUTUMN

SOME CALL IT AUTUMN

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A BLOG by PASTOR KEN RICKETT

“And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a brush; he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed…God called unto him. . . and said…put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereupon thou standest is holy ground.” ((Exodus 3:2-5) 

It was a great day for Moses, who, having led his flock of sheep to the “backside “pasture, saw a bush that was ablaze with fire, yet was not consumed. Surely that was an autumn day. . .that we may be sure. Only in the fall does nature robe itself with fiery reds, golden yellows, somber browns, rich oranges, tender pastels . . .and unfading evergreens. . . all mingled on one giant panorama of canvas. And when we are in awe of God’s world, we stand on holy ground, with shoes aside.

William Carruth, the poet, speaks of
The ripe, rich tint of corn-fields
And wild geese sailing high,
And all over upland and lowland
The charm of the golden-rod,
Some of us call it Autumn,
And others call it God.”

As J. Winston Pearce wrote, “Along the rivers, up and down the sides of the great mountains, by the banks of the lakes you will see indescribable mixtures of gold and orange and crimsonand saffron…” Take a tour through the rural areas, drive through the forests and mountains, walk down your own street because, in autumn, a greater spectacle will never meet your eyes!

The Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley loved to speak of the time “…when the frost is on the pumpkin and the fodder was in the shock…”, and when trees in the apple orchard were bending down with fruit. AH! Feel the frosty air, exult in the completed harvest, smell the aromas of apple pies! And in your mind’s eye, see the trumpeters, their horns blaring and inviting you to declare, “Glory, Glory, Glory!” Beyond the colors…there is God.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, in awe of Autumn,
wrote in her poem “
God’s World” these words:
Lord, I do fear Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year,
My soul is all but out of me,—-let fall
No burning leaf, prithee, let no bird call.”

Caught up in awe! No wonder the Lord told Moses to take off his shoes for the place he stood was holy! Autumn has that invitation for us to see beyond the colors, beyond Mother Nature, beyond the skies—-and see God.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, however, has a word of caution
that not everyone sees beyond Autumn:
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit ‘round it and pluck blackberries.” 

Too many of us “pluck blackberries.” Autumn is merely a season of the year, and it has its thorny side; namely, leaves must be raked, and harvest must be gathered. Autumn is a season of fading life and warns that the winter of death is but a matter of time. Such thoughts are a way in which the misinformed person understands Autumn. Ears are deaf to what God may say to us out of the burning bush…and one thing God says out of the burning bush is this: “there is no death.” The fruit and the nut fall from the tree and only seem to die. The green grass withers and turns brown and seems to die.

But the poet declares:
“Undaunted by Decembers,
The sap is faithful yet,
The giving earth remembers
And only men forget.

“Autumn” cried Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “is not a sad season.” We take off our shoes at the burning bush because God, the Great Conservator, declares that just as surely as the grass greens in the spring, new leaves unfurl on trees, and the bulbs buried deep in the ground shall send forth their flowers again. Even Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field…“ in reference to the continual cycle of life.

Pause before the burning bush of Autumn and hear a final word. Autumn speaks of God, and God speaks of harmony, love, peace, grace, and much more. God in Autumn’s glory speaks of life. Not just any life, but abundant life.

“And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.” 

Some call it autumn…
…others call it God.


THE DRUMMER

THE DRUMMER

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I used to be a percussionist, in Middle School/High School. I played a multitude of percussion instruments in both orchestra and band. Percussion is fascinating, and for anyone with a background in piano, has a relatively smooth learning-curve. The one thing I didn’t do too much, as a percussionist, was march in a band.  In fact, I have really only one memory of marching with my High School band in one of the local rodeo parades (we had several) and I played what’s called “triples”; three larger drums worn, by strap around the neck and shoulders, in the front. Because of the size and where the drums were, one cannot see the ground while marching, and we were behind several horses, enough said. I didn’t march again.

I made many percussion friends along the way, and a few have gone on to greater things as percussionists. One friend of mine continues to play in studios in Los Angeles and has been heard in the soundtracks of many well-known films. Another has become a Percussion Professor back east. One of my friends received a scholarship, out of High School, to attend school in the Midwest, where marching bands are king!

This friend ended his freshman year as first chair in the percussion and drum section of the school and was in high demand throughout the state, even at his young age. On one occasion, another university (one of their rivals) called him with a request. It seems they wanted him to perform with them during a televised half-time show coming up in the next month. Here was the deal: he would learn the music on his own and in “seated” rehearsals with the band. However, because of the secretive nature of the program, and the intense rivalry between marching bands at the time, they wanted to keep him out of “marching practice” and simply give him his marching “formula” to learn on his own and with a “coach” – another drummer who marched beside him. He would, then, learn and memorize his steps without any concept of the rest of the band and where THEY were marching, so that the configuration could remain a secret. All he knew was HIS part, but not how it fit with the rest. 

The day came, he was given a uniform and met one final time with the band. He was instructed to remain on his course. He played, he performed, his family watched on television, and the half-time production was remarkable. He was also asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, good for 10 years, because the university was a bit embarrassed for needing to ask him to play, considering he was from their rival school. Only his family knew, and he told the story years later.

He said he learned a valuable lesson about doing what needed to be done, even when the whole picture wasn’t available to him. He knew he was an integral part of the whole but was not aware of what the rest of the body of players were doing. He said that in later years, when HE became a teacher, he used that technique to teach the importance of following orders without question. Sometimes it is more difficult to explain “the whole”, it’s easier to just see the final product.  The players/marchers have to learn to trust. 

We talk about the BODY OF CHRIST in the church community, and we speak of our own and others’ Spiritual gifts and talents. But somehow our human side really is not happy without knowing exactly HOW WE fit in and WHAT EVERYONE ELSE is doing. We want to see the final production. We want to know the outcome. We believe we have the right to know. THIS story is just about a marching band…but in THE KINGDOM of GOD how much more should we just say to the King what Mary said to Gabriel, “Let it be…according to His word.” or “Whatever the King asks, I’ll do.” or like Isaiah, “Here I am, send me.”?

Why do WE think we have to know everything before saying “yes” to God?  Maybe it’s our culture. Maybe it is because logic has replaced mystery. Or maybe we just don’t trust that God knows what He’s doing. 

But I believe that miracles can be performed by the “Body of Christ” when the “toe” obeys the “Head” without question.


IMAGES OF TUSCANY

IMAGES OF TUSCANY

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Upon the rare occasion of “organizing” in my home, I ran across a photo album from my one and only trip to ITALY.  As is often the case, the organization play was replaced by a trip down memory lane and very little was organized.  This small photo album is filled with photos from the trip I took with family and friends. It was a vacation by which all vacations since are measured because the destination and company were stellar.

I travelled in memory, through the photos, and once again felt the warm sun, listened to the music, tasted the wine, and remembered things I had forgotten in the few short years since that trip.  It was a great diversion from “organizing”.

As I looked and remembered, however, I thought of a specific moment in time during the trip, when I stood on a rise looking out over Tuscan fields (much LIKE the photo posted here), a village and church on the horizon, vineyards, and orchards between.  It was sunset, and I said to myself: “No photo, painting or story does justice to this place, no matter how beautiful they may be.  None of those things can match the moment of actually seeing this with one’s own eyes.”

There is a difference between “knowing about” something and “knowing” something. 

It’s the same with people.  It’s the same with God. We are taught, and I believe, the scripture tells us about God.  That is truth, or at least one side of it.  The Scripture tells us about God, and so does His creation and His children.  His Spirit in us, is also a witness to the personality of God.  But all those things share ABOUT God, none of those things are a substitute for KNOWING God.

To know ABOUT God is not the same as KNOWING God.  After all, lots of people know about God, and it doesn’t seem to change them in the least.  The people who have been changed, who live a full life, who walk with peace inside and out, who seem to pour out “springs of living water” are people who don’t just KNOW ABOUT God, but who KNOW God.

The process of getting to know God is like getting to know anyone else.  We find out about our family and friends by spending time with them, getting to understand their likes and dislikes, catering to them, supporting them, and staying in contact with them.  We don’t maintain relationships with our loved ones by reading about them.  

There is a difference between “knowing about” something and “knowing” something.

Jesus’ wish is that we know Him, not just know about Him.  He wants us to spend time talking and listening to Him.  He wants us to love Him by loving each other.  He wants us to look for Him everywhere, to turn to Him all the time, to be with Him forever.  That’s going to take more than just reading the scripture and calling it good.  We’re going to have to trust the Spirit of God to lead us into places that we wouldn’t ordinarily go.  We’re going to need to trust in our own God-given common sense and ability to trust His Spirit in us when it comes to situations that are not mentioned in the scripture.  We are going to have to KNOW that God is real, despite the fact that His personhood is not defined by OUR understanding of what a “person” should be, in fact it’s just the opposite: our personhood is defined by the fact that we are created in HIS image and not visa versa.

There is a difference between “knowing about” something and “knowing” something.

I have some wonderful memories and photos of Tuscany, but none of them ARE Tuscany.  The images are representations of a small portion of that place.  The SCRIPTURE shows us part of who God is. The SPIRIT shares with us knowledge as we need it. NATURE is a portion of what God has created, and OUR OWN HEARTS & MINDS contain a touch of His personality.  But to KNOW God requires regarding Him as the friend He wishes to be.  It requires spending time with Him in the everyday things, trusting the Spirit in us to believe Him when we hear Him and see Him, even when others may not. 

It is a lifelong task, and we have a never-ending lifetime to make it happen.


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A BLOG by PASTOR KEN RICKETT

In the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) the month of October is designated to honor the ministry of both pastors and congregations. This BLOG will focus on acknowledging with appreciation the ministers who serve our congregations throughout the world.

Our minister, Rick Vale, has brought to this congregation a wide range of creative gifts and talents as well as a treasure-trove of knowledge, insight, and wisdom through his sermons and teachings—and we at Central Christian Church have benefited immensely by the uniqueness of his diverse gifts and talents in music, theatrical arts, and skills in public speaking.

Sermons highlight scripture as well as offering us, the listeners, a wealth of theological but relevant insight for this day and age. Those seeking depth in their understanding of biblical passages have welcomed Rick’s studies and discussion groups. THE ALLEY THEATRE offers a community-enriching series of dramas which Rick has been instrumental in the creation and support of this vital connection of our congregation to our city and beyond.

One occasionally wonders how a minister fulfills both the duties of a minister as well as the expectations of parishioners and the community. How does a minister prepare and deliver quality sermons week after week–especially when one of those weeks is filled with a funeral, a wedding, counseling sessions, visitations, community endeavors (ie, ministerial associations, various local boards that have asked the minister to serve a term, dealing homelessness and poverty in the community, etc.). Frankly, it takes a lot of ingenuity and wise use of time to preach well each week. One way a minister “stays ahead” in sermon planning is the use of a sermon series on topics or selected scriptural themes so any study time allows the preacher to work on several sermons simultaneously. Or a minister will plan ahead for several weeks, perhaps using a lectionary (a 3 year planning system in which the same scriptural passage is not repeated; then the cycle begins again) the purpose being to allow the minister to make wise use of study time to cover several weeks in case a week becomes exceptionally busy. Another reason to plan is that musicians and music directors must also plan for choir anthems and special occasions. Rick has consistently woven our worship services into a unity of theme and music each week–not an easy task!

Yet, does anyone recognize the impact of the covid pandemic on ministers? Some congregations, like ours, did not hold worship services for several consecutive weeks. Goodness gracious! Talk about a radical and massive shift in how ministers provided weekly worship services! Our congregation relied heavily on the internet or electronic media. Pastor Rick provided sermons with music and lay participation through that media. Families in homes read scripture and this was incorporated into the service and soloists (or others) provide “recorded” music to enrich our online worship. Rick readily mastered the challenges, and our congregation was blessed. During the pandemic, our online worship gained support at a level that Rick continues to provide weekly online worship.

How does a congregation say “Thank you” to its minister(s)? I can only speak of my experience in the congregations I have served in our denomination as I have no knowledge of the practices of this congregation. I have been richly rewarded with a variety of “Thank-You-s” during the month of October, including heartwarming words of appreciation given in a worship service by the personnel committee or board chairperson who spoke on behalf of the congregation. One year I moved to a new congregation in mid-October. That congregation had a rich history of expressing appreciation to its pastors during the Month of the Ministry in our denomination. Did they ever surprise us—on Halloween night many, many families in the congregation brought food items, baked goods, staple groceries, etc. to “treat” us (in the south, it is called “pounding the preacher”) and the warmth and laughter of the evening with a parsonage full of folks still resonates today! I have received “free” dinners for two (includes spouse) reservations at a favorite or esteemed restaurant within a reasonable traveling distance, or tickets for an event (movie, drama, etc.), or an overnight “package” including meals at a resort or B & B (Bern, IN or Metamora, IN which were Indiana places of interest that we had never been), or tangible items (ex: once Della and I received an elaborate serving set for hosting events in our home), modest cash gifts, among other tokens of appreciation. Even though the congregation presented these tokens in worship on a Sunday in October (or at a board meeting), the date of the meals, events, or overnight trips would usually be in early to mid-November to offer Della and I some time to re-adjust our schedules. I cannot think of a single year in my 40 years as a Disciples of Christ minister in which there was not some form of appreciation in October. Funds for these expressions of appreciation were not taken from the church treasury because of tax issues, but I was seldom aware of the method(s) by which the congregation selected or provided for these welcomed expressions of appreciation.

May I encourage each of you to voice your appreciation to Pastor Rick, whether in person, or by social media? With a busy thanksgiving and Christmas season rapidly approaching, let us remember that “giving thanks with a grateful heart” to Pastor Rick is “a gift that keeps on giving.”


SQUIRES

SQUIRES

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So, it started out as a good idea: a quiet, few days with friends in Florida between Sundays.  We would visit familiar eating and shopping places, see some Florida friends, sit around the pool, on the boat, and stare at palm trees in the sunshine.  That was a plan a few months ago when we planned last week’s trip.

Then, as the days drew closer to last week’s planned vacay, the weather started looking a little icky.  There was a storm brewing just south of Florida, “Ian”.  Well, let’s see what happens. The storm moved slowly, when it moved at all, still no news from our airline that our flight was cancelled, so that was good news.  And so, on Monday, (after all, they’d cancel if it was going to be awful…wouldn’t they?) we lifted off from Indianapolis for the 110-minute flight to central Florida.

We landed under a beautiful cloud cover at sunset (see the photo above) and walked off the plane to an airport with a different mood than usual.  First, there were hardly any people there. Second, everyone was in “prep” mode for the storm.

This must be a little more serious than we thought.

It was nighttime when we arrived at our hosts’ home, to find they had secured all their poolside furniture inside.  The next day we went into the little town we’ve been visiting several times a year for about 10 years, and found shops either closed, or saying they would be for the next two days, a larger-than-normal police presence and emptier-than-normal streets.

Well, you know what happened.  IAN hit with force and moved slowly across the state.  Where we were was 45 minutes inland from the west, and situated north of the “eye”, but we got hit. Our little town didn’t suffer too much structural damage, although you’d be surprised what sustained 60-mile-an-hour winds and almost 20” of rain WOULD do.  But our neighbors to the south were battered, where WE were inconvenienced.  By Friday, in our little town, things were incredibly back to normal: shops and cafes open, streets filled with tourists (and those moving inland seeking shelter). 

I noticed some very moving moments in all of this.  The most striking to me at the time were the things I saw before the storm. 

People were getting ready, they were “putting on the armor” as it were (EPHESIANS 6:10-17). Just like the scripture commends, they were getting ready: “…so that they would be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take their stand.” (paraphrased) 

There are all kinds of people, who had all kinds of opinions about the impending storm:

1.There were residents of long-standing who could not remember a storm ever being that bad in their town, so this one wouldn’t be either.

2. There were residents of long-standing who decided to not ever take a chance and be fully prepared, and/or get “their butts the heck out of Dodge.”

3. There were those who believed the storm would be a “non-event” and all the hype was a product of the media.

4. And there were those who felt they had no choice but to stay and hold on.

One common thing I observed was how connected everyone in the community was.  They contacted each other. They planned to shelter one another. They shared food and water with one another. Those who were out-of-state had their homes secured by neighbors who were in town.  Despite how many felt about what had yet to happen – and many of their feelings (as all things seem to be these days) were colored by their “political paradigms” – all these diverse people came together.

And, within the context of this EPHESIANS verse, I saw something I’d never thought of – every knight has at least one squire (“a young nobleman acting as an attendant to a knight”) 

Knights, in the age of knights, couldn’t put on the full armor they needed by themselves.  They needed help as more and more weight was placed upon them.  This idea is even illustrated in the EPHESIANS verses.  The one preparing for the “battle of life” and the “evil day” is told what they should wear, and implicitly instructed to “accept” the shield of faith, and “take” both the helmet of salvation and the sword: Jesus, the Word of God. 

Ultimately, these pieces of armor we need to wear in preparation for upcoming storms are given to us by our Father in heaven.  But He always works in partnership with us.  So we, in turn, can only put on the armor as we are helped into it by “squires”: those God has placed around us to help us prepare. 

We do not fight the battles alone.  In fact, God suggests time and time again that the battle is HIS, but we still need to be there, and be prepared. However, our preparation is done in “community”, in “fellowship”, and in “friendship”.

I have been prepared and armed for certain storms because someone else (being an agent of God) has watched out for me, has helped me arm myself.  And I, hopefully, in turn have been a “squire” for someone else, in their preparation.

Last week taught me many things.  It was a new adventure for me to check off my list.
But the things that will stay with me are:

Nothing is forever, enjoy the moment.

“Things” are not “life”.

Don’t be lazy or cynical. Be practical. “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”…

…and, when putting on the armor as you prepare for inevitable spiritual hurricanes
that may take everything you have,
the people you love…
…and displace your life,
seek for good “squires”.  BE a good “squire”.

We are ALL here for each other.