Being There

I can still recall that afternoon. The dark clouds rolled in and the wind was whistling through the trees. As a true fisherman, my dad kept fishing as the Texas sky began to rant and rave. With the sound of thunder in the background and the approaching rain, I kept casting, hoping that the "big one" that my dad always talked about would take my bait. The rain, lightning and thunder didn't interest me half as much as the tug on the end of my line. The water exploded as the bass took the bait. The battle went on for only a few minutes, but it seemed like hours as I fought this powerful fish. I could hear my dad saying, "steady," "back up slowly," and "don't let it get away, it's a big one!"  With the encouragement of my dad and the visions of being a guest on ABC's American Sportsman, I landed the 7 lb bass. 

There are certain events that are sketched crystal clear in one's mind- for me, this is one of them. Standing beside my dad with the lightning dancing around the rolling clouds, holding with pride my trophy fish, it was a grand day. As time stood still, I felt like a million dollars. It wasn't just the thrill of the catch, but a time when a young boy and his father share life. It was the togetherness of a father and son. It was the pride of the old fisherman who taught the young buck how to fish. It was a situation with memories and meaning that one can not adequately describe by words- you had to be there. 

The words "being there" mean a variety of things, but usually they bring out warm smiles, happy memories, and sometimes gentle tears. They are memories that make us pause for just a moment and relive a certain event in our life. These recollections are shared events where we learned the meaning of love, kindness, compassion, togetherness, and humor. They are memories that our mind never forgets, because they are near and dear to us. Over the past 30 years at the Congregational Bible Church I have numerous “being there” moments.
- You had to “Be There” to truly experience the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service.
   What a special time of year when our red brick church is decorated with lights,
   greenery, and beautiful poinsettias. Now sprinkle darkness and candlelight, and
   then add readings, singing, special music, and the Christmas story from Luke 2.
   There is no better way to usher in the celebration of the birth of our Savior than
   our Christmas Eve Service.
-  You had to “Be There” to experience the Ham Dinner week. The smell of sweet
   potatoes, the busy bees rolling silverware and wrapping rolls, the laughter over
   stories, the tears over needs, and the joy of working together as a church body
   to accomplish a task. So many people enjoy the aroma of Thursday evening and
   then delight themselves in the wonderful taste of ham, green beans, potatoes,
   coleslaw, and countless desserts. This is truly a week of fellowship and work, but
   the end result is a tradition that has continued for over 50 years for the purpose
   of investing back into the lives and ministries of the church.
-  You had to “Be There” to experience the “Steps of Paul Cruise.” This was an
   amazing adventure that visited a variety of locations where Paul established
   Christian churches. The memories come from watching Calvin Goehring sitting
   with his new friend (a dog) in Pergamum, looking down at Paul’s jail cell in
   Philippi, baptizing Loree Trout where Lydia (Acts 16:14-15) was baptized, and
   walking down the majestic walkway to the  magnificent outdoor theater in
   Ephesus.
-  You had to “Be There” to experience our church picnics at the Thompson ranch.
   The beauty of the rolling green pastures, the ovations from the softball game,
   the restfulness of sitting and visiting with friends, the laughter of watching
   children play, and of course the food. Later the tradition moved to Fred and
   Nancy Starrh’s home where we added a baptismal service (I was blessed to
   baptize many in this church body and my own family), and finally the tradition
   has settled at the Goehring’s home.
-  You had to “Be There” to experience the joy and excitement of the different
   church family’s weddings. What an honor it is to stand in front of an audience of
   friends and family and watch the beautiful bride walk down the aisle to be joined
   for life with her handsome groom. Truly, it is a special privilege to pronounce,
   under the authority of God, that a man and a woman are now husband and wife. 

-  You had to “Be There” to experience the honor of preaching God’s Word each
   Sunday. It is a privilege and blessing to share God’s Word with a body of
   believers and watch God work in their lives. Truly, you see the power of God and
   His Word. And, you would be surprised what the pastor observes from the
   pulpit- the nodding of sleepy heads, elbows to your partners ribcage, checking
   your watch, and expressions of delight when truth is understood. 
-  You had to “Be There” to experience the rewarding feeling of serving on a
   mission trip to various places (Canada, Kentucky, Arizona, California, and Mexico)
   with groups from this church for over 25 years  to go out in the name of Christ to
   serve. Although much of the work is long and hard, the attitude of service, love
   and compassion for people around the world is prevalent. Each group seems to
   come back more blessed than those they served. The smiles on the faces, the
   expression of appreciation, and the gesture of love, because we served, will
   always be etched in my mind.

You had to “Be There” to truly experience what took place on a cool spring morning in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. The hopes of a nation were crushed when Jesus, the Son of God, died on a Roman cross. But think what it would have been like to have "Been There" when the earth shook and an angel rolled away the stone from Christ's tomb; when Mary saw that the tomb was empty; when Jesus' mother found out that her son was alive; when Jesus appeared to the two men on the road to Emmaus; when doubting Thomas touched Jesus' hand or when the disciples ate breakfast with Jesus on the seashore. These memories are sketched in the pages of history so that we too can experience the security and hope of a living, loving, and gracious God. This Easter, take a few minutes to reflect on those intimate scenes in your life, where you experienced the tremendous love and grace of God. Recall the sensation of "Being There" with a personal, powerful God, and then praise Him for who He is and what He has done in your life.

- Pastor Mike Kotrla