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A few years ago, it was a beautiful morning in Indianapolis, sunny and only slightly warm.  I was preparing for my first full day at the Christian Church (DOC) General Assembly across town.  I woke up to a cat on my face (Mr. Blu, Cito’s cat), and got up, got ready and prepared to walk across town to the Convention Center…by way of a coffee shop.

The condo where I was staying was on the upper east side and the Convention Center is in the middle west side, so it was a good walk, but I didn’t need to be there till around 11:00am.  I set my things out to get ready and walk out the door, but before I did I noticed the “rodent traps (sticky)“, purchased for whatever was crawling up the fireplace vent and getting into the wall.  I decided to be a good guy and place the trap under the vent on the fenced in deck.  I carefully removed the sticky trap and carried it outside, through the sliding screen door and the hinged glass & wrought-iron door to the deck.  It was beautiful outside.  I carefully set the trap and weighed it down on one side with a brick, and went back to the door.

The LOCKED door.

 That’s right.  It automatically locked when it shut.  The front door was locked as well.  And there, sitting on the dining table, almost within reach but on the other side of the LOCKED glass door, was my phone…my PHONE (with the key code for the garage…which, of course, I didn’t have memorized.)  And sitting by it, quietly judging me, was Mr. Blu. (I saw him mouth the words, “silly human”).

I was stuck, out of the condo.  No phone.  No keys.  No idea what to do next.

During my first wave of panic (“O crap! O crap! O crap!” is close to what I was thinking), the quiet voice of the Spirit (I know it wasn’t MY OWN VOICE, because I wasn’t thinking THAT clearly) said, “Count your blessings.”


Then I did.

1) I was dressed…a blessing for everyone involved. 

2) It wasn’t night.

3) it wasn’t raining

4) I could walk

5) I DID know where Cito was (with the key code)…and, actually his office was in walking distance.

I kept counting and felt better.  So I started walking the few blocks to where Cito worked.  After 5 to 10 minutes I arrived at the large building where he worked. I got on the elevator and went up to the floor.  The door opened to a lobby filled with crates and carts…and then it hit me…today was the day his ENTIRE OFFICE WAS MOVING TO ANOTHER BUILDING!

“Count your blessings.”  Whatever.

I went to the main door and there, thankfully, were the lone two employees left.  I introduced myself and they, because of their love for Cito and not their trust of ME, probably…called him at his new desk, he gave me the key code and I happily walked back to the condo.

On my way I came across a younger woman with a backback over her shoulder…she held out a piece of paper as she approached me, and I could see tears in her eyes as she asked, in poor English, if I knew the  address hand-written on the paper.  She was lost and had been wandering around downtown for an hour.

It just so happened that I knew exactly where it was, and we were close enough that I could walk her part of the way.  She was so thankful, I felt like I had just given her a million dollars.

She went happily on her way.  I unlocked the condo, grabbed my stuff and trekked over to the Convention Center, thinking about my morning and what I would have done differently.  Of course, there was nothing I could’ve done.  I wrote it off as a bad start to the day…until I arrived at the Convention and listened to the first scripture read before the meeting:  Esther 4:14 (I’ll let you look it up). 

What I heard the scripture say, was: “Who knows but that you locked yourself out for such a moment as this one, so that you and the lost girl would cross paths.”

Then I realized, once more:

Every moment has its time.
Every person has their place.
Don’t brush aside either,
Or you may also brush aside
God’s wish for you to either
Enjoy or be the miracle.

IN PLAIN ENGLISH: a blog by Pastor Ken Rickett

A BLOG by Pastor Ken Rickett

Let me be blunt. There is a world of difference between our way of life and that of the New Testament. Today we have jet planes that can take us halfway around the globe (12,000 miles) in a few hours but in New Testament times people had to walk everywhere and they were lucky to cover 15 miles a day! Today, our own automobiles can reach speeds of over 100 mph but the fastest vehicle in New Testament times was a horse-drawn chariot! There are just no similarities between the two ways of life! Yet, do we call those days a “simple life.” No! A thousand times no! Life in those days was just as much a struggle as life today. Life was just as unfair then as it is today, but in different ways.

In Luke, Chapter 10, Jesus sent 70 disciples in groups of two people into cities for the purpose of preparing the people to receive Jesus when Jesus came into those cities.

He gave some odd, if not weird instructions, “carry no purse, nor note cards, nor extra shoes, and salute no one. If you enter a house, say ‘peace be unto this house’ and if your peace is rejected then leave that house. Eat and drink what your hosts offer you. Stay there until your work is done and do not go from house to house. Say to the people wherever you go ‘the Kingdom of God is here’. But if you go into a city and they do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet and move on, but let them know that regardless of the lack of acceptance, that the Kingdom of God will still come.”

In the “plain English” we speak today, and in our way of life today, what, exactly, would Jesus be telling his disciples (us) to do in order to bear witness to the Gospel?

“Carry no purse” means “Don’t carry extra money or a bunch of credit cards!” Why? Well, the next time you drive through a small town where you don’t know a soul, stop and walk the streets and go into a couple of stores. First impressions are HUGE among the locals! If the perception is that you’ve got money to spend (and you are a stranger to them), they will welcome your dollars and likely have little or no desire to sit down and talk a while with you under the shade of the big oak tree in the town square.

“Take no note cards” means just that! In other words, quit worrying about whether you “say it right” or “whether you might leave something out that you should have said.

There is no reason to engage in the stilted language of “religious terminology”, but to converse relationally. Several times over my career as a minister, well-meaning people have knocked on my door to invite me to their church (not a problem) or to ask if I was a Christian (also not a problem), but scripts are a problem. Let me illustrate. Years ago, while I was completing the seminary, Della, my wife, babysat for a physician and her husband in their home. One day I did not have class and I was with Della that afternoon. The doorbell rang, and it was someone from a church of a different denomination. Della answered the door, and she was asked if she was a “believer?” Her reply was “of course! My husband is in the seminary to become a minister” to which the reply was, “BUT is he saved?” Della said, “I’m sorry. I have to go” and shut the door.

Scripts put people on the defensive, and usually brings a quick closure to what could have been a productive conversation. Scripts also assume that the meaning of religious words and phrases are known by the general public–even if a person has never read a Bible Story or heard a sermon. No wonder Jesus said, “No pre-scripted conversations, please!”

“Don’t take an extra pair of shoes” is puzzling advice, so I will put it in plain language. If the extra pair of shoes is patent-leather Guccis, in a community in which the streets are full of sand, then it is obvious that such shoes will testify to a wealthy life and therefore, these extra shoes serve no real purpose other than to impress rather than to find common ground. Of course, it goes without saying that “extras” imply that the messenger has been blessed far beyond what anyone else dares to expect from God.

“Salute no one!” means “seek no favors!” To seek favors, one has to assume that another person has something to offer that would otherwise be unavailable. Can you imagine a disciple of Jesus who curries the favor of a Roman official while on this mission? Do not think of “salute” in this instance as recognizing military rank; rather, salute means to impress inappropriately.

“Peace be unto this house!” If your peace is rejected, then leave. This is not “wearing out your welcome” but rather “peace” is a “comfort zone” that one detects upon entering the home of a stranger. Not long ago I was visited by a couple of Mormon missionaries. “May we give you a copy of our book? “No,” I replied, and the peace was uneasy. Then I said, “My hobby is genealogy, and I must admit that I have had some success in using Mormon genealogy records.” Ah! Conversation flowed with less awkwardness. Peace? Nevertheless, I affirmed my long association with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and they soon went on their way. There was no “peace” that would foster hours of conversation. But had my visitor been Pastor Rick or perhaps you! Peace would come instantly!

“Eat and drink what the host offers you!” In other words, don’t get up 30 minutes early and run to McDonald’s to get your breakfast and coffee–and eat and drink iin front of your hosts! Or don’t sneak out to the steak house in the afternoon and then later decline the meal prepared by your hosts! Believe me, insults will not be tolerated!

“Do not go from house to house.” Accept the hospitality of your hosts! In the summer of 1971, between completing college in May and beginning the seminary in September, I served the summer as a Youth Minister at a church in Rural Hall, NC. I knew in advance that I would be spending the summer in 3 different homes over the 10-week summer. Thankfully, the minister of the church gave me excellent advice, telling me to refrain from accepting last-minute offers for a meal without allowing time for my host family to adjust their meal preparation because providing meals were a part of their obligation to host me. But I was free to accept a meal in another home if arrangements with the host family were made, let’s say, at least the day before my invitation. Wise advice, indeed!

“Tell everyone you meet that the Kingdom of God is here (near)!” I have a friend with whom I went all four years at Mars Hill University. He went to one seminary, and I went to another. We lost touch for many years, then I went to a General Assembly in which he, George Bullard, had led a two-day seminar just prior to the opening of the General Assembly, also sponsored by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). George was a church consultant who kept abreast of trends and changes happening across America, in regard to religious and church life. Of all his insights about the decline of attendance in congregational life of many denominations, he was adamant about this one: “Preach the Kingdom!” If we preach the “church” (even though it is the Body of Christ), then we invite people to see its shortcomings as well as those of church members. But if we preach the Kingdom, the coming of God’s Rule on earth as revealed through Jesus Christ who brings the Kingdom to earth that God’s will be done as it is in heaven, then we understand that God is constantly bringing God’s eternal rule on earth through redemption and love. Perhaps the criticism of the church as a “just one more institution that works through ‘proper channels’” would be blunted by the image of an imperfect but constantly emerging Kingdom of God on earth that reaches perfection in the fulfillment of the Kingdom when a new heaven and earth are created. Which sounds more exciting to you–an invitation to “enter and explore the Kingdom of God on earth” or a plea to “attend church every Sunday?”

“If you go into a city and they do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet…but let them know that the Kingdom of God is still coming!” O, such a misunderstood verse!

Shaking the dust off one’s feet as one leaves the city is not a condemnation because the message “the Kingdom of God is coming” doesn’t change. So, what does this admonition mean? First, it means, “if you feel ineffective in that place, move on, and perhaps come back later.” Nothing creates a void in life like a feeling of “spinning wheels!” So don’t burn out on sharing the message of the Kingdom but find fertile soil.

Second, “shake the dust off your feet” means to move on and not carry with you the disappointments and hurts and agony of an unproductive environment. Recognize that you can go back later or that someone with a different personality or approach may be more effective. This advice has little to do with the city, but much to do with one’s own renewal and readiness for continued ministry and mission. “Shaking the dust off” is not a calling down of God’s fury upon the city because…

…the message that God’s Kingdom is coming stands before that city with hope and promise!



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Luke 2:15-18

And it came to pass after the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go into Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told to them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

When my brother and I were old enough (about 12 years old or so) and brave enough to venture into the mountain forests behind our house, we must have walked a considerable distance following a creek flowing from the peaks of the mountains along an old gravel road beside the creek. It was early December and through the bare,

leafless trees, we spied an old cabin through the trees. Summoning our bravest efforts, we walked to the cabin and then looked inside it as the front door had fallen off. Parts of the roof revealed the sky above as some wood shingles had fallen off of this one-room abode and the remaining three or four pieces of furniture were unsalvageable. There was never any electricity to that cabin and a single fireplace spoke of the only source of winter heat. Once home, we told our grandmother what we had discovered, only to quickly realize that she knew all about that cabin. And naturally, a story or two awaited the eager ears of my brother and me.

 My grandmother began, “There was an older man who lived alone in that cabin; his wife had died relatively young and he was determined to stay in his ‘home’ in spite of the effort of his grown offspring to entice him to live with them as these children now lived out of town.”

So, for several years, at Christmastime, my grandmother would send her children, mostly teenagers at that time, to his cabin a couple of days before Christmas with food, candies, and a gift or two that he could use. One year, after these things were delivered to the old man at the cabin, my grandmother’s children were going to search for a Christmas tree in the woods, and therefore they had a hatchet with them.

After the items were delivered, the old man stepped outside the cabin, and just a few yards away was a perfectly shaped holly tree about 6 feet high, and absolutely loaded with red berries (holly trees are native to the southern mountains). My mother (the youngest of the children) commented on the holly tree, saying, ‘that would make an interesting Christmas tree. Before anyone else realized what was going on, the old man grabbed the hatchet out of the hands of my uncle (my mother’s brother) and swiftly cut down the holly tree in one swipe at the base of the tree. When told that he should not have cut down his pretty tree, the old man said,

“Take it, consider it a gift from me to you.”

And then my grandmother continued, “They came home with this lovely holly tree and its red berries, and we all decided that no other decorations were needed, and we all felt that it was indeed our favorite Christmas tree ever!”

A holly Christmas tree! How odd and unusual!

For centuries at Christmastime both homes and churches decked the halls with boughs of holly. Thorny holly leaves, according to legend, symbolized the crown of thorns placed around Jesus’ head while he was crucified on the cross. The red berries represent the blood that flowed from the pierced side of Jesus. In Germany the holly tree is known as “Christ’ Thorn” but with a caveat: in the spring, the tiny, white blooms of the holly tree symbolize purity and wholeness.

Being evergreen, the holly leaves boldly points to eternal life, the hope that Christians share in expectation and faith that we, too, shall be raised in a resurrection as was Jesus and be united with Him for eternity. Ancient Celtics had the practice of placing thorny holly leaves and branches all around their doors and windows so the thorns would capture any evil spirits trying to enter the house. Incredibly, the Celtics believed the woodland fairies would find shelter from the cold by hiding among the stiffer, evergreen holly leaves; hence, holly is also associated with hospitality and welcome to the stranger.

AH! These Celtic practices speak of the sentiment that I have always attached to Christmas. Through Jesus I live in a safe haven, and in a place where strangers are welcome! That speaks to the joy that this one solitary life, Jesus, crucified and resurrected, brings to my heart and soul!

 And so a truth remains: in spite of all the lovely Christmases we remember, they seem to blend in with all the others but. . . occasionally there is a narrative, a story, that once again stirs the imagination with Christmas wonder and awe!

A holly Christmas tree! Can you imagine that?



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Ahhh, Christmas Parties; one of the best things about the season, and after a “year of drought” they are somewhat back!  Any excuse to get together with friends simply to…”get together”.  Alright, there’s the food and drink, and that’s nice too, but really, how often do we take the time simply to BE with our friends?  Not often enough, so it seems.

I always look forward to a few get-togethers during the season; various hosts and various types of parties and dinners, and various “gigs”.  In each case, through the years, I was invited and accepted the invitation.  It was simple.  I didn’t have to fill out a form, join a club, recite an incantation, it was simply an invitation from a friend.  Some parties I’ve attended have been popular and sometimes people have worked hard at getting invitations.  Some parties have been quiet, improvised, and spontaneous, some elaborate and well-planned months in advance.  But in all cases the people who attended were asked by the host and accepted the invitation.  They were invited because the host wanted them there.  They were invited because they were family. They attended because they accepted the invitation.

The chaos and tension between denominations and between believers is often about the discussion as to who is a part of the Kingdom of God, and who, exactly, will “go to heaven”.  It is often a contentious debate which requires PERSON A to do what they are commanded NOT to do (according to the scripture), and that is to pronounce judgment about PERSON B’s heart and behavior.  It is, for some, the bottom-line discussion which separates the sacred from the profane.  If PERSON A feels that PERSON B doesn’t fulfill the requirements (as PERSON A sees it) it doesn’t matter how good and fine PERSON B is, they are obviously NOT “going to Heaven” so do not deserve the love of other self-identified Christians.

Now, I’m not talking about harmful and destructive behavior, I’m talking about theological differences, or people “seeing God from a different angle”.  I’m talking about people who read the same Bible but come to different conclusions than another.  To pass judgment on those types of things requires a knowledge that no human has: the ability to read hearts.  All of this requires an authority that is not given to humans: the authority to judge, which is God’s place alone.

And yet it is so simple.  Who is a part of the Kingdom?  Who will be allowed to walk on the streets of gold?  God’s friends, who are given the invitation and accept.  It requires one to be a friend of God, not necessarily a friend of yours or mine.  It requires one to accept the invitation, given by God, not necessarily given by you or me.

It does NOT require one to make a decision about attending, based on who else will be there.

There IS going to be a party.  WHO will be there?  Those who are friends of God, those who have been invited by God…those who have accepted the invitation.  This season, let us assume that ALL have been invited; sinners, seekers and saints…and treat them accordingly.  

After all, there are probably some guests at “the party” who may be surprised to see that YOU are attending as well.



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I am, as I do every Christmas season, reading my favorite Christmas book, Charles Dickens’ “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”.  Through the years I’ve had several copies of this story, one is in a collection of Dickens’ classics, one is in a collection of other Christmas stories, and this year my copy is on my IPad (backlit with big letters…yeah!).  No matter what the setting or context, this story continues to amaze and inspire me.  It was my privilege to be involved with a production (as script and songwriter) for the North Anderson Church of God (now Madison Park) production of “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”.  And now, THE ALLEY THEATRE is premiering a new production of my script and music this weekend!

It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of Christmas season I’m having, or when or where I’m reading, Charles Dickens uses his words to reach down into the soul where he communicates that best of all messages to the child that is still hiding inside of this old shell.

The great question of the story for me is; how can Scrooge, with all of the resource that his world can offer, miss completely the joy…while Tim Cratchit, sick, poor and facing a certain and early death, seems to not only understand but “embody” the joy of Christmas?  And what is that “joy of Christmas”?

In the story, it’s perhaps easier to see what the “Joy of Christmas” is not.  When one observes Scrooge, it’s easy to understand the JOY does not come from wealth or power.  Scrooge has an abundance of both and neither has given him joy.  One can also see that “memories of Christmas”, though fond and perhaps filled with warmth, love and kindness, are more often a reminder that Christmastime now does not fulfill the memories of what it used to be.  For Scrooge, his past memories of Christmas only filled him with despair at all he had lost or cast aside.

So what is “The Joy of Christmas”?  At its core, it is the knowledge that our Great God cared enough to save us through such elaborate and sacrificial means as placing His Son in this “God-forsaken” world, where he “put on our skin”, felt our pain, walked our path…just so that we would trust and follow.  We no longer need to fear the grave, we no longer are victims of our circumstance, we are no longer prisoners of our past, our present or our future.

Tim Cratchit “embodies” the idea that despite our circumstance, Christmas and its Joy transcends all, life is not totally encompassed in this Age, but lives beyond…and “life” is not defined solely by heartbeat and breath.  Christmas Joy is greater than the sum of our surroundings, our memories, our hopes.  And what finally makes Scrooge happy, what fills him with a joy that sets him dancing?  Giving.  Because Christmas Joy is “outside” of ourselves, we find the physical manifestation of that joy is also outside of ourselves.

Isn’t that just like God?  We must GIVE to GAIN.  The percentages will always remain the same, in the Kingdom of God; the more joy you give, the more joy you receive, whether it’s smiles, time, talent, cash or love.

“I have come that you might have life…and have it more abundantly”! JOHN 10:10

“God bless us, everyone.” TINY TIM




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Today’s BLOG falls on December 1st – the ANNIVERSARY/BIRTHDAY of Central Christian Church in Anderson.  So, today I’m sharing a little history of our congregation. 

We’ve got to start with a guy named, Elijah Martindale.  Elijah was a “traveling evangelist” from the newly formed, “Christian Church-Disciples of Christ” (formed in 1832) arising out of the famed CANE RIDGE REVIVAL during the early 1800s.  As he made his way north, on horseback from Kentucky, he stopped at villages, and bends in the road that were “soon-to-be” villages.  One such place was just north of where we are assembled.  It was a scattered arrangement of log cabins, not yet consolidated or considered even a village, but is now called ALEXANDRIA.

Elijah spoke, on “The Lord’s Day”, in the cabin home of Macajah & Martha Chamness, where all the other closest neighbors had gathered for worship.  They all sang, “We’re Marching to Zion” and Mr. Martindale spoke from the Matthew 13:24-30/36-43.  It was the fall of 1833, and the first and oldest Christian Church in Madison County was formed.  From the success of that first congregation, Elijah and Elder John Langley moved south to “Andersontown” (as our town, “Anderson”, was called at that time) and began preaching their message to the people of that village in 1834.

Some 6 years later an organizational meeting, to form a new Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in “Andersontown”, took place in the home of Andy Seward at 11th and Central Streets. A congregation was organized and met for services in the grand Madison County Courthouse for several months, this congregation was generally held together by Elder Langley.  Elijah Martindale moved on to continue his Evangelistic Ministry.  This first endeavor, however, was not to survive the transient population of pre-boom “Andersontown”, and after 3 years of struggle, collapsed.

For 18 years no congregation existed.  Then in 1858 “Andersontown” got a second chance for a local congregation.  The Christian Church – Disciples of Christ Regional Leadership sent Love Jamerson, John New and John Brazelton to Madison County, as missionaries, to help John Seward organize a “chartered” church.  The congregation of 13 began with worship services in the Chestnut Grove schoolhouse, on Mounds Park Road, on December 1, 1858, the date they were “chartered” as a legal congregation.  “Andersontown” grew to 1168 souls by 1861, and the congregation grew with the town.

The local Methodists and the Presbyterians already had their own church buildings, and so it was decided that “First Christian” (as we were then known) also needed a sanctuary in which to worship.  They purchased property on the corner of 13th & Main (where THE TOAST CAFE now stands) for $125 and built a small, handsome, church building at a cost of $4700.  The congregation decided to hold a dedication service in January of 1862.

By 1862 the Civil War was in full motion and there was much discussion, at the Christian Church – Disciples of Christ Convention in Cincinnati, about separating the Christian Churches in the North from the Christian Churches in the South, as other denominations (such as the Baptists) had done.  Elder Benjamin Franklin, a leader in the movement and supporter of the Church in “Andersontown”, was much against separation.  His name was considered by the First Christian Church board as speaker for the Dedication, but after realizing how contentious the meetings had been, regarding his views, he withdrew his name and suggested his brother David, who also declined.  Elder John Rogers was recommended and accepted, giving the dedication sermon on Sunday January 12, 1862.

The congregation survived without a permanent Senior Pastor for a few months, until Elder Joseph Franklin, Benjamin’s son, was called as Pastor.  In that time between, Elder Benjamin Franklin held a 6-week revival and the congregation grew to 65 members. Around 1872 the building went through some renovations; adding carpeting, and new seats.

By 1860 the question of instrumental, and specifically organ music, in the church service came up. Up to this point there had been only unaccompanied congregational singing, and that was limited to the Sunday School hour. There was much dissention, not only in the local church, but nationally as well.  Eventually, in 1879 an organ was installed for use in Sunday School only, while the basic question was somewhat ignored…the rumor is that the organ “just appeared”; purchased by a parishioner who was tired of the quibbling.   After a controversial revival, centering around the question of instrumental music, the problem seemed to be resolved in the local church and in 1880 organ music was a regular part of Sunday Worship.  Five years later a choir loft was built.

Now, the congregation was large enough to purchase land for a new building.  In 1886 a lot on the northwest corner of 10th and Jackson streets, known as the Davis property was purchased for $5000.00.  The congregation, which now numbered around 500, saw that the architectural plans would call for more space than was available on the Davis property, and so purchased adjacent land to the north and west.  A ground-breaking ceremony was held in 1889.  In that year the Board of the Church resolved to change the name from FIRST CHRISTIAN to CENTRAL CHRISTIAN…because another congregation in Anderson, known as the NEW LIGHT CHURCH had adopted the name FIRST CHRISTIAN and to avoid confusion or difficulties, Central decided to change their name with the new building.

The present sanctuary was dedicated in December of 1900, with a packed sanctuary and 400 standing around the back.   The organ led the congregation in a first hymn, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”.  Only 2 days later, the church building on 13th and Main was sold.

With a membership of 463 in 1902 a Revival began in February and ended in March, bringing another 465 members in.

A few years later, in 1905, what has been called the “greatest revival in the history of any single congregation of the Disciples” took place, beginning in December. During the 52 days of this revival, led by renowned evangelist, Charles Reign Scoville, Central Christian Church grew to over 2000 members; making it the largest Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) church in the world, at that time.

“This is on the beginning of our story…we are still living, thriving, filled with hope, and still led by those who know how to dream.”

Happy Birthday, Central Christian!



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A BLOG written by Pastor Ken Rickett

Romans 8: 34-35, 37-39
Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels , nor principalities, nor powers, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 Think of your parents, or your children or grandchildren. Think of your siblings and cousins and close friends. Choose any of them (or all of them) and ask yourself, “what are (his/her name) favorite things?” Write them down. Now ask each one of them, “what are your favorite things?” After you hear the answers, did you know them as well as you thought you did?

What are MY favorite things? I am fairly new in town, so most of you may not be able to name many of my favorite things. Yet, knowing my favorite things allows you to know more about me. Here’s a list:

My favorite holiday: Thanksgiving

My favorite hobbies: Genealogy & yard/gardening

My favorite flower: Poinsettia

My favorite pie: Peach Cobbler

My favorite cake: Red Velvet (made from scratch with beets)

My favorite vegetable(s): Sweet Corn, Okra, white sweet potato

My favorite poets: Joyce Kilmer and Robert Frost

My favorite TV programs: College football

My favorite professional football team: The Indianapolis Colts

My favorite season: Winter

My favorite treat: Ice Cream

My favorite snack: Chocolate!

My favorite wintertime activity: jigsaw puzzles of 1000 or more pieces

My favorite season of life: retirement!

My favorite wife: Della, certainly, 49 years!

My favorite hymn lyrics: In the Bulb There Is A Flower

     (p 638 in Chalice Hymnal)

My favorite book: The Bible, of course!

Some items are missing from the list above. My favorite movie, for example, is difficult to name because I do not understand voices in movies without closed captioning; hence, I do not go see them. My favorite memory from childhood, or during college/seminary days, or when my children were growing up is just too difficult to limit to one or two of them! I did not name my favorite author for a couple of reasons: one, several of them are theologians whose writings shaped my thinking and my preaching; and two, I enjoy biographies and genealogies and history which are written by many different people.

And there are some favorite things that I will never separate by name: favorite child or grandchild because the nature of love is indiscriminate. Of course, there are different traits that I admire about each of them. Yes, I see their strengths and weaknesses and they see mine. Should any of them personally say that I have a “favorite” child or grandchild, I can only acknowledge that perception in spite of my efforts to show no partiality. The truth is that our offspring (and grandchildren, etc.) may be quite different in temperament, personality, giftedness, and whimsy. But when all is said and done, there is a huge difference between “my favorite things” and “love for each member of one’s own family.”

I have just one more favorite, and I will call it my favorite marvel. What is it that amazes me and fascinates me and surrounds me and causes me to marvel? I marvel at God’s Love revealed in Jesus Christ. William Barclay reminds us that one of the earliest creeds of Christianity says “He (Jesus) was crucified, dead and buried; the third day he arose from the dead, and sitteth at the right hand of God, from which he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” While the Apostle Paul would certainly acknowledge that Jesus “shall judge the quick and the dead” and Jesus would undoubtedly have that right and power, that is not what Paul says. The Apostle Paul declares that “Christ is at the right hand of God to “intercede for us.” Instead of being at God’s right hand to judge, Jesus is there to intercede for us, to be our Advocate and to help us. He is there to state the case for us.

What a magnificent view of the love of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ! For us the Risen Christ steps in to turn away the judgment! What a triumphant view of the Christian’s present and future condition! Dr. J. Winston Pearce (my great-uncle, pastor, seminary professor of Preaching, author) reminds us that Paul talks about separation!

“Who,” he asks, “shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ (meaning himself)?” Then he gives a long list of things that often cause separation, namely, trouble, pain, persecution, lack of clothes, danger and peril, the threat of deadly weapons, etc. Paul is convinced beyond a doubt; no principalities nor powers that be, things that may come as well as things present, no height nor depth nor any other living creature can come between us and the love of Christ for us. None of these things shall separate us from the love of Christ! Paul doesn’t stop there; rather, he issues another stunning statement about those who are in Christ, “we are more than conquerors!” And so it is! For Christ shall be at the right hand of God to intercede for us! And we shall, by the love of Christ that intercedes for us, claim an overwhelming victory-eternal life.

I have on my bookshelf a novel by Margaret Craven entitled “I Heard the Owl Call My Name” (New York: Doubleday, 1973) in which she tells the story of a young seminary graduate named Mark, just ordained, who is ready for his first assignment. The day before he was to meet with the Bishop, the Bishop had received word that, unknown to the young minister, a disease would likely take his life within three years. The Bishop decided he would not tell Mark just yet, but rather he would send him to one of his toughest parishes–that of a remote Indian tribe deep into the forests of Canada. Mark, full of energy, but also full of love, quickly endeared himself to the people. He listened to their stories, he respected their customs and traditions which were vital to them in the midst of their growing Christian faith. Mark learned to hunt and to fish with the best of them. He became a trusted friend, a confidante. One tribal tradition was simply that before one died, he or she would hear the owl call their name, sometimes several days or weeks ahead. Then one day Mark himself heard the owl call his name.

He spoke to Marta, an older beloved Indian lady, who was preparing him a meal. He told her, “A strange thing happened tonight. On the banks of the river a while ago I heard the owl call my name.” She did not try to convince him otherwise. She lifted her sweet, kind face, with its wrinkles, and said, “Yes, my son.” Words of endearment. Mark did not know how to tell the village that he had heard the owl call his name and must leave soon. But Marta had passed the word around. Keetah, the female leader of the tribe saw Mark alone the next day, and she came to him and said, “I have come to speak for our people,” she said, “and there is something we wish you to do for us.” Mark replied, “Of course, anything I am able to do, I will.” She said, “Stay with us. We have written to the Bishop and asked that you remain among us because this is your village and we are your family…” And so it was. He lived among them, loved as one of them. And after his burial in the little churchyard Marta lifted some words of advice to Mark’s Spirit: “Walk straight on, my son. Do not look back. Do not turn your head. You are going to the land of our Lord.” Just as Keetah interceded on behalf of the village and asked Mark to spend his days with them, there was no doubt with Marta, Mark’s dear friend, that . . . Christ would intercede for Mark who would walk straight on…!

My favorite marvel: Christ’s love for us! Years ago when I was in middle school, the youth choir at my home church learned and sang a song entitled “Love of God” (Warner Chappell Music, Inc.) I have written a few verses because it catches my deep sense of marvel!

The Love of God is greater far

Than tongue or pen can ever tell

It goes beyond the highest star

And reaches to the lowest hell

Could we with ink the ocean fill

And were the skies of parchment made

Were every stalk on earth a quill

And every man a scribe by trade

To write the Love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry

Nor could the scroll contain the whole

Though stretched from sky to sky

O Love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure

The saints and angels song



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Well, we’re coming up to one of my favorite Sundays of the Church Year…THANKSGIVING SUNDAY!

I don’t know why this has always been one of my favorites…it could be because Autumn is my favorite time of year, or that I always got to be with my cousins, etc. on Thanksgiving, or that Christmas is right around the corner.  Whatever the reason, there’s something about Thanksgiving that speaks to MY heart and soul in a way that no other holiday does.

I’ve never really had an unbroken “tradition” related to Thanksgiving, each year has been a little different, some here in Anderson, some in Seattle, some in Chicago…followed by a little Christmas shopping the next day.  A few years ago we celebrated in Havana (Cuba).  I’ve had turkey, ham, lobster and even German food on Thanksgiving…who knows what it will be this year.  So it’s not the “tradition” that I love so much.

When asked about their favorite holidays, recently on THE TODAY SHOW (NBC)…almost all the personalities working on the show said that theirs was also THANKSGIVING.  When asked “why?” they almost unanimously replied that it was non-commercialized, a time with family and friends, and little else on the agenda.

Although I’m not a sentimentalist, that is probably what I love also; the time to just enjoy family and friends and reflect on how blessed I am to be surrounded by those whom I love.

“Thanks” is a word, according to the scripture, that needs to be said often, and out loud, to God and to our friends.  Thanks in and during all times and in all situations.  THANKS, at the beginning of the day, THANKS at the end of the day.  THANKS for the small things and thanks for the larger things.

Why is an expression of gratitude so important to God?  I’m not a super-theologian, but I know that when I say, “thank you” to God it reminds me that ALL good gifts come from Him; that I am not responsible for my own provision, really.  I am reminded that my mere presence on earth is subject to His whim, and anything that is good in my life is because of Him.  When I realize that I love Him more.

When we say, “thanks” to each other, we realize that we are not separate lives, each going about our own business on courses of our own, disconnected from the rest of the world…but in reality are “owing” one another…we are “in debt” to the ones we love, and even the ones who serve us that we don’t know…we are, in short, connected to each other and will not win the game of life without their help.

The one who receives the “thank you” is empowered because they are recognized.  A “thank you” is like a little more fuel that cause one to go further, strive longer, jump higher and when we say “thank you” we are using the power of the Holy Spirit to fill and fuel another person for good.

That’s why the words, “thanks” and “giving” go so well together.

 “Give THANKS to the Lord, for He is good.” PSALM 136

“Give THANKS to each other, for that IS God.” (RV)



Written By:

I have tried, this month, to intentionally speak aloud one person, thing or concept I am thankful for…every day.  I have to say, when I first decided to do it I wondered if I could keep it going through the entire month…I mean, could I find something to be thankful for each day without repeating myself?

Now, in the middle of the month and heading toward THANKSGIVING DAY I am astounded at what this “practice” has done to to me.

I use the word “practice” because I’m an actor and a musician, for me that word has a significant meaning.  Practice, like exercise, strengthens certain parts of body, plants (through repitition) a habit that becomes natural…and changes who you are.  That’s what GRATITUDE does.

When analyzing exactly what GRATITUDE and saying “thank you” is, I find that it isn’t a weakness…it’s a strength.  It is power.  Being thankful:

1) releases us from the false need of having to take care of everything ourselves

2) it acknowledges our ignorance of what will happen next

3) it acknowledges the fact that every moment is an undeserved gift

4) it connects us to each other (as we are dependent on each other)

Sometimes, to define or teach a concept, I need to find the opposite concept and define it…and so, believing that the opposite of GRATITUDE is INGRATITUDE I suddenly realized that really isn’t accurate.  If GRATITUDE acknowledges our dependence on God and others for everything in our lives, then the opposite isn’t INGRATITUDE, it’s ENTITLEMENT.

Where GRATITUDE releases us from the false need of having to take care of everything ourselves, ENTITLEMENT creates the illusion that we are responsible for everything.  Where GRATITUDE acknowledges our ignorance of future events, ENTITLEMENT tells us that we are in control, or should be.  If GRATITUDE tells us each moment is a gift, undeserved, then ENTITLEMENT tells us that the world and God owe us.  Where GRATITUDE connects us to each other, by showing our need to give and receive…ENTITLEMENT separates us from each other.

I’ve found that for myself, and what I observe in others: people who “practice” GRATITUDE are generally happy, satisfied, content and joyful.  Whereas, when one sees unhappy, dissatisfied, discontent and angry people (or when we see those qualities in ourselves) it isn’t surprising to find they (or we) are not practicing GRATITUDE.

The older I get, the more I realize I can only control so much.  The more years I live, the more I realize that I am only as strong as those around me…I owe a debt to those people, and my God, who have given me so much.

Today I am thankful.  And I leave you with my own original creed…one that I believe Jesus sings to me each day:

Every moment has its time.

Every person has their place.

Do not brush aside either.

In doing so, you may also brush aside

God’s wish for you to either

ENJOY or BE the miracle needed

In that moment, or for that person.



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Happy Wednesday, Everyone!

This is Delores, Pastor Rick’s cat.  Mr. Blu (Cito’s cat) and I successfully “hacked” into the human’s laptop and are typing this email to you today, primarily to show that we are more than just cute, adorable, cuddly, and exceedingly bright animals.

As humans go, the ones that lives here in our condo aren’t bad sorts, a bit old, not as quick-witted as they would lead others to believe (especially mine), but still good souls.

I allow my human to pet me and play every-once-in-a-while. That seems to keep him occupied enough to not notice when I take part in my regular surveillance of the countertops and tables (when he is asleep).  It also distracts him so that I may step onto his midsection and test it for internal-organ weaknesses to be exploited when needed (a precautionary measure that most cats exercise – we cleverly call it a “cat scan”). 

I’m sure that the human is wise in the ways of other humans and God, and serves a purpose at Central Christian Church, but there are some simple, deeper, truths that often go unsaid because our Father has given this knowledge to the “least”…and some of the “least” are four-footed.  Yes, I’ve heard the argument that we four-footed creatures don’t have souls, but I believe (as a devout (MEOW-thodist) that all who breathe, be they human or beast, carry the breath of God…and the breath of God IS the soul.  Mr. Blu (a PURRS-betyrian) agrees: just because our souls don’t require redemption doesn’t mean that we don’t have souls, and it doesn’t mean we won’t step into the age-to-come with you.  After all, isn’t it a little presumptuous of humans to believe they are the only beings that will step into the age-to-come, especially when your scripture specifically states in the age-to-come the LION (a member of my family, by the way) will lie down with the LAMB?

In any case, God is the final answer and it won’t do any good to argue the point now, whether you agree with me or not. 

But Mr. Blu and I do have a few thoughts to share from a “little closer to the floor”, as it were:

1-Clean the litter box regularly.  It may seem like a small thing, but I’ve watched my human become bogged down by the “waste” of things that need to be cleaned out.  There are simply things that need to be thrown out every day…and you all know what those things are, you don’t need them in this world OR the next…clean it out, nobody likes smelly things in your home.

2-You can love someone even when they don’t love you.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had to let my human know that I really don’t like to be picked up!  He will do it time and time again…I can’t blame him, after all I AM Delores, but really…when I want you to hold me I’LL crawl up in YOUR lap.  He’s learning.  He now will smile at me or chatter his inane sounds lovingly in my direction as I’m enjoying the sun on the back of his sofa. I’ll acknowledge him, but if he is late and not home where he is supposed to be, at the appointed hour, I have to admit that I really don’t want anything to do with him.  The human has, at least in my observation, learned to love me in spite of myself…true love is not necessarily reciprocal…isn’t that what Jesus said? .  Finally, keeping the caveat above in mind,

3-Always take the time to share love.  It may be a word, a touch, a smile…simply reaching out and rubbing a belly (although I enjoy that, I’m not sure that’s something you want to do between human strangers) We don’t know when we will step from this world to the next and it is always better to “take care of business” when one thinks of it…especially in the ways of love and God.

There, we’ve said what we wanted to say…for now.  And I must stop, I’m not sure you realize what a trial this is to type on a human keyboard, without the luxury of opposable thumbs.  I hope you thank God for yours, I’m sure they make things much easier to accomplish!

Until we speak again (and we will),

Delores and Mr. Blu