Monthly Archives: June 2012

Saturday 6.30.12 Insight from Lori Trupp

Lori Trupp is the Director of Children’s Ministries at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

My kids were among the millions of teenagers this past spring who went to see The Hunger Games, the first movie in a series of three based on the books written by Suzanne Collins. The author provides the following plot synopsis: In a dystopian future, the totalitarian nation of Panem is divided between 12 districts and the Capitol. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal retribution for a past rebellion, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors while the citizens of Panem are required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.

In preparation for the movie, I read the book along with my kids. The controversial plot line lead to some interesting discussions in our household, primarily centered around the idea that watching other people’s tragedy seems to have become a spectator sport, much like the Capital residents watching The Hunger Games. Although the book and subsequent movie present this concept in the extreme, we discussed our culture of 24-hour news cycles and reality TV, and how we sometimes become the Capital people portrayed in the book and movie, eating our snacks as we watch as other people’s worlds fall apart.

As Christians, we are called to action, not to be mere spectators in the world. In John 13:34-35, Jesus tells us, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In the midst of tragedy, we show the love of Christ by our words and actions, not with a bowl of popcorn and a remote in our hand.

Sooner or later we will all be faced with the moment, or even moments, when our world will fall apart. Something will happen that we were not planning on. Maybe a loved one dies, a deadly diagnosis is given, a relationship ends, a wildfire threatens our home, or a tornado strikes. When it does, we will be grateful for those around us who take action in the name of Christ and don’t just sit by and watch as we suffer. We will be grateful to those who help us recall Psalm 46 and are by our side as we cry out to our ever-present God, our refuge, our mighty fortress. We will be reminded that the greatest catastrophe occurred 2000 years ago, when we crucified the Son of God, and we will be reminded that through the Resurrection, even in the midst of suffering, we have the greatest gift of all–hope.

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

Friday 6.29.12 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 3rd grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

Spending time at Bartle Boy Scout Reservation this past week with our 12-year-old son, Matthew, I had some opportunities to ponder Isaiah’s exhortations in today’s passage. (It also gave me the chance to hear exciting tales of encounters with curious raccoons, to hear how hard it is to write “I’M OK” on an addressed & stamped postcard, & test the theory that a swim is just as good as a shower. Um. Not so much.) I also got to hear some classic campfire humor:

In order to avoid bears, be sure to wear a band of small bells around your ankle to scare them away. Oh and also be on the look out for bear scat. Question: How can you tell if it is bear scat? It has tiny bells in it. (Scatological humor + Boys = Comedy Gold)

Isaiah urges us to look to the heavens to be reminded of God’s creative power. God knows each & every star that has been created, and, thus, He knows us as well. We Christians can be tempted to get caught up in debating the details of creation, all the while overlooking the simple fact that all of creation seems to be formed for a purpose. Sitting in a merit badge class, one hears how even the bothersome cockroach serves a critical function in our environment. And so we, too, who are treasured by God, are some how & in some way part of this master plan.

Isaiah knows full well how the Israelites are tired & weary. They see the long journey ahead of them, but not much hope or opportunity. As Isaiah notes, even young men tire & become weary. Watching the intense tests for the swimming merit badge, Isaiah’s imagery becomes clear. The journey can be tough & can feel like one is treading water. Yet, there is also something gained during the time of trial. There is a discovery of muscles & skills never before experienced. There is the dawning realization that looking down at the bottom of the pool as you swim doesn’t give you any sense of progress. Only by looking upward do you begin to get that burst of energy that comes from advancing through the water. And then there is the exhilaration at the completion of the trial & the recognition of what we would have missed if we had turned to the side.

Isaiah counsels the Israelites to wait in the Lord for new strength. Standing outside the dining hall waiting to be called in for dinner, you get an idea of the Israelite’s probable frustrated response to Isaiah. But there is something to be gained by waiting. It needn’t be time sitting idly by. Some scholars note that the word “wait” can actually mean “to hope” or “to look to God for all that we need.” What if we used these periods of waiting as a time to ponder God’s promises, to consider how God might be using this time for our good, or to think how God might even now be working behind the scenes on our behalf?

Finally, Isaiah ends with the incredible imagery of a person with hope in God – he will soar, he will run & not grow weary, and he will walk & not be faint. My old scoutmaster would often ask us, “Where are we getting our energy?” If we plan to fuel ourselves with candy bars, we can expect to struggle in the midst of the hike. On the other hand if we prepare to fuel ourselves with healthier fare, we can be confident that we’ll have a source of energy that will help us enjoy the entire trek.

Perhaps we could take Isaiah’s urging to heart & look to our bond with God as the source of our energy & hope. So let’s put on our band of bells & get started on our hike – it’s going to be awesome!

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

Thursday 6.28.12 Insight from Chris Folmsbee

Chris Folmsbee is Resurrection’s new Director of Group Life.  He is the author of several books, with an extensive background in applying principles of spiritual growth to real life. He, his wife Gina and their family have been attending Resurrection since 2008.

Honestly, at times it can be a challenge for me to keep appropriate perspective on my life.  Sometimes, as I marathon through life to either catch up, keep up or get ahead, I forget not only who am I (and who I am becoming), but to whom I belong.  Even in the midst of doing faith works, I can lose proper perspective.

I also neglect, at times, to keep at the forefront of my life a commitment to live into the image in which I have been created. This loss of perspective can have a tendency to cause discouragement, doubt and disappointment as I journey through what feel like times of disorientation. What I need is to come back to the Scriptures daily to reorient myself to the proper perspective through trust in the Word. What I often do, however, is draw upon my own strength, my own knowledge and my own inclination for control to plot my life according to how I see fit. This is not the gospel of grace and truth. This is not the Kingdom way.

As Paul was explicitly inspiring and challenging the church members of Corinth to do in today’s passages, so must we continually re-narrate our lives around the truth that we are created in the image of God. As God’s image-bearers, we are to outwardly show the inward transformation that we are experiencing each day. We are here on this earth not for ourselves, but for the sake of the world. We are here on this earth to move through the daily activities of parenting, work, worship, play, etc. in ways that remind the people around us that God has not forgotten them.

The appropriate perspective on life, therefore, is that we are the way in which God has chosen to represent God on this earth. There is such great worth and encouragement in knowing that God has created us to act as “little kings” as we seek to live under God’s Kingdom reign. Proper perspective is living into the remarkable value that God has placed on us–even amidst the times of temporary discouragement, doubt and disappointment. God values us enough to call us to represent God on earth, for the sake of the world, permanently.

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

Wednesday 6.27.12 Insight from Angela LaVallie

Angela LaVallie is the Member Connection Program Director at The Church of the Resurrection. She provides oversight to our member connection efforts through the Connection Point, the Weekday Hospitality Team, Coffee With the Pastors, the New Member Team and our Spiritual Gifts Placement Team.

There has never been a time in my life when I felt so overwhelmed or unloved that I have considered suicide, but there have been times when I have thought, “Okay, God, if you do love me, then why…?” I have questioned what God has planned for me. If God has my best interests in mind, why does he let me suffer? And let’s not even get into questioning the real suffering of others around the globe.

I read a quote in a recent Bible study that said, “God has never given me a reason in the past to not trust him with my future.” I had never thought about it in that way before, but I have to believe that one of the reasons I have always been able to go on is because I have seen that God has brought me through my troubled times to a better place. Not only am I able to get through the rough patches to a better place, but because of my suffering, I usually come out a better person. I can see things from a different perspective. I learn to lean on God more and more and, even when things are not looking up and I can’t see how any good can come from a bad situation, I trust God more.

I would add to Paul’s letter to the Romans that even we cannot separate ourselves from God’s love. Sometimes we can get so hung up on our present circumstances and how we feel, we withdraw from being open to God, but God keeps on loving us anyway.

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

Tuesday 6.26.12 Insight from Rev. Anne Williams

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

I think the key words in today’s GPS are found at the end of the first paragraph: “(The writer) found it hard to imagine how things would get better in the future.” This was also significant theme in the pastor’s sermon “Christianity and Suicide” last weekend. (If you missed it, you can watch it by clicking here.)

It’s truly one of the most unfair things in the world that we aren’t allowed to have a sneak peek of the good things that are to come for us. In the midst of those really hard moments, if we could just see a preview of something positive it might provide the little push we need to keep going, to push on and know that doing so is worth it. If one of you tech-savvy folks out there reading this could work on creating some sort of gizmo or gadget that could give us a little glimpse of a better moment that lies ahead, let me know.

But then the book of Hebrews tells us that faith is hoping in that which is unseen (Hebrews 11:1). So maybe we have all we need; maybe our faith can give us all we need. I find strength in remembering all the times God has redeemed difficult and painful things in my past. And I find strength in hearing other peoples’ stories–Biblical characters, but also friends, neighbors, church members, and any person from Christian history or my present life. And when we take all that into account our faith, our hope in the unseen, is rekindled. We know how the big story ends–God restores all things. And we know the nature of God is to work for good in all of our lives, providing love and care even in our darkest hours. And we know that the worst thing is never the last thing. And we know that, as Lamentations says, “men are not cast off by the Lord forever.” May it be so!

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

Monday 6.25.12 Insight from Rev. Chris Holliday

Rev. Chris Holliday serves as the associate minister at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

Like many of you, I too have experienced periods of depression in my life. I’ve felt the heavy weight of sadness, and been consumed by a loop of negative thoughts. I’ve felt utterly defeated and so detached from God and everyone around me. I know how difficult finding the energy to get out of bed, or take a shower and get dressed can be. I’ve been on the spiral that takes one farther and farther down into the depths of despair. So when I read today’s scripture passage, I felt the psalmist really hit the mark concerning depression, especially in verses 9 and 10:

“Have mercy on me, Lord, because I am depressed. My vision fails because of my grief, as do my spirit and my body. My life is consumed with sadness; my years are consumed with groaning. Strength fails me because of my suffering, my bones dry up.”

In Bob Beltz’s novel, Somewhere Fast, the main character, John, goes through a terrible ordeal and finds himself in a severe emotional crisis. On his journey back to wholeness and health, he rides a motorcycle cross-country on Route 66 and visits with several people who become mentors for him. One mentor urges John to start praying again. To John, prayer has become futile with no link to reality; but he reluctantly agrees to start saying the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

Sometimes, that’s all we can say or pray. I used this method once myself. When I started having negative, self-defeating thoughts, I would say or think the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” The more I said it, the more real it became in my life.

By the grace and mercy of Christ, I slowly began climbing, and God began lifting me, out of that dark place. I found a great doctor and a wonderful counselor. I received the support I needed from my loving family and a few close friends. I took appropriate medications and made some lifestyle changes. I embraced the healthy, caring church community with which I was involved. And I started to see and experience the light of hope again. And now, the light shines bright, and I cry out with the psalmist, “Bless the Lord because he has wondrously revealed his faithful love to me.” (verse 21.)

If you are experiencing depression, know that there’s always hope. Don’t wait. Seek help today from a pastor, doctor, counselor, family member, close friend, or someone else you trust. Also, start saying the Jesus Prayer, and allow the mercy of Christ to bring the light of hope back into your life.

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

Saturday 6.23.12 Insight from Jason Huwe

Jason Huwe is Resurrection’s minister for 20-Somethings and College Life.  He has attended Resurrection since 2007 and has been on staff about 3 years.  He enjoys ping pong, Dr. Pepper and cheering on his Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Death, by its nature, is an odd subject to consider. Mostly, this is because we cannot see past death to what lies beyond. The fascinating thing about death, though, is that by thoughtfully considering it, we gain new perspective on how to live our life today.

This exact concept is taken on through a comedic lens in one of my favorite movies: Groundhog Day.  In case you haven’t seen it, Bill Murray plays a cynical weather reporter from Pennsylvania named Phil Connors. Somehow, Phil finds himself living the exact same day over and over again. That day is–you guessed it–Groundhog Day.

While the movie is hilarious and totally worth watching, many significant questions arise as Phil deals with this unexpected challenge. After he gets over the obvious confusion and fear associated with living the same exact day over and over again, we see him pursue earthly excesses of food and physical intimacy. Phil then begins treating people poorly, because they won’t remember it the next day. With all consequences removed, he steals, spends and takes huge risks that he would not otherwise take. In short order, we see Phil realize how empty these earthly pleasures are–they just are not as fulfilling as he once thought. He sinks into a depression, and tries to escape by killing himself in a variety of ways. That doesn’t work–the next morning, here he is again, still on Groundhog Day. Over time, he begins to feel a sense of worth as he invests in the lives of others. He sets goals and gains skills, using them to bless those in the community and, finally, helping him to break the Groundhog Day cycle he’s been trapped in.

Our daily lives can be surprisingly similar to this fictional story. While we don’t live the exact same day over and over, we go to the same job, do the same errands and interact with the same people most every day. Sometimes these activities seem meaningless and pointless in the grand scheme of things. “If only I could have more money and not work…” “If only he or she would like me back, then things would be okay…” “If only my job was more significant…”

In spite of what Groundhog Day tells us, even doing nice things for people all the time won’t bring about a total sense of meaning and purpose in your life. There is a God-sized hole in our hearts that we are trying to fill with these things, but only God can fill it. Thankfully, God wants to fill it, and that’s why He sent His Son to die on the cross. We do not have to fear death because death has already been overcome by the resurrection. Our worth comes from being wholly loved by the God of the universe and by walking with the Holy Spirit throughout every day (even if it feels like the same day over and over again!).

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

Friday 6.22.12 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 3rd grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

Pondering today’s Scripture led me to interview Mr. I.M. Wright, noted film critic & author of the weekly column Wright’s Wry Wreviews – “You can’t go wrong with a Wright Wreview.”

[Also see Wright’s Archive: Column June 20, 2012 – B4 You Go N2 the Theater: The movie “Battleship” is Full of Hits & Misses but Ultimately Sinks.]

DL: What are your views of Biblical themes in movies?

I.M. Wright: Since so many of the story lines in popular movies have been lifted from scenes in the Scriptures, I think every scriptwriter should offer God a 10% commission. Some have contended that every plot of today’s great movies has already been played out in the Bible. That hit espionage movie with twists & turns in the plot echoes the story of Esther. That movie of infidelity, deception, & murder at the highest levels of government merely repeats the story of David & Bathsheba. That epic film detailing the battle between good verses evil, reruns the story of Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal. That Hitchcock-esque film of the innocent man wrongly accused has already been seen in the last week of Christ’s life.

DL: There also seems to be a multitude of movies echoing Christ offering his life as a sacrifice on behalf of others.

I.M. Wright: Yep, that topic is common in the cinema world. The movie Gran Torino, for example, shows the Clint Eastwood character offering his life as a sacrifice to better the lives of his Hmong neighbors.

You see it also in movies like Saving Private Ryan, The Towering Inferno, The Great Escape, or even National Treasure 2. It is a popular story line because it causes the audience to react & connect with the amazing sacrifice freely being offered on behalf of others.

DL: However, Paul is really emphasizing a very different point today – not just Jesus’ death on the cross, but His resurrection. This is the story of all stories. Why don’t movies emphasize the resurrection theme?

I.M. Wright: The simple reason is that the resurrection doesn’t make for good movies. Think about it. If, thanks to Jesus’ resurrection, death is no longer just a tragic ending but also a beautiful beginning, then how would the main characters act in the tear-jerking medical dramas or even campy horror flicks?

Further, the resurrection forever eliminates the dramatic tension between good & evil. Evil has lost. Good has triumphed. Period. Who would want to watch a sequel to a movie where the outcome was already set in stone in the first movie? There’s a reason the Star Wars movies were so popular – the battle of good vs. evil was always in play. There’s a reason there isn’t a sequel to the Titanic. It sank. End of story. Move along folks, nothing more to see here.

DL: So from your perspective the Resurrection genre isn’t good for story telling.

I.M. Wright: The Resurrection authoritatively provides the conclusion that good has vanquished evil, that death is to be avoided but not feared, that we can have faith in a hopeful tomorrow. So from a movie perspective, there isn’t much left to work with. But I should emphasize, that from a personal perspective, it is awesome!

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

Thursday 6.21.12 Insight from Rev. Glen Shoup

Rev. Glen Shoup is the Congregational Care pastor for members of the Resurrection family who have last names beginning with A – C.

I believe in a living God.  That may seem a fairly innocuous statement of faith on my part (or on the part of anyone) but at it’s core, that is the (radically) particular and specific belief the Apostle Paul was getting at in our reading today and that is the (radically) particular and specific belief that Paul was communicating as essential if one is to get the Christian Faith.  

I’m aware that some of my fellow Christ-seekers struggle to believe in the living God Who was raised from the dead and Who raised from the dead (e.g., Lazarus) and Who promises that He will raise from the dead; and there are moments when I, admittedly, question and struggle futilely to get my mind fully around this notion.  Nevertheless, I believe in a living God.  And I don’t make this leap of belief in disdain for questions, doubts, or critical analyses—in fact quite to the contrary: I make this leap of belief aided by and in full embrace of doubts, questions, and critical analyses.  For you see a living God—by definition—is beyond the scope of my (or any) human analyses to fully comprehend.  If the God in Whom I believed were completely within the margins of my comprehension and incapable of anything beyond the margins of my understanding than the God in Whom I believed would in sum total be…me.  And that god—while at times very appealing due, if nothing else, to his predictability and familiarity—is not a living God but a dead god (or at best, only a temporarily living god).  That god won’t be threatening anybody with new life; that god won’t be resurrecting any corpses; that god won’t be resuscitating any new beginnings or breathing new life into dead marriages or wayward relationships; that god won’t be re-creating any broken systems of power or oppression; that god won’t be freeing any peoples entombed by poverty, war or marginalization; that god won’t resurrect Hope, Life and Faith by coming with Good News specifically for the poor—and that god certainly won’t be taking a fundamentalist, murdering hypocrite named Saul and blinding him with the light and life of the Resurrection and thereby transforming him into Paul…the most prolific apostle of grace the world has ever known—none of that will ever happen with this dead (or only temporarily living) god—-which is why I no longer believe in that god—even if I can completely comprehend him.

I believe in a living God.  One that can’t be controlled or domesticated or co-opted for my pet-projects or agenda—I believe in a God that just won’t confirm to my image of what I think should happen or be but Who graciously calls and invites me to conform to the image of what He’s created and reconciled me (and us) to be.  I believe in a Living God Who is always with me, is never absent, never late, never unaware—a God Who knows everything there is to know about me and yet loves me…just the way I am—but Who loves me too much to leave me the way I am.  I believe in a living God Who forgives the past, redeems the present, and accompanies the future.  I believe in a living God Who was crucified, died and was buried in a borrowed tomb, but on the third day rose from the dead thereby forever providing a pathway we can follow through death into life—and life that is eternal.  I believe in a living God Who moves, creates, and resurrects—a God Who simultaneously stands within time and space and outside of time and space.  I believe in what I sometimes question, occasionally doubt, and never fully comprehend—I believe in the Living God.

In which God/god do you believe?

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

Wednesday 6.20.12 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

“Speaking about what we have seen and heard”

WEDNESDAY 6.20.12   Acts 4:1-20

A story.

Council members gathered to discuss some recent happenings, happenings that did not make them look very good.  “We must keep this message under wraps,” they decided.  Shame stood up declaring “I will persuade them to be quiet by telling them that their message is embarrassing and makes them look foolish.”  Convenience opened his mouth, promising “I will persuade them to keep quiet because their message is legitimate for Sundays but it is not convenient for the workplace to have these types of conversations.”  Insecurity added, “I will convince them that it is impossible for them to say the message perfectly and are better off leaving it to the professionals.”  The elder member, Birds of a Feather, was pleased by the other council members’ ideas.   She leaned in, “I will silence them by suggesting that any talk about this Message makes them just like the other people who share this message with shouting and guilt.  They will be so worried of looking like these persons, they will surely remain quiet.”  With that, each member left the council meeting with their task in hand: to quell the story that threatened to change everything.

Peter and John had a message about the Resurrection of Jesus that was a most inconvenient message.  To the Sadduccees who did not believe that resurrection for anyone existed (That is why they are sad, you see) the Resurrection of Jesus contradicted their beliefs.  To the high priest Caiaphas who was on Rome’s payroll, Jesus’ Resurrection meant that God had the last word and not Rome.  These voices wanted them quiet.  They wanted the message to fizzle. 

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  Acts 4:18-20

While voices tried to quiet Peter and John and their message of Resurrection and Hope, they remained convicted.  “Jesus is Lord, the Conqueror of Death Itself!”  This is THE Good News that will not fizzle.  This is THE Good News that will not remain quiet.

So, what voice is trying to keep you from telling this message?  Is it Shame? Convenience? Insecurity? Birds of a Feather?  Is it something else?  What voice is trying to silence you like the group in Jerusalem tried to silence Peter and John?  Name it.  Then answer that voice by saying:

“Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  Acts 4:18-20

What have you seen and heard about God acting in this world?
Tell it.
Don’t let it fizzle.

Steven Blair
Pastor of Celebrate Recovery and Live Well Emotional Wellness Ministry