07.28.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

When we moved into our current home, we had to get the concrete outside our front door repaired. On our invoice, I saw that we were billed for fixing our “porch.” Really? A porch? It’s a 4’ x 6 ‘ slab, just enough for 2 people to stand on to ring the doorbell.

I suppose one would call it a porch, but I grew up in a house built many decades ago with a real front porch. The porch had chairs and a table where you could sit and watch the neighbors walk by. You knew what was going on in your neighbor’s life, because you knew your neighbor. You knew when your neighbor had cancer, lost a job, had a baby, had an affair, took up dance lessons, joined a gym, had a mid-life crisis, and the list goes on and on.

Because of these interactions, when you were really sick, it was your neighbor who brought you dinner. Your neighbor watched your house while you were out of town. Your neighbors let you borrow that missing ingredient when cooking dinner. Why go to the grocery store when you could get a cup of flour 20 feet away? Need a certain tool to do a project? For goodness sake, don’t buy it when your friends next door have one. And your neighbors felt the same way about you. You lived with and did life with the community around you.

These days, most houses are built with tiny front porches and big backyard decks. Decks allow us the option to be more selective about our interactions. You must be invited into a conversation on a deck, whereas a porch just allowed conversations to happen.

I’ll be honest in that I really like the idea of a deck. I have just enough introvert in me to enjoy being left alone at times. I don’t want to feel like I am always “on” or that my neighbors are always in my business. When our society moved from a front-porch to a back-deck culture, we certainly gained that autonomy. But I think we have to recognize what we lost with that freedom. It is far more difficult to know our neighbors.

If we want to know the people living a stone’s throw away, we must be intentional about it. While the layout of our houses doesn’t always encourage this, the Bible certainly does. Learning to love our literal neighbors means that we must recognize and get over our backyard-deck mentality. There is a freedom that we surrender in doing so but, with that, we gain an answer to a calling and a richness of true community.

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

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07.27.16 – 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.

Coming into my last few weeks as an intern I find myself lucky to get to talk about the Samaritan in my final blog post! He is such an interesting part to this story, because he should have also passed by, but he didn’t (as we know). Instead, he stopped and helped the beaten man.

In some of the Bible classes I’ve taken, I have learned about Samaritans. Their faith, at a bare basics look, looks to me like kind of like a cousin religion to Judaism. They were in almost a sort of family feud. But in many family arguments go, eventually when things get really rough you will help your family. Sometimes that help doesn’t come directly from your brother, the priest or Levite, but it could come from that unlikely estranged cousin, the one who split because of an argument between your fathers long ago, who you haven’t recognized in years.

As humans, we are family, we are supposed to be there for each other, even when we don’t really like that other person. We are supposed to help them, love them, use our own money and resources to make sure they can get back on their feet. I know that sounds pretty, and I am one of the biggest offenders of talking a big game. So I would like to challenge you, and myself: let’s see if we can practice this. In my final blog post near the end of an incredible summer here at Resurrection, after meeting so many incredible members of this congregation, let’s get radical. Let’s help those who might not expect our help, those who maybe don’t think Christians do enough. I pray that you will do this with me, and that we can live what Jesus was teaching–to love others as we love ourselves.

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

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07.26.16 – Insights from Randy Greene

Randy Greene serves in the Communications ministry as the Digital Media Specialist. He helps develop and maintain the church’s family of websites.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is one that probably all of us know very well as a story demonstrating what it means for us to love our neighbors. I often forget, though, about the context of the story. Darrell’s subtle reminder in today’s GPS reading – that Jesus told this parable in response to the question “Who is my neighbor?” rather than to about how to be a neighbor – hit me hard.

My wife and I moved into our house last November. As first-time homeowners, we’ve had a lot to learn, including dealing with a defunct water heater, tending both the interior and the exterior of our home, managing large expenses like new windows (next time, we won’t forget to plan for new blinds, too!), and so on. But listening to the message this past weekend, we were struck by something that had completely flown under our radar: we have met hardly any of our neighbors.

We did introduce ourselves to the gentleman on our left a few days after we moved in (his name is Al) and we talked to our neighbors on our right when our dog dug under the fence (they have a cat named Ino, apparently named after a manga character). But besides friendly waves as we walk our dog, my wife and I have completely failed to get to know anyone on our block.

The legal expert from today’s reading asked “Who is my neighbor?” and my wife and I find ourselves asking the very same question, but in a completely different sense. We literally don’t know who our neighbors are. I am ashamed to confess that if we were to walk past them dying on the side of the road we would not recognize them.

Pastor Wendy Lyons Chrostek challenged us in the Vibe service at Leawood to take the initiative in our neighborliness. She said that we cannot wait for the people around us to reach out – we must be the ones knocking on their doors and beginning the relationships. So my wife and I are committing ourselves to doing just that. We are scheduling get-togethers with some of our neighbors right now, and we are eager to embrace this small act of what it means to be Christian.

My wife and I might be extreme examples of un-neighborliness (or, who knows, maybe you can relate, too!), but I’m guessing that there is at least one family on your street that you don’t know. Will you join us in going out of your way to begin forming those new relationships?

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

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07.25.16 – Insights from Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Guest Connections Program Director at Resurrection.

Do you ever feel like you make life too complicated? I do. I complicate it by worrying too much about what others think of me. I complicate it by trying to do too much or not enough and obsessing about each. I don’t know about you, but lately I listen to what is happening in our world and I think it’s overwhelming and complicated. How do we stop the violence happening in our world right now? The distrust? It’s complicated. Right?

I love the passage of scripture for today’s GPS. While I love the way Jesus used stories to illustrate a point, I also love that he just lays it right out there for us.

What’s most important in this life? Love God. Love people.

That doesn’t sound complicated. Don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean that we don’t work really hard to complicate it. Over the years I’ve heard lots of sermons on who our neighbors really are, ranging from our actual neighbors to the people we work with to everyone in the world. There’s probably a case to be made for all of them, but I wonder if Jesus didn’t really just mean your neighbor. I’m blessed to have some really great neighbors; people I really like. People we celebrate holidays with and have block parties with. People who gather in the cul-de-sac just to catch up while we watch our kids ride bikes. People who share a cup of sugar as easily as they share their struggles and celebrations. People who have been there for my family to celebrate the birth of a child by stopping by with a gift and a meal or an offer to babysit so we could have a much needed date night out. Our neighbors have become our family, and I love them.

Well–at least the ones that have been easy to love. Maybe I haven’t been loving all my neighbors like I should be. There is that neighbor who really never hangs out because they are always leaving to take one of their kids somewhere. We haven’t really gotten to know them. Then there are the always new neighbors who live in the rental house that seems to be a revolving door every 9 months. After about the third family that lived there we kinda stopped making the effort. But after all, Jesus didn’t say love the neighbors who are outgoing and easy to talk to. Or the ones that look like you, or believe like you.

Maybe stopping the violence and distrust we see in our world really does start by loving our neighbors–all of our neighbors. Didn’t Jesus also tell us in John 13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples”? In a world that seems so broken right now and so in need of love, let us start by being good neighbors, to all our neighbors. Let us drive out darkness from our homes and in our driveways and on our streets. Let us be known as a people of love by the people who live closest to us. Let’s not over-complicate it.

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

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07.23.16 – Insight From Michelle Kirby

Due to a schedule mixup, we received no blog from Denise Mersmann. However, Michelle Kirby wrote a worthwhile reflection on the end of Joseph’s story in August, 2013, and we share that with you today.

Have you ever had your feelings really hurt?  I think that’s something we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives.  I remember one such experience when I was a teenager.  I had auditioned for the high school play as extra credit for an “Intro to Drama” class I had been taking.

Everyone was looking at the Cast Posting to see who had gotten parts in the play and much to my amazement I had gotten the female lead.  One of the guys checking the list exclaimed, “Who IS this chick?  She hasn’t been in any of the plays—she probably just sucked up to the teacher.”  Some laughed but no one recognized that I was standing there.  When the guy realized this, he said, “Well, I hope you don’t screw things up.”

I was crushed.  While this isn’t the worst thing in the world a person could experience—for me, being a 16 year old girl, it was huge.  I could have been the bigger person, congratulating him on making the play, blessing him—taking the high road and doing the right thing.  But I didn’t.

My first thoughts weren’t, “Congratulations” or “How can I be a blessing to this guy”.  Instead I spent the next few days fantasizing about all of the ways I could make him pay for this grave injustice (little did he know how dramatic I actually could be!)  I mean how could I possibly survive spending the next few months rehearsing with this guy?  But I did. And as it turns out, we grew to be good friends.

As adults we’re supposed to be better, more mature, at navigating this sort of thing—though sadly many of us aren’t.  Sometimes we even get worse.  We too quickly go to an internal default setting of wanting to get even.

Looking at today’s passage we see an opportunity for Joseph to get even. His father has died and now his brothers who schemed against him are sweating it out to see what Joseph is going to do.

I’ve always been inspired by Joseph.  As I was rereading this familiar passage, these verses in particular stood out to me.  They’re so revealing of Joseph’s character.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for goodto accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19-21)

These brothers had planned to KILL him, not just hurt his feelings because of some high school play. They had sold him into slavery, left him for dead!  And yet it says “…he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”  Wow!  How tender. How loving.  Joseph held all of the power but knew the most powerful thing he could do was to choose love, extend grace and be a blessing.  May we all have the power and strength of Joseph.

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

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07.22.16 – 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.

I once heard a quote from Marianne Williamson: “All of the children of God are special, and none of the children of God are special.” Does that make you bristle a little when you read it? I was good with the first half of the quote, but the second part challenged me upon first hearing.

The more I have thought about those words, the more they bring me a sense of peace. And it seems timely, in our nation right now as we continue to see violent evidence of embedded bias and racism, to consider everyone as equally special and no one as special.

As we have been studying the Genesis story of Joseph, I can’t help but think this would have been helpful parenting advice for Jacob. All of your children are special, Jacob, and none of them are special. We can certainly understand Jacob’s preferential love for Joseph. When he looks at this son, maybe he sees a resemblance of the eyes of his true love, or hears her laugh when he laughs, or notices her mannerisms in his movements. The special bond between Jacob and Joseph is undeniable. Yet Jacob’s preference for Joseph puts him in the path of danger.

This triggered a memory from my childhood on a ranch. Each year would bring new litters of barn kittens into our family. Taming these sweet little bundles was my hobby and passion. In every litter, I inevitably found a favorite. Usually this was based on willingness to cuddle and quick onset of purring. I would work with the scratching-resisting-hissing kittens too, but the gentle ones were easier to love.

Lots of kitten-danger lurks in the shadows of a country barn…tractors, coyotes, disease. Many times, my favorite kitten was the first to die.  As an adult, I realize that it was likely coincidence. The favorite may have been at greater risk due to running out of the barn to warmly greet coyotes or run under cars where human voices were heard. But my eight-year-old brain lived in fear of preferring one and thus placing it in the path of danger.

I believe that had Jacob known he was placing Joseph in the path of danger, he never would have set Joseph apart as his favorite son. The reconciliation at the end of Jacob’s life nods to the awareness and responsibility Jacob felt for Joseph’s journey.

I think God loves us as Jacob loved Joseph. Except that God feels that with every human and never plays favorites. God loves us all equally, and hopes the scratchy-hissy-resistant ones will surrender to love.

We are all equal recipients of God’s love. It is always unconditional for every one. We are each of equal importance in the sight of God–we are all special and none of us are special. May our prayer today be: God, I know I am special in your sight, and I know every other human is too. Thank you for unconditionally loving us all.

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

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07.21.16 – Insight from Evan Palmer

Evan Palmer has been a member of Resurrection since 2002. She graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in International Relations and worships at Resurrection’s Downtown campus.

About a month and a half ago, one of my friends was hit by a drunk driver and died on impact. She was 24. Earlier this summer, I was brought to tears due to hurtful words and actions from my own family. Just this week, I received the news that one of my youth group pastors, Julie Frazier-Peters, passed away from cancer.

Life is not fair. At times, it can be overbearing. Undoubtedly, Joseph can relate. He was betrayed and sold into slavery by his brothers. Today’s passage beautifully illustrates how opportunities for grace and redemption arise from hurt, evil, and adversity.

I’m sure Joseph had feelings of questioning and disappointment when his brothers deceived him as a means to exterminate him from their family. I imagine his brothers’ actions left him angry, saddened, and confused. Instead of seeking revenge, or trying to understand why his brothers acted in the way they did, Joseph clung to his faith. He trusted that even though his life’s circumstances were hurtful and didn’t make sense, God would bring good from it. Joseph focused on how he could respond instead of dwelling on why he was in his situation. Verse 14 of today’s passage (Genesis 45:1-18, 45:25-46:7), explains how Joseph reacted when reunited with his brothers years later. “Weeping with joy, he embraced Benajmin…” Joseph embraced his brothers who had wronged him. He was even crying tears of joy as he did so!

I don’t know why my friend was killed in a drunk driving accident. But I do know God has brought hope to her community. I find rest trusting that God has only just begun a tapestry of grace and mercy to follow this horrific tragedy.

I’m not sure why we fall into hurting one another with our words and actions— especially when we hurt those we love most, or are hurt by those who love us most. But I do know that through this, we’re given an opportunity–an opportunity to offer grace and redemption and to embrace those around us.

I don’t understand why terrible diseases take our loved ones from us every single day. Being able to witness Julie’s last year of life was an honor. She held tight to her faith, and continued her life-long testimony that proves “the worst thing is never the last thing.”

I don’t think God calls us to understand the “whys” of life. There are “whys” we just can’t answer: losing a loved one, being betrayed by a friend, or a host of other circumstances. I think what God is calling us to is to work toward understanding the “how.” I think He wants us to ask ourselves, “How can I respond to this situation?” and/or “How can I offer redemption and grace?” Sometimes we need to extend this grace to others, and sometimes we need it ourselves. My hope is that we strive towards the embodiment of grace while understanding our own need for it on a daily, momentary basis.

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

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07.20.16 – Insights from Wendy Chrostek

We shared a post from Rev. Steven Blair on Monday. Since he wasn’t able to write for today, we instead give you a chance to read a post from Pastor Wendy Chrostek, which she first wrote in September of 2009.

In Genesis 43, Israel (Jacob and his sons) comes to the point where desperate times are calling for desperate measures.  Their grain is gone, and if they want to get some more…it’s going to cost them. It will surely cost them money, but money isn’t really the issue. They’ve got the money they need to buy the grain, but they can’t buy it unless Benjamin goes to Egypt with them. The real cost here is letting Benjamin go. He is the one thing Israel isn’t willing to give up. He’s already lost Joseph, and he can’t bear the thought of losing Benjamin too.

In the end, he realizes that this is the only way. We can almost feel his pain as he watches his most precious possessions walk out the door–his son Benjamin, and what little bit of food they have left. As I look at this passage, I am reminded just how much perspective changes in times of famine. Money doesn’t have the same charm it used to, because all the money can’t fill their bellies, nor can it replace the ones they love. I think we definitely can learn something about perspective when looking at Israel. When it comes right down to it, what is the one thing you aren’t willing to part with? What are the most important things in your life? What do you need to survive, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?

We could all use a chance to reevaluate our priorities. If we think about what we would give up, and what we would be unwilling to let go of, it gives us a chance to see clearly the things that matter most to us. And even when it looks like you’ve been left with practically nothing, you still have something to hold onto and something to share. Do I think God is going to ask us to give up a child just to put food on the table? No. But I do think God is going to call us to be willing to get down on our knees and offer our whole selves. That might look different for each one of us–-it might look like simplifying our lives so that we can get back to what’s important, or it might look like offering a prayer even when we don’t feel like praying. Whatever that might be for us, I do believe that God wants us to see that no matter what, there is always something left that we can hold onto-–faith that God will be with us through the famine and hope that the famine will end, even if we can’t see the end in sight.

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

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07.19.16 – 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.

In college, I majored in English, so I’m always on the lookout for things like symbolism and parallels–repeated patterns that carry great meaning. Joseph’s story is a perfect example of that. He starts in a great spot: he’s born into a successful family, favored highly by his father, and probably set to inherit most of the family business. And he also has a rather unique God-given talent for discerning dreams.

But Joseph isn’t the most responsible with his gifts. He flaunts them in front of his brothers, even gloating to them that he would one day rule over them. I get the impression from the events of the story that Joseph telling his brothers about his prophetic dream was just the last in a long line of him reminding them that he was better off than them. At that point in the story, Joseph’s gifts were all about Joseph. So, in return for misusing his gifts, Joseph loses his freedom, his success, and his family when he is sold into slavery.

After slavery, false accusations, and wrongful imprisonment, Joseph finds himself at rock bottom. I wonder how many times he looked back on those days with his brothers and bitterly regretted squandering his gifts for his own benefit. That prophetic dream and his interpretation of it must have seemed like a curse. I think it would be well within Joseph’s right to never want to interpret a dream again.

When the pharaoh calls Joseph up to his chambers and asks him to interpret his dream, he is faced with the same choice that got him into that place to begin with. He could have used his dream-interpreting gift to promote himself, to bargain for his freedom; he could have used it to push himself into the limelight and ask for a position of power; he could have chosen to make that moment all about Joseph again.

But this situation also presented a much different opportunity: a chance to help the people who had imprisoned him. There was definitely no Joseph in that decision. But, perhaps with the lesson learned from his experience with his brothers, this is the decision Joseph chooses to make. Joseph chooses to use his gift to help the nation of Egypt and ask for nothing in return. Even when describing the position which would be his in a few short minutes, Joseph makes no ploy for power.

And notice what happens. Joseph gets back everything he lost: his freedom, success, and even a new family. In fact, it’s this restoration that brings about the fulfillment of his original dream about his brothers–he actually gets a chance to rule over them. And it’s all because he chose to use his gifts to help others selflessly.

I don’t see this scenario as a promise from God, so much as an important lesson in using our gifts, whether those are attributes, temperaments, or even just the situations we were born into. The temptation is to use our gifts to promote ourselves, much like Joseph did. This can come off as abrasive, condescending, or even insulting to others who don’t have the same gifts that we do, and, much like Joseph’s brothers, it can really lead to some resentment. If we use those God-given gifts to help others without expecting anything in return, that’s where we see the most fulfillment. I’ll be honest: there will be times when you really get nothing in return from the people you’re helping. But making that mindset into a lifestyle will lead to fulfillment and success over the long run, much like it did for Joseph. Let’s hope we can learn that lesson without losing everything first.

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

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07.18.16 – Insights from Steven Blair

Josh Hoeven was not able to write for today.

Pastor Steven Blair first wrote the reflection on Genesis 40 printed below in July of 2013.

Tom Rath has written a New York Times Bestseller called Strength Finder.  It is based on the notion: ‘Find your strengths and then develop your strengths.”  Rath notes that when we are growing up we are actually told to focus on our weaknesses.  When we received our report cards, our attention was drawn to our worse grade.  We are encouraged, sometimes demanded, to bring that grade up.  The result is spending numerous additional hours spent on the subject which we are not naturally gifted instead of developing our greatest strength into something much stronger.   Rath comments that spending time trying to reduce our weaknesses instead of growing our strengths thwarts our ability to become extraordinary at any one thing.

We all have at least one thing we do well, but just like that report card from long ago we spend most of our attention on what we do not do well.    What if we spent more time focusing on our God-Given strengths?

In our Scripture from Genesis, Joseph (of Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat fame) finds himself in prison.   Two other Egyptian officials find themselves incarcerated with him.   When the two had a dream that needed interpretation, Joseph sprung to action.  Interpreting dreams is something that Joseph did VERY well.   Joseph used the skills that God gave him, interpreted the dreams, and in return Joseph received nothing.  Nada. Zip.  There is no record of even a thank you.   Joseph remained in prison until Chapter 41.  Once again a dream required an interpretation.  Joseph stepped in again, this time to interpret for the Pharaoh.  The result this time was Joseph’s release from prison and his rise to a prominent place in the Egyptian Government.

The story of Joseph can be seen as a message of one man’s faithfulness to God even in tough times.  It could also be seen as a story of God making lemons out of lemonade, twisting the many evil deeds done to Joseph into something good.    What stood out to me in this reading of Genesis 40:1-23 is Joseph’s reliance upon God’s gift of dream interpretation.  He knew it was a gift and looked for opportunities to use it.  Ultimately, it was Joseph’s ability to use his God-Given strength that led to him experiencing a different future.

What about you?  Can you list 3 of your strengths right here and now. Go ahead and write them down, I will wait …….

What if using the strengths that God has given you is God’s way of providing you a path out of your prison?  What if the key to our brighter future is something we have been born with rather than something we have not yet received? Yes, like the story of Joseph, our bright future may require some waiting, but in the meantime we can develop our God–given skills.

How can you be like Joseph and build on your strengths so you are  ready for when the unexpected happens?

Steven (no longer working on my singing skills) Blair

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

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