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Archive for December, 2015

Simple Stuff

It was another great Christmas at the Brown house. We had the whole family with us this year. Josh, Katy and Charlotte will be leaving us probably in the next 3-4 months as their house will be ready by then (Lord willing). So, it was such a joy for all of us!

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Some of the best times are just sitting around the table eating a meal together. Truly, the older I get, the more I enjoy that. It’s really the simply pleasures in life that are the sweetest. This was at my parent’s home.

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We also had a wonderful time at Pam’s parents’ home on Christmas Eve. Oh, you gotta love those Christmas traditions!

The kids got way too much. It seems to always be the case. You try to be frugal and yet, it’s easy to get “one more thing” that they’ll like. Why is it so much fun to give! Watching kids and grandkids open presents and be surprised is such a joy! It’s like the Father giving to us such kind and generous blessings and watching our expressions. I know He must thoroughly enjoy that!

I loved this “before” and “after” that was made…

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Funny stuff!

Do the holidays come and go too quickly for you? They sure do for me! Yes, the older you get, the faster they zoom by! But one day, we’ll be in the presence of God and the joy of being together and never having to leave and go home will be behind us. Why? Because we’ll be home!

I know, I know… My kids tell me all the time, “Dad you equate everything to heaven.” Yes, that’s true. But, I do long for that time when all things are made new and there is no more disease, suffering or death. I long to not have to worry again. Be afraid again… Have to pay bills again… Set the alarm clock again… Or step on the scales again… Dumb? Perhaps… But, it’s how I feel. Those times when the family is all together and there are no deadlines. No worries. Just a good meal and time in the den together. Wow! What a joy! Simple, yes! But, joyous nonetheless!

Hey…did it feel weird being in short sleeves over Christmas? It sure did to me. Especially if you are a weather nut like me and your remember that just five years ago…during the Christmas of 2010, we were experiencing this…

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Those two pictures were made just outside my mom and dad’s front steps. Amazing! What a difference five years can make.

But, hold on… Winter isn’t over. It’s really just going to get started with the new year. By the time we usher in 2016 it will feel very cold to our bodies (since we’ve gotten used to 70 degree weather). The pattern is changing and the weather is going to flip and it seems by the time we get to the middle of January and beyond, there will be our best chances for wintry weather. Remember, it was warm in December last year and we had a very cold Jan/Feb and four winter weather events. Time will tell. 🙂

I’ll sign off tonight by going back to a thought I had about Hawaii. As wonderful and as absolutely gorgeous as it was…I’ve come to the place in my life that I am satisfied and content where I am. When I was younger, it seemed I desired all the “bells and whistles” of life to make me happy. But, I’m really past all of that. Give me my wife and family…my church and a hot meal…clean shirt and I’m as happy as a clam. Have I arrived? Nope! Not on your life. I still desire things/stuff, etc. And yes, going to exotic places around the world is a blessing and certainly a thrill. But, my point is…I don’t have to have those things in order to be content. I don’t have to be looking to the next “fun” moment or “big thrill” to bring a thrill to my heart. The thrill in seeing a sunrise or a sunset whether you are in Waikiki or on your back porch is all a state of mind. Paul said, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Lord, continue to teach me this and if you allow me the blessing of seeing more beautiful and thrilling spots on your earth, I’ll humbly thank you for kind provision and be grateful for all you have done!

 

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Merry Christmas from the Browns!

This is our Christmas letter, written by Pam…

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Christmas 2015 Greetings!

It is that time of year again! We have experienced a wonderful year of God’s blessings. Kevin continues to pastor at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church and as of January, he will begin his 11th year of ministry. This year the church has gone from two services each Sunday to three. Though numbers don’t necessarily indicate whether a church is growing in the Holy Spirit, we sense God’s presence each week and are blessed by the continued growth. Kevin also began making a video each Tuesday and posting to social media called “Two Minute Tuesdays.” The reception has been amazing and has received up to thousands of views each week.

Kevin and I will celebrate our 25th Anniversary on December 22nd. I am in my 16th year of homeschooling and now spend the majority of my time teaching Clara and Andrew and managing a house full of many people. It’s also a blessing to participate in the Praise Team and work with the women’s group at church when I can.

Kandace will be 18 in January and is going into her sophomore year in college. She is pursuing a degree in Political Science. She also teaches violin and loves to sing at every opportunity she gets. In October she went with Kevin to the Philippines on a mission trip. There, she spoke to hundreds of students and shared the Gospel to many. In January she and I are heading to China to serve in an orphanage. Kandace has a heart for others and a passion for doing great things. She is also a comedian and always brings a laugh. We love her spunk and look forward to seeing all God does in her future.

Clara is 10 and is now nearly as tall as I am! She is a gifted musician and dancer and is flourishing in her studies of violin, piano and ballet. Each day we see her dance through the living room as she can’t seem to stop! Her love of the arts is contagious. She is in 5th grade and loves to read and spend time with her little niece, Charlotte. Her maturity and love of the Lord continues to grow with her sweet heart and love for others.

Andrew is also 10 and in 5th grade. He is advancing in Karate and is pleased with each new belt he earns! He takes piano and is learning songs from his favorite movie, Star Wars. He is a very detailed young man and is the neatest person in the house. Routine is his thing and he loves order… all the way down to eating an apple every night at 8pm. He loves life and is just happy to play with his LEGOs and create stories with them. He has a big, loving heart and a contagious smile.

Josh and Katy moved back from Havelock, NC this past July and are in the process of building a home on family land. Josh is now employed at Wilkes Communications and they are enjoying being home with friends and family. Katy stays home with Charlotte and continues to write and teach piano. Charlotte turned one-year-old on November 23rd and we are trying to imagine how it’s possible that an entire year has come and gone since she was born! Her little personality blossoms more each day. She is a ball of energy and loves to run everywhere. Her favorite word is “kitty” and loves an adventure! She is truly a blessing and joy to our family!

We are so thankful for all of God’s blessings this year! We pray that you and your family enjoy a wonderful Christmas Season and remember that the greatest gift is Jesus Christ who came to earth as a humble baby to become the ultimate sacrifice so that we may be saved! He is worthy of all praise! Merry Christmas!

Love,

Pam and all the Brown Family

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We’re back from Hawaii (Oahu) and it was an amazing trip! I’ll share with you about what we saw and I’ll give you an update on the not so “Winter” weather we’ve been having. It’s funny. While Pam and I were sitting on Waikiki Beach last week, we got a text from Kandace and she said, “It’s 74 degrees here!” I looked at my phone and it was 82 in Oahu. Only 8 degrees difference! So, much for going to the Hawaiian Islands to escape winter! 🙂 More on that in a moment…

Let me share with you some initial thoughts on the trip.

First, Oahu and the beaches of Waikiki and the North Shore are absolutely phenomenal. There is no question about that. (No surprise there…that’s what you would expect, right?) Pam and I were truly amazed at how blue (crystal clear) the water was in Oahu.

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That’s a view from what is called: “Sandy Beach,” where the movie “Here to Eternity” was filmed back in the day. See how clear and blue the water is?

Here’s a shot of the beach at Waikiki.

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Beautiful!!!

Here’s the thing that got me at Waikiki. It’s the number of homeless people who just roam the beach, the streets and the public areas. Sometimes you couldn’t even get a seat at a public picnic area because of all the homeless and panhandlers. And the thing is…they will walk right up to you and ask for your bag(s). True story. It was a bit eerie. And the truth is, it’s hard to know how to help people. I want to help people and yet, I don’t want to empower their degradation. So, it’s hard to know what to do.

Some interesting facts…

  • There are no snakes on Oahu.
  • Most homes don’t have A/C or Heat. The temps average in the 70’s year round.
  • Crime is very low. After all, where are they going to go to escape (they’re on an island).
  • People have actually built homes in dormant volcano craters. (Not me! I’d never have the guts!)
  • Pineapples don’t grow on trees. They grow above the ground and the leaves are razor-sharp.

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One of the neatest parts of the trip was visiting Pearl Harbor. It was surreal. To know that 1,177 died on the USS Arizona alone was sobering to say the least. The remains of the men are still entombed beneath the water and a memorial rests on top of it now.

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See that film on the surface of the water (below)…

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That’s oil still seeping up from the USS Arizona after 74 years. Amazing! And get this. There are fish living in those waters and thriving. Why? Because the oil is not as refined as it is now (making it so dangerously deadly and toxic). The US Navy guide told us the oil back then was like the consistency of jelly and was nothing like it is today.

Here’s the one that got me…

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Those are the name of the 1,177 who died on the Arizona at the hands of the Japanese.

But, look closer…

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See the name: “C.M. Brown?” I looked for the “Browns” and I saw that name. That was the initials of my grandfather’s name. No, it wasn’t my grandfather who was killed at Pearl Harbor. But, what shook me was the fact that my grandfather was stationed in Puerto Rico during WWII. But, that was someone’s “C.M. Brown.” That was a family who was devastated by Dec. 7, 1941. A day that truly has lived in “infamy” as our President, Franklin D. Roosevelt said it would.

Here’s the draft of his speech to the nation.

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Take a look at this man and notice the missing digits on his middle finger of his right hand.

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He’s only 1 of 7 remaining survivors from Pearl Harbor who remain alive today. His name is Delton Walling. He is 94-years-old. He was on the USS Pennsylvania in the  command tower, when the Japanese attacked. He shares his story with visitors and I had my picture taken with him. Why? Because he’s a hero!

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Those missing digits on his finger?? He had “stiff-finger” and was told by the Navy Recruiter he couldn’t enlist in the war. Walling asked, “What can I do to change that?” The recruiter said, “Cut off your finger.” Well, that’s exactly what Walling had done and he entered the Navy. How many young men do you know today who would do that? I know of very few. Whatever you might think of war and protecting the nation…this man showed courage, tenacity and bravery and for that I’m exceedingly grateful! Pearl Harbor left an indelible mark on my life.

By the way, interestingly, I would estimate that more than half of the visitors and tourists on the island of Oahu are Japanese. There were very few at the memorial when we visited last week. Pearl Harbor is a blemish on that nation’s history. It was senseless and ruthless. Yet, forgiveness reigns in the hearts of most Americans (as it should). War is Hell. It truly is. Because we (the United States) retaliated with Nagasaki and Hiroshima (nuclear bombs). Again, whatever your view of war…the men and women who fought for and protected our nation are to be commended and honored for doing their job and giving us the very freedoms we enjoy at this very moment.

There is so much more I want to say. It will have to wait. I’ll update more when I get a minute. That’s a quick summary for now. More to come…

Oh…on the note of our 25th wedding anniversary… This lady is amazing!

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This was the last picture Pam and I took together before we headed to the airport yesterday. Let’s just say, “I’m an extremely blessed man!” Why God gave Pam to me I’ll never know. I mean that. I don’t deserve her. I never have and I never will. I’m grateful the Lord took pity on me. Truly, I would never survive as a Pastor without her. That’s the 100% total truth! She’s a fantastic mother and grandmother too! Thanks Pam! Thanks for all you do for me, the family and the church. You are a jewel of unspeakable worth and I praise the Lord for you every day!

Now to the weather…

Is it December or September? Crazy weather! What’s up!

The main thing is El Nino. This has been the strongest El Nino on record. The warmth is declining, but it’s slower than forecasters thought. And it’s gotten all the weather prognosticators worried. They are worried, because they really thought that there would be a flip in the weather pattern by mid-December. This is true of Ray’s Weather, the Weather Channel, Joe Bastardi (Weatherbell Analytics), the Farmer’s Almanac and Judah Cohen (lead forecaster of Atmospheric and Environmental Research). All of these outlets have forecasted a colder and snowier winter and most said we’d have snow on the ground by Christmas. (I shared that several weeks ago.)

Obviously that’s not happening. In fact, we will likely see record high temps for Christmas. Yes, it’s going to cool down for about three days (Friday through Sunday), but we’ll be back in the oven (with temps projected to be in the 60’s to possibly around 70 for Christmas). Crazy!!! So, what’s the deal? Simple. The pattern hasn’t flipped and there is concern that this El Nino has been so strong that it could last through the early part of January with warmer temps into the middle of the month. But, they are all still predicting a “flip” to the pattern where the western US (which is seeing extreme cold and snow) will go warmer, while the eastern US (which is blow-torch hot) will go colder for the remainder of the winter from mid-Jan to late March. Remember, winter is defined from “flake to flake.” First flake to last flake. So, if you’re a snow lover, don’t give up hope quite yet. It looks like it could be a lot like last winter. Remember, we had kind of a “late winter,” and the same could be true again this year.

I will say this. The “teleconnections” in the atmosphere, (which are some very complicated inter-mixing weather patterns that are too detailed and over my head to try to explain), are still leaning to colder. Judah Cohen says it this way:

“This is the most critical time of year for energy transfer… and will likely determine the state of the stratospheric polar vortex in January and weather conditions… for the second half of the winter.  …The very mild temperatures will persist likely right through the New Year. …We expect a reversal to much colder winter weather for the Eastern United States and/or Europe for the latter half of January and into February. However, if their isn’t a meaningful change in the polar vortex, there is little reason to anticipate any long term deviations from the mild to very mild temperatures in eastern North America and/or Europe.”

See how he hedged his bets with that last statement? That’s a weather forecaster for ya! I’m scared to say anything anymore because even the smart guys can’t figure out the weather and I guess that’s the way the Lord wants it. And after all…you could just move to Oahu and live with no A/C or heat in the mid-70’s year round. LOL!

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It’s almost time! One week from today and Pam and I will be heading to Hawaii (Oahu)! It’s a surreal thought. I’m still having trouble grasping the whole idea. I’m so thankful. I mean that! After all, we just came off of a wonderful Thanksgiving week!

We had part of a family with us last week. The Windsor family (mom and two of the eight children) were with us. Here’s Clara with Dottie Windsor. They were both adopted when they were 1-year-old. And now…they’re almost 11 and SO TALL!

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Do they look alike? Dottie brought Clara matching pajamas. And look at that beautiful artwork!

Andrew loved playing with Nate. Again…both adopted from China…

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Nate knew exactly what to bring Andrew! Star Wars Legos!!!! Finished products shown above.

We had a great time with Robyn. She and her family are so gracious and kind. We’ll always have in common our children and love for them.

We also celebrated two birthdays! Charlotte’s first birthday (my lovely Granddaughter).

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Her birthday was 11.23.15. And my lovely bride celebrated her __ birthday (do you think I’m crazy to tell her age). 🙂

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We also went and got our Christmas Tree in Ashe County. Charlotte was able to get her first tree…

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Here’s the finished product…

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Charlotte is down there at the bottom. See her little head. She loves it and is actually not getting into it terribly much.

One of my favorite times over the weekend was reading to the kids…

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Even Charlotte got in on the act. That’s Andrew’s foot (with the sock) and Clara’s bare feet. It’s amazing the impact reading to your kids has on them. Pam reads to the kids all the time as we homeschool. Reading to children is dying out. We just give them a gadget with a screen so that we can look at a screen. Like anything, it takes discipline to accomplish the needful things in life. We’re not perfect at it…but, we’re giving it attention and time. The truth is…if we can give kids a love for reading, we really open up the world for them. Honestly, they’ll never read the Bible with any fervor if they don’t read other books. That’s my experience saying that, not some scientific study I’m quoting. But, I think you’ll agree. It’s intuitive, really.

Here’s this week’s Two-Minute Tuesday: “How to Prove God Exists.”

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I hope you enjoyed that! It’s simplistic… But, I’m a simple man. 🙂

Here’s something quite hilarious, if you ask me. Thom Rainer is the President of LifeWay Christian Resources. His insights are pretty timely and perceptive.

Twenty Five Silly Things Church Members Fight Over

A lot of church members and leaders were eager to share about fights, schisms, and conflicts in their congregations. They were likewise eager to point out the absurdity of these issues. There were the ones we’ve heard often: temperature in the worship center, color of carpet, order of worship, and color of walls.

The fights shown below, however, are a bit unusual. Indeed, most of them are downright absurd. I picked 25 of my “favorites.” They are listed in no particular order. The parenthetical commentary is my own.

  1. Argument over the appropriate length of the worship pastor’s beard (I think I saw a verse in Scripture that indicated it is to be no more than 1.5 inches longer than the pastor’s beard.).
  2. Fight over whether or not to build a children’s playground or to use the land for a cemetery (I’m dying to know the resolution of this one.).
  3. A deacon accusing another deacon of sending an anonymous letter, and deciding to settle the matter in the parking lot (The church could have sold tickets to this event and raised a lot of money.).
  4. A church dispute of whether or not to install restroom stall dividers in the women’s restroom (I’m calling unfair on this one. The men should have their stall dividers too.).
  5. A church argument and vote to decide if a clock in the worship center should be removed (I think this one is a timely argument.).
  6. A 45-minute heated argument over the type of filing cabinet to purchase: black or brown; 2, 3, or 4 drawers (This one is an official cabinet meeting of the church leadership.).
  7. A fight over which picture of Jesus to put in the foyer (I just want to know who took the pictures.).
  8. A petition to have all church staff clean-shaven (No church planters are allowed.).
  9. A dispute over whether the worship leader should have his shoes on during the service (I vote for shoes, shirts, and pants.).
  10. A big church argument over the discovery that the church budget was off $0.10. Someone finally gave a dime to settle the issue (I have to admit this issue is ten times more important than the church missing a penny.).
  11. A dispute in the church because the Lord’s Supper had cran/grape juice instead of grape juice (Of course it should be grape juice. It’s right there in Hezekiah 4:11.).
  12. Business meeting arguments about whether the church should purchase a weed eater or not. It took two business meetings to resolve (Wow. This fight was really whacky.).
  13. Arguments over what type of green beans the church should serve (I could have resolved this conflict quickly: none.).
  14. Two different churches reported fights over the type of coffee. In one of the churches, they moved from Folgers to a stronger Starbucks brand. In the other church, they simply moved to a stronger blend. Members left the church in the latter example (Perhaps they started a new church: The Right Blend Fellowship.).
  15. Major conflict when the youth borrowed a crockpot that had not been used for years (I bet it was a bunch of crocky old adults.).
  16. An argument on whether the church should allow deviled eggs at the church meal (Only if it’s balanced with angel food cake for dessert).
  17. An argument over who has the authority to buy postage stamps for the church (The members were licking their wounds over this issue.).
  18. A disagreement over using the term “potluck” instead of “pot blessing” (I get it! The concept of luck contradicts the theology of a sovereign God. This issue is very serious. Good luck trying to resolve it. ).
  19. A church member was chastised because she brought vanilla syrup to the coffee server. It looked too much like liquor. (Beth Moore confessed she was the culprit who brought the syrup. Don’t you know, Beth, we Baptists cannot have vanilla syrup at anytime? Chocolate is fine though.). 
  20. An argument in church over who has access to the copy machine (I think a calendar should be made where every church member has at least five minutes access to the copy machine each year. You can have a business meeting to vote on each five-minute increment.).
  21. Some church members left the church because one church member hid the vacuum cleaner from them. It resulted in a major fight and split (Thus the Second Electrolux Church was born.).
  22. An argument over whether to have gluten-free communion bread or not (I thought gluteny was a sin.).
  23. A dispute over whether the church should allow people to wear black t-shirts, since black is the color of the devil (Are you sure he’s not red? That’s what I’ve heard.)
  24. A fight over whether or not to sing “Happy Birthday” each week (I’ve got an idea. Alternate it with the doxology.).
  25. An argument over whether the fake, dusty plants should be removed from the podium (Just give them a little water. They should be fine.).

Yes. These issues are silly; many are absurd. But they are all distractions from what we should be doing in our churches. In that sense, they are really great distractions from the Great Commission.

Let me hear your stories!

Thom Rainer

http://thomrainer.com/2015/11/twenty-five-silly-things-church-members-fight-over/?utm_source=ThomRainer.com&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=605dac92b4-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_TEDS&utm_term=0_10c78481d1-605dac92b4-81457525

Well, that’s all for now folks. I hope to share with you some neat pictures from Hawaii (Oahu) after I get back. Stay tuned.

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