Like many folks, the pandemic provided me with much unexpected time to work on projects around the house. I spent months working on our farm to plant our garden, mow the fields, and clean out the barns. Ironically, I noticed that as the economy slowed and the world began to shut down, one of the few places that remained open was Lowe’s.

I remember driving by and seeing the parking lot busily overflowing with home improvers snatching up as much lumber and hardware as possible. On several occasions, I was one of them.

At the height of the pandemic, my dad and I decided to dive headlong into the undertaking of the summer: redoing the deck around our above-ground swimming pool. Neither of us would claim to be a handyman. In fact, I often approach that sort of repair project the way that I approach cooking: I get by when I need to, and I pay others to do it for me when I cannot get by.

This deck was expected to take us at least a few weekends to accomplish. The lumber, decking screws, and staining were purchased. That is when we made a discovery.

One afternoon in the middle of the summer, we removed the top layer of boards on the last section of the deck. It was the moment of truth. I looked with horror as the structure beneath, the beams and support joists that ran the length of the pool, were rotten and falling apart, held together by a hopeful handful of rusted nails. My dad and I exchanged glances and a subtle Yikes, as we began to examine the extent of the damage.

After a few moments, my dad broke the silence.

“We have two options, son. First, we can reinforce the beams and support joists that we have and replace the decking boards on top. That will buy us another year or so. Otherwise, we can start from the bottom up.” The heat and exhaustion made us weary. The prospect of beginning from the bottom was unwelcome. And yet, we knew that the job demanded it. We had to do a total overhaul with new material. We needed full redemption.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus preaches perhaps his most famous sermon, known as “The Sermon on the Mount.” In this lengthy message, Jesus begins with a list of characteristics of those who come to God through faith, the qualities of those who belong and participate in the Kingdom. This list, known as the “Beatitudes,” is designed to strip away the top layer of our hearts and give us a clear glimpse into the motivational depths that lie beneath the surface, the place where our thoughts, words, and actions are shaped.

As we read the words that Jesus spoke, it ought to give us pause as we examine the shape of our own lives. Do we hope in God with a fervent longing to see his will accomplished in our world? Do we long for his righteousness to be made manifest while extending his mercy to those around us? Are we actively making peace with pure motivation?

The honest answer is often No. The top layer may deceive others, but the structure beneath is crumbling. Our need is not cosmetic, a quick cleanup of the externals. Our need is not reinforcement, a few extra nuts and bolts added to fix what would otherwise be good. Our need is foundational, an absolute reconstruction from the ground up.

Like my dad and I, none of us has the capacity to accomplish the spiritual task at hand. Our hearts are too far gone, and none of us has the skill level required to fix what was born broken.

We need someone able, someone outside. We need a carpenter. Jesus alone can mend the sin-destroyed lives that we lead. Without shuddering, or shying from the work, Jesus knowingly removes the surface level smiles that say we are okay and digs deeper to expose the rotten layers of our lives that we do not like to acknowledge exist. He does not do this to harm us but to heal us. In his infinite kindness, Jesus reveals the depth of our need and rebuilds us from the inside out. After all, what we need is not a makeover or touchup -- we need total renovation, the kind exclusively available by grace through faith in Jesus. So, bring your brokenness, rottenness, and ugliness to him. He is unafraid of what you hide from the rest of the world, and he alone is able to redeem us into that which is lovely.

Conway, Loris, Aynor and Western Horry

■ Loris First United Methodist Church, 3507 Broad St., has a blessing box in the church and it is available each Friday from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. This box contains nonperishable food items and individuals in need are encouraged to come to the church at those times. Also, if you would like to donate items, please place them in the box.

■ Dogwood Hill Baptist Church, 1040 Mt. Zion Road in Loris, has a food pantry on the third Saturday of each month from 8 a.m.-10 a.m.

■ Salem Baptist Church, 4008 Salem Road in Aynor, opens its food bank on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 9 a.m. until noon. The mission: “We serve Christ when we serve people.”

Call (843) 347-5168 or go online to www.stjamesconway.org.

Myrtle Beach/The Coast

■ You are invited to the following services and activities at The Well by The Sea, 211 Forestbrook Road:

Something NEW: Broadcasting live on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. on The Well By The Sea Facebook Live, The Deep Dive is a questions and answers show fueled by questions sent in by the community. Questions can be about God, the Bible, prophecy, things relating to the Christian life or any spiritual things that you don't understand or wonder about. No serious question is excluded. They will be entered into the queue for an upcoming show. "LIKE" The Well By The Sea's Facebook page and be automatically notified when the show is about to begin. You may also replay whatever you miss. If watching the show live, you may send a question in the comments section. Or, send questions to: deacondebhamilton@gmail.com.

Also, at the Well By The Sea: In-person Bible study/discussion group on the “9 Supernatural Gifts of the Holy Spirit” on Mondays at 11 a.m. (no cost, no RSVP, masks required).

An in-person (or Zoom) weekly bereavement/loss support group meets every Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Email debhamilton56@gmail.com.

In-person hangout for young adults (ages 18-30); every Saturday at 7 p.m. Come for a free meal and planned activity. Email personalityprism@gmail.com.

The Well By The Sea, located at 211 Forestbrook Road in Myrtle Beach, is hosting a Red Cross Blood Drive Sept. 28 from noon-5 p.m. All are welcome to donate, but you must register first.

To register, or for more information, contact Barb Sterling at (843) 655-7105 or tapers02@aol.com. To self-register go to redcrossblood.org, under Find a Blood Drive type: Thewell.

■ Father Anthony Montesinos Columbiettes Auxiliary No. 5086 of St. Andrew Catholic Church, 503 37th Ave. North is looking for crafters for its holiday bazaar to be held Nov. 13 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the Community Life Center. Call (908) 938-1433 or email patriciamartelli57@gmail.com.

■ The Socastee Pantry is now open and serving. This food pantry will be located at A Father’s House, 4513 U.S. 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach. Hours are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m.-10 a.m.

The pantry is sponsored by Faith Outreach Ministries and operated by local veterans. It will provide much-needed food and necessities to the needy in our community. Call (843) 474-9900 or visit www.faithoutreachministries-gs.org.

■ Temple Emanu-El by the Sea, 406 65th Ave. North in Myrtle Beach, SC 29572; (843) 449-5552 Conservative Rabbi Avi Perets www.mbsynagogue.org Facebook; Services (ZOOM & Temple), Chol Hamoed Sukkot is Sept. 25. Friday services are at 6 p.m. with Shabbat, 10 a.m.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities with wearing a mask and physical distancing.”

Call (843) 449-5552

Shemini Atzeret, Sept. 28.

Yizkor services are Tuesdays at 10 a.m.

Simchat Torah Celebration, Sept. 28, 7 p.m.

Steffi Nathan Scholarship Fund is open to all Jewish college students. Applications are available in the temple office.

Fostering Hope: Sisterhood is once again collecting socks and underwear (any age/any size) for Fostering Hope.

■ Faith Church on S.C. 90 in Little River sponsors Celebrate Recovery on Tuesdays at 6 p.m.

■ Together in Christ has a Wednesday Zoom prayer meeting from 12 p.m.-12:30 p.m. each week. Prayer changes everything and you are invited to pray with the mid-week group. Email hgprayer@sccoast.net.

■ St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 542 Cypress Ave., Murrells Inlet, has a life chain every first Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on U.S. 17 Business near the church driveway. You are invited to participate in this event. (Bring a chair if not able to stand for the hour.) Contact Joanne Bennett at (614) 313-8425 or email Joanne.bennett55@ gmail.com.

■ Myrtle Beach Christian Church, 1226 Burcale Road, opens its thrift store each week, Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. You are encouraged to come out and browse and buy and, in so doing, you’ll be supporting this community outreach. Call (843) 236-1121.

■ Temple Shalom, 4023 Belle Terre Blvd., invites you to Shabbat services each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Call (843) 903-6634 or go online to templeshalommyrtlebeach.net.

■ Christ the Servant Lutheran Church will hold its Fall Flea Market again. Tables are available for a $15 donation.

The church is at 2105 U.S. 501 E., Conway, across from HGTC/CCU.

Call (843) 457-3547 for a registration form.

■ Thompson Farm, 100 Brickyard Plantation, is hosting a “Hometown Heroes Weekend” benefitting Help4Kids with a food drive!

Please help them feed their “pumpkins!”

They need volunteers to collect donated food items and talk about Help4Kids at this event! The event runs Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

■ Grand Strand Community Church, will hold an all-community 12-hour prayer and fasting vigil Oct. 2 at the church at 3802 Holmestown Road, Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29588.

The purpose is to bring the community together to seek God’s face as one body in Jesus Christ in prayer.

The sanctuary will be open for prayer from 6 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

An on premises “Prayer Walk” will be from 2 p.m.-3 p.m.

Walkers should gather at the front lobby of the church at 2 p.m.

From 5:30 p.m.-6 p.m., everyone will come together for a praise and worship service that will end our vigil and fast.

We will adjourn to the fellowship hall to share dinner.

■ Mt. Olive Baptist Church, 1950 Mt. Olive Church Road, Nichols, will hold a free COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic, Oct. 1, 3 p.m.-7 p.m. at the church. All South Carolinians 12-years-old and older are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. No identifications, insurance or appointment are necessary, but appointments can be made by visiting https://cvas.dhec.sc.gov

Walk-ins are welcome.

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