Monthly Archives: January 2011

1.31.11 Monday Insights from Rev. Cayce Stapp

The past week has been filled with interviews and Africans (not necessarily in that order) – amazing, passionate, high capacity followers of Christ in both.  Throughout the week, God has placed person after person squarely in my path, as ambassadors of Philippians 2:3-11.  I have seen the physical embodiment of verse 3 in particular, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than your selves.”

Interviewing… not necessarily something where I’d have great anticipation for personal spiritual insight and reflection.  However, as we met with candidates for missions staff, I was blown away by servants clearly committed to Christ, by leaders clearly prepared to follow, by lives where passion intersected with service, and spiritual gifts intersected with compassion for the world.  I was blown away by ambitious selflessness.

“Ambitious selflessness?” I’m glad you asked! In his blog, “A Spreading Goodness” (, R.N. Frost defines ambitious selflessness as “to care for another’s success with an energy and devotion that surprises the recipient… a spreading goodness.” As we interviewed candidates this past week, I was the surprised recipient of the spreading goodness of Philippians 2 in action, and for that I am truly grateful.

And that was not the only time I was the surprised recipient of spreading goodness. I also had the opportunity to spend time with three incredible African leaders. We brainstormed about the future of African pastoral leadership, the realities of resource poverty vs. spiritual poverty, and the meaning of true partnership. As we looked ahead to a future with hope, I asked them, “How can Resurrection better partner with churches in Africa?”

Their answer came in stories and anecdotes over the next hour – stories filled with humility, anecdotes filled with humor. Their gratitude humbled me, as they reminded me of the ministry of our presence with them in teams and in prayers, in word and deed, in hands and feet… a spreading goodness of sharing Christ and serving others. And in them, I saw a humility that considers others better than your selves–Philippians 2 in action. That is African spirituality. For me, that is Africa.

As I envision the hymn of Philippians 2: 6-11, a hymn of Christ’s humility, I not only hear the beautiful, lilting songs of Africa, but I also hear the heartfelt and faithful prayers said together this week as we concluded interviews. In the end, both the interviews and the Africans reminded me of what it means to be Resurrection. In the end, they were Philippians 2 in action: “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Resurrection is not only a place that encourages ambitious selflessness, but also a place of spreading goodness. It is all around us – in faithful worship, in volunteer service, even in our walls. They do talk after all. Our walls remind us not only of our purpose and journey, but also our vision: “Changing lives, transforming communities and renewing the church.” In other words, ambitious selflessness…Philippians 2 in action.

Rev. Cayce Stapp serves as the Beyond KC Missions Pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

1.28.11 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

With all of the snow days & cold weekends, we’ve been having fun playing Risk, Monopoly, Life, Pay Day, & electronic games like Wii bowling.  It’s hilarious to watch each of us bowl as we try to put a little “body English” on the ball after it is already on its way down the lane.  We know it’s futile, yet we can’t stop ourselves from trying to influence the trajectory of the ball.

I would submit that worry is a lot like that.  We worry & grind over all sorts of things that are actually beyond our influence.  As an example, when our older son, Matthew, was in 1st grade he was worried about being so much taller than his classmates.  After a week had passed, I asked him if his worrying had made him any shorter? 

Fortunately, we adults are much too wise to worry about stuff beyond our control.  Right?

Perhaps we find ourselves sitting in an airport worrying if we’ll be able to make our necessary connections.  What will this worrying actually accomplish?  Can we telepathically “will” the plane to arrive on time?  Based on my prized collection of paperbacks purchased in airport bookstores, I’d say no.

Maybe we are concerned about the number of “snow days” we’ve already had this year.  Will this eat into our activities & schedules for June?  What will we do to work around this extra time?  Can our worrying realistically change weather patterns?  Based on pictures of me in a parka during a childhood family trip to “balmy” South Padre Island in 1979, I’d say no.

Or we might catch ourselves grinding over the latest stock market update.  Can our worrying about our 401k or mutual fund really cause a last-second rally of epical proportions?  Realizing that the ROI of my time spent worrying about the daily fluctuations of the market is somewhere south of $0.18/hour, I’d say no.

Worry can become quite habitual.  Sometimes we can even catch ourselves seeking out things to worry about.  It’s almost as if we have to keep our “worry list” filled up or we feel as though we aren’t really trying.  Fortunately, there are those who profit from our worries & provide invaluable assistance to keep our list filled:  be it Y2K, Avian flu, the Alar apple scare, an asteroid projected to strike the earth on April 13, 2029, and on & on & on.  What we forget to realize is that we are living longer, healthier, & safer lives than at any other point in human history.

 Aside:  I’m reminded of the old preacher story of a speaker talking about the galaxy & predicting the earth would cease to support human life in 1 billion years.  A woman in the audience asked him to repeat that statement.  After he complied, she then exclaimed, “Whew!  What a relief!  I thought you said one million years!”

I would submit that this is why Jesus plainly urges us to “not worry.”  He knows that worry is time wasted that can never be regained.  Many of the worries that cross our mind have very little probability of ever occurring.  Ultimately this destructive & distracting habit of worrying can interfere with the life God has desired for us. 

Today might be a good day to monitor our worries.  When we find ourselves worrying about something clearly beyond our sphere of influence, we could simply stop & turn this concern over to God.  Then we can get back to living our lives to the fullest each moment of each day.

1.27.11 Thursday Insights from Pastor Glen Shoup

What a privilege it is to live with all the conveniences of 21st-century life! Sitting at this computer (while it sometimes feels like my dictator) typing these words is a good example of the conveniences we take for granted.  I have instant connectivity, mobility, e-mail, cell phones, travel accessibility, even the delivery of life’s most basic needs. As long as I can pay, I don’t have to wait for my food to grow or be bred, butchered, caught or cleaned—I drive a few blocks to the store (or restaurant) and get it. It makes me feel very blessed, comfortable, secure, entitled. It makes me feel incredibly self-reliant.

About 2000 years ago—when apple and blackberry were just fruit—the disciples felt pretty self-reliant, too. Jesus had called them to come and follow him, and they were more than a year into the adventure of following him through the hills and countryside, watching him heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons and bring the message of God’s Love to throngs of people who would gather wherever they went.  The disciples were (by now) getting used to the phenomenal taking place, and they had a front row seat. I’d be willing to bet that as the “newness” of all they saw began to wear off, the twelve were feeling pretty special to be the ones Jesus had called. I’ll bet they were feeling pretty comfortable, secure, entitled—pretty self-reliant in their place of close-proximity to the action as Jesus’ right-hand men. Until today’s reading took place, that is.

Facing one of those record-crowds that wouldn’t go home (the kind of atmosphere that—I’d guess—made them feel pretty special), Jesus turned to the twelve and said, “These people are hungry. Give them something to eat.” The disciples (with no modern conveniences) did just what I would have done (with all my modern conveniences): they went into management-mode. They analyzed and strategized—did their very best to take care of it. Problem was, the need was bigger than their managerial, strategic knowledge, bigger than they could handle. So they did what we do: they got scared and stressed-out. We know from Mark’s gospel alone that they’d seen a dead girl raised to life, numerous people healed, and demons cast out—miracles of all kinds. Yet confronted with a sea of hungry people (or later, with an angry sea of threatening wind and waves), they didn’t think to rely on the God who works miracles. They thought to rely on their own ability to handle and manage. Why?

I’d suggest it was for the same reason I tend to think in terms of my ability to handle and manage when I’m confronted with things I can’t handle and manage: self-addiction…the illusion that I am in control. That illusion, which day-to-day life tends to encourage, says I can handle things, I don’t need any help—that abundant and spiritually-crippling middle-class virtue called self-reliance.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t take responsibility. I’m not suggesting that working hard and doing our very best isn’t important. I’m not suggesting that God doesn’t want our full energy and devotion in service to Him and humanity. What I am saying is that in doing our best and working hard, we have a tendency to believe our own press, make an idol of our own (perceived) abilities, and come to believe we can handle, manage, and control anything. Then, when the hungry-crowd moments happen, when the storms-at-sea occur, when we realize (like the disciples) that this is bigger than us and we can’t control it—we have two choices. We can (like the disciples) turn to our own abilities to manage and handle, a choice that produces stress, tension and fear. Or we can turn to the miracle-working Christ who says don’t be afraid…I will never leave you, I will never forsake you, I will be with you always. This choice accesses his grace, and the strength we need to lead us through the storms and chaos we experience.

Lord, I recognize that in doing my best, I have a tendency to rely on me and not You.  Save me from this tendency—especially in the storms I face—and in all of life, help me to daily trust and rely on You to strengthen, hold, and guide me. Amen.

Pastor Glen Shoup serves as Pastor of Congregational Care (last names A-C) at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

1.26.11 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

One of my favorite parts of each week’s worship service is the time when Pastor Adam – or one of the other pastors – gets to do a baptism. It is a holy moment. Something rich and beautiful happens each time and you and I are given the awesome privilege to be there and watch it happen.

In that moment of baptism, God’s claim on that person’s life (whether infant, child, or adult) is established and sealed and from that moment forward, they belong eternally to God.

In today’s passage of scripture we hear God lovingly reminding the Israelites of God’s claim on them. “I have called you by name, you are mine.” (v. 1). And because God has claimed them, they can now rely on certain assurances. And the same is true for YOU! “When you pass through the waters,” God says, “I will be with you.” God contines, “… when you walk through fire you shall not be burned.”

We say this is not like an insurance policy from God, but let’s think about that for a moment; A fire insurance policy does not mean that your house will not burn down. It just means that IF or WHEN your house burns down, something good will come of it. When they issue the policy, a good insurance company is saying, in effect, “We will be with you in the bad times.”

But there is a huge difference between God’s assurances and the insurance company’s assurances. The biggest difference, of course, is that God is with us because we BELONG to God. We cannot be separated from God because God has lodged a primary claim of ownership upon our lives. We can be estranged and alienated from God because of our sin, of course, but once God has claimed us, God will never give up on us. Ever.

When we follow the words of the psalmist who invites us to, “Be still and know that I am God,” (Ps. 46:10), we are invited to live with the confidence and assurance of God’s presence in our lives that abides in every situation.

No matter what.

1.25.11 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

“5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. 7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil. 9 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.”–Psalm 37:5-9

One of the side effects of keeping a frantic pace and a packed schedule is our inability to trust in God.  Everything happens in an instant, we don’t like to wait, and we book our lives in half-hour increments.  It shouldn’t surprise us that we get frustrated and anxious if we don’t see divine action our our timetable.  We say, ” I want blessing/relief/peace/change/healing/etc. right this very minute.” while the Psalmist reminds us, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.”  Twice we are not not to fret.

How might we become more patient?  Disciplined practice, for starters.

One tiny thing that I’ve made a practice is to do is to pray before checking my smartphone in the morning and to pray again after I plug it in to charge at night.  I know that my tendency is to check that phone as soon as I step out of bed in the morning, so I’ve made myself a rule to first pray and commit my day to God before touching the Evo.  I find that the more I pray, especially when I “interrupt” my regular schedule with prayer, I find it easier to let go of the stress and anxiety and wait on God.

What does it look like for you to “commit your way to the LORD?”  How might you do that today?

Rev. Molly Simpson is the Campus Pastor at Resurrection’s West campus in Olathe.

1.24.11 Monday Insights from Cayce Stapp

Exodus 14:13 reminds us, “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.”  What an encouraging word – a word of boldness, of confidence, of faith!  No fear…deliverance is coming!  This message is easily heard and quickly accepted by us here, in the safety and peace that we are afforded in Kansas City.

But one week ago today, I was in Haiti.  One year after a 7.0 earthquake ravaged a tiny island nation claiming as many as 250,000 lives, and Haitian children are afraid.  They are afraid to go inside newly renovated or rebuilt homes.  Therefore, families sleep outside.  One week ago, the former Haitian dictator, “Baby Doc” Duvalier was allowed to return to Haiti, and people were afraid.

One week ago today, I was in Haiti, and I was afraid. I wish I had thought to reread Exodus 14. It might have helped. I wonder though – how differently does it read for those I left behind in Haiti?  In Haiti, fear and deliverance (some translations say salvation) are seen in very different terms. After centuries of enslavement and exploitation, and an earthquake, Haiti is a place where very little “stands firm.”  When you sleep night after night in tent cities with no access to running water or sufficient food, demoralized by sickness and suffering all around you, what must it mean to not be afraid?

And yet, some Haitians that I met were not afraid.  Instead, they are survivors – survivors by faith.  Each day brings joy and thanksgiving, even celebration at simply being alive.  They stand firm together.  They are community.  They are the church, and we stand with them as the church.  They await resurrection.  The whole island waits, even groans, for resurrection and new life.

As I reread Exodus 14:13, I remember a very difficult week in Haiti, and I return to my journal – one entry in particular.  It reads, “So very little is certain in Haiti, except the rising of the sun and the rooster waking me outside my window. It is 4:09 am on my last day in Haiti.  Obviously, I cannot sleep.  My roommate and I are both up…well, at least awake…listening to the rooster crow outside our window.  Neither one of us speaks aloud.  Listening, only listening.  The rooster reminds us of a certainty, long before it can be seen or known. This morning, somehow I feel more hopeful.  It was a long night, but I feel more certain. Maybe that is quite simply the reason for rooster’s call in Haiti.  Every night announcing the new hope of dawn.  It may be different in other places, but in Haiti where most everything else is simply survival, the rooster is hope.  God’s creation groaned in agony, one year ago in Haiti.  Today, the rooster is hope – the hope of all God’s creation – of that I am certain.”

Exodus 14:13 – “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.”  We serve the God of deliverance and salvation – of that I am certain.  Today, I stand firm in that promise.  Join me and our brothers and sisters in Haiti and around the world, let us not be afraid.

Cayce Stapp serves as the Beyond KC Missions Pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

1.22.11 Saturday Insights from Carol Cartmill

God is working through the people and ministries of the Church of the Resurrection to reach non-religious and nominally religious people and draw them into relationship with God and this community of faith.  Occasionally, leaders of other churches ask me, “To what do you attribute the success of the church?”  God is the first and most obvious answer, but I am also convinced part of the reason is the absolute clarity of, and focus on, the purpose and vision of the church.  Like Jesus in our Scripture passage today, we “are able to take the long view of God’s plans, and of our own place in them.”  As a church, we know what we are called to do, and also what is not ours to do.  The results?  Lives are being changed, communities are being transformed, and the church is being renewed.

Jesus also demonstrates balance between outward and inward holiness as he moves from ministry, to prayer and solitude, and back again.  John Wesley described inward holiness as the “love of God and assurance of God’s love for us,” and outward holiness as “love of neighbor and deeds of kindness.”  Wesley would say growing in these two areas moves us toward Christian perfection, or perfection in love.  Success for the individual Christian is defined by how well we love God, are assured of God’s love for us, and love for our neighbor.

The question to wrestle with as individuals, then, is “do we know the long view of God’s plans, and our place in them?”  Wesley’s definition of inward and outward holiness seems like a great place to start.  Prayer, Bible study, and worship—these are spiritual practices that God’s Spirit can use to cultivate inward holiness and that also put us in a place where we can be open to God’s guidance for our lives.  Discovering our spiritual gifts helps us know our place in God’s plans.  Armed with this guidance and knowledge, we can develop a rhythm of life as we carry out the God-given life mission he has in mind for us.

Carol Cartmill serves as Director of Community Life at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

1.21.11 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

Today’s reading prompted me to visit Bill & Bob’s Banner Boutique to speak with the proprietor, Bill, about pressing on toward the goal to win the prize.

Me:  Paul is advising us to continually seek the prize of a relationship with God.  What does this say to you?

Bill:  Folks who come into our trophy shop know that to truly excel is a life-long process.  You have to constantly re-adjust to make sure that all of your efforts are in sync with your stated goal.

Me:  What about those folks who come in seeking all sorts of trophies commemorating great accomplishments in a wide array of venues?  Aren’t they truly excelling, too?

Bill:  Well, let’s say they are certainly busy.  But we seem to intuitively know that you can’t be great at everything.  Consider an example from my specialty, the Baseball Hall of Fame.  George Brett is in the Hall of Fame & is considered, primarily, as a great third baseman with phenomenal hitting skills.  Darrell Evans, who was a very accomplished baseball player with Hall of Fame credentials, split his time between 1st base & 3rd base and did a lot of different things well.  Yet even though some may consider him to be a Top-10 third baseman, we don’t see Evans in the same light as Brett.

Me:  So we have to be constantly vigilant to avoid the temptation of spreading ourselves too thin?  Perhaps that is why Paul suggests that we consider our prize to be a relationship with God.

Bill:  Absolutely.  When you start thinking you qualify for a trophy as a parent, as a spouse, as an employee, as a neighbor, as a child, as a friend, as a coach, as a chauffer, as a cook, as a maid, as a community leader, as a pet owner, as a gardener, as a caregiver, as a sibling, as a nephew/niece, as a grandchild, as a person hip to all the fads & trends, and also as a follower of God, you begin to see a person who is really going to struggle to be a Hall of Famer.

Me:  Makes sense to me.

Bill:  Now I have question for you.  If we consider a relationship with God to be our top prize, does this mean all of our other responsibilities are automatically in conflict with this goal & must be ceased?

Me:  Good question.  Let’s consider a simple diagram.  If we place God at the top of our pyramid, then all of our other tasks & responsibilities will need to fall within this framework.  Recognizing that we make covenants before God to be a loving spouse (marriage) & to be a supportive parent (baptism), these responsibilities are well within our relationship with God.  Further, noting the Commandment to honor our mother & father, this kinship is also a way for us to bond with God.

Now, each commitment thereafter must take its place on the pyramid below this level of priority.  Our work can certainly honor God, our family’s commitments in sports & music, for example, can be a way for us to minister to others, and our activities in the community are certainly a time for displaying God’s love for others.  We just have to be cognizant that our commitments do nothing to deter our relationship with God.

Bill:  Sounds complicated.

Me:  I think once we review our weekly schedule, we’ll quickly see what activities are uplifting & strengthen our connection with God.  We’ll also be able to identify those activities that might be classified as “filler” and not helping us seek the only prize worth seeking.

Thanks for your time, Bill.  You know, I knew I was in the perfect place the minute I walked in the store.  With the walls crowded with trophies, plaques, & pennants, I thought, “Whoa.  This guy is g-o-o-d.”

1.20.11 Thursday Insights from Amy Otto

In a world of “go go go”, “beating the competition” and “keeping up with the Joneses” we don’t hear the word “humility” very often. But when I read Romans 12:3-8, that is the key idea I hear Paul telling me. He asks us not to “…think of yourself more highly than you ought to think” (Romans 12:3b, Common English Bible). This seems to contradict what society tells us. In our jobs and homes, we are more used to putting on our “superhero outfits” to try to get ahead or stay ahead. It becomes almost second nature to do things to show people how important and good we are at what we do, even if they don’t “fit” us very well or further jam our schedules.

I have a dear friend who I coached with for many years. To talk with him leads you to realize he’s a pretty smart person. But you wouldn’t be likely to hear much about the fact that he was in the oil business and makes a lot of money. He’s far more likely to tell you that he retired from contracting work and dedicates himself full-time to helping those less fortunate. He helps lead the food pantry for Catholic Charities in Overland Park, teaches adults interview skills and how to write a resume, and spends his extra time coaching for Special Olympics. He doesn’t drive the fanciest car, wear the fanciest clothes or even have a fancy apartment. He lives modestly and uses his gifts and experience to advance what he believes is important.

In Romans 12:3-8, Paul reminds us that we each have a unique set of gifts that work together to create the body of Christ. When I think of my friend, I see this scripture being lived out. I have different gifts than he does, but I try to live by the same values.

For example, one of the things I enjoy most is going to the grocery store near my house. I look forward to seeing several of the cashiers, because they always look like they’re having a hard day. When I check out I try to get in one of their lines with the simple goal of trying to make them smile. I watch other people check out–many of them not saying anything, sometimes complaining that something was rung up wrong, but very few really talking with the cashier. When it is my turn, I ask how they are doing, how long until their shift ends. I talk about the weather or what is on sale…nothing important, really, yet very important because I am being intentional about caring about someone else and, I hope, brightening their day. God has given me a great deal of care for other people, and I just can’t skip a chance to make someone’s day a little brighter.

As you go about your day, think about what intrinsically motivates you as a person. What are your gifts and talents that you can use freely for God’s glory, naturally and without making your plate feel even more full than it already is? Once you figure it out, be sure you live it. Then watch and see what God does with these gifts in your life.

Amy Otto serves on the Student Ministries staff at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.