12.02.16 – Insight 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.

Today’s passage is so frustrating &, sadly, so applicable to today’s culture.  Jesus returns to Nazareth to preach in His home synagogue.  He reads from the scroll of Isaiah that references the Year of Jubilee that declares good news to the poor, pardons for prisoners,  & sight for the blind.  He boldly proclaims, “The Scripture you have just heard has been fulfilled this very day.”

However, the congregation completely discounts this intriguing message &, instead, gets distracted by the optics of the scene by limiting their focus on the messenger whom they had known for years.  No one questions why Jesus references the Year of Jubilee or wonders what He means by citing this is the year when God would bring hope to the frightened, healing to the broken-hearted, & help to the downtrodden.

Aside: Thanks to the distracted audience we’ll never know, but Jesus, being a masterful speaker, may have even opened with a little levity to break the tension in the room.  “Verily I tell you, that young farm girl was right: There is no place like home. (Note to Self: Wait for laughter.) And I didn’t even need to click my heels.”  (Wait for even more laughter.)  (This is highly doubtful.  The “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” wasn’t published until 1900, and secondly… Oh, never mind – Editor.)

Now we can readily understand how familiarity can breed contempt.  It is like the long-retired kindergarten teacher who, preparing for an upcoming surgery, meets her surgeon. He coincidentally had been a former student.  “Everyone tells me he is excellent, but I just can’t help recalling when he tried to color his teeth with his crayons.”

We fathers are also well acquainted with inverse relationship between familiarity & authority.  I can tell the boys multiple times to pack hat & gloves for the upcoming winter camp-out.  No response.  As we are getting ready to leave, the boys say, “Wait.  We need our hat & gloves.”  (Smiling inwardly.)  “Mr. Day said we would need them.”  (Sigh.)

Like our friends in Nazareth, today’s culture is obsessed with ignoring ideas & instead attacking the person delivering the message.  We don’t debate an initiative, instead we debate/attack the character of the person presenting the proposal with simplistic labels & trite comparisons.  Thus, if we can drag the presenter through the mud we can be spared having to actually address the viewpoint.  But, we also miss out on the value of the give & take that can only arise from debating positions to reach the best possible solution to whatever issue that may be at hand.

That Nazareth congregation had the amazing opportunity to discuss & ponder one of the most hopeful & forward-looking sermons ever preached.  Instead, their only response was to defame & disparage Jesus.

Perhaps they could have (and we can) draw inspiration from the late Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, who wrote:  “I attack ideas.  I don’t attack people.  And some very good people have some very bad ideas.  And if you can’t separate the two, you gotta get another day job. 1

Maybe we can avoid the temptation of our Nazareth friends & strive to avoid name-calling & labels & just get back to the basics of actually discussing ideas & propositions, be it in church, within our extended family, or in the public arena.

To assist us in our assignment, an Emergency Room Doctor has made the audacious claim that he can instantly spot a bad idea: It always starts like this, “Oh yeah?  Check this out.  Here, hold my beer…”

 

1 “Antonin Scalia In His Own Words.” Los Angeles Times 13 February 2016 A4

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12.01.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

Imagine that you’re Joseph for one moment. Your young fiancée tells you that she’s pregnant. You’re immediately infuriated as you and your bride have not “known” each other (in the biblical way, that is).

“It’s not what you think, Joseph,” she tries to tell you. “An angel came to visit me, and I’m having God’s child, conceived by the Holy Spirit.”

“The Holy who?”

“The Holy Spirit. I swear that I didn’t cheat on you. I haven’t been with another man. God chose me to carry His child, the Messiah.”

At this point Joseph rolled his eyes. “Listen, you don’t have to marry me if you don’t want, but you don’t have to make up an outrageous story just to get out of it.”

At least that’s how I imagine how this played out. Would you believe Mary if you were Joseph? I doubt I would. I think our minds would go to the most logical answer in this scenario. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, then it must be a duck… or a quack. Either way, you wouldn’t want to marry it. You’d quietly break off the engagement.

I must confess that I sometimes find myself acting just like Joseph when I hear how others encounter God. My first reaction is to doubt. I’ll look for other logical explanations or assume that the person isn’t mentally stable. Surely God would not nor could not intervene in the way in which they are telling me. It’s too unbelievable.

But our faith is built on a very unbelievable story that we cherish today – a babe, born of both flesh and deity, given from heaven to save mankind. I mean, what are the odds of that happening? One in… how many people have walked the earth? Once in a while God does crazy, unbelievable things!

I’m not saying that everything that people attribute to God is true, but maybe our first reaction shouldn’t be to doubt. At the very least, maybe we should consider the validity rather than to automatically dismiss what we are hearing. Certainly that’s what the Christmas story tells us. It may walk like a duck and talk like a duck, but once in a while it’s a message, if not the very Word, of God.

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

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11.30.16 – Insights from Steven Blair

steven-blairRev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care Pastor of Live Forward and Live Well Emotional Wellness Ministry. www.cor.org/liveforward

We have our excuses and reservations. We look at the weak parts of our character, the imperfections of our relationships, or a perceived lack of skill as reasons why we aren’t useful to God. We emphasize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses.

But let’s look at Amos. Amos is not a professional prophet who is used to doing tough things for God. Yet, rather than allowing that to hold him back he used it as part of his credibility. Here are his words to the priest in the north, Amaziah, who did not like Amos’ message.

Amos answered Amaziah, “I am not a prophet, nor am I a prophet’s son; but I am a shepherd, and a trimmer of sycamore trees.” – Amos 7:14

Being a shepherd and a trimmer of trees could have been seen as a negative but Amos flipped the perception. It was because he wasn’t a professional prophet that his words had so much power. He was relatable and real. His negative became a positive.

Think of your negatives. Write them down. Then fill out the following statement like Amos:

I am not (perfect, in ideal relationships, a Bible expert, head of my company, envied by my neighbors) but I am ____________.

Whatever you write in that blank is what makes you real. It is the very reason why God wants to use you today like God used Amos.

With God, your negatives are your positives. Let God do something big today through you, because you are you.

Grace and Peace,
Steven Blair
Imperfect Dad, Husband, Son, Pastor….Used by God

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

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11.29.16 – Insights from Courtney Felzke

Courtney_FelzkeCourtney Felzke is Chaplain of Silver Link, providing Pastoral Care to many within the Silver Link Ministry as well as doing work behind the scenes in the ministry, including: coordinating care for those served by the ministry and recruiting and training new volunteers.

In his sermon this weekend, Pastor Adam challenged us this week to be thinking about the effect we will have on others. Today’s scripture reading helps us see the impact Boaz had on Ruth and Naomi, and then the influence/impact Ruth had on many generations to come.

After listening to Adam’s sermon, and reading todays GPS, I thought of the impact my dad had on my life. When I was a sophomore in college, I remember going through a particularly difficult semester. I called and talked with my dad often during that semester. While he always had good insight and kind words to share with me, what was most impactful was the book he gave me during that trial in my life. Dad gave me Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. He shared with me how helpful this book was to him when he was lacking confidence and going through his own trials in life. I remember the book and dad’s insights helping me through that semester of college. But this book was most helpful after my dad passed away, and I found myself struggling deeply with anxiety. It was a time when over and over again I heard words running through my head telling me that I wasn’t good enough and would never make it in the career I was seeking. I struggled greatly with confidence in my God given abilities due to these ruminating thoughts and anxiety. It was at this time that I remembered the book my dad had given me for such times as this. One of Peale’s thoughts that I found most helpful during that time was, “One of the most powerful concepts, one which is a sure cure for lack of confidence, is the thought that God is actually with you and helping you. This is one of the simplest teachings in religion, namely, that Almighty God will be your companion, will stand by you, help you, and see you through. No other idea is so powerful in developing self-confidence as this simple belief when practiced. To practice it simply affirm ‘God is with me; God is helping me; God is guiding me.’” (pg 33 of Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, Fireside publishing, 2003.)

My dad, although he had passed, had so impacted my life that when things got extremely tough, I could still use the resources and skills he taught me to navigate my way through any trial. Now I’m challenged to share this book and dad’s positive thoughts with you. As we quickly approach 2017, I plan to make this a goal for the New Year: sharing the importance of positive self-talk with others. I encourage each of you to think about the legacy others have left for you. Then think about what legacy you want to leave. How can you impact the lives of others for good?

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

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11.28.16 – Insights from Roberta Lyle

Roberta_LyleRoberta Lyle has been on the Resurrection staff since 2006. She serves as the Program Director for Local Impact Ministries, concentrating on Education, Life Skills and Youth Focused Ministries.

Like many of you I spent part of Thanksgiving weekend putting up our Christmas tree. I have to admit this was early for me, as the past couple of years it seems like I didn’t find time to do this until just before Christmas. But I really enjoy carefully unwrapping the ornaments, remembering Christmases past and special times with family and friends. Another holiday tradition that holds a lot of memories is going through our box of Christmas cards received over the years. After more than 35 years of marriage, looking at those cards can be bittersweet since they come from family members who are no longer with us. Still, I enjoy reading the notes and letters included with those cards because they resonate with the personality of that loved one and provide a snippet of what their life was like that year.

Recently I came across some letters my dad wrote to my mom when he was stationed in San Diego with the Navy during World War II. I inherited these letters when my dad died 14 years ago, but had never taken the time to read through them until this year. Dad was a faithful correspondent who wrote almost every day, so there are a lot to read. Dad must have also received a lot of letters, because he wrote that one day the woman on duty at the post office mischievously told him she was glad to report he didn’t have any mail to pick up that day! Dad also mentions going to church and the lessons he took away from the sermons. I’m sure his faith was a comfort during that uncertain time away from his family, not knowing what his future assignment might be.

Like my dad, my son Mark is now in the military, and recently arrived in San Diego where he is stationed with the Marine band. Two weeks ago Mark texted us that he had been notified that his first official duty would be to play Taps at a ceremony on November 17. Tears came to my eyes as I realized that 14 years ago on November 18, Mark had played Taps for the first time at my Dad’s funeral. It felt like Dad was letting us know he was still with us and watching over Mark.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)–“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” I hope that as you prepare your heart to receive Jesus again this holiday season, you feel comforted and hopeful knowing we are all surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.

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

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11.26.16 – Insights from Dave Pullin

Dave Pullin serves as the Director of Technical Arts at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. The Technical Arts ministry handles all audio/visual/technical support for the church including worship services and events.

I must admit, I struggle with this one. I don’t talk about my faith as much as I should. Sometimes when I do share my faith, I feel like I am either being overly-religious, which can come off as inauthentic, or I am trying to be too sensitive and end up watering down the very beliefs I hold dear, which is also inauthentic. And now that religion seems to be just as taboo a topic as politics, I struggle with knowing when and how to talk to others about my spirituality without making them (or me) feel awkwardly uncomfortable.

There have also been times in my life when someone else has tried to share their faith with me, but I immediately felt like I was a project and they were interested in me only as a transaction to complete or part of a quota to fill. Even though I appreciated their conviction and fervor, I felt like I didn’t really matter to them as a person, but only as a number, which seems counter to the message of Jesus. At least they were actually talking to people, which was more than I could say for myself. But as I look at how Jesus interacted with other people, he modeled intimate, personal connection. I can imagine that when he looked at someone, he truly saw who they were, what their struggles were, and cared about them on a personal level. I wonder if that example of sharing faith is what we should be modeling.

When I take time to think about the people who had the most significant impact on my faith, I notice that it was not the words they chose, how eloquently they explained the Problem of Sin or how well they understood the theological aspects of Substitutionary Atonement. Rather, what stood out was the amount of time they invested in getting to know me as a person. They built a relationship with me, and due to that relationship, I respected their opinions and their beliefs. When I struggled with a passage of Scripture, a biblical concept, or with a moral or ethical dilemma, it was usually their advice and guidance that I would seek.

It’s easy for me, as a staff member for the church, to hide behind the fact that my job is behind the scenes. I can rationalize that my role primarily helps support others in creating those relational touch points where spiritual growth can occur. And although there is truth in that, I cannot escape the fact that I am still called to be in relationship with, and to minister to, others. We all are. So when I think of Wesley’s question asking ‘When did I last speak to someone about my faith?,’ I feel convicted about getting outside of my small circle of friends. I feel called to be intentional about meeting new people; not as projects, but to make new friends, forge new relationships, and take a sincere interest in other people. That, to me, is the root of sharing the good news, not so much making certain I have an answer for every question or theological debate. I simply need to do a better job of creating moments of true connection, where authentic conversation can take place. When I am actually able to do that, then the deep conversations eventually come on their own, and they are truly amazing.

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

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11.25.16 – Insights from Ginger Rothhaas

Gingeer RGinger Rothhaas is a seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology and is serving in Congregational Care at The Church of the Resurrection.

Holidays can be the time of year when we are filled with joy, but it can also be a time where we find ourselves striving to meet unreasonable expectations, frustrated with family members, feeling disappointed, and experiencing financial stress.

John Wesley offered 21 examen questions to his fellows at Oxford for reconciling their spirituality. I wonder if there were asterisks next to the questions that were especially helpful to keep in mind around the holidays?!?!

Today’s question might have a holiday asterisk: Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? Heading into a family event sometimes brings up old feelings of angst.

We all know that joy is found when we are free from feelings of fear, dislike, criticism, and resentment. And yet we struggle to let go of these feelings. Peace comes when we surrender our judgments of others and open our hearts to love unconditionally.

Think of a person you aren’t feeling great about right now and reflect on these questions:

  • What is there about this person to be grateful for?
  • What good does God see in this person?
  • Why am I struggling to like them?
  • What is it I can’t let go of?
  • What am I afraid of in this relationship?
  • Am I doing something to cause them to act this way?
  • Do they need grace and love from me?
  • Do I need to ask them to show me grace and love?
  • Is there something they are teaching me about myself?
  • What needs to happen to surrender my judgment of them?
  • In what ways could I see them as a blessing?

The transformational antidote to judgmental feelings is gratitude. William Arthur Ward offers this quote to us, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

My prayer for all of us, through the holidays, is that in gratitude we remember what we are celebrating: gratitude for the unconditional love of our creator, redeemer, and sustainer, which we are called to mirror to others through grace and love. Let this be where the joy and peace of this season is truly found.

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

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11.24.16 – Insights from Chris Abel

Chris Abel is the Young Adult Pastor at The Church of the Resurrection’s Leawood location. Find out more about Chris and 20/30 Young Adults at http://cor.org/leawood/youngadults.

Happy Thanksgiving Day! It’s the time of year again: holiday traditions, families getting together,  and the annual consumption of a giant bird. But while the turkey might be the center of the Thanksgiving dinner spread, today I want to invite you to think about a relative of our turkey friend:

The peacock.

I have this memory from childhood of seeing this bird in the wild. My family was driving through a neighborhood in south Florida where we lived and there it was—just a peacock in someone’s yard. I was fascinated. This bird had an absolutely magnificent tail!

As I got older I eventually learned that male peacocks evolved such incredible feathers to compete for female attention. They didn’t focus on becoming smarter or faster, but just…more eye-catching. Their feathers are all about getting attention.

We all peacock in some way. Sure, like the peacock it can be something related to our physical appearance, but we do this in all sorts of ways. We craft how others see us, inside and out. We might want to appear smarter or stronger than we really are. We might seek to be perceived as wealthy or emotionally stable. And don’t get me started on Facebook. We’re all guilty of crafting caricatures of ourselves for the internet to see.

But long before Facebook, John Wesley saw this as an obstacle to spiritual growth for his 18th century community. So he crafted a list of reflection questions, including this one:

“Am I honest in all my actions and words or do I exaggerate?”

Yes, this refers to being factual with the words we say. But what inside of us makes us exaggerate?

Well, simply put, we want to make an impression. And with something as simple as some language or actions, we can make reality more appealing than it is. It’s the same thing as the peacock. Through this lens, the questions might be read “Am I honest in my actions or words or do I peacock?

Even though the turkey might be the center piece of the meal, you and I know that most family gatherings have some peacocks at the table, too. We want to be seen favorably—even among family—and we’ll bend our words and actions to make it seem that way.

The opposite of this is when we’re real, authentic, and transparent. THIS is when God can work in us fully. See, when we’re exaggerating, it’s hard to actually be thankful. Exaggeration blurs our ability to see things as they are. Be you. Be real. Speak truth.

The peacock has spent so much time and energy becoming a bird based on perceptions that it gave up the thing that makes birds so amazing in the first place: flight. The peacock can’t really fly. It flutters along.

So this Thanksgiving, remember: Stay away from the silly feathers. God created you to fly. Not to flutter.

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

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11.23.16 – Insights from Jennifer Creagar

Jennifer Creagar is the Program Director for Financial Care. She is married, has three great kids and three perfect grandchildren whom she loves spending time with, and she enjoys writing and photography.

Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?

Wow. There are certainly days when I don’t want to answer THAT question.

One of my all-time favorite movies is Steel Magnolias. It’s always good for either a laugh or a cry. Usually both. In the movie, Ouiser Boudreaux (played by Shirley McClaine) is a perpetually cranky neighbor who actually loves her friends very much. At one point, she says, “I’m not crazy, I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years!” There are days when I can feel pretty much like Ouiser.

I wonder if a clue to Quiser’s 40-year bad mood might not, at least partially, be found in the words of her best friend Clarice, who says “If you don’t have anything good to say about someone, come sit by me.” Our moods and our outlook on life are so vulnerable to outside influences.

I know I am very much influenced by my environment and by how I spend my time and energy. What I hear, see, read, and talk about has powerful impact on how I feel and think and act. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”(Philippians 4:8)

What are the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy things that bring out the best in us?  What kind of environment encourages us to be jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?

There are days when I can feel like “I’ve been in a bad mood for 40 years.”  When I reflect on those days, they all have a few things in common. They are usually days that have no quiet space, days when I shorten or avoid spending time alone in God’s presence because I think “I’ll catch up later.” They are also days when the voices I do listen to “don’t have anything good to say about anyone.” A sneaky place where negative voices reach me can be social media. Most of the time, social media sites are just a great place to look at pictures of my grandchildren and other people’s grandchildren, find out what is going on in friends’ lives, and – ok, I confess – look at puppies, kittens, and the occasional panda bear. Sometimes, though, postings on social media can create an environment of contention, narrow thought, criticism and even bullying. That environment leads to anything but thinking about what is excellent and praiseworthy and the best thing I can do is to step away from the computer.

On the other hand, there are things that create an environment where thoughts of the true, the noble, the lovely and admirable thrive. For me, those are found in quiet, in reading, in real conversation with people in person, in helping, in doing something creative and in remembering to be grateful for the gifts God has given me.

What helps you create that environment in your life, so that you don’t find that you’ve been “in a bad mood for 40 years?”

Wishing you all a happy and blessed Thanksgiving,
Jennifer

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11.22.16 – 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.

“Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.” Those are words from Michael Foucault, a 20th-Century postmodern philosopher. He wrote at length about the link between knowledge and power, even saying that authorities used knowledge more for control than for truth. You may agree or disagree with his assertions, but I think we can all agree that knowledge can give us a lot of power and it can be very dangerous.

Now, I love the postmodernists. That’s my favorite era of philosophy. I believe that they, like philosophers from all eras, got a lot of things right, but they also got a lot of things wrong–particularly with overly-cynical views of humanity. Foucault’s statement is worrisome because it frames knowledge as an inherently evil thing, and that’s a very dangerous line of thought. I know of many times when knowledge has helped me improve relationships or solutions, and I wouldn’t trade that knowledge for anything. But his statement perfectly illustrates a choice we must all make when we gain knowledge: will we use it for knowing or will we use it for cutting?

When someone gives you privileged information, that’s powerful knowledge. When we face the choice to betray their confidence, that’s a power struggle, pure and simple. Very few of us would claim to want to hold power over others because that’s a statement that’s generally frowned upon; but when we don’t have to phrase it that way, the thought becomes much more tempting. When the thought is gaining some acceptance by sharing a tiny bit of knowledge, that seems much more acceptable, and it’s much easier to rationalize.

When we hold onto privileged information, the promise of power is tantalizing and seemingly harmless. But good relationships are built on sharing power, not grasping at it or sacrificing others to gain it. Remember, when someone trusts you with a secret, you face a choice to hold onto that power as equals or push them down to push yourself up. Always choose to protect the people who trust you. Betraying trust to gain power may seem safe, but it will eventually leave you with neither.

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

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