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From the Pastor's Pen — 2017 Archive
 




Bob

 Bob Kerr

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January 2017: "The New Year and Its Opportunities…"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Wasn't it a Wonderful Christmas?

All of us have some cherished memory of Christmas past and I hope that each of you has found a special blessing in this past Christmas as well. It was wonderful for me and Linda to celebrate the season with all of you here at Rehobeth, and of course, the Christmas Cantata, the White Gifts Service, and Candlelight Communion are always special services, and this year, we celebrated Christmas in worship on Sunday — Christmas Day itself!

Throughout the Advent Season, our congregation practiced “extravagant generosity” as we reached out to others in ways that would bless them during this sacred season. It’s simply part of how we live out our faith in relationships with others. Remember our Church Mission Statement? “Worshipping God by Developing and Sharing Our Christian Faith and Love.” This Christmas, everyone certainly lived into that statement (as you do throughout the year as well).

And Now, Here's a New Year!

I always looked forward to hearing it just as the show began… “And Now, Heeeere’s Johnny!“ You knew the Johnny Carson show was going to be hilarious fun and so we anticipated the appearance of Johnny Carson coming through the curtain. In much the same way, we greet the new year with hopeful expectation as we stepped over its threshold. After several years’ development by our people and architects, we actually got construction rolling on the new Family Life Center 3 months ago, and as I write this article this morning looking out my office window, I’m excited to see half the roof is on the new Family Life Center! So I’m excited about its scheduled completion in the Spring. I’m more excited about the ministries, outreach, events that we will be having in that new facility! Just as our Lord led us through the development of the project, so I am confident the Lord is leading as we develop new outreach ministries and schedule new opportunities for community and church gatherings in the new Family Life Center. The same Spirit that led us this far will lead us as we move forward developing a strategy for its effective use in the work of the Kingdom.

An Opportunity at the Doorstep

Of course, without our realizing it at the time we began to develop this project, God already knew there would be a huge influx of new people moving into the nearby community at Highway 150 and Slanting Bridge Road, just a two-minute drive from the church. A significant part of our ministry in the new area will be to reach out and warmly welcome new families, and to introduce them to the most loving church community in the area (you caught my bias, didn’t you?) In doing so, we will be introducing them to the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Loving One Another

The most important thing in the New Year, however, will be to keep on “loving one another.” Jesus said that would be the single most important and powerful way people will know we belong to Him. It’s what people who have joined this fellowship over the years have experienced with you. Never fail to remember that is the thing of Most Importance — loving God and loving each other. Nothing else lasts forever!

Linda and I would like to wish each of you a
Happy New Year!

Bob

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February 2017: "Valentines Day"

Dear Friends in Christ,

"Won't You Be My Valentine?"

I checked it out over at the pharmacy the other day - Whitman's Samplers, Russell Stover Candies, adorable stuffed animals - and will probably take a trip over to some other places to find just the right gift that will say to Linda, my wife: "I love you and I'm so thankful you're my Valentine!" Yes, Valentines Day is just around the corner, and the wise husband would do well to take note of that before it's too late!

When I was in William Jennings Bryan Elementary School in North Miami, Florida, every year around this time the teacher would b ring a box filled with small valentines. She would hand out three or four of them to each of us children sitting at our desks (you know, the ones with the metal frame and the hinged wooden desk top where you could store all kinds of stuff inside). She would tell us to write a valentine note to a friend, or a parent or a brother or sister. Once written, we could deliver them to the recipients at our own leisure. There was one boy I distinctly remember who never filled one out, and on his way out of class for recess, would discreetly drop them in the wastepaper basket by the door.

As I write this article today, I can still picture him in my mind, and it seems to me he was said most of the time. I found myself wondering, "Wasn't there anyone in his life he thought cared enough about him to want to be his valentine?" One thing was for sure: he wasn't going to risk reaching out to ask for love, for whatever the reason.

"What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love"

I am convinced that there are lots of folks out there in every community, even in many families, who feel unworthy of love and as a result are unwilling to risk opening their hearts or lives to the possibility of loving and being loved. Perhaps there has been betrayal in their history, or an abusive upbringing that imprinted them with the notion that they were unworthy of love. So, fearful of rejection or disappointment, they avoid the vulnerability that risking loving and being loved entails. They don't want to be hurt anymore. Then when we live in a culture that is as divided as ours is at present, when there is poison in the speech of politicians on both sides of the aisle as they seek to discredit others for their own advantage; when there are murderous regimes in the world who think nothing of killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians to keep their hold on power (and dismiss the immorality of that by referring to them merely as "collateral damage"); and when there is a significant loss of civility in everyday discourse and a meanness that manifests itself in society in a variety of ways, then the words of the song title "What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love" become a hopeful prayer that there is a power out there that can somehow transform all that.

"God is Love"

Of course, that hopeful prayer points to a single truth that is essential: Love has the greatest power to transform individual lives, cultures, and the world. And nothing has demonstrated the power of love more fully and forcefully than God's great gift to all the world - Jesus Christ. When his love truly permeates our lives, dwells in our hearts, it has to mold and shape our relationships with others. Do you have differences? Absolutely! But John Wesley had an answer for dealing with these differences: "If your heart is as my heart, give me your hand." So this month, let love become the principal characteristic of your own relationships with others, and who knows? Maybe that will spill over into the rest of our country and maybe, eventually into the world.

Happy Valentine's Day to All!

Bob

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March 2017: "Lent - A Special Season of Preparation"

Dear Friends in Christ,

"Seasons of Preparation"

Throughout the history of our faith, Christians have celebrated "seasons of preparation." We preceded our recent celebration of the birth of our Savior at Christmas with the season of Advent. During that time, we had different families lead the congregation in the ritual that accompanied their lighting the candles on the advent wreath representing Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. A "season of preparation" i snot unlike the preparations we make when we know someone special is coming to visit. We clean the house, put fresh linens on the guest beds, get a menu together for the meals we will serve while our guests are with us - all preparations that will enable us to maximize our enjoyment of the visit. This month, our season of preparation is Lent, a time when we prepare our hearts to remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, what kind of preparations will we be making?

"The Two Ways We Prepare…"

We emphasize two things as we stress "observing a holy Lent." The first focuses on personal preparation. Our personal preparations for Holy Week and Easter focus on our devotional life and our relationship both with God and with one another. We are invited to do an honest assessment of our spiritual health and well-being. Do we incorporate practices of daily prayer and devotional reading? And if there is an estrangement from someone else, are we seeking to "bind up those wounds" and offer forgiveness for past offenses? If we have been the offender, do we seek forgiveness and try to make amends for past offenses toward others? So, Lent as a "season of preparation" includes this self-reflection under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And like that time of preparation we make for the arrival of a special guest, this personal preparation makes the observance of Holy Week and Easter that much more meaningful to us.

The second thing we emphasize is the spiritual quality and health of the church and it mission in the world. We do that by offering opportunities to every member of the congregation to join up with other members and reach out to others in random acts of kindness and compassion, and also to engage in specific mission opportunities throughout Lent. Each year we post a list of those opportunities in the narthex of the church, with descriptions of the mission and sign-up lists as well. Just as personal reflection turns our eyes to focus inward, focus on missions turns our eyes outward toward the needs of others. In these ways, we prepare ourselves - both as individual believers and as the Church of Jesus Christ - to observe Holy Week. We share in the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, the Service of Darkness on Friday (the Day of the Crucifixion), the Easter Sunrise service and our Easter celebration during worship on Sunday.

I do hope you'll take every opportunity to "observe a holy Lent" by self-reflection and outreach to others this year. By doing so, this Easter may be more meaningful to you than ever!

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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April 2017: "Easter at Morningside"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Childhood Memories and Faith Formation

All of us have childhood memories that are often associated with the holidays we celebrate in our faith. Easter is one of those special occasions that has left an indelible memory in my mind as our church family gathered at Morningside Park on Biscayne Bay in Miami to watch the sun come up and to celebrate the resurrection of our lord Jesus Christ. We kids would play, of course, until the time to start the service and afterwards several families would stop at a local restaurant for breakfast. To see the sun coming up in the East over the water in that beautiful setting enhanced the story of the resurrection for me, and I could imagine how beautiful that resurrection morning must have been for the women who went to the tomb of Jesus, there to be surprised by the most significant event of human history.

Of course, the week before, we celebrated Palm Sunday. Like kids all over the world, on that day we marched down the aisle with our palm fronds, reenacting the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Communion on Maundy Thursday was bittersweet, because we knew he would be arrested that night and crucified the next day. Against that backdrop, the resurrection was indeed a gift of new life for the world. These things were imprinted in my mind and engraved in my heart at a young age.

"A Transforming Belief"

Our belief that Jesus was raised from the dead has a transforming effect on our everyday living. It does because it changes our perspective on life. No longer do we live as though this life is all there is and death brings it to a final end. No longer do we feel we have to live in such a way as to grab all we can in this life because that's all there is ever going to be. Instead, because we are "resurrection people," our view of life encompasses all eternity. Jesus said, "He who lives and believes in me shall never die." Though everyone who heard him say that knew they would each one day lay down their physical body, they understood he meant eternal life that transcends this mortal existence of ours. The Bible also tells us that "eye has not see, the ear has not heard, the mind of man has not imagined what God has in store for those who love him." Because we believe, we know our lives are hid with Christ in heaven and that we have already received eternal life because we have received him as Lord and Savior in our hearts.

"Passing It On"

Just as this faith was planted in me when I was a child, it's important for us to "pass it on" to others. If have have children or grandchildren as a part of your life, this month tell them the remarkable story of Jesus and what he did for the people of his day, and what he's made possible for us as well. Help them understand the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and most of all the Resurrection and how it changed human history forever! Plant those seeds in their hearts.

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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May 2017: "The Busy Month of May"

Dear Friends in Christ,

An Old-Fashioned Homecoming

Homecoming is always a wonderful experience for us, isn't it? We get a chance to see folks we've not seen in some time, celebrate a remarkable history, and share some really good food with each other! This year, as our Family Life Center is scheduled for completion in mid-June, our Homecoming meal will be an "old-fashioned picnic on the grounds" at Connor Recreation Center. We will all bring enough picnic-style food for our own families and a bit more and spread it all out on tables. Folks can bring picnic blankets to spread on the ground, tailgate, or use the picnic tables under the shelter. Who knows, we might even have a pick-up softball game! I will deliver the Homecoming Message this year during both worship services, as later in the month, I will be out for three or four Sundays recovering from hip replacement surgery. (Afterward, I would be able to leap over tall buildings with a single bound again!) So do plan on joining us for a wonderful 228th Homecoming celebration!

Memorial Day Weekend Worship Services

This year we will be blessed to have our own Brian Cropper as our Memorial Day worship speaker. Brian has served our country in a variety of ways over the years. Le me introduce him to you. After graduating from the University of Maryland in 1980, Brian was hired by the U.S. Secret Service, Uniformed Division, as an Officer assigned to the White House during President Reagan's administration. Brian left the Secret Service for a position as a Special Agent/Polygraph Examiner with the National Security Agency. After two years, Brian moved on to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service as a Special Agent/Polygraph Examiner. Brian then took a Special Agent/Polygraph Examiner position at the Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service. He eventually retired in 2013 as a Special Agent in Charge from the United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General. After retiring, Brian was re employed by the government as a Special Agent with the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in Virginia. In August 2015, Brian took another assignment with the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, until the end of his assignment in September 2016. Brian met his wife Karen while both were investigators with the Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General. Karen retired in 2014 as an Investigator for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Brian and Karen have lived in Sherrills Ford for 4 years since moving here from Maryland. They have five wonderful children. Brian and Karen joined Rehobeth while he was on assignment in Afghanistan.

Lay Servants Leading Worship

During my recovery from hip replacement surgery on May 17, our Lay Leader, Cheryl Hamby, and our Staff-Parish Relations Committee chair Dr. Steve Pickard will be leading our worship services and "standing in the gap" for me. I appreciate the dedication of these two remarkable "lay servants."

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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June 2017: "A Note from the Other Side of Surgery …"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Lay Servants Leading Worship

During my recovery from hip replacement surgery on May 17, our Lay Leader, Cheryl Hamby, and our Staff-Parish Relations Committee chair, Dr. Steve Pickard, are taking on the task of not only leading and speaking in our worship services, but also "standing in the gap" for me when it comes to pastoral care concerns. I appreciate the dedication of these two remarkable "lay servants." I am also thankful for the wonderful job Brian Cropper did as our featured speaker during our Memorial Day weekend services. What an incredible life of service!

Graduation Sunday

The very first Sunday in June, we will be honoring our graduates from high schools, colleges and universities, and vocational school as well. Dr. Steve Pickard, who along with Doris has spent his life in the field of education, will be leading that service. We have been so blessed over the years by the caliber of our graduates, and we congratulate them and reassure them of our continuing prayers as they venture forth into the next phase of their lives.

The Family Life Center

We draw ever nearer to completion! I have noticed a palpable excitement among our people as the day draws closer when we can actually get into the new Family Life Center and begin using it! I'm missing being able to walk through the facility each evening to observe the progress. Many thanks not only to the design and development teams (our Family Life Center Committee, Trustees, Finance, and subcommittees) but acknowledgment of the faithfulness of our people in supporting this effort is so important. You, the people of Rehobeth UMC, have made this all possible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And I commend you!

Now, a Word about Recovery

While I'm passing out accolades, I need to put my wife Linda at the top of the list. Hip replacement surgery isn't so bad — after all, I slept through most of it! Recovery over these past two weeks has been a bit different. I've tried to sleep through as much of that as I could, but to no avail. Linda keeps getting me up to walk, to eat, and do the things therapists think are fun (I think, as a prerequisite to become a licensed therapist, one should have to go through all those surgeries and related therapeutic exercises themselves first…). I anticipate this will go well over these next few weeks and, hopefully, I will soon be back out amongst you all! And, of course, Linda and I both deeply appreciate your continuing prayers as I heal and get closer to getting back out among you! May God continue to bless each of you and your loved ones, and may God continue to bless the mission and ministries of Rehobeth United Methodist Church! It is a personal joy and privilege for me to be able to continue to serve another year as your pastor.

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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July 2017: "Summertime Memories!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

School's Out!

I always loved summertime when the school year ended, the pace changed, and summertime activities kicked in. For my brothers and me, that included going to Church Camp in Leesburg, Florida, where we did crafts, played games, could go swimming or canoeing in the lake, explore our faith, and take long walks through the woods out to the rustic little chapel with a wooden cross overlooking the lake. The experience was very much a "faith formation" event for me and I always looked forward to it.

We also went to Scout Camp in Sebring, Florida, during the summer, and it was while there that I was tapped for membership in The Order of the Arrow, and eventually became a Vigil Honor member and a championship OA Indian Dance team member in 19363 (whew, sounds like a long time ago!). I loved my years in Cub Scouting, Boy Scouts, and Explorer Scouts. While in Cub Scouts, Papa served as our Cubmaster. When we graduated to Boy Scouts, he was our Scoutmaster. We so enjoyed having him participating with us and leading us.. However, when we went on to Explorer Scouts, he told us we were on our own! The highlight of our summer in Explorer Scouts was a ten-day canoe trip of over 100 miles down the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee and down the Miami New River Canal. Fourth of July celebrations were also included in the schedule as we celebrated the Declaration of Independence as a nation.

Heading Out for Michigan

One can't spend all summer at one camp or another, so after the camping experiences ended, Papa would load my mother, we three boys, our cocker spaniel, Ginger, and all our camping equipment and clothing in our 1952 Hudson Hornet and off we would head from Miami to Stockbridge, Michigan, where my grandmother lived. We always came through the Great Smokey Mountains, stopped in Cherokee and Gatlinburg, and at the time, I had no inkling I would spend nearly all my adult life in North Carolina.

My grandmother grew corn in the garden beside her house there in Stockbridge and I can remember the evenings she'd place a platter of ears of corn in the middle of the dining room table, lavished with butter and waiting to be salted and eaten as the family sat down for dinner together. I enjoyed playing "Chop Sticks" at the piano my mother had learned to play on in the side room, again not knowing how much a part of my eventual ministry music would become. As many of you know, we boys grew up hearing Mother play the piano while she and Papa sang songs of the faith (and more) together as we dropped off to sleep at night.

Family Life Is Formative - Especially in the Summer!

Aside from enjoying reminiscing, I think it's important to consider that summertime offers a wonderful time to create special memories and to form and nurture faith foundations that will stand the test of troubled times. So this summer, spend some time doing things that strengthen the bonds between you and your loved ones - things that enable you to breathe in the beauty of God's creation.

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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August 2017: "An Early Morning Moment …"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Completion of the Family Life Center

One of the things I missed the most as I recovered last month from hip replacement surgery was being able to walk over to the Family Life Center each evening and check out the progress
being made. So once I was able to get out, that's the first place I went, and boy, was I thrilled at what I saw!

It was easy to imagine that fellowship hall filled with folks from our church and community for a wide variety of events, and when I talked with our finance people, I was so impressed with the financial faithfulness of our people in supporting the project. Not only did our people have a wonderful vision for this facility and what it would mean to the ministries of the church, the work
of the kingdom but also as a gathering place in this part of the county for groups of all kinds looking for this kind of venue. I have no doubt that this new Family Life Center will be a blessing in our work for the Kingdom, and a wonderful tool for reaching out and building bridges with other service organizations in our area.

An Early Morning Encounter

The doorbell rang at the parsonage at 3:30 AM a couple of weeks ago. I met my wife Linda and our dog, Jody Pierre, in the hall on my way to answer it, and Linda was quite apprehensive about my doing so. When I opened the door, a nice young man in a deputy Sheriff's uniform greeted me. He told me he had stopped by and found three doors unlocked at the church and would I be willing to go with him to check everything out. I had a sweat suit on, so I slipped on my bathrobe, put on some slippers, and when we went out into the driveway, he said policy required I sit in the back of his official vehicle, So I carefully slipped into the back seat behind the cage that separates prisoners from the driver. (Linda said she wished she had video of that!)

When we arrived at the church, it was the Family Life Center that was unlocked, and of course at that point the doors couldn't be locked. So I gave him the tour! I asked if the Sheriff's Department had any kind of annual banquet and if so, we would love to host it for them, to just give Rosie a call for scheduling. He said he'd certainly pass the invitation on. We got back in his SUV and headed back to the parsonage. While standing in the driveway, we talked some more. He and his wife were expecting their first child and were to find out the next Saturday whether the child was a boy or girl! I told him we would certainly be praying for his wife and baby (due to be born in early January … might be the first child born in 2018!)

So this early morning visit may not really have had anything to do with the Family Life Center at all …God works in mysterious ways, and perhaps the Lord just meant for me to meet this fine
young many and covenant with him to pray for his wife and unborn child. Just a reminder, the Holy Spirit is always at work among us - at all hours of the day and night! And that morning, he
had this young man, his wife, and unborn child in mind.

So take this little story as a reminder that God is always at work on your behalf, doesn't have "office hours," and is constantly mindful of your needs -- even at 3:30 in the morning!

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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September 2017: "A Long-Awaited Celebration!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Family Life Center to Open!

It has been a challenging journey with lots of hard work and creative adjustments, but this month we will move into the new Family Life Center! Your faithfulness as the people of God at Rehobeth has made this possible. From those foundational families that left starting monies to the portfolio, to the families who have added to that in memory of their loved ones, to all our folks who have sponsored individual rooms, equipment, or features, those who bought memorial bricks and leaves, to the folks serving on our various committees and sub-committees, to our Finance Committee and their thorough work (not just regarding the FLC but in the investment strategies they have used to grow the resources God has given us), to the incredible work of our trustees, to those who worked behind the scenes to clear the way requirements with the county, to all of you who have signed on to the Dollar-a-Day campaign, and those who have made gifts along the way in whatever amounts - YOU have made this possible! Of course, without the leadership of God's Spirit, and the faithful and prayerful seeking of that leadership, we wouldn't have accomplished this. Proverbs 16:3 says "Submit your plans to me, and I will establish them." We did, and He did!

On Sunday, September 10th during the Sunday School hour, we will meet in the Family Life Center for a Consecration Service which will start at 10 AM sharp. So we are encouraging everyone from the 8:45 service to remain and for the folks who come for Sunday School and the 10:45 service to be there at 10 AM as well.

School's Back in Session

Our children and youth are back in school now, and we're praying they will have a wonderful year. Our children's ministries under the guidance of the Children's Council will be getting off to a running start this month with children's activities, including an event led by the Clown Ministry from Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Statesville! Dates are still being finalized and we'll get word out to everyone to bring their children and grandchildren to these events. Youth ministries will swing into gear this month as well, under the leadership of Erica Holdsclaw and our Youth Council, and we still intend to continue the wonderful relationship we have been enjoying with Hopewell children and youth teams as well. Some of our youth are beginning their college careers, so keep them in your prayers, especially at a time when there is turbulence on some of our college and university campuses.

Pray for one another as we move through this year, roll up your shirtsleeves and be an active part of the worshipping and serving community here - then watch what God will do in our midst!

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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October 2017: "Weathering the Storms!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Hurricane Irma

We watched its course for a few days before we realized that Hurricane Irma was going to move right up the Florida Peninsula into Georgia. Having seen the devastation Hurricane Harvey wreaked in the Houston, Texas area, Irma promised to be equally dangerous to the folks in Florida, one of whom was my mother. So my older brother Phil flew down, secured her house, and flew her back to North Carolina, where she has been a refugee from the storm with us. Fortunately, assessment after the storm determined her house had weathered Irma well and power was on in her part of the city. For that we are very thankful. But now, we're watching Hurricane Maria, which seems to be following Irma's course. And just like these hurricanes, sometimes the storms of life seem to come one after the other, and that can feel overwhelming.

The Storms of Life

I love that old hymn, "When the Storms of Life Are Raging, Stand by Me." The longer we live, the more probable it is that life will bring some storms our way that feel like they're going to overwhelm us, and maybe destroy us. The first thing I think of when I reflect on life's storms is that moment when we receive a diagnosis from a medical professional that is potentially life threatening. Many of the members of our congregation have faced just such a storm and when your life feels threatened by a deadly illness, it feels like the wind has been taken out of your sails. It's difficult to think clearly about options, and when you make your decisions, then you wrestle with whether or not it was the right one. Those of you who have made such choices about chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical procedures or other treatments know exactly what I mean. What is most helpful to us? A loved one or dear friend standing with us, to encourage us, to pray with us, to be there through it all with us. It helps. It changes the dynamics. But the one thing that helps the most is the reassurance that "the steadfast love of God for us endures forever," and that he will "be with us always and never forsake us."

Recovering from the Storms

The folks in Texas, Florida, and Georgia, the people in the islands, all need someone to stand by them as they recover the loss of loved ones, of property and possessions, and even of livelihood. The United Methodist Church and so many others have already mobilized to do just that. The old Cokesbury Hymnal has a wonderful son in it: "Does Jesus care when I've said goodbye to the dearest on earth to me? And my sad heart aches ''til it nearly breaks, is it ought to him, does he see?" Then the chorus affirms: "O yes, He cares, I know He cares. His heart is touched with my grief. When the day grows weary, the long night dreary, I know my Savior cares." There's the source of our comfort and healing, expressed in the loving presence and assistance of God's people. Whatever the storm might be that may be overwhelming you today, trust that the God who loves you and has promised to always be with you will give you the strength to "weather the storm."

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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Rehobeth United Methodist Church • 9297 Sherrills Ford Road • P.O. Box 356 • Terrell, NC 28682
Copyright © 2017 Robert L. Kerr, D.Min
Used by permission