Here’s Lewis’s evaluation: First the highly anticipated taste test (Mom said it would be good!).
My daugher, Carolyn, sent me a series of pictures of my grandson, Lewis. He is being introduced to real food by starting with milkshakes. Carolyn and RJ make some interesting concoctions for breakfast with their blender. This one had some kale and other interesting things thrown in to provide protein, nutrition, and flavor.
Here’s Lewis’s evaluation: First the highly anticipated taste test (Mom said it would be good!).
A moment to savor the flavor:
Then the critic’s response:
Now that’s an honest evaluation of a kale milkshake!
When my grandson, Lewis, was baptized a couple of weeks ago, the pastor ended the baptism with an old Huguenot blessing. He held Lewis in his arms, looked in his face, and said:
Lewis, for you God made the world.
For you he was born a little child in Bethlehem.
For you he suffered bitterly in the garden of Gethsemane.
For you he bled and died on the cross,
and for you he was raised again from the dead.
You can't know these things now.
But we your church promise to tell you the story until you make it your own.
I had never heard that before. It’s an amazingly personal description of God’s love for an individual human being. I found it quite moving, because what it says about God’s is something I need to hear often.
You and I can only know a finite number of people, probably very few if we mean knowing them well. When my daughter, Carolyn, was born, I remember wondering how I could love another person as much as I loved Margaret. But I found love for Margaret didn't diminish when I loved Carolyn. And when Daniel was born, love for Carolyn didn't diminish as I loved Daniel. The same was true with Dargan and Will. Through having children, I began to understand something about God's love that I had never considered. How can God love me in a really personal way if there are millions and millions of redeemed people. I thought of God's love as a kind of good-will toward all those who are redeemed (like God smiles and says to one of the angels, ‘Oh, that’s one of mine too. What’s his name again?”). But God's capacity for relationships is infinite - it is not diminished for any one individual by God loving a vast multitude of people.
All that to say I think the Huguenot blessing pastor Kurt Lutjens used is not exaggerating the love of God at all. And I promise to help tell Lewis the story of God's love until He makes it his own. I have a sense that God will use Lewis and other grandchildren He gives us to tell me the story of God's love and to help me make it my own!
30 years of marriage is an important milestone and I wanted to take Margaret somewhere to celebrate. But when we found out our daughter, Carolyn, was going to have a baby in August, all plans for a trip for two in June were put on hold. Margaret was able to spend two weeks with Carolyn in St. Louis when Lewis was born in August, and I was able to fly up for a couple of days. Both of us wanted to get back to St. Louis for more grandson time. But we also wanted to do something special to celebrate our 30 years together.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather for being outdoors. Clear skies, cool weather, and beautiful colors.
The next morning we headed south toward Chicago, hoping to find the “peak” of the color change somewhere in Wisconsin. I suppose we saw it somewhere along the highway, out past some of those massive fields of corn.
It took the full day to get to our hotel in Chicago, return the rental car to the airport, and ride the train back into the city. Rain had started to fall and continued for the next three days, so we were grateful for the clear weather we had for the days we were outdoors.
(continued in part 2)
30 year Celebration -- Chicago
I spent three years in Chicago when I was in college, but I didn’t pay much attention to the buildings. Having studied architecture in college, Margaret’s fascination with the city was contagious. I enjoyed seeing it through her eyes. Thick clouds had descended, but we had raincoats! We weren’t able to get the bird’s eye view from the top of the Hancock tower because of the low clouds, but the rain didn’t keep us from exploring the city. The highlight of the morning was the architectural boat tour on the Chicago River. I learned more about Chicago on that tour than I did in the three years I lived there!
The highlight of the afternoon was the Art Museum, where we stayed until it closed at 5:00 p.m. The highlight of the evening was big band jazz at a club just outside the loop (there’s not much “down time” when you travel with Margaret).
Rain continued on day two. After a quick tour of Moody Bible Institute, we spent the day hunting down some of the famous Tiffany glass domes and windows preserved in landmark buildings and exploring more of the historic buildings in the area known as “The Loop”. We ended day two with Mozart at the Lyric Opera – we were able to get a last-minute deal on some unsold tickets.
If I had to choose a place to spend a few days, I would choose the mountains, the woods, rivers or lakes – anywhere outdoors, where God’s handiwork is on display and unspoiled. But I have to admit God’s handiwork is on display in a powerful way in a city like Chicago. Music, art, architecture and the engineering required to build skyscrapers and create transportation systems that work all point to the image of God in man. What I saw in Chicago was the glory of God shining through the creativity of man.
The next morning we caught a cab to the train station to catch our train to St. Louis. From the windows of the train, Illinois looked exactly like Wisconsin – more corn fields!
(Continued in part 3 – St. Louis)
30 year Celebration -- St. Louis
Margaret and I arrived in St. Louis on Wednesday afternoon, October 15, after a five hour train ride from Chicago. For the next five nights we stayed at a Bed-n-Breakfast a few blocks from Carolyn and RJ’s house. Dargan arrived on Thursday, and Daniel, Julie and Will arrived late Thursday night. My mom came in on Friday. Everyone came to celebrate Lewis’s baptism on Sunday. For Will, Daniel, Julie and my mom, it was their first chance to meet Lewis.
RJ and Carolyn live one block off of Tower Grove Park, and the B&B faced the park. Lewis enjoys being outside, so we did a lot of walking in the park. The rain that had settled over the Midwest passed on and we had blue skies and nice fall weather the whole time we were in St. Louis.
I had the privilege of sharing the baptism of Lewis with Carolyn and RJ’s pastor. The baptismal font in their church was pretty big (lots of water) and by the time we did the baptism, that water was pretty cold! But Lewis didn’t seem to mind a bit. By the time I handed him back to Carolyn, water was dripping off his head onto the floor. After the baptism, the congregation sang the doxology, then my mom prayed for Lewis and Carolyn and RJ. The pastor finished the baptismal ceremony with an old Huguenot blessing that made the gospel very personal (“Lewis, for you God made the world. For you God became a man. For you Jesus suffered and died…” I have asked for a copy of that and will share it with you when I get it). Now Carolyn and RJ, the church family and all of his extended family will share the responsibility of nurturing Lewis in God’s Word and urging him to embrace Jesus by faith as he gets older.
I want many things for my children – health, safety, a good marriage, meaningful work – but more than anything I want them to know and treasure Jesus. That’s what I want for Lewis too.
Our 30th anniversary trip ended last night when Dargan picked us up at the airport in Orlando and drove us home. It was a great couple of weeks together. I am blessed to be married to such a wonderful woman, and blessed by the children and the grandchild God has given me.
Thanks to all of you in our church family for your kindness in letting us be away for a couple of weeks and for the gifts and cards you gave us to express your love and appreciation. It’s good to come home to a loving church family.
And if you want to see more grandchild pictures, just ask!
Lewis C. March
Lewis and I had a chance to get acquainted this week. It’s been a long time since I’ve held a newborn baby - I forgot how tiny they are! Lewis arrived on Saturday evening, July 26, after a long labor by my daughter, Carolyn. He weighed in at seven pounds, ten ounces and was wide-eyed and alert from the moment he took his first breath. Like all newborns, he sleeps a lot, but not long enough to let his mom get much rest. He seems to like the outdoors already – when he is fussy, Carolyn discovered that he calmed down immediately if they took him out on the porch. Maybe the breeze on his face, the sounds of the city, and the brightness of the sun through the leaves on the tree by the porch get his attention. There’s so much to see and experience when the world is brand new to you! Lewis isn’t going to waste those opportunities on fussiness!
I only got to spend three days with him, but Margaret and I will be back in St. Louis in October for a few more days. Carolyn and RJ will have him baptized while we are there in October, so we will get to share in that experience. I suddenly have a new appreciation for all the technological advances that allow us to see him from a distance: Facetime, skype, videos on Instagram, and lots of pictures.
As I watched RJ hold his son, so frail and dependent on his parents for everything, I thought about how dependent we all are on our Father in heaven. As we grow up and become more independent of our parents, we think we can handle life on our own. But we’re actually more dependent on God than Lewis is on Carolyn and RJ. Every breath, every moment of life, is sustained by our loving Creator. God provides protection and care for Lewis through his parents, but ultimately, He is the One who sustains that little life moment by moment. And how good it is to know Lewis is in God’s hands!
“May you see your children’s children!” (Psalm 128:6a). What a gift from God to live long enough to meet Lewis!
SINGING IN WORSHIP
Imagine you have never been to a Christian church of any kind. If you have grown up in America you’re familiar with the name, Jesus Christ (you may even use that name when you hit your thumb with a hammer) but you don’t know what the Bible says about him. You are familiar with a few Christian hymns, though you don’t realize they are hymns or even know the word “hymn” (you recognize and may be able to sing the first stanzas of “Joy to the World”, “Silent Night” and a few other Christmas carols). Imagine a friend invites you to visit Christ Community Church on a Sunday morning. Don’t you think you’d find it strange to see and hear people singing together?
Most people sing once in a while. They sing along when they hear familiar songs on the radio. They sing along with the crowd when they go to a concert to hear a favorite band. Others prefer to just listen to the songs and would be quite embarrassed if anyone heard or saw them singing. But if you’d never been around people who sing in worship, it would probably seem a bit uncomfortable!
The Bible invites God’s people to “Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!” Sing to the LORD, bless his name…” (Psalm 96:1-2a). Singing was part of Israel’s worship, and the Psalms are, for the most part, songs written for God’s people to sing. The New Testament Church used song as part of its worship as well: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
I have read several articles recently that expressed concern about a decline in congregational singing. Some church services focus so much on the leaders on the platform that people are not encouraged to sing. They prefer to just watch and listen to the performance. I don’t think that’s true at Christ Community Church.
From the beginning, we have encouraged the congregation to be the choir. We don’t include music in our worship services to give gifted vocalists an opportunity to entertain an audience. We remind people that God is the audience in worship. All of us are “performers” in the sense of offering something to God. Congregational singing is not an opportunity to impress those around you with the quality of your voice. It’s an opportunity to encourage one another to express to God the adoration and praise we feel toward Him. We choose songs week after week that will give you words to offer God – expressions of thanksgiving, joy, repentance, praise, trust, amazement at God’s grace, adoration and much more.
In Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis said “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”
As I listen to our church family sing on Sunday mornings, I’m glad that most of those who gather enjoy singing as part of worship. I’m glad our musicians want to sing songs that exalt Christ with thoughtful lyrics. I’m glad we have people who write songs and who enjoy setting old hymns to new, more sing-able melodies. I’m thankful for musicians who lead skillfully, so we’re not distracted from the words we’re offering to God. And I’m grateful for a congregation that “sings to the LORD” as a way of praising Him and delighting in Him.
A FISH STORY
My son, Daniel, was home for a few days last week and asked me to take him fishing. He wanted to catch something big. We left home at 5:00 a.m. on Friday morning, hoping to find some tarpon feeding on the menhaden schools that are now holding along Cocoa Beach. A little after 6:00 a.m., two miles south of the Cocoa Pier, we found some tarpon chasing the menhaden. It wasn’t long before we had one hooked up, and Daniel had the opportunity to fight his big fish. This one measured just under six feet long and measured 38 inches in girth. According to the formula used to estimate tarpon weight, the fish was between 130 and 140 pounds. That’s a big fish!
To me the tarpon is one of the most beautiful fish in the ocean, with its silver sides, wide tail, green back, distinct jaw structure, large eyes, and iridescent scales. It is a fascinating fish to pursue: for decades fishermen have been drawn to Florida by their desire to catch one of these huge fish. You can find lots of old pictures of fishermen with huge tarpon hung up at the dock for a photograph. It was an impressive thing to show to friends back home, but killing all those tarpon was poor stewardship of a valuable resource. Thankfully, times and attitudes have changed. Since the food value of tarpon is poor, most fishermen choose to revive and release them.
Tarpon are powerful fish. The reason I am holding on to the tarpon’s jaw in the first picture is that it is hard to fight a fish that big and powerful and also land it alone. When the fish was tired, I had Daniel lead it close to the boat so I could grab its jaw. Tarpon don’t have sharp teeth, but gloves are advised, since the inside of the mouth is like sandpaper. Keeping the fish in the water and moving the boat ahead slowly allows oxygen to flow over its gills and revives the fish before it is released.
Tarpon are not fast-growing fish. Scientists who have studied these things tell us a 130 to 140 pound tarpon is in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 years old. For many years, that tarpon has traveled north in the spring from somewhere south of the Florida Keys, following the schools of menhaden. It may have traveled as far north as the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the summer, then migrated south past Cape Canaveral again in October or November as the water cooled. It may have hung around the Cocoa Beach area in previous summers to feed on the menhaden that seem to like this area. Very likely it has been caught and released several times in its life, and will be caught and released a few more times.
Being on the ocean early in the morning on a calm day, as the sun begins to rise and seeing those vast schools of menhaden being chased by pelicans and tarpon reminds me of the dawn of creation, when God “created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kind…” (Genesis 1:21). It’s just my opinion, but when it comes to fish, the tarpon is one of God’s most majestic creations!
Don’t give Duck Dynasty all the credit: camo was in style in our family long before we were introduced to the Robertson clan from Lousiana. That’s Dargan in the photo above, in case you can’t tell (it was a cold morning in South Carolina).
I’m doing my best to introduce my daughter-in-law, Julie, to camo. I’m breaking her in slowly, carefully integrating fan support for University of Miami baseball with a bit of camo. Julie is a University of Georgia graduate and therefore a “Bulldog” fan, but she married a UM graduate who is also the son of a UM graduate. If this works, we’ll soon have her in a duck blind on a cold morning.
I’m happy to report that Margaret has made excellent progress in terms of feeling comfortable in camo!
The rhythmic sweeping sound coming from a large green dumpster got my attention. I’ve never seen anyone sweep out a dumpster, but why not? Bags of leaves were stacked outside the dumpster, so I thought someone must be cleaning it out.
I was at the boat ramp at Mullet Lake Park after spending the morning fishing on the St. Johns River with Ron Hight. When we had the boat back on the trailer, we walked over and looked into the dumpster to see what was going on. Two young raccoons had climbed in to feast on the bounty of trash and were now trapped, unable to climb back out. It was the clawing of one of the raccoons on the side of the dumpster that sounded like sweeping.
One of the raccoons hid under the trash, but the other stayed in the corner looking up at us. I couldn’t just leave him in there! What if the garbage truck came and dumped that container into the truck. I went to the back of the car and got a long-handled net, the one we had just used to land fish. With that net I scooped up the little guy and deposited him outside the dumpster. It was gratifying to know we had rescued a helpless animal in distress. As I watched him run to freedom in the nearby woods, I almost started humming a little tune from Bambi, but caught myself in time. Ron would never have understood.
I’d like to think the little guy learned his lesson and will never again climb into a dumpster, but I’m sure he was back inside that same dumpster the next morning. Having tasted the life of crime, he was probably hooked - so much tempting trash would be too much for a young raccoon to resist.
There’s only so much you can do!!
When Margaret and I met and got married, I was already serving as a pastor, so she knew she would be stepping into the role of pastor’s wife. I told her she would always be free to do whatever she wanted to do in the life of the church, just like any other church member. I promised I would not put expectations on her for doing something in the church just because she was the “pastor’s wife.” And I have tried my best to honor that through the almost thirty years of our marriage and ministry together.
Hundreds of pictures have been taken over the years of various events and activities at Christ Community Church. I’ve been going through those recently as we prepare for the 25th Anniversary Celebration. It’s been fun to see pictures of Margaret talking with people at the Fall Festivals, helping in Vacation Bible Schools, involved in women’s ministry, and much more. What a gift she has been to Christ Community Church. She has shown hospitality by inviting people into our home, she has cared for people who were suffering, she has offered wisdom and counsel to friends in times of crisis, she has been a voice of wisdom in difficult decisions we’ve made as a church family, and she has been a constant source of encouragement to me! I think she would have done most of the kinds of things she does in the church whether she was married to the pastor or not – I really do think her love for the Lord and for people would have led her to be highly involved in a local church. But the fact that the church has supported us financially through the years has freed her up to give herself to raising our children and to devote time to serving the Lord through the church.
When we were considering moving to Titusville to help start CCC, Chuck Green, who was the pastor of Orangewood PCA in Maitland, told Bob Adams, “Do what you can to get Dan Thompson as your pastor. It’s worth it to get Margaret.” I suspect that part of the reason the church has put up with me for so long is that it was worth it to have Margaret!
God has given us the capacity to feel sorrow as well as gladness, and music has a unique ability to stir our emotions in either direction. Before you listen to the joyous strains of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus during this Easter season, I encourage you to listen to Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei. Composed in 1936 as the second movement of a string quartet, it was arranged for string orchestra at the request of Arturo Toscanini, who directed its orchestral premiere in a 1938 radio broadcast from New York. Most people know it as “Adagio for Strings.” It is one of the most recognized pieces of orchestral music in America, and is also considered the “saddest classical work ever written.” In 2006 a London Symphony Orchestra rendition of Adagio for Strings was the highest selling classical piece on iTunes. You may recognize it, but chances are good that you’ve never heard it as Agnus Dei.
In 1967, Barber set it to words, with only minor changes to the music. The words in Latin are: “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Dona nobis pacem.” Translation: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. Give us peace.” The piece begins with sopranos singing very softly, but grows as voices are added until it reaches a high point, with all the voices singing loudly, “dona nobis pacem” (give us peace). After a silent break, the music resumes more quietly, repeating the plea, give us peace. The piece lasts about nine minutes. It is hauntingly beautiful in its melody and chord progressions.
I encourage you to think about what Jesus suffered for you as you listen to Agnus Dei. The Son of God became the Lamb of God to take away your sin, that God might show you mercy and give you peace.
As you listen, think about what it means to call Jesus the Lamb of God. Because we are sinners, as we bow before Jesus in repentance and faith, all we can do is plead for mercy. We have no righteousness or merit of our own to offer the Just Judge. God is pleased to show mercy and to save all those who put their trust in the Lamb of God. In Christ, our sin is taken away and we are accounted righteous before God. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). When we who have trusted Jesus as Savor face him as Judge, there will be no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
But it’s easy to forget what it feels like to be overwhelmed with shame and guilt and to plead for mercy as one who has no hope apart from Christ. We don’t often feel the weight of our sin that made the death of Jesus necessary. When you understand that your sin caused Christ’s tremendous suffering, how can you treat sin lightly. It cost God dearly to save us! The more you know and feel the truth about the depths from which you have been rescued, the greater your joy in God’s mercy will be!
It’s appropriate to feel the tremendous sadness of Christ’s suffering and death (Isaiah 53 moves you to feel the grief of our suffering Savior). But we also rejoice in the victory of the cross and in the glory of the resurrection of Jesus: “Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!” Because we have received mercy and peace from God through Christ, we can now join with those in God’s presence who shout: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12).
Dan Thompson has been the pastor of Christ Community Church since its beginning in 1989. He is married to Margaret and together they are the parents of Carolyn (married to RJ March), Daniel (married to Julie Breedon), Dargan and William.