• I hate writing “Thank You” notes. I don’t even like receiving them, because I know the vehemence that is most likely sealed tightly into that little cream envelope. I hope that doesn’t sound ungrateful, because I really am thankful for gifts we receive, but there is just something about the process of sitting down with a list of people who have given you gifts and feeling overwhelmed by the task. There are those gifts from people who you know, no matter how you gush in your letter, it still is going to sound petty in light of the size of the gift. “Dear XX, Thank you so much for the entire set of Caphlon cook-ware you gave Jeremiah and me. I know you spent several hundred dollars, and I feel absolutely awful because of it. Sure hope this note is enough!” Then there are those gifts that you have no idea what they are or what to do with them. You just have to describe the item really well, throw out a blanket statement and hope it covers. “Dear XX, Thank you so much for the beautiful, ceramic, fruit sculpture with a lid that you gave Jeremiah and me. It will look beautiful displayed in our new home.” Finally, there are always that small group of random gifts that you CANNOT figure out who they are from. Invariably there will always be an expensive gift or two in this category, and you know there is a sweet elderly lady still checking her mailbox every day to see if that tacky young girl has gotten around to thanking her yet. For these reasons, thank you notes give me shortness of breath.

    It’s sad to me that the only letters I ever get in the mail are the above and invitations. I am not saying that condescendingly, because I never take the time to write personal letters either. I blame this on thank you notes, because they have given me a foul taste for writing letters in general. I think that the loss of this form of communication is one of the great travesties of our modern day world. Now we have email! you say, but you can’t hold an email in your hand. You can’t get a sense of the person’s personality, like you can when you see someones hand-writing. You CAN print an email and save it, but honestly, how often do you do that? The reason you don’t save emails is because they are rarely written with much thought or heart. They take so little time to get where they’re going, that there is no reason to sit down and think through all you want to convey to the recipient. If you forgot something, then just shoot-’em another one tomorrow.

    Then there are the telephone, the cell phone, and the answering machine. I know there are a lot of people out there who would much rather just speak what is on their mind than take the time to write it down. I do not think this is wrong, I am just in awe of anyone who can do it. If I really want to share my feelings with someone, I would MUCH rather be able to plan out the way I want to express myself than ramble on-and-on-and-on in an incoherent manner (which is what usually happens). It is also a lot less awkward to write down how wonderful you think someone is than try to say it to their face. I won’t even venture into all of my issues with cell phones. I will just tell you what my friend Brandon Nall has, in my opinion, very profoundly named them–“Fellowship Killers.”

    The answering machine is very tricky to me. They, like letters, are less intimidating to relay messages to than the actual person. One of their problems, though, is that once you’ve said it, there’s no erasing, no throwing it away and starting over, it’s out there. Even if you confess in a fit of excitement after a second date that, “I think I’m falling in love with you!”, there’s no getting it back 🙂 I also find that I have trouble trusting that answering machines will convey my message (maybe this is linked to how infrequently I check my own messages). Even if I have just left a detailed explanation of something on someones machine, I still find myself repeating the exact, same thing when I actually talk to them on the phone/in person. I’ll say, “I just left this on your machine, BUT…” I can’t stop myself, even when I know it’s annoying as crap to the person to have to hear the same thing repeated again.

    So, I hate thank you notes, because they have tainted all written correspondence in my mind. This is a shame because I think emails, telephones, cell phones, and even answering machines are all “plastic” (as Edith Schaeffer would say) forms of communication. (I do understand that there are matters that need to be communicated quickly and these devices are very useful for that purpose. I am talking more here about conveying feelings and thoughts with friends) So, I am going to try and get over my hatred of letter writing, because it is a beautiful and personal way to communicate.

  • I am here to admit to all of you that I have never read the Bible from cover to cover. I have made several attempts, and I imagine I’ve been through Genesis half a dozen times. However, I have never completed the mission. During the past year, I decided to start reading full books, instead of random chapters . This gave me some sense of continuity, but the goals felt more attainable. Since I’ve started reading full books I have discovered something…the Bible tells an AMAZING story. Some of you are probably saying, Duh?, but I mean really, truly, page-turner type intrigue. I have found myself at the breakfast table, listening to Pace fuss at my feet but unable to put it down, because I needed to find out what happened next. The even more incredible part is that it is all true! I mean some of that stuff (in the Old Testament especially), Tolkien and Lewis would have been hard-up to dream, even in their vivid imaginations…but this stuff actually happened.

    Just last week I finished Acts. If you haven’t visited Acts in a while it is an amazing journey, literally, complete with a ship-wreck where everyone survives, and a miraculous escape from a Roman prison. Luke is our guide, and he weaves himself subtly in and out of the tale by switching from third to first person. I got really excited when I noticed a “we” and new that Luke himself had joined back up on our journey. However, what spoke to me most throughout the book of Acts, was what a POWERHOUSE Paul is. He was a bold and polished speaker, obedient to God even when facing his own death, a true and loyal friend, a humble servant and tent maker, and a miracle-worker. Even with all of these characteristics that could make anybody proud, he was the first to give all the glory to God and his Son Jesus whom he served. I was inspired.

    I think the most life-applicable lesson I learned through Acts was that Paul always shared the Gospel with others by starting where they were. If he was addressing a group of Pharisees, then he started with all the prophecies throughout the Old Testament of a coming Messiah. If he was addressing a group idol-worshippers, then he pointed out their statue of the “Unknown God,” and told them he wanted to make that God known to them. No matter what the group, he found a way to speak to them at a level that they could relate to. He didn’t walk up with tracts in his hand and tell them he wanted to share with them the four points of salvation, first he touched their hearts. I believe this is why people responded to him.

    Paul also didn’t lead people to God and then drop them back to navigate the lonely ocean of sin on their own. We have many letters that prove that he was always praying for and corresponding with those he left behind. He just didn’t want to see people saved, he wanted them to have a RELATIONSHIP with God. He knew that once that relationship was established they wouldn’t need him to answer all of their Biblical questions, because they could seek God themselves.

    I must note that I have focused on mainly the second half of Acts, because that is fresh in my mind. The first half is mostly about Peter, and he is pretty awesome himself. So, I just want to challenge you to read the Bible like a story, and let yourself be awed by the fact that THIS story is all true.

  • A few months ago, our pastor told Jeremiah that he had been nominated to be a deacon. His initial response was that he was greatly honored, but he just knew that his church attendance would be sporadic over the next 4 years. They don’t give you a lot of choice about working on Sundays as a resident. Brother Jimmy assured him that he understood, but that they wanted him anyway. I knew that somewhere in the Bible there were some requirements for deacons, or leaders in the church, and as the day of his ordination approached I found myself wondering, a bit nervously, if Jeremiah would meet the requirements (because of his strict work schedule). So, I plunged into the word, and found 1 Timothy 3:1-4

    Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.

    There is more, but these represent the gist of the criteria. As I went through this daunting list I was at first relieved to see that church attendance was not even mentioned. Then, I started to dwell on each attribute, and I realized what an amazing husband God has blessed me with. Jeremiah truly personifies each trait. I find “above reproach” to be a bit daunting, but I if a person didn’t find that daunting then I think they would be unaware of God’s absolute perfection. I also must mention that he does sometimes become a bit of a purposeful aggravater (“not quarrelsome“) to me some evenings, but he is working on that 🙂 So, with a thankful heart, I began to welcome the approach of his ordination.

    Brother Jimmy also asked if Jeremiah would sing at the ordination service, and I accepted for him. Jeremiah asked his Dad, Tommy, and Kirk to sing with him so they had a little quartet, two guitars, and were going to sing “All Creatures of our God and King.” In true Maddox form, the other three members of the quartet arrived at our house 45 minutes prior to the service and they commenced their first, and only, practice session. I was in the kitchen preparing dinner for after the service, and I thought they sounded really great. I love the sound of voices in harmony, and the deep richness it creates. They all hit the first note of the first verse with ease, and sang through the song beautifully. Perhaps they should have gone on stage at church at that moment, completely cold, because when they sang after their 45 minutes of practice, the wheels fell off. Jeremiah said that he had another hymn stuck in his head as they mounted the stage and couldn’t remember the tune of the song they were about to sing to save his life. Tommy, who was the only person singing the melody, couldn’t remember the tune either. At some point, he actually quit playing the guitar altogether. I must also mention that these two, who couldn’t remember the tune, were also the two responsible for playing the tune on their guitars. Kirk, who could hear the discord and wasn’t sure what to do with it, was singing so quietly that I couldn’t hear him. That leaves Dr. Maddox, who was singing the base line perfectly. Unfortunately, the base line loses some of its splendor when not accompanied by a melody. When you add all this to the fact that nobody came in at the same time and there was some confusion about wording of the song…it got pretty ugly for the first 2 verses. I sat in the congregation trying to control the laughter creeping up inside me, as I watched their very serious, but very panic stricken faces. To their credit, by the 3rd verse they managed to get it together and it really did sound beautiful again. I think that the congregation got an idea of what they were aiming for by that last verse.

    Later, came the laying on of hands. In my rather limited experience, I understood this ritual to be of a very serious nature. The man to be ordained reverently bows his head, while the seasoned veterans, who’ve already faced the storms that this newcomer is about to face, come and lay their hands on him and whisper fervent prayers of encouragement into his ear. Apparently, Jeremiah had a little different view of what this ritual should look like. As each deacon approached, Jeremiah looked up from his seat and smiled broadly enough to show those sweet dimples. He then reached out a welcoming hand for a hearty hand-shake, exchanging a few words, and ending with a very gracious “thank-you”. I’d like to name it “Jeremiah’s Meet-n-Greet.” At first I was horrified, and kept frantically motioning to him to close his eyes. He thought I was telling him he was supposed to cry, and just kept shrugging me off. After a while, my mom (who was sitting by me) leaned in and said, “He just looks so innocent up there!” and then we both started chuckling uncontrollably. What did it matter, really?

    Besides this comedy of errors, there were some very touching moments. We saw a video of two deacons who were becoming Deacon Emeritus, and there were some pictures of their service that really touched my heart. One was a picture of our church ordaining its very first deacons over 50 years ago. Another was this retiring deacon standing in front of a Blue Bird bus and 30 something little children that he had picked up for church Sunday after Sunday back in the 60’s. Dr. Maddox stood up and spoke about what a great man Jeremiah had become, and thanked him for the honor of being his Dad. Another great moment was the sight of my Dad, who never had a son of his own, with his head bowed next to Jeremiah, who he now considers the son God had planned for him.

    All in all, it was a very special and memorable night. We’ll remember it for its hilarity, for its touching nature, and for what is sure to be the beginning of a life of service to God’s church–his people.