Call me a Boomer, but I’m still a paper calendar kinda guy. I appreciate seeing the month at a glance and checking off tasks with a pen. Between vocational and personal commitments, my calendar remains full.
Until Thursday, March 12.
In a press conference, Governor Kemp urged organizations to discontinue large public gatherings. Later in the day local school systems cancelled classes. The next day Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson strongly advised United Methodist congregations to cancel worship services.
Suddenly, my calendar cleared.
Out of morbid curiosity, I marked cancelled meetings and events with a red X. I’m up to 29 now and counting! However, something strange occurred. A clearer calendar led to a heavier workload.
First, we’re learning creative ways to accomplish daily tasks. Old dogs can learn new tricks, but the canine gets dog-tired in the process. Second, social distancing and video/conference calls aren’t as effective or efficient as person-to-person interaction. Finally, uncertainty and anxiety dampen our spirits.
I regularly have to take a deep breath and allow my shoulders to relax. Then the Holy Spirit reminds me that the Lord God Almighty is still in control. We serve the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. All of life takes place within the context of God’s providential care.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Northside Church has suspended gatherings in the congregation and community for the near future. However, we continue to offer online worship services Sundays at 9:45 and 11:00 on Facebook and www.Northsideumc.org. The church website also features videos of the services and sermons.
Some churches are calling their online services “Virtual Worship.” Dictionary entries for the word “virtual” include:
- Almost but not exactly in every way a thing or quality
- Seen, heard, or experienced on a computer
At Northside, we reject the first definition and embrace the second. Online worship is NOT “almost but not exactly” worship. Whether worship occurs in person or online, we are the body of Christ praising God.
Join us in worship each Sunday as an online community of faith.
Sam the Yorkshire Terrier watching Northside’s online service last Sunday with me.
Hermann Rorschach published his self-named “Rorschach Ink Blot Test” in 1921 to identify personality characteristics. As an armchair psychologist, I have created the “Bill Burch Bookshelf Test.” It’s easy to take—just list the items on your bookshelves, and let a friend diagnose how messed-up you are!
For example, here’s a partial list of things you will find on my office bookshelves:
- 18 Bibles
- 15 pictures of family
- 13 Coca-Cola commemorative bottles
- 8 Nativity sets
- 5 ocean polished stones from Iona, Scotland
- 2 Communion patens and chalices
- 1 plug-in, bubbling, Christmas candle
- NCAA baseball from a Georgia Tech foul ball
- Foam bison from a Northside staff retreat—long story!
- Bound collections of “Calvin & Hobbes” and “The Far Side”
- Various cups, including a Dunder Mifflin coffee mug
- Model of Snoopy perched atop his doghouse
- Shadow box with fragments from the Berlin Wall
- Hand painted Easter egg
- Oh, and books!
After scoring the test, it’s obvious that I am a highly intelligent and gifted person of character who is well balanced in every way with no neuroses or psychoses!
How does your list reveal what’s important to you?
Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner taught me some valuable life lessons as a child. The cartoon characters’ Saturday morning antics revealed:
- When you run off a cliff, keep moving your feet and don’t look down.
- Gravity is a real DELETED BY CENSOR.
- Parasols are poor protection against falling boulders.
- The Acme Corporation sells all the gear necessary to catch a fast adversary.
- Coyotes have more lives than cats.
- Cannon balls sting but cause no permanent harm.
Most of all, the Coyote taught me to keep trying no matter how many times I failed.
A friend recently shared a thought-provoking adage with me: “In every relationship, someone is being trained.” Like all maxims, the pithy statement contains a limited truth. In the best of relationships, we submit to one another, both training and being trained.
However, consider the concept on a broader scope.
- In our relationship with our smart phones, are we training or being trained?
- In our relationship with the internet, are we training or being trained?
- In our relationship with social media, are we training or being trained?
- In our relationship with unchurched people, are we training or being trained?
- In our relationship with children about attending Sunday School and church, are we training or being trained?
- In our relationship with the world, are we training or being trained?
“In every relationship, someone is being trained.”
Are we formed by the world or transformed by the Lord?
Ash Wednesday Service
Wednesday, February 26, 6:30 p.m.
Northside United Methodist Church Chapel
Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.
Repent, and believe in the Gospel.
According to the Religion News Network, donations to American churches totaled $124.52 billion in 2018. This reflected a 1.5% decline from the previous year (3.9% when adjusted for inflation).
Last year Americans spent $75.38 billion on their pets. The report from the American Pet Products Association stated the amount increased 3.8% from 2018 (fortune.com).
Ponder these figures for a few moments.
Money spent in the United States on dogs, cats, parrots, gerbils and other assorted critters totaled 60% of the donations to churches, synagogues, mosques, and other assorted religions.
I love my dog, Sam, who epitomizes unconditional love. I have often pointed out that “God” spelled backwards is “dog.”
Average United Methodists give less than 2.5% of their annual income to the church.
Maybe it’s time we made giving to God our pet project.