Monthly Archives: May 2011

Tuesday 5.31.11 Insight from Rev. Molly Simpson

Molly SimpsonRev. Molly Simpson is the campus pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

Sometimes we all find ourselves saying things we don’t mean.  Sometimes we do it in very public ways… like on Facebook.  I’ve had my share of status updates that upon a second thought I went back and deleted.  I’ve also found a comment posted can be an opportunity to reach out in concern to a friend who is obviously hurting, struggling, or saying things that are inappropriate.  Something about social media makes it a place where we vent our frustrations and often in a way that is less than graceful.

I also appreciate the accountability of community–I know that if I say something out of line or if my photos suggest I’m doing something I shouldn’t, then one of my hundreds of virtual friends is going to call me on it.  Even better is the community of a smaller number of people that I share life with and interact with (in person) on a weekly basis.  I can’t selectively edit my life before these friends, and that’s a good thing.  If I’m going to demonstrate the kind of love in action that Romans 12:9-21 describes, I need some feedback.  Seriously, have you read this?  It is hard stuff to live out!

If I’m going to be faithful in a Romans 12 kind of love, I need a friend now and again that will “like” it when I practice hospitality or when I am joyful in hope or faithful in prayer.  I also need companions that will (gently) point out when I’m lacking in zeal or repaying evil for evil.  As the GPS points out… this isn’t a solitary journey.  Thank the Lord!

So, in an attempt to respond to this scripture passage in a tangible way today, I’m going to find a way to bless someone whom I have found myself in conflict with.  (Verse 14–bless and do not curse.)  Will you join me?  It might be as simple as a kind word written in an email or on a wall.

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

Monday 5.30.11 Insight from Rev. Andrew Conard

Andrew ConardRev. Andrew Conard is a Christian, husband, father, son, brother, friend, United Methodist and also a pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection Online. You can follow him on Twitter at @andrewconard or read his blog, Thoughts of Resurrection at

As I was reading this scripture, I was first struck by the very first verse. “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.”

Jesus had come home.


What, where or who is home for you? This past weekend I was in Hutchinson, Kansas with my parents and family. It was good to be home. My parents have moved throughout my life, so I don’t have a particular place that I feel is home. However, I do know that being around family is home.

I am thankful for those that sacrificed to make it possible for me to live at home here in the United States. More than that, I am thankful for Jesus sacrifice on the cross that makes it possible for me to live as a part of God’s kingdom.

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

Saturday 5.28.11 Insight from Debi Nixon

Debi NixonDebi Nixon serves on the Executive Staff of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection as the Managing Executive Director of Regional Campuses and Catalyst Ministry.

Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember those who gave their lives fighting for our freedom, who died to serve our country. Freedom is something we value, it is important to us. It is the way we want to live our lives. In today’s scripture reading from Galatians 5, Paul is writing about two ways to live freely. One is living freely loving and serving God, and the other is living freely serving self.

When I was a young, I dreamt of the day I could finally move out of my parents’ home and be free. In fact, I told my parents hundreds of times, “When I grow up, I can’t wait to be free of you and your rules, and do whatever I want to do. I am going stay out past my curfew. I am going to eat and drink whatever I want. I am going to see whatever movie I want. I am going to be free.” And then it happened…the day after my high school graduation, I moved into a house with two girlfriends in Springfield, MO. My first night in the house without parental oversight, I was excited about my new freedom. I was going to stay up all night not worried about a curfew. I had a list of things I was going to do without worry of the consequences. I was finally free of all my parent’s rules and could freely do what I wanted. But over time, I found I couldn’t do many of the things I had on my list–they didn’t seem attractive anymore. Instead, I found that I loved my parents so much, I couldn’t do anything out of character from the way they had raised me.

It’s the same with God. The more we love God, we find we simply can’t help ourselves. We become free to realize that the things we thought would bring us happiness aren’t so attractive after all. Paul  writes in today’s passage of the difference of freely living pleasing our own desires or freely living in the Spirit, marked by fruit which Paul names as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

We’ve been challenged throughout this sermon series to contemplate what we want to be when we grow up. We’ve focused our attention on the fruit of the spirit as described by Paul, and in today’s question our GPS writer invites us to  contemplate how we will cultivate soil so that the fruit Paul names continues to grow revealing to us even more God-given freedom.

But there’s more! To often we think of freedom as either patriotism or doing the things we want to do. But the freedom Paul writes of says that as we become truly free, we get to serve others. So consider volunteering next Saturday at the FaithWork where we will pack health kits for those impacted by the recent tornados, helping a stranger by the side of the road, smiling at someone in the grocery store, helping a friend or loved one. The list of ways to serve is endless, but in each act of service, in each embodiment of love, we move closer and closer to true freedom through Christ–a freedom that allows us to be the people we are meant to be when we grow up.

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

Friday 5.27.11 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren LippeDarren Lippe has attended Resurrection since 1997.  He met his wife, Doris, in Single Adult Sunday School at Resurrection and they have 2 sons, Matthew & Jacob.  He helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 2nd grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

“Get your motor running, head out on the highway. Looking for adventure, in whatever comes our way.”

Ah, yes.  These Steppenwolf lyrics capture our yearning for a happy-go-lucky life, free of rules & regulations.  But as me & Bobby McGee know, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”  (Um.  Today is apparently retro day on the Insight page – Editor.)

Humanity really is a collection of curious contradictions.  On one hand, we pretend to love the carefree lifestyle with no one telling us what to do.  On the other hand, we actually feel more at ease if we have rules in place to know what we can’t do, what we can do, what we have to do, & (perhaps most importantly) what we can get away with.  So, it really isn’t too surprising that Paul’s friends in Colossae are drifting toward their comfort zone & seeking out rules to implement for their faith journey.

Obviously, rules aren’t all bad.  For example, on “Dad-Cooks-Dinner-Night,” I find great comfort in the detailed instructions on the side of the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese box. If I religiously follow these steps, I know we’ll have a scrumptious side dish to accompany our hot dogs.  Or when erecting our Lifetime #1558 Portable Basketball Goal, if I slide the compression springs onto the 4 ½ inch U-bolt and place the spring retainer plate over the compression springs, then we’ll have a rim that can withstand “Thumper” & “Chucker.”

However, there are some problems with trying to live a life by a set of rules: we tend to focus solely on the rules & we miss the the bigger picture.  Consider this excerpt from the classic book, “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.”

I’m always warning the children against commonplace defections while they are planning the bizarre.  Our son, Christopher, gets up ahead of us in the morning & has always been given directives like, “don’t wake the baby,” “don’t go outside in your pajamas,” & “don’t eat cookies before breakfast.”  But I never told him to not make flour paste & glue together the morning paper.  Now I tell him.

Aside:  Soon after her book came out, her son naturally chose his Mom’s book to review for a book report at school.  His paper closed with this terse comment:  Mrs. Kerr has written a very funny book, although the parts about her children are greatly exaggerated and in some instances are downright lies.

These shortcomings illustrate the genius of Jesus.  His desire isn’t to pile on another set of daily “dos & don’ts” to live by.  His guidance can be boiled down to loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind & strength & to loving your neighbor as you love yourself.  As we grow in our faith, we come to realize just how all encompassing His seemingly simple guidelines can be.

Paul’s admonition in today’s passage brings us to the real challenge of our faith journey.  We aren’t just seeking to change our habits or our routines; rather, we are striving to change our hearts.  As we come to love God more, we’ll begin to experience more faithfulness, more gentleness & more self-control.  Yep, what the world needs now is love sweet love.  (Oh good grief. – Editor)

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

Thursday 5.26.11 Insight from Janelle Gregory

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

I’ll be honest. Of all of the fruits of the Spirit, gentleness is probably one of the least ripe on my tree. This wasn’t always the case. When I was younger, I had a hard time expressing my frustrations… and then I got over it.

But at times it becomes more than just expressing. It crosses that line and lands on the side of mean-spirited. It’s a passive-aggressive maneuver. It’s a biting remark. I like to think of it as that puppy nipping at your ankles–slightly painful while still endearing.

However, the reality is that our bites are often more like those of a brown recluse. Like the startled spider, we bite when we feel threatened. We know it stings, but how much damage can one little bite cause, right?

But like the victims of the recluse, those we attack tell a much different version of the story. Yes, that initial bite stung, but that was just the beginning. We don’t realize what the venom we’ve injected does long after the assault is over and we’re back spinning our webs:

The words replay and the poison spreads.

Doubt sinks in and the poison spreads.

Trust is broken and the poison spreads.

Revenge surfaces and the poison spreads.

It doesn’t take long for the damage to become far more extensive than we intended. Our hurtful words and actions eat away at those we attack until the wound has left some part of them unrecognizable. And even if the victim heals from our bite–after apology upon apology–we may never know of the scar we’ve left.

But some of us, in fear of hurting others, claim our spots at the opposite end of the pendulum. We do everything we can to not offend anyone. However, we must be careful as we travel down this path. Being too harsh can hurt others, but being too soft may allow them to hurt themselves. Yes, you can catch more flies with honey, but it can also create sticky situations.

So where does that leave us? My incredibly wise husband describes gentleness as this: no more harsh than it needs to be. It’s really neither harsh nor soft. For each situation, it is found somewhere on that spectrum. Our response to the milk left out on the counter will most likely look much different than to that of someone constantly causing pain to themselves or others. And it should.

In short, gentleness is knowing the situation, and knowing exactly how much force is required to reach the best solution for the good God intends – no more, and no less.

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

Wednesday 5.25.11 Insights from Rev. Russell Brown

Rev. Russell BrownReverend Russell Brown serves as the Pastor of Support Ministries at The Church of the Resurrection.

The image from this passage of scripture – Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey with adoring throngs waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!” – is an image I cherish fondly from my childhood memories of Sunday School. We commemorate the gentleness of Jesus’ statement of authority that is implied by his choice to come into Jerusalem, not on a chariot or riding on the back of a charging stallion, but on a donkey… one of the most gentle animals imaginable. Truly it forms a picture of Jesus that – on the surface at least – could not possibly be thought of as a threat to anyone.

In truth though, Jesus was a threat. His life and his ministry represented a more serious threat to the continued system of domination of the Roman Empire than any force they had ever before encountered. Indeed, as history shows us, Jesus and his mission of mercy would ultimately prevail against the world’s strongest power.  

As today’s GPS information tells us, Rome had been briefly driven out of power in Jerusalem by the Hasmonean revolt. But that peaceful interval would not last as Rome reasserted its power more forcefully and brutally than before. The Jewish people wanted a better, more effective response to Rome this time… a response that would vanquish them once and for all. For most of them, that meant greater force, greater violence, greater power.

Jesus shows us that in his kind of gentleness there is indeed power. There is a power that is irresistable and life-changing and ultimately even Empire-breaking. What continues to shock me to this day is how – even 2,000+ years after Jesus’ decisive victory – we have still not seemed to learn the lesson he came to teach us. We (myself absolutely included) still reach first for solutions that rely on power and domination rather than on love and mercy. 

I pray it is not too late for us to worship God “in spirit and in truth,” (John 4:23) and begin to live lives that demonstrate the faith we profess.

In closing, it has been a joy to serve this risen, conquering Christ with you here at the Church of the Resurrection for these past six years. God’s continued blessings to you.

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

Tuesday 5.24.11 Insight from Pastor Anne Williams

Pastor Anne WilliamsPastor Anne Williams is the Congregational Care pastor for members of the Resurrection family who have last names beginning with S-Z.

When I read Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, I am immediately struck by the blatant unfairness in the distributing of this wealthy man’s talents. It gets me started thinking about people I know who have experienced unfair things in life, things that don’t make sense, situations of hurt and pain that are unbelievable. I know one woman who, in the midst of serious heartache described her life as ‘the kind of movie I don’t like watching.’ It doesn’t take much time on this earth to realize how true the phrase “life isn’t fair” really is. Those experiences of unfairness tend to bring out the worst in us. They make us cynical, angry, protective, territorial, defensive, selfish, and possibly worse of all – fearful.

The Parable of the Talents is a teaching about being faithful with our resources, whatever they may be. But the most challenging part is that we are called to be faithful even in the midst of unfairness. As we undoubtedly know (but may need to be reminded of), Christianity is not a faith of convenience. When we agree to walk the journey of a faithful disciple, we are called to a higher standard of living–one that requires a conscious decision to act with holiness even when we find ourselves in an unfair situation. The servant openly confesses that it was fear which caused him to do the wrong thing, to bury the talent. But the Master calls him “wicked and lazy” – a good reminder of the immense power fear can have over us when we let it control us.

Reading verse 25 about the servant with one bag who hid his bag underground, I am reminded of another of Jesus’ teachings from Matthew 5:14-16:

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in Heaven.”

The message is clear – don’t waste what God has given you. For everything we have comes from God, as the Psalmist exclaims, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). From this perspective, we are but vessels and agents called to share whatever resources God may supply.

It comes down to one basic question: can God trust us to use our resources for the Kingdom of God, whether or not life has been fair to us? I pray God finds each one of us trustworthy and faithful.

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

Monday 5.23.11 Insight from Jeanna Repass

Jeanna RepassJeanna Repass serves as the Kansas City Missions Program Director at Resurrection.

I was having a discussion with someone who was struggling with their belief in God. Their argument was that it didn’t seem reasonable to be in a relationship with a God that you could never assign any blame to when something terrible happens, but have to give all praise to when something good happens. This God allows tragedy and destruction even upon the innocent, and as a believer you are not supposed to say that God did this horrible thing, only that God allowed it. And, by the way, why does a loving God allow bad things to happen? However, when you have a good event happen in your life, you are supposed to give this same God all the praise and glory. Their argument was that this was a very selfish, one-sided relationship. They did not allow themselves to have one-sided relationships in their life, so why should they have one with God?

Wow–that’s a pretty good argument! Except it missed the mark. Being in relationship with God is not just about giving Him praise for all the good things that happen in life. That’s actually very easy to do. “Things are great in my life – praise God!” Similarly, believing that a loving God does not cause His children to experience horrors and tragedy is also reasonable. For those of us who have children, we understand that as loving parents we would never intentionally allow harm to come to them.

No–a true relationship with God is about being able to praise him with what is known as “anyhow praise.” This is the kind of praise that happens when the wheels are coming off in your life and you can’t find your way out. Lamentations 3:17-20 illustrates this. The writer says, “My life is so bad that I can’t even remember what health, happiness and peace feel like!” Literally, the writer says, “The thought of my pain… is bitter poison.” But in verses 21 – 24 comes the “anyhow praise.” “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing. The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue. Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have and so in Him I put my trust.” The writer did not write this after God had delivered him (or her). This was the writer’s pronouncement of praise “anyhow,” right in the middle of suffering!

I have to admit, I have a long way to go in the world of “anyhow praise.” When the going gets tough, sometimes my praise turns into “why” and “how could you, God?” But what I do in those times is turn to  the examples of others who lived lives of “anyhow praise.” I find my “anyhow praise” in my small group, in my GPS, in worship on Sunday mornings, and in the Word of God. The Bible is full of these “anyhow praisers,” most especially our Lord Himself. So I shared this with my friend as I share it with you. In times of darkness, find your “anyhow praise,” and you’ll find that God is in relationship with you right there.

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

Saturday 5.21.11 Insight from Michelle Kirby

Michelle KirbyMichelle Kirby serves on the Resurrection staff as the Learning Events Program Director for programs such as the Journey 101 courses.

We so often think of generosity in financial terms, but there’s so much more to it than that. It begins with a transformed heart.

I had a wonderful neighbor named George years ago in California. He was an older gentleman who was an interesting and fun-loving character. He had been a prisoner of war for two years during World War 2, during which he lost a leg and eye. As a result he wore an eye patch and had an artificial leg. When my son was 2 ½ he thought George might be a scary pirate. He was not. During his time in captivity, George gave his life to Christ and the Holy Spirit began transforming George’s heart and life.

Shortly after he moved across the street from us, his wife passed away. This is when we all really came to know George.

I watched as our street helped George. We gave him rides to the grocery store, doctor’s visits, invited him for dinner and whatever else he needed. But the real heroes were the children. They didn’t just do things to help George; they loved George. They talked to him, played games with him and shared their antics with him. They didn’t care that he wasn’t their age or that he was physically limited.
The dictionary says generosity is the habit of giving freely, without expecting anything in return. The children expected nothing from George except to be with him. But just sharing his time with them wasn’t enough for George. He was always giving them things: baseballs, ice-cream bars, or whatever he thought they might like.

After a number of years, George passed away. The kids took it very hard. They had lost their playmate and friend. To our amazement George had one final gift to give the children. He left each child on the street a savings bond with the message, “Thank you for being my friend.”

2 Corinthians 9:9 says this, “He throws caution to the winds, giving in reckless abandon.” (The Message) George could have lived a life full of bitterness from being imprisoned and tortured. But instead he allowed God to change him and he lived a life of generosity, giving of himself and modeling this for the little people on our street who had a friend named George.

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

Friday 5.20.11 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren LippeDarren Lippe has attended Resurrection since 1997.  He met his wife, Doris, in Single Adult Sunday School at Resurrection and they have 2 sons, Matthew & Jacob.  He helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 2nd grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

Being a parent of young-ish siblings means we frequently get to hear those 3 wonderful little words:  “That’s not fair!”

We’ve watched bowls of ice cream start to melt as the brothers carefully count & visually weigh each strawberry to ensure they are equal. We’ve listened to the ongoing debate as to how to evenly split the chore of emptying the dishwasher.  (The current formula is Plastic cups + Silverware = Glass cups + Plates + Bowls) Or when our older son Matthew needed glasses before starting 3rd grade, our then-first-grader, Jacob, moaned it wasn’t fair that Matthew got glasses & he didn’t.  (At the eyeglass shop Jacob kept trying on empty frames & proclaiming, “Wow!  I should get these.  They really help me see better.”  S-i-g-h.)

To be sure, the youngsters have plenty of examples from their adult counterparts.  A quick review of the newspaper offers us a multitude of examples of adults crying, “That’s not fair.”  Though, I think we adults aren’t really all that interested in fairness, per se.  Perhaps we tend to mimic the young boy in the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip who, when told the world wasn’t fair, wails, “Why can’t it ever be unfair in my favor?”

And then we come to today’s story.  At 1st glance this parable seems to reek of unfairness.  We can easily relate to our hard-working friends who complained about the wages of their slacker colleagues.  However, this characterization may be amiss.  Let’s take a second look at this scene.

Harvest time would require an influx of workers to help get the produce in from the vineyard in a race against time.  The laborers in our story aren’t just hanging out being cool.  Each community would have a marketplace/square where workers would go to be matched up with employers needing help.  The workday would run from 6:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening.  The wages noted in our parable would be able to meet a family’s needs for that day, but our friends would definitely be living “paycheck to paycheck.”

The 1st batch of laborers selected would probably be the bigger, stronger workers or perhaps the most aggressive men to get to the front of the line.  The workers left behind, one could imagine, would be on the shy side & perhaps smaller than their colleagues.  Their employment opportunities would probably be very intermittent.

It’s a testament to the latter workers’ desperation for work that they were still in the marketplace at 5:00.  With only one hour left in the day, they would have reasonably expected 1/12 of a day’s wage.  Yet, they were willing to accept that wage or whatever the owner might offer them, even though they would still go to bed hungry that evening.  The owner, however shocks them with his generosity.  He certainly had no obligation to pay them an equal wage, but he was happy to choose to do so. 

There are many lessons that can be drawn from this little story.  It’s awfully tempting to let the world’s standards impact our relationship with God.  We can compare/contrast our time sheet with others & mistakenly think that this will determine our value to God.  But God is more interested in the heart with which we serve.  Are we only willing to work in the field for God, because of what we think we’ll get out of it?  Or are we content to be of use to Him & serve Him, just out of the joy of being in His presence?

Since we are offered such generous grace from an incredibly loving Father, I think it is safe to say that we will never get what we think we deserve.  To which all God’s children, wiping their hand across their brow, should say, “Whew!”

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