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Reconciliation

Reconciliation:  to reconcile; to make friendly again; to settle differences; to bring harmony; to make content

Read:  2 Corinthians 5:17-20 New International Version (NIV)

Lent or Advent is a great time for Confession because both seasons are times for preparation and self examination.

Those of us in the Episcopal Church don’t think much about Reconciliation (or Confession).   But, Confession is indeed available to us as one of the Sacraments of the church.  The Reconciliation of a Penitent, Page 447 – Forms I & II, of the Book of Common Prayer.

I would like to share with you my very first Confession around age 45 or 46.  I didn’t even know how to go about it.  I was working for my church as their secretary–so the priest was not only my boss, but my spiritual advisor and friend.

He told me to pray about my Confession and to write down anything that preyed on my mind…things I had done in the past, if I had any ill feelings, unforgiven acts, etc.  He told me to work on the list for a week or so and when I was satisfied that it was complete, I would then make my appointment for Confession.

My time was set and as the hour grew closer I began to tremble.  The priest had a chair setting diagonally in front of the railing facing the altar so I could still see his face from my kneeling position behind the railing but he could not see me.  We began the service and when the part that says that I have sinned and to list them, I took out my two-pages and read them off.  My voice was shaky as each sin was stated.  When I was through the priest talked with me about some of them and gave me advice as to how I may grow in the experience.  He also gave me two or three psalms to read after he left and to think about the list, rereading it.

The really moving and very emotional part was when he told me after rereading my list, I was to tear it up and place it on the altar as I left because I was forgiven.  When I tore up those pieces of paper a heavy weight was lifted from me.  It was one of the most moving services I have ever attended.

I asked him how he could feel the same about people after he hears their confessions.  He said, “No one sin is greater than another.  Sin is sin and sin removes US from God’s presence.  God doesn’t remove Himself from us.”  Then he said that God has a special way of making priests forget about what they have heard–like He wipes it from their minds.  I thought that was cool.

Nothing that is worthwhile is ever easy and Confession is worthwhile.  If you have never entertained the thought to make a Confession, believe me, you will not be sorry for doing so.

Grace

Have you ever heard people trying to describe God’s grace?  It’s kind of hard to describe something that is not palpable. We all know that we don’t have to see to believe.  So, what is God’s grace?

We humans are a strange lot—coming from all different walks of life!  But it doesn’t matter who you are, what you have done, or where you are going, God’s grace is with you whether you know it or not, whether you feel it or not—or even whether you actually accept it or not.  It is God showing His love for us regardless of our flaws.  It is God giving up his only Son to be the final sacrifice for our sins.  I sometimes can’t even put my mind around what Jesus did—FOR ME!

Try to think of God’s grace as a beautifully wrapped present; imagine in your mind the paper that covers the perfect box, the color and texture of the paper and how beautifully it wraps around the box with its corners perfectly matched and taped down.  Then there are the colorful ribbons—lots of ribbons and a big bow.  On top of the box is a card in an elegant gold-trimmed envelope.  Have you ever received a beautifully wrapped present like this before?  What did you do with it?   You probably opened the card first to see who it was from.  Then you unwrapped the box, of course.  It can’t really be YOUR present unless you unwrap it and accept it, right?  You are excited and just have to see what’s enclosed so you can ooh and aah and be amazed at the beautiful something inside.  Once you take the gift out of the box, you want to show its beauty and your face expresses how you feel; you want to share it.

Or, you can take the unwrapped box along with the unopened card and place it high on a shelf in your closet.  It is really pretty but you hate to have to tear the paper and cut the ribbons as you open it.  So, there it sits.  It’s not really YOUR present anymore; it’s just a box stashed away in your closet like a dozen other things you don’t use.  How sad that you don’t open it and experience the glory of God’s gift.

If you do decide to open the card, read the loving verse, untie the bow and excitedly tear into the paper eager to uncover the secret of what’s inside, once you lift the cover of the box you’ll never be the same again!  For God’s grace is inside and as it floats out of the box and gently settles over and through you, His love will grow stronger and deeper inside of you.  You will know that His grace is all that you will ever need.  You realize that you don’t really deserve such a grand gift as this, but it doesn’t matter to God because He wants you to have it.  The sacrifice He made for us is what makes you realize just how loving a God He is.

Every living being on this earth has a beautifully wrapped present such as this.  Will you hide it away in the closet or will you actually let it be YOUR gift by unwrapping it, experiencing it, and then showing it off for all the world to see?  It’s your choice.

February’s Mission – 2016

If anyone has read my blog you know that my husband and I, and our immediate family, are familiar with hospitals and especially the Intensive Care Unit.  I remember a very special group of nurses who tended to me during my eighteen days in ICU.  I could do absolutely nothing for myself; just sitting up was a complete chore.  After a while, one sweet nurse came in and shampooed my hair for me while I lay in bed.  Every other day they would bathe me and turn me every few hours so I wasn’t in the same position hour after hour.

The nurses who cared for me were kind and considerate and just a gentle touch of a hand on mine or an uplifting word or two was what saw me through the horrible ICU paranoia I was experiencing.  One of the nurses would stay with me up to fifteen minutes as he administered my pain medication.  I had told him earlier that I experienced great pain in the wound site when he gave me the medicine.  After that he pushed it into my IV very slowly—the pain was minimized.

I remember telling one special little nurse how the best feeling in the world was to have baby powder on your feet to help you drift off to sleep.  I didn’t sleep well the first few days.  That very day Stephanie brought in a warm tub of water and she washed my feet as I sat in a chair.  I don’t know what was in the water—if anything—but it felt so warm and soothing.  After she dried my feet she powdered them with baby powder and immediately that aroma comforted me as I wiggled my toes feeling the silkiness of the powder.

When my husband was in ICU the nurses could see the concern on our faces, not knowing if he would live or die.  Their kindness eased our fears somewhat and our family will never forget the care we received.

Because February was Cardiac Care/Intensive Care Month, we wanted to honor all the nurses who work tirelessly to care for their patients.  We know what nurses do to help their patients; the love and kindness they show to patients, their families and loved ones.  It is for this reason that The Episcopal Church of Wise County filled gift bags full of treats they love, along with crossword, Sudoku, and Word Search books, and delivered them to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur, TX.  One giant bag for the day shift and one for the night shift.

A big THANK YOU to all the nurses in the world!  You do an invaluable service.  Again, we say THANK YOU and God bless you real good!

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One Year and Counting!

One year and counting!  On February 6 we celebrated our first anniversary as a community of faith.  How nervous I was to go to this meeting in Boyd, wondering what we would say and do.  I prayed that morning, asking our Lord to let me speak His words and to fill me with His peace.  It was an exciting thought that, with God’s help, we were going to bring the wonderful Episcopal tradition to Wise and her surrounding counties.

I mentioned one time during the announcements how “we have waited so long to have a church building.”  After I said that I said, “Well, I guess it wasn’t that long, seeing as it has only been 3 months from our very first organizational meeting!”  We kind of laughed at that.  Plus, it was only 3-1/2 months before we were appointed a Priest-in-Charge. Because of all the hard work of our faithful congregation we have a beautiful historic building in which to worship.

We had our very first Annual Parish meeting on January 31, 2016.  Canon Janet Waggoner helped us as we made goals as a Mission Station in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.  At that meeting our first Bishop’s Committee was established.

Class of 2017

Clydie Walker

Pat McGowan – Clerk

Class of 2018

Jill McClendon – Senior Warden

Julie Lundy-Booker

Class of 2019

Angie Whitley – Treasurer

Ellen Whitley – Junior Warden

At this time, I would like to give thanks for the following contributions which allow us to have a beautiful space in which to worship and to help things run smoothly:

  • Hand-made altar, Paschal candle stand, lectern, credence table, candle holders, altar book stand, stand for the processional cross, Sanctus bell box.
  • Hand sewn frontals for the altar and lectern as well as veils and burses for the chalice, in white, purple, green, and soon to be—red.
  • Hand-hewn cedar cross which hangs on the wall behind our altar.
  • 1965 Conn organ which was donated by a member of the Decatur community. We give thanks for the donation by one of our members for the repair of the organ.  It sounds wonderful.
  • For our organist who prayerfully chooses our hymns and leads us in our “Joyful noise unto the Lord…” — Psalm 100.  Music makes for a beautiful experience during worship.
  • For our great priest and his precious wife for leading us and feeding us with God’s word and showing us the love of Christ.
  • For all who serve: our acolytes, lay readers, and ushers.  You’re the best!
  • For those who dust, sweep, and clean the sanctuary. It’s great that we have folks to help keep our building tidy.
  • For our newly formed Bishop’s Committee.  Now we can really move forward to do what God has planned for us.
  • For all who bring goodies (coffee, donuts, other sweet and savory snacks) for our social time after the service.
  • For those offering to organize a Mission of the Month, and to all who donate. It amazes me each time we collect items to donate.  The hearts of this congregation are caring and giving—it makes me so proud.

Please forgive me if I have forgotten anything.  I also want to thank you all for your support of our journey in this area of the diocese.  Without your prayers it would have been a difficult year.  Hard work, prayer, love, God’s grace, His guidance—all these have been with us on this walk.  I know we will continue down the right path because Jesus walks with us each step of the way.

May God richly bless each and every one of you.

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Giving of Your Time and Talent

Many people believe if they donate money to a cause they can then forget about the charity, mission, or people who might be receiving the funds.   But, giving is more than that.  Giving from the heart means to put yourself in their place and perhaps even try to feel what they are feeling.  I know that if something touches me, I will do what I can to help.  Time and talent are two other ways to give; time being the hardest for most folks to give, especially in this day and age of everyone racing everywhere without stopping to  breathe.   Of course, if you have a particular talent, giving of that talent where needed is such a blessing to others.  When you combine time AND talent on any one particular mission, the sky is the limit on what can be accomplished.  That is why God has seen fit to give different talents to different people.

Open up your hearts by sitting quietly and letting God speak to you.  Ask Him to show you where He needs you to be. Believe me, opportunities will arise where your talents are needed.  Then you must be willing to give some of your time to accomplish your goals.  You will be amazed at how good it makes you feel to reach out and touch someone.

The Episcopal Church of Wise County along with The Episcopal Church of Wichita Falls provided a ramp for Marsha Van Etten de Chant of Wichita Falls.  Mother Amy Haynie bought the materials needed and Marquis Whitley built the ramp in his workshop.  With the help of Deborah and Fred Dery, Ellen and Marquis Whitley delivered the ramp and installed it on Wednesday, September 30, 2015.

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A New Community In An Old Chapel

As I mentioned in my blog, “Beginning Anew,” after our second organizational meeting in Decatur, the group went to the Little White Chapel (the original Church of the Ascension built in 1889) to have noon day prayer.  My hubby walked around the church and was so excited about the fact that it was not being used—his mind was already calculating how he could get in the church.  He actually lost sleep over how we could get the information we needed to get into the building.  He researched the internet trying to find out who owned the building.  Finally, hubby drove by and saw a phone number on the sign out front.  He called the number and talked to a man who said he was the owner….he agreed to meet with us at the church.  This was on a Tuesday.

We met the owner that day; he showed us around and told us some history behind the chapel.   Years ago, it was called “The Church of the Crosses,” as it had three crosses on top of the roof.  Built in 1889, the Episcopal Mission of the Ascension originally stood on Main Street. The building was briefly used as a mattress factory in 1940. It moved to its current location in 1940 and eventually became a church again.  Then it closed when it and another church merged.  It was a wedding chapel for a while and then stood vacant for 2 years.

When we told him we hoped he would allow us to use his building for our worship services the owner gave us the keys the very same day.  Talk about a leap of faith!   He had never met us before and he trusted us with this historic building.  On Wednesday we found out that we would have a priest on that next Sunday for Holy Eucharist.  I had 2 years of dirt, spider webs and dust to clean in those few short days.  Thank God for my friend, Deborah, who helped me deep clean the church.  If you read my blog, “Seventh Sunday After Easter,” you will be able to actually feel what we were feeling on the very first Sunday in that church.

I want to share with you how the Holy Spirit works.  The owner’s girlfriend just happens to be an Episcopalian.  She would go by the little church and just sit on the bench outside.  One day she went by, sat on the bench, and prayed that the little chapel would again be used for worship!  It was about a week later when the owner told her that my hubby had called and asked about using the chapel for church services.  She got chills when he told her because she felt it was the answer to prayer.

So, now you know how I got to this point in my life—how I started an Episcopal Church.  What have I learned through all of this?  I have learned that we never know what God has in mind for us.  Our human mind might want to do something, but if it doesn’t line up with God’s way, it’s not going to work.  God’s timing is perfect and He will give you the strength to do what He needs you to do.  Your paths will be made straight.   If God has more for me to write about, you’ll find it here on the blog page….come back and check.  I would like to close with Psalm 62:5-6 which speaks so clearly to my heart:

 The Episcopal Church of Wise County

The Episcopal Church of Wise County

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my help comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation.   He is my fortress; I will not be          shaken.”

 

Hubby’s Great Love Offering

As wonderful as it was to have services in the Boonsville Community Center, the table we were using was a bit too low for an altar.  Because we didn’t know where we would be having church services in the future, we figured we would need a portable altar.

Hubby has a wonderful mind—he can make blueprints in his head, turning a board this way and that, measuring, drilling, sawing, and he tried to tell me what he had planned for a portable altar.  Of course, my mind and his are not exactly on the same plane.  I tried to envision what he was talking about but it never looked in my mind what it was supposed to look like.  So he had to try to draw me a picture to help my poor brain understand what he was talking about.

He went to the lumber yard and checked out all the different boards; he bought some beautiful red oak wood that would be 20150411_172413perfect for the altar.  But, because it was during the Easter season, my honey decided we needed a paschal candle stand so we could have our paschal candle lit during our Morning Prayer services and our occasional Holy Eucharist.  He did all the construction and I used wood filler and sanded and sanded and then stained it.  It was very well received by the congregation.

While plans for an altar were flowing in and out of hubby’s mind, a visiting priest noticed we didn’t have an altar book stand….the altar book had to lay flat making it hard for the priest to see the text.  Well, you know what that meant?!  Hubby had to make an altar book stand, which he did that very next week.  He admits that there are mistakes in some of his work, but it doesn’t matter; what matters is the reason he was making these items in the first place.pew

Back to the altar.  I forgot to tell you that there is not one nail or screw in any of his projects.  He wanted everything to be put together with pegs.  He made the two legs and then turned his attention to the altar top.  We used the altar before it was completed; my husband stood and with tears in his eyes, told the members of the church that this was a labor of love and that he wanted to give back.  The altar wasn’t finished but it was like our church—it was a work in progress.  My dear decided he didn’t like the way the legs fit into the top, so back to the drawing board he went.  The final design is perfect; the top fits beautifully onto the legs and it is as sturdy as can be.  To his delight, he was asked if his portable altar could be used at our Diocesan Convention in November.  What an honor!

Portable altar with alter book stand

Portable altar with altar book stand

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Altar–side view

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The altar dressed for our first wedding

 

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The next project was a lectern.  Again, in his mind he made plans for what he wanted to make and, again, I couldn’t envision what he was talking about.  But a few weeks ago we used the lectern, unfinished, but it is so beautiful.  It matches the legs of the altar.   We need to fill some areas with wood putty and sand everything smooth before it can be stained.

 

 

The last project for awhile was an extension to the credence table in the church.  The table, which holds the wine, water, bread, chalice, etc., is a bit small for our use.  We have to remember that this table, which is attached to the wall, is the original one built with the church.  I guess everything was a lot smaller then.   As you can see from the picture, the new one sits on top of the old.  Hubby added two crosses to the original centered one and matched them perfectly.   It turned out so well.  He does admit that there are a few small nails in this project….some of the pieces are thin and pegging them would be difficult.

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God has given my husband a talent which improves with each project he works on.  I am so very proud of his accomplishments, not just for the finished items, but for the reason behind each task.  He knows that it was God who was with him when he was so ill, and he knows it is God who is with him today.  And, for that he and I are humbly grateful.

Me? Start a Church?

Come on!  Who am I to start a church?  How can I lead prayers when I remember how terrified I was to give a talk to pass speech class?  Really, Lord?  This is what you have in mind for me?  I just wanted to GO to church.  After I realized that He actually REALLY meant it, I began to say my daily mantra, “I choose to trust you, Lord.”  Because I feel that by saying this daily, you actually begin to understand that it IS a choice.  God gave us our freedom to choose and He couldn’t have done that lightly, especially since He knew how frail we would be without Him in our lives.  So…..I choose to trust—daily.

Most of the time I find that God doesn’t send lightning bolts down to remind me to do something or to go a certain way.  I find that His gentle voice speaks softly in the back of my mind….kind of nudging me, if you will, in the right direction.  Now don’t get me wrong–I don’t always pay heed to what He is trying to tell me, but ever since hubby went through his amputations and strokes, I listen more closely.  I guess you can call it a “gut feeling.”  Of course, I do feel that God kind of popped me in the back of the head when He told me it was time to get up off my backside and do something!  I guess He got tired of waiting—remember I said that God’s timing is perfect.  That’s when I wrote to the diocesan office.

The Morning Prayer service we had at our home was simple but very heartfelt.  The nine of us got to learn a little bit about each other and talk about what we wanted out of our services.  What we all wanted was to worship God first and then have fellowship.  We figured we would be meeting at our home for a while and then swap houses occasionally to change the scenery.

My hubby told me the next evening that perhaps we could use The Boonsville Community Center in our little town, so we asked and were given permission to use it as long as we needed without any charge.  Talk about a blessing—we had a little money but we were just starting up.  More doors were opening for us and we quickly went through them.  We received a call from the diocese that Bishop High wanted to come to celebrate and preach our first Holy Eucharist in our new building.  We were given three days to get that space ready for the service.  Our altar was made out of a drop-leaf table the Center had which we covered with a tablecloth and lace.  We were given an altar guild kit from the “loan closet,” some candlesticks, glass cruets, chalice, some wafers, etc.  I took a large cross off of our bedroom wall to hang on the wall behind the altar.  It was during the Lenten season so it was draped with a purple veil found with the altar guild kit.

It was a beautiful service and twelve people came to receive Communion.  I knew that God had plans for us and my husband agreed with me.  This feeling we had could not be quelled and so we continued.  Each week we lugged all the donated Prayer Books and hymnals to church, along with coffee, cups, juice, and snacks.  We made the space ours every Sunday and it worked out really well.  All in all, we had eight services in The Boonsville Community Center.

To thank the wonderful folks for the use of their building, hubby and I gave a donation to them, letting them know how much we appreciated their kindness.  We also gave a donation to the Boonsville/Balsora Volunteer Fire Department because the Center’s electricity was on their meter.  We wanted to acknowledge their kindness.

Next:  Hubby’s great love offering

Beginning Anew

After hubby came home, there was complete change in the way we did things.  I was left to handle the chores that he had been doing or we had shared.  I carried all the groceries, fed the animals, lifted and carried bags of feed.  All of that along with my usual chores around the house.

My husband had therapy three times per week even before he received his prosthesis.  As you can see, the stress level was growing considerably on my end and hubby also had his own stress dealing with healing and the fact that there were many things he couldn’t do anymore.  That is hard on a person who was used to handling things his way.

I prayed and prayed that we would get though the stress.  Then after he was fitted with his first prosthesis things changed some.  My husband was able to do some things to help me around the house.  He did what he could and I was grateful.  I must add here that our neighbors were instrumental in my keeping my sanity!  Without them to help by feeding our animals, letting the dog out, and just watching over our place, I don’t know what I would have done.  They are not just friends—they are family; I love them and thank God for them.

We got through most of the next year with hubby having a few hospital stays, but all in all, things were better.  I still longed for a church family with whom I could “let it all hang out,” all the while knowing their prayers would sustain us.  Many prayed for us and that is all well and good, but I wanted the closeness of a church service and the oneness of fellow believers praying to our God.

In November of 2014, God kept nudging me to do something.  In my mind I would ask for a place to go to church, but instead of finding an actual physical place to go, God told me “It’s time to DO something!”  So, I reached out by writing an email to the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.  What I said was that there were no Episcopal churches in Wise County where I felt comfortable after the split, and asked if there was anything that could be done to help me and others in the area who felt lost.

At this time, my husband had been growing closer and closer to God, feeling His presence and wondering why he, too, survived.  He wondered what it was that God needed for him to do, just like I had felt after my ordeal.

I received a reply from the deacon who worked in the diocesan office saying she would talk with the bishop and let me know what could be done.  Bishop High called me and we set up a time for him to come to our house to chat.  How cool is that?  He came and was so warm and encouraging by telling us there were many who would be willing to help us get organized.  After the first of the year (2015), Deacon Tracie organized a group of wonderful folks from the surrounding counties to have a luncheon meeting in Boyd to see what we could do in Wise County.

We went to the first meeting and were asked what our expectations were regarding worship.  I just told her that I wanted to worship with Morning Prayer and receive Communion when feasible.  The second meeting was in Decatur and after the lunch we went to the Little White Chapel (the original Church of the Ascension) and I read Noon Prayer out under a big tree on the property.  It was wonderful.

One couple who wanted to worship together said, “Let’s not just talk about it, let’s do it!”  So on March 15, 2015, the first Morning Prayer service of The Episcopal Church of Wise County was held in our home.  Nine of us were gathered.

But, I wanted to GO to church; I didn’t want to START a church!

What am I supposed to do?

The first strokes left hubby with just a few words; actually he spoke in numbers–zero, zero, five, five–and he could say “okay.”  He could understand what we were saying but he couldn’t respond.  A few days later he was following instructions from the speech therapists, and they thought he could go home.  Bam!  The massive stroke hit and our daughters and I were present for that.  How horrible to see your husband/father writhing in what looked like terrible pain while trying to roll himself up into a fetal position.  The nurse immediately called for oxygen and they wheeled him away to ICU.  I believe the quick actions of John, who was an ICU nurse on the floor at the time, helped to save him.

My husband was on a ventilator in ICU with tubes coming from every which way.  Scary sounds of the machines clicking and beeping, numbers flashing, alarms going off!  So much more than I thought I could bear.  Strength came from our children who were there much of the time.  When the pulmonary doctor told us it looked like hubby might have cancer, I made sure we talked to him out in the hallway.  I didn’t want any negativity to be in the room.  I told the doctor that we couldn’t handle that right now….that we would handle one day at a time–one problem at a time. Right now, we had our loved one unconscious and breathing with the help of a machine.

The neurologist talked to us telling us that hubby had a clot in his heart and that it was throwing off pieces up to his brain.  He didn’t know how many strokes he had, but said they were numerous and that the last one was massive in the frontal lobe.  He checked my husband’s brain activity and said it was slow, but that perhaps the sedatives caused that.  We didn’t know what to expect when he woke up–whether he would be able to talk, walk–or whether or not he would even come out of it alive.  We weren’t given much hope.  We cried a lot that night.

Our son-in-law stayed that night with him and all the next day we stayed in his room and listened to the machines talking to each other.  I went home that night and the kids told me to sleep in the next day….that there wasn’t any point in becoming completely exhausted.  So, when I got up the next morning and was having an unrushed cup of coffee, the phone rang.  It was a nurse from the ICU.  “Has anyone contacted you this morning?”  I told her that no one had. She said, “Your husband is extremely irritated and aggressive, to the point that he hurt a nurse by grabbing her hair and slamming her head into the bed.  He also pulled out the ventilator.  He may calm down some if family could be here.” I hurriedly dressed and drove to the hospital and walked into the room to see my husband sitting in a chair.  He looked up at me and said, “Hello, beautiful lady!”

He spoke….