Two and half weeks before Christmas, I got the flu and this flu was a doozy. My flu lasted almost nine days, and during those nine days, my 5-year-old’s temperature climbed to 103, and my one-year-old had a temperature of 101. You can probably imagine how we spent much of our Christmas holidays. Many others must be going through the same as us, because we spent three hours at the doctors office, three hours at urgent care, and still ended up back at urgent care another time. We spent our Christmas season getting breathing treatments, filling prescriptions, just lying around feeling sorry for ourselves, and even contemplating an ambulance trip once. We missed many of our Christmas traditions. We missed “Journey to Bethlehem;” Christmas program practices; a week of school, which was filled with Christmas field trips and Christmas crafts. We missed our annual trip with our grandmother to get Santa pictures, my son’s first two basketball games, a special baptism, Christmas parties and Christmas play dates, and so much more. To top it off, my husband even has to work on Christmas day, so he had taken the week before off to spend time with us at Christmas. He didn’t plan on spending the whole week taking care of us. Yes, this was not our favorite two weeks, BUT, did we really miss Christmas? At Christmas we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Jesus was born, lived, taught us all so much, and died for our sins. Jesus taught us that whenever we do for others, we do for him. While we were sick, we received so much kindness from others. We could feel the TRUE spirit of Christ this Christmas all around us. Hilt’s school checked on us, my friends and family showed such concern and offered to help in any way they could, even offering to bring us chicken soup and potato soup. During a doctors visit a stranger brought over a chair for me because she realized that I was so sick that I was having trouble standing. One of Hilt’s classmates even started praying for Hilt when she went to bed. We felt very VERY loved! One of my favorite moments was during our second urgent care visit. A man saw that my whole pitiful looking family was waiting to be seen again. Something made him decide to approach us. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but his encouraging words were perfect. He told us to hang in there and that he remembers when his children were younger. He tells our crying 5-year-old in this perfect, cool “we are men” tone, “I know the doctors here are going to help you and I get better. They are going to fix you and me up.” The nonchalant way the man spoke was perfect for my scared, overly dramatic 5-year-old. Then he offered my children a sucker before he left. You could feel the sincerity when he spoke. After he left, my husband, Chad, put his arm around me as if he was reminded, like I was reminded, that we are a strong united family even during all this sickness. I have felt Christmas this year. We were sick and Christmas still came anyway. The Christmas spirit is all around. To Quote Dr. Sues from “The Grinch that Stole Christmas,” “It came without ribbons. It came without tags…Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” Christmas is more than all the Christmas traditions. Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus and showing Christ's love. People showed us Christ's love this season. We (I hope) are finally getting better four days before Christmas day, but we have already fully experienced Christmas this year.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Monday, November 17, 2014
It was in May of 1954, sixty years ago, that Charlotte and I came to St. John’s. We were just married, and I was returning to Rock Hill after my discharge from the army. Charlotte and I were married while I was in the separation center, so we were truly JUST MARRIED! Charlotte was an active member of her church choir and wanted to continue the music she loved. Her desire was to attend a downtown church, but we planned to visit several churches to find the church we would call “home”.
Our first visit was to St. John’s, and the greeting was so very warm and friendly that we never visited another church. Charlotte was dismayed when she heard the choir under the direction of Dr. Walter Roberts, the head of the music department at Winthrop! She thought that the choir was much to good for her to be eligible to sing with them! The following Wednesday evening, while I was at work, the minister came to visit. When she voiced her disappointment about not being good enough for the choir, the minister disagreed. In fact, to prove his point, the minister drove her to choir practice right then. She was thrilled to find that Dr. Roberts was happy to have her, and she remained happily in the choir for over fifty years. Over the years, she was also active in many others areas such as circle leader, and other offices in the United Methodist Women.
Four adult Sunday school classes existed at that time: the A.M Graham men’s class, the Belle Bennett ladies class taught by Belle Bennett, The Browning-Sykes the middle aged couples class, and the Barber Harden young adults class. We met many of our closest Rock Hill friends in the Barber Harden class.
After a few years, I was asked to be responsible for ordering all the Sunday School literature. I also began helping in the Sunday school office on Sunday mornings. As life usually happens, on thing led to another, and I eventually accepted the office of Sunday School Superintendent, a job I have enjoyed for almost 40 years.
During our stay at St. John’, we have seen many changes and several building programs, including: enlargement of the parking lot at the corner of White Street and St. John’s court, the extension of the Sunday School wing, the purchase of two parsonages, the building of the Family Life Center, and now the building of the Children and Youth Building. What a wonderful sign of growth and strength of the congregation!Our children also had the privilege of growing up in St. John’s and having the influence of the leaders in the education department from nursery department through the youth department to help mold their character. As adults, they have both accepted leadership roles in their churches. It have been a true joy and privilege for us to be members of this congregation for the last sixty years.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
‘Becca and I with two young children moved to Rock Hill the first week of 1956. We visited three Methodist churches and decided that St. John’s was the place we wanted for our family. We joined the wonderful folks in James Barber Sunday school class. We recall a few of those welcoming us: Stanley and Millie Byers, Mary and Jeff Jeffords, Rice and Joann McMaster, and Bettye and Curtis Rawls. This was prior to our Bowater friends arrival in Rock Hill. The class met in the room which adjoins the main balcony. The church had just added a three story addition for our youth parallel to St. John’s Court. A primary street entrance faced a house serving as the parsonage.
By 1959 ‘Becca and I had added two more children to the family. When the fourth was born on a Friday in 1959, Harry took the other three (ages 2, 4, and 6) to Sunday school. As they trooped past Joann McMaster, she was heard to exclaim, “Can you believe they just added another one on Friday?”
Like most other young families we shared many Sunday mornings seated on the floors of rooms serving as crib nursery, nursery, and kindergarten for our children and those of others parents. What wonderful friends, young and old, we made there!
By 1965, we devoted most of our time to church and family. Harry, of course, had a business to run at Star Paper Tube (Caraustar). But, when not at work, time was split between family and church. For ‘Becca this meant chairing the committee to open the first day-time kindergarten for St. Johns. She recalls working with Dr. Rosemary Althouse and Sue Wayne on that committee. ‘Becca continued as chair of the committee for more than a decade.
Harry chose to work with junior high and senior high youth. Most of all he enjoyed counseling and teaching. It was always a bittersweet moment for him to see the group he enjoyed so much leave for college or move into jobs. He recalls with nostalgia the period when Rev. James Freeman joined St Johns as Minister of Education. Activities for youth included our version of a “spiritual values” coffee house, dozens of weekend retreats at Asbury Hills Methodist Retreat, Garden City Chapel, Lake Junaluska, Camp Thunderbird and many day trips. For short excursions, St. Johns used a “retired” Dodge or Reo school bus painted light blue. Our youth called it “Ole Blue”. Harry and Conrad Quattlebaum were drivers. The vehicle was serviced by St. John’s member Dorth Falls in his shop.
Often on Sunday evening as many as 75 youth would pack the basement Fellowship Hall for a program of activities and light supper. It required a large group of volunteers to prepare food for such a throng. In 1970 we only dreamed of a facility like the “Core” that our youth enjoy today. We were cramped for space and had limited amount of equipment. But, good fellowship and lifelong friendships developed. Harry felt his own value system was strengthened by his exposure to those wonderful youth.
Youth who we still see regularly are Lloyd Case, Wes and Mary Ann (Sturgis) Helton, Ben Johnson, Henry McMaster, Mary Jane (Byars) Shuler, Glenn Rawls, and Susan Herdman. Harry continues to hear from many others. He claims that the youth of the 1960s-1970s generation taught him much more about life’s values than he was able to teach them. He loved them all and misses them very much.
Mr. Dan Hollis, Sr. was our spiritual leader during our early years at St. Johns. Among others whose most tender touches we recall were Herb Carruth, Morrie and Susie Morgan, Bob and Evelyn Ashworth, Rice McMaster, and Bill and Nan Ross. That list could be multiplied by one hundred and more
‘Becca served in church circles, usually as a co-chair. She was attracted mostly to a circle she lovingly named a “little old ladies” group. She kept no record of years she served as chairperson but Harry says “it must have been twenty or more.” Most of its members could no longer drive. So,’Becca usually arrived at circle with her car loaded with senior ladies. Once ‘Becca told Harry that several ladies suggested they “drive to Charlotte for a movie” and skip circle. All had a good laugh over that. ‘Becca still thinks of her “senior angels” among her best friends.
St. Johns has provided us with a fine base for spiritual growth. We have known loving senior staff from Francis Cunningham in the 1950s to Debra Quilling-Smith today. All have contributed much to our lives. We have enjoyed hundreds of fine friends who are living examples of the teachings of Jesus.
Monday, September 1, 2014
Ever since I first had a special experience with God while I was in middle school, I have had a strong faith. However, I had never seen true tragedy up close until my cousin died. When my cousin was only in his 20s, he died in a freak hunting accident. He had only been married for 2 years. He was an only child so his parents not only lost their only child, but they also lost future grandchildren. His death made me ask many questions such as, “why does a loving God let terrible things happen?” I also began to question God’s will, and I started questioning prayer. I bitterly thought, “Why do we even bother to pray, if God is going to do what ever he wants anyway?” I still had faith in the existence of God, but I was angry and cynical. Although, I still loved God, I wondered if he really listened. I hope this phrase makes sense, but the best way I can describe this time in my life was, I had faith and doubt. At the time I was going to a church in Virginia, and I would say things to myself like, “Yeah, whatever, or I doubt it.” while the preacher was giving his sermons. I would gawk at the lyrics in some of the church songs. The next year of my life is hard to describe because so many events kept happening simultaneously. All these events led to a huge growth in my faith. The death of my cousin was the major source of this sadness, but other circumstances did not help my mindset. The day after my cousin’s funeral my grandmother fell and broke her hip. The very next day, my husband’s childhood home burned down along with many of his things and his parents’ things. The floodgate of questions opened, but even in my anger, I loved God and wanted to understand. I missed the closeness I felt to him before, so I researched. But I also decided to be truthful in my search. In other words, in the past when I didn’t understand a Bible story, I just let it go and didn’t question. Now, I started reading the Bible and questioning everything. I began to write down my cynical questions, even though I almost felt guilty writing them down. I also began to say these questions out loud to my husband. My poor husband just patiently waited and listened, but he didn’t know the answer to many of my questions either. Then, when I started writing these questions down and saying them aloud to my husband, something amazing started happening. Whatever my question of the week was, the church sermon would address it. Now this wouldn’t seem as amazing if my questions had been generic or common topics in sermons like ‘God’s love’, and ‘Jesus died for our sins’. You see, many of my questions were more detailed. For example, one day right before church, I asked my husband what he thought about a prostitute mentioned briefly in the Old Testament, named Rahab. Rehab is usually not a common church topic, but in the next church service, our preacher started talking about Rahab. My husband leaned over and said, “Isn’t that the woman you were asking about?” I was shocked. If this was the only example I would have thought it was a coincidence but it happened over and over. So much so that my husband noticed, and he is not the most observant person. Many of my questions were answered in these sermons; some were answered before I went to church; through research and learning. Now, you would think a few of these events would have been enough for me, but I still felt bitter. I had trouble praying, except for thanking God for blessings, because I felt it was pointless. Now I am a scientific minded person. I had done all of this research and read books; however, I was still missing that closeness that I had felt before. One day, after yet another moment when the preacher answered another question, a peace came over me. I felt the closeness again. I had learned all the logical evidence, but what finally strengthened my faith again were all the moments when I saw God in my life. When I gave my confusion to God, he helped me through it. Below are some of the questions and thoughts that I had after my cousin’s death. These are just my thoughts.. Like Job I don’t understand a lot, but these are just some personal thoughts that comforted me.
Question 1: “Why pray when he is going to do His will anyway?” Maybe our prayers can affect God’s decisions. However, since God is all knowing, He knew we were going to pray long before we prayed; therefore, he already knew what his will would be. In other words, maybe He formulated His will because He knew we were going to pray. Maybe if we hadn’t prayed, God’s will would have been different. God already knows His will because He already knows whether we will pray or not. God’s ultimate plan is to help us know him, right?, so depending on what choices we make He has to plan His will accordingly.
Question 2: Why do horrible things happen, and why do some people seem to get more than their share of suffering?
The story of Job’s suffering seems to say, our human minds are not capable of understanding the complexity of God’s will, and that some answers are not found while we are alive. During my search I read the book, Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft. In his book, he writes “when a dog is caught in a trap, the hunter has to push the dog further in the trap, to lesson the tension on it, before he can get him out. That hurts, and if the dog were a theologian it would probably question the dogma of the goodness of man, because it can’t understand what we can: the mechanism of a trap requires this push further in that causes such pain, but this is the way out. God does the same to us sometimes, and we can’t understand why he does it anymore than the dog can understand us.”
God does not let these things happen necessarily to punish or because we were not faithful enough, but he can see the complexity and see the ripple effect of different circumstances that we humans just cannot see. Just like I don’t like to see my son suffer when he is scared to try something on his own. Those few minutes of watching him suffer are painful for me as well, but I know he will be a happier person in the end. Maybe this is the way God feels about us. “All things work together for the good of those who love God” Romans 8:28. Sometimes we learn and grow from our suffering and sometime our suffering helps someone else learn and grow. Jesus is a perfect example of something good coming from something very painful. He died a painful death, but is rose from the dead and saved the world.
Question 3: How could God let someone so young die and leave so many to live with pain for years?
I like to think of it like this: If heaven is eternity, then this time that we live without our loved ones is like they went on a vacation to paradise a couple of days before we do, but we are planning to meet up with them later. That is, our time left on earth is almost like a couple of days compared to eternity. Our loved ones are happily waiting for us to join them.