A Story of Tragedy, Resolve, and Faith

– A Story of Tragedy, Resolve, and Faith –

 

Monday, February 25, 2019 marks the 60 year anniversary of the day that the Chestnut Street United Methodist Church burned to the ground.  I obviously wasn’t there and perhaps there’s only one of our members who will remember that day.

While I was doing research for the church history page for our  website, I came upon a fund-raising campaign letter that was written in 1959 shortly after the fire.  The letter was written by the Pastor and it was a very moving letter.  Reading the words, I could hear the pain and shock that the whole church must have felt when they awoke the next morning to see their beloved church in ashes.  I don’t have the document in front of me, but I remember some of the Pastor’s words.

Tragedy and Loss

The Pastor wrote – “This was the place where we were married.  This was the place where our children were baptized.  This was the place that held so many of our memories, and this was the place where we gathered, socialized, prayed, and worshipped”.  The Pastor wrote not about the loss of a structure but about the loss of something sacred that held their legacy and hopes.

The Chestnut Street UMC ablaze on Feb 25, 1959

The church that burned had stood for 82 years.  I suppose it would have been easy to give up or merge with another church.  But the members were determined to rebuild.  I was impressed to read their resolve.  The members would rebuild on the same site.  They would go into debt to rebuild.  They would all be asked to give more, and all would have to sacrifice in order to rebuild their church.  One of the church’s Trustees, Leslie Diamond, led much of the reconstruction efforts.

The church we enjoy today is due to God’s calling, the members love of God, and their determined efforts.

Learning from the Faith of Others

When I read the letter, I pondered a couple of questions – “Would my faith and resolve be as strong as those in 1959 to rebuild a church from charred embers?” “Would I be willing to answer God’s call and sacrifice a considerable amount of my time and money to rebuild a church?”

I don’t know the answers.  In 1959, the church benefited from a large membership.  I suppose I will have to wait and see if and what type of circumstance presents itself.

This is one of the things I enjoy about going back and reflecting on historical events.  The burning of a church in 1959, an event that hardly anyone remembers today, may seem like a minor footnote in the history of our community.  But, history is one of our great lesson books.  It teaches and shows us what those who came before us did when they were inspired or challenged with a circumstance or event.  And, it challenges us to think how we would rise up and act if faced with a similar circumstance.

And so, on the 60th anniversary of this tragic event, I thank God and remember those who came before me and rebuilt the church that I worship in.

You can read more about our church history at this page – Our History.

Jim Malley

 

PS  If you’d like to read more Faith Stories, check out our bi-monthly newsletter called The Connection here at this link – Newsletter.

The Healing Power of Forgiveness

“Cry for help, but will anyone answer you?  Which of the angels will help you?  Surely resentment destroys the fool, and jealousy kills the simple.”  “If I were you, I would go to God and present my case to him.  He does great things too marvelous to understand.  He performs countless miracles.”  Job 5:1-2,8-9


 

There were many Sundays that I sat in the church pew not feeling good about myself.  I felt rage and resentment towards a particular person.

I knew I should forgive the person because that is what the sermon told me. But I was stubborn.  I couldn’t stand hearing this person’s name.  If the person was talked about for any length of time, my blood would boil inside me.  The stress from this began to take a toll on me.  My blood pressure was going through the roof.  Something had to give.

That’s when God spoke to me.  He opened my eyes and told me that this person needed a mentor.  The role model he had was a manipulator who abused him verbally and mentally.

That’s when my whole attitude changed.  I began teaching him little things involving him in things, including family decisions.  Most of all, I started being a friend, someone he could depend on no matter what.

Recently, I invited him to join me, my wife, and two granddaughters on a family vacation to California.  It was a trip of a lifetime.  We enjoyed every day together.  Our bond was nurtured and our relationship strengthened.

We had an awesome family Christmas together.  For a present, he gave me a dog tag that read – “I am so grateful to have you as my Dad.  You are an amazing man.”  It blew me away.  I never expected anything like that.

In closing, let me just say that with God, no matter how bad things seem at the moment, with God anything is possible.  His power can and will change, renew, and empower you to be a new creation capable of loving your enemy.

JR

Jan 2019

PS  If you’d like to read more Faith Stories, check out our bi-monthly newsletter called The Connection here at this link – Newsletter.

Help with Heavy Burdens

Fall is a very busy time for me.  As I prepare to head south for the winter, I have a long to-do list to get things ready.  I have work to get my house ready for the winter, work to get my RV ready to travel, and work to get me ready.  The “me ready” tasks involve several doctor appointments to make sure everything within me is still functioning good enough to travel.

I do a lot of praying during this time and ask that God give me the strength to get through all the work.  I also ask him to be with me through all the doctor appointments.  At age 64 and living with a chronic disease, I know from experience that I could be one bad test result away from a calamity.

Unexpected Results

During the second week of November, I had four doctor appointments to get through.  All were routine follow-up visits but I still worried about each one.

The first two appointments went fine.  But the two appointments with my gastroenterologists didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

First, my colitis symptoms had shown real improvement over the past 6 weeks and I’d been feeling really good.  But the test measuring the inflammation in my colon had doubled.  I had a similar experience with a routine liver function test.  I was expecting to see normal results but instead three key liver function numbers were all elevated above the normal range.  How could that be?  They were normal in May?

My doctors said there was a plausible reason why some of these test results could be elevated.  We had tried an experiment with my colitis drug treatment by increasing the frequency of my of my drug infusions.  It didn’t work.  It made things worse so we stopped the experiment in August.  The bad test results could be caused by having the higher drug levels in my body.

Their reasoning made sense, but it still didn’t make me feel any better.  On top of these less than stellar results, the other thing they reported was that one of my colon biopsies came back as indefinite for pre-cancerous growth.  What that meant was that it looked like it could be pre-cancerous but it didn’t have any attributes of a cancerous growth.

I was expecting none of this and as I drove back from Boston, I could feel myself sinking into a blue funk.  On top of this, on my way home, I stopped to visit with a friend who is dealing with a challenging cancer diagnosis.  I had a good visit with my friend, but knowing more about his diagnosis and treatment, I left feeling more down.

When I got home, my thoughts were all negative.  All I could think about was the out of control inflammation in my colon, my gimpy liver, the possible beginnings of colon cancer, and my friend who may have just months to live.  It was all gloomy and a heavy burden.

The Power Of Prayer

But that night, I remembered a Bible verse from Mathew – “Come to me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  I got my bible and read the passage in chapter 11 verses 28 thru 30.  I also remembered a similar passage from 1 Peter 4:5-6 where he says – “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.  Cast all you anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”

I got down on my knees and began praying.  I didn’t pray for healing.  I told God I was casting away my burdens of worry and would have faith in Him to do whatever he has planned for me.  Whatever may be happening to me or my friend was in His hands, not mine, and I would not worry.  I would continue to have faith, thank Him for all he has given me, and ask Him to show me what I should do.

I felt better after praying.  The next day, I woke up and my blue funk was gone.  I wasn’t focused on the negatives anymore.  I was focused on the positives.  Regardless of what any of my tests showed, I still felt great.  My liver numbers were only mildly elevated and should come down in a couple of months.  The doctors had a plan for reducing my inflammation and I would undergo another colonoscopy in the spring to check on the questionable spot in my colon.  Whatever that showed, I would deal with it in the spring with Gods’ help.  And regardless of the challenges my friend was facing, he was upbeat about his prognosis and had the best doctors in New England treating him.

God is Always There

What I thought had been a bad week had quickly flipped around.  God had answered my prayer.  He didn’t cure anything or make any conditions go away.  Instead, He took away my burden of worry and showed me the positives.   No matter how bad things get, I know God will always be there to comfort us and help with any heavy burden.

Anonymous

Dec 2018

PS  If you’d like to read more Faith Stories, check out our bi-monthly newsletter called The Connection here at this link – Newsletter.

Faith and Courage

The Bible is full of great stories about people who show strong faith in God.  A few Sundays ago, one of the readings for our worship service was from the book of Esther.  I was unfamiliar with this book, so before the service I decided to read some of this Old Testament book.

Esther is a short book (only 9 chapters).  It’s a captivating story of how a young woman used faith and courage to help save her people from annihilation.  I thought the story would be worth sharing for those who may be unfamiliar with the story of Esther

The Story of Esther

Here’s a quick synopsis of the story.  Esther and her uncle Mordecai were Jewish refugees in Persia and she was a young unmarried woman.  The King of Persia, Ahasuerus, conducted a search for a new queen.  A selection process was undertaken from all the young single woman in Persia.  At the end of this process Ahasuerus chose Esther to be his new Queen.

The King chose Esther because of her beauty and was unaware that Esther was a Jewish orphan refuge.  Esther took on her new role as Queen.  She faithfully served the King while keeping her Jewish faith and identity a secret.

Shortly after becoming queen, Esther’s uncle Mordecai told her about a plot by the King’s viceroy (Haman) to have the Jewish refugees in Persia killed by offering bounties on a certain day.  Mordecai asked Esther to intercede with the King to stop the planned killings.

But approaching the King of Persia was a problem.  During Ahasuerus’s reign, a person could only approach the King if they were first summoned by the King.  The penalty for approaching the King without being summoned was death.  This rule applied to every one including the Queen.

Ester Risks Her Life

Knowing this, Esther prayed and asked her uncle to have all the Jewish people fast for three days. After praying and fasting, Esther risked her life and approached the King.  When the King saw Ester he raised his royal sceptre (sparing her life) and allowed her to speak.  Esther invited the King and his Viceroy to her house for a banquet.  The King accepted her offer.  At the banquet, Esther again approached the King.  He raised his sceptre and asked what was her request.  Esther invited the King and Viceroy to another banquet the next day.

At the next days banquet, Esther approached the King a third time.  Again her life was spared and the King asked what was her request.  Esther asked the King to halt the royal decree to kill the refugee Jews and asked him to spare her life.

Upon hearing Esther’s request, the King became enraged because he was unaware that the Viceroy has issued such a  royal decree.  He ordered the Viceroy to be hanged immediately.  The King was pleased with Esther and gave her the Viceroys estate and gave Mordecai his signet ring.

Esther asked about halting the decree and pleaded with the King to revoke the royal order.  The King explained that a royal decree could not be undone or overwritten.  But he told Esther and Mordecai that they could use his signet ring to  issue a new decree to “write as you please with regard to the Jews in the name of the King”.   Mordecai wrote a new decree to have the Jews gather, arm themselves, and to destroy and kill any armed force that might attack them.

The new decree was sent to all the provinces in Persia and the Jews defeated all who attacked them.  Afterwards, Mordecai issued another decree to the Jews that they should celebrate the day that they attained relief from the enemies.  The Feast of Purim marks that day and is currently a Jewish feast day that is celebrated each October.

Faith and Courage

I was moved by the story of Esther.  The Bible has many stories of how the people of Israel defended themselves with swords, spears, trumpets, and chariots.  They had great leaders like Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Saul, David, and Solomon who, with God’s help and guidance, defeated many enemies.

But the story of Esther is different.  It’s not about a great battle where the enemy was delivered into the hand of a great leader.  The story of Esther is about a young orphan refugee who used faith and courage to help save her people.

To some, it might have been easier for Esther to stay quiet and just enjoy her role as Queen.  Or things could easily have gone the other way.  Esther could have been killed for hiding her faith from the King.  She also could have been killed for approaching the King or for asking him to undo a royal decree. (The previous queen had been banished for a trivial insult to the King).

But, Esther showed great courage.  Courage is not the absence of fear.  Courage is knowing that there’s something more important than the fear.  Esther knew the lives of her people where more important than her own.  She knew in her role as queen she was the one person who had the best chance of approaching the King to reverse the order.

Esther also relied on her faith.  Faith is unwavering belief and complete trust.  Upon hearing of the plot to destroy her people, her first action was not anger, fear, or indifference.  Her first action was to pray to God and ask all the people to pray.

In Mathew 17:20, Jesus tells his disciples that faith as small “as a mustard seed” can move mountains.  Esther’s story shows how her unwavering faith helped save her people.

Faith and courage don’t come easy.  But they are not attributes reserved for just a select few.  Esther’s story shows us that you don’t have to be a warrior like Joshua or Deborah to have courage.  And you don’t have to be a prophet like Moses or Elijah to have unwavering faith.

Jim Malley

October 2018

PS  If you’d like to read more Faith Stories, check out our bi-monthly newsletter called The Connection here at this link – Newsletter.

Sharing the Good News

This summer, I attended a bluegrass music festival in the Catskills and was camped with friends at the festival site.  The festival site is huge and accommodates over 4,000 campers.  My friends and I had our RV’s parked together in a U shape with a communal dining / sitting area in the center.  We had a nice comfy set up for the four-day festival.

Our camping area at the music festival

One of my friends, Teri, brought a bulletin board and chalk board where she would post the days music schedule.  She also used the chalk board to write an inspirational message each day.  Her messages where usually a song verse or some type of announcement.

Teri’s bulletin board and chalk board

On Saturday morning after breakfast, I saw her standing before the chalk board pondering what to write for the days message.  So, I went up and stood with her to see what she would write.  She said – “Jim, I’m drawing a blank.  I can’t think of anything to write”.  She handed me the chalk and said “Here, you write something.”

It was easy for me.  I wrote my favorite Bible verse on the chalk board – John 13:34 “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”  

When I was done, Teri got up to see what I had written.  “That is so great!” she said.  Upon hearing Teri’s comment my other seven friends got up to read the message.  They all concurred with Teri.  It was a good message.

Through out the day whenever I happened to be at our campsite, as people walked by I noticed many would stop and read the message.  Many would nod their head in concurrence.

I pondered this reaction.  Being a Christian and regular church goer is not popular these days.  But in these days of fake news and political polarization, people still thirst for a positive message.  They probably don’t get to hear or see God’s message and words in the media or on social apps.  But when they happen to come across it, it makes people pause and reflect.

Jesus Message

Jesus words are still as powerful today as they were when he spoke them almost 2,000 yrs ago.  Everyday, I try to be the light and look for opportunities to share His message of love and hope.

 

Jim Malley

August 2018