06.24.16 – 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.

Our dog Finnegan was born on April 1, 2015. Note the date…that says it all!  He is high energy and is like a curly hurricane when he blows through the room. I think it is great irony that April Fool’s day is his birthday. This dog reminds me that God must have a sense of humor, because this puppy came to us in the busiest year of our life as a family and wrecked any sense of order or sanity we had remaining!

At an especially lowGinger's dog moment in my relationship with him, after two of my best pairs of shoes became chew toys….I looked into his eyes and said, “What are you here to teach me?” (This may sound enlightened, but really I was looking for something redeeming to erase my non-loving thoughts!) Besides responding with “pick up your shoes,” I felt that his eyes were saying to me, “I’m here to teach you what unbounded love looks like.”

His hurricane craziness is full of enthusiastic love. He has an endless love for life, people arriving at our house, and every trashcan he can find! No matter what Finnegan does, it is with a leap of curly joy and happy energy!

His love for us isn’t delivered in a dignified way, it is often clumsy and messy, but it feels great to be the recipient of love like that! I think that is how God calls us to love one another. With no reservation or pause, just pure unbounded love!

As exhausting as Finnegan’s happy energy can be, I am grateful that he reminds me to live big, to love unabashedly, to enjoy fine leather goods, and to love with great enthusiasm everyone I encounter!

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

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06.23.16 – Insights from James Cochran

James Cochran serves as Director of Counseling Ministries at The Church of the Resurrection, helping to connect the Resurrection family and community with counseling resources and group programming.

My dog Lizzy is mostly a joy. Mostly. She’s a lab mixed with perhaps 30 other breeds. The deepest desire of her heart is to cuddle with me and my wife. For Lizzy, the right to cuddle is one she anxiously defends. When strange visitors take our attention, she politely but firmly reminds all gathered that she is due some cuddling.

Up until my daughter was born just over one year ago, this habit of Lizzy’s was mostly endearing. But now, on occasion, Lizzy gets a little too jealous about the distribution of our family’s cuddling resources. She’ll often bark when my daughter Evelyn encroaches on her cuddle territory, and, when she’s in a particularly foul mood, she’ll issue a harmless but anxiety-provoking growl. These behaviors often trigger “defensive dad” mode, which usually involves some harsh words for Lizzy.

Invariably, after I’ve had time to cool down, I feel bad for lashing out at her. However, and invariably, Lizzy has already moved on. She’s ready to cuddle.

In this series we’re meant to look past our furry friends to the One who created them (and us). The obvious lesson here is God’s forgiving nature. Look one step further, and it’s about how we’re often less inclined to forgive ourselves than God is to forgive us.

But as I consider this dynamic with Lizzy, one that’s become a daily occurrence, something else is coming forward. It’s chiefly about the differences in the way God (and, I expect, Lizzy) experiences time.

If we were so inclined, we could understand our lives as a cycle of failure and redemption. We somehow fall short, then we seek forgiveness. This makes sense when we interact with other people. If I say something unkind to my friend, and then go to him seeking forgiveness, he proceeds to forgive me. A, then B, then C.

But when I go to Lizzy, seeking forgiveness, I find that I am already forgiven. You see, in general Lizzy does not experience her life in the same cycle of failure and redemption. When I fall short with Lizzy, forgiveness is there by default. Perhaps this has something to do with the kind of in-the-moment consciousness Lizzy uses to engage with the world around her. In this moment, and all moments, I am forgiven.

Could it be that the same is true of God? When we fall short and subsequently seek forgiveness, I think it has more to do with what’s going on in our hearts than what’s going on with God. God, I think, has already forgiven us. Because God is always forgiving us. Or maybe God is never NOT forgiving us. Perhaps a better way to think of forgiveness is “reconciliation.” God is constantly and relentlessly working to reconcile us to God’s self.

As hard as I am working to describe this, the true nature of God’s forgiveness probably transcends our capacity to understand, which is probably why it’s so hard for us to embrace it for ourselves. What would it be like if we could participate in this constant, relentless reconciliation? Offering ourselves grace by default, and forgiving ourselves not because we want to be free of the debt of sin but as a means to reconcile ourselves to the Creator?

I’m not sure. But I think if we could work towards an understanding of forgiveness that looked more like a way of being, rather than a process of doing, the world would probably be a little more cuddly.

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

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06.22.16 – Insights from Katherine Halterman

11137089_1081631928519846_3575213886995040766_nKatherine Halterman will be a sophomore at the University of Denver, majoring in international studies. She is serving as the Global Impact Ministries intern this summer. She has two dogs and volunteers at Wayside Waifs, so she is pretty excited about the current sermon series!

I think the first thing that sticks out to me in today’s reading is, “They (His compassions) are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” It’s so comforting. God’s love is so unfaltering that no matter what we do, if we truly repent, we can always snap back to the Lord. He’s always there for us; always wholeheartedly devoted. No matter “my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall,” God is always loving me and wanting my attention.

I see what Pastor Adam meant when he said it felt odd to compare God to a dog, but I really am reminded of my dog! Anyone who owns a dog has done this–accidentally stepped on a paw or a tail. It’s instant remorse and panic after that innocent yelp, rushing to your sweet dog’s aid and whimpering how sorry you are. However, your dog has probably already forgiven you before you can even say that first “I’M SO SORRY!” By the next morning your furry friend is back to giving you puppy kisses until you wake up (earlier than planned, of course), and give them attention.

I think God is like that, too (not that He gives us puppy kisses). But before we even apologize God is already right back to loving us; in fact He never stopped. He’s enthusiastic to offer us His compassions, in the same way a dog always wants to love you and is quick to forgive.

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

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06.21.16 – Insights from Ally Drummond

 Ally Drummond PictureAlly Drummond is currently serving as a Congregational Care intern at the Church of the Resurrection. She is a sophomore at the University of Missouri—Kansas City, majoring in Sociology with a minor in Family Studies. Ally loves exploring and experiencing all things Kansas City!

My family owns two dogs–one is a Great Dane and the other is a mastiff mix. Growing up, though, we had two Labrador Retrievers–a black one named Boo and a yellow one named Cameron. I remember one winter night where their love and loyalty for each other and the rest of the family was apparent to us all.

My family had just come home and immediately let the dogs out in the backyard. We have a pool in our backyard, and since it was winter, there was a black tarp covering the empty pool. A few minutes after letting the dogs outside we started to hear incessant barking. After not being able to tame the barking from inside the house, my Dad finally went outside and found Cameron running around the perimeter of the pool. Cameron was desperately trying to show him Boo had fallen into the pool, but Dad couldn’t see this right away because the dark winter  night sky and the black tarp camouflaged Boo. Even after my Dad realized what had happened and came to Boo’s aid, Cameron faithfully stayed next to her, crying for help and never abandoning Boo’s side until they were safely reunited, at which time they affectionately embraced one another. Dogs are able to model for us an unconditional love that we only find in the Lord. A kind of love that is never wavering and always present.

Both scripture passages from Psalm and Hebrews speak of this idea–God will never abandon us. I feel as if many Christians struggle to fully grasp the sort of faith He calls us to have in Him. In Psalm 13, David cries out to the Lord, because he realizes he can only overcome his downfalls by placing all his trust in the Lord. It takes courage to be as faithful in God as David is being. In Hebrews 13, we are being reminded that no amount of worldly possessions can replace or separate us from the steadfast love that God can provide. Both scriptures act as reminders for us to place all our faith in the Lord, because He will never abandon us.

How amazing is it that God loves us so relentlessly that He still calls us to be His children despite all we have done? No matter what pit we fall into, God will always be right by our side, calling us to reach out to Him. Just as Cameron desperately did as much as she could to save Boo from her fall, God will never stop pursuing us, despite all our faults and shortcomings. It’s nearly impossible to grasp that sort of unconditional love, but our call as Christians invites us to have faith in this steadfast love and pursuit, which we can only find in the Lord.

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

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06.20.16 – Insights from Donna Karlen

dkarlengpsDonna Karlen serves in Communications at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, creating and managing social media content. (Some of this is taken from a post I wrote in 2014.)

I can’t help but smile just imagining God’s delight in creating all the beasts of the field, birds of the air and fishes of the sea.

Let’s say he created a horse or two first – beautiful animals, right? But then God thought, “Hmm – let’s put some stripes on the next one” and poof – a zebra! Or say God first made a giraffe with a regular ol’ neck and then decided to give it just a liiiittle stretch to create one of my favorite animals. And God just kept going: let’s put a pouch on a giant mouse, make a funny bird that can’t fly but swims like a fish, put some spots on a big kitty, add a beautiful tail here, a trunk there … It had to have been a really good time for God, Creator of Heaven and Earth! No wonder God rested after all that!

Of course all dog-lovers probably would agree that God may have done some of his best work when he came up with the noble dog. And even there God abundantly excelled. He didn’t just create a curly-haired poodle and stop there. He came up with the smooshed-face bulldog, a shaggy sheep dog, the hot dog-shaped dachshund, a joyful golden retriever – and my personal favorites: the endless combinations we lovingly call mutts.

Next weekend we’re having an animal blessing and you’re invited to bring your dogs, cats, hamsters, etc. – even snakes – to be prayed for (please put dogs on leashes and cats, hamsters, etc. and especially snakes in carriers – and PLEASE do not leave any pet in your car before, during or after the event!) And if you’ve ever lost a beloved pet, bring a picture or a memory and come join us.

Visit cor.org/leawood/pets for more information about this ministry.

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

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06.18.16 – 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.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Honestly, I really struggle with this verse. Although we know that Jesus is not presenting himself as a genie poised to grant us our wishes, I feel that even when I try to align my desires with what I believe to be God’s desires, there is still a disconnect between what I ask for and the response given. There have been many times where I felt that I have pleaded with God for something greater than myself, yet what I asked for was not given, at least in the way I wanted. Be it healing for a loved one suffering from brain cancer; praying for work for a friend who was in his 18th month being unemployed, struggling to support his family with two young daughters; or a single mom coworker who continues to have to fight for the child support her ex refuses to pay–all of these are prayers of mine that I feel weren’t answered, or in any clear way even acknowledged, by God. This left me really doubting the power of prayer.

I don’t claim to be a theologian, and I definitely do not fully understand the intricacies of prayer. I sometimes still wonder if my prayers do any good for those I am praying for. But what I am discovering is that I believe this verse, this story of Jesus teaching us to pray, is more about an invitation to a conversation with God than a description of a transactional process. For example, the more time I spend time talking and listening to my wife, the closer we become, the stronger our relationship grows, the more we both know what the other desires, and the more I strive to meet my wife’s needs.

I think the same is true with God; the more time I spend in prayer (talking to God), giving my concerns and fears over to God, the more my heart is changed to fully depend on God for all of my needs, just like the child referenced in this scripture. A child is completely dependent upon its parents, and a holistic sense of trust is present. I am beginning to think that an unwavering trust and reliance in God is the ultimate goal of prayer, rather than the specific requests we make day in and day out. Perhaps it is more about the condition of my heart, not the tally of my answered versus unanswered prayers. I am still called to pray for others, but I am less attached to a specific outcome, and more concerned about developing a compassionate heart and seeking ways I can be God’s hands and live out my faith. It is about allowing my faith to become like a child again.

Faith can be a difficult thing. Pastor Scott even defined faith as being more than believing in something–faith is trusting in someone without reservation.

There it is again: Trust. Without reservation.

Perhaps what Jesus is talking about is if we ask, we will come to rely solely on God. If we seek, our faith will continue to guide us back to the Creator. If we knock, we will grow to trust that God will always welcome us home.

Trusting someone without reservation is vulnerable, and opens us up to being hurt. Trusting an entity that we cannot see or hear seems even more so. But in my limited experience, when I am able to be vulnerable to God, when I stop trying to do it all by myself, that is typically when God tends to show up, and usually in the most profound ways.

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

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06.17.16 – 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.

It seems like today we are inundated with a quick-fix mentality to problems &/or learning skills:

  • Just 14 days to a slimmer you
  • Earn $10,000 in one month with one simple phone call
  • Learn to speak Esperanto in 5 easy lessons

Aside: Like the story of the piano teacher, hired by a music store to give piano lessons, who is approached by two women.  “Do you wish to learn to play piano, Madam?” he asked one.  “Oh no,” she said, “it’s my friend who wants to learn.  I learned yesterday.”

Today’s passage is evidence of another amazing quick fix.  Our friend Peter, who seemed slow to fully grasp Jesus’ admonitions & teachings during Christ’s 3-year ministry, is now passionately preaching the Good News to crowds in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost.  The Feast of Weeks was one of 3 major Israelite festivals when males were required to make an offering before the Lord.  It was known as Pentecost (Pente = 5 x Konta = 10) since it occurred 50 days after Passover marking the conclusion of the wheat harvest.

Peter, not particularly known for a scholarly background, is preaching an amazing sermon, including a treasure trove of theological insights & Old Testament allusions.  In his sermon Peter references the prophet Joel, the 16th Psalm, the 132nd Psalm, 2 Samuel, & the 110th Psalm to offer his listeners a case to believe that Jesus Christ was indeed the long-awaited Messiah.  This is the same Peter who 50 days earlier was admonished by Jesus at the Last Supper for failing to understand Christ’s teaching of agape love, who was scolded for pulling out his sword in a violent act of defiance in the garden, & who even denied being a friend of Jesus.  We have to conclude that during this 50-day period the Holy Spirit &/or Jesus helped Peter to finally comprehend Christ’s earthly mission.

Now, we’d be remiss to expect such an “information dump” for us today.  While we may be justifiably frustrated that we can’t have immediate answers to all our questions & clarification for all of our wonderings, I would submit that perhaps we are the better for it.

When we recognize that our faith walk is a life-long learning process, we begin to fully appreciate the Scriptures & what they can tell us about God & ourselves at each stage of our journey.

For example, I may highlight a particular Biblical passage with a comment, date, & note of its significance to me that day.  Let’s consider Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully & wonderfully made…”.  During a Disciple 1 class back in 2000, when we were welcoming our oldest son, Matthew, into the world, I bracketed “wonderfully made” with an accompanying, “Amen!!!!”  In 2003, when our youngest son, Jacob, at the age of 18 months had a Febral Seizure where the temperature rises in the body so quickly it forces the body to shut down, I underlined “fearfully made” noting with awe at how our own body can work & can protect itself.  In 2008, with the passing of my Grandmother Rosalie, I noted that the phrase “wonderfully made” meant we could be confident that God must have incredible plans in mind for us even after our earthly bodies have given out.

So, perhaps we should approach each study time with the Bible with the expectation of what might the Scriptures be uniquely telling us this day?  The meaning won’t change, but the significance of that passage might just take on a dramatically different light in the midst of our everyday travails & triumphs.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to make one simple phone call, or as they say in Esperanto, “telefonvoko.”

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

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06.16.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

A few months ago I was buying a coffee at a convenience store. It was a little over a dollar so I figured I’d pay cash. I reached into my wallet, pulled out a bill, and handed it to the clerk. He then looked at me with a puzzled face and said, “I’m sorry. We don’t take this. Do you have American money?”

I was so embarrassed. I must have looked like an idiot. I had just come back from Brazil, and the only cash I had on me was Brazilian, which obviously did me no good. Apparently there are many conveniences to a convenience store, but taking the wrong currency is not one of them.

Christians use the wrong currency, too. Not literally (unless you’re trying to pay for your coffee with Brazilian currency), but certainly when it comes to issues of forgiveness. The currency of forgiveness we tend to use is only accepted in particular situations. It has rules set up by society, how we’re raised, media, and other influences. We use it to forgive most minor sins. Generally it will cover the skeletons in our own closets, but where it often stops working is when it comes to the sins that aren’t in our repertoire.

As followers of Christ, we have to recognize that this is the wrong currency. It may work for our culture, but it is not accepted in the kingdom of God.  The Christ-like currency is far more reaching. It has no limits on people, motives, or wrong-doings. It covers everything from white lies to horrific acts.

In no way is it a sloppy grace, accepting wrong-doings and just looking the other way. It’s a passionate care and concern, extending hope, love, restoration, and light in the darkest of places. This is the forgiveness currency accepted in the kingdom of God. Thankfully our own limited currency of forgiveness isn’t accepted here.

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

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06.15.16 – Insights from Kinzie Oas

Kinzie Oas is the Adult Discipleship intern at The Church of the Resurrection. He attends North Park University in Chicago, IL, and aspires to be a Pastor. He would love to see church BBQ places instead of church cafes (think about it, Resurrection!). He also really loves badminton.

First reading this story, the answer seems so obvious. “Do you want to get well?” “Obviously, yes, I want to get well. Jesus, I want to be renewed by you, I want to be the best I can for you!” All that is true, but I am living 2000 years after this happened. I know the outcome, I know the renewal. The man at the pool did not. I wonder what was going through his head. What was his reaction when a Rabbi came up to him and asked, “Do you want to get well?” I probably would have responded sarcastically, “Oh, no, I’m good. I just LOVE sitting next to this place every day!” This man responded with excuses. Maybe others in his past had come to him, asked if he wanted to get better and told him to pray harder, or possibly even tried to sell him something. If so, you can see why this guy would be on his guard. He may have been blamed and told he will never be healed because he isn’t trying hard enough.

I have severe ADHD. I have been told time and time again I don’t try hard enough, and let me tell you, it’s devastating. Every time I’m told I’m not trying hard enough, or told about “ONE THING THAT WILL FIX ALL YOUR PROBLEMS—JUST CLICK HERE! 15 EASY STEPS,” I’m also going to be a little weary. I’m apt to think of a reason why I “Just can’t try your way” because I’m tired of them not working, then being blamed for failure. So I get why this guy made an excuse, why he was probably a little standoffish to someone asking such a difficult and probably painful question. Of course he wants to get well, but its been so long, he is so tired, and has tried so many times.

That’s when Jesus says something crazy. He looks at this guy and says, “Get up and walk.” Honestly, if a dude said something that audacious to me, as a man who was crippled for 38 years, I would have gotten up and grabbed my mat because I’d be thinking, “This dude’s crazy! Doesn’t he see me on this mat and FURTHERMORE…oh, wait. I’m walking. Hey, that guy was right, look at me. I’m walking!”

Sometimes following Jesus is the easy way. Sometimes, for a lot of us, it seems like it’s the craziest way. It seems crazy to think that this guy would just have to tell me to walk and I could. With my ADHD, I haven’t had my “Get up and walk moment,” and I know plenty of others that haven’t. But I believe Jesus can, because Jesus knows my excuses, he knows why I don’t like taking advice from others on why I am failing. He also knows the fix, and I know one day I’ll be asked “Do you want to get well?” I will have to answer, probably full of excuses at first, but he’ll sort through them. So what about you? “Do you want to get well?”

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

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06.14.16 – Insights from Allie Love

Allie Love is currently serving as a summer intern for The Church of the Resurrection’s Local Impact ministry. She recently graduated from Kansas State University and will start a 5th grade teaching job in the Fall. She loves assisting the Missions department and all they do to serve students, teachers, and their families.

“What can I do for you?” is a question I frequently ask as an intern. I ask this question often because I am seeking to serve my department, but also because I am still learning the ropes of my new position. I need clarification as I am learning how best to fulfill my new role.

I think it is interesting that Jesus asked this same question of the blind men on the road from Jericho in Matthew 20:29-34. As they cried out for mercy, he asks, “What can I do for you?” as if he doesn’t already know what they need. Clearly, the question was not for Jesus’ benefit, but for the benefit of the blind men. (That’s the thing about Jesus–everything he does is for our benefit.) If Jesus were to ask this question of me, what would I ask that he do? It takes me all of two seconds to think of all the things I’d ask for! I’d love for my family to be closer, I’d love for God to bless my relationships with others, I’d love for him to make my first year of teaching smooth. But when Jesus asks this question of the blind men, they don’t ask for a million little things to be better in their lives. They respond with “We want our sight, Lord.” They ask to see Jesus!

Is it possible that my response should be the same as theirs–to receive sight? No, I am not blind, but I want Jesus to do the same thing for me metaphorically. I want him to give me sight to see what really matters. I want to ask him for things that have eternal significance that enable me to see and follow Jesus more clearly, just as the blind men were able to do.

In my opinion, that’s what following Jesus is about. When I ask the Son of David to be the King of my life, I lose concern for myself, and desire to see Jesus more clearly. Thank Jesus for the mercy he gives me daily when I lose sight of him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. Guide my life in your paths today and every day. Amen.

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

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