August 3, 2011

Dear Centenary family,

While my time away with a mini-sabbatical was refreshing and wonderful, it is good to be home.  I am grateful to the staff and laity of Centenary Church for your leadership and commitment to this ministry.

"Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?"  I love that song.  OK, OK... it's a Disney song.  Go ahead and make fun of me.  But it is a GOOD Disney song.  Stephen Schwartz wrote it for the film Pocahantus and he is topnotch.  (Yes, this is the same guy who wrote the music for Godspell, Pippin, The Magic Show, Pocahantus, and Enchanted, to name just a few of his credits.)  He is a musical blueblood.

Like so many of Disney's themes, the song acknowledges, honors and celebrates the diversity of our planet and of life, in general.  "Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?" 

Al Roker, the weatherman for the NBC Today Show, is almost part of our family.  I recently heard him discussing the art of forecasting the weather.  He said weather forecasting teaches you 1) you're never in control;  2)  no one knows it all;  3)  you'll never be happy if you take yourself too seriously.  And finally he said, "Weather is all about jet streams."

Jet streams.  Rivers of wind that ripple, swell, heave and undulate across the planet.  Most jet streams stretch for thousands of miles and are hundreds of miles wide.  Usually they are 1-3 miles deep.  Jet streams scoot around at 50-400 miles per hour.  They can carry cold weather, or create domes of hot weather because of their curvature.  (This is happening right now in Texas, Oklahoma, and stretching toward the east.)  Jet streams push around the stuff that creates thunderstorms.  Jet streams can alter the course of hurricanes.  Powerful.

Ruach is the Hebrew word for breath, wind and spirit.  Ruach is one of the names for God in Hebrew scripture.  In the first part of Genesis, Ruach is pictured as blowing over the face of the waters – darkness and void. 

Jesus was big on wind.  If you want to align yourself with Jesus, he says you will be born of water and wind.  Mama and Ruach.  Or pneuma, as the Greeks would have it.  Jesus says: "You hear the sound of the wind, but you don't know where it comes from or where it goes.  That's the way it is with people born of wind.  Of spirit."

"Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?"  How differently we experience the wind... depending on where we are on the globe and what day it is.  We might be in a howling thunderstorm.  (I have several close friends who are in howling thunderstorms of wind right now.)  Or it could the gentle breath of a breeze.  It might be dry and chilly.  Could be warm, wet, and sticky.  Could be cold or it could be hot.  But it is the wind.  All are different manifestations of the same mysterious presence.

The Spirit came.  The wind blew.  And they understood in their own native language.  Centenary.  "Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?"


The main course is ice creamTonight (Wednesday)at 6 p.m.  we will gather to blow our diets.  Forget vegetables and protein.  Tonight we will have a fiesta of ice cream.  No agenda other than visiting and re-connecting.  If you have a great recipe for home-made ice cream, bring a churn.  If not, just come... we have plenty of ice cream for everyone.  Hope to see you tonight at Centenary.


Stacey Harwell is teaching "A Study of the Gospel of Mark".  The course will last 6 weeks and will begin this Sunday at 9:45 a.m. in a classroom below the sanctuary.  You are invited!


I am preaching Sunday (August 7) a sermon I have titled "What I learned about Sabbath".  Hope you will go out of your way to be present at this service!

AND... beginning August 14 I am beginning a 3 Sunday series of sermons titled "Three Simple Rules"

  • August 14 – Rule One – Do No Harm
  • August 21 – Rule Two – Do Good
  • August 28 – Rule Three – Stay in Love with God


Grace and peace,

Tim Bagwell


Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.   

August 11, 2011

Dear Centenary family,

Watching the news tonight was simply depressing across the board – poor getting poorer, politics as usual, stock market turmoil, famine in the horn of Africa, heat in Texas and Oklahoma literally drying up lakes, riots in England... the list is seemingly endless...  So, it brought to mind a song that was released in 1969 by that classic group, Creedence Clearwater Revival:

I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin'.
I see bad times today.

Don't go around tonight,
Well, it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.

I hear hurricanes ablowing.
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers over flowing.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin.


Hope you got your things together.
Hope you are quite prepared to die.
Looks like we're in for nasty weather.
One eye is taken for an eye.


The interesting (and odd) thing about that song is that the tune is hopeful and upbeat and the lyrics are bleak and hopeless.  So, we tap our feet as Fogerty sings about calamity.

I rise to counter Fogerty's hopelessness.  I rise to speak a word of hope for today.

Hope is a risk.  Authentic hope is not born out of denial.  Hope is not a Pollyanna spirit.  Hope sees a bad moon arising, but is not overwhelmed by that bad moon.  Trouble will always dog us.  While there is calamity out there, history is also the story of compassion, sacrifice, courage, and kindness.  The question is this:  What do you emphasize?  What defines your life?  Hopefulness requires one to see the larger picture.  Hope is of God, for God sees the larger picture.

Being overwhelmed by the bad moon arising diminishes our capacity to respond to the bad moon.  When we see only the worst, it saps our energy to act.  And if we do act, we don't have to base the result on some grand utopian future.   To live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all bad moons arising, is itself a marvelous victory.

Jesus was a realist during very difficult bad times.  Bad moons arising were all around.  But he was defined by hope.  He faced the worst, and it took his life.  Then the inexplicable – new life. 

Ultimately, hope always wins because God is. 


Stacey Harwell is teaching a "A Study of the Gospel of Mark" at 9:45 for the next 5 Sundays in a classroom below the sanctuary.  You are invited!


The Promise Students from Mercer University will be with us this Sunday.  Go out of your way to welcome them.


Beginning August 14, I am preaching a 3 Sunday series of sermons titled "Three Simple Rules"

  • August 14 – Rule One – Do No Harm
  • August 21 – Rule Two – Do Good
  • August 28 – Rule Three – Stay in Love with God

Spread the word about the series and plan to be present for 11 a.m. worship with some family and/or friends.


Grace and peace,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.  

August 17, 2011

Dear Centenary family,

I was in the hospital this week, visiting with two people who are a part of our Centenary family.  The wife of one of the patients said, "I just can't believe this community.  Centenary means the world to us."  I replied, "This is what family means."  She agreed.  The other man in the hospital tells me regularly, "I love my church."  I do, too.

George Tucker sent me some information about Centenary that is in the Macon Historical Association Records at the Washington Library.  Founded in 1884, the church now known as Centenary United Methodist Church received its name because its work was begun in the centennial year of organized Methodism in America.  As it was birthed, the Sunday School met in a residence about a block down Ash Street from Centenary's present location. 

I have a 4 page newspaper that was published by Centenary in the third quarter of 1887.  In it I found that Rufus Evans, a member of the church, had written a Centenary Song.  Here is the chorus:

With happy hearts, our merry songs we raise,

With voices gladsome singing Jesus' praise;

Praise to him, who will forever rule

And bless our Centenary Sabbath School. 


The first two pages are general information exhorting faithfulness.  The next two pages are advertisements. 

*The Empire Store: Dress Goods and Silks, Hosiery and Merino Underwear, Collars and Cuffs, Handkerchiefs and Corsets.  They also sell "circular rubbers" (rubber bands). 

*R.C. Keen, dealer in staple and fancy Groceries. 

*E.L. Burdick: Corn, Hay, Bran, Lard, syrup.  Burdick wants you to know that a choice lot of new Mackerel was just received.  He delivers.

 *W.S. Adams has Candy for everyone. 

*L.W. Hunt – Drugs and Medicine.

*Roff Sims is selling Misses' Oxford Ties for $.75 and Misses' Sailor Ties for $.75.


And there is a closing riddle:

"I know a little army

Of little bits of men;

A very little army,

Commanded by Sir Pen.


They are only six and twenty,

But they drill exceeding well;

And, when they are not plenty,

They all begin to spell.


And spelling calls up others,

That help the first straightway,

-A lot of twins and brothers-

That make a great array.


But twenty-six the army

Six and Twenty only spell-

What is my little army?

Can any of you tell?


(The first one to solve the riddle gets a free Centenary mug.  Send your reply to me by email.)


The present land on which the church is built was purchased in 1891.  P.E. Dennis was the original architect of Centenary.


Well that is enough history for right now.  I find this fascinating because we need to remember that we are part of something larger.  At one point Centenary nearly died, but resurrection grabbed hold of a dead body.  Centenary stepped out of the shadows and has one of the most innovative and far-reaching ministries in Macon.  God is good! 


Stacey Harwell is teaching "The Gospel of Mark" on Sunday at 9:45 in a classroom below the sanctuary.  You are invited.


And... I will be continuing the series a started last Sunday on "3 Simple Rules"... 

1)      August 14 – Do No Harm

2)      August 21 – Do Good

3)      August 28 – Stay in Love with God 

Join us on Sunday at 11 a.m.! 


Grace and peace.


Tim Bagwell


Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.    

August 24, 2011

Dear Centenary family,

They lost last night.  Pennsylvania whipped Georgia in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  Georgia was represented this year by a fine team from Warner Robins.  The 2011 team from Warner Robins was trying to repeat history.  Who can forget the walk-off homerun that Dalton Carriker hit to beat Japan and win the Little League World Series in 2007?  Amazing!

Sitting on a bookcase by my desk is a baseball, signed by thirteen 12-year-old boys. The year was 1966 and the name of my Vine-Ingle Little League team was the Crackers.  At that time, Atlanta had a AA pro baseball team named the Atlanta Crackers.  (They played ball on Ponce de Leon, across from the old Sears building.) There were all sorts of racist things going on with that name, no doubt.  But as a 12-year-old, I was completely unaware of the incorrectness of the name of my team.  I was proud to be a Cracker and we were good.  Really good.  In 1966 we had played 8 games of our 16-game schedule and had not lost a single one.  In the middle of the season, my father (who was at that time the pastor of Martha Bowman Methodist Church) was moved to Metter, Georgia.

Before I left in the middle of the 1966 season, my teammates autographed the ball as a goodbye gift.  John Meadows, a member of Centenary, was on my team.  (But I want you to know that John did not sign the ball DR. John Meadows.  He just signed "John Meadows".  And I can actually read his autograph, which means that this was prior to the time when he considered being a physician.)  Bryan Persons was the second baseman.  Bryan apparently had not yet learned cursive so he printed his name.  (I officiated at the wedding of Bryan Persons and Nelle Barnett last Friday afternoon.  What a joy!)  Brad Swann's name is there.  I buried Brad's father, Duck Swann, several years ago.  Other names on the ball – I have no idea what happened to them.   Ricky and Arthur Smith – were they brothers?  I can't remember.  Stephen Peterson.  Ed Hamlin.  Carl Discher.  Stephen Peterson.  Randy Elliott.  Andy McKay.  Steve Gray.  B. Bishop.

Leaving my starting shortstop position with the Crackers was pretty tough.  I still remember the deep sadness. For all I knew, we were headed to live with a bunch of country bumpkins in Metter, who, in my mind, might not even know anything about the glorious game of baseball.  And if they knew the game, they certainly would not understand the subtleties.  (But let me tell you it all worked out ok, because I met some other really good friends like Jones Hooks...  And Kathy Trapnell, who was incredibly flexible as she twirled her baton.  I thought she was the greatest baton twirler God had ever created.  I was mesmerized.  Watching Kathy made it worthwhile to leave the Crackers.  Little boys grow up.) 

Nostalgia.  It really can be dangerous.  Our memory has a way of sanitizing itself so we mistakenly perceive that things were better than what they were.  But last night, watching Little League baseball caused me again to remember.  I watched the entire gamut of human emotion... profound joy to disappointed tears.  Little Leaguers have yet to learn the adult curse of stoicism. 

And in the memory, I simply gave thanks.


This Sunday we welcome Mercer and Wesleyan students! I will be preaching on Three Simple Rules – Rule #3 – Stay in Love With God.  Hope you will be present in worship – with a friend!

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.