02.12.16 – 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.

A few springs ago, our family toured Boston, the Freedom Trail, & Minuteman National Park. I would submit that the Revolutionary War battle of Concord can help us understand both sides of the gun control debate. A quick refresher:

Tensions between Great Britain & Massachusetts’ colonists had been rising for years evidenced by the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, & King George sealing Boston Harbor.

Of course it didn’t help that the patriots were always making fun of the British with cracks like, “Why do the Redcoats’ brain cells die? Loneliness,” or “Why do ‘Lobsterbacks’ date smart women with beautiful smiles? Opposites attract.” “Why do the British hate to fall asleep on a night in June? They are afraid they will miss summer.” (These might need some verification – Editor.)

On April 18, 1775 Paul Revere & William Dawes were dispatched to warn the colonists that the British troops were going to march on Concord to arrest Sam Adams & John Hancock & to confiscate weapons/ammunition.

The British surrounded Militia Colonel James Barrett’s home, thinking he had a stash of weapons. Barrett, warned of the pending search, had already fled & had hidden the weapons in his freshly plowed field. The British, frustrated by their lack of success, searched elsewhere & started several fires that spread to houses in the community.

Barrett, seeing the smoke from fires, marches with 400 of his militiamen to the North Bridge near Concord with their guns loaded & ready to fire. The men were ordered to not to fire unless fired upon, since just the act of shooting would be tantamount to treason for all involved. There was a volley of shots at the North Bridge that left 2 colonists & 3 Redcoats dead. The British fled in retreat to Lexington.

So, how does this history lesson illuminate today’s discussion?

The framers of our Constitution knew the value an armed populace offered & considered it an important civil right. They recognized that guns were a great equalizer, allowing those most vulnerable to oppression to have at least an opportunity to defend themselves.

Years ago I was new on the job in Houston, Texas, editing a big proposal after-hours with our secretary. Wrapping up, I said if she would wait a minute, I would escort her to her car. She politely declined saying, “Being petite, my father bought me a gun when I graduated from high school. I’ve been trained to use it. He & I have a date at the gun range every 6 weeks to make sure it is working properly. Dark parking garages don’t scare me.” Blinking, I replied, “Um. If you would wait a minute, would you mind escorting me to my car?”

On the other hand, as suggested in our history lesson, guns also create great havoc. No one knows who fired the “shot heard round the world.” It could have been a Redcoat soldier panicked by the irate militiamen or it could have been a colonist who let his anger in the moment get the best of him. While a peaceful solution was unlikely, this fateful volley forced the issue & eventually led to an estimated 72,000 deaths & over $100 million dollars in costs (in today’s dollars). Every firing of a weapon has the potential for great & permanent consequences.

As with all rights there comes great responsibility. My Grandfather contended that gun violence in our culture is attributable to kids no longer growing up on the farm. If you ever had to put a beloved animal down or if you ever raced into the woods to make sure an errant shot didn’t accidentally hurt a fellow hunter or an adored hunting dog, you learned first-hand that all weapons need to be treated with grave respect.

As we wrestle with this challenging issue, we should recognize that not every law is the second coming of King George III & not every gun owner is eager to start some revolution. This is a topic of constitutional status that deserves far better discussion than lame straw-man arguments & far fetched caricatures. Well, unless they are about British Redcoats, then by all means:

  • What is the difference between a Redcoat & a baby? The baby will eventually stop whining.
  • Why do British soldiers look forward to summer? The rain is warmer.
  • What do Redcoats call Thanksgiving? Thursday.

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

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02.11.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

skydivingI don’t get recreational skydiving. Why would anyone go 12,000 feet in the air just to get back to the ground? I’m already on the ground. I’ve already reached the goal. I win.

And I love Jerry Seinfeld’s take on skydiving:

…Skydiving was definitely the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Let me ask you this question in regards to the skydiving: what is the point of the helmet in the skydiving? I mean, can you kinda make it? You jump out of that plane and that chute doesn’t open, the helmet is now wearing you for protection. Later on the helmet’s talking with the other helmets going “It’s a good thing that he was there or I would have hit the ground directly!”

Hilarious! While it may make you feel safer, and it probably provides some protection when you land, in no way is that helmet going to save your life without the parachute.

It’s kind of like life. Let’s face it, life may be wonderful and great, but it is also unstable at best, and oftentimes downright treacherous. We are regularly faced with difficult and scary situations – serious health issues, broken relationships, loved ones facing challenges, financial struggles, acts of violence, temptations, natural disasters, community crisis, the list goes on and on.

We do our best to protect ourselves in these situations. We strap on our helmets of diet and exercise, more insurance, counseling, self-protection, whatever it may be. They give us a sense of control and make us feel safe. These are all great and certainly important, but I think it’s important to step back and realize that these are helmets. What’s really going to save us in these situations (notice the word in, not necessarily from) is much, much bigger.

Putting our trust solely in our helmets when we’re plummeting towards the ground is not only ridiculous, it can be deadly. We have to realize that God is our parachute keeping us from completely crashing down to our demise. He’s the one guiding us, holding us, comforting us, and walking with us through the shadows. He is our Savior.

So if you find yourself falling in life, you can certainly wear your helmet. Just don’t count on it as your only protection. You’ve got a much better and greater protector in God, and he’s ready and able to be your parachute.

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

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02.10.16 – 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.

This series has turned our focus toward building bridges and tearing down walls. In today’s reading from Nehemiah, however, the walls of Jerusalem are already torn down. As the Israelites return from the Babylonian captivity, they discover their land in devastating ruin. Here, rebuilding the compromised wall is the vital task required for the survival of the people.

So it is in our lives. There are times, yes, when we are called to tear down walls. Think of the Berlin Wall. I was already a history nerd at age nine, so the fall of the Berlin Wall remains one of the most vivid images from my childhood. This wall’s crumbling bridged the divide between East and West. Healing resulted from the wrecking of this wall.

But there are times, too, when walls–boundaries–are necessary for human flourishing. Whenever I travel, I feel a certain penchant for fortified villages, precisely because their integrity and character have been preserved from invaders, over long stretches of centuries, by thick, soaring walls. Our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual integrity and character are not so different. We trust in God for protection against the people and forces that would harm us, yes. But it is also our duty to build and maintain walls that delimit health from harm, sacred from profane, good from evil.

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

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02.09.16 – 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.

As I think about the tools we have to use for good purposes I immediately think of the words we use, and how words can be like weapons. Proverbs 12:18 ESV: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

I’ll never forget the time one of my friends sidetracked me with harsh words and judgement. I remember walking away from the conversation wondering what just happened and feeling attacked. I wondered if there was any truth in what she had to say, but, to be honest, I was so furious with how she approached me that I didn’t care. I was closed off and defensive. We immediately stopped being friends.

Years passed. Now and then I would think about the friendship, but her words still stung. I still felt anger and resentment about something that happened long ago. But something new was taking root in my heart–the love of Jesus. My faith walk had grown deeper and wider during the time since I my painful conversation with this friend. I realized that I needed to reach out to this girl and try to make an amends, even though I felt wronged.

When I first met her at a coffee shop things were awkward, but as soon as I saw her my anger melted away. As we talked, I realized it was easy to forgive her. She told me her story and I realized how much we were alike, how we shared similar pains and hurts. That was when last part of Proverbs 12:18 ESV really spoke to me…”but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Over the years we both had grown and regretted not revisiting the conversation. She regretted how she approached it and I regretted letting it fester for far too long.

We didn’t walk away that day as best friends, but I think we both walked away free from the walls harsh words can build. I know that sometimes we can’t make amends with those we have hurt or have hurt us with harsh words or actions. But we can learn from the experience and make better choices in the future. From my experience with harsh words I learned so much. My friendships have become much more valuable to me. I’m willing to face conflict now instead of turning away from it. Most important, I have learned to try to be intentional in protecting my friendships by doing exactly what Scripture directs. Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Words are powerful. I’m so grateful that an ordinary person like me has such a powerful resource to use each day to lift up my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

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

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02.08.16 – Insights from Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Guest Connections Program Director at Resurrection.

Driving home from church on Sunday, I asked my kids if they thought violence hurts God’s heart, or if he just didn’t really care? They all said they believed that it must hurt God’s heart. When I asked them why, they told me because when we hurt someone else we are hurting one of God’s children.

Wanting to capitalize on this great parenting opportunity, I told them that I feel sad too when one of them hurts another because they are all my children just like we are all God’s children. It hurts my heart to see one of them hurt, just as much as it hurts my heart to see one of them cause someone else pain. Now fully living into my “magnificent mommy” moment, I started to share how violence really never solves anything. At that point, my 11-year-old told me that Martin Luther King, Jr. had already said that. Apparently in his class last month he read the following quote:

“Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

Well, I don’t think I can say it any better than Martin Luther King Jr. But it did prompt further thoughts: how do we stop violence from happening? (And I should really send his teacher some cookies!)

So often when we talk about violence in our culture we are responding to something that has already happened. We are being reactionary instead of proactive. I started thinking about how I do this in my own life. Most days I don’t feel the urge to stab someone, so is this really an issue I need to think about? Yes! While I may not act out physical violence toward those around me, I am often guilty of murder in my heart. Violence starts from the seed of anger and hatred that we cultivate in our hearts, in our thoughts about others. When I allow myself to dwell on negative thoughts about others I give birth to anger and hatred, and it is these thoughts that ultimately lead to violence.

So how do I fight violence? By actively cultivating love in my life. By focusing so much on love and caring for others that there isn’t any room left for anger and hatred. Sounds easy. It’s not. That’s why I need Jesus. Because sometimes I want to throw something, and I need to be reminded that there is a better way. How are you actively cultivating love in your life, and at the same time diminishing violence?

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

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02.06.16 – Insights from Brent Messick

brent-messickGPSBrent Messick is Resurrection’s Managing Executive Director of Operations.

These Scripture verses describe visions of the restoration of the Garden of Eden with rivers flowing with the water of life and trees of life producing abundant fruit for food and healing. I was particularly struck by the end of Revelation 22:2 which says, “The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

The healing of the nations. Hmmm.

There is so much beauty and goodness in the world. A brilliant sunset, a newborn baby, Springtime flowers, and people helping other people are just a few examples. But sometimes the beauty and goodness seem to be overshadowed by all of the divisiveness and ugliness in the world. Currently, we hear a lot about terrorism, war, violence, drugs, hunger, oppression, pollution, etc. The list goes on and on. It seems that our world can use some healing.

Is there a remedy for healing on such a grand scale? I believe there is. As I was reading the verses in Revelation, I believe that John was also describing Jesus. Jesus is the water of life. Jesus is the food of life. Jesus is the healer.

Just imagine if the people of the world followed Jesus’ two simple commands to love God and to love our neighbor. There would be no divisiveness nor ugliness in the world. Maybe that is a little naïve, but I have to believe the world would be a better place to live. This is something that each one of us can do, starting today.

The healing of the nations. Jesus Christ.

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

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02.05.16 – 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.

Last month, at the funeral of an amazing woman named Marilyn, I had the honor of reading these words from Paul’s letter to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

I walked closely with Marilyn through a rough three months. She was diagnosed with cancer in November and by January she was gone. But in those three months, she taught me a new meaning of Paul’s words as I watched her fight the good fight, finish the race, and never waver in faith.

Marilyn’s fight was bigger than three months with cancer. Her fight was living into her faith during a lifetime of tragedy, loss, betrayal, and suffering.

Her fight wasn’t during the last three months, it was during her 69 years. She fought to hang on to her faith through devastating events and painful losses. Her good fight was modeling faith to everyone who watched her rise above the ashes.

The good fight for Paul may have been his fight to spread the story of Jesus. Maybe it was the fight to live as Jesus lived in love: to trust fully, to overcome fear, to love God and others. The same thing we are called to do.

I think that the race Paul refers to isn’t a competitive one. It’s more like a path with a destination, but we can pace it as we wish. Everything we experience can move us toward God or away from God.

When I heard Marilyn tell me her story over the many conversations we were able to have, I realized her whole life had been one big race toward God.

All of the bad stuff she had experienced brought her closer to God. Some of her tragedies triggered a sprint to God and some caused her to barely crawl towards God. But I could sense in Marilyn a conscious connection to God that was real and constant. She had finished the race toward God. She found God.

But I was asking God why she had to die this early and why so painfully? This woman had been through so much suffering in her life and yet managed to have faith, despite leaving the Earth long before she wanted to. She deserved a free pass—she had grandkids to play with, she could teach so many how to live in faith….so why? I shared with her that I was struggling with the why question, and she reminded me of Paul’s words, one of her favorite scriptures: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

I was with her the day she died. She was sleeping deeply, but while I was praying over her, I felt a stirring feeling as I held her arms. Then I felt that she was floating above us. Then I could feel that she was with God in a bright light of pure love. It was real.

Marilyn inspires us, as Paul taught us, to fight the good fight to choose love, to race toward God, and to hang on to faith in things we cannot see or understand. It is real.

*I asked Marilyn if I could share her stories throughout my ministry. She said, “Yes, of course. Remember, Ginger, my career was teaching.” Thank you, Marilyn, for continuing to teach us!

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

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02.04.16 – Insight from Evan Palmer

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

“A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other” (1 Corinthians 12:7 NLT). Or, as the New Oxford translation reads, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” This verse from Paul changes the way we approach our strengths and talents. Instead of boasting in our “goodness” or, taking pride in our strengths, we are challenged to use our gifts to empower, strengthen, and bless those around us. How humbling to think we are asked to use what the Lord has given us to serve others—to think of others before ourselves.

Regardless of what gifts you have, you are called to use them to help people. I am thankful for the beautiful gifts of science and medicine and those called to administer them. I am grateful for those who practice medicine with compassion and mercy and service at the forefront of their work rather than selfish gain or motives. I think this is an amazing, practical example of how we should each be utilizing our spiritual gifts. Instead of using our gifts to serve ourselves, we are asked to use them to help one another.

I am thankful for the gifts the Lord has given my friends and family. I have been immeasurably blessed and cared for through them. I have friends that make me laugh and help me see the joy in life. My mom is the most compassionate, selfless woman I know. My dad offers consistent advice that has helped guide the course of my life. I have felt served and loved through those closest to me and motivated to lift others up in the same way. I pray that you and I are convicted and inspired by Paul’s words in this passage. We have been given gifts in order to help other people for the common good. How are you using your gifts to bless those around you?

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

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02.03.16 – Insights from Rev. Steven Blair

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

Ever wonder why the New Testament is filled with so many sick people?

In Warren Carter’s book Matthew and the Margins, Carter explains that the conditions of the Roman Empire made people sick. Some cities like Antioch had a higher population density than modern day Calcutta. Ineffective sanitation among the poor (who made up 80-95% of Roman Empire) led to widespread disease. Sickness developed multiple sources including poor nutrition and an inability to take a “day off” because most people could only live hand to mouth. Clean(er) drinking water was piped to the wealthy areas of the city while the poorer areas received something much less.

Understanding this context, we can see an added dimension to Jesus’ healings. Jesus feeds the 5000, because Rome left them hungry. Jesus cured the diseases caused by Rome ignoring the needs of the poor. The disciples were left with the mission of following Jesus as their King and spreading God’s Kingdom which often happened through healing.

Simply put:
God cares about healing. The Kingdom of God makes a person healthy while The Kingdom of Rome makes a person sick.

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

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02.02.16 – 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.

How are pharisees like airlines?

Many airlines have a peculiar performance metric. You often see airlines talk about how many on-time departures they have. Well, in most cases, an on-time departure is just when they close the door of airplane, not when they take off. If you’ve ever been stuck on an airplane that won’t leave the gate, you’ve been a victim of this off-base performance metric. In some cases, passengers are kept on the plane for over an hour before the plane takes off, unable to do anything or get off the plane. This is, ironically, the exact opposite of a good customer experience–the thing the metric tries to measure.

The pharisees are guilty of the on-time departure fallacy throughout most of the scriptures. They had focused on holiness so intently that they had excluded goodness, as we see in the first passage today. They had completely missed the point of goodness and godliness.

This is not a unique problem. We’re all guilty of this at some points in our life. In fact, it often hits a little closer to home than we would like.

Healthcare is a political issue, so there are a lot of morals and values surrounding both sides of the issue. Conservatives can get so caught up in the drawbacks that they miss the point of taking care of the vulnerable on a larger-than-personal scale. Liberals can get so caught up in their crusade for healthcare that they don’t care what those policies cost or who they hurt. Both sides are equally capable of missing the point of helping people–all people.

It’s a very heated issue, and we all have very good reasons to stand where we do on the issue. The important thing is to not get so caught up in the issue that we miss the point of goodness and godliness. Just as Jesus did, we need to be relentless in helping people, even when it draws scorn from those who cling to stubborn values that would prevent it.

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

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