Monthly Archives: December 2014

12.31.14 Insight from Angela LaVallie

Angela LaVallie is the Worship Logistics Program Director at Resurrection. She oversees preparing the Sanctuary for worship, supports Vibe worship and volunteers in the Student Center, provides oversight for Holy Communion at the Leawood campus, and assists with worship logistics at conferences.

During a worship time once, a small group and I were lead through a guided meditation exercise to help us to focus on just being with Jesus. We were asked to picture ourselves in a peaceful, comfortable space (for me, it was a porch swing looking out toward the Grand Canyon) with Jesus sitting next to us. We were to hold that vision of just being with Jesus for an extended time – maybe ten minutes. We were to choose a word representing what we needed from Jesus at that time (I chose sustainer), and any time our mind wandered, we were to use that word to bring us back to where we were sitting with Jesus.

This was a great exercise to learn to just be in the presence of Jesus. I have also used this practice a few times when I have felt nervous, anxious, or overwhelmed. It is easy to know with your head that Christ is with you, but it’s helpful for me to be able to picture him sitting there next to me – on a porch swing at the Grand Canyon, in the passenger seat of my car, in my room when I’m lying in bed worried about something late at night, wherever.

I haven’t had any major “rough waters” in my life, but I think knowing Christ is present with me in the little things will help me to believe he is there with when I need him in the big things.

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

12.30.14 Insight from Rev. Glen Shoup

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

Worry is the errand-boy of fear.  It does fear’s bidding, carries its water, heightens our senses to all the variable “if this than that” scenarios that can possibly be imagined without regard for the fact that rarely do any of those scenarios materialize…and in the minority of cases where those scenarios do occur—they almost never happen with the degree of devastation that we worried they would—which is why worry is the enemy of peace.

But then if you really stop to think about it, the fact that worry is the enemy of peace makes perfect sense.  Why?  Because the entity which worry harbinger’s, has its sights squarely set on undermining that gift God wishes to give us that produces peace—namely—Faith.

You see the enemy (or the opposite) of Faith is not doubt…as we’re often prone to assume.  No, faith and doubt can co-exist quite well in any thinking mind and heart.  So if the opposite and opposing force of Faith isn’t doubt—what is it?

It’s Fear—plain and simple.

Fear is like a heat-seeking missile targeting the destruction of faith.  But unlike most explosives, the destructive blow that fear seeks to employ on faith isn’t immediate and spectacular; rather it’s gradual and easily ignored.  Which is where worry comes in…as the handmaiden of fear…trotting out ahead of fear to distract, entangle and occupy—not with stability-shattering fear which cripples and leaves its victims paralyzed with terrorizing inertia—but simply with an obsessive concern over “what if” scenarios.  And then once we have gradually drunk in the deluge of concern that rises from all the different possibilities of what could go wrong (worry) we are in prime position to be over-run by the one whom worry came to prepare the way for (fear)—and in the process we have allowed worry to strip away our peace and then we watch impotently as fear does a hatchet job on our faith.

You say Glen you’re overstating it!  Really?  Think about the times and places in your life where you worried.  I don’t mean worried that if you didn’t leave right away you might be late—I mean really worried—up late, awake early—can’t sleep can’t eat kind-of-worried.  Have much peace in those times?  No, I didn’t think so.  Why?  Because of the deluge of concern you were drinking in over “what if” scenarios.  And at some point, if you didn’t get a reality-check on that—what happened…you were a sitting duck for fear to begin its neutralizing work…and in the process, your faith was eroded and non-existent.

No, I’m not overstating it and we both know it.  And most importantly, Jesus knows it.  Which is why he said what he said in our reading today—a reading you and I would do well not just to read…but to commit to memory.

You see, you never know when fear’s errand-boy is going come knocking on your door.  And when he does—you’ll need to remember not what I have to say about it—but what Jesus has to say about it.

Worries (and fear) are like any human emotions we feel; we have no control over them.  They come to us involuntarily.  However what we do with them—whether we make space for them or whether we shut the door in their face—that is our choice!

Which is why Jesus said to his disciplesdon’t worry

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

12.29.14 Insight from Chris Holliday

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

Today’s GPS prayer is as follows:

God, I’m scared about something too much of the time. But you’re the maker and sustainer of all that is, and your word says, over and over, “Do not fear.” Help me learn to listen better, and to trust you. Amen.

As I prayed that prayer, I thought of the things I fear in life and the pain and suffering we all experience to various degrees as we journey on together. The challenges we face can be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual or maybe a mix of all the above.  We are significantly impacted by loss, betrayal, brokenness, depression, major sickness and more.  And some of the questions that often arise during those difficult times are:  Why did this happen to me? Did God do this? Where is God now? We may become afraid of all that has happened and all that is to come, and we may start to wonder if we can really trust God.

Personally, I do not believe God causes the bad things to happen. What I do believe is that God walks beside us, cries with us and even carries us when we haven’t the strength to go on. I believe God does this throughout our whole lives, and most especially when we are suffering and in the depths of life’s valleys. In times of challenge, I believe it is crucially important to remember the words we find God relaying to us over and over in Scripture, “Do not fear”.  And the good news is – if we lean into those words and trust God, and if we listen and stay open to God’s leading, then God can and will help us bring good out of even the worst situations.

May we fear not and may we trust in our compassionate Creator. May we allow God to make beautiful things out of our lives and embrace God’s many promises of hope and new life – promises like these.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

10Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. . . . 13For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:10,13)

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

12.27.14 Insight from Brent Messick


Brent Messick is Resurrection’s Managing Executive Director of Operations.

When I read this Scripture passage, I think of my grandchildren. Most grandparents that I know love to talk about their grandchildren. When Adam talks about Stella, you can feel how much love he has for little Stella. If you’re not a grandparent yet, just wait. It is pretty cool.

We have a grandson, who is four years, a granddaughter, who is one year old, and a third one on the way in March. When our grandchildren were born, and I held these new little babies in my arms, they reminded me of the births of my son and daughter. The feelings of love and adoration just washed over me and consumed me again.

The love that we have for our children and grandchildren when they are born is instantaneous. It is amazing and it is humbling.

And this is what I think about when I read this Scripture passage. The beggar was born blind, Jesus heals him, and now he can see. Jesus’ love for the blind man is like our love for our children and grandchildren when they are born.

These babies are born where they have no sense of world around them. They are blind. But then their parents, and grandparents, get to hold them and love them. And they feel this love and start to settle down. They can “see”.

This how I think about Jesus’ love for the blind man and for us. Jesus loves us so much that he wants us to see. He doesn’t want us to be blind spiritually. And when we are blessed with this sight, we can use it to be a blessing to others. Just like our grandchildren are to us.

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

 

12.26.14 Insight from Phil Antilla

philgpsPhil Antilla serves as the program director for Young Adult and College Ministry. Before coming to Church of the Resurrection, Phil served as an associate pastor at a local church in Shawnee. www.cor.org/youngadults

The introduction from 1 John is an appropriate Christmas greeting for us today:

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.”

Thanks be to God!

It is good news indeed that Christ has come into the world, because as the author of 1 John writes, “In him there is no darkness.”

However, once the Christmas season fades, and the decorations get packaged up, many of us may still feel that there is much to be troubled by.

Perhaps you may be wondering, “If Christ has come, why does it feel that I am walking in darkness?”

The prologue of the Gospel of John states this same sentiment: “He [Jesus] was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to that which was his own, and his own did not accept him.”

While Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, it must also come hand in hand with the reality that to be born is to be made capable of death. Let me say that once more. To be born is to be made capable of death. All who live will die. This is not meant to strike fear in the minds of anyone; it is simply the truth of our mortality.

We must remember that the same Christ, who lives eternally, also lived in the human flesh. Jesus actually died. And Jesus did suffer. Not only on the cross, but also in his life. Again, the Gospel of John tells us “all things came into being through him [Jesus],” and yet “they did not know him.”

How painful must this have been for Jesus? To see the good in all people and yet to watch as we regularly turn our backs from him?

Perhaps you too know what this is like. You are aware of the good that can be, but you are also aware of the darkness that surrounds us.

In today’s text, the disciples try to ask Jesus why a “bad thing” has happened. Why was this man born blind? Perhaps we might ask similar questions; “Why was this child born premature? Why did this infant die?” We must acknowledge that bad things happen. However, even in our text today we are reminded that Christ works through all things. Like the blind man in John 9, you were made so that Christ could be revealed in you. No amount of darkness will overcome the light of Jesus Christ.

This does not eliminate hardship in this life. But with Christ, we can be sure that our future will be better than our past.

In this season of Christmas, may you remember that the light of all life has come into the world, and though the light shines in the darkness, the darkness has not overcome it.

Happy Christmas!

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

12.25.14 Insight From Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality at Saint Paul School of Theology at OCU. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. For 25 years, Amy has taught theology and history, pursuing scholarship in service of the church.  

Merry Christmas! The Christmas story is full of God breaking into the lives of everyday people. Maybe you are not a religious person, or don’t think of yourself as very religious. Neither were Mary and Joseph. Neither were the shepherds in today’s scripture. In fact, shepherds couldn’t keep all the religious rules about purity, so religious people looked down on them. None of the main characters in the Christmas story were very religious people. God did not choose the most spectacular or impressive people as avenues for his message of love. He chose people like you and like the others you gather with today—regular, maybe not-so-religious people.

Sometimes I am tempted to want the god of the special and the spectacular. I want God to be spectacular, do spectacular things through exceptional people. Sometimes I don’t know how to even see or believe God is doing anything at all unless it is spectacular.

The Christmas story tells me that the key here is to not look for the spectacular, but to look for the ordinary. Look deeply into the ordinary, for that is where God is doing extraordinary things. Ordinary field workers are made into cosmic messengers. A lowly young woman becomes bearer of the Light of the world. A vulnerable baby in a manger is the Savior of all people.

Today in your life God comes into the ordinary—as you hold hands around a table or through a voice on the phone, maybe in an awkward conversation or a memory that stirs—with extraordinary good news: God’s love is unfailing, relentless, and ever present. Today you are just like the shepherds, an ordinary person who will receive and proclaim the message of God’s amazing love, “good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

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

12.24.14 Insight from Kari Burgess

Kari Burgess is a Program Director for the Catalyst team, handling promotion and marketing for all of the conferences held at Resurrection, as well as registration and coordinating hospitality volunteers.

Some of my earliest Christmas memories are of my father sitting in his big armchair with the family King James Bible, reading the Christmas story from Luke, starting with today’s passage. For as long as I can youngkarigpsremember, we’ve gathered around his chair each Christmas and read this story. In the early days, it would be on Christmas Eve. We would have dinner (mom would always make oyster stew for my dad, much to the dismay of the rest of us), read the Christmas story and choose one gift under the tree to open. (Note: in the 1975 photo at right, Kari is the blond looking at the camera.) We would then go to candlelight Christmas Eve service at 11:00pm. It was magic to me that it was Christmas when we left the Sanctuary after singing “Joy to the World” in candlelight.

In more recent years, the tradition has continued but with a few changes as we kids now have families and extended families of our own. Christmas with my family is now generally celebrated a day or two after the 25th. But it does not matter the day we celebrate—it is that we find a time to celebrate together.

We still gather around dad’s chair, but now there are eight grandchildren who clamor for a good Savannah 2012spot near Papa. Some years there has been much wiggling by littler ones and some heavy sighing from teenagers. No matter. He passes the large Bible around, so each grandchild can have a turn reading a portion of the story. Each eagerly takes their turn, Papa helping with some of the trickier words. One part of the tradition doesn’t change: each time, I get a lump in my throat watching as my father instills the importance of scripture and the true meaning of Christmas to all of his grandchildren.

In the midst Papa and Nina and the grandkids 2012of all of the hubbub around the holidays—the shopping, the wrapping, the gift giving, the cookie making, the lavish meals and parties, it is important to my father that we take this time to be reverent and acknowledge the birth of our Savior. He continues the tradition in part to shape and form his grandchildren in the faith that has been central to his life. But the tradition is just as important to the adults in the room as a reminder of where our focus should be: on the Christ child, born in such humble circumstances to save us from ourselves. I am grateful to my earthly father for this gift of tradition. And grateful to my Heavenly Father for the greatest gift, the gift of his Son, given to all of us.

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

12.23.14 Insight from Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at the Vibe, West, and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

The opening of the gospel of John is one of my favorite passages of scripture. John mentions a concept that was very familiar to first century people, but is relatively unknown to us: Logos. The Greek philosophers defined and developed this concept as they invented and refined philosophy as an art. At first, the word simply meant an opinion or an account. The Sophists applied it to discourse, as they spent time discussing teaching things like virtue and excellence through rhetoric and philosophy. Aristotle brought it a step further and defined it as reasoned discourse–it wasn’t simply an opinion, it was an opinion that made sense of the world and used higher thought to bring understanding. Over time, it came to mean an underlying sense of logic and order that ran through our universe and everything in it. Learning more about the Logos meant you knew how life worked. Later on, the Stoic philosophers stated it was a divine logic that set the world in motion–it was the gods themselves that imbued our world with this logic, and it was our mission to spend our entire lives trying to understand this logic so we could learn more about life and the universe. The Jewish philosopher Philo would later say that our God was the Logos, and this gave a new understanding to both parties.

But John, in this passage, says something none of them had ever dreamed of: the Logos became flesh and dwelled among us. Like many philosophers before them, Jewish believers had a vague understanding of Logos (God), and sought to learn more about Him, did not recognize Him (verse 10). Unlike the Greek concept of this grand but ultimately unfathomable concept, God came into the world to make known the underlying logic and order of the universe. He came so that we would be able to know Him, to see Him, to learn from Him, and to finally understand Him.

Christmas is the time of year that we celebrate that God was not content with us having a vague understanding of Him. He wanted us to know Him like He knew us. It was such a monumental event that John likened it to being given an entirely new life–being born a second time, into a divine family.

The term “born again” is thrown around so much today that it’s lost a lot of its meaning and impact. For many of us, we don’t take the time to truly contemplate how this new life is different from the old life, how the new family is different from the old one, and how this new understanding has changed our perception of the world. So here’s what I want you to do in your spare time this holiday: think about and define what this new life means to you. And don’t use convoluted spiritual terminology that will surely impress your Christian friends–put it in the same language you use everyday to talk to people. Write it down to make sure you think it all the way through. You don’t have to share it with anyone (although you might want to!)–this is more for your benefit. When you’re done, hopefully you’ll have one more thing to truly give thanks for this Christmas season.

But the best part is that that’s not the end of your story. Hopefully this exercise also got you thinking about other ways you want God to be your Logos, how you want to gain a better understanding of life and the universe. God, the Logos, came into the world to grant us understanding. This next year, always be on the lookout for ways that God can teach you, grant you a greater understanding, and be for you a change worthy of the name “born again.”

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

12.22.14 Insight from Donna Karlen

Donna Karlen serves in Campus Communications at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

I think the thing that really turned Scrooge against Christmas was tangled lights. I’m convinced my light strings move around while in storage, because it doesn’t matter how carefully I separate each string and wrap them up, by the next December, they’re a tangled mess. (Certainly makes me want to growl, “Bah humbug” or worse …)

And yet once the lights are up – twinkling in our Christmas tree, shining along the banister and fireplace mantel and framing the front door – the frustrating work of untangling that mess becomes so worth it.

Such is the light of Jesus. Our lives may get tangled up into a real mess sometimes. His light still shines. We may haul it out each December and then try to put it into storage for awhile. His light still shines. And when we let his light into our hearts – it becomes so worth it.

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

12.20.14 Insight from Dave Robertson

Dave Robertson is the Director of Community Life at The Church of the Resurrection’s West Campus. (Dave first shared this reflection on Revelation 21 on July 26, 2014.)

I love the passage from Revelation 21:5 which says, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’  Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”  One of the reasons I love these words is they are recorded at the end of our Bible and because of what happened at the beginning of the Bible.

Dennis Garvin says it this way, “The last Bible I looked at contained over 2000 pages, and you humans managed to get yourself kicked out of Paradise by page 5. That has to be some kind of record.” God set us up for paradise with God and yet that wasn’t good enough for us. We now get to taste what life outside of paradise is like while ever longing for what was lost.  While we seek and strive for the Kingdom of God, we receive from God glimpses from time to time to show us what it is like. We also have God’s trustworthy, true promises to stand on.

One such time I received a glimpse was when I was in college. I never knew my grandparents, three of whom died before I was born. After my mother’s death, my father remarried and my step-mother’s parents were still living. I considered them grandparents. I was in college when my step-grandmother, Honey (her nickname) died. I had a three-hour drive back home and I remember being sad about her loss. I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular when all of a sudden, as I was driving, the Spirit of joy filled my mind and body. For a brief glimpse I felt like I was experiencing what Honey was experiencing–the pure joy of salvation and paradise with God. I believe God had made her new with a new spiritual body. I also believe God to be at work in this world making it new, getting us back to where God originally designed us.

This experience has lingered in my soul these 30 years. I long for that time of getting to once again experience that level of joy, but am also grateful for the chance to experience it already in that small moment in time. It was truly a down payment and a foretaste of heaven.

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