9.4.15 – Insights from Ginger Rothhaas

ginger-rothhaasGinger Rothhaas is a seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology and is serving in Congregational Care at the Church of the Resurrection.

I find myself needing to rely on the Holy Spirit for courage daily!

I have been challenged way out of my comfort zone as I live into this calling of attending seminary and participating in ministry. With that, I have become a strong believer in the power of the Holy Spirit. And believe me, I have put it to the test!

I helped with the Vibe service this summer and found myself incredibly nervous on stage. If I had relied on Ginger alone, the prayer would have been a rambling, shaky-voiced, sweaty-palmed, nervous-human-delivered mess!!

Until a few months ago, I was a private spiritual person and a silent pray-er. I never felt “ready” to share my faith…my feeling was always “I will share when I…take another Bible study, complete the how-to-pray class, or (more recently), after I finish seminary.” Does that sound familiar?

Here is what I know to be true – when I allow God’s Holy Spirit to lead me, by saying words such as, “God, take this and do with it what you will. Give me the words you intend for me to say”, something amazing occurs. If I turn it over and let the Holy Spirit go to work, then my sentences are coherent things I have never thought of, my nerves settle down, and I feel that I am an instrument of God’s love to others.

The beautiful news is that the Holy Spirit is available and present every moment of every day. It is up to us to tap into the Spirit, to be open to his presence. We have to allow him into our hearts and minds. We have to say something like, “Holy Spirit, go to work through me!”

Then take a deep breath and…TRUST…that is all it takes. The Holy Spirit is just waiting for our trust. He is an untapped resource to many of us.

Try it this weekend:  ask the Holy Spirit to work through you, trust that he will, and notice what happens!

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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9.3.15 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

Janelle_GregoryJanelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as a Human Resources Specialist.

Years ago I was in a small group talking about the Holy Spirit. I was describing the Spirit’s work in my life. “The Spirit guides me and directs me. It encourages me. It tries to keep me from making stupid decisions… which is a job and a half.”

That’s when someone stopped me with, “You’re saying ‘it.’”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You’re using the wrong pronoun for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is a person, not an object.”

I have to be honest that up until that point, it never dawned on me to think of the Spirit as a person. God the Father as a person? Sure. Jesus as a person? Most definitely. But the Spirit? I suppose I thought of the Spirit as more of the energy or essence of the Father, resembling a wispy cloud or rolling fog. I didn’t see him as an individual.

I knew about the Trinity, but despite the “Tri,” my Trinity was made up of 2, perhaps 2.5, at best. But God is three persons in one. God is Father. God is Son. God is Spirit.

Realizing Spirit is a person rather than an object was a game-changer for me. I listened to him more closely and took his guidance more seriously. It’s easy to ignore a wispy cloud, but when you understand that you are hearing from someone rather than something, your ears perk up and your heart is more open to his work in your life.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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9.2.15 – Insights from Kari Burgess

Kari Burgess is a Program Director for the Catalyst team, handling promotion and marketing for all of the conferences held at Resurrection, as well as registration and coordinating hospitality volunteers.

Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha in the gospel of Luke? The story where Martha and Mary are serving Jesus in their home, and Martha scurries around like a chicken with her head cut off while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to him teach? I am a “Martha” for sure and can get way too caught up in my to-do list and the busy-ness of my schedule pay attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

On Sunday morning this week I realized we had nothing on the calendar. We were going to 5:00 p.m. church and I had NO motivation to do housework. The pause in the schedule needed to be filled, right? As my husband and I discussed various things that might be fun to do, I suddenly had the idea of going to Powell Gardens.

I’ve lived in the Kansas City area most all of my life, and had never been to Powell Gardens. What a treasure for this city! It was a wonderful place to relax and let the stress and busy schedule melt away. Walking through the various gardens and seeing dozens and dozens of varieties of flowers and plants is such a powerful reminder to me of God’s creation. Surely there must be a God to take such care to create so many varieties of intricate, beautiful flowers for the beauty of this Earth.

It was a nice afternoon for our family to connect, to marvel at God’s creation. It gave us an opening for good conversation with our daughters. But as I let my family move ahead of me for a few minutes and walked in the garden on my own, I couldn’t help but feel the Holy Spirit’s presence walking with me and reminding me to draw near more often. To sit at His feet and listen. To take more focused time to talk with Him and share what is on my heart. To take a break from all of my busy-ness to just sit, reflect and wonder at His glorious works.

A worship song kept running through my mind: Holy Spirit you are welcome here, Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory, God, is what my heart longs for, to be overcome by Your presence, Lord. We went straight from Powell Gardens to 5:00 p.m. church–and guess what worship song the band played? If I wasn’t sure before, I was completely assured that the Holy Spirit was present with me that afternoon in the garden, and is with me whereever I go. My job is to allow the Spirit in to do His holy work in my life.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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9.1.15 – Insights from Brandon Gregory

brandongregorygpsBrandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at the Vibe, West, and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

The part of today’s passages that resonated most with me was John 3:8: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” This can seem a little disheartening at first–that we can’t really know where God’s spirit is going or what it’s doing.

I encountered this when I moved to Kansas City a little over ten years ago. I moved up here to be a worship leader at a small church plant. Things fell together so suddenly and perfectly for my move from Orlando, Florida to Kansas City that I knew it had to be God at work. I was like a solitary leaf caught in a strong wind, and I fluttered up to Kansas City on the breath of God.

But shortly after I arrived here, that wind seemed to die completely. After three months as a volunteer worship leader (read: not paid) at this church, they decided they didn’t want me anymore and we parted ways. The wind that carried me here had gone somewhere else, and this little leaf seemed to have missed it. It was a very frustrating experience, and surprising after seeing how perfectly things had lined up for me to move up here.

The spirit of God goes wherever it pleases, not where I please. God does not answer to me, nor does God’s will bow to mine.

You may not know this, but wind and weather are very complex. Though seemingly random, wind is a construct of complex weather systems dependent on countless scientific factors, including pockets of hot air, the saltiness of the ocean, and different masses heating and cooling at different rates. A sudden influx of fresh water near the north pole can affect weather and wind in the Caribbean. Water cools at a different rate than land, creating strong winds on coastlines after the sun sets. And even with all we know about the science behind weather, our best scientific data can only accurately predict weather about five days out–and even then, not really reliably. I’m sure you’ve heard countless jokes about weathermen being paid to be wrong most of the time, but this just goes to show how complex weather systems really are.

The spirit and will of God are infinitely more complex than weather systems. And yet we still like to think that we can predict where God will move. I’ve noticed that people who claim to know God’s will seem to have about as much success with that as weathermen. There are some really smart, really spiritual people who have been really wrong about where God is moving and what He’s doing.

The good news is that the seemingly random and unknowable movings of the spirit of God are part of a complex system that is the work of an amazing Creator. I may have lost out on my worship leader gig, but I met my wife along the way, and I’m now playing with three amazing bands that are probably much better than I would be doing on my own. (In fact, I’m writing this after getting home from playing a worship concert with one of my bands, Vessel Worship. It was an amazing experience, and it so totally rocked.)

The important thing is that, when you feel God’s spirit moving, you jump on board. It’s an exercise in futility to predict and plan for it, so it takes an agile approach to respond when we see that wind blowing. My move to Kansas City won’t be the last time this little leaf gets caught in God’s spirit, and I hope the same is true for you.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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8.31.15 – Insights from Donna Karlen

dkarlengpsDonna Karlen serves in Communications at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

“The Lord God proclaims: I will put my breath in you and you will live.”

For me, the journey of discovering the Holy Spirit began with singing the Gloria Patri in church: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.” It wasn’t a great beginning. Ghosts were scary beings haunting people in those horror movies I couldn’t stand, or they were kids dressed up for Halloween (my own ghost costume experience in 4th grade consisted of the sheet getting twisted around so the eye holes ended up somewhere over an ear, which was closely followed by me running smack into the gym wall during the costume parade – yeah, wasn’t a fan of anything labeled ‘ghost’ back then).

But fortunately, the spirit moved me beyond that particular embarrassing episode in my life, and I next remember discussing the concept of the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity. My Sunday school teacher invited us to see the Trinity like an apple with three parts: the skin, the tasty fruity stuff and the seeds – but as still one apple. That concept broke down a little when our discussion migrated to who was represented by each part. “The skin surrounds the apple like the Holy Spirit surrounds us… God should be the seeds because you can’t get the apples unless the seeds are planted, and God was first… But we spit out the seeds and I don’t want to spit out God…” It was a lively, “spirited” debate, but perhaps the teacher tried a different analogy with her next class.

My next Holy Spirit lesson? “The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Of course my path to discovering the Holy Spirit in my life has been marked by many inspiring scripture passages such as Romans 8:26-27: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (Love that last part!)

And one of my favorite hymns, The Spirit Song:
O let the Son of God enfold you
With His Spirit and His love
Let Him fill your heart and satisfy your soul
O let Him have the things that hold you
And His Spirit like a dove
Will descend upon your life and make you whole
© 1979 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing

I have traveled far on my journey with the Holy Spirit – from fearful apparition to guiding, comforting, filling presence in my life. And everyday I want to open up myself to this breath of God that comes in sighs too deep for words – breath to make me live!

What’s your Holy Spirit journey?

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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8.29.15 Insights from Rev. Penny Ellwood

PennyEllwoodGPSRev. Penny Ellwood is the Campus Pastor at Resurrection Blue Springs.

I was speaking with a church member this week who has been through some really tough times. A few years ago his life bottomed out due to an addiction but in the process of recovery he met Jesus. This relationship with Jesus he credits with turning his whole life around. He said he would never want to go through what he’s been through again– but, if it were the only way to meet Jesus, he would do it. Meeting Jesus has changed his whole life for the better.

It seems that if there is one person we should all take the time to get to know in a personal way, it’s Jesus. Knowing Jesus has made a profound difference in my life too. My relationship with Jesus impacts all the other relationships in my life and is responsible in great part for the happiness I have experienced in my marriage and in my family. It has brought me into community with others, literally, all over the world. Jesus is the link to a great big family.

Yet, in saying this, I know that I don’t know Jesus nearly as well as I’d like to know him. I say this for two reasons. One, the more I get to know Jesus, the more I realize how little I really know him. And two, life has a way of getting in the way. Sometimes I make good progress and other times I don’t. The craziest thing about all this is that when I am working to discover or encounter Jesus, my life tends to makes more sense and I find that I have more desire and ability to be faithful to God and to all the other relationships going on in my life.

So I want to ask you a question–how well do you know Jesus? God the Father wants us to know his Son. Why don’t you think about joining me this fall in rediscovering Jesus or encountering him for the first time? There are many great opportunities to discover Jesus being offered at every campus of Resurrection right now. I encourage you to take a look at the websites for the classes and experiences being offered and join one. I think you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in your life.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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8.28.15 – Insights from Darren Lippe

Darren_LippeDarren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

This past week Doris & I attended a Crossroads Luncheon at Resurrection featuring an interesting presentation about President Harry S. Truman. (I know, I know. You are thinking I’m too young to attend a Crossroads event. (Um – Editor.) Tell that to my Optometrist’s Assistant, who, when I said we were going to Topeka this weekend to visit family, responded with, “Oh, how old are your grandchildren?” In her defense I was getting progressive lenses & had just complained about how cool they kept their office.)

One of the focal points of the talk was a brief discussion of President Truman’s faith. Considering all of the hot button issues of Truman’s presidency, it would have been fascinating to understand how his faith may have influenced his actions. (Consider this abbreviated list: his act to formally recognize the State of Israel, his push for the Marshall Plan in Europe, his order to integrate the Armed Forces, his response to the Berlin Blockade, his reaction to the invasion of South Korea by North Korea, & of course his decision weighing the use of the Atomic Bomb vs. saving American & Japanese lives from a death-filled invasion.)

Unfortunately, President Truman, like many of his generation, was rather reticent to about his faith. Some of his speeches referenced his beliefs like his statement, “The fundamental basis of this nation’s law s was given to Moses on the Mount. If we don’t have a proper fundamental moral background, we will finally end up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody except the state.” Or his call to service, “We must remember that the test of our religious principles lies not just in what we say, not only in our prayers, not even in living blameless lives – but what we do for others.” (Not all of his statements were quite so profound. He was also fond of saying: “The 1st lesson every boy should learn is to never kick fresh manure* on a hot day.”)

*Or some synonym, thereof.

As we consider today’s passage, I was drawn to Paul’s statement that, “He (Jesus) appeared to more than 500 brothers & sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”

While scholars have no qualms with Paul’s list of resurrected appearances, they do debate the details of this statement. Was this a gathering in Jerusalem or perhaps on a mountain outside of town? Was this the same crowd referenced in Matthew 28? Was this shortly after His resurrection or was it just before His ascension?

Skeptics point to Paul’s contention & wonder if Jesus did appear to over 500 believers, where is their testimony? Shouldn’t there be countless personal accounts confirming the validity of such an awe-inducing scene?

My view is that I’m not surprised at the lack of written testimony attesting to this appearance. Few in their culture were literate. Being counted as a follower of Christ at that time was extremely risky, even deadly. (Remember, Paul was so successful in crushing the early church in Jerusalem, he would soon want to add a franchise in Damascus.) The odds of such testimony being recorded, distributed & preserved would be astronomical. And finally, would repetitive statements of this scene really add much substance to the record of Jesus’ life & teachings?

On the other hand, while it wouldn’t impact my faith walk & while the skeptics would just find some other reason to doubt the validity of this scene, wouldn’t it be cool if some Bedouin discovered a jar filled with parchments or if a long-forgotten desert monastery had a written record of an eye-witness account of this event?

Flashing forward to today, we might be like President Truman & somewhat reluctant to talk about our spiritual walk. But what if our testimony could make a difference in the journey of a friend, colleague, or, someday, way off in the future, a grandchild? It needn’t be some carefully edited thesis with footnotes & indices. We could start with something simple like making notes about our favorite hymn or a fond Easter Sunday experience.

As a theologian noted, “Each of us is indebted to those who carried the faith from the past to the present; dare we do less for those who follow us?” I’m getting started on mine as soon as I get back from the Early Bird Dinner Special at Luby’s Cafeteria.

 

 

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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8.27.15 Insights from Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality at Saint Paul School of Theology at OCU. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. For 25 years, Amy has taught theology and history, pursuing scholarship in service of the church.

“What kind of a king—what kind of God—reigns from a cross? What has to happen in your heart to allow you to serve that kind of divine king?” (GPS for Thursday, August 27)

These 2 questions from today’s GPS pierce me. This kind of God reigns through love, not brute force. What has to happen in my heart? To serve this kind of God, my heart has to reject the daily temptations to be right, to have the answer, to control others, to win. Instead, my heart has to focus on loving the way God loves from the cross.

Here is one prayer practice that helps my heart stay attuned to serving this kind of God:

  1. First, I breathe. Slow, deep breaths that force me to pay attention to breathing. As I breathe, I acknowledge that this breath comes from God, in whom I live and move and have being.
  2. Second, I close my eyes and picture God’s love coming into me through that breath and spreading throughout my whole body, like little rivulets of light.
  3. Third, I picture that love filling my heart, all its nooks and crannies, even the hard, crusty places, until my heart is glowing with the light of God’s love.
  4. Last, I picture my heart, glowing with love, placed within God’s heart. God’s own heart surrounds and strengthens my heart, completing and perfecting the love in my heart.

Crucified, dead and buried. A different kind of power. A different kind of love.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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8.26.15 Insights from Wendy Connelly

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 8.55.49 PMWendy Connelly, wife to Mark and mom to Lorelei & Gryffin, is Community Outreach Director at the Leawood campus, a graduate student at Saint Paul School of Theology, Faith Walk columnist for the Kansas City Star, and co-leads the “Live and Let Think” dialogues at Resurrection Downtown.

Pontius Pilate would have done well to listen to his wife, who sent him a warning that rings through history: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because in a dream last night, I suffered much on account of him.” –Matthew 27:19

Pilate didn’t heed her prophetic warning, but instead, sent Jesus to the cross. And yet, as Pilate presented the scourged Messiah to the crowds—“Behold, the man!”—and affixed upon the cross a sign proclaiming Jesus as “King of the Jews,” he failed in his mission to squelch an uprising. Rather, in a deliciously subversive twist, Pilate unwittingly—even through the means of his gross tortures and taunts—became one of history’s great evangelists!

“Behold, the man!” “King of the Jews!”

Could it be that God uses even the Pilates of this world to reveal, in the end, God’s greater glory? Let this be an encouragement to you. Whatever injustice you’re up against—whatever Pontius Pilate you face, scourging and taunting your soul—trust that God upholds the righteous and, in the end, uses all situations to reveal his glory.

Behold, the man, King of the Jews!

Behold, your God!

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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8.25.15 Insights from Nicole Alison

Nicole-alisonNicole Alison serves as Coordinating Assistant to Operations at The Church of the Resurrection. Nicole finds her voice through writing. In her spare time she is a personal blogger and a ghost-writer for the Next Steps Pastor at a local church in Lenexa. Her passion is to share the love of Jesus through personal stories of redemption.

What I love about God so deeply is His heart for the unlikely and unexpected. It gives me hope that in every opportunity I may believe is mundane or useless, God sees differently. It means that people that seemed to be swept under the rug or forgotten are not. There have been countless times in my life where I have showed up feeling ill equipped, or so ordinary that I would never make a difference–but then God showed up.

I will never forget the time I was serving at a concert. I was stoked–I would be working with the artist’s sales. But, oops–the artists didn’t bring anything to sell. The other volunteer who was helping with me arrived late. When she heard the news, she turned sour in an instant. She went on and on about how she drove all the way there for nothing. I’ll admit, I began to view her as a “Debbie downer.” I didn’t like her poor attitude. But we found other things to do to help, and instead of clinging to my introverted nature, I decided to strike up a conversation.

As I began to talk to her, I could still feel her tension and frustration. But I asked her how she was connected to the event and where she worked. She began to soften a little, and began to smile one of those “I want to but I don’t want to let you in” smiles. Eventually, the concert was about to begin and I did something really out of character. I decided to invite her to sit by me at the concert. I’ll be honest–I wanted my own space that night. I wanted to soak in the music and reflect on God. But I had a nudge that I needed to invite this lady to sit by me.

The concert begins, the room is filled with beautiful, awe-inspiring music–and I’m afraid to let go and worship God next to this lady. But soon, her demeanor shifts and she smiles and laughs authentically. Soon enough, this lady (who is about twice my age) and I are jumping up and down, doing fist pumps and praising the Lord. About half-way through the concert, the lady explained that she really needed tonight. She was having such a hard day, and she was so thankful that I invited her into the concert and sat by her. By the end of the night, she gave me two hugs and was beaming.

Driving home, I was amazed. In the unexpected, God showed up. He got me out of my comfort zone–I just opened up to someone that I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Even in this small circumstance, I learned a little more about grace and love, about ordinary turning into extraordinary. I was changed–the lady I volunteered with was changed. Best of all, God received the Glory. I love that God works in the unexpected and unlikely. This experience taught me to do life expecting the unexpected, ready to listen, share and invite people into my heart. It taught me to be more like Christ in the places where it seems most unlikely God would work. God is always working. I just need to ready and willing to do my part.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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