Thursday, March 31, 2011

In the Poet's Realm

"In the Poet's Realm"

by Virginia Knowles

In the poet’s realm today, almost
Lingering on the threshold yet unsure of my welcome
Meter and rhyme still bend not, bow not before my pen
I am not one who writes or thinks or lives in tidy rows
Yet I am as a stranger in a foreign land
Thirsting to hear my native tongue in a different voice
My ears quicken; in relief, I spurtle a reply
A cry to be heard and understood
In the communion of poets
In the creative conversation

For I have no wish to join the company of sharp-tongued prophets
The poets are my kindred, at least in my aspirations
Yet perhaps poets are prophets, too, of sorts
With gentle images of beauty or haunting tales of woe
Piercing the heart
Softening the soul
Lifting each to a deeper Communion and
A creative conversation with the Creator Himself
Who hears and understands
No matter how skilled the tongue or pen.


I wrote this back in February, on a melancholy day.  I don't even remember now what was going on right then.  Weeks later, I e-mailed it to a handful of friends who have poetic sensibilities.  I just found it again while looking for something else.

My friend Lisa replied, "I loved it!  My favorite lines: I am not one who writes or thinks or lives in tidy rows / Yet I am as a stranger in a foreign land. This might be why I feel such a kindred spirit with you ((hugs)).  Maybe God allows you to feel this way just long enough to reach out to others who feel like strangers among us.  I love when you just let the pen allow you to speak from your heart."

I do speak from my heart when I write.  It's just not always a jolly heart.  I do feel a stranger at times, like I don't quite fit in but I'd rather keep it to myself to make it seem like I do.  The ((hugs)) are always welcome.

So on this rainy, gray, blustery, thundery day, I decided to share it with the rest of you.   Maybe most of you won't "get it" but then again maybe it will somehow reach another heart today, if only my own.

Peace and poetry,


P.S. On a lighter note, I sort of coined the word spurtle for line seven, as a linguistic cross of spurt, blurt and chortle.  A poet, even an amateur one, is entitled to such liberties, I think.  My kids always tease me about making up new words, but I looked in a dictionary, and spurtle is actually an existing word with a different meaning dating back hundreds of years.  It is a Scottish cooking tool for stirring porridge.  There is even a Golden Spurtle championship.  And now you know.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weekend Gratitude: Abbreviated But Heartfelt

Weekend Gratitude: Abbreviated But Heartfelt

Dear friends,

I don’t have the time for an extended Weekend Gratitude post tonight, but I did want to briefly list a few things that come to mind…

I am grateful that my sister Barb’s PFO heart surgery appears to have been effective in nearly eliminating the chronic horrible migraines she has suffered from for several years.  Yay!  I am grateful, too, for my sister’s sweet affection and concern for me.

I am grateful for the Jewett Orthopedic walk-in clinic.  Two days after another urgent care clinic treated me for a broken elbow, Jewett gave me better x-rays, a more complete diagnosis and a more comfortable removable cast for a lower price.  In case you are wondering what happened, I hit my elbow pretty hard on a metal closet door.  I chipped the tip of my elbow bone, burst the bursa fluid sac, and fractured the radial head, but the pain is manageable and all should be better in a couple of weeks.  The main complication is that it is my left elbow and I am left-handed!  I am also grateful that my husband and children have pitched in so well on the extra housework.

I am grateful that only four of caught the stomach flu this week and that it didn’t last long.  I was having flashbacks of last year when 10 of us had it over a two week stretch and our clothes washer was broken for the entire time so we had to go to the Laundromat to clean the yucky stuff!  But I am also grateful that Sears finally had mercy and gave us a brand-new washer after the third repair attempt failed.

I am grateful that my daughters Rachel and Joanna are having such a wonderful three month adventure in Italy.  This picture is from Portofino. They took a train to Rome yesterday and so far have visited the Pantheon, Coliseum, Roman Forum, Vatican, and Trevi fountain. I expect pictures of this weekend trip on their blog, soon. I’m sure they’ll see more tomorrow before they go “home” to Chiavari to resume teaching English for another 5 weeks until they come HOME to Florida.  I guess after all those years of teaching them about world history and geography, this is the ultimate field trip.   Who knew?

I am grateful for the public library, which provides so many of our home school resources.  I checked out a pile yesterday on the Reconstruction era, George Washington Carver, Thomas Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell.  I am also so thankful for the continued opportunity to home school my five younger ones (Andrew, Micah, Naomi, Ben and Melody) this year.  I don’t take it for granted.  I am also grateful for the public high school that my teenage daughter Lydia attends, because it has been such a positive experience for her and she has excelled with diligence.

I am grateful for my other adult daughters, Mary and Julia, who, like their younger sisters, have turned out to be such lovely and capable young ladies with a heart to serve others!  I admire how Mary and her husband Ryan are so conscientious and nurturing with baby Jacob.

I am grateful for a church that wants to be a blessing to the city of Orlando and beyond, that the pastors are responsive to questions and concerns, and that three of my kids have an inspiring and fun youth group to attend on Sunday nights.  Oh, and for someone who added hot chocolate packets to the coffee table this week! I love you, whomever you are!  (Coffee, no...  Chocolate, always!) 

I am grateful for our friend Donovan who brought some goodies and fresh veggies to church for us, extras that she couldn't use from the bounty someone else had shared with her.  Also, for our next door neighbor Marianne, who brought over some clothes that some of her house cleaning clients gave her to pass along to others.  These ladies are always so amazing at sharing their blessings and their friendship.

I know I can think of many other things to add to my gratitude list, but this is already way beyond abbreviated, and a new week awaits!  

Do say a prayer for us if you can.  Life is challenging.  Gratitude sweetens it up.

You can read the rest of the Weekend Gratitude series here.

One last note for you...

Calvin Miller, in the Preface to his book Loving God Up Close, writes, "Books should provide a meeting place for hungry souls to sit at a common table.  The writer is expected to bring the main course, but the reader must bring the bread and wine or there will be no meal.  Let us all contribute then - writer and readers - so that, when we have said grace, we may freely invite God to join us, and our simple feast may properly begin."  The same goes for blogs!  Thanks for coming to my little feast!

Grateful for you who read this, 
Virginia Knowles

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekend Gratitude: Just Beauty

Weekend Gratitude: Just Beauty

Dear friends,

My Weekend Gratitude series continues!  This week, which is probably the final one, I would like to explore the theme of "Just Beauty" -- with the word "just" having a double meaning.  It could be "only beauty" or it could be "beauty that is filled with justice."  We'll get to that along the way.  I think you'll enjoy some of my photographs, a little smidgen of beauty for your eyes.

I actually thought I wouldn't have much of anything to write this week, but as usual, it happens and I write.  Saturday wasn't much of anything exciting.  I spent just about the entire day cleaning and organizing the house, corralling the laundry, and writing lesson plans for this week of home schooling.  As I think back, though, at my attempts at a bringing about "aesthetic acceptability" in my home, I remember that part of beauty is found in a reasonable amount of orderliness, and it is certainly "just" the right thing to do to serve my family.  In other words, clutter ain't purty!

So Saturday night I went to bed tired but happy, with a fresh batch of banana bread waiting in the refrigerator for morning.

Church doesn't start until 10:45 AM on Sundays, so before we left, I had a chance to read another chapter of Tim Keller's book Generous JusticeIt has been confirming what's been in my heart in recent years about God's call for his people in being like Jesus, serving the poor and oppressed In earlier chapters, Keller wrote about two kinds of justice that God commands.  Tzadeqah is primary justice: living in right relationships, being kind, fair, and generous.  Mishpat is rectifying justice: punishing wrongdoers and caring for the victims of unjust treatment.  Both are necessary.  I wish I could read this book all in one shot, but I've had to graze at it.

At church, we noticed a few people sitting with Calvin, whom I mentioned a month ago in my post Weekend Gratitude is Getting to Be a Habit.  I had just discovered that his  father, Craig Garriott, pastors a multi-cultural justice-minded PCA church, Faith Christian Fellowship in Baltimore where by divine coincidence, my childhood friend Anne is a member, along with her husband, kids, and parents. Anne had invited me to Timonium Presbyterian Church when we were in 8th grade, and her parents picked me up every week for two years until my family moved to Virginia.   I am eternally grateful for them.  Read more about that here.  As it turns out, the folks sitting with Calvin were his own parents and his youngest sister.  I'm really grateful that I had a chance to chat with them.  His mother, Maria Garriott, mentioned that she is just publishing a new edition of her book One Thousand Resurrections: An Urban Spiritual Journey about their experience in inner-city ministry.  I'm looking forward to reading it soon! I know it will show me how one family and church has fleshed out what Tim Keller writes.

During the service, we also heard from one of our elders, Bart Johnson, and his friend Tim Benson, who are now en route to Japan with a small team of Christians to bring relief to Sendai, population one million, which sustained devastating earthquake and tsunami damage.   Tim, a student at Reformed Theological Seminary, lived in Japan for a couple of years and intends to return as a missionary.  Bart has also served on at least one mission trip in Japan.  It is heartening to see them take tzadeqah justice seriously.

After lunch, my husband  was kind enough to let me take off with Lydia, Andrew and Micah to go to the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival for a few hours before youth group started. A wonderful field trip, to be sure, especially since Lydia and Micah are both quite artistic. This free festival draws a mind-boggling few hundred thousand visitors a year.  We moseyed around the booths, listening to the live jazz music without buying a single thing.  Micah and I sure did take a lot of pictures!  A sampling of some of the intriguing pieces…

My boys...

Raku by Risak Pottery... (I think that is the vendor -- there were a few similar artists.)

Glass art by Steve Palmer

Micah loves bird art, so he snapped this picture.  I wish I knew who the artist is!  Some day, he'll have pieces to display at an art show!

These wire mobile sculptures by Michael Gard were shaped around wax figures, which were then melted away.

"just words" by Roderick Stevens. (I hope my words are "just" though I don't think that's what he means!)

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life" by Ynon Mabat

If this security guard looks tired, just keep in mind how busy the officers at the festival had to be -- and the fact that this particular guy is made of polyester resin by Marc Sijan!  I supposed this is art with justice in mind.

This is a real tree with prickly bark, not sculpted art work!

I always get a kick out of seeing Knowles Avenue in downtown Winter Park, even though our Knowles ancestors are from the Bahamas, not central Florida!

We had just enough time for a quick dinner at McDonald's before heading off to youth group at the church office in Baldwin Park, a newer planned community built around Lake Baldwin.  Rather than making two round trips, I usually hang out at Subway, munching on a small bag of cookies.  Fortunately for me, when I walked in, the cookies -- raspberry cheesecake, peanut butter, and chocolate chunk -- had just come out of the oven!  Beauty for the tastebuds!   It was such a lovely evening that instead of sitting to read another chapter of Generous Justice, I decided to walk a few blocks down the street to the shore of the lake and see what I could see.  I savored my cookies on a park bench and then headed off with camera in hand.

Tree trunks never fail to fascinate me.

I found it interesting to note that in such a planned community, the very edge of the lake is set aside for naturally growing plants.  These sun-bursty flowers and waving grasses might be considered weeds to some!
Crossing over Lake Baldwin Lane to a nature preserve, I snapped this photo of a small island before my camera battery gave out.  I wish I had been able to take pictures of the mallards, the red wing blackbird, the cypress saplings budding fresh for spring.  Another week perhaps, with Micah, my bird loving son.  

As I walked amongst the natural loveliness which had been integrated and even designed into this community, I pondered: "What is it about beauty which feeds and restores the soul?"  A Bible thought floated into my mind -- "May your kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven!" -- and I instantly realized that all in Heaven is absolute beauty, so part of the calling of a Christian is to bring the beauty of the Lord to their earthly spheres.  How?  Partly through tzadeqah kindness, but also through the arts and through the wonders of nature.  Back in January, while I prepared to present a workshop called "With Literature and Justice for All" I read a children's biography of Jane Addams, who founded Hull House, a settlement home serving an impoverished area of Chicago in the 1800's.  Miss Addams believed in the power of beauty, so she furnished Hull House home with fine art and brought in fresh flowers.  The women were taught creative skills such as pottery, sewing, cooking, painting, and music --  many of which added beauty to their meager apartments, and helped them to earn a living and create a vibrant community culture.

And after all this pondering, I still wonder, "What is the role of beauty in inner-city ministry today?"  I think I will ask Maria Garriott about that - maybe her book already tells that story.  I recalled, too, that Tim Keller had addressed the same issue in the chapter of Generous Justice which I had just read that morning with these words about John Perkins: "When Perkins tied social reform, economic development and vigorous evangelism all together into a seamless whole, he confounded both the secularized liberal civil rights establishment and the conservative churches," and "A healthy neighborhood is one with safe streets, responsive public institutions, physical beauty, good schools, a good economy, good social-recreational opportunities, and wide participation on political life." Yes, physical beauty is a component of community restoration.

Again, this is echoed in the words of Isaiah 61:1-4, which I read to my children this morning.  This is a messianic passage, foretelling of the earthly ministry of the messiah Yeshua (Jesus) who would come hundreds of years later. 

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the  brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations."

If Jesus cared for the poor and oppressed in practical and powerful ways, shouldn't those who are called by his name imitate his example?  How do we bestow crowns of beauty to replace the ashes of life?   In contemporary news, how can we weave beauty into the rebuilding and restoration of the devastated cities of Japan?  Can we show forth the splendor of the Lord with a replanting of majestic trees and delicate flowers?  Would this be a waste in the face of abject physical desperation, or an investment in sanity for desperate and hopeless souls?  I wonder.

And I also think of my own home, of my own children.  Beyond just the cleaning and organizing (no small feat with several messy kids around!), how can I bring real and purposeful arts and nature into our home and their education?  This is why I love the Charlotte Mason approach to education.  She knew what children and their parents need, so she integrated art, music, and nature studies into the curriculum of the Parents National Educator's Union schools in late 19th century England.  I believe that exposure to "whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable… is excellent or praiseworthy" (Philippians 4:8) will equip them to live out what is noble and lovely and admirable in justice toward others.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”  (More of these quotes and Charlotte Mason inspiration here: Vintage Quotes and Cozy Thoughts from Lessons at Blackberry Inn.)

Oh, I think I've written enough to make my head spin, but I have several more links: 
One last picture, too, of my beautiful daughter Mary and her adorable son Jacob, while they were at the art festival earlier that day.  (We missed them there, but got to see them today!)  I'm glad she loves beauty and justice as much as I do!

Virginia Knowles

Join the gratitude community...

My own gratitude lists are not numbered.  I tell a story with gratitude infused.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why is Rob Bell so Alarming?

Dear friends,

If you are at all in tune with modern trends in theology, you've likely already heard about the controversy surrounding Rob Bell and his new book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lives, which I've heard is the 4th most popular on Amazon.  His usual publisher, Zondervan, refused to publish it, which I think was a wise decision.

Theology junky that I am, I have been trying to track information about the Emergent church movements and its main proponents (such as Brian McLaren and Rob Bell) for a few  years, so this bell rings pretty loudly for me.  My introduction to it was McLaren's novel The Last Word and the Word After That, which former Orlando Sentinel religion writer Mark Pinsky gave me from his review pile after he interviewed our family for his book A Jew Among the Evangelicals: A Guide for the Perplexed.   But I digress.  As opposed to the more theologically orthodox Emerging church movement, the Emergent (note the different suffix) church movement is not just a matter of the style of church worship or living missionally (which basically means serving others like Jesus did). I get that part!  I am somewhat of a post-modernist at heart, since I love stories, artsy eclectic stuff, beauty, being kind to others, thinking globally, helping the poor, and promoting social justice.  It goes beyond that, though, to core theology, such as whether Jesus died as the substitutionary atoning sacrifice so that those who believe in him can escape eternal punishment for sin.  Can we handle the Bible message straight up, or does someone somehow need to make it more palatable for our modern ears?  

As an evangelical, I am personally alarmed by the inroads that Emergent theology is making in the church at large. I understand that Rob Bell's Nooma videos are quite popular in Bible study groups, his books are widely read and carried in church bookstores (like I said, Love Wins was 4th on Amazon when it came out this week), 50,000 people listen to his weekly podcasts, and he was just interviewed on MSNBC (video embedded below).  So we're not talking about a little drop in the bucket, but rather significant infiltration. I don't think most people fully realize what is at stake doctrinally and why it matters.  It's like a stealth bomber.

I for one want to make sure that my kids don't get mixed up about what the Bible really says.  I also want them to be aware of who is who and what is what in the world of historical and contemporary theology so they can make sense of what they are sure to hear in the years to come.

I wish I had time to research and write my own in-depth analysis of the issues. Thankfully, I don't have to do this since others have already done it.  Instead, I'm going to give you several links for articles and one for a video about Rob Bell, his new book, and the Emerging/Emergent church.  

One last word.  I know that many of my friends, relatives and others who read this will disagree with me somewhat vehemently about this issue. At this point, I'm really not up for a debate.  I already hear where you are coming from.  I'm just trying to raise the issue and give people food for thought.  I've already had several people thank me for posting some of these links on Facebook, which confirms that this is pertinent stuff at the moment.

Without further ado, here goes...

God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School Is Still True: A Review of “Love Wins” by Kevin DeYoung  One quote: “If Bell is right, then historic orthodoxy is toxic and terrible. But if the traditional view of heaven and hell are right, Bell is blaspheming.” 

Love Wins - A Review of Rob Bell's New Book by Tim Challies and Aaron Armstrong 

The Rob Bell Debate: A Reader's Digest, with Suggested Resources by Tony Reinke -- lots of links to other articles and reviews

7 minute interview with Martin Bashir

(If you are reading this via Facebook, e-mail or Google Reader, the video might not show up, so click on my original blog post or the YouTube link above.)

Rob Bell: Universalist? by Justin Taylor at

Keeping Up the Conversation: Understanding the Emergent Movement and the Emerging Church is a sermon by Dr. D.A.Carson, a well is a well-respected theologian who is the author of  the book Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church.  He talks some about Rob Bell.

Navigating the Emerging Church | The Resurgence by Mark Driscoll (Disclaimer on this link: Please note that even though I agree with Driscoll on this issue and some others, I am not a fan of his ministry.  I think he is crass in the pulpit and brash in his leadership style, and that his overall attitude toward women is derogatory.  But that is a story for another day.  Or not.  Just saying. -- Oh, here we are in November 2013, and I did actually write an article on Driscoll in March 2012, which is the most read post on one of my blogs with well over 7,000 page visits.  You can find it here: Why I'm NOT a Fan of Mark Driscoll, Real Marriage, Mars Hill, Acts 29
OK, now that I've stepped on everyone's toes, I'll sign off! 

Oh, one more thing!  If you want to see how I describe the essentials of the Christian gospel, click here: 

Lord Have Mercy!

Grace and truth,
Virginia Knowles

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Gratitude: Lake Baldwin Church 5th Anniversary Celebration

Dear friends,

Welcome to my 8th "Weekend Gratitude" post!  I just seem to find something special each weekend to share my thankfulness, so my series isn't over yet.  This week it is a celebration and the stories behind it.

I'll let the pictures do most of the talking at first, then a little more story at the end.  (Stick with me!)  That's a cake above, if you haven't figured it out. There was a matching one with the number 5 on it -- for a good reason.  Lake Baldwin Church just celebrated it's 5th anniversary (which was actually last month) with a wonderful brunch service this morning.  Usually we meet in the auditorium at Glenridge Middle School, but today we took over the gym and transformed it into a banquet hall with a catered brunch.

Mama Jewel is the oldest member of LBC at age 91. My little Melody loves to say hello to her each week. I am grateful for a healthy mix of generations here.

Mike Tilley, our senior pastor, was on staff with Campus Crusade for nearly 30 years before planting LBC. He and associate pastor Dave Abney take turns preaching, and Dave also does much of the counseling. Soon Pak, our youth pastor, has been marvelous with our middle school and high school students.  We'll all miss him when he and his wife Erin leave for a two year long mission trip this summer.  I am grateful for each of them!

Mike introduced some of the leaders of various ministries within the church, and the leaders then asked their team members to stand for recognition.  It's amazing to see how every one pitches in with their own gifts and talents to make this whole thing work.

Blank thank you notes were piled on each table, and we were invited to each write to volunteers we appreciate in the church.  Naomi chose to write hers to her Sunday School teacher. 

Our next door neighbor Deanna, Naomi's best buddy, joined us for the celebration.

The children all got up on stage and told something they liked about the church. Melody said she was going to say "donuts" but she said "my teachers" instead.

Josh Bales is our worship leader.  That's his wife Mindy!   I've already told him many times how much I appreciate the music and prayers he leads us in each week.  He writes some of the music himself, and I've been able to download some of his recordings from iTunes.  The rest of the music is a mix of updated hymns and contemporary worship songs.

After we finished eating, our worship time started.  I am thankful for those who use their musical gifts to sing and play keyboards, guitar, violin, and/or drums.  

Several members of the congregation got up and told their stories about what Lake Baldwin Church has meant to their families.  There is power in stories.

Mike Tilley gave a short sermon about how people who have hope get through the hard times in life, are able to offer that hope to others, and learn to dream for the future about what God can do in and through them.  I'm thankful for the people who dreamed this church into existence, combining their hope with practical action.

Bart, an elder who also leads our Communitas home group, along with his wife Judy, led the congregation in renewing their membership vows.

Near the end of the service, we celebrated  communion, walking to the front of the room to tear off a piece of bread from the loaf and dip it into the goblet of juice or wine held by one of our pastors or elders.  The wine as the body, the bread as the blood, remind us that this church is all about the grace of Jesus, who was sacrificed for us so we could escape eternal death, and resurrected so we can live in newness of life.  I am grateful to be a part of the body of Christ, united in him with brothers and sisters all around the world from all generations.

After the service, there was a flurry of activity to put everything away, gathering the dishes and linens, folding up tables and rolling them like big wheels across the room.  Like I said before, it's amazing what happens when everyone works together.

And now more stories for you, first Lake Baldwin's and then mine.

Lake Baldwin Church officially started services in February 2006, but its true genesis goes further back than that.  You see, the entire community of Baldwin Park was built on what was once the Orlando Naval Training Center.  The base closed many years ago, and a new planned city of 3,500 homes plus a commercial downtown area rose up in its place.  And while Baldwin Park was still in the planning stages, five couples started dreaming of a new church for a new community.  They met and prayed continually. They walked the streets and prayed some more.  They added to their numbers.  Eventually, they found a pastor who shared their dream, and Lake Baldwin Church was born.  (It is a church plant of the Presbyterian Church in America, also known as the PCA.)  I'm ball park guessing that there are about 200 people in the congregation now.  Noting the military training roots of the area, Mike Mikkelson (an elder) reminded us that we are training for spiritual warfare, the kind where we bring love and peace to the neighborhoods and the surrounding city.  Yesterday, they put some of that love into action, serving 800 bottles of water at the Smile Mile run.

Lake Baldwin Church was founded on some core principles, what Mike calls our DNA.  Some of my favorite quotes from this are:
  • We see the gospel as not only saving souls, but redeeming culture, making a difference in marriages, families, relationships and in the healing of the broken. (Luke 4:18-19)
  • We minister out of our own sense of being transformed by the gospel, not out of duty, and not viewing people as projects.
  • Seeing that God has entrusted us with global vision and global connections, we trust Him for an impact on the nations.
  • Biblical teaching is gospel-centered, not moralistic; pointing people to Christ and not to their own power.
Well, that's a little bit of the "story behind Lake Baldwin Church.  Story is a big word at Lake Baldwin.  I've heard it more times than I can count.  Mike says, "There is a story behind every face."  I have a face and here's my own story.

Last year, my husband and I realized that we needed to start transitioning into a different church than where our family had been for 8 years. Since I was more web savvy and more motivated, I started researching churches on-line.  We knew we couldn't get every little thing we wanted in one church, but looked for the best fit.  I initially listed about a dozen or so, but eventually knocked most off the list because of theology, distance from our house, or size.  (One of our kids was adamant about wanting a much smaller church.)  

At some point early in the process, I talked to my friend Beverly to see if she had any ideas for me.  She said she had found a few churches on-line and was interested in checking them out but hadn't gotten to it yet.  Lake Baldwin was on her list.  I did a quick Google search, and while poking around the web site, discovered that our friend and former neighbor, Curt, was the webmaster.  I immediately called his wife Debora (pictured left) and questioned her about the church in great detail for about an hour.  Our decade of friendship has certainly built my trust in her judgment, and her honest and happy answers delighted me.  I quickly added Lake Baldwin to my visit list.  
In August 2010, we started visiting churches. We went to one for one week, and then a second one for two weeks.  I had intended to go back to that one for the first Sunday in September to finish out a sermon series, even though I didn't think it was the right church for us. Then one of the boys got sick and my husband offered to stay home with him, but he said he had to go and get gas and milk before we left.  He got confused about what time the service started, so by the time he got back, it was too late for us to get there in time.  I scrambled to find the next church on our visit list which started after 10:30.  Lake Baldwin starts at 10:45, so after checking my iPod map app for directions, off we went.

We pulled into the parking lot around 10:30, and the sound of my car door caused a woman who was walking into the building to turn around and see who was there. Seeing an unfamiliar face, she walked back to greet us, then took us over to introduce me to the pastor and others.  I marveled at how genuinely friendly everyone was.  It wasn't just an act.  They actually took the time to stop and join into a real conversation rather than just an obligatory sentence or two.  That's a really big deal to me, because I always took the time to do this for visitors at every church we have attended.  So I am extremely grateful to Jane for paying attention, even though she's a very busy lady! In fact, when I snapped this picture today, she was telling me that she had recently traveled to the country of Slovenia for a Campus Crusade staff conference.  Her job is to take care of the needs of CC staff in Hungary.  (There are actually a lot of Campus Crusade staff members at Lake Baldwin.)  And I think that first or second morning I visited, her whole family got up in church to tell about their recent trip to Haiti to help earthquake victims.  She has since started a small gourmet shortbread and biscotti baking business, jane's short and sweet, to send financial aid to struggling women there and other places.  As she explains on her web site, "In the summer of 2010, as we were walking through the process of launching jane’s, a mission statement rolled around in my head to address the quality of our product, the folks behind it and our strong desire to serve others.  What sealed the deal in my heart was a specific instance during our family’s trip that summer to work in Haiti.  An unearthly sound from the street in front of the compound where we were staying brought me from the back of the building to find out the source.  It was explained to John and me that while life is very difficult for the people who live there, it’s so much more so for the women.Therefore it’s not uncommon, to release the sadness and raw emotion within their hearts, that women will wail.  Ingest that for just a moment. Heartache. Indignity. Oppression. It’s happening there, here in our own communities, all over the world. The irony is not lost on us that we are using the sales of very sweet products to finance improvements in the very difficult lives of women in our neighborhood, our city and our world. All profits from jane’s are committed to this humanitarian effort." That sounds a lot like what we heard at the Synergy conference last week.  Yes, Jane was there, too!  See Jane work! See Jane go! See Jane give! See Jane honor Jesus with her life! And just know that Jane is not doing all of this because we are watching her, but because God is!  So go to her web site and order some of that yummy shortbread!

Anyway, back to my story... Our family went back to Lake Baldwin the next week, and we've pretty much been there ever since.  We did visit another  much larger PCA church where almost everyone was so busy with their friends that it seemed like we were invisible. (There were a few exceptions, but that was my general feel for it.  I didn't see how I could fit in there.)  When we returned to little LBC, Molly Tilley greeted me at the door with a hearty "WELCOME BACK!"  At that point, I burst into tears from relief, and (God bless her!) she said very tenderly, "There must be a story behind those tears!"  Oh yes there was, and I just told you all a little bit of it, too!  I'm really grateful for Molly Tilley, Hayley Abney and Erin Pak.  I know being a pastor's wife is a tough job at times, and they are excelling at it!

Here we are six months later.  We attended the membership class in January, and after an elder interview with Bart, we officially joined a few weeks ago.   I am a Presbyterian again after over 30 years!  It's funny, though, that they really don't make a big deal about what kind of church they are.  They just see themselves as one little part of the body of Christ.  And right now, there is really no other place I would rather be.

I am grateful for Lake Baldwin Church, for the grace-filled teaching and atmosphere, the genuine friendliness that flows from their commitment to being a hospitable culture, their heart for global missions, their appreciation of the story paradigm of life, and their authentic and creative worship of Jesus

Happy 5th anniversary, Lake Baldwin Church, and here's to many more to come!  

To read my other posts which mention LBC, click here: Lake Baldwin Church on my blog.

To read my other posts in this series, click here: Weekend Gratitude.

To read a poem which was inspired by one of Dave Abney's sermons, click here: Between the Seed and the Tree.

To visit the church web site, click here: Lake Baldwin Church.

Virginia Knowles

P.S. I just started a new thing on my blog.  I am planning to compile a list of links to my favorite posts from other blogs nearly every week.  You can find my first list here: New Friday Feature: Favorite Blog Posts.
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