TGIF

Happy Holy Week Baysiders! Hope spring is treating you well and the good Lord is blossoming in your souls this season.

Those four letters in the title of this blog entry bring so much joy and relief. Fridays in our culture are happy days. Friday is the day we can let go of the stress from work, the evening of the week you finally get to take the girl you asked out on a date, the time to meet up with your girlfriends, a jump start to the fun weekend plans you have, and the day to have movie night with the family. It’s a pretty darn good day. So it makes sense there is a Friday on the Church calendar called Good Friday, right? It’s something we do for fun and relaxation. Well, not exactly. Good Friday is good because its about what God has done for us and is wiling to do to be with us.

In Church history across all Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) Good Friday commemorates the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus of Nazareth more than 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem. The name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins. This moment in human history was the worse thing that has ever happened: the death of God. We killed God. With our violence, sins, and self idolatry autonomy, we defaced God. What makes this Friday so special among the rest is God allows this for the sake of love. The sacrifice of God on the cross is God’s visible, tangible, and historical expression of love for the created world. He was willing to be with us at the cost of losing heaven and God the Father. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, ” For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The cross is the pivotal moment of love displayed. God in Christ becomes one with us being treated as a sinner and taking on our sinful consequences. As ugly as it was, its so so good and beautiful because this sacrifice of love changes how we see God. He is willing to go to most extremes to be with us, in our suffering, sin, fear, troubles, and never leave us alone. No matter what issues we might have against God, it can’t be that he doesn’t love us; the cross doesn’t allow us think that.

Good Friday is the day we remember God becomes not just empathetic to our humanity but embodies our experience. So before you start singing Rebecca Black’s Friday or Katy Perry’s TGIF, consider how deep the Father’s love is for us, that Jesus went through the fire for you and I so that not only every Friday can be good but everyday of the week is now good.

Lucky Charms

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls on this first day of March. I can’t believe its already two years since the world changed from Covid-19! Glory to God for keeping us together as a church and also for making us stronger through the pandemic.

One of my favorite cereals as a kid was Lucky Charms. I always asked my mom to purchase them when she went to the grocery store and it was a very good day when I saw them in the kitchen pantry. The mascot for Lucky Charms is a youthful leprechaun with a four leaf clover on his green top hat, who went around chasing a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, with, of course, a bowl of Lucky Charms in hand. Confession: I thought Saint Patrick was that little leprechaun on the cereal box. What can I say, my church history was weak as a seven year old. But all that to say, who is Saint Patrick? And why do we wear green on March 17th and get pitch if you and I don’t?

Google sheds some light for us by informing us that Saint Patrick lived during the fifth century and was the patron saint of Ireland. Born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. For years he lived a painful and drugged life as a slave. By God’s grace he later escaped back home with his family but only to return to Ireland and was credited with bringing Christianity to its people. He was determined and made it his object to help the Irish by preaching and teaching the gospel. In the centuries following Patrick’s death, (believed to have been on March 17, 461), his followers started an annual celebration of his life. Many years later the legend surrounding his life became ever more ingrained in the Irish culture by the most well-known feature of his story with his explanation of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years and on Saint Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Modern-day celebrations and themes continued to take shape during the rest of the 1700s. In 1762, the first New York City parade took place. It wasn’t until 1798, the year of the Irish Rebellion, that the color green became officially associated with the day. Up until the rebellion, the color associated with St. Patrick was blue, as it was featured both in the royal court and on ancient Irish flags. But as the British wore red, the Irish chose to wear green, and they sang the song “The Wearing of the Green” during the rebellion, cementing the color’s relevance in Irish history. And that whole leprechaun thing started from the Celtic folklore which got attached to the season of Saint Patrick because it shares the same cultural history. As for why do you get pinched for not wearing green? Well, according to folklore, leprechauns like to pinch people and on Saint Patrick’s Day you get pinched for not wearing green because green makes you invisible to leprechauns.

What made Saint Patrick a legend was his commitment to a people to love. He surrendered his family and home life for total strangers and enemies. He is remembered this month by his determination and courage to face whatever dangers lay ahead, as well as the compassion and forgiveness to work among a people who had brought nothing but pain to his life. This is our encouragement for the month of March, to be determined to do what God has told us to do. Big or small, whatever the job is God has told us to do, to do it. Acts 20:24 says, “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” I wonder if Saint Patrick read that verse and was motivated to do the same with his life?

Gothic Bayside

Hello Baysiders! Hope the start of the new year is treating you well! Let’s thank God for all the rain that we have been getting in the Bay. We need it so much in our dry environment and for our wells and reservoirs to be refilled.

I have a question. Did you know our church has a Catholic and medieval feature to it? How you might ask when we are Southern Baptist as a denomination? It’s true, our church is gothic. No, not gothic like the fashion style of a teenager who wears all black and dark eye shadow. I mean gothic as a style of architecture prevalent in western Europe in the 12th–16th centuries, characterized by pointed arches, rib vaults, elaborate tracery, and with large stained glass windows. Bayside Church physically has a gothic feature and its our stain glass window. Our goth feature and a staple art piece is the stained glass window of the dove descending down behind the baptismal on the stage in the sanctuary. Every time I see it I am captivated by the blue colors and image it’s expressing to us as we worship.

I am no art enthusiast but I do have some Bible knowledge to the point of winning at Bible trivia and I believe the stained glass at our church is telling us three truths by it’s artistic meaning. First, Christ is with us. The dove falling down from the sky is from the story of Jesus’ baptism. This account of Jesus’ life is one of the few that is mentioned in all four gospels! This means it’s a pretty important event to know and not to overlook. After John baptizes him, Jesus is lifted out of the water and then Matthew says the Holy Spirit descended down to Jesus like a dove! Matthew 3:16 says, “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.” This image on the glass communicates to us that Christ is here with us and is at the center and purpose for every baptism and ministry effort we do. Jesus obeyed God the Father to fulfill all righteousness and the act of his baptism is a picture of dying for us yet resurrected as he comes up out of the water. This is the gospel in a nutshell. Jesus knows our humanity and understands our plight with sin. In his baptism, he demonstrates the oneness of our humanness. Jesus here at Bayside is the primary truth of the stained glass.

Secondly, I believe it tells us we have peace with God no matter what we face and who we are. A dove in scripture symbolizes peace. Think of Noah in the ark waiting to board off the boat and walk on land when God sends a dove to him with a palm branch letting him know there is peace on earth now. There is no more storm, rain, and destruction but it’s time to start anew, fresh beginnings and peace is possible. This is the promise of the dove. In Jesus, we can have peace; peace at church, peace for relational drama, peace over sin, peace in anxiety, peace between God and our fellow human beings. Where do you need peace right now? Enter church and find it. How do you attain peace? Come to church and get it. Who do you go to for peace? Be part of a church and learn it. That’s the promise with the dove falling down on the water. The dove flies over peaceful quiet waters and not rowdy rough waters. Church is the place with still waters and we as God’s sheep are invited to come drink from the living water every time we gather. The second truth is the dove of Christ is over Bayside Church.

Lastly, I see the ongoing Spirit of God active in our lives and he speaks love over us as a church. You want God’s love? Go to Bayside Church. Right after the dove descends on Jesus, God speaks and says He is well pleased with Jesus being his beloved son. The stained glass of the dove descending is a continual reminder that God is at work in our lives and we are well pleasing to him. Isn’t that good news? God is descending upon us right now, at church or when you are at home alone trying to make the wise choice in a difficult situation. God is descending upon us with his love. You don’t have God’s wrath, sadness, or judgement falling on you but rather his love falling on you. There’s a false caricature of God out there in the world that says he throws thunder bolts at us when we upset him. But that’s a false theology and actually comes from the theology of the Greeks, from the god Zeus. God sends a bird on us. That’s right! A pretty pure white bird is falling on us. That’s not threatening at all because it’s a peace sign that God is on good terms with us. He wants to give us his peace by his love. That’s the power of the stained glass! His peace is falling on us no matter if we are in the middle of sin or don’t feel like worshiping him. Peace is still always available to us if we choose to see it.

So next time you are at church, gaze and think upon the gothic image of the gospel’s descending dove. Jesus is buried with us in our sin and resurrects us with him for new life and peace with God, who is active in our lives, descending always upon us with his love. That’s motivation for worship at church all the time.

New Year New You

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls! The Christmas season is upon us and the fight to keep Jesus at the center of it all is always the challenge around this time of year. I pray you all are seeking first the kingdom of God and all these holiday things will be added unto you.

I want to move past Christmas. I know. You just started playing your favorite Christmas songs. But time waits for no one! I want to focus on the new year, 2022. Rather than wait for January, I want to get ahead start because it’s right around the corner and I want to encourage you to push into the new year and be passionate of new beginnings and not be afraid of the unknown. Sometimes we can be sluggish to new things and changes. But if you start preparing for it now, it will be easier to follow through. New Years is our cultural’s celebration of new starts, fresh perspective, letting go of past regrets and pain and looking forward to starting something new or over again. It’s the perfect time to create new habits and develop character that resembles Jesus.

New Year resolutions, fixes, goals, whatever you want to call them are very Christian actually as they center on absolution of what has been done and on determination to do better than before. It’s what confession of sin and repentance is all about. I like what Paul says in Philippines 3:12-14, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Paul was all about the prize of heaven. He did whatever he could to obtain it. He welcomed anything that would make him take hold of Jesus. Isn’t that an awesome pursuit? To live in such a way to hold more onto Jesus is not just the yearly goal but daily goal for every Christ follower. Paul was determined and didn’t allow for his past to ruin or impeded his future. Thats the essence of New Years, to reframe, refocus, reimagine, and start anew with any habits, ideas, and personality traits to lay hold of Jesus.

Here are some questions to ask yourself on beginning new this year in the attempt to hold onto Jesus more.

  1. Who do I want to become as an individual and what aspect of my personhood needs to be let go?
  2. Where do I want to be at the end of next year?
  3. How can I accomplish this pursuit and what practices can I do to obtain more of Jesus?
  4. Why am I doing this again? (This question is the most important because it will constantly remind you of the reason for the prize of heaven)

Grace and peace ?:^)

Pastor Aaron

Bad Turkey

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls this week. As the holidays are arriving, let’s dig deep in prayer and fellowship to be strong during this season. It can be joyful but also stressful and a solid devotion life can be a source of strength.

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? What is the traditional meal? What time is the eating? The fun is learning all the different ways we participate in the spirit of thanks. Let me tell you one way NOT to celebrate the holiday, don’t make Thanksgiving be focused on your desires and expectations. The worse thing you can do is make Thanksgiving about you. If you do, you will not be celebrating Thanksgiving but twisting it; you will be contradicting the holiday. The reason is at the heart of the holiday is everything and everyone else but you. This is because fundamentally being thankful requires you to not be the focus or receiver of celebration. When we say thank you, we are admitting our vulnerability and dependence to or on something outside us. To say thank you means you are bankrupt and helpless thus appreciate the help and resources that you received. From someone opening the door for you, taking out your trash, surprising you with coffee, a clerk giving you the receipt, friends inviting you to dinner, and to a simple text message with an encouraging word. These are all transactions apart from your doing. Thankfulness can only be done by making it about others or someone else.

I get this from scripture in Luke 18 where Jesus shares a story about a very pious religious man who goes to church and prays to God, thanking God he is not like other people, thanking God that he is a good moral person, thanking God that he every year is honest with his taxes and was not a scumbag. This person is a Pharisee and in verse 11 we learn about how he was such a bad turkey, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” His thankfulness was about him and his doing, his achievement, his actions. But thats not thankfulness. He made the prayer about him. There was no humility, no vulnerability, no appreciation for what God has done for him. He never once considered the external factors that made his life and his own character so great. It was everything about what he did for God and how it made him look good among others.

Bayside, can we be thankful in the correct way? Can we be good turkeys? If you are having a hard time being thankful about your life right now its probably because you are focusing too much on yourself. But that is not how you find thankfulness. Maybe you are finding it difficult to be thankful in your crummy situation because you are concentrated on what others have not done and comparing it to what you have done. You put in the hard work but someone else gets the promotion. You are always the spouse who is flexible and forgiving but never receive the same grace. The President is not doing what he said he would do and you voted for him. You always do what is right yet always get the short end of the stick. When we think this way, we are a bad turkey, being like the Pharisee thanking yourself because of the good you have done and belittling others who have not done those things. Thats not the spirit of thanksgiving. You find thanksgiving by seeing what others have done for you. You will be thankful when you realize all the good in your life was given to as a gift that was not at all part of your doing. When we admit our neediness, thankfulness will arrive in our hearts and the turkey will be good for all to eat.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Aaron ?:^)

Church Motto

Hello Baysiders! Hope is well in your souls! Sweaters are worn, beanies are out and girls are posting their pumpkin spice lattes on their Instagram. As the seasons transition, let’s enjoy each day as they come.

I want to share with you our church motto. Yes. That’s right. Bayside has a church motto. It’s displayed on our welcome packages and on the info table sign in the foyer. Many Churches have one or they call them a mission or vision statement. Bayside’s is a mix of both telling others who we are and where we want to be. I implemented the motto when I first came to Bayside as the new Senior Pastor. Bayside’s motto is, “Falling in grace to talk and walk like Jesus.” The scripture inspiration, support, and verse that encompasses the ethos for the motto is 1 John 2:6, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” I will break the meaning of the motto in this blog entry.

The word falling has implications for the kind of people we are in our faith. It has a twofold meaning. First, falling refers to our fallen state as humans who sin and make mistakes. We all have this brokenness as humanity and Christians are no different. The good news is we as Christians say we are aware of our sin, confess our sin, repent from our sin and find wholeness and forgiveness from God. The other meaning to falling is poetic to our relational status with God. Like new lovers who fall in love with each other, displaying uncontrollable passion and their hearts enlarged from their romantic relationship, we also as the church are falling passionately for God and are madly in love with him. We are constantly discovering new lovely ways of God. Thats what faith is, it’s a crush on God knowing he is crushing on us. Our faith is a divine romance.

The next word in the motto that is grace. Grace is God’s love experienced. Grace is the power, presence, tool, feeling, allowance, and intellect to all that God does. We want to be people with those same features. Saint Paul says it was by grace we have been saved, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8). Grace is the reason we have all that we have that is good in life. We acknowledge our undeserving position yet grace grants us blessings we didn’t earn. Without grace we are merely moralist, people who do good for the sake of reward and to feel good about ourselves. Without grace, there is no forgiveness. Without grace, there is no helping the poor, unprivileged, or those who are inferior to us because grace doesn’t exist in the economy of meritocracy. Grace is what makes the church standout from the world and is the currency in the kingdom of heaven.

Thirdly, the trajectory of falling for God and into His grace is our personal responsibility to live like Jesus lived. God bestows on us the grace needed but it is up to us to receive and use grace. God doesn’t spoon feed us strong faith. We have to put in the work to be intentional on learning theology, disciplined in a regular healthy devotional practice, applying scripture to our lifestyles, regularly be part of the church community, and strategic on how to create and foster the character of Jesus. This means our goal at Bayside is to orient our lives that prioritizes and centers on the works and words of Jesus. All that Jesus said we want to hear and understand to follow his words. All that Jesus did we want to see and know to properly implement and do also. We need both the works and words of Jesus in our lives. If we only know what Jesus said, memorizing Bible verses but don’t have the actions to back them up, we become hypocrites and our words are void of any meaning. If we only do the works of Jesus while avoiding the words of Jesus, our actions will confuse people on who we are and we fall back into dead religion. Words reveal our motives to our actions and actions give authenticity to our words.

Lastly, the word we have left is a name. The name of Jesus. The name above all other names (Phil 2:9-11). The name that is so holy you feel inadequate to call yet so lovely, saying it eases all nerves and puts our hearts at rest. Jesus is the purpose for why we do everything. The logic we understand the way the world works. The guide as our road map at life. He is the wisdom we use to make decisions when its hard and not black or white. His character is the standard we strive to be like. We define our lives by how Jesus defined his life. The success Jesus had is the success we want to pursue and accomplish. Jesus is the ground for all our hopes, the perfect human for what we long and pray to grow into of the obedience and intimacy with God the Father. He is our finally authority for truth, beauty, and goodness. This is the motto of Bayside. Baysiders are saints bumbling around in grace to be talking and walking like Jesus. It’s a tall task to attempt to follow this motto but what joy it is to fall in grace knowing we will land in the arms of Jesus when we do.

Grace and peace ?:^)

Pastor Aaron

The Trinity’s Third Wheel

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls today! And just like that, summer is about over. Family’s are back from vacation, kids are starting school again, and football season is about to start. As we start the first steps toward the fall season, let’s keep our eyes on the prize on God’s kingdom.

When you were a child, were you ever with your fiends playing a sports game and you ended up getting picked last to be on a team? Or you got overlooked and had to sit out? It’s not fun is it? I know have. It’s a demoralizing feeling. You feel rejected, not important, almost as if the other kids aren’t your friends. I imagine maybe thats what the Holy Spirit feels when we never call on his name during prayer, don’t mentioned him in our songs at church and while sharing the gospel with others we avoid his power. Unless you come from a charismatic church background, the Holy Spirit becomes the friend that is overlooked and not engaged. We all know one of the biggest central beliefs of our faith is the doctrine of the trinity, one God in three persons. This doctrine separates us from all the major religions of the world. Now don’t ask me exactly how the Godhead works because if I could explain perfectly God’s triune personhood, well, God wouldn’t be God. There’s room for mystery in fully knowing who God is. But here is the issue for today’s blog: why don’t we talk and engage the Holy spirit more? We treat the Holy Spirit as a third wheel on a romantic date; he’s just there, as a chaperon, kind of in the way of God the father and Jesus the son.

I really don’t know why this is the case when all three persons are God. The Holy Spirit is not less of God, not a force from God, he isn’t some ambiguous mist in the air, not an emotion or power of God, and he’s definitely not Casper the friendly ghost but is equally God, just as Jesus is equally God. The Holy Spirit is probably the most understood character in scripture. The Holy Spirit is not an “it,” He is a person. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity through whom God acts, reveals his will, empowers individuals, and discloses his personal presence. Here’s the catch, theologically speaking, God is everywhere, in Christ on the throne but practically speaking, every faith experience, active or passive, from God is the Holy Spirit engaging you, not Jesus or God the father. Crazy I know, again he’s God so its God doing the action but its also the third person of the Holy Spirit that is on the the front lines who is empowering you, convicting you, speaking to you, guiding you, by who we “were sealed and who is the guarantee of our inheritance.”

Thus if the Holy Spirit is the main player in us and for us as God in Jesus to us, should we not call and engage him more? I think so. My challenge to you is to start directly calling on the Holy Spirit and watch your faith grow and be polished. Why is that the case? It works the same way like if your friends started to pick you for sport games, you are going to make the team better by providing your strengths and skills for the team to win. Your participation is fun and contributes to the overall fun in others. The potential of the talent for the team won’t be to the max without your participation. Likewise the Holy Spirit gets called on and activated more so for us to experience God in better ways, funs ways, complete ways. God won’t be experienced in deeper ways unless we start seeing the Holy Spirit not as a third wheel but as the third primary color in all the beauty we see with our eyes. It’s a way to fill up your cup more with God. The good news is unlike your childhood friends, God will not leave the friendship or deem you as unkind. The Holy Spirit is so good and gracious he just sits there on the bench and waits for us to pick and call on him. It’s our loss, not His.

As God’s children we all have the Holy Spirit, which is a huge gift to receive. God by the Holy Spirit lives inside us! God is not only above us but within us, living and breathing inside our body. Jesus said in John 14:16, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” God gives us himself! He is the best person to be on our side and help us in need. And that’s exactly what the Holy Spirit is, a helper. That’s what Jesus calls him. He is there for when you are in danger, looking for aid, asking for guidance, calling for strength, and any other requests. So next time you want to talk to God don’t search into the sky trying to find him, just call out his name, picking him from the bench and watch the Holy Spirit help you win the game.

Grace and peace ?:^)

Pastor Aaron

Keeping The First Things First

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls during this Summer! What a difference a year makes. Last Summer was plagued by pandemic lockdowns and restrictions. Today we are freer to enjoy the season, so lets have a good attitude and be grateful for our progress from the pandemic.

I recently heard a radio station stating that airlines are busier than ever, how its hard to get tickets because people are packing the flight schedules to make up from last year’s stay-cations due to Covid. Restaurant spots are constantly booked, gas prices are up yet it is not stopping people from making road trip plans, and traffic is back ruining our travel timetables. As life is slowly getting back to normal, its easy to de-prioritize faith. Because faith has sustained us throughout the year, when something else comes back (like movie theaters, travel, concerts, amusement parks, gyms) its tempting to put God at the end of the priority line. I mean God will understand right if we focus on the little things?

It’s so easy to get lost in the business of life. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in yourself. It’s so easy to lose focus on what really matters. The fact of the matter is God is not one of the little things but the biggest thing among all things that makes all those little things work. The concerns of this life can and does blur our vision of God. We cannot let the world, the Devil, yourself or pandemic resolutions dictate our faith. Let your faith dictate your faith. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Jesus reminds us to keep God one in our lives because when we do, all the other important stuff will fall in line. Have your eyes on God, keep your mind above, and stay focus on the truth. Putting God first in everything is the means by how we live purposefully and wisely. I can’t tell you the amount of times I ruined a good thing because I didn’t have my priorities lined right. Every time God was moved to number four or eight on the priority list, the primary desires of my heart were unfulfilled or wasted. When God is number one in your life, above anyone or anything else, he adds all that is needed to you. C.S Lewis once said, “Put first things first and you get second things thrown in; put second things first and you lose both first and second things.” God knows your priorities, he is asking us to make him our main priority because when we do all other things will take take their rightful place. The Lord is aware of your situation and needs, and he will help you with all of them by paying attention to God and not the second thing. What’s distracting you from trusting God? What’s getting in the way of your commitment with Jesus? What’s stealing your peace and joy? Christians can’t let secondary issues distract us from our primary need for God. Believers at times get burdened on the practicalities of life and the worries of tomorrow and we push communion with our Lord aside. Church, here’s the good news, if you seek and keep God first, all these summer things will be added to you.

Grace and peace ?:^)

Pastor Aaron

Leave It With Me

Happy Summer Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls and you all are wearing plenty of sunscreen!

This month’s posting I wanted to give you all a break from reading my words and change it up and give you someone else’s words. I was encouraged by a blog post from one of my favorite preachers Sam Wells. He is a priest in England and I want to share with you his short message because I was encouraged by it. It spoke to my heart and I hope it speaks to yours.

“Some time ago I was approached by a man I’d never met before. I quickly realized he was frightened. His voice quavered, and he was reluctant to hold my gaze. He had in his hand a box, and it was clear that whatever was inside the box was very precious to him. He had a strong accent, and I struggled at first to understand what he was saying. But there was no doubt he wanted to give the box to me. I’m always open to receiving random acts of kindness, but it was evident this wasn’t a present. I said, “Let’s find a place to sit down and talk.” Gradually I learned why he was so scared. He came from a country where democracy was unknown and the rule of law was a joke, where being opposed to the regime was a dangerous thing to be. He had observed many ways in which the government oppressed its people, and he’d compiled a dossier which had got him into trouble. I could almost feel him looking over his shoulder during the conversation, even in the safety of London.

But it became apparent that he intended to return to his country, in spite of the danger that almost certainly awaited him there. He had commitments, he loved his people, and he had no plan to stay in London and claim asylum, despite the considerable evidence of the jeopardy he would be in. He said, “I know where my home is, and it’s not going to get any better if all the people who want a better future leave.” London had been good to him and had given him a sense of well-being and welcome he hadn’t known for a long time. He’d only spent a small part of his life in London, but, he said, “It’s the closest I’ve known to feeling safe.” Eventually I asked him what was in the box. With gentle hands, entrusting something very precious to me, he handed it to me. Inside was a small animal. By this point I wouldn’t have been surprised if it were alive. But it turned out to be a toy, to which he’d given his own name, because he identified with its vulnerability and tenderness. He wanted me to keep the box, and the creature inside it, so that a part of his heart could be safe in London even if the rest of him was in danger in his home country.

I said the only words he wanted me to say: “Leave it with me.” I still have that box. I keep it in the safest place I know.

There are many times in life when we feel scared, troubled, or in exile, and perhaps seldom more so than in the last year. The simple claim of Christianity is that however bad things may feel now, ultimately we will be safe. When Paul writes about heaven, he speaks as though it’s not so much somewhere we go as a place of which we can say, Part of me is already there. “You have died,” he writes to the Colossians, “and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Think about that image. The way I see it, Christ has a flowing, wraparound mantle, and you and I are tucked into that mantle in a secret place, safe until we come fully into God’s presence. In romantic films, the two lovers—doomed to part, generally at a train station—leave each other with a keepsake. Perhaps it’s a ring with entwined initials engraved inside. Maybe it’s a bracelet, the circle of silver enclosing the arm like a lover’s embrace surrounding the beloved. Or possibly it’s a locket, hidden beneath a shirt, somewhere near the heart. The message is clear: things may be hard, we may be far apart, it may seem hard to imagine how we’ll ever be together again. But you’re safe with me, tucked away in a safe place. I’ll never let go.”

Wise and encouraging words from priest Sam Wells.

The pandemic is training in remembering that what we currently see isn’t a reliable guide to what we’ll see forever. COVID-19 and its consequences may seem all too real right now, but they won’t last forever. The truth of our lives and the eternity of our being lie hidden with Christ in God. And here’s the paradox. Jesus is the mysterious lover, who has to depart—and on departing leaves with us a locket, a ring, a bracelet. It’s the Holy Spirit, a token that means we know however bad things seem right now, our forever belongs in God. But at the same time, Jesus is the one who dwells in forever, and if we give him a keepsake—our heart, soul, mind, and strength—we can know that one day the rest of us will follow. When I look at that little box the frightened man gave me, I think of him, of where he might be now and what danger he might be in. I wonder if he’s still alive. But alive or dead, I still keep the part of him he gave me, because London was the safest place he knew. And I think of how I have a similar opportunity. I can give to Jesus something that represents the whole of me, and I can know that one day the whole of me will be there too. Because every time we pray, we stand before Jesus and hold out our fear, our faith, our doubt, and our hope, and he quietly but conclusively whispers back to us, ‘Leave it with me.'”

Grace and peace, ?:^)

Pastor Aaron

Verbal Sunshine

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls on this sunny May day.

I am excited to be at the cusp of summer, where swimming, BBQ’s, late nights, and watermelon are in season. (To be truthful, I am really excited to bring out my Rainbow sandals from the closet and regularly wear them). What are your favorite aspects about summer? For many its a time for vacation, rest or leisure time with family and close friends; for others it’s a time for more work, summer school, and busyness with no fun. However you face this summer, let’s do it with joy in our hearts and not rely on the sun for the only sunshine in our lives. What if you can be the sunshine for someone else’s cold winter? It’s what we can be by how we talk to one another. Words matter. A short sweet compliment can put a smile on someone’s face and joy in the heart. A sour comment can cause the dark clouds to rain on someone and bring insecurity or discouragement. This summer, can we bless others in our lives with the sunshine from our words?

In a world with a 24/7 news cycle, nonstop social media posts, and the countless of words passing through your brain, being conscience with how and what we say to each other is critical for warming up someone with our words. If we are honest with ourselves, its much easier to say what we feel on the spot than to stop, and think how to respond to someone. Holding my tongue has to be the hardest undertaking for me to do. Holding back any word is easier said than done, especially with my personality because I am a typically a brash and presumptuous person. But my personality has no say so in God’s agenda, he wants me to be prudent and show discretion when I communicate. How can I ever be sunshine for anyone if I cover my sun rays with my loose tongue? I can’t be the only one with this problem because all our tongues can be a loose canon. James from the Bible says, “…no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison,” (James 3:8).

There is hope though, wise Solomon tells us, “He who guards his lips guards his life,” (Prov 13:3). Verbal sunshine is only done by considering our words before we burp them out. When we stop, consider the matter before us, we can use our words appropriately and create beauty, truth, good, not hurt, dishonesty or destruction. The wise thing for our words is to guard our hearts and minds because thats where our words come from. The person who watches what they say and thinks before speaking will avoid trouble. Are you dissing people, bringing them down or are you encouraging people, bringing them up. Being wild with your words can be demeaning to other people and put you in a position where you are imprisoned with your words. Use wisdom when you communicate. Don’t get caught up and twisted in mindless jargon. As someone once said, “The words you speak today should be soft and tender, for tomorrow you may have to eat them.” Be the sunshine with your words for someone, its how you can have a great summer.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Aaron ?:^)