Many of you attended Dot Syler’s funeral services this week. We all have special memories of why we loved Dot. For me, it was the welcome I received at Singing Oaks when we placed membership some 9 years ago. Dot and Tom were the first people to invite us into their home. Needless to say, the meal was great thanks to Dot’s culinary arts. Her concern for us continued by helping us get connected to our church family.
She was an important Bible teacher to many in this congregation. Her former Sunday School student, now minister, Danny Hawk, gave her eulogy. Because of her influence in Danny’s life, he was able to put our thoughts and feelings into a great perspective regarding Dot. He said that any time he was speaking to a teacher’s conference or gathering of Bible teachers, Dot’s life and dedication to teaching children was always his first example of what it meant to be a good teacher. This statement was one of the greatest things he could have said about Dot. He told this to 100’s of people and continues to this day to speak of Dot’s devotion to teaching.
This is my final blog for the year 2014. As I look back on this year, I see that the Holy Spirit has been moving in powerful ways among his people. Approximately one third of our land debt has been retired thanks to our right-of-way agreement with the city of Denton. Our Hispanic ministry has taken off, and we have a thriving Spanish-language service at our church, with a large group of Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters. That is the cause for celebration!
As I look back, I see that in 2014 we covered the entire sweep of the Biblical narrative in sermon, in class, and small groups, as we went through the series, “The Story.” And that is no small thing.
Well it’s that time of year once again. Some would say it’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Decorations are going up in and on houses, and towns are lighting up the night sky with beautiful Christmas lights. People are shopping to buy the latest gifts for their loved ones, filling angel trees, dropping money into red buckets, and filling toy drive bins across the nation. Some are making plans to serve; others are making plans to connect with family and friends. So, whether you are a fan of the season, or a Mean One Mr. Grinch, or just indifferent, Jesus’ birthday can present us Christian disciples with plenty of opportunity to share the story of Jesus.
For years I have watched Christians debate whether or not it’s the right time of year to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Some would argue that we celebrate all the time, why take a special time to emphasize it more? Others have been frustrated by the Happy Xmas and feel as though it’s an overt attempt to remove Christ from his birthday celebration. Still others have tried to label the Christmas season using an old word, Advent, in hopes of bringing the original focus back to a season now seemingly lost in Jingle bells, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, the red-nosed Reindeer, and Santa Baby.
Thanksgiving by definition is an act of giving thanks. It is gratitude, a gratitude that many times comes from some type of gift. This thankfulness in turn produces more giving – you can’t really take the giving out of thanksgiving. As we experience and celebrate Thanksgiving Day this week, I have been reminded that Singing Oaks is a thanksgiving church.
It started like a typical Monday. There was the men’s Bible study and then off to help with children’s worship. As usual both were a blessing and I’m thankful. Very soon afterwards and then as the day continued it seemed like thanksgiving (giving and thanks) was breaking out all around me all day. Angel tree gifts started coming in and being stored in my office. Sweaters for a different group were put in another corner. Bags of groceries and turkeys were being taken to Communities in Schools – I know they were thankful. A stranger to our church donates $200 to buy food to feed more on Thanksgiving Day. Singing Oaks staff are giving time to children at the Rosemont apartments across the street. Cans full of coins are being delivered to help people in Cuba. A bus pass is being purchased for a man traveling to find work in Plainview – he is also given a ride to the station and the gift of the gospel is given/shared with him. Another man just released from the jail walks up to our church and asks only to use the phone (I find out he has been in the Monday Bible study that our church does at the jail) – he was very thankful. A home group collects funds for a stranger in need and I get to deliver it – this person is thankful and expresses interest in knowing more about Jesus. Someone gives me a nice second-hand phone as is a precious gift for someone in need, and lastly a couple commits to substantial financial support of a missionary who empowers the poor in Africa – this person is overwhelmed.
Five years ago, my maroon 1997 Geo Prizm (nicknamed Granny), was on her last wheel. My Granny bought this little car for me two weeks before she began the next phase of her eternal life in September of 2000. This car protected me and so many other people during her long years of endurance treks from Abilene to San Antonio, San Antonio to New Mexico, Houston to Oklahoma, and back again. She sped along I-10, 610, 288, and I-45 every day. Every now and then she enjoyed the more leisurely drive on the Sam Houston Tollway. Her wheels knew every dip and crack in the roads in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th wards of Houston, TX. Her seat belts held little children, teenagers, interns, and adults safe as she carried them to their destinations. Her last summer was spent protecting two college interns as they courageously gave their time, energy, and love to 400 children at the Impact Houston Church of Christ. At the end of the summer of 2010, she was replaced by a little black 2006 Honda Civic. As Granny was loaded onto a tow truck to begin her journey either to a new owner or the junkyard, I cried. Tears streamed down my face as I remember this incredible gift. I used this gift beyond her years and ability, but she persevered to take me where I needed to go. The memories wrapped within her four doors are precious and strong.