Pastor’s Blog

by Pastor Todd Bradbury
No Greater Love

No Greater Love

No Greater Love
 
What’s the greatest expression of love that you can think of? When has someone cared for you in such a way that you knew, beyond any doubt, that the person loved and cared about you? One of the greatest expressions of love that I heard about comes courtesy of Bethel’s own Zeke Bookman. Back in the late 1980s, Zeke’s wife Doris was sick and Zeke lovingly cared for her. Each morning Zeke would rise early to cook breakfast for Doris. Before he delivered her breakfast in bed, Zeke went outside and carefully selected and cut a beautiful long stem rose and placed it in a vase. He placed the rose on the tray and delivered this beautifully adorned breakfast to his wife each morning. With breakfast delivered Zeke would then make his way over to their grand piano where he would proceed to serenade Doris with some beautiful melodies that brought back memories of yesteryear. Zeke could have kept breakfast simple and just delivered Doris her breakfast in bed without any fanfare, and most any of us would be delighted with that! Not Zeke. He thought carefully about what would please Doris and what would bring her joy and delight. In other words, Zeke allowed love to guide his actions.
 
No Greater Love: Zeke BookmanI was reminded of this love story as I visited Zeke in the hospital. He was recently hospitalized after a bad fall. Zeke is 92 years old and his daughter Betty says, “A bad fall at home has taken Dad on a journey that has included ER rooms twice, Neurological surgery and one very unpleasant rehab for 6 days. Through it all his spirit and sense of humor have remained steadfast. Everyday when we have visited, Dad’s concern has been for his daughters and how they were handling the stress involved in this experience. Dad’s care and concern for us often superseded the care of himself. When its time to order his daily meals he often orders a sweet roll for my sister and a banana for me. Never once has he complained! He remains firm in his faith and belief of treating others as he wishes to be treated. In return the wonderful doctors and nurses we’ve encountered have treated him in a loving and caring manner. From the bottom of our hearts we thank his Bethel family for your love, prayers and support!!!”
 
I was impressed by Zeke’s expression of love for his wife in bringing her breakfast in bed, but what he did for his daughters may be more impressive. Think about it: Zeke is in the hospital in pain with various injuries and when it comes time to order his meals; meals that he needs for his own recovery, he thinks of his daughters and their well-being and orders them something.
 
This gives us a glimpse, a tiny glimpse, of the greatest expression of love that I know of: Christ on the Cross. When Christ was suffering, in pain and agony, dying for our sins, He was thinking only of us. Please take a moment in your day and meditate on that kind of sacrificial love. Then let’s think about how we can practice sacrificial love in our lives. Like Zeke Bookman, let’s let love guide our decisions and actions. I bet if we did this we’d consistently find ourselves in a place of blessing. May God bless Zeke Bookman, his daughters Betty and Pam and may God continue to bless Bethel Baptist Church. Amen.
 
Todd


Spread the Joy of Christmas Year Round

One of my favorite times of the year is Christmas. It’s truly a special time to celebrate the birth of our Lord. I love it when our house is decorated for Christmas, however I don’t enjoy the act of decorating. Here’s where I find inspiration and admiration for Bernice Smith. Bernice is a long time member of Bethel and one of Bernice’s hobbies is collecting Santa Clauses. Bernice has collected so many Santa’s that she has no place to store them so she simply keeps them on display all year long. At Bernice Smith’s home, everyday is a reminder of Christmas Day. Just how many Santa’s has she collected? Bernice says, “Oh my, well over 400 maybe even 500!” I didn’t take time to count, but I’d put the figure closer to 500, it’s a bunch of Santa’s to be sure!

Bernice Smith uses her Santa Collection to share the joy of Christmas year roundIn addition to the Santa’s, Bernice also collects dolls. She has one room with a collection of dolls, antique toys and two dollhouses that her father made. I asked Bernice how she got started collecting all of these things. She said, “I started collecting dolls when my daughters were little girls. I was the oldest of 5 children and my father was in the military and we moved a lot so we were not allowed to have many things because we moved so much. So when I had children of my own I wanted to make sure my daughters could have what I couldn’t.” The collection of dolls started by purchasing two dolls apiece for her daughters Nancy and Sissy. The idea was they could play with one doll and then they would display the other. Bernice told them that they could have nice things if they could take care of them. As time passed her daughters grew out of playing with dolls and Bernice took over and found that she enjoyed collecting and displaying the dolls. So how did Bernice get into collecting Santa’s?

Years ago Bernice noticed that not many folks hung Christmas pictures on their walls, so she started hanging pictures of Santa on her walls. That morphed into collecting and displaying Santa’s. Bernice said, “I loved that all their faces were different. Christmas is such a beautiful time of year and it all ties in with the birth of Christ. These Santa’s took me back to when I was a little girl and I remember learning about the birth of Jesus. When I knew that December was the month of His birthday that was important to me.”

Bernice Smith uses her Santa Collection to share the joy of Christmas year roundAs the Santa collection grew Bernice began to share her collection with others. Bernice has a granddaughter named Mary and Bernice would take a few of the Santa’s to Mary’s school for show and tell and it would bring joy to the children. Then she began to have an open house. She’d begin cooking “a month ahead of time” to get ready for the open house. One by one, people would stream through her house and marvel at the Santa’s, they’d enjoy the food, but I suspect that the thing they enjoyed the most was the fellowship that Bernice created by inviting others into her home. Bernice says, “Collecting the Santa’s and Dolls have brought joy to me and it brought joy to everyone who saw them. I enjoyed it and it was extra joy for me to see the joy it brought to the people who came to see them.”

I wanted to share Bernice’s story with you because Bernice has found a unique way to capture the wonder and joy of Christmas and make it part of her life all year long. Perhaps more importantly, Bernice has found tangible ways of sharing the joy of the Lord. She not only has her open house, but years ago she used to invite the Girl Scouts over to her house and they’d have a fun day of looking at the Santa’s and even making their own Santa. Bernice had a kiln and she’d make ornaments for the Girl Scouts to paint and take home with them. So here’s an example of how someone has taken something that they enjoy and used it to bring joy to others.

One of our Bethel Mileposts is “We’re blessed to be a blessing.”   Bernice Smith has been a blessing to innumerable people in our  community by inviting others into her home to experience the joy and wonder of Christmas.  As I was thinking about   Bernice’s story I thought this article might be more appropriate for the Christmas newsletter, but then I thought that perhaps it’s better that it doesn’t come out at Christmas because we need reminders all throughout the year of the joy of Christmas.  We need to be reminded that the Lord sent his Son to us, to be with us.  That wondrous, Christmas Spirit is something that we need everyday.  So thank you Bernice for that reminder. 

One final thing, I asked Bernice if there is anything she’d like   to communicate in this article.  She said, “Tell folks to save some dates in December for my open house.”  We will let you know when Bernice has her open house.  When she does, do yourself a favor and go.  You’ll marvel at her collection of    Santa’s and Dolls, but the best thing about your visit will be spending time with Bernice.  She’s a treasure and a blessing to many.  Lord, thank you so much for the gift of Bernice’s life.  Thank you for reminding us that the joy of Christmas is a joy we can experience each day.  Help us Lord to use our gifts to be a blessing to others.  Please continue to bless Bernice and her family and please continue to bless our Bethel Church family.  In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.  

Todd



Golden Rule Living

Golden Rule Living

Golden Rule Living
 
If you ever are feeling down or discouraged, I’ve got some helpful advice for you, go visit David GrubbsDavid Grubbs. The man is inspirational. I visited with David for a few minutes before his sister’s funeral back in June. During the conversation, David told me a story about his parents, Robert and Annie Grubbs.
 
Robert worked for VDOT, and was also a carpenter and a gentleman farmer. Their farm was located in Louisa County. David's Parent, Robert and Annie Grubbs, taught "Golden Rule Living"David’s dad knew all about hard work. David said that his dad used to plow with mules and horses even into the early 1950s. Annie was a homemaker and was also no stranger to hard work. David said his mom would often help pick tobacco on the farm and she did it with joy. He said she used to carry an old harmonica in her apron. Annie would sometimes stop picking tobacco long enough to play a hymn on the harmonica, and then go right back to work. Robert and Annie had seven children; David was the youngest. David told me that when you are a child of Robert and Annie, you grew up learning about hard work and “Golden Rule Living.”
 
What is Golden Rule Living? David said his parents gave them several “non-negotiable” rules growing up. Among them were
  1. Treat others as you want to be treated.
  2. There was to be no cussing, no fussing and no loud voices in the house.
  3. Absolutely no complaining or negative thinking.
Robert and Annie told their children, “Listen, things aren’t going to go your way all the time, life’s hard, but a little hardship isn’t going to shake us loose from Golden Rule Living.”
 
Robert and Annie Grubbs 50th Wedding AnniversaryDespite these “rules” David remembers that their home was always filled with love, laughter and joy, even during hard times. There would be times when crops would fail, storms came or loved ones died, but they stuck together because his parents insisted they’d stick together and practice Golden Rule Living. They never wavered from this commitment and David is thankful for the way he was raised. If you get a moment, ask David about his parents and Golden Rule living; I bet you’ll come away inspired, like I was.
 
David’s story inspired me to think about how we treat each other at Bethel. I pray that we can also practice Golden Rule Living. Let’s covenant to treat each other like we want to be treated, let’s be positive thinkers and when something comes along that tries to “shake us loose,” let’s stick together. For I believe that Christ has put us together and has called us to do what Robert and Annie Grubbs insisted upon: To love each other. Loving each other; that’s our calling and it’s the essence of Golden Rule Living. Lord, thank you for Christ who taught us the Golden Rule and thank you for the witness of Robert and Annie Grubbs who remind us of the power of Golden Rule Living. Lord, bless David Grubbs and his family and bless the Bethel Church Family! Amen.

Todd



legacy stories

Legacy Stories

legacy stories
Bill HardisonOne of my mentors in ministry is a gentleman named Bill Hardison. I came to know Bill while I was the Youth Minister at May Memorial Baptist Church. Bill is a gifted preacher and storyteller and what made many of his sermons memorable were the stories that he told about his grandpa. Bill’s grandpa was a farmer and a gifted storyteller himself—a man full of country wisdom.
 
When Bill was a boy he’d often spend several weeks each summer on his grandpa’s farm in Tennessee. Bill is from Northern Virginia and each summer he experienced a bit of culture shock having to go from the noise, hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia to the quiet tranquility of a rural farm in Rock Spring Tennessee. Bill admits that he would have rather stayed home to play little league baseball, but that desire soon faded once his Grandpa began to introduce Bill to the wonders of living on a farm.

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Financial Peace

Question: Are you at peace with where you are financially? There was a time in life where Brian and Lisa Hardy would have answered that question with an emphatic, NO! Brian and Lisa, and their son Alan are three of our newest church members and in getting to know them I learned that Brian has a passion for helping people gain control over their finances through Financial Peace University. This passion was born from an experience the Hardy’s had several years ago.

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Honor Your Parents

Honor your parents

Honor Your Parents
This month I want to introduce you to one of our newest members, David Gillespie. David recently told me something that I think every parent longs to hear. He said, “My dad is my hero and my mom is the love of my life.” I asked him why his dad is his hero. He said, 

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