Monthly Archives: November 2009

11.30.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Penny Ellwood


I cannot read this passage from Jeremiah without thinking about something that happened at Broadway UMC in Waldo where we attended for many years.  Several years ago,  one of our longtime church members had lost his wife of many years and being a botanist by profession, he decided to leave a living memorial to honor his wife. After seeking permission from the powers that be, he planted a small Tulip Magnolia in her honor on the corner of the front lawn. 

 I don’t remember exactly when the tree was planted but it went for a whole season without showing any signs of life.  The elderly husband would check it occasionally on his way to church but it didn’t seem to be surviving the transplant.  In the meantime, the Preschool children of the church, who passed the little tree regularly, on their walks, had dubbed it “the sad tree” because it lacked any signs of life. It had no leaves or blossoms. 

Just as the husband decided the tree was dead and made the decision to have it removed, the kids decided in their infinite wisdom that the sad little tree just needed some cheering up. Unbeknownst to anyone at the church, they worked very hard one day cutting out paper flowers and coloring them with brightly colored crayons.  The teachers helped with the project by laminating the flowers so the rain wouldn’t destroy them and punching holes in the top so they could tie them with string to the little tree.  When the work was all done, the children all marched outside, single file, holding hands and hung their flowers all over the little tree’s branches.  When they finished they all stood back and admired their handiwork, deciding that “the sad tree” looked much happier.   

When the husband came to church a couple of days later, he realized he couldn’t possibly remove the tree now for fear of hurting the children’s feelings.  Later that week, when the people came for worship, they all smiled as they passed the little tree with the crayon colored flowers gently fluttering in the breeze. It was a few weeks later, on the Saturday before Easter at the annual Neighborhood Easter egg hunt, when the paper flowers were faded and fewer in numbers, that one of the preschool children made an important discovery. 

A little girl from the preschool was hunting for eggs at the base of the tree when she happened to look up and see something that caused her to shout with excitement.   She had discovered a bud.  She called her mother over to take a look and after a careful assessment they discovered that the tree was covered with tiny buds, all over.  A small crowd formed around the little tree as others were excitedly called and informed of this happy turn of events.

Over the next couple of weeks the children and the church members anxiously watched as the buds grew fat and the little tree finally burst into a colorful array of pink and purple blossoms.  The sad tree wasn’t so sad anymore.  The children were pleased but not all that surprised at the little tree’s resurrection.  The husband smiled every time he thought about telling this story to his wife. And “the sad tree” became a sign of hope and unexpected joy for many that spring and every spring since.

The story of this little tree reminds me of the tenacious hope the prophet Jeremiah offers the people when he speaks of new life springing up from what looks like a dead stump. As inheritors of Jeremiah’s task, we too are called to speak a word of hope and promise in a world filled with fear and uncertainty, even despair — especially in this season of Advent.  For in the midst of despair, hope erupts. After long waiting, a branch will sprout. The complete fulfillment of God’s promises is coming. Such is Advent faith.

11.29.09 Sunday Insights from Pastor Karen Lampe


Having just returned from Africa, my heart is once again in confusion.   My confusion can be summed up in the story of meeting a young man whose name is Sam.  Sam was born in Malawi and has suffered through the pains of being one of the thousands of orphans from the disease of HIV/AIDS.  Now at the age of twenty-seven, he has a great desire for education.    At the conference where our mission team had been assigned to teach, Sam sat on the front row diligently taking notes and trying to glean every bite of knowledge that he could.  Interspersed between practical teachings and lectures, we would have worship.  As one of the worship leaders Sam would sing and dance African style, happily glorifying Jesus.  

Okay, here’s the confusing part:  If Sam loves God so much, why can’t God just give him a break?  My conversation with God goes something like this, “Help him find a way to be educated, God!  What do you want me to do here?  Are you even listening, God? ”

Maybe that is how your 2009 has seemed at times: confusing.    Most of us have been strained by the economy.   For some this tension has made its way into significant relationships.   For some, 2009 meant the death of someone special.   Life has just seemed more challenging than ever.

This advent season, we have the opportunity to remember to entrust our life and future to God.  Take a moment if you would to watch the video about our church’s theme for getting past the confusion you might feel: Take a look.  

Our scripture text for today’s Advent readings is Psalm 2.  In the psalm, the writer is asking the same questions we are:  Who or what is really in control of our world and our personal lives?   Why do the good have to struggle and it seems like the wicked can flourish?  Where should we really put our hope? 

The Psalmist assures us:  God holds you and me.  God holds Sam.  It may seem like the wicked challenges of life might get us, but “take refuge” (verse 12) in God.  Trust God.  Love will win.  God’s kingdom has the final word to this hurting world. 

Prayer for the day:  “Lord, we are thankful for the assurance that you are the alpha and the omega for all of us.  You are with Sam and you are with everyone around the world.  Help us keep our eyes on you so that we can really find the peace that we are all seeking.   Allow us to be bold in the way that we care for each other this year, looking beyond the frivolous to the true meaning of your Son’s holy birth in hearts all over the world.  All this to honor Jesus the Christ,  Amen.”

11.27.09 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

I spent 2 summers during college as Facility Manager at the Historic Ward-Meade Park in Topeka, Kansas. (“Facility Manager” is the Greek phrase, I believe, for “he who puts up tables & chairs.)  The Park included one of the oldest homes in Topeka, a train depot, a re-produced log cabin, a one-room-schoolhouse, & a brown-sided, one-room building.  Roughly the size of a one-car garage, this simple structure contained a cot, a roll-top desk, & a typewriter.  This was the study used by Reverend Charles Sheldon to write his sermons & books.

Dr. Sheldon came to Topeka in 1889.  While writing a sermon the following year, he was interrupted by a scruffy looking man seeking work.  Since he had nothing for the man to do, Dr. Sheldon abruptly turned him away.  Upon reflection, Dr. Sheldon began to ponder what this man must be experiencing as he sought to support his family. 

With Topeka experiencing a recession, Sheldon decided to conduct an experiment during the brutally cold winter of 1890.  He dressed as a man down on his luck & spent a week seeking work.  Many times his queries weren’t even acknowledged.  Rarely did anyone make eye contact with him as he went in every establishment on Topeka Boulevard.  As the day went on, Sheldon’s hands & feet began to become numb with cold.  For someone unsuccessfully seeking work, the thermometer doesn’t accurately measure just how cold & dreary one can feel.

For 3 more days he wandered around Topeka seeking work.  On the 4th day, he reached the Santa Fe Railroad yard.  He so wanted to feel needed that he volunteered to shovel the snow off the tracks for free.  He was thrilled when they let him work.  He returned the next day & was offered fifty cents to shovel coal out of a train car into the coal bins.  He felt such a great joy in working alongside others & just feeling useful.  This experience would help Sheldon’s congregation support & comfort those seeking work.  It would also be the inspiration for one of the best-selling books of all time, “In His Steps.”

Now, Dr. Sheldon would readily agree that his experiment pales in comparison with the sacrifices Christ made on our behalf.  For a culture that seems to consider Frank Sinatra’s song, “I Did it My Way,” as a motto, it is rare to discover an example of someone voluntarily ceding prestige, comfort & power to serve others.  It can be very hard for us to even comprehend Christ’s humbling Himself & becoming human.

While recognizing this challenge, Paul is still urging the Philippians (& us) to set aside our personal ambition, our pride, & our desire for wealth.  He is encouraging us to imitate Christ’s example of trusting & following God’s will.  Why does Paul recommend this?  So, that we may come to enjoy & experience the benefits of a life with Christ.

Taking Paul’s challenge to heart, today may be a good time to tweak our theme song a bit.  Instead of “I Did it My Way,” perhaps we would be better served singing, “I Did it Thy Way.”


11.26.09 Thursday Insights from Pastor Penny Ellwood

I Chronicles 29:10-17 is a wonderful scripture for Thanksgiving. It records King David’s prayer for the extraordinary giving of the Israelite nation for the construction of the Lord’s temple; the temple that would be constructed by David’s son, King Solomon. In this prayer, David prepares his people to build the temple for God and reminds the Israelite people of their place in life. “Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand.”   The clear, outstanding message of these words is, “It’s all God’s.”  Everything we have, including our very life, is all God’s.

As we gather with our loved ones around our Thanksgiving tables today, preparing to fill ourselves with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie let us not forget from where God has brought us and how much God has done in our lives as well. Today is a good day to reflect on how God has been present with us, leading us on, doing for us even when we aren’t aware of it.

We cannot ever forget what God has done for us individually –and as a church–how far God has brought us from our humble beginnings, and what a privilege it is to be where we are and do what we are doing for his glory.

Have a happy Thanks — giving!

11.25.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

It has been said that the best way to get a sense of the priorities in a person’s life is to look at their check register and their day planner. Any one of us – pastors included – can talk a good game about following Christ. But at some point our stated values and priorities have to show up in the actions we take and the decisions we make about using our two biggest resources; time and money.

I say that I value time spent in prayer alone with God. And yet I will confess to you here that my morning prayer yesterday was a rushed and rather hurried affair. Tuesday was also the annual Thankful Day of Prayer Vigil at Church of the Resurrection, and although for me participating meant standing up, walking out of my office and around the corner to the Wesley Chapel, it almost did not happen as I scrambled to respond to emails, and meet the other demands of my workday. So in light of today’s scripture passage I really need to take a serious look at my real, enacted values and how they collide with my verbally expressed values. Or as Jesus might say it, “… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (v. 21) Jesus challenges us each to ask ourselves where our treasure (i.e. values) actually lie.

The passage beginning with v. 22 that speaks of the eye as the lamp of the body turns our modern understanding of the eye upside down. Whereas you and I think of the eye as a window that admits light into the body from outside, Jesus is saying that the eye is more like a lamp that shines light out of us into the world. He is telling us that, in essence, people should be able to look into our eyes and see what matters most to us.

Where is your treasure? Do your check register and calendar reflect a different set of values than you espouse verbally? And finally, what can I see in your eyes about the things that matter most to you?

As we spend time preparing our Thanksgiving feasts for tomorrow, let us also spend time reflecting on the ways we live out the values we profess.

Rev. Russell Brown, Pastor of Support Ministries

(913) 544-0219

11.24.09 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Scott Chrostek

Indescribable gifts are really something, aren’t they?  Have you ever received something so great that you couldn’t describe it?   If not, then maybe you’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced the opposite, a gift so terrible that it had no adequate explanation.   Either way, today is Tuesday, November 24th.  We are exactly one month away from Christmas Eve.   We’re just one month away from the last shopping day of the Holiday Season.  We’re one month away from the day when millions upon millions of people will be receiving indescribable gifts.  For most people these gifts will be little hand-wrapped surprises placed beneath the Christmas tree.  An unexpected train set, the latest tech gadget, that perfect pair of shoes, the set of earrings you’d secretly been hoping for.  Is that really the kind of indescribable gift, Paul gives thanks for in today’s text?
As we approach Christmas and Thanksgiving before it, I’m wondering what might happen if you set aside the shopping list for a day and instead tried to live an entire day as though it was a gift given to you?
I wonder what might happen if for a day, you treated every one of your words as though they were gifts to be received and opened by the others in your midst.
What if, for a day, you looked at all things, the people, the places, even the predicaments that came your way, as though they were gifts given to you by God?
The Apostle Paul closes today’s scripture by saying, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” Paul is thankful for the surpassing grace of God; a gift so great that it quite literally surpasses all understanding.  Paul was thankful for the gift of life.  Every day, no matter how great or how difficult, Paul considered it a gift to be opened and unwrapped, to be celebrated and rejoiced over, because God gave it to him.
As a way to give thanks for all that you’ve been given, for the blessing of this day, for the gift of life, for the gift and blessing of this church and for the thousands of people who have come together in Resurrection hope to build Christian community where non-religious and nominally religious people can become deeply committed Christians, I want to challenge you to take a moment to give thanks to God for the gifts you’ve been given, and then I want you to find a way to share a gift, any way you can, with someone else.
Today our church will pause to give thanks to God during our Thankful Day of Prayer Vigil. If you feel so led, come on out and experience the power of prayer.  The Wesley Covenant Chapel will be open for prayer from 6:00 am until 10:00 pm.  Over the course of the day, every Resurrection family will be prayed for by name.  We hope you’ll join us!  God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving!

11.23.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

Last Monday, the scripture was also about a widow who exhibited great generosity in the midst of difficult circumstances. In today’s scripture we see once slice of a picture – a poor woman giving to the temple. We do not know much about this widow from this story of scripture. Who was part of her family? Was she employed? Had she just been released from her job? Had this widow been searching for a job for months? We don’t know. However, we do know that she is generous.

It is evident that this woman is poor and it is clear that she is marked by her generosity. Jesus is struck by the gift of this woman and calls his disciples to share the story. This woman’s generosity is a characteristic of her character and her life. Sometimes I wonder how my life is characterized. Would others comment on my generous spirit? More importantly, does God see my life as one that is lived with generosity?

I hope that my life is characterized by generosity. As my wife and I made our commitment to the life of the church for 2010, we did so with the hope that it is part of a life that is marked by generosity and drawing closer to God. The story of this woman’s generosity is an inspiration to me and I hope that it is for you as well.

11.20.09 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

“I spy with my little eye…” starts off the popular children’s guessing game that has been a blessing on many a long car trip for parents with youngsters.

 Jesus is playing a little “I Spy’ with us in today’s scripture selection.  Jesus urges us to “not worry.” His first contention is for us to “consider the lilies of the field.”  Let’s ponder why He might suggest this.

 When we look at the scenery around us, what do we see?  Perhaps the beautiful colors of the leaves remind us of debris that will need to be raked & bagged.  Perhaps a thunderstorm points out the danger & vulnerability that we all occasionally experience.  Or perhaps, in the midst of our hectic pace, we completely overlook the many scenes of our everyday life.  Maybe we are missing something.

 In the city of Florence, Italy there is an old building that 700 years ago was once a palace.  Around 1300, the artist, Giotto, painted a portrait of the poet Dante in a mural on a wall of the palace.  Over time, the palace became a jail for common criminals & its walls were covered with whitewash.  Giotto’s portrait was all but forgotten under the grime & multiple coats of paint.  In 1840, the mural was rediscovered.  Since it is the only portrait of Dante done during Dante’s lifetime, its value is beyond estimation.  The building, The Bargello, is now a museum & gallery.  A wall that was once was perceived as plain & common now reveals a great artist’s beautiful creation.

 When Jesus looked to the lilies of the field, He saw the loving handiwork of God.  To Jesus, the field is alive & filled with the proof positive of God’s amazing touch & care.  One can imagine God smiling at the beautiful field of flowers as each plant tries to “out-do” each other in proclaiming God’s awesome creation.

 Perhaps our perception is skewed.  If we didn’t see God as some distant being far away from us & our worries, then maybe we’d be able to take Jesus’ charge to heart.  If we began to see God’s great care & love in creation all around us, then perhaps we’d come to understand God’s great care & love for our needs as well.

 The common wall at The Bargello became transformed with the discovery of Dante’s portrait.  The portrait had always been there, but was not seen.  Perhaps we need to wash away our blindness & complacency, to reveal the great Artist’s beautiful creation that demonstrates His love.  Perhaps if we start to consider the beauty of the earth as proof of God’s love, then we can begin entrusting our worries to God’s care.  Let’s play a little “I Spy” today & see where we can spot examples of God’s amazing touch.

11.19.09 Thursday Insights from Rev. Wendy Lyons Chrostek

I am reminded of a Seinfeld episode when I think of this passage of Scripture.  One night, George has gone out on a date at the restaurant where he and his friends frequently dine.   While there, Elaine stops by and they ask if she would like them to order her any food to go.  She responds that she would like a big salad. So, Elaine leaves, they order the salad, and George picks up the tab.  When they deliver the salad to Elaine, George’s date gives her the salad and accepts the thank you.  George is infuriated…it wasn’t that he really wanted to receive a thank you, it was just the principle that Elaine has thanked the wrong person and his date so casually accepted the gratitude.   Finally George can’t stand it anymore and so he tells Elaine.  It somehow gets back to George’s date that he went out of his way to make sure that Elaine knew that it was him who bought the salad.  When she confronts him, his response is “How does a person who has virtually nothing to do with the big salad claim responsibility for that salad and accept a thank you under false pretenses.” 

Now, there are ways that we can take this little story a bit too far so far as to never accept a compliment for the things that we do, but I think that there is an interesting principle behind it.  If we go around believing that we deserve the credit for the wealth we receive and forget to acknowledge that the power and the gifts that make it possible for us to earn that wealth come from God– then we’re missing out on the opportunity to thank God for these blessings in our lives.  And it isn’t like we always do it intentionally, because often times it’s because we truly have worked so hard to get where we are.  But there’s something to be said for keeping in the forefront of our mind the blessings that God has bestowed upon us.  And when we do take the opportunity to thank God, we are the ones who feel truly blessed, for the more we think about the gifts we have, the more we realize we have.  It’s funny, when you really start to think about all that you have to be happy for, you can come up with a rather long list.  So, over the next week, I hope you’ll start compiling a list of things that you are thankful for, so that when Thanksgiving comes, you’ll be able to overflow with gratitude.  And with gratitude also comes a great attitude.

11.18.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

James encourages to live aligned with God’s purposes. In today’s passage, he emphasizes living life with humility, justice, endurance, and patience.

James starkly portrays that wealth can be an obstacle to aligning ourselves with God’s purposes. He is not saying wealth or money is bad, but we need to be aware of possible pitfalls.   Sometimes acquiring wealth can give us a false sense of security or we feel morally superior to others. We may decide that we must have all things now and not wait. Other stumbling blocks could be that we focus more on ourselves than sharing generously with others.

James’ admonishment reminds us to be patient, humble and care for others well.  To watch how we can be people who exemplify these characteristics.  Today take a moment in silence – reflect and see if there are stumbling blocks that can hinder you from being patient, humble and just.

May we be people who are humble, just, patient, and generously give to others.