Palm Sunday

springflowerloveendures.jpg

Psalm 118:28-29

You are my God, and I will praise you!  

You are my God and I will exalt you!

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good!

His faithful love endures forever.

How devastated I was when my husband broke the news to me that he had just been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.  I had just returned from a consulting job, it just happened to be my birthday, and I was ready to have a wonderful weekend with the love of my life.  We had only been married 3 years and looked forward to growing old together but that one day certainly changed our outlook.  I retreated to the bathroom to have a long cry and think about how I could get God to change what was ahead of us.  I started to bargain with God and suddenly this wonderful calm came over me and I just knew that the Lord would see us through what time we had together and would always be there for me for comfort and guidance. He has never left my side and is always there for me in good times and challenging times.

The Lenten season reflects how I feel about the Lord and my love for him grows daily as I delve more into his word and feel his guidance throughout each and every day. The season shows his Love for us and the tremendous sacrifices he is willing to make for us but can we say the same for our behavior toward Him?

My prayer is that we will take a good look at our behavior and start thinking about how we can all start truly loving one another  and speak only those words that are pleasing to God and perform those deeds that reflect Jesus. Let’s make this a time of thanks and praise for the great sacrifice our Father made by changing our lives to more reflect Him.

– Betty Hickey

Advertisements

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Isboat.jpg

A year or so ago I attended a weeklong leadership training retreat. Somewhere around the third day, after we had gotten to know each other a bit, the instructor/facilitator mentioned that I focus on “Titanic stories” instead of “Mayflower stories.”  The point was, this person thought I had a tendency to highlight and think about failures instead of successes. I fired back, “the arrival of the Mayflower wasn’t a celebration for everyone!” The instructor wasn’t amused.

One of the reasons I love the Lenten season is that it forces us to take inventory. Spiritual disciplines help us to look back to where we’ve come from, as well as forward to where we’d like to go. They help me to ask questions about where I am today and how I’ve arrived here. In Isaiah 43 we read that we shouldn’t dwell on the past. But the truth is, both as a church and as individuals, none of us would be where we are today if it weren’t for our histories.

We usually think of the narrative of Jesus’ resurrection as one sweeping historical event. And it is true — Jesus’ sentencing, execution and conquering of the grave is a defining moment. We should point back to it and say, “that changed everything.” But we shouldn’t be stuck there. The resurrection continues to change everything.

The key word in Isaiah 43:18-19a is dwell. If we dwell on our past, we stay stuck in it. We blame past events or continually define ourselves by pointing to something we did twenty years ago. By doing so, we ignore the present and don’t allow new things to come. We rob ourselves of having “resurrection moments” every day — those times where we can see God redeeming our past and giving new life. As we head toward Easter and look forward to the new life that comes with Spring, I hope we can be a community that both looks backwards with grateful hearts while looking forward for opportunities of resurrection in the present. May the image of the empty tomb that once held Jesus’ lifeless body guide us to new life in him.

– Pastor Dave

Fourth Sunday of Lent

 

lightbulbScripture.jpgFor our fourth Sunday of Lent, we will reflect upon 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. What a beautiful message Paul illuminates in his second letter to the church of Corinthians.  Would you in this moment take a step back, take a deep breath, and consider the enormity of the message Paul is expressing. That is, God our creator is inviting us into relationship with Him through the gift of reconciliation through His son Jesus Christ.  The result is that our insecurities, failures, and our sin do not define our existence, our story. Instead, our narrative finds new meaning when we strive to become so thoroughly transformed by Christ Jesus that we become as Paul writes a “new creation”.  To this end, I pray Christ ignites your soul today with hope, meaning, and purpose. Would you make a choice to pursue Christ this week and deeply consider what it means to be a new creation. In doing so, I am confident that the Holy Spirit will meet you in a tangible way.

It is important to note that Paul does not simply stop at the expression of our personal journey of faith. Rather, Paul writes that we are Christ’s ambassadors, and that we are to be part of Christ’s plan to reconcile the world to Himself. My prayer for you today is that you would ask God to allow you to have interactions with your co-workers, neighbors, strangers, friends, or even strained relationships you may have, that would allow you to take part in this important task. As you do so, would you consider the words of Dietrich Bonheoffer who wrote “Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

My prayer is that we would continually strive to be known as a church that shows grace, love, and generosity to our community. Be mindful this week to guard your words, guard your actions, and deeply consider that no matter what stage of life you find yourself in, you are intricately connected to how our community sees Jesus. I pray that you actively pursue God this week, that you embrace what it means to be a new creation,  and that God uses you in a significant way in our community.

– Gordon Houston

Third Sunday of Lent

morning-mountain.jpg

Dust from the road stuck to the bottom of my shoes as I walked down the foggy path towards the kitchen. I could see my breath as it went out and then I sucked in the cool morning air though my nostrils. I sat down inside the dimly lit room next to fellow staff members, we let our first words join in singing adoration to our Lord and then audible prayers for the work of the coming day. “Oh God, you are my God, and I will ever praise you! … I will seek you in the morning and I will learn to walk in your ways.”

When I read Psalm 63, I remember working as a lead counselor at Westminster Woods in Northern California and how it taught me discipline. I was up each morning before the sun rose to gather with others and pray. Every stopping point called for prayer and worship. Each lesson I taught and counselor I led depended on the Holy Spirit. We prayed before each meal. At each meeting. As we put our campers to bed each night in their cabins. We prayed. After evening program we gathered together and prayed. It became as natural as walking down the path.

While in college (at Whitworth University) I learned that I could add a discipline during the season of Lent, rather than take something away. One of those was writing in my journal each day. Remaining in a spirit of reflection for the month leading up to Easter reminded me of Christ’s obedience to the Father. I woke up each day and set my mind on Jesus. It gave me focus.

As a mother of young children, it’s nearly impossible for me to have the same type of mornings that I had when I served at Westminster Woods and finding time to journal is increasingly difficult. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reminded that things that seem small, like taking five minutes to read Scripture or praying before each meal can help to realign my focus towards Jesus. The story of Jesus sitting in the home of Mary and Martha comes to mind. I have to be disciplined to walk away from dirty dishes and unfolded laundry, to focus my heart on Christ and sit at his feet.

Each morning, seek Christ. What discipline can you add to your life that will help you walk in His ways? Pray. Reflect. Write. Memorize Scripture. Be alone with God. Study. Read a devotional. Be quiet. Fast. Where is your focus this Lenten season?

– Hailey Rohde

Second Sunday of Lent

Psalm27stars

Psalm 27 has many parallels with my life experiences. Obviously, with God ever present, you manage to come out at the other end even stronger. Verses 1 through 3, “When evil people come to devour me,” – Well, I’m not sure they were doing that, but they certainly were on the attack. It was stressful where I was working at the time. I was concerned not so much for myself, but I was working at a major university, and I had a daughter attending there tuition-free. I didn’t want to compromise that, so I was in a dilemma. It was the best job I ever had, and the worst boss I ever had. Maybe you

have experienced those same conditions. Reflecting back on it, and how present the Lord was in working things out, it was still not a pleasant experience to have to live through, but I had the support of a Church I was attending at the time. They supplied some food and much prayer. I had been suspended from my job, of course without pay, which I found out subsequently was totally illegal. I had joined a service club on campus, and had made some contacts, not that I thought I would need them in this way. One of the persons worked out of the office of the Vice President of the University,

and I spoke to her about it. She said, “They can’t do that.” Well, they had done it. By the afternoon of that day, I had several weeks of back pay and a check in my hand. Things, at that point, took a better turn.

Verse 6 says, “Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me,” – It’s not that I will hold my head high in a haughty manner, that kind of thing, like “I gotcha, you guys.” I will hold my head high above my enemies indicating that these attacks will be ultimately futile. “At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.” Shouts of joy – I feel that, but singing and praising the Lord with music – let’s run that past Lynn to get her expert opinion . . . I try, but she can bring a little more realistic take on that.

Moving on through verses 7 to 10, “Hear me as I pray O Lord. Be merciful and answer me.” Obviously my prayers were answered. I was still feeling things in an emotional sense more than in a practical way; however, when you’re in that situation, it is difficult. “My heart has heard you say, come and talk with me,” and I did that in a conversational way. It was more along the lines of “Help me, Lord!”, not “O Thou who sitteth on the edge of the universe . . .”; “Don’t abandon me,” . . . and then IT happened.

One evening while sitting and reading, I became less aware of my surroundings and I was surrounded by light. There was no sound, totally silent, and through the light, almost as a cloud, a white robed arm was extending downward. I reached up and we grasped forearms. As we did so, I saw a trickle of blood descending on my own forearm, again in total silence. The implication was “Renny, I am always present with you.” The light gradually faded. Did I dream? Was it a vision? It matters little because I knew then that I was being held close.

The outcome of all this is, of course, “Teach me how to live O Lord. Lead me along the right path. My enemies are waiting for me.” Oh, yes. “Do not let me fall into their hands for they accuse me of things I’ve never done” and that was so true, so true. “They threatened me with violence.” They threatened me with the loss of my job, and that would have meant my daughter would have been in great distress, too. “Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living,” I never lost confidence, but it was extremely difficult to go through those times. The sense of his presence was always there, and it was just up to me to have faith.

“Wait patiently for the Lord.” – Not one of my finest virtues, but I am working on it. “Be brave and courageous.” There is a verse in Joshua that says “Be strong and courageous,” and that’s exactly what you have to be, but in the strength of the Lord. I was no where near strong or courageous enough, but you know in your heart that you have the Lord at your back. And then, “Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” I still have trouble after all this and knowing what he has done and will do for me. I am impatient, but I am a work in progress, and it’s step by step.

This was just a single event in my life in that job situation. Actually I wound up still working at the University, but in a better position. In contrast to the situation at my previous assignment, I was recognized for my contributions. I was transferred to a teaching hospital at an extension campus of the same University where I finished my working career.

Well, as believers, we know the Lord has plans. Life has worked out just wonderfully.

Subsequently other situations have arisen, but I’ve been able to overcome them. So, all in all, guess what? God really does have a plan for your life, and it’s best that we don’t interfere. Just wait for the leading, look for guidance, and it will come. Praise God for that.

– Elder, Renny Nelson

First Sunday of Lent

FullSizeRenderPsalm 91: 1-2

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High

will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;

he is my God, and I am trusting him.

 

With five kids in the house, each one of us trying to give up a certain food for Lent would have been a nightmare for my Mom. So instead when I was growing up, one of our traditions during the Lenten season was to have a glass jar on our kitchen table. Anytime someone would say a bad word or say something unkind they would have to put money in the jar. As I remember, it started out as a nickel. By the time I was in high school it had been raised to a quarter. On Easter Sunday we would take all the change to church and put it in the offering. (I’m sure the counters loved that!)

When I was little I thought it was fun to put the money in. I would come home from school and confess my indiscretions (either real or made up) and put my nickel in. But as I got older I began to understand the true lesson that my parents were trying to teach us. We are to be aware of what we say and do because our words and our deeds have consequences, both good and bad. As we all got older it became a badge of honor to have the least amount of money in the jar. During this whole process our parents guided us with discussions about what we had said or done and how it affected others. My parents made it a safe place to make mistakes and to learn. To this day I find myself thinking, “Is this going to cost me a quarter?” when I am faced with a situation that I need to respond to.

Now that I have been many years out of the shelter and safety of my parent’s home, I find my refuge, my safe place, in the words of scripture and the conversations through prayer with God. His guidance, concern and, yes, discipline comforts me. I can trust Him with my indiscretions and know that through His grace I am protected and loved.

During this Lenten season ask yourself, “What does it mean to make God my refuge?” are you willing to put your trust in Him? The days of the glass jar are long gone but the lessons learned of guidance, love and acceptance will stay with me for a lifetime.

– Margot Backman

Ash Wednesday

ashwednesday

Psalm 51:10-12

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. As a kid, I remember being fascinated by all the people walking around with black crosses on their foreheads. I had no idea what it stood for or why someone would wear one. I just knew it meant that I better hurry up and choose something to give up for Lent. I wasn’t even sure why I was supposed to fast…it was just what Christians did before Easter.

I went to my first Ash Wednesday worship service when I was in high school and the solemnness of the whole thing gave me a new perspective. Then, while in seminary, I had the opportunity to administer the ashes while working at a children’s hospital. I got chills every time I put my thumb in the ash, placed it on the forehead of an ill child and made the symbol of a cross. I’d say, “From dust you have come and to dust you will return. Repent and believe the Good News, God is making you whole.” By the end of the day, I was emotionally and spiritually fatigued.

Ash Wednesday serves two purposes. It reminds us of our own frailty, mortality and sinfulness. It highlights that we are broken and completely dependent on God’s grace. And, it signifies the beginning of the Lenten season, where we are reminded of the forty days that Jesus spent fasting and being tempted in the desert before his ministry began. We’re invited to live into the reality that God alone sustains and restores us, from the moment we’re born until our last breath.

Our temptation is to take the same approach to Lent that much of our society does with Advent before Christmas. Instead of a being an intentional season of reflection, we see it as a time to prepare for the Easter party. Instead of being something that is significant in our walk with Christ, fasting from something like chocolate, meat or television  becomes routine and almost a childish game (that is, if we even participate).

My hope for our community during this Lenten season is that it would be a time that brings us to our knees — that we, as a church, would recognize that we are totally lost without Christ and that we’d come to a deep understanding of His sacrifice. If you choose to fast, I’d hope that every time you are reminded or tempted by that particular thing, you’d spend time in prayer. Even if you aren’t giving something up, I’d love for each of us to commit to listening to God in prayer EVERY DAY. May we be restored and renewed as we journey through this season together.

– Pastor Dave