Phil Anderson

phil anderson | FAITH AND VALUES

Phil Anderson has been covering the Topeka religious community since 1989. Always looking for a good story, Phil welcomes your ideas and suggestions.

Remembering Christmas plays of long ago

December 23, 2013

It wouldn’t be Christmas each year without church plays featuring little children dressed up in beards, robes and ornate hats, playing the roles of shepherds and kings and wise men.

Many churches have already had their children’s Christmas programs this year. Others will have them this weekend.

Growing up in the old Bethel Covenant Church in the 1960s and ’70s — and being the youngest of five children — I knew I was going to be up on stage one Sunday night each December. Whether I wanted to or not.

In those early days, I would share the stage with my brother, Mark, who is five years older than myself and who always seemed a natural on stage. I can barely remember the time he attempted a solo of “We Three Kings,” with his voice cracking on all the high notes. Despite some snickering from the crowd, Mark carried on and completed his solo.

Some folks told me about the time I made my Christmas play debut around the age of 4, when I stood on stage and didn’t say my line — which I had memorized weeks before the play. Nope, despite some coaxing from the director who came down to the front of the stage, I didn’t even open my mouth.

Years went by and I would learn my lines well enough to say them in the play. I always had that little fear that I might forget them, but I don’t think I ever did.

In around 1972, when I would have been 14, I played a shepherd in one of our plays.

Marilyn Asklund, who I’ve known from church my whole life, was in the audience that night, and she has reminded me many times of the fact that I was the first shepherd in history to be seen wearing Converse All-Star Chuck Taylor black hightop basketball shoes under his robe.

The costumes we wore were stored in a dusty closet in our downtown church. They were nothing fancy, yet to me, they held a sacred quality.

These were the same outfits worn by my older brothers and by people before them. As such, they were part of a tradition that I was now entrusted with carrying on.

Our church probably only seated a couple hundred people, if we were crammed in like sardines.

Despite that fact, I felt as though I were in Carnegie Hall on the night of our Christmas play, when all the sanctuary lights were out, save for those that shone down on the stage.

The old church on the southeast corner of S.W. 6th and Harrison is long gone now, turned into a parking lot back in 1976.

When it was knocked down, I held onto my memories of a faithful group of people — family, relatives and friends — who every year took part in a play that recalled the true meaning of Christmas in a humble and meaningful way.

Years later, new generations of youngsters are performing in Christmas plays in their churches, no doubt making some of the same memories I hold so dear.

Holidays a time to remember forgotten

December 16, 2013

How are your holidays going so far?

If you are like many people, and you were being honest, you’d have to admit they haven’t been a whole lot of fun.

The reason? Stress and apprehension, mixed with frustration and fatigue.

The result is often seen in people turned into walking zombies for much of the month of December.

So much of the holidays revolves around spending money — some that people have saved, others that must be paid later if shoppers go the plastic route.

Nearly every year, I am practically overwhelmed with the excesses that come with the season. People often run around and buy people gifts that they not only don’t need, but also won’t use.

As is often the case at this time of year, my thoughts turn to those for whom the holidays aren’t so special. Those who don’t have family members nearby — or who are estranged or otherwise at-odds with their loved ones.

It is surprising to me how many of my friends right here in Topeka say of a sister, “Oh, I don’t talk with her anymore” or of a brother who lives in town, “I haven’t seen him in 10 years.”

Then, I think of the aged, the infirm, the sick, the mentally ill, the incarcerated, the impoverished, the homeless and those who otherwise have been forgotten by society. And it tempers my unbridled holiday joy, at least a little.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t more that can be done to let folks know they haven’t been forgotten.

A simple phone call to some of my friends who are pretty much alone is a start. But I know there is much more I can do.

Much of the progress in this area comes from de-stressing the holidays — seeing them not exclusively as a time of buying more material goods, but as a time for reaching out to our friends and family members.

Even before the holiday season started in mid-November, I had arrived at the point of saying “enough” as it pertains to buying more and more gifts for family members and friends who don’t need them.

Any effort to celebrate the holidays without remembering those in need is incomplete.

To help make the holidays a little brighter for the homeless, the hungry and the forgotten, Topeka has a number of charities we can all support, including the Rescue Mission, Let’s Help, Doorstep and Breakthrough House.

Contributions made during the holidays to these agencies benefit the needy all year long.

The real joy of the season, after all, comes not from what we get, but from what we give.

Notes: Fall Blintze Brunch this Sunday

December 16, 2013

Fans of Jewish foods are in for a treat this weekend.

Temple Beth Sholom, 4200 S.W. Munson, will hold its Fall Blintze Fest from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15.

All-you-can-eat blintzes plus a drink will be available for $8. Proceeds will support the temple’s religious school.

In other religion news:

■ Grace Community Church, 310 E. 8th in Overbrook, will present “The Road to Bethlehem,” an outdoor Christmas theatrical presentation, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 14 and 15.

■ Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 3625 S.W. Wanamaker, will have its “Pastries on Parade” event from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 14. A variety of home-baked cookies will be available for $5 per pound. Other baked goods and treats will be individually priced. Part of the proceeds — which will receive matching funds from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans — will go to the Topeka Rescue Mission and Education and More in Guatemala.

■ First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1701 S.W. Collins, will have a Fair Trade Market and Bead for Life sale from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14.

■ Catholics for Renewal will meet from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1701 S.W. Collins.

■ Big Springs United Methodist Church, 96 US-40 highway in Big Springs, will present a Christmas concert by the Wright Family at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14.

■ First Presbyterian Church, 817 S.W. Harrison, will sponsor a Christmas carol hymn sing at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15. Refreshments will be served after the program.

■ Mount Olive Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church, 701 N.W. Gordon, will present a musical program titled “It’s a New Season” at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15. The program is sponsored by the church’s Sisterhood Department.

■ Bethel Baptist Church, 4011 N. Kansas Ave., will have the cantata “Heaven on Earth” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 15, with the children’s musical “Operation Christmas Child” at 6:30 p.m.

■ Shawnee Heights United Methodist Church, 6020 S.E. 44th St., will have its fourth annual “Carols and Cocoa” concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15. The concert will feature the chancel and handbell choirs of the Shawnee Heights church, in addition to guests from The University of Kansas School of Music.

■ The monthly Eckankar worship service will be at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 15, at the Clubhouse Inn and Suites, 924 S.W. Henderson. The topic will be “The Spiritual Quest.”

■ KTWU-TV, Channel 11, will present the Washburn University “Holiday Vespers” at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15.

■ First Congregational Church, 326 W. 12th in Emporia, will present a Christmas cantata titled “The Heart of Christmas” at 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 15.

■ The choir of Crestview United Methodist Church, 2245 S.W. Eveningside Drive, will present its Christmas cantata at 8:30 and 10:50 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 15. The church will also have a “Soup and Carols” program starting with dinner at 5 p.m. Sunday, followed by carols at 6 p.m.

■ Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 3625 S.W. Wanamaker, will have a “Blue Christmas” service for spiritual healing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18. The program is designed for those who are experiencing sadness in their lives at this time of year.

■ First Presbyterian Church, 817 S.W. Harrison, will have its final Noon Noels program at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18, when the Topeka High Madrigals will sing. Lunch is available for $5.

■ Crestview United Methodist Church, 2245 S.W. Eveningside Drive, will have a “Blue Christmas” service of remembrance and hope at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18.

■ The Notre Dame Club of Eastern Kansas is sponsoring “Hark! A Topeka Christmas Spectacular” on Saturday, Dec. 21, at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center, 420 S.E. 6th. The event, which will feature musicians from the University of Notre Dame and the Topeka area, will benefit the Marian Clinic and Hayden High School’s music department. The event begins with wine-tasting at 4:30 p.m., followed by a plated dinner at 6 p.m. and the musical program at 7 p.m. Tickets to the event are $50 for the plated dinner, concert and silent auction and $75 for wine-tasting, plus the plated dinner, concert and auction. To make reservations or for more information, call (785) 478-4915.

■ The annual Christmas display of the “Little Town of Bethlehem” will be presented over the next few weeks at St. Boniface Catholic Church, located at Grants Villa Road and Vincent Avenue in rural Vincent in Osborne County. The hours will be from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14; Sunday Dec. 15; Sunday, Dec. 22; Wednesday, Dec. 25; Saturday, Dec. 28; and Sunday, Dec. 29.

Giving some thought to what you think

December 9, 2013

Norman Vincent Peale, perhaps the most popular American pastor of the mid-20th Century, was known for his best-selling book “The Power of Positive Thinking,” published in 1952.

Many quotes have been attributed to Peale, who was born in 1898 and died in at age 95 in 1993, after having served for 52 years as pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City.

Like many people who rise to a high level of fame, Peale was no stranger to criticism and controversy. Yet his legacy is found in his writings and sayings that continue to resonate to this day.

Here are a few of Peale’s famous quotes:

■ “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

■ “It’s always too early to quit.”

■ “Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.”

■ “Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.”

■ “Four things for success: work and pray, think and believe.”

I could go on, but you get the point.

Peale, who also was a well-traveled motivational speaker, preached the importance of how we think and its direct bearing on our quality of life.

While he preached the concept of the importance of our thought life, Peale didn’t originate it.

In Proverbs 23:7, we read, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

Yes, even King Solomon realized the power of positive thinking some 3,000 years ago.

All of this being said, I think it is time to answer a rather perplexing question, and it is this: Has it become completely hokey or corny to be a positive thinker?

If you watch much of what passes for humor on television these days, you won’t see much fodder for those wishing to take the path of positive thinking.

What you will see are hollow attacks and aspersions on people who don’t share the same political or religious views as the funny man on TV, with the studio audience laughing as if what was said is really funny.

Or you might find cynicism ruling the day, as if it is the only appropriate response to current happenings for the intellectual elite.

I’m not sure where the path of cynicism and constant criticism in the name of humor leads, but I never feel uplifted by attempts to find a laugh at someone else’s expense.

My preference can be found in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, chapter 4 and verse 8, written some 2,000 years ago: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

As it turns out, what we think does matter, today as much as it did thousands of years ago.

Some things never change.

WWII survivor shares Christmas memories

December 2, 2013

Some might say Maria Becker came to the United States as a war bride, but she would beg to differ.

“I married my liberator,” she says simply.

Becker, 92, who has lived in Topeka for the past 60-plus years, was born and raised in Breslau, East Germany.

As a child, she remembers hearing bombs dropping in the distance as World War II was getting into full gear. But without radio, television or Internet, she said, little accurate information was being broadcast.

“The government told us everything would be all right,” she said. “But they were lying to us.”

Russian troops were pounding down on the area where Becker lived as a girl. Her family had to take what possessions they could gather and flee from their home on literally a moment’s notice.

“What would you take?” Becker asked recently. “Your pictures? My mother had a beautiful collection of china. We had to leave it all behind.”

Becker didn’t want to talk about the atrocities she saw. Too painful. Too raw, after more than six decades.

Thankfully, she has many other memories that are much more pleasant — many having to do with the Christmas holiday.

For one thing, Becker says, Christmas was always about the “Christ child.”

Santa Claus was an extension of the St. Nicholas figure, a fourth-century Greek-born bishop known for surprising people with gifts, including putting coins, candy and fruit in the shoes of children as they slept.

Roman Catholics, of which Becker is one, still observe St. Nicholas Day each year on Dec. 6. But many, like Becker, prefer to leave it there.

When she was a child, Becker said, Santa Claus would come to visit her house. As she got older, she began to see a striking resemblance between Santa and her dad.

Meanwhile, the focus on Christmas was the birth of the baby Jesus.

Becker recalled coming home from church on Christmas Eve, when gifts would be opened.

But first, she said, her father would look through the house, then explain, “The Christ child has left us gifts.”

With commercialism running rampant this time of year, Becker said she continues to focus on Jesus during the Christmas season, with St. Nicholas serving merely as a warm-up act.

Despite the difficulties she has endured, Christmas remains very real to her.

“The Christ child is bringing the gifts for us at Christmas,” Becker said. “He himself is the gift to the world.”

Becker will never forget St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6, 1947, when she and her husband, Charles Becker, her “liberator” in Germany, arrived in New York from East Germany.

“We were refugees,” said Becker, who has five children, 29 grandchildren and a host of great-grandchildren. “We lost everything. We came with only what we had on our back. I could talk about my story, but it would take all day, all night and probably the next day.”

Notes: Church's nativity program returns

December 2, 2013

A Topeka church once again is opening its doors for a special holiday event.

The Topeka Stake Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2401 S.W. Kingsrow, will present its “Nativities and Noels” event from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.

The free event will feature about 200 nativities, as well as continuous live vocal and instrumental Christmas music.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, a storyteller will present Christmas stories especially geared to children.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, a Christmas music program will feature John Rutter’s “Gloria” performed by a choir and accompanied by a brass ensemble.

The music program will include Christmas songs and congregational caroling.

Light refreshments will be served throughout each day and after the musical program on Saturday.

For more information, call (785) 357-1437 or (785) 554-8068.

In other religion news:

■ St. John’s Lutheran Church, 901 S.W. Fillmore, will have its annual Christmas bazaar and luncheon Friday, Dec. 6. The bazaar will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. with booths offering handmade crafts, gift items, baked goods and “The Cookie Walk,” with goodies sold by the pound. A luncheon will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with dine-in or carry-out available. The luncheon cost is $7 for adults and $3 for children younger than 12. All proceeds will be donated to charities and mission projects.

■ The Topeka Churches Singing Convention will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, at In God’s House Church, 3418 S.W. 6th, and again at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church, 2222 S.E. Madison, when Elder David Helm will preach.

■ World AIDS Day will be observed with an interfaith service and candlelight memorial at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, 4775 S.W. 21st.

■ Rabbi Moti Rieber will speak on “Jewish Views on Going Green for Peace” at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, at Southern Hills Mennonite Church, 511 S.E. 37th. Rieber’s presentation is part of the “Personal Peace” series sponsored by Interfaith of Topeka, Southern Hills Mennonite Church, and the Baha’i communities of Topeka and Shawnee County.

■ The Saturday Women’s Connection will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 S.W. 10th. Sandy Badgett, of Shawnee, will speak on “Finding Hope at Christmas.” The luncheon cost is $13. Call (785) 233-0701 or email leidacloud@cox.net for tickets or more information.

■ Tajci, an internationally acclaimed singer, will present the “Christmas Concert Experience” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, at White Concert Hall, near S.W. 17th and Jewell on the Washburn University campus. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and children, and are available by calling (785) 554-4647.

■ The Topeka Women’s Connection will have a “Merry Christmas Luncheon” at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, 1717 S.W. Topeka Blvd. Call (785) 233-1387 or (785) 266-1522 for tickets or more information.

■ The women of Crestview United Methodist Church, 2245 S.W. Eveningside Drive, will have their annual Christmas bazaar and luncheon from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. Crafts and baked goods will be available for purchase. A lunch of chili or soup will be available for $6 per meal from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

■ First Presbyterian Church, 817 S.W. Harrison, will have its annual Noon Noels series at 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays, Dec. 4, 11 and 18. The Cair Paravel Latin School Madrigals will perform on Dec. 4; Topeka West Singers Dec. 11; and Topeka High Madrigals Dec. 18. Lunch is available for $5.

■ Topeka Acappella Unlimited, a women’s barbershop chorus, will present “Christmas in the City,” a series of free holiday concerts. The programs will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, at Seaman Congregational Church, 2036 N.W. Taylor; 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Lowman United Methodist Church, 4000 S.W. Drury Lane; 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 3916 S.W. 17th; and at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11, at Grace Point Church, 5400 S.W. Huntoon. A freewill offering will be received at each program.

■ First Lutheran Church, 1234 S.W. Fairlawn, will have its annual drive-through living nativity from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. Those attending are advised to come to the event from the south on S.W. Fairlawn.

Begin Thanksliving this week

November 24, 2013

One little adjustment can make an oh-so-big difference in many areas of life.

That thought dawned on me the other day as I passed by Gage Park Baptist Church, 3601 S.W. 10th, and took a look at its decidedly low-tech message board.

First, let me say that I usually take a quick peek at message boards outside churches when I drive past them. I am always interested to see what the short, pithy messages have to say.

Just as in Twitter messages, most of the church signs have room for about 140 characters, meaning every word must count.

The sign with hand-placed plastic lettering that I saw outside Gage Park Baptist Church said simply, “Real Thanksgiving is Thanksliving.”

Yes, I love a good play on words, and this one struck me as being particularly appropriate, especially for this time of year.

Take out the “g” in “Thanksgiving” and replace it with an “l” and you get “Thanksliving” — and, with that one small adjustment, a whole new concept.

We hear people talk about having the attitude of gratitude all the time, and as such, we practically dismiss the statement, as we’ve heard it so many times that it comes close to being nothing more than a trite cliche.

Yet I have found there is something about being thankful, not just on the fourth Thursday of November, but every day of the year.

I plead guilty to many things, among them saying nearly every day to my wife and children and anyone else who is within earshot that “God sure has blessed us” and “We have so much to be thankful for.”

With every breath I take, I can honestly say I feel thankful.

This attitude, I’ve learned, this approach to life has more to do with our perspective than it does with any of the outward circumstances that may come our way — many of which are beyond our control.

There are many out there who rarely have a positive thing to say about anything, and who probably wouldn’t be caught dead uttering a word of thanks, even though they have it far better than about 99 percent of the world’s population.

If it isn’t doom and gloom, it’s an abrasive, critical spirit that comes through their every utterance.

Then there are those who seemingly can’t catch a break and who have seemingly every reason to fuss, yet are always thankful for what they do have.

In my last interview with the late, great Grant Cushinberry several years ago, he told me a lesson he learned from his parents: “No matter how bad you’ve got it, someone else has always got it worse.”

No matter how well or poorly we’ve done in the past on the thanksliving front, we can always start a new chapter. And what better time than this week, as we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday.

All it takes is one small adjustment. What a difference it can make.

Notes: Churches celebrate Thanksgiving

November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving is a time for people to come together, and local congregations are holding up their share of the bargain in this regard.

Several Thanksgiving services are planned for this week, including:

■ The 33rd annual Community Thanksgiving Service will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, at St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church, 701 S.W. Topeka Blvd. The program theme will be “Sacred Earth.” Food donations will be received for Doorstep. A freewill offering will go to Habitat for Humanity. A reception will follow.

■ Grace Episcopal Cathedral, 701 S.W. 8th, will have its traditional Thanksgiving service at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 28.

■ The Topeka Churches Singing Convention will have its annual Thanksgiving service at 10 a.m. Thursday at Mount Olive Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church, 701 N.W. Gordon. The Rev. Curtis Odum, pastor of In God’s House Church, will be the speaker.

■ The Oakland Community Thanksgiving Service will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, at Oakland United Methodist Church, 801 N.E. Chester. Participating congregations will include Oakland Methodist, Grace Baptist, Oakland Nazarene, Oakland Christian and Oakland Presbyterian churches.

■ An ecumenical Thanksgiving service will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26, at West Side Baptist Church, 1008 S.W. 4th. Congregations will include Potwin Presbyterian, Central Congregational and West Side Christian churches.

In other religion news:

■ Country music singer Larry Gatlin will be in concert at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at Wanamaker Woods Church of the Nazarene. Appearing with Gatlin will be the gospel quartet All Four One. General admission tickets are $18 and are available at the church and at Lifeway Christian Store, 2121 S.W. Fairlawn Plaza Drive.

■ A food giveaway will take place starting at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 25, in the west parking lot of Family of God Church, 1231 N.W. Eugene. The distribution is sponsored by the church, Randel Ministries and Harvesters. This will be the last food giveaway at Family of God until after winter break.

■ Holy Family Catholic School will have a 1960s-themed dinner and dance from 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church activity center, 216 N.E. Branner. Dinner and dance tickets are $25 each. Tickets for the dance, which will be from 7 to 11 p.m., are $15.

■ Temple Beth Sholom, 4200 S.W. Munson, will have its Hanukkah Happening service at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29.

■ Heartland Worship Center Church of God, 1401 N.W. Harrison, will have a community meal with new Pastor David McGinnis and his wife, Jan, from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23.

■ The year-end service of the Topeka City Mission Union will be held at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, at True Vine Missionary Baptist Church, 307 S.E. Tefft. Sandra Victor, Topeka City Mission Union president, will speak. Music will be furnished by Calvary Baptist and True Vine church choirs. The 2013 music scholarship recipients will make a brief musical presentation.

■ The Saturday Women’s Connection will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 S.W. 10th. Sandy Badgett, of Shawnee, will speak on “Finding Hope at Christmas.” The luncheon cost is $13. Call (785) 233-0701 or email leidacloud@cox.net for tickets or more information.

■ Tajci, an internationally acclaimed singer, will present the “Christmas Concert Experience” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, at White Concert Hall, near S.W. 17th and Jewell on the Washburn University campus. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and children, and are available by calling (785) 554-4647.

■ Washburn University’s Opera Studio will present “A Gilbert and Sullivan’s Christmas Carol” at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, 701 S.W. 8th. A freewill offering will be received for the program, which is part of the cathedral’s Great Spaces Music and Arts Series.

■ The Topeka Women’s Connection will have a “Merry Christmas Luncheon” at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, 1717 S.W. Topeka Blvd. The presentation will feature gift-wrapping demonstrations, inspirational messages and music. Call (785) 233-1387 or (785) 266-1522 for tickets or more information.

Notes: Gatlin, All Four One in concert

November 19, 2013

Country music singer Larry Gatlin will be in concert at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at Wanamaker Woods Church of the Nazarene.

Appearing with Gatlin will be the gospel quartet All Four One.

General admission tickets are $18 and are available at the church and at Lifeway Christian Store, 2121 S.W. Fairlawn Plaza Drive.

In other religion news:

■ Lane Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, 1200 S.W. Lane, will have a fish fry from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16. A $9 donation per meal is suggested.

■ Central Congregational United Church of Christ, 1248 S.W. Buchanan, will hold its third annual fundraiser for its music department at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17.

The program is titled “Praising the Lord through Dance and Song.” Praise dance teams from St. Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church and Jason Jones’ Accent Academy of Dance, Drama and Worship and Arts will be featured. Also participating will be a bell choir consisting of members of Central Congregational Church, the Topeka Community Chime Choir and Tabernacle Bible Church of Wichita.

■ New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church, 1018 S.E. 8th, will observe its annual Usher’s Day service at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17. The guests will be the pastors and congregations from Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, True Light Ministries and New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

■ The Cash Mob, a group sponsored by Central Congregational United Church of Christ that supports locally owned businesses, will gather at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at Oddfellows Fine Books and Collectibles, 117 S.W. 6th. Participants will go out for lunch after shopping at Oddfellows.

■ University United Methodist Church, 1621 S.W. College, will have its annual holiday bazaar from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16. The bazaar will feature baked goods, candies, Christmas gifts and decorations. A barbecue beef sandwich lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for $7.50. A homemade chicken-and-noodle dinner will be served from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. for $9 for a whole portion or $5.50 for a half portion and for seniors and children.

■ Faith Temple Church, 1162 S.W. Lincoln, will have an appreciation service for Overseer Laron and Beryl New at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17. Dinner will be served after the service.

■ Washburn University’s Opera Studio will present “A Gilbert and Sullivan’s Christmas Carol” at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, 701 S.W. 8th. A freewill offering will be received for the program, which is part of the cathedral’s Great Spaces Music and Arts Series.

■ Second Presbyterian Church, 210 N.W. Menninger Road, will have its eighth annual Second to None bazaar and quilt show from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16. The event will feature a biscuits-and-gravy breakfast, a burrito lunch, a bake sale, a book nook and craft sale. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for photos from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The breakfast cost is $5 for adults, $2.50 for children ages 3 to 10 and free for children younger than 3.

■ The monthly Eckankar worship service will take place at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Clubhouse Inn and Suites, 924 S.W. Henderson. The topic will be “Gifts of Health and Illness.” For more information, visit www.eckankar-ks.org.

■ Six-time Grammy Award winner and multiplatinum-selling artist Tobymac will bring his “Hits Deep Tour” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, to the Independence Event Center, 19100 East Valley View Parkway in Independence, Mo. Special guests will include Brandon Heath, Mandisa, Jamie Grace, Colton Dixon, Chris August and newcomers Capital Kings. Advance tickets are $35 premium reserved and $24.99 regular reserved. A $5 charge will be added for at-the-door ticket purchases. For more information, call (816) 442-6100 or (800) 745-3000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

■ Heartland Worship Center Church of God, 1401 N.W. Harrison, will have a community meal with new pastor David and Jan McGinnis from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23.

Summer’s end brings new routine

August 9, 2013

As difficult as it is to believe, another summer is drawing to a close.

Summer to me starts when school lets out and when it takes back up again.

And, yes, this summer seemed to go by far too fast.

This week, my kids will start getting up a little earlier as the school bell will ring for the first time on Tuesday morning.

That means my wife and I will have the unenviable task of reminding our boys that there is such a thing as bedtime — a phrase that hardly has been in use these past three months.

In a few more weeks, before we know it, the days will become noticeably shorter. The air will become crisper in the early-morning and evening hours. Frost will show up on our windshields one morning. And, well, you know the drill.

If there was anything I was told when I was younger that I understand much more clearly now, at age 55, it is this: The older you get, the faster time seems to fly by.

Yes, the days still have 24 hours, just as they did when I was a child. That equates to 1,440 minutes each day. Yet, looking back, days seemed to last about twice as long when I was a kid as they do at present.

That's a great mystery to me: Why did time seem to go by so much more slowly when I was 7 or 8 than it does now?

Maybe it is because so many things were new to me back when I was a kid, or possibly because there were so many new phases to pass through: from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. Each year brought with it new adventures, new challenges and new accomplishments.

But things changed once I entered adulthood.

Instead of having a new set of challenges each year, as I did when I entered a new grade each fall as a child, things leveled off much more as I entered adulthood and the workaday world.

Not only do days and months fly by nowadays, but so do years.

I sometimes wonder if I am doing all I can to maximize the time I've been given — and not to squander another single day.

A favorite saying of mine is that "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

My goal is to start doing some serious planning — to live intentionally, rather than accidentally or randomly, and to do all I can to maximize the opportunities that come with another new day.

The desired result is simple: to grow mentally, physically and spiritually each and every day.

To get where I want to go will entail setting some goals: to do some new things — maybe things I haven't done in a long time, or things I've never done.

If successful, I will be willing to wager that my days will seem much more full, and that they won't seem to fly by quite so quickly because they are carbon copies of the ones that preceded them.