Just a few thoughts from Pastor Carrie

Carrie's Inner Chatter

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Florence and Job

In January of 2010, I found myself in a small village in northern Haiti, about 70 miles from Port Au Prince and on that particular afternoon, my entire world shook… literally. My team of ten was lounging after a long day when the earth literally began to shake underneath of us. It was the earthquake that took over 200,000 lives and left 600,000 injured and/or homeless. By the grace of God alone, we were left unscathed, in our village there were no tall buildings to fall, no overcrowded hillsides with shacks of mud and huts to collapse onto one another. We were the lucky ones. The stories I could tell from what we saw in the days after are gut wrenching. But disasters are not new to the people of God, and each time something horrific happens, many religious leaders will find a way to turn it around as a punishment on God’s people. Even the events of 9-11 have such clergy proclaiming that we brought it upon ourselves.

Here at Front Royal Presbyterian, we have just begun studying the book of Job. There is, quite possibly, no more difficult book to read than that of Job and his misfortunes at the hand of God’s Adversary. And in the wake of Hurricane Florence and events in each one of our individual lives, I do believe Job has a message for all of us, just as he did for me eight years ago in northern Haiti.

Like Job, we toss our questions and yell our anger to what might seem like a vast empty space in the clouds, because when God doesn’t answer, our world seems silent and broken. I imagine there are many returning to their homes in North Carolina this week, seeing destruction and devastation, wondering what they did to deserve God’s wrath. And when we don’t receive the answer we want from God, we tend to go silent as well.

But if there is one message from Job, it is this. He didn’t stop talking to God. Though his words became angry and the hurt was more than he could bear, he didn’t stop calling out to the God that promised to see him through just as that God promises to see us through. And finally, God answers Job in chapter38.

Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

We get so caught up in our own tragedies, our own horrors that we forget that the God who created us didn’t put this upon us for a punishment, but it was God who set everything in motion so that we might have life and have it abundantly. And that same God is the one that calls from the winds of the hurricane, the storms of our world and devastated corners of this planet to each one of us so that even in our darkest hour we might know that we are not alone.

One of my favorite quotes is this:

“Don’t tell God how big your storm is… Tell you storm how big your God is.”

May our prayers join together for those who find themselves reeling from Florence and other storms that toss our worlds upside down.

Pastor Carrie Evans

Front Royal Presbyterian Church

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Naked and Unashamed

Pastor Carrie Evans

Front Royal Presbyterian Church

 

I have this theory about scripture. Call it theology, call it crazy minister talk, call it whatever you’d like, but I think it stands the test of time.

We’ve been studying creation here at Front Royal Presbyterian and as meet Adam and Eve for the first time in the Garden of Eden, we can’t help but notice, they are naked. And when they are ousted from the Garden of Eden they are clothed, but it is important to remember that in the beginning, they were naked. More so than that, Genesis tells us that they are “naked and not ashamed.”

“And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:25

If you are anything like me, you do your best to hide those few extra spare tires around the middle.

Like me, no doubt, you hate bathing suit shopping.

And don’t get me started on what my 14-year-old daughter calls shorts these days.

We’ve come a long way from the Garden of Eden, so far that our clothing covers us up and protects us from all the judgment, criticism and vulnerability in the mean cruel world. And we have layers and layers on to protect us from all the things out there that would do us harm.

The danger with all those layers, is they also keep us from true and honest relationships with one another. And each time we sin, each time someone hurts us, each time we feel this world’s evils all too keenly, we put on more layers to protect ourselves from the relationships and world in which we live.

The hardest of all, is the relationship of marriage. In that we are supposed to stand naked before one another, bearing each other’s burdens and honoring one another’s secrets. We are to be unashamed and trust one another with all of who we are and all of who we’ve been. We are to love one another as Christ loves the Church.

But those relationships call us to bear our souls and speak the honest truth in love as well as calling us to be broken and not ashamed and to bear our scars as well as our victories. And in marriage oftentimes hateful words are said that can’t be taken back and with each word, each hurt, each pain, we find ourselves throwing on more and more layers of protection, because to trust one another absolutely, it hurts too much. That, my friends, is so very difficult to do. And I struggle alongside each of you.

The journey of faith teaches us not only to love one another as we would love ourselves, but to be vulnerable so that we might share in the is life of faith in its’ completeness, as God asks of us and as we were destined to do.

The beauty is that Christ, in the Incarnation, being both fully God and fully human overcame this for us. It was Christ that bore all of our sins and evils and unashamedly naked as He was on the cross, He did so for you and for me.

So when the day comes when you stand before our Lord and Savior, the one who knows all and sees all and forgives all… the one that knows our deepest darkest secrets that we have hidden between the layers of this world, may it be that you trust also in His absolute love. Then and only then will we be able to get back to the Garden of Eden, then and only then will be stand naked and unashamed before our Lord and Savior.

As Revelation 21:5, 6 says

“See, I am making all things new… It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end…”

My prayers are yours today and always.

Pastor Carrie

Goodbye Elf on the Shelf

Pastor Carrie Evans

It is December 27th and just yesterday I heard a collective *sigh* and loud “AMEN” from all parents in the Warren County vicinity. The exclamation coincided with the packing away of the interminable sagas of the Elf on the Shelf. If you are one of the lucky ones that has not adopted one of these dang creatures – count yourself as one of the blessed. It’s an elf that secretly watches children and reports back to Santa each night as to who has been naughty and who has been nice. Sounds innocent enough, but caregivers of the elf must move him every night to a new location and challenges are extended and some overachieving parents have been too creative with the elf’s antics.

  • One elf was found in Barbie’s pink Cadillac cruising with Barbies on either side.

  • Another elf was guilty of toilet papering the Christmas tree.

  • And yet another was found making snow angels in the flour he spilled on the counter

Throughout the season, the elf is found in various and sundry compromising positions.

But… praise be to God… he is gone for another 340 days. However, along with his absence goes every parent’s favorite December words “Santa’s watching…” Somehow those don’t carry the same weight in February or August.

I’d love to think that all that work we do taking the kids to church, praying at meals, singing in the choir and volunteering at soup kitchens would give the next generation a healthy fear of God, much like they fear the big guy in the red suit and long white beard. But it never turns out that way. We’ve dressed Jesus up into such a neat guy that walks alongside us in times of trouble that we forget that He does actually have a claim on our lives. That claim on our lives demands not that we be naughty or nice but it calls us to so much more. He calls us to live lives of righteousness each and every day – not just in the days leading up to Christmas. Hear a few of those commands:

What does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God

                                                                                                                                                Micah 6:8

The greatest commandment is this, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.    

                                                                                                                                                Matthew 22:39

Feed the hungry and help those in need, then your light will shine forth in the darkness.

                                                                                                                                                Isaiah 58:10

And that’s just the beginning. I know, scripture doesn’t come with a neat little doll to move around your house and bribe your kids (and maybe even your spouse) to be on their best behavior. But it does come with a Savior that we still celebrate today, that Savior isn’t a fad and you don’t have to seek Him, for he finds you.

Maybe in 2019 we could work at making our Savior Jesus Christ the last thing we give thanks for at night and our first thought when morning greets us. Maybe, just maybe the name Jesus Christ would be the most recognized character during December rather than… what’s his name (the Elf on the Shelf.)

Need a way to put your faith in action, feed the poor, clothe the naked and heal the sick?

Check out these local organizations that would love your help.

Community Table at Front Royal Presbyterian Church                    

servers, food preparers, drivers

                540 635 3894

Saint Luke's                                                          medical professionals needed

                Saintlukeclinic.org

Phoenix Project                                                                                transportation, hotline volunteer

phoenix-project.org

C-Cap                                                                              food, volunteers, drivers

                Ourccap.org

House of Hope                                                                                       donate food, clothing

                540 635 2466