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Judy and MileyAs you may know Judy Layne’s dog Miley was attacked by a Great Dane on May 30 and required emergency surgery to save her life. Miley fought hard for several days but unfortunately the damage was too great and she did not make it.

Even though Miley is gone, Judy still has a large veterinary bill to pay. The church is accepting donations on Judy’s behalf to help cover the cost. If you care to contribute just mark your donation for Judy. We will be sending a weekly check to the veterinary clinic.

Easter – So What???

Palm Sunday arrives with the celebration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. People screaming and praising the Savior, laying down palm branches and cloaks. In a few days Jesus will sit with His closest followers and share His last meal with them. That will be the last truly pleasant time they will spend with Him for a while.

Over the following few days, Jesus will be challenged, charged and condemned. He will be beaten and bloodied; a crown of thorns will be jammed on His head. He will be forced to carry the heavy crossbeam of His cross through the streets as He is mocked. Once He arrives at Golgotha, nails will be driven into His wrists with His arms outstretched and into the beam, while many, including His mother, watch.

He will hang there between two criminals in excruciating pain, struggling just to breathe until He gives up His Spirit and His earthly life comes to an end. He will be taken from the cross and turned over to His loved ones, who will take and place Him in a borrowed tomb, a cave, and sealed inside. I find it interesting that Jesus began His life in a cattle shelter, which could well have been a cave, and ended up back in a cave after His death.

After a few days the cave will be discovered to be empty. Jesus has escaped the bonds of earth only to return to the disciples and others. For the next few weeks He appears to people and continues to teach and preach.

When I am preparing a message, one of the questions I ask myself is, "So what?" What am I supposed to do next, did my message relay some bit of teaching, some level of guidance, what do I expect others to do with it. This Easter I am asking the same question, "So what?" and I decided not to stop there. So, this year something will follow that I hope answers that question.

Beginning the Sunday after Easter I will start a three week series I am calling "Light It UP." The first week the message will be, "Receive It"; the following week will be, "Live It"; and the final week of the series is, "Share It." We will have shared the Easter message, remembered the resurrection, but where do we go from here.

It seems to me that we in the church build up to celebrations like Easter and Christmas but it is like we stop there. To a great extent it is my fault, the pastor’s fault; you see we expend so much energy preparing for the seasons and celebrations that when that final day comes we kind of drop. Suddenly, the pressure is off and we can relax but by doing so we stop the message; we just go on about our preaching. I hope I can do differently this year.

Please, join me in this brief, three week series. Scripture will be posted and maybe a little more. I will tell you this, bring something to write with because there will be a test—just kidding, but there will be some questions you will want to write the answers to.

Receive It
Live It
Share It

The New Year

For close to a month I have tried to come up with a New Year's letter, and every time I have dumped it. There is so much I want to say, so much I just can't express properly, but that doesn't mean I am going to give up. Once again I will try.

I was talking to someone the other day and they asked me how I manage to get in the pulpit and come up with a new message every week. My answer was, "It isn't me, it isn't what I can do, it is what I allow God to do through me." Each week when I step into the pulpit and deliver the message, it is the end of at least a week-long exercise in prayer, frustration, prayer, joy, prayer, study, prayer, prayer and prayer. By the time I step from the pulpit on Sunday, I am emotionally exhausted. It is much like taking an exam; you spend a week in preparation and when it is over all the stress, strain and pressure flows out.

Here is how my week goes. Sunday after returning home I drop into my chair and often fall into an exhausted nap then begin preparing for the next week by reading the following week's scripture. Monday begins the work again. I start by again reading the scripture a few times, pray and try to open my mind and heart to where God wants to lead me. Then I start research, looking at history, background, cross references, commentaries, even other sermons on the same scripture. I often find myself diving into a rabbit hole as I get sidetracked by something interesting. During this time I don't write any of my sermon, I just absorb.

By the time Thursday comes around it is time to start getting serious about trying to form the message. In my mind I need to find a way to take words written two thousand years ago, or more, and make them relevant to present day. This is where I feel God has blessed me so greatly; I have sat and listened as preachers stand in the pulpit and dryly talk about the history of the scripture, geography, history of the people, meanings of words and language use. While some find this interesting and I am certain some are touched by this, I find it dry; to me this is like studying history, not worshiping. I want to know how I can take all this and apply it to my life, to make these words useful in growing in my relationship with God, how can it help me serve in meaningful ways, how to share my love for God. Please understand, I am not ridiculing preachers who do this, I am saying it doesn’t touch me and isn’t my way.

Often by Friday I have a lot in my head; I have spent fifteen to twenty hours gathering and compiling information. It is time to get serious about getting it down on paper. When I sit down I most often have no idea what I am going to say. I most often have some parts I want to include but nothing formulated. I start with prayer and then just begin. Normally within two hours I have it written out; sure, I will go back and modify or add to it, maybe take something out but most of it is complete when that two hours is finished.

Saturday night I read through it a few times then sleep on it. Sunday morning I wake and pray, including something like, “This is your day, Lord, guide my thoughts, my heart, my words.” After that, the day becomes busy; breakfast at Pop’s or the church on half the Sundays, reviewing the slides for the service, rehearsing the songs with the praise team. Then it is time for a few minutes of one of my favorite parts, fellowship with no more purpose than just talking. I used to spend about fifteen minutes in my study, praying, but I found that just talking to people prepared me even more to stand in front of them.

Then the final hour begins. As I step up to the pulpit to open the service my quick prayer of, “Not my words but yours, Lord,” and a week's work comes to its final hour. The first song lifts my energy and any loss of sleep or tiredness is gone. When I step to the pulpit to read the scripture I hesitate for another brief prayer. After the scripture my prayer is, “For the next few moments may only Your words be spoken, may only Your words be heard. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen!” At that moment a calm, confident feeling comes over me because I know from that point on it is Christ in me who speaks.

I seldom look back at my written sermon and often the message takes a different direction than I initially intended. My goal in the pulpit is multifaceted: As I said earlier, one goal is to help apply scripture to present day life; second is to motivate people to dig deeper than what I can give in a few minutes; third is to help provide assurance of love and grace of our merciful God, and there are other reasons depending on the scripture and the season.

When my sermon is finished I have little left. I am often surprised when I listen to my sermons; I hear things I don’t remember saying. Then it is time to leave the church and drop, exhausted, into my chair, the week finished; and often I think, “Sunday is just seven days away” as I close my eyes.

Live Nativity
live nativity 2013Coming soon — pictures from the Greenbrier Presbyterian Church Live Nativity, December 20, 2014. Check out the Facebook events page!


This email came to Greenbrier Presbyterian Church the week after Easter (4/30/14). It demonstrates what we have always known—there isn’t a more welcoming church around.

Dear Greenbrier Church,

My husband (David, the marine), mother-in-law (Mary), and I (Laura) visited your church on Easter Sunday. I have felt compelled to write you because I want your congregation to know that we were blown away by the welcome we received. I have never walked into a church and had a complete stranger give me a hug the second I walked in the door! And it wasn't just the welcoming committee—every member of your church to whom we talked went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and to get to know us. And not only that, you remembered our names! The love and joy that you as a congregation emanated was exciting. It made me want to worship with you, get to know each of your stories, learn how God has transformed your lives, and go and tell others about how great our God is. I am fully convinced that if I were not a believer I would have walked away from your church asking myself "what do they have that I don't have, what (or who) do they know that I don't know?" If I lived anywhere near Chesapeake (i.e., not 1000 miles away in Alabama) I would have returned to your church the following Sunday because it seems that yours is a community of faith of which I would love to be a part. But since I am so far away, I at least want to encourage you to continue doing what you're doing!! You absolutely made an impression on my family and me, and I praise God for the love and joy that you so clearly have. A google search may have led us to your church on Easter morning, but we know who really led us there :)

Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
In Christ,
Laura Romer