Light is a Fascinating Thing – Advent Thoughts

This is a “proem” (part prose, part poem) that I wrote a while back for a friend’s Advent project. It seemed especially fitting after today’s message by Dan Hall and with the theme for our Advent/Christmas services at Valleydale. I posted this also on my personal blog, but wanted to share it with those who might not see it there.

Light is a fascinating thing.

It may be as dominating as the sun,

As demure as the moon,

As penetrating as a flashlight,

Or as subtle as a candle.

Still, whatever its manifestation, it is in a word … present.


Its adversary – we are told – is darkness.

If you ask the opposite of light, will the response not be, “dark”?

But darkness is not light’s opposite, its enemy.

It is light’s absence.

It is the place light chooses not to be.

Darkness, no matter how powerful it may seem at any given time,

No matter how deep,

No matter how dense,

No matter how overpowering it claims to be,

It can only boast in light’s absence.

Never in light’s presence.


It cannot be light’s nemesis, for it has no power over light.

You cannot “turn on” the dark.

It can only wait until you “turn off” the light.

But rest assured, it waits.

And when the light goes away – even for a moment –

The darkness moves in.




With something of an evil grin.

Realizing that light is simply not … present.


So it was in times long ago.

God – the Father of Lights – had been turned off to His people,

To all of His creation.

400 years of creatures groping in the darkness.

Simply because they had chosen to reject the light.


Stupid, stupid creatures.

Embracing darkness and shunning light.

Hating day and loving night.

Thinking “presence” was a given, not a gift.

Taking light for granted, not a grant.

And so nearness became absence,

And light was simply NOT – in a word … present.



Then on an unsuspecting night,

In an inconspicuous place,

For all too common people,

God turned the light on.

Emmanuel was born.

God was present …

With us. Among us. FOR us.

In Him was life and that life was the light of men.


The light shined in the darkness,

But the darkness still managed to not comprehend it.

Stupid, stupid creatures.

Emabracing darkness and shunning light.

Hating day and loving night.

Closing their eyes to the light that was once again,

Finally … present.


So the light was not put on a lampstand, but under a basket.

Hidden from the world, so that darkness could move in.




With something of an evil grin.

Pretending that light was simply not … present.


But light could not be covered over by darkness, for it had chosen to be present.

And a light as subtle as a candle

Became as penetrating as a flashlight.

A light as demure as the moon

Became as dominating as the sun itself.

It showed that darkness was not its adversary;

Darkness was only its absence.

And on this one night it established in one moment and forevermore

That it was – in a word….


With us. Among us. For us.

And once and for all … IN us.

Light is a fascinating thing.


“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” – 2 Cor. 4:6


December 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm 2 comments

Occupy This

A Guest Blog by Melissa Atwood

What a disservice we have done to most of a generation by allowing them to live outside of reality. They were taught to believe that life was fair – that everyone always won an equal prize, regardless of who was the faster runner, more talented (or dedicated) pianist, or the most gifted student.

They were taught that, if life went sideways, it wasn’t their fault. Some other thing, person, institution, or idea must be responsible for their unhappiness. They believed this. They were encouraged in this. We protected their self-esteem. And now, they esteem themselves so highly that they do not believe that they ought to have to do things that are “beneath” them.

They shouldn’t have to work for minimum wage – not even for a little while. They shouldn’t have to earn their position in a company (and the salary and benefits that go with it) by hard work and excellent performance. After all, everyone is supposed to receive an equal prize, regardless of who is the best salesperson, most talented (or dedicated) nurse, or the most gifted teacher.

The natural corollary: there shouldn’t be extra rewards for those who do work harder, exhibit more talent, or hone their skill. No. If someone has received those rewards, they must have done so illegitimately. Because life is fair. And we all should get the same prize.

And so they occupy streets and parks and plazas around our country. They express their discontent with “evil corporations” and “the 1%” of most wealthy Americans.

Well, I have news for these young folks: I, too, am in the 99%; and the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd does not represent me.

I am first-generation college. None of my grandparents even graduated from high school. In the early 1900s in the Deep South, poverty was rampant. And my grandparents and their children did not escape this. One of my granddads grew cotton out of red clay that he had plowed with a mule. And my mom, even as a little bitty girl, worked in those fields picking cotton by hand.


My dad’s family lived in town but worked just as hard. My dad had one skill set: he was a retail salesman and manager, not unlike his dad. Still, he cross trained himself and ultimately became the owner of a successful, albeit small, petroleum construction company.

Today, my mom works in a retail store as a cashier –primarily for the insurance benefits. My dad is retired and draws Social Security. He doesn’t have a pension or 401(k), although he has a small next egg he managed to save. My brother works very long hours as a semi-truck driver. It’s hard work, but he’s really good at it. I can’t even drive a straight shift, but he drives vehicles that actually have two different steering wheels and more gears than I can fathom. And by doing this, he takes care of his family.

I have a nice, cushy desk job. To get there, I busted my butt in school for 20 years. I was studying until bed time when I was 11 years old. The Lord blessed me with amazing opportunities, but all of them required that I perform once I got there.

So I feel like I have the bona fides to say what I’m saying here.

Of course, there are bad guys. Some of those are rich people who got that way by cutting corners or cheating. Some have hurt “little people.”

But some are in the government and have passed or signed legislation because of a benefit that it would bring to themselves or their benefactors. Some in the government have meant well, but haven’t thought things through to their logical conclusions. They’ve mandated “fairness” at the expense of common sense. And things have gone sideways.

So I say to those who occupy Wall Street, Main Street, and everywhere else: Life is not “fair.” Whoever told you that it was has lied to you. But you live in the greatest country on the planet. You live in a place where, if you are a hard worker, you can become president – regardless of whether you’re the child of an immigrant or part of a political dynasty, whether you’re from poverty or were born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

This is as close to fair as we’re going to get this side of heaven. But you have to be willing to take responsibility for your own situation. You must exert effort, acknowledge your failures, and not give up if you don’t succeed instantly. Learn from your mistakes, dust yourself off, and make another run.

You won’t start at #1, but you have a chance to finish there. And that is as fair as life is going to get.

This is Reality. Please, for your own sake and that of our country, consider occupying this.





November 9, 2011 at 5:42 pm Leave a comment

Every Man Needs to be Courageous

            No matter the failures or hurts of your past, you can decide today to be a man of honor, a father of faith, and a husband of integrity.  That’s the core message of “Courageous,” last weekend’s biggest new movie and the fourth and latest production from Provident Films and Sherwood Pictures, affiliated with Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia (previous films include Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof).

An unlikely band of four sheriff’s deputies and an unemployed Hispanic form an odd alliance of friends who battle similar challenges from very different backgrounds and circumstances: three of the guys are married with kids, one is divorced, and one fathered a daughter to a cheerleader during recently completed college days.

Alex Kendrick starred in, directed, and produced the movie, as he has the other three of Sherwood’s productions.  He plays Adam, a deputy whose family faces a tragic loss (I didn’t know this before the movie, so I don’t want to ruin it for you), one which God uses in his life to challenge his priorities, values, and lifestyle.  In the wake of his own personal deep Bible study on families, particularly fathering, Adam not only makes a fresh commitment to God in the form of a resolution to his family, but asks other men in his life to hold him accountable for upholding his commitments as well.

With more than enough action, thrills, and real-life drama to suit the most over-active testosterone-drenched viewer, yet sufficient sweetness and tenderness to dampen the eyes of the most hardened guy in the theater, this movie is not for wimps – Paula cried all the way through it and I had my share of misty-eyed, lumpy throat moments, some of which extended way beyond my comfort level.

These Dougherty County cops bust up gangs, arrest hardened thieves, save the innocent, witness police abuse, and see the seedier side of life.  Armed with statistics that undeniably connect fatherlessness in the home with a heightened propensity toward crime, the men in the story begin a campaign that is sweeping the nation – a campaign returning fathers to their Biblical role of being responsible for self and family in a Christ-honoring way.

The production quality of this movie is far beyond the quality of the previous ever-improving films Sherwood has made.  The viewer quickly loses sight of the fact that the entire cast, crew, wardrobe, make-up, and production personnel are all amateur, church-going believers out on a mission to change the world through the power of Jesus Christ.  There are a lot of good, wholesome, and clean movies you could watch with your family this year, but only one is likely to actually bring your family closer to each other and to God.

Christ-followers often complain of the void of morality and character in the entertainment world.  The only way to change that is to support worthy products like this one. Don’t let Courageous slip through your fingers!  It is currently showing at all area theaters.  For more info, click

Calvin Kelly






October 4, 2011 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

Thank You Valleydale For Eight Great Years!

Dear Valleydale Church,

Thank you for the many kind words spoken to Renee and I over the past week. We are so grateful for the incredible blessing so many of you have been personally to us and how you have allowed us to serve alongside you. These past eight years have been the shortest-longest eight years in my ministry. On one hand, it seems like yesterday that the Greens were just getting to know the Valleydale family and on the other it hand, by the way you all have loved us and when I think of the many, many ways God has worked through us (all) over these years, it seems like forever.

As you know, God works in various ways to accomplish His purposes. Status quot or business as usual is typically not part of His plan. In order to fulfill His purpose for individuals and for churches, there are times God redirects our lives and creates change. Change is usually not a welcomed friend unless we are the author of it and have the capacity to control it as it unfolds.  However, God often uses the unrest that change brings into our life or into our church, to stir within us a new energy… a new passion to seek God in a fresh way seeking to understand what He is wanting to accomplish through what may seem like an untimely change. Ultimately, He desires for us a deeper relationship with Himself much more than what we might ever do for Him. In other words change precipitates change in us. That is if we allow Christ do do his ‘change work’ in us, molding us more and more into the image and character of Christ. His work in us precedes His work through us. So, welcome change and treat is as an opportunity to see God work in you and among you in amazing ways.

We love you!

Saint & Renee

October 2, 2011 at 3:42 pm 1 comment

Labor of Love Weekend Work

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Just wanted to let you know about the work schedule for this weekend at the Henderson Home in Ensley.  In addition to the LONG AWAITED AND GREAT day of college football beginning (of course there is a BIG game on Thursday night!!!), we will be working at the Henderson home.  It’s a holiday weekend and it is VERY ok to have something else to do that doesn’t involve coming to Ensley. But you will be missed. Many have been so faithful. Much has been accomplished because of your commitment to God’s calling you to His project.

I was sitting in Bible study tonight about Jonah and how his life was interrupted by God’s calling and timing. The leader said “God’s interruptions are privileges”.  I thought about Cornelius and Lettecia, we can pray they will come to see the events of April 27th as a privilege.  And then I thought about you, about this team, lives interrupted by God’s calling to rebuild this home and this family. It is a privilege, I needed God’s reminder tonight. Anyway, sorry for the sermonette. Your help is needed.

Cornelius and Leticia Henderson
4401 Avenue K Ensley
Birmingham, Alabama 35208

Henderson Project Work Schedule:

Wednesday (8-31)  Huffman Baptist team will be working, if anyone would like to join them.

Friday (9-2)  Joe will be working, same schedule, leave the church at 6:30am

Saturday – leave church at 6:30 or meet at the house – we’ll at least have a radio to listen to the games. Remember AL plays at home around 11:30 so traffic might be heavier.

Sunday – after church, meet at house about 1:30pm

Monday –  leave church at 6:30 or meet at the house

Work to be done:

  • Sheetrock,
  • LOTS of prep work for painting,
  • paint,
  • install a/c,
  • insulate attic,
  • replace basement door

FYI – Lowes has been very generous allowing supplies to be purchased at cost.  Thanks to manager Larry White.
Rainbow Paint on 280, also very generously, is donating some paint and giving a large discount on additional paint. Thanks to manager,  Ricky Germany.

Please let me know what days/times you have interest in serving.

In Him,
delana long

August 31, 2011 at 3:21 pm Leave a comment

Henderson Disaster Rebuild Project

Location: 4401 Ave K Ensley, 35208

Friday, August 19 – Working on cleaning and improving the yard (cutting grass, weed-eating, etc.)  For schedule & details on how you can help contact Andy Easley |

Saturday, August 20 –  Leave from the church at 6:30am or meet at the house.  Flexible schedule, just work as long as you can. Please let us know if you will be coming.  (Joe & Delana Long | 205-995-8714 |


  • work gloves and any personal items you want to have, like box cutter, tape measure, hammer, sunscreen, hat, etc.  We will have the construction trailer on site so most tools will be provided.
  •  lunch or plan to get a sandwich at Subway, McDonalds, etc. Water and Gatorade provided.

On the work agenda for Saturday:

  • Insulation (wear a long sleeve shirt)
  • Begin hanging drywall
  • Continue painting… side, back and foundation block (almost done).
  • General clean up, interior & exterior

We are making such great progress.  You guys are so very faithful. We all have many hats and activities to juggle.  What an privilege to work along side you all!!! Remember the Henderson family in your prayers.  May they see God glorified in our work and may this house truly be a “home”.

The full story for newcomers to the project:

The Henderson home is located in Ensley Highlands, a nice neighborhood with sidewalks and well kept yards. The home was severely damaged in the morning storm on April 27th. A HUGE tree fell in the center of the house, crushing roof, rafters, and through the floor.  Thankfully, the family slept in rooms on each end of the house. No one was injured, but of course water damage resulted to sheetrock, electrical wiring, and then a/c unit has been vandalized. The family of 5 are currently living in an apartment.

Joe and other men on a chain saw crew met Cornelius when they were called to cut the tree.  They felt God was calling them to make an effort to help this family.  So several weeks ago a group from Valleydale and friends began the rebuilding process.  The middle section of the roof had to be rebuild and the entire roof shingled. This has been our major focus to get the house dried in.  The exterior is now almost fully painted and progress is being made on re-wiring the entire house. Several new windows have been installed.

Here’s a list work to be done to complete the project, obviously funding will be a factor.  The family qualified for some FEMA money and as a BBA-Metro Changers project which will cover the roof, exterior painting and wiring.

  • (DONE) Reconstruct the roof rafters and decking
  • (DONE) Replace old shingles with new
  • (85% DONE) Exterior painting – lots of prep work, scraping, repair, caulking
  • (85% DONE) Electrical wiring
  • Insulation
  • Sheetrock repair – wall and ceiling
  • (DONE) floor repair – large limb through floor, subfloor and hardwood
  • interior painting
  • hardwood refinishing
  • landscaping

If you feel God leading to be involved in any of these projects, your assistance would be welcomed and appreciated. It’s been a great experience to work with fellow believers.  Just let us know and we’ll work out the details.

Project Leaders: Joe & Delana Long | 205-995-8714 |


August 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm Leave a comment

Remembering Rob

Valleydale Church tragically lost one of the members of its ministerial staff on Saturday. Rob Murray – the Director of Recreational Ministries – succumbed to the effects of a heart attack, and his spirit is now present with Lord, who we are sure is being kept very busy today rewarding his good and faithful servant. Rob leaves behind his wife, Diane, and their son, Tyler,  as well as a large number of friends and acquaintances who loved him dearly and were impacted by his gigantic heart, his off-the-wall humor, his old country sayings, his quotes of obscure 60’s rock-n-roll songs, and his love of Valleydale Church and its ministries.

Rob gave up a career in sales several years ago with the original goal of going back to school to be a teacher. He took the Recreational Ministry position at Valleydale first as a temporary measure while he prepared for his new career. However, his love for his church and its people compelled him to continue in the staff position at Valleydale.  It cannot be counted how many lives were impacted and how many seeds were planted for eternity through his tireless efforts in Upward ministries, recreational programs, fall festivals, mission trips, and all kinds of special events that he coordinated, planned, and carried out with his usual enthusiasm and heart of service. What we do rejoice in today is that Rob now clearly understands what an impact he made for the kingdom of God through words he heard from the lips of Jesus Himself.

We will miss Rob greatly, not merely because of the work he did, but also because of who he was for each of us – an encouraging spirit, a heart for God, a hand for others, a one-man vaudeville act, and a man dedicated to his family, his work, his church, and, most importantly, his Savior.

Rest in the arms of Jesus, Rob. You fought the good fight, you finished the race, and you kept the faith. Well done, Tater.

Here is a link to the brief memorial video shown in the morning services at Valleydale today

Both the visitation and the funeral service for Rob will be in the worship center at Valleydale Church. Visitation will be Tuesday night from 5-8. The service will be held Wednesday morning at 11. 

August 14, 2011 at 2:55 pm 5 comments

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