Friday, March 30, 2018

Easter Sunday, 1945

Christ the Lord is risen today…Allelujah!

-      Charles Wesley

     The pink padded album lay among the things I had received from my mother years ago.  The front says simply BABY.  I picked it up and carefully turned the pages.  Always before, I had given it merely a passing chuckle.  When I walked, when I sat up, what I ate and when I ate it had never held a lot of meaning for me.  This time I paid attention.  In Mom’s neat handwriting I found out a few things about myself.

         There was the usual stuff one finds in a baby book…my progress through my first year of life and pictures of my birthdays complete with cake and candles.  There were little notes about my first car ride and our train trips to Texas and Illinois while Daddy was in the Army.  And then I saw a note that surprised and moved me.  In slanted script on the side of a page, Mom had written that I was christened on April 1…Easter Sunday, 1945.    

         Tucked in among the pages was something I had always overlooked: a yellowed clipping from the local paper giving details of the Easter service at Vero Beach Methodist Church.  It’s one of the beauties of growing up in a small town…the newspaper printed everything!  In this case, as part of a community drive related to the war effort, our church had exceeded its goal.  And there, in the middle of that short article, it says that Sierra Sue Kennedy (yes, that’s me!) was presented for baptism by her parents, Sgt. and Mrs. Purnell Kennedy.

         Mom’s little notation said that Daddy was on furlough and we were home for Easter.  What did the world look like that April 1?  One might be tempted to make a joke about April Fool’s Day but that would be inappropriate.  It wasn’t funny.  It was a world of bizarre contrasts.  There was a war on and my father was in uniform.  My parents stood before God and the congregation and vowed to raise me in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 

         Most of us have seen photos or film of that time: soldiers with guns and helmets in the midst of the rubble of a battlefield, military parades, and banners heralding the fighting in places never before heard of like Okinawa.  But in other parts of the world, Easter was celebrated as usual.  Googling that date, I found images of well-dressed women wearing furs and Easter bonnets strolling down Fifth Avenue in New York.  As those pictures proved, the war raged and yet life went on.  And on that Sunday morning, a one-year-old baby girl was having water sprinkled on her head in a white frame church on 16th Avenue in Vero Beach, Florida.

         Thus began my journey with Jesus to His Cross and Eternity, though it would be years before my heart would begin to understand and accept its meaning for my life.  As I write this, it’s the beginning of Easter weekend, 2018. Sunday is April 1.  Since 1945, this Christian Holy Day has fallen on April 1 only once, in 1956.  It won’t happen again until 2029.  I would guess that of all the possible dates for Easter, April Fool’s Day is likely the most memorable!

How interesting and timely that I discovered the information about my baptism just months ago.  To consider the world as it was then and the world as it is now is both very different yet much the same.  Conflict still grips the world, though not on the scale of 1945.  The well-dressed women no longer wear furs, and there will be very few bonnets among the faithful ladies come Sunday morning.  Hose and gloves have passed from the scene, thankfully.  The biggest change is that my little white frame church was replaced in 1951 by a Spanish-style sanctuary.  Over the years, it has grown into a campus of classrooms and social halls.  The main thing, however, remains the main thing: the focal point of our sanctuary is the large Cross hanging on the wall above the altar.

Life moves on at a rapid pace.  But for me, the center point was set

                                  April 1, 1945.

-Photography by Jerry Doutrich

(Excerpt from forthcoming book:
Cradle and Cross: Observations on Christmas and Easter by Sue Holbrook)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Of Breezes...and Overlap

The breezes in the park were wonderful.  A clear, bright February Florida day had called me outside and I needed to walk.  The trail at the nearby park was waiting for me.  It was a day to take my stroll at my own pace and enjoy being outside. 

The bench under the oak tree was a great place to catch my breath and just BE.  It was a temptation to stay there and be surrounded by the day.  But there was more trail to cover and
I wasn't leaving any time soon! 

Saturday in the park is a busy day.  As I walked toward the end of the trail and the river, the sounds of life grew louder.  People were gathered under every pavilion, spreading out food, laughing and talking.  Little kids raced around a playground, shouting and laughing. 
As there always is, there was one childish voice, louder and more shrill than all the others.
"Bless your mama's heart," I thought.  "I'm glad you're going home with her!"

It seemed the whole world was making a joyful noise. 
As I enjoyed the park, its breezes and glorious sunshine,
I remembered a word from a recent Sunday School discussion.


There are times in this world when heaven and earth are so close together they overlap.  Some people refer to these as Thin Places.  The veil between heaven and earth is so thin we can experience heaven right here where we are.  This was one of those moments.  Often, they are right there around us but we don't see.  

This day, I saw.  In the sparkling waters dancing in the river...the canopy of the oaks above and the blessing of the breezes...the shrill, happy voices of the children.

May the glory of the Lord continue forever! 
The Lord takes pleasure in all He has made.
Psalm 104: 31

Monday, February 19, 2018

Know...Just Know

                                           Be still and know that I am God...
                                                     -Psalm 46:10

"It was one of those frustrating life moments, Mom."  My daughter, Becky, was sharing her experience of driving home one evening and trying to listen to her favorite Christian radio station.  They were playing music she really hear.  For some reason, she could not get clear reception on her car radio.

"It was just nothing but static!  All I could hear was static drowning out the music."

I filed her experience away knowing that someday it would be just the right illustration for an essay.  Today, it came to the fore.

The world is so full of static.  Evil stalks in every corner.  The cries of hurt and hate fill the airwaves, cover the pages of social media, dominate conversations.  Today's tragedy is tomorrow's statistic.  The current scandal will be replaced by something more lurid before the ink is dry on the magazine pages.  The rabble of angry, miserable voices rises ever louder.  We can't hear each other because we're shouting so loud.


God says be still.  Be still and know Me.  Unplug. Disconnect.  I will rise above all the earth.  I am even the God of the static.

Just. Know. Me.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Hebrews 12:11-12

May I introduce my grandson, Jack Foster.  Jack is in tenth grade at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Morristown, TN.  Jack doesn't compete in sports like football or basketball or lacrosse.  Jack's sport is robotics.

I have to tell you...I had to look it up.  His mother finally told me to go to You Tube and I could see kids doing it.  Robotics is defined as the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots.  Jack programs and directs robotic items to perform specific skills.  He is on his school's robotics team.  Home schooled until ninth grade, Jack is an A student.  He is also active with the youth program in his church.  

And he's a winner.  

In our culture, trophies and awards are the holy grail of so many activities.  Receiving some item that represents your field of endeavor is the affirmation that makes all your hard work worthwhile.  Sometimes, the trophy means you're the winner...the champion.  In recent days, we've seen football players hoist the Lombardi trophy for winning the Super Bowl.  The winter Olympics are currently giving us medal winners every day...simple metal circles of gold, silver or bronze hung around the necks of those who were fastest or most adept at their sport.  

But then there are trophies of another kind...awards of excellence.  That's the kind of award Jack received at his most recent robotics competition.  The trophy he holds so proudly is the Judges Award.  It's given to the person who most personifies the mission of the program.   This is a high honor.  

What more can we ask for Jack but that he run with perseverance the race marked out for him with his eyes fixed on Jesus.  He is making a good start and he is being rewarded for his efforts.  

And his family is proud of the amazing young man he is becoming.