september 15, 2021


On Sunday I brought a box of stones into the church.  I had collected the stones from the Coolwater grounds.  I used them as an illustration of the image of living stones in I Peter 2:4-5.  You and I are living stones built into the kingdom of God.  As living stones, we are sent out into the world to help build the kingdom of God.  Along the way we encounter many people.  Some of these people may help to shape us, and some we may help shape.  It works both ways. 

This week I am writing about a living stone that helped to shape me.  His name is Bob Clarke. My sister called me last Thursday night to tell me that Bob had passed away at the age of 95.  Bob was the Minister of Music and Membership for many years at First Christian Church in Decatur.  He was at Decatur when I was 2 and my family moved to Georgia.  He was still at Decatur when I went to seminary in my late twenties.  He sang at my ordination service, at my wedding, and at my dad’s funeral. 


Bob worked with a wide variety of education and membership programs seemingly without number.  Bob’s tasks over the years included running many youth programs including youth groups and choir programs for all ages.  He took our youth choir on choir tours to many places in the the United States.  He drove the old school bus that Decatur used to transport youth groups all over creation.  Parents and youth both were sure that Bob’s guardian angel worked overtime when he drove The Great White Bus. 


When the world renowned Disciples preacher, Fred Craddock retired to the north Georgia mountains, he began Cherry Log Christian Church.  Dr. Craddock asked Bob to lead the music at Cherry Log.  Bob filled that role for years.  Bob hardly ever really “retired.”

Bob always seemed to have a smile on his face.  He lived each day with a spirit of joy and gratitude.  He would do all that he could to help another person.  He seemed tireless in his efforts to do things for the church and for others as he lived a life following Christ. 


In part, I wanted to honor Bob’s life in this reflection.  But I also want to make this point.  You don’t have to work in the church to shape lives or be a living stone.  You don’t have to be just like Bob Clarke to serve Jesus.  We are all given unique talents and qualities.  Christ seeks to work in all of us if we are open to His leading.  And you may have an impact like Bob Clarke did on someone in your life.  And someone, somewhere, may be giving thanks for meeting and being blessed by you!




Pastor Rick

Sr. Interim Pastor


september 7, 2021

On Sunday during the sermon, I asked the people present to name qualities that make a good teacher. As people called out these qualities, I wrote them on a whiteboard. After church I took a picture of this list.  The qualities called out on Sunday morning appear here in random order and do not follow grammatical guidelines: patience, communication, leader, kind, compassion, caring, empathy, innovation, subject knowledge, listener and joy.  You might think of some other qualities that could be included.

Jesus had all these qualities in abundance.  This would be a good starting point for listing qualities that people admired in Jesus and why people followed him.  They are certainly reasons why so many have followed him through the centuries. Perhaps these qualities reflect in part why you follow him today.

These qualities could also be used to describe a follower of Christ.  There are many more that we could include.  Lists of qualities, fruits, and gifts of the Spirit exist in the New Testament.  Paul lists some in Romans 12:6-8, I Corinthians 12:4-10, and Galatians 5:22-23.  Do any of us have all of these?  No.  Thank goodness that you don’t have to have them all to follow Jesus.  God has gifted all of us differently.  However, these are qualities that help us reflect the image of Christ in our daily living. They are qualities that help us show a Christian life to others.  Everywhere we go, we share something about our faith, or some part of what we believe about Christ. 


Here are some questions for you: Which qualities best describe you?  Which qualities do you share best?  Which qualities would you like to work on in your life?  Pondering and reflecting on those questions may make a difference in your life, and in the lives of others you encounter as you follow Jesus.


Pastor Rick


august 25, 2021

On Sunday during worship I was supposed to promote a meeting after worship next Sunday August 29, about The Big Fall Event. On Saturday October 23, Coolwater will be hosting The Big Fall Event that will be a combination of a pumpkin patch, food trucks and live music/concert. Lynn Allen tried twice to get my attention. She even stood up. Pastors can get caught up in Sunday morning worship and consequently don’t notice some things – like Lynn standing up. Think of it like a horse with blinders on. The next time I imagine that Lynn will come up and politely stand next to me and get my attention.

We will be talking about The Big Fall Event after church on August 29 for any who want to share in the conversation. This is an event designed to promote awareness of Coolwater and to attract interest through these multiple ways to appeal to people on that day. There will be plenty of tasks we need to do to make this event successful. It will need to be a church-wide effort.

Everyone is invited to gather after worship to talk about plans and tasks that need to be achieved to make this event happen. We will circle up chairs and share in conversation. Some preliminary plans and tasks have been developed to help this conversation be productive. We will not be starting from scratch!

One more thing. We really need to think of a good name for this October 23 gathering! The Big Fall Event is just a name I made up to have something to call it temporarily. The Big Fall Event is just not catchy! And we want this event to be just right!

Rev. Rick Gates

august 18, 2021

In the gameshow Jeopardy, contestants earn money totals for being the first to give the correct answer to a question.  In the course of the game there are three opportunities for a Daily Double.  If a player happens upon a Daily Double, the player may wager any or all of his/her earnings.  Highly ambitious players may choose to wager all of it.  If the contestant wagers everything, that person may say something like, “Let’s make it a true Daily Double.”  The contestant may also say, “I’m all in.”

On October 23 Coolwater will be hosting a big Fall event.  It is a combination of a pumpkin patch, food trucks and livemusic/concert.  Our goal is to provide an event that will attract members and people new to Coolwater to drop by and shop for pumpkins or eat food or listen to the music or any combination of those three.  Some may come for the pumpkins and decide to listen to the music as well.  Some may come for the pumpkins and grab some food.  Some may be interested in the music then purchase some food and a pumpkin.  This is a big effort to promote awareness of Coolwater and to attract interest through these multiple ways to appeal to people on that day.

We will make a big push on multiple forms of social media.  We will put ads in the paper.  We will create a sign that you CANNOT miss seeing if you travel along Dynamite Road.  We will be sending a special invitation to all the organizations that have worked with us in our outreach projects.  And we will need you to tell everyone – people at work, people in your neighborhood, friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even your monkey’s uncle. 

It will be a church wide effort.  There will be plenty of tasks we need to do to make this event successful.  As a church, we need to go “ALL IN.”  A church-wide event.  We will be talking about this after church on August 29 for any who want to share in the conversation.  This will be a great day!  Let’s go “all in” Coolwater!



Pastor Rick



august 11, 2021

Last Sunday we heard some great news.  Our congregation reached the amount we had set for the Technology Goal.  This means that we will get a little over 2,500 from the grant money our denomination has made available.  That gives us over 7, 500 in all for new technology equipment! 

We put together quite wish list.  Most of the technology used in worship and for other purposes is ten years old.  We have gotten wonderful use from this equipment.  However, now we will be able to replace and upgrade some significant items.  (Think new big screens in the worship place).  Down the road we will make all these purchases and get some of them installed.  (Again, think big screens!) 

This is a significant accomplishment for Coolwater.  It is an investment in our worship possibilities and presentation.  It is an investment in our future.  This also shows that we are engaged together in furthering our mission and ministry.  

There are other signs of that as well.  A look at the monthly outline for 2021 demonstrates the forward planning that members of our congregation are making possible.  For example, we are engaged in monthly outreach projects, active as a monthly food distribution sight for Foothills Food Bank, continuing mens’ and womens’ bible and book studies.  For a big Fall event, on October 23 Coolwater will combine a pumpkin patch, a concert/live music and food trucks.  

Last Sunday I told this story during the sermon.  Bruce Thielemann, who was at one time pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania recelled a conversation he had with a person in the congregation.  This man said, “When you get right down to it, it all comes down to basin theology.”  Thielemann asked, “Basin theology?  What’s that?”  The person replied, “Remember what Pilate did when he had the chance to acquit Jesus?  He called for a basin and washed his hands of the whole thing.  But Jesus, the night before his death, took a basin and proceeded to wash the feet of his followers.  It all comes down to basin theology.”  

As we continue to recover from the pandemic and rebuild our priority revolves around engaging in mission and ministry.  As a church we are active together as servants, taking up the basin as Christ called us to do.  As individual Christians every day you may have the opportunity in some way to be a servant to others and a servant for Christ.  May God lead us and guide us as we serve, both as a congregation and individual members of the Body of Christ. 




Pastor Rick


july 27, 2021

“Hi, ho, hi ho, it’s back to school we go.”  I borrowed a line and changed a few words from Walt Disney’s first feature length movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  This week teachers report in many districts.  Some will report in these next couple of weeks, and some have reported back already.  What happened to going back to school later in August, or even after Labor Day?

I have been digging through piles I made at home when school ended in May.  Papers, folders, books mostly.  My search took me to the garage.  As I was searching through things in the garage, I made an unexpected and delightful discovery of a favorite poster that had been missing for years.  I was convinced that this poster had been thrown away accidentally in a garage cleaning event.  The poster features Yoda, the Jedi Master from Star Wars.  In bold letters at the top the poster proclaims, “This room is protected by THE FORCE.”  At the bottom the poster continues, “But sadly not cleaned by it.”  It is going back up in my classroom tomorrow!

My unexpected discovery and delight reminded me of the parable Jesus told about the woman who lost a coin and searched diligently until she found it.  Luke 15 contains this short powerful story.  The woman has ten silver coins, but she loses one of them.  She lights a lamp and searches until she finds it.  Upon finding the coin, the woman rejoices.  Then Jesus says that there is rejoicing among the angels when a sinner repents.  Jesus declares that he has come to seek and save the lost.

Ponder that for a moment.  You and I are loved by a savior who doesn’t give up on searching for us.  He doesn’t give up on teaching us.  He doesn’t give up on supporting us.  He doesn’t give up on leading us. And certainly, He doesn’t give up on loving us!  You have a savior who feels that way about you!

What else may this story teach us?  Let’s look at the woman in the story for a moment.  What words could be used to describe her efforts?  She searches carefully, persistently, deliberately.  She may also search prayerfully, expectantly, faithfully, hopefully.  As I go back to school and have kids entrusted to my care, I would be wise to consider how this woman searched.  These words describing her search would be wise words to guide my teaching – every day.  I also think they may be wise words to guide how we live out our faith in Christ.  


Pastor Rick