"Community" is a big topic these days. I wrote an article on it last week and on Sunday my pastor preached about it. I've also received emails about it.

Rarely do I write on the subject two weeks in a row, but I'm still thinking about this one. After last week's article, someone asked me what "community" is. It was a good question.

So, what is "community" in the biblical sense? In Acts we read about how the disciples of Jesus shared everything they had with one another so that no one was in need. Older versions say that they had all things in common. They had fellowship.

Now I can do fellowship. In many churches fellowship means food--good food. Many church people excel in making good food.

Somehow, though, I don't think that this is what the biblical writers had in mind. Of course sharing food (and recipes)d is part of community because that is what humans do; however, this phrase, according to Strong's Concordance, comes from a "primary preposition denoting union." Another word that may be more familiar to us that describes this is "companionship."

In companionship there is closeness or camaraderie. People like being together and there is a sense of being family. I think I sensed this the other day when my church grilled burgers at Music at the Junction. There were several of us there and we all got along. We had a common purpose--to raise funds and to be part of the City of La Junta as well as our church--and our group did a great job working together (a couple of us actually started grooving to the beat, but that's for another commentary). All of us really enjoyed ourselves.

Isn't that what the church is supposed to be doing? Working together for a common purpose? The purpose of the church is to tell others about Christ and to help disciples grow. In helping each other grow, we are supposed to build that familial sense, that camaraderie of brotherhood (and sisterhood) in Christ. We are to help each other and also be available to the community outside our four walls (this is a topic for another commentary as well. Many people tend to equate the "church" with the building rather than thinking of it as an abstract entity of people as described in scripture.). That sense of community comes when we all get along working together for that same purpose.

When I grow up ...

(originally published as a commentary for the local newspaper)

When I grow up, I want to be a queen. No, not just any queen like Elizabeth or Victoria, but a queen like the ladies who were contestants at the 2009 Arkansas Valley Fair Silver King and Queen contest, an event I recently covered for the paper.

Each woman displayed traits to which I aspire. So, in honor of them, I want to share them.

Cora Cassaras, 82 sang a song in Spanish for everyone. She did a beautiful job. May I always have courage to display the gifts with which God has blessed me.

Clara Chamberlin, 95, a fellow Nazarene, joyfully showed the audience what exercises she and other residents of her care facility tackle every morning. May I always use the strength with which God has blessed me to do what I can, when I can and whereever I can.

Mildred Clauson, 95, wished that she could give a donation to the La Junta Presbyterian youth group instead of wishing for something for herself. This wish was fulfilled through a collection taken by the audience at the contest. I pray that God will strenghthen me to think of the needs of others before I think of myself.

Maxine Freemyer, 97, gives hugs daily to everyone she meets. May I be blessed with her ability to show compassion and love toward anyone.

Floraida Manchego, 87, learned how to dance even though she was stricken with polio as a child. May God grant me the tenacity to do things beyond my own ability with joy.

Ruth Sanders, 82, is proud to say that she delivered the first baby born in Rocky Ford in 1962. May I always be proud of and love my children no matter where life takes them.

Roberta Tolbey, 89, makes rosaries for the church and for the poor. In her lifetime she has made 70,000!. May I always care about the spiritual lives of others and enable them to worship God effectively.

Only one of these women won the contest, but they are all queens in my book. "A (woman) of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies ..." Proverbs 31: 1 (NIV).

Going back to school

(Originally published as a commentary in the local newspaper)

It's that time of year again. Registration is over and now everyone is waiting for Monday, Aug. 24--the first day of school.

I remember those days. I used to get so nervous, especially when I entered a new school in which I didn't know anyone.

Most kids around here are going to the school they have attended since kindergarten, but what I write is for them too. It's for everyone attending school, especially teenagers. As one who has lived 22 years past high school and 18 years past my undergraduate years (yikes), here is some advice (Don't worry, no one's parents suggested this!).

Study hard (2 Timothy 2:15): This is your last chance at free education before college or vocational school. Don't blow it off. Even if you never plan to go to college, earning a high school diploma will put you one step ahead of those who don't have one. Believe me, in every career or job, being able to read and write adequately are a must. Learn it now while you can, while it's still easy.

Be wise (Proverbs 7: 1-27): Just because you are young and think that you are indestructible, don't use your junior high and high school years to experiment with drugs, start smoking, or see how many conquests you can make among the young men and ladies. Remember, you have a future. Having a baby, messing around and getting a disease or scrambling your brains on some drug will affect you for the rest of your life.Ê As one who has known people affected by lung cancer, I can't stress enough how harmful smoking is. Think about this stuff before you regret making foolish decisions.

Stay in shape (I Corinthians 9: 24 -26): Do this on a physical, spiritual and emotional level. All of these levels go along with being wise. Making poor decisions will affect you physically, spiritually and emotionally. Also, don't give up exercise just because you hate P.E. You will be thankful for it later (especially when you can outrun one of your own kids!).

Be content (Philippians 4: 11-13): Life is exciting right now. That's great, be excited and look forward to the new privileges and responsibilities that lie ahead, but don't forget to be grateful right now.

Remember God (Ecclesiastes 12:1): I have never heard anyone say that they wished that they had not remembered God in their youth. It's usually the opposite. Remembering God means following God and this will lead to a better life. There are many times during my high school years when I wished that I had followed God more closely. That's why I'm writing this to you.

We here at Blogger central wish all students a safe and happy school year. You students are our future, make it count!