Monthly Archives: January 2014

1.31.14 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 6th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

I was watching an infomercial the other evening that I think can help us better understand today’s Scripture.

Wait.  You watched an entire infomercial? -Editor.  The batteries in my television remote went dead & we didn’t have any replacements.  Needless to say, I was p-r-e-t-t-y shaky the rest of the day.  They should pass a law requiring TV remote controls to have a warning light or better yet a gauge alerting you if your battery power is low.  No one should have to live like this. – DL  Um.  You know in the big scheme of things….Oh, never mind. – Editor

It was an ad for the GuiltGrinder 4000 TM.  I logged onto their Facebook page to learn more about the particulars of their product.  Here’s my chat with the inventor, Gill Teey.

DL: Why do you see a need for the GuiltGrinder 4000 TM?

Gill: I got the idea from reading the Bible.  In Leviticus, we learn about the tradition of the scapegoat.  The High Priest would figuratively place the “sins of the community” upon the goat & it would be banished to the wilderness.  This was a tangible sign that these transgressions had been completely eradicated.

DL: Interesting…

Gill:  But wait there’s more.  Similarly, we know in the days of the Temple, that our Jewish friends offered multiple sin offerings to God that gave a follower a concrete symbol of his forgiveness.

Today, many devout Christians know that God has absolved them of their sins, but may not feel like they have been pardoned.  The GuiltGrinder 4000 TM can provide a reminder that we are permanently freed of the shackles of our sins of yesterday & can begin today anew.

DL: I see your point, but does it cheapen the forgiveness process?

Gill: Oh, I hope not.  We cannot forget that when we fall short of God’s hopes & desires for our lives that we have made a serious error.  I always liked the book, “Whatever Became of Sin?” by Dr. Karl Menninger of Topeka, Kansas (A shout-out to our 4 Facebook followers in the Capitol City!).  In his book, Dr. Karl discusses the watering down of the concept of sin to just natural impulses, modest transgressions, or even just a difference of opinion.

But sin is bigger than that.  It separates us from the presence of God.  I think back to the story of the Garden of Eden & I can’t help but think of the sadness God felt.  He loved visiting with His children in the cool of the day and just hearing about all they had done & what they were going to do tomorrow.  When Adam & Eve forced His hand & had to leave, God must have grieved deeply.

Using the lingo of our business we might think of it like this:  God’s grace is free.  The Shipping & Handling had an incredible cost.  However, God didn’t send this gift C.O.D.; He has willingly paid for it in full & up front.  As a result, we definitely do not want it to be unused &  “Returned to Sender”.  So, we should act now.  We should wholeheartedly accept this unmerited gift in all humility & rejoice in its promise of a new life.  Don’t just take my word for it; ask the millions of satisfied Christians.

So, how many GuiltGrinder 4000s TM  would you like?  Or maybe you’d like our InsectZapper 1.0 (“Only available on the web.”) or perhaps the MagicSpin Mop (“Cuts mopping time in half!”)?

DL: Say, if I get two MagicSpin Mops, we wouldn’t spend any time mopping at all.  That would be a perfect Valentine’s Day gift for my wife, Doris.

Gill: Um.  We do have a show airing on February 15 on how to grow your own bouquet of roses in a terrarium.  You might want to go ahead & set your DVR.

DL: Why?

Gill: Oh, never mind.

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

1.30.14 Insight from Janelle Gregory

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

If you ever find yourself flying south of Lima, Peru, make sure to look out the window to view the 190 square miles of ginormous, ancient geoglyphs known to the world as the Nazca Lines.  Believed to be created between 300 BC and 650 AD, these gigantic figures of everything from monkeys to birds to people to artistic designs were created by the Nazca people by scraping away reddish pebbles and uncovering the whitish ground beneath.Nazca_monkey

Scholars have long been puzzled by the purpose of this early artwork. Why would a people go to such painstaking work to create designs that could only be partially seen atop surrounding foothills and fully seen centuries later by flight? Multiple theories have been proposed. Perhaps they marked irrigation lines. Maybe they were meant to communicate their pleas to the gods for fertile land.  Others have thought they map out constellations or the dark spaces between the stars.

nazca birdBut one of my favorite and certainly one of the most fascinating theories behind the lines comes from Erich von Daniken in his 1968 book “Chariots of the Gods”… alien landing strips. No, really. Because doesn’t it make sense that extraterrestrial beings would fly over a land, shouting down instructions to the villagers (in their native tongue none-the-less) to carve out large designs in the shapes of monkeys and such so that they could land their U.F.O.s? Perfectly plausible, right?!

The absurdity of concept makes me giggle and hypothesize about the possible substances that may have aided von Daniken in his speculations. It was the 60’s after all.

Yet in my mocking of space invader suppositions, I’d be remiss not to examine and ruminate over my own beliefs as a Christian. While growing up in the faith has given me the advantage of understanding certain aspects to be true, there’s a lot of what we believe that to the unknowing ear sounds a bit… well, frankly it sounds downright wacky – like alien landing strip wacky.

I mean, really – mysterious, spiritual conception in the body of a virgin of a God who would become a human; be born with the animals; work against and not with the religious rulers of the day; perform outlandish miracles like giving sight to the blind and raising people from the dead; would be ridiculed by the crowds; die as a criminal; come back from the dead; and live in an unknown world beyond this dimension where He rules with his Heavenly Father who, by the way, is also actually Him along with an invisible Spirit who helps to personally comfort and guide people to this day through “nudges” and voices that can’t be heard. To be honest, I think I’d be more inclined to believe in alien landing strips.

If you’re looking for your religion to fall within any sort of realm of normalcy or regularity, you’ve certainly taken a wrong turn somewhere along the Boulevard of Beliefs. In no way does Christianity make sense. In fact, a lack of faith would seem to make a lot of sense.

That is, unless the wacky faith that we believe just happens to be true. It’s in that light that the very things that are perceived to be preposterous find an unexpected beauty. There is strength in worshipping a powerful God who humbles Himself as a servant. There is comfort in knowing that our Savior understands the pain amidst suffering. There is hope from a Redeemer who refuses to be bound by the confines of life and death. In no way do these things make sense, but in every way do they make life.

We have to be open to the realization that God will frequently be surprising. As Soren Kierkegaard pointed out, “the movements of faith must constantly be made by virtue of the absurd.” Trouble arises when we expect God to make sense, even within our own understanding of Christianity as many of the essential aspects of our faith first appear to be zany. If we know anything about the way God works, we will embrace that He often moves in ways that are unpredictable, ludicrous, and occasionally downright wacky.

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

1.29.14 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 New Member Welcome Team,  the Reconnection Team, Holy Communion preparation, and our Spiritual Gifts Discovery classes and Placement.


 For many years, the church I grew up in often put on an Easter musical/drama, depicting scenes from the Gospels. Some of these scenes were of Jesus’ earlier life and teachings (one year I portrayed the adulterous woman from John 8), his miracles, the crucifixion (another year, I portrayed Mary, the wife of Clopas), and the resurrection. Some of our performances included live animals, pyrotechnics, and lots of theatrics. Our goal was to bring the story of Jesus to life, to give our audience a chance to come to know who he is and what a gift his death and resurrection is.

One year, my brother portrayed Jesus, and when he struggled down the aisle of the church, carrying the crossbar of the cross while soldiers whipped him (he wore padding under his costume to soften the blows), the horror of a dear loved one being punished and tortured unjustly became more real to me than it ever had before.

One of the things that always strikes me when reading about Jesus, but especially after seeing his life animated through various actors, is his humility. Most people are drawn to a humble person. Not necessarily someone who is weak, but someone whose priority is putting others’ interests above his own. Throughout the Gospels, that’s what Jesus did. He taught about loving our neighbors, and he looked out for the lost and lonely, the sick and poor. Ultimately, he gave up his life by a humiliating death on a Roman cross. Even though he asked God to “take this cup from [him]” (Matthew 26:39 and Mark 14:35-46), he was willing to do whatever it took to put the future of humankind above his own life.

We become like whomever we emulate. When we choose to follow a king who is humble, who puts the wellbeing of others above his needs, we have a chance to become more like him. It is easy to see the grandeur of a leader who seems all powerful and strong and larger than life because of wealth or might, but we have a king who shows us a better way.

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

1.28.14 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.

My purse has several zippered pockets. My husband can attest to this. Whenever I’ve asked him to grab something out of my purse for me, I usually end up shouting something to the effect of “not that pocket, the other pocket!” from across the room. This week I was zipping one of those pockets closed (the outside pocket on the left, if you must know) when the zipper handle pulled off the zipper completely. The handle was in my hand, no longer helpful in opening or closing the pocket. I tried for quite a while but was not able to reattach it. So at this point, I am left with a pocket that does not open and I don’t have a clue what the contents of that pocket are.

All of this happened right before I went into worship this weekend. So as I heard Pastor Adam preaching about the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection and admitting that there are many ways to understand its importance, I couldn’t help but remember my broken zipper pocket. You see, when we struggle to understand a complicated theological concept, I’m afraid we think of it as a pocket of knowledge that we simply can’t access. Like there is a simple, concise explanation out there somewhere, if only we had a way to retrieve it. But Adam explained that there are many different atonement theories and that scholars have been studying this for years on end which means there isn’t a trick you’re missing if you’re left feeling a little confused. Instead, we are invited to learn as much as we can, then embrace the mystery that still has the power to speak to our hearts.

Thank you, God, that even though we may not fully understand how Christ’s death on the cross gives us new life, that you still allow us to be part of the story and receive the atonement, reconciliation, and redemption that you want each one of us to have. Amen.

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

1.27.14 Insight from Chris Holliday

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

As I reflected on Pastor Adam’s sermon and Mark 8:31-37, I created a playlist to help guide you through your devotional time today. These are songs that have touched my heart and helped me consider the meaning of the cross, the depths of God’s love for me, the freedom of redemption, and how I might take up my cross and follow Jesus. I hope they do the same and more for you. Thanks be to God for this amazing new day of life and breath. God bless you.

Lead Me to the Cross by Hillsong United

Amazed by Jared Anderson

Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave

Take My Life by Chris Tomlin

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

1.25.14 Insight from Yvonne Gentile

Yvonne Gentile serves on The Church of the Resurrection staff as the Director of Connections. Yvonne directs the team that helps people get connected into the life of the church through service, studies, group life, and other ways of involvement.

I heard a friend say once, “It’s not the passages that I don’t understand in the Bible that bother me so much – it’s the ones I DO understand, because they’re convicting.”  The Scripture in our reading today is a passage that challenges me in that way (specifically verses 10-13, below from the New Living Translation):

10Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”

12When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” – Matthew 9:10-13, NLT

Last year a group of our staff completed a training program called Dignity Serves. It’s designed to help those going out to serve others see the people they plan to serve through God’s eyes, so they can both give to and receive from the community they are serving. Then they can build authentic relationships and work together for good in a way that preserves the dignity of the individuals living in the community.

In one of the exercises, the facilitator (Phil) had us imagine a number of people and then write one-word descriptions of them on index cards. The people were: a homeless man pushing a shopping cart, a prostitute, a drug dealer, and the person in your life that you are having the most difficulty with right now. I gave those folks the same kind of unflattering labels you probably did as you read the descriptions. Then Phil had us write down 7 key facets of our identity, and imagine how we would feel if we were stripped of those parts of ourselves one-by-one until there was no “me” left.  What unexpected turns might our lives take? That exercise brought up some powerful feelings for me, and made me realize how quickly I judge others without considering the cascade of circumstances that might have led them to their current situation. I was, and still am more often than I’d like, a modern-day Pharisee.

The ironic thing is: I’ve been in their shoes. I have been one of “them.”  I’ve been homeless. When I was teenager, pregnant with my daughter, I lived for several weeks in a blue 1970 Volkswagen station wagon. I have begged for money for food. I’ve experienced how a person’s life can be impacted by bad choices and even circumstances beyond their control. Yet I still tend to label first without really seeing the person in front of me. I think I am righteous, but I am not. When I am mindful of that I say, “Oh God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.”

Our Scripture passage today still challenges me, but I’m working on it.  When I see someone who’s different from me, I’m learning to ask, “What’s this person’s story?” Even imagining a story for them brings forth mercy and compassion, rather than judgment. There’s a prayer I’ve adopted because it gets to the heart of how I want to treat others: Dear God, the people I will interact with today are your children, made in your image. Help me see them with your eyes, listen to them with your ears, love them with your heart, and serve them with your hands.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

1.24.14 Insight from Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Visitor Connections Program Director in Resurrection’s Guest Services Ministry.

I often feel like I live under the tyranny of the immediate.  I woke up this morning to my two year old standing next to my bed telling me, “Mama, I want chocolate milk.  Mama, I want chocolate milk. Mama, I want chocolate milk.”  She didn’t seem to care that it was 5:45am or that I was previously sound asleep.  In fact, her response to “give me a minute” was to make her request into a song.  A song she sang over and over and over again until I got out of bed and got her some chocolate milk.  By 6:15am, my other three children had also made their way downstairs to politely demand their chocolate milk.  When dealing with children, the demand for instant attention is expected. Although, I confess I hope mine grow out of it quickly or at least learn to curb it until after 7am.  That or I might start locking my door.

I wish I could say that only my children struggle with the need for an instant response, but that just wouldn’t be true.  I often find myself in the same boat.  Sending an email and expecting an immediate response, wanting the drive thru line at Starbucks to move quicker, or feeling frustrated that I’ve worked out four days in a row and I’m still not skinny!  We live in a culture that has trained us to want immediate attention to our requests.  So if this is true of me (and I’m guessing you too), why then do I find myself wondering if Jesus wasn’t being a little unreasonable when he told the disciples to “come and follow me”?  As I read through the passage, I instantly started making excuses for the disciples.

“I would love to follow you, Jesus, but I have a report due that really needs to get done.”

“I would follow you now, Jesus, but this dinner isn’t going to cook itself.”

“I would love to follow you, Jesus, but I have to run the kids to soccer practice.”

“I would follow you now, but then who would fold all this laundry?”

Okay so that last one isn’t really a reason not to follow immediately.  Any excuse to get out of laundry is a good one.  Seriously though, what stops me from immediately dropping my nets and following Jesus?  And what does “dropping my net” look like?  Most often in my life, my nets have been opportunities to show God’s love to others.  Daily I am presented with opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to follow in his example.  Catching those opportunities means I have to be present in each moment of life.  Stopping to chat with a neighbor who seems upset means I have to first notice they are upset and then sacrifice whatever else is going on to meet that need.  And sacrifice is perhaps the wrong word because, when I stop and immediately follow Jesus, I am often more blessed than whomever I am helping.   I believe there are times when God makes the big ask of us.  Take this job.  Move here.  Give here.  I hope that when those times come I am able to quickly follow.  Until then, I can practice my response time in the daily opportunities that I am called to follow in.  In doing so, I pray that I develop a heart that leaps at the words “come and follow”.

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

1.23.14 Insight from Rev. Glen Shoup

Rev. Glen Shoup is the Executive Pastor of Worship and Congregational Care pastor.

First and foremost, the cross is an instrument of death.  Strange, isn’t it?  When the God of the cosmos would choose to incarnate—(…the Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us…John 1:14)—when ImmanuelGod with us…is born to us at Christmas and then lives among us to show us what it looks like to be fully human and then chooses an instrument of death (a Roman cross) as the central representation of His Lordship…well that seem strange, doesn’t it?  Why would God do it this way?

Maybe He wanted to show us that more important than being successful; more important than being well-heeled and well-adjusted; more important than being comfortable and conforming—more important than anything was living fully human as God intended and designed.  Living and serving those whom the system devalues and marginalizes.  Living and caring about those who are outcast and forgotten.  Finding your center and purpose in pleasing God through loving others whether that gets you ahead or gets you hated.  Living to challenge those who view power as something to be pursued rather than given away.  Living in a way that exposes the hypocrisy, greed and artificiality of those who would seek to sit in God’s place of judgment and Lordship.

Maybe Jesus chose the cross because he was trying say Look, even if you live this fully human life of seeking to love God fully and love others continually and everybody rejects you and ultimately crucifies you, you don’t have to fear that—because even then—My Love Wins…life overcomes death because Easter is going to come.

I don’t really know why Jesus chose the dominant culture’s instrument of death as His central representation, but here’s what I do know: when Jesus tells us in today’s reading to take up and carry our cross, Jesus isn’t kidding around—Jesus is calling us to die—and He’s serious.  Oh, He’s not being literal (remember, as so importantly pointed out by our pastor this past week—Jesus clearly doesn’t always intend to be taken literally but he does always intend to be taken seriously), but there’s nothing He says with more seriousness.  You can’t honestly read what Jesus has to say about following Him and not understand that Jesus is seriously calling everyone who would come after Him to take up their own cross…and die; die to ourselves, die to our own desire to be our own lord, die to materialism, die to our self-obsession and self-promotion, die to everything that would even hint at getting in the way of us seeking to fully love God by continually loving others—die to everything that would get in the way of us following Jesus…even if that means we get crucified in the process.

And if we’re really going to take Jesus seriously, we’ve got to realize (as the rest of today’s scripture points out) that there are going to be costs and we better count them.  Do we take Jesus literally when he says that all who would follow Him must hate their father and mother? No; but we take him seriously recognizing that in that culture, where wealth and financial security was passed on solely through your family blood lines that Jesus means it when He effectively says—following me has to matter more to you than your inheritance or trust fund.  Do we take Jesus literally when he says whoever would follow Him must hate your spouse, your children, your brothers and sisters? No; but we take him seriously in His effectively saying—if you’re going to follow me then that’s got to be more important to you than what your husband/wife and family think—if it comes down to their approval and support or following me…following me has to come first.

Make no mistake about it, taking Jesus seriously can be even more demanding than taking Jesus literally.  Taking up a cross and seeking to die daily to my own tendency to put what I want first is serious and demanding business.  But Jesus says that if we’re going to follow Him and truly live authentically human as He incarnated and modeled—then taking up our own cross daily is exactly what we are going to need to do.

Lord help me to choose Your strength today as I seek to follow You…seriously.

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

1.22.14 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

Rev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care pastor of Live Forward and Live Well Emotional Wellness Ministry.

It’s Too Hard?
WEDNESDAY 1.22.14   Mark 10:17-27

“It’s too hard!!”   What parent hasn’t heard this from their kids at one point? Children and youth have uttered those words about homework, athletics, chores and other areas.   Adults can also claim “It’s too hard” when facing New Year’s Resolutions or getting past an old wound.  Often, the words “It’s too hard” paralyzes us and blocks anything really good from happening.

Today’s Scripture describes a moment where “It’s too hard” would have been an appropriate response.    Not from a child or an adult, but from God.

25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved? 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

When Jesus sees the rich man and claims that it is difficult for a ‘very rich’ man to be saved, he doesn’t end the warning with “It’s too hard for me to save you.”    This is truly Good News.   God doesn’t look at our spiritual condition and say ‘It’s too hard.’

God is resilient.

God keeps at it.

God doesn’t give up on us.

Whether we are ‘very rich,’ very addicted, very codependent, or very hurt God is not overwhelmed with our condition.

It is not “too hard” for the Persistent, Resilient God.

Regardless of your condition, place yourself in God’s care today so God can get to work transforming your heart.  Keep at it as God keeps at it.

It may be difficult to become a new creation.
But it isn’t  “too hard” for it to happen.Pastor Steven Blair

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

1.21.14 Insight from Shawn Simpson

Shawn Simpson serves as the Director of Technical Arts and Operations at The Church of the Resurrection’s West campus in Olathe, KS.

I’m a big fan of using metaphors, analogies, and hyperbole. In a communications class in high school, I once had one day to write and deliver a three minute informative speech on a topic drawn from a hat. I had a one word topic: “Finesse.” After thinking on it for a little while, and rejecting the idea of writing a speech about hair care products, I chose to speak on the delicate use of spoken and written language. In some book that I couldn’t possibly recall, I found a quote that described finesse as “the difference between using chopsticks to gently pick up your food versus stabbing it with a fork.” That quote stuck out to me and immediately made a connection to how I like to write and communicate.

When I was teaching audio engineering in my previous life, I probably overused analogies and metaphors. My students weren’t often people with a lot of education in areas that would make understanding the more abstract elements easier. My solution was to break down concepts into real world comparisons. While I wasn’t blazing any new trails in education, I did feel like I was breaking down some barriers that stood between my students’ musical ambitions and effectively using the tools to realize them. So rather than stabbing the ideas with a fork, I’d try to show them the size and shape of what we were looking at so they could pick it up themselves. Rather than a close examination of digital synchronization between multiple devices, we’d discuss the use of a cadence in marching armies. Rather than getting into the specifics of hard disk optimization for playback, I’d tell them about how their big water heater works as compared to a tankless system.

Like my students and their inexperience in the science and math of audio engineering, I lack a lot of fundamental character discipline that a teacher like Jesus would have. No matter how many times I explained the 1’s and 0’s of a digital audio system, it would be lost on someone who speaks in bars and beats. Hammering me over the head with rules to get into heaven is just as likely to be lost, given what I lack in understanding. Enter Jesus, who cuts directly TO the point, but without beating the same drum. Rather than “sin is bad and you shouldn’t do it…” we get “if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away…because it’s better to go to heaven with one eye than hell with two.” For a person who may know the rules, but not exactly how to apply them, this is a very helpful passage. Like the GPS says, Jesus is telling us to do whatever we have to in order to leave sin behind and seek the kingdom of God.

(And in case anyone cares, I think I got a B+ on the speech.  I’m pretty sure I tried to pack as many neat metaphors and analogies into three minutes as I could and ended up delivering a jumbled mess.)

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