Fry On Friday: “Thank You,” November 17, 2017

Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church friends:  Although I will continue to write “Fry on Friday,”  after November 17th I will no longer send it to you. If you wish to continue to read my writings after that date, you may find them at https://fryonfriday.wordpress.com/.


          Even on the bad days, I’ve never imagined doing anything else but being a pastor of a church.  This church. 

            Preaching is part of the job.  Some weeks it’s the very best part  The ideas flow naturally and I can’t wait until Sunday morning.  Some sermons, however are like C-sections, all mechanics and sweat and hard work. 

            About a month after we started worship services, I realized that I had already run out of things to preach.  You allowed me to make a fool of myself in Children’s Sermons with the implication, “Just let us laugh at you; that’ll be enough.” 

            Then you gave me the gift of time.  Time to study the scripture,  read, reflect, search for something to say week after week in a desperate attempt to answer the ceaseless question, “What shall I preach about next Sunday?”

            You gave me time for the preparation behind my sermons; you let me find God in the scriptures and in my studies. This has shaped my soul. 

            Thank you.

             Occasionally while delivering a sermon, I would suddenly be aware of how quiet and motionless the room had become.  “My God!” I would think briefly, “They’re actually listening!”  Those moments were holy because I knew it was not me you were listening to, but the word of God for us that day. “People hear the sermon they need to hear,” we preachers sometimes say to each other, “not the one we intended to preach.”   I don’t know if you heard  the message I intended to preach, but what you heard was at least preached through me, and that was a gift from you.  And God.

            Every once in a while, you’d quote me.  “I remember something you preached five years ago that really made a difference,” you’d say, and follow that with a story.  And that was the best gift of all:  you have allowed me to make a difference here, a    difference to you.

             You gave me time to prepare to preach, and you gave me yourselves.  You opened up your lives to me, giving me the opportunity to also see God in you.

             Sometimes it was beautiful, as you spoke your vows in a wedding ceremony or as you presented your child to God in the sacrament of baptism or when you affirmed in front of  God and everybody,  “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.”  Sometimes it was beautiful beyond words.
          
              Sometimes it was awful.  The phone call from the ER nurse that said, “We have a couple whose 3-year-old child has just died unexpectedly.  They’ve asked you to come.”   On the worst day of your life, you have invited me to be present.  Who am I to walk such holy ground?   God is present in you, in tough times.  For you to allow me to be in the room and share that presence was a priceless gift.

            Thank you.

            For countless plates of Christmas goodies: cookies, fudge, cheese sticks, pecans, home-made breads…and in 32 years, not a single fruitcake.

            Thank you! 

              It has been a privilege to be your pastor, to serve this church, and to take my place as part of this community of faith called Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church. Thank you. 


After founding Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, GA., in 1985 and serving as the head of staff for 32 years, Dr. Dave Fry retired from full time ministry this week of November 12. Please keep him and his wife Debbie and the church in your prayers as they both see what God has in store for them next on this journey of faith. 

Advertisements

Fry On Friday, “Music Will Get Me Through This,” Nov. 10, 2017

Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church friends:  Although I will continue to write “Fry on Friday,”  after November 17th I will no longer send it to you.  If you wish to continue to read my writings after that date, you may find them at https://fryonfriday.wordpress.com/.


            Music destroys me these days.  And the music carries me.  My last Sunday of 1,664 in the pulpit of Pleasant Hill Church is day after tomorrow.  (That’s thirty-two years, not counting vacations and a couple sabbaticals.)  Most days I function fairly well, staying busy, staying engaged, staying in the moment.  Then a chance encounter with a snippet of melody and line of lyrics and I’m an instant hot mess.  How is it I can get through scores of sermons dry-eyed, yet not two lines of a song without a ten-tissue melt-down?

            Music tears me apart.  And music gets me through it.   At least one of the perks of my job is that I get to select the hymns.  Here are excerpts from some of them.  They’re from Glory to God, the hymnal we use in worship.  We ended worship last Sunday this way:  #798.  All with Joyful Exultation. (Sounds like a Hasidic wedding dance.)     

Stanza four:

Dry our tears we shed in mourning; give us steadfast hope always;
     fill our hearts with expectation;  fill our songs with thanks and praise.

            My pre-grief tears are healthy mourning, I am told, so I try not to fight them.  On the other hand, whatever steadfast hope I have is pure gift and pure grace, and I embrace every moment.  My heart is as filled with sadness as with expectation, but when I  fill my mouth with thanks and praise, sometimes my heart gets carried along in the updraft. 

            And we’ll end worship this Sunday singing: #280.   Come, O Spirit, Dwell Among Us.  The F-minor melody sounds like a Braveheart battle cry Mel Gibson would use to fire up the troops.   

Stanza two:

We would raise our alleluias for the grace of yesteryears;
for tomorrow’s unknown pathway, hear, O Lord, our humble prayers.
In the church’s pilgrim journey you have led us all the way;
still in presence move before us, fire by night and cloud by day.

            It isn’t that “tomorrow’s unknown pathway” will be dreadful.  Just unknown,  like every other tomorrow I’ve ever faced.  In each one, God has “led us all the way.” I’m retiring, but God is not. God is still in the business of creating tomorrows and leading us there.

            We’re going to start with # 684  “Faith Begins By Letting Go  (to the tune of “For the Beauty of the Earth.) 

Faith begins by letting go, giving up what had seemed sure,
taking risks and pressing on, though the way feels less secure:
pilgrimage both right and odd, trusting all our life to God.

Faith endures by holding on, keeping memory’s roots alive
so that hope may bear its fruit; promise-fed, our souls will thrive,
not through merit we possess but by God’s great faithfulness.

            “Promise-fed, our souls will thrive.”  I can’t improve on those words.  Maybe singing them Sunday will help get me through this.

 


Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. He will retire from PHPC and full-time ministry on Sunday Nov. 12. Send comments to “Fry on Friday” at dave@pleasanthillpc.org.    

Fry On Friday: “Another Day, Another Cruise” November 3, 2017

Pleasant Hill Church friends:  Although I will continue to write “Fry on Friday,”  after November 17th I will no longer send it to you.  If you wish to continue to read my writings after that date, you may find them at https://fryonfriday.wordpress.com/

 

             They celebrated their first wedding anniversary early last week, so technically, they are no longer newlyweds.  At age 79, he didn’t feel up to dinner and dancing, so they had a quiet evening at home.  Nothing memorable.

             What they did remember of the week was the visit to his doctor on Thursday.  “The tests show your tumor is growing at an alarming rate,” she reported, following with lots of medical terminology.   Short version, which is all they remembered:  “Stage four.  You have two to three months left.”

            They wept like newlyweds.  “I’m going to fight this,” he declared, though they’d been told that chemo would be useless.  It seemed he had only two choices:  fight or give up.  “I’m not ready to go without a fight.  I don’t care about chemo’s side effects, I can’t go without a fight.”

            “Let’s ask a different question,” I suggested.  “What are you fighting for?  What is ‘a good day’ for you?  However many days you have, what makes any of them a good day?” 

            He looked at a photo on the side table.  A middle-aged woman with hazel eyes and a Mona Lisa smile.  “Time with my daughter,” he announced.  “It feels like at last we’re just getting to know each other.   I want more of that.”

            “And a cruise.”  He fixed his eyes on his bride.  “I want us to share another cruise together. Whatever happens next, I want to feel well enough to do that one more time.”  “Let’s fight for those things, then,” we all agreed.

            Two days later he was rushed to the E.R., his body filled with pain and his lungs with fluid.  “We may have two to three weeks, not months,” she thought as she held him close. 

            A round of radiation to ease the pain, more blood work and CAT scans, some meds to reduce the fluids.   And then…laughter. The laughter of Sara from Abraham’s tent, of Elizabeth feeling her little Baptist-to-be kick in her womb, of Thomas as he fell at the feet of the scarred and risen Jesus.  Tear-filled, room-filling, raucous laughter.

            “You are not Stage Four,” pronounced the oncologist.  “Stage Two at worst.  A round of this and a treatment or two of that and I’ll see you again in six months.”  By the time I arrived, their cheeks were sore and throats raw from laughing.  The next day, they drove home to book a ship sailing out of Miami.

            They were only given the same thing we are given every sunrise:  a new day.  And the chance to ask the question, What would make this a good day?

           “This is the day the LORD has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  (Psalm 118:24)


Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. He will retire from PHPC and full-time ministry on Sunday Nov. 12. Send comments to “Fry on Friday” at dave@pleasanthillpc.org.    

Coffee With College Students, 11/26 and 12/18

Mark your calendars and talk this up with your PHPC peers. We’ve recently had some families visit in worship who have college students in the area. This is a great opportunity to connect them to y’all and vice versa, to have some fellowship and also chat about how your faith and beliefs intersect with daily life as a college student and young adult.

Join A Fellowship Table Team, Today!

 

Join a wonderful group of volunteers to host at the Fellowship Table. We have 6 teams, so you serve once every 6 weeks. A great way to meet people and share God’s love through fruit, pastry, conversation….and coffee.
Arrive at 9:15am with your favorite fruit or pastry to add to the table. Keep the coffee flowing, and enjoy the opportunity to meet and greet fellow members and visitors until the 11am service is about to start. As simple as that!
Contact Janice Breckenridgejrbreckenridge@earthlink.net or 770-447-1673.

Red Cross Blood Drive: 11/19


Life.s a Gift. Give more of it. Donate blood by signing up for the next Red Cross Blood Drive on Sunday, Nov. 19, from 8 am to 1 pm in Fellowship Hall. To schedule your life saving donation, please visit redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code: PHPC. Or send an email to blooddrive@pikesonline.net. One pint of blood can impact up to three lives!