8.3.15 – Insights from Donna Karlen

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

“… and you will be a blessing.”

In Pastor Clayton’s message this past weekend, he talked about living a life of significance. I can think of few things more significant than being a blessing to others.

As I write this, my family is in Wisconsin for the funeral of my husband’s brother. Just 55 years young, he lost his short but valiant fight with cancer. As a dairy farmer in a very small town (population 1024 and I think that’s counting us), he had many opportunities to be a blessing to friends and neighbors (two words that are generally synonymous here), the Boy Scouts he led, the church he sang at, those he hunted with or who rode along with him on his Harley rides, and the many others whose lives he touched with his free spirit, sense of humor and willingness to help. The last time I saw him just three weeks ago, he and his amazing wife had opened their home for family and friends to gather together for food and fireworks. I smile at the memory of him sharing laughs and stories with those gathered around him – even as he was suffering terrible pain.

If ever there was evidence of him being a blessing to others, it was what happened when the ravages of his spreading cancer made him too weak to take care of the everyday needs of the farm. He had blessed others countless times by helping them over the years, and they came to bless him.

 

 

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

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8.1.15 – Insights from Chris Folmsbee

(Below we share an Insights blog the Chris Folmsbee, Resurrection’s Director of Discipleship wrote on 8/22/14.

In the evenings after the dinner dishes are cleaned up, the kids’ homework is done and we are all winding down for the night, my wife and I lead our kids through some conversations about the Bible. We have been slowly working our way through the Bible’s grand narrative of the with our kids. (I am using these two resources to stay on track at the moment, and highly recommend them: God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible, by Vaughn Roberts and Echo The Story by Michael Novelli.) We hope they’ll capture an imagination for the way God intends for them to live, and how they might do their part in making earth look like heaven, remembering the words “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

We’ve traced the Bible’s storyline several times, and each time we do we do so with greater detail and depth. As you might expect, as the narrative becomes clearer to all of us, the questions become deeper as well. A recent question we discussed at length was, “Dad, what does it mean to be created in the image and likeness of God?” Such a great question! Paul is explicitly talking about this in our reading today (Ephesians 4:21-24) when he states, “change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were, corrupted by deceitful desires. Instead, renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.

Paul’s encouragement is simple. Stop carrying an attitude of anger, rage and malice that causes you to use improper, hurtful words and even to lie. By stopping these harmful practices, we are living into the way in which we’ve been created to live–as living proof of a living God. To conform to the image of God is to become the living representation of God that God intended when God created humans. In part, this means that we live into the holiness of God. This reality challenges us to speak as God would speak–truthfully, generously and necessarily. Three questions to ask before speaking: Is it true? Is it generous? Is it necessary?

Obviously to speak truthfully, generously and necessarily requires not only thinking before we speak, but also an intense desire to be fully converted before we think. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest, how intense is your desire to be transformed into the image of God?

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

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7.31.15 Insights from Darren LIppe

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

The boys & I spent 7 days last week on a Boy Scout High Adventure trip, canoeing 61 miles through 19 lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) on the Minnesota/Canada border.

Our trip was filled with fantastic visuals like beautiful sunrises/sunsets, lush forests, & streams covered with lily pads with colorful flowers.

It also provided some good tests. All of our food for the week, cooking equipment, tents, sleeping bags, & personal gear had to fit in a canoe. We had to be prepared to carry our gear & canoes over land between lakes. The boys were able to use a lot of their camping skills they’ve been learning the past few years like building a fire to cook every breakfast & dinner, selecting the best spot to put up a tent, & the value of preparing bear bags.

Of course, being in the wilderness does have its challenges:

  • The BWCA is completely void of cell coverage. Say, are those moose tracks? Let me check my pho…Um. Yep. I think so. (Lack of access to 24-hour news cycles, while a bit discomfiting at first, actually became a wonderful retreat.)
  • No caffeine.
  • No bathing facilities. (What is the difference between a catfish & a BWCA canoeist? One has whiskers & smells; the other is a fish.)
  • No caffeine.
  • Rustic toilets = just a pit in the ground. I appreciated the humor of the comic that read, “If you don’t find these facilities serviced satisfactorily, please notify the front desk.”
  • No caffeine.

We learned a lot during our week on the water:

  • Persnickety eating habits fell to the wayside: “A cheese sandwich with 2 pieces of cheese & 2 pieces of white bread for lunch? Awesome! Can I have another?”
  •  Our picture of heaven became tweaked to be a place with a mattress, a hot shower, dry feet, & ice.
  • As we followed our mapped route, we realized the importance of good navigation skills. You certainly don’t want to find yourself crossing a lake into a strong head wind and having that day’s navigator offering instructions like, “You are getting warmer….warmer….cold, cold, cold!”

Which brings us to today’s passage. (Wow, this Insight is meandering like a canoeist with a broken paddle – Editor. Or like a little brother in the back of the canoe barely putting his paddle in the water – DL.)

I would submit today’s discussion is challenging us to select the navigator of our faith journey. Whether we come from a strong or a dysfunctional network of friends & family, we need to be cognizant that their goals & desires may differ from God’s ideals. While they may provide us advice & counsel with the very best of intentions, this guidance may not necessarily sync up with God’s hopes & dreams for our lives.

Personally, I like the idea of handing over the compass of my life to the Friend who knows when I’m weary of paddling & in need of a quiet cove, who can calm the rough winds of life that can crop up in a moment’s notice, who can help balance the heavy load on your shoulders as you trudge up a steep incline, & who can calm your fears as you hear something rustling among the pots & pans in the middle of the night.

So, maybe today is a good time to just stop. Put your paddle across your legs. Glide for a few moments. Put your hands out. Ask Jesus to be your navigator, your advisor, & your constant companion for the rest of your adventure.

Oh, & while you are at it, maybe ask for a Pepsi. A Pepsi with lots of ice.

 

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

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7.30.15 Insights from Darrell Holtz

Darrell Holtz serves as Program Director for Group Life Curriculum and Writing at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

When I read today’s passage from Ephesians, I realized that, for a long time, I was clueless as to how to live it out. I knew that the letter said, “Be angry without sinning.” But when it said, “Put aside…losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander”–well, I didn’t know how it was possible to “be angry” without doing those things!

My father was, in so many ways, a good man–loved God, served as a missionary, spent his life teaching history and Bible to young people. But I can recall multiple occasions at the supper table on which he told us, rather proudly, about how he’d “blown his top” at a faculty meeting or board meeting about something with which he did not agree. Phrases like “Finally, I just let them have it” were pretty common. So I grew up with that as my picture of what it meant to be angry. What Ephesians was talking about seemed mysterious.

I was particularly adept, as I became an adult, at venting my anger at umpires and referees. One bad call (in my eyes) in the first inning or the first period of a hockey game, and I’d still be yelling about it toward the end of the game. My wife and son pleaded with me to settle down, and told me that my behavior embarrassed them–but I just replied that they didn’t understand the passion of a true fan.

Most of the growth in my life has come slowly, in small steps. But one night I took my teenage son to a Royals game. In the second inning, the inevitable “bad call” happened, and I was on my feet, screaming insults at the umpire. (From the second deck, I must add–there was no possible way he could hear me!) Suddenly I looked down, and saw my son huddled miserably in his seat, tears running down his face. And it hit me like a lightning bolt–“I love this boy so much, and I’m hurting him with this angry behavior. This has to stop.” I quit yelling, I sat down, I apologized to my son for my years of clueless, hurtful behavior. I had more growing to do–but from that night on, I realized that I can “be angry” without “losing [my] temper, anger, shouting, and slander.” I still get angry–sometimes for noble reasons (like human trafficking), sometimes for petty or selfish reasons. But I’ve learned that I can choose how I express and react to that anger.

And the rewards are great. Now my son invites me over to watch games with him, and we have a great time sharing the experience. He no longer feels afraid that his dad is going to lose it and spoil our time together. And I love those moments together.

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

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7.29.15 Insights from Wendy Connelly

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

“I sometimes feel happy and scared at the same time,” my daughter wisely confessed. Just as in the movie Inside Out, I could picture Joy and Fear both grasping at the control levers in her mind.

“Me too,” I said. “All at the same time. And you know, it’s okay to feel both ways at once.”

Where did we ever learn that emotions were meant to exist in a vacuum? That everything we felt boiled down to an “either/or”? The Bible supports a paradoxical idea: the “both/and.” Emotional highs and lows are often experienced together, even simultaneously. Psychologists call this the “Dual-Spectrum Model” of emotions. It’s why we can cry at graduations, laugh at funerals and, without an ounce of pretense (or guilt!), embrace God-given joy in the midst of life’s sorrows.

Feeling “both/and?” No apologies necessary.

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

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7.28.15 Insights from Nicole Alison

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

 

I drove up to a small antique shop nestled in a quaint neighborhood, flooded with emotions I didn’t know how to process. I was going to meet the owner, Maggie. She was an acquaintance from long ago who was several years older than me. The few times we had met in the past it was obvious she had a strong assurance in Christ. We had been Facebook friends for many years and fell out of touch. But something in me needed to talk to someone who had some years on me in the wisdom department, and I felt prompted to reach out to her. I needed some sort of hope, because I was at the end of myself.

For the past several months, I was pretending. I was smiling when inside I was struggling. I was pushing through the days, saying the right things and doing the right things, but internally I was fighting sadness, fear and doubt. I didn’t believe I was allowed to go through a hard time. I felt this pressure to “count my blessings,” so to speak. I felt that I had to trust that God has a plan, that there is a bigger picture. But in the parking lot getting ready to go meet with Maggie, I was done with hiding out in my pain.

As I approached the little shop my feet were dragging and my shoulders slouched with weariness. When I saw Maggie, her eyes lit up at my presence. “You made it!” she exclaimed. Graciously she poured me a glass of ice cold water and ushered me to a small round table by a beautiful bay window that looked out on bushes of soft pink roses. Christian music was playing in the background, lyrics I knew so well. The centerpiece of the table was Maggie’s Bible. I remember hoping that she wouldn’t quote scripture–I needed to talk about my feelings.

After a little small talk, she dove right in. “What’s up?“ she asked. That was the green light to pour out all my weighty struggles. I was so tired of holding back my true feelings. Now that I had a chance to speak, my thoughts seemed to fly out of my mouth in a rambling mess. Maggie looked at me with compassion, and was not shocked at all by my heartaches and burdens. Her eyes shimmered with some knowledge that I craved to know.

There were 2 things Maggie said that struck me. She said God is not surprised by what you’re going through, and you don’t have to feel guilty for feeling the way you do. It took me a while for her words to sink in as I thought to myself…”I don’t have to feel guilty for feeling ashamed of my past, feeling doubtful about my future and the anxieties for what God has for me today?” Maggie’s words were everything I needed to hear. They lifted a hundred pound weight off my shoulders. It was as though Maggie was giving me permission to feel, and it was life-giving. Without guilt in the way, I could face my feelings head on and have the courage to keep seeking Jesus in the midst of my emotions.

I learned so much that day in a cute antique shop with a sweet lady willing to listen. Jesus knows the feelings we have and why we have them–they are no surprise to Him. In Scripture, like Mark 3:5, we know Jesus experienced emotions, and I’m so glad He did. Even though Jesus is bigger than our struggles and more than we can fathom, it’s comforting to know that we don’t have to pretend to count our blessings when we are in the midst of feeling ashamed, doubtful, tired and weary. We can admit our feelings and “feel” okay about it! I think when we are free to feel, we can change, because we are accepted and loved beyond emotions that come and go.

If you’re stuffing emotions today, who can you talk to? I hope you find peace in the truth that Jesus knows why you’re feeling the way you do. Nothing is a surprise to Him. Go to Him and unravel what you’re going through. Going to Jesus is a safe place where we can face emotions because His love never wavers in the midst of our struggle. Amen!

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

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7.27.15 Insights from Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Guest Connections Program Director at Resurrection.

Ever have one of those moments when the world seems to be totally turned upside down? I had one of those this past week. I married an amazingly easy going, introspective man. Where I tend to process everything I am thinking and feeling out loud, my husband processes internally. Where I get fired up easily, he stays calm and, dare I say, rational? For the longest time I wished that I could respond the way he does. Instead I saw myself as too emotional, always feeling things too deeply. Then this week the tables turned. A situation arose that had my husband living in the land of “too emotional,” and I found myself in the role of calm (and maybe even a little rational). This role reversal changed my whole thinking on the idea of being “too emotional.” As I watched my husband process his feelings, I wasn’t annoyed by his show of emotion. On the contrary, I was able to be in the moment with him.

I don’t believe there is any such thing as being “too emotional.” The ability to feel things deeply is a gift. And whether you are someone like me who likes to wear your feelings on your t-shirt or someone more like my husband who likes to keep them closer to the vest, our feelings are a gift from God. Our feelings of sadness and anguish over children being hurt move us to action. Our feelings of anger over injustice in our world move us to make it a better place. Passion lives in our feelings. And it is often passion that leads us to make the biggest decisions in our life, both good and bad.

With every gift comes a responsibility to use it well. While we can’t control the ways we feel, we can control how we respond to them. I always have to be careful not to confuse feelings with facts. And just because I feel something deeply doesn’t make it rational. The first time I was ever asked to speak in a church setting was to a group of middle school students after a pool party. As I prepared to share a short talk with them I was so afraid. While I felt fairly certain that they weren’t going to rise up in mass and toss me in the pool if they didn’t like what I had to say, that didn’t change the way I felt. I could have let my fear stop me from giving the talk, but then I would have missed out on all the ways God chose to use that moment both in my life and the lives of the students.

Embrace your emotions like the gift they are. Like all things in God’s creation, they are varied and wonderful. While we may not always understand them, and they may not always make sense, it is always okay to feel them. And that is a great gift.

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

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7.25.15 Insights from Rev. Steve Langhofer

SteveLanghoferRev. Steve Langhofer is a Congregational Care Pastor, serving the 7:45 am and 10:45 am worship communities.

What continues to make me most uncomfortable about Jesus’ calling of Matthew the tax collector is not that Jesus wanted a social and religious outcast on his ministry team, but that Matthew so quickly said, “Yes!”

Matthew sacrificed financial security and went to work for free. He entered Jesus’ inner circle of disciples aware not everyone wanted him there.

But Jesus did! Jesus said, “I know you’ve played loose with your ethics. I know you’ve exploited the poor. I know all about you, and I want you still!”

Matthew experienced something in Jesus’ presence that moved him to radically change his lifestyle and behavior. He said, “Yes!” Fast.

My response to Jesus is seldom swift and less than total, I confess. I’m counting on Jesus not throwing in the towel on me while I dilly-dally around.

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

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7.24.15 Insights from Brandi Bates

Brandi-batesBrandi Bates is an intern with Adult Discipleship at Church of the Resurrection this summer. She attends Loyola University Chicago and is studying Human Services. Brandi likes people, animals, and plants, so if you see her around come say ‘hello’!  

When I read this passage from Matthew, my first thought was how similar I am to Peter. I want a specific number of times to forgive myself and others. I want to be able to pencil it in on my to-do list, and I want to check it off. But I can’t. I can’t check it off between “clean my room” and “write the Insights blog.” Even more, I can’t hold on to whatever hurt me.

The thing about forgiveness is that at first it just seems easier to hold on to it. Cut whatever hurt you out; turn that part of you stone. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I can feel it when it happens. It’s that twinge you get when you think about whatever hurt you. First it can be masked in anger, then it gives discomfort, and then after a while it doesn’t hurt at all, but you feel a little heavier or maybe even emptier. Remember when you thought it would be easier to hold on to what hurt you?

The thing about the two paragraphs above is that they’re all about what I want, what I think is best, and what I think I need. Jeez, just in that sentence alone I used “I” four times! But in this passage, Jesus reminds us of how forgiving God is. He says that God will treat us like the first servant “unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart,” which brings a whole new meaning to the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Forgiveness is hard, and it can’t easily be checked off on our to-do lists. It’s also something we can’t do alone. By God’s grace we forgive. If something is on your heart, ask God to take it and work with you. It’s always incredible to see how He works. Instead of feeling heavier or emptier, let God lighten you and fill you. Through God we know that if something is still challenging, then it isn’t over yet. Sometimes it’s better to take that “I” we use so frequently and add an “H” and an “M” so we may do everything through HIM.

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

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7.23.15 Insights from Dr. Amy Oden

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

The score-keeping life is the way that leads to death. The generosity of God is the way that leads to life.

I have a joke with my husband: sometimes when he does something especially thoughtful, I accuse of him trying to get more points than me “on the big scoreboard in the sky.” It’s my way of reminding myself that there is no “scoreboard in the sky,” no matter how much it feels like there’s some secret competition going on in which I might fall behind. It’s hard to receive kindness without feeling some obligation to stay “even” or to suspect that the other person is racking up those merit points for the win.

The reverse is true, too. Whenever I reach out to a friend in distress or remember someone’s birthday, I’m tempted to expect them to do the same in return—keeping score between us “on the big scoreboard in the sky.”

Jesus tells us that this way of living, this way of keeping score all the time to figure out what we deserve or what others deserve, is not God’s way. God’s love doesn’t keep score. Jesus’ death and resurrection put an end to all scoreboards! No more earning God’s love or feeling entitled to rewards. God doesn’t keep score. Thanks be to God!

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

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