Monthly Archives: August 2015

8.31.15 – Insights from Donna Karlen

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

“The Lord God proclaims: I will put my breath in you and you will live.”

For me, the journey of discovering the Holy Spirit began with singing the Gloria Patri in church: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.” It wasn’t a great beginning. Ghosts were scary beings haunting people in those horror movies I couldn’t stand, or they were kids dressed up for Halloween (my own ghost costume experience in 4th grade consisted of the sheet getting twisted around so the eye holes ended up somewhere over an ear, which was closely followed by me running smack into the gym wall during the costume parade – yeah, wasn’t a fan of anything labeled ‘ghost’ back then).

But fortunately, the spirit moved me beyond that particular embarrassing episode in my life, and I next remember discussing the concept of the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity. My Sunday school teacher invited us to see the Trinity like an apple with three parts: the skin, the tasty fruity stuff and the seeds – but as still one apple. That concept broke down a little when our discussion migrated to who was represented by each part. “The skin surrounds the apple like the Holy Spirit surrounds us… God should be the seeds because you can’t get the apples unless the seeds are planted, and God was first… But we spit out the seeds and I don’t want to spit out God…” It was a lively, “spirited” debate, but perhaps the teacher tried a different analogy with her next class.

My next Holy Spirit lesson? “The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Of course my path to discovering the Holy Spirit in my life has been marked by many inspiring scripture passages such as Romans 8:26-27: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (Love that last part!)

And one of my favorite hymns, The Spirit Song:
O let the Son of God enfold you
With His Spirit and His love
Let Him fill your heart and satisfy your soul
O let Him have the things that hold you
And His Spirit like a dove
Will descend upon your life and make you whole
© 1979 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing

I have traveled far on my journey with the Holy Spirit – from fearful apparition to guiding, comforting, filling presence in my life. And everyday I want to open up myself to this breath of God that comes in sighs too deep for words – breath to make me live!

What’s your Holy Spirit journey?

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

8.29.15 Insights from Rev. Penny Ellwood

PennyEllwoodGPSRev. Penny Ellwood is the Campus Pastor at Resurrection Blue Springs.

I was speaking with a church member this week who has been through some really tough times. A few years ago his life bottomed out due to an addiction but in the process of recovery he met Jesus. This relationship with Jesus he credits with turning his whole life around. He said he would never want to go through what he’s been through again– but, if it were the only way to meet Jesus, he would do it. Meeting Jesus has changed his whole life for the better.

It seems that if there is one person we should all take the time to get to know in a personal way, it’s Jesus. Knowing Jesus has made a profound difference in my life too. My relationship with Jesus impacts all the other relationships in my life and is responsible in great part for the happiness I have experienced in my marriage and in my family. It has brought me into community with others, literally, all over the world. Jesus is the link to a great big family.

Yet, in saying this, I know that I don’t know Jesus nearly as well as I’d like to know him. I say this for two reasons. One, the more I get to know Jesus, the more I realize how little I really know him. And two, life has a way of getting in the way. Sometimes I make good progress and other times I don’t. The craziest thing about all this is that when I am working to discover or encounter Jesus, my life tends to makes more sense and I find that I have more desire and ability to be faithful to God and to all the other relationships going on in my life.

So I want to ask you a question–how well do you know Jesus? God the Father wants us to know his Son. Why don’t you think about joining me this fall in rediscovering Jesus or encountering him for the first time? There are many great opportunities to discover Jesus being offered at every campus of Resurrection right now. I encourage you to take a look at the websites for the classes and experiences being offered and join one. I think you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in your life.

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

8.28.15 – Insights from Darren Lippe

Darren_LippeDarren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

This past week Doris & I attended a Crossroads Luncheon at Resurrection featuring an interesting presentation about President Harry S. Truman. (I know, I know. You are thinking I’m too young to attend a Crossroads event. (Um – Editor.) Tell that to my Optometrist’s Assistant, who, when I said we were going to Topeka this weekend to visit family, responded with, “Oh, how old are your grandchildren?” In her defense I was getting progressive lenses & had just complained about how cool they kept their office.)

One of the focal points of the talk was a brief discussion of President Truman’s faith. Considering all of the hot button issues of Truman’s presidency, it would have been fascinating to understand how his faith may have influenced his actions. (Consider this abbreviated list: his act to formally recognize the State of Israel, his push for the Marshall Plan in Europe, his order to integrate the Armed Forces, his response to the Berlin Blockade, his reaction to the invasion of South Korea by North Korea, & of course his decision weighing the use of the Atomic Bomb vs. saving American & Japanese lives from a death-filled invasion.)

Unfortunately, President Truman, like many of his generation, was rather reticent to about his faith. Some of his speeches referenced his beliefs like his statement, “The fundamental basis of this nation’s law s was given to Moses on the Mount. If we don’t have a proper fundamental moral background, we will finally end up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody except the state.” Or his call to service, “We must remember that the test of our religious principles lies not just in what we say, not only in our prayers, not even in living blameless lives – but what we do for others.” (Not all of his statements were quite so profound. He was also fond of saying: “The 1st lesson every boy should learn is to never kick fresh manure* on a hot day.”)

*Or some synonym, thereof.

As we consider today’s passage, I was drawn to Paul’s statement that, “He (Jesus) appeared to more than 500 brothers & sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”

While scholars have no qualms with Paul’s list of resurrected appearances, they do debate the details of this statement. Was this a gathering in Jerusalem or perhaps on a mountain outside of town? Was this the same crowd referenced in Matthew 28? Was this shortly after His resurrection or was it just before His ascension?

Skeptics point to Paul’s contention & wonder if Jesus did appear to over 500 believers, where is their testimony? Shouldn’t there be countless personal accounts confirming the validity of such an awe-inducing scene?

My view is that I’m not surprised at the lack of written testimony attesting to this appearance. Few in their culture were literate. Being counted as a follower of Christ at that time was extremely risky, even deadly. (Remember, Paul was so successful in crushing the early church in Jerusalem, he would soon want to add a franchise in Damascus.) The odds of such testimony being recorded, distributed & preserved would be astronomical. And finally, would repetitive statements of this scene really add much substance to the record of Jesus’ life & teachings?

On the other hand, while it wouldn’t impact my faith walk & while the skeptics would just find some other reason to doubt the validity of this scene, wouldn’t it be cool if some Bedouin discovered a jar filled with parchments or if a long-forgotten desert monastery had a written record of an eye-witness account of this event?

Flashing forward to today, we might be like President Truman & somewhat reluctant to talk about our spiritual walk. But what if our testimony could make a difference in the journey of a friend, colleague, or, someday, way off in the future, a grandchild? It needn’t be some carefully edited thesis with footnotes & indices. We could start with something simple like making notes about our favorite hymn or a fond Easter Sunday experience.

As a theologian noted, “Each of us is indebted to those who carried the faith from the past to the present; dare we do less for those who follow us?” I’m getting started on mine as soon as I get back from the Early Bird Dinner Special at Luby’s Cafeteria.



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

8.27.15 Insights 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.

“What kind of a king—what kind of God—reigns from a cross? What has to happen in your heart to allow you to serve that kind of divine king?” (GPS for Thursday, August 27)

These 2 questions from today’s GPS pierce me. This kind of God reigns through love, not brute force. What has to happen in my heart? To serve this kind of God, my heart has to reject the daily temptations to be right, to have the answer, to control others, to win. Instead, my heart has to focus on loving the way God loves from the cross.

Here is one prayer practice that helps my heart stay attuned to serving this kind of God:

  1. First, I breathe. Slow, deep breaths that force me to pay attention to breathing. As I breathe, I acknowledge that this breath comes from God, in whom I live and move and have being.
  2. Second, I close my eyes and picture God’s love coming into me through that breath and spreading throughout my whole body, like little rivulets of light.
  3. Third, I picture that love filling my heart, all its nooks and crannies, even the hard, crusty places, until my heart is glowing with the light of God’s love.
  4. Last, I picture my heart, glowing with love, placed within God’s heart. God’s own heart surrounds and strengthens my heart, completing and perfecting the love in my heart.

Crucified, dead and buried. A different kind of power. A different kind of love.

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

8.26.15 Insights from Wendy Connelly

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 8.55.49 PMWendy Connelly, wife to Mark and mom to Lorelei & Gryffin, is Community Outreach Director at the Leawood campus, a graduate student at Saint Paul School of Theology, Faith Walk columnist for the Kansas City Star, and co-leads the “Live and Let Think” dialogues at Resurrection Downtown.

Pontius Pilate would have done well to listen to his wife, who sent him a warning that rings through history: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because in a dream last night, I suffered much on account of him.” –Matthew 27:19

Pilate didn’t heed her prophetic warning, but instead, sent Jesus to the cross. And yet, as Pilate presented the scourged Messiah to the crowds—“Behold, the man!”—and affixed upon the cross a sign proclaiming Jesus as “King of the Jews,” he failed in his mission to squelch an uprising. Rather, in a deliciously subversive twist, Pilate unwittingly—even through the means of his gross tortures and taunts—became one of history’s great evangelists!

“Behold, the man!” “King of the Jews!”

Could it be that God uses even the Pilates of this world to reveal, in the end, God’s greater glory? Let this be an encouragement to you. Whatever injustice you’re up against—whatever Pontius Pilate you face, scourging and taunting your soul—trust that God upholds the righteous and, in the end, uses all situations to reveal his glory.

Behold, the man, King of the Jews!

Behold, your God!

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

8.25.15 Insights from Nicole Alison

Nicole-alisonNicole Alison serves as Coordinating Assistant to Operations at The Church of the Resurrection. Nicole finds her voice through writing. In her spare time she is a personal blogger and a ghost-writer for the Next Steps Pastor at a local church in Lenexa. Her passion is to share the love of Jesus through personal stories of redemption.

What I love about God so deeply is His heart for the unlikely and unexpected. It gives me hope that in every opportunity I may believe is mundane or useless, God sees differently. It means that people that seemed to be swept under the rug or forgotten are not. There have been countless times in my life where I have showed up feeling ill equipped, or so ordinary that I would never make a difference–but then God showed up.

I will never forget the time I was serving at a concert. I was stoked–I would be working with the artist’s sales. But, oops–the artists didn’t bring anything to sell. The other volunteer who was helping with me arrived late. When she heard the news, she turned sour in an instant. She went on and on about how she drove all the way there for nothing. I’ll admit, I began to view her as a “Debbie downer.” I didn’t like her poor attitude. But we found other things to do to help, and instead of clinging to my introverted nature, I decided to strike up a conversation.

As I began to talk to her, I could still feel her tension and frustration. But I asked her how she was connected to the event and where she worked. She began to soften a little, and began to smile one of those “I want to but I don’t want to let you in” smiles. Eventually, the concert was about to begin and I did something really out of character. I decided to invite her to sit by me at the concert. I’ll be honest–I wanted my own space that night. I wanted to soak in the music and reflect on God. But I had a nudge that I needed to invite this lady to sit by me.

The concert begins, the room is filled with beautiful, awe-inspiring music–and I’m afraid to let go and worship God next to this lady. But soon, her demeanor shifts and she smiles and laughs authentically. Soon enough, this lady (who is about twice my age) and I are jumping up and down, doing fist pumps and praising the Lord. About half-way through the concert, the lady explained that she really needed tonight. She was having such a hard day, and she was so thankful that I invited her into the concert and sat by her. By the end of the night, she gave me two hugs and was beaming.

Driving home, I was amazed. In the unexpected, God showed up. He got me out of my comfort zone–I just opened up to someone that I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Even in this small circumstance, I learned a little more about grace and love, about ordinary turning into extraordinary. I was changed–the lady I volunteered with was changed. Best of all, God received the Glory. I love that God works in the unexpected and unlikely. This experience taught me to do life expecting the unexpected, ready to listen, share and invite people into my heart. It taught me to be more like Christ in the places where it seems most unlikely God would work. God is always working. I just need to ready and willing to do my part.

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

8.24.15 Insights 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.

The Apostle’s Creed statement we are looking at today is: “I believe in Jesus Christ, [God’s] only son.”

Believing in Jesus as God’s only Son seems easy to me on the surface. Since I was a child I’ve heard the story of the Virgin birth, and Jesus’ life, death and resurrection,  and just accepted it.

But there have been times when I’ve questioned this statement of Christian faith and others–as a high school student, a college student and at various times as an adult. This is deep stuff. And I have no theological training or authority. I am just a Christian seeking to dive deeper into the mysteries of Scripture and grab hold of my faith as my own, not just accepting stories I’ve long read and known. I think it is important to spend time evaluating and questioning these basic truths and clarifying for myself exactly what I believe as a Christian. But as I get down into the deeper meaning, my head starts spinning and I find it difficult to wrap my human brain around the concept of Jesus as Son of God. The limitations of a human father and son relationship automatically makes me put a limit on the God the Father and Jesus the Son relationship.

Jesus is not merely a descendant of God. He is not just a son that looks like his Father (in the image of God), or a son that has some characteristics of his father but maintains his own separate identity, making his own decisions. Somehow Jesus being the Son of God but also being the essence of God is hard for me to comprehend.

Several years ago, I read the fictional book, The Shack, by William P. Young. This book has its limitations and I’m certain there are scriptural inaccuracies in it. Despite this, The Shack challenged my traditional thinking about God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and opened my mind to the complexity and beauty of this relationship.

In the book, a modern man (Mack) who has gone through a terrible family tragedy has what I might call an “out of body experience” with the Trinity: God, Son and Holy Spirit. The book is a beautiful journey for Mack, learning to work through his anger and grief through a greater understanding and growing personal relationship with all three depictions of God. At one point in the book God says to Mack, “…that you can’t grasp the wonder of my nature is rather a good thing. Who wants to worship a God who can be fully comprehended..?”

And when trying to clarify the Trinity to Mack, God says, “We are not three gods, and we are not talking about one god with three attitudes, like a man who is a husband, father and worker. I am one God and I am three persons, and each of the three is fully and entirely the one.” Sort of blows my mind. How about you?

The Shack is one author’s creative opinion on how God, Son and Spirit work together. Even if I don’t entirely agree with his depiction, it helps me to think beyond my traditional and limited view of God and his relationship to His only Son, Jesus. In my humanness, I can never fully comprehend how Jesus, Son of God is both fully divine and fully human. And that is okay.

But it is exciting to think about my journey going forward, continually forming and refining my understanding of these great truths. I look forward to other books I might discover, discussions with other Christians, teaching from Pastor Adam and our other pastors, classes and Bible studies to join–all bringing greater understanding and ultimately bringing me in closer relationship to Jesus. I have confidence that one day all will be revealed, and I will fully comprehend the wonder of God.

My challenge to each of you is to continue to seek, continue to ask difficult questions and continue to refine your understanding of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

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

8.22.15 – Insights from Chris Folmsbee

ChrisFolmsbeeGPSChris Folmsbee is Resurrection’s Director of Discipleship Ministries. 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.

This post was originally published on February 23, 2013.

Love is so central to our faith that to come into contact with it is to find oneself entangled with every element of Christian doctrine and life.* Absolutely every aspect of our stories of faith—past, present and future—is inseparably linked to the very nature and inner character of God. From the creation stories to the atonement to the loving words and actions of Christians all over the world to the coming new creation, we are a part of God’s story of love and restoration.

God’s love is mysterious. It is both fixed and dynamic. It is fixed in that it is never removed from us (Romans 8:31-39). It is dynamic in that it moves to continually cover all of our trouble, hardship and danger. God’s affection for us is most noticed in his desire to be in a mutually loving relationship which can only be brought about by the most loving act of all—the birth, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God’s love transforms what would only be abstract and theoretical into something tangible and real through the life and ministry of Jesus.

God’s love is uninfluenced. The pure, present and perfect love of God is not granted to us because of who we are or what we do. God’s love is granted to us because of who God is—and God is love. God’s love is deeper than the popular concept of love. In fact, God’s love is a profound correction of the modern concept of love. It is not based on emotional and social connection.* Rather, God’s love is based on spiritual truth. God’s love is what gives structure to all of life and leads us to understand other attributes of God (such as holiness, righteousness, justice, grace, mercy, forgiveness and goodness). This is the reason Paul can make the outlandish claim in Romans 8:31-39 that “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

God’s love is the great equalizer. It destroys indifference, pride and partiality; it levels the ground for all.* Through God’s love all of us are invited to take part in the greatest love story ever told, a story marked by mutual loyalty and devotion. God’s clearest representation of God’s love is the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus modeled for us—the people of God,  the church—what it means to faithfully love God and neighbor. God’s call for the church is to lean into the guidance of the Holy Spirit and find ways to participate in God’s redemptive work in the world. What ways are we finding to interact with non-religious and nominally religious people so that they too might experience God’s love?

*Thoughts adapted from Wynkoop, A Theology of Love. Beacon Hill Press, Kansas City, MO, 1972.

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

8.21.15 – Insights from Ginger Rothhaas

ginger-rothhaasGinger Rothhaas is a seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology and is serving in Congregational Care at the Church of the Resurrection.

I entered seminary two years ago hoping to find answers. I wanted to know the reasons for why Christians believed what they do. I wanted to be able to articulate to others the history, sources, and facts behind biblical stories. I needed to know for sure that God existed beyond my personal experience. I had a long list of questions for which I wanted answers and I thought I would accomplish that through immersing myself into the study of God.

What I have experienced in my seminary growth is a deep appreciation for the mystery, not the answers. In fact, as I enter my fifth semester, I have a longer list of questions. But, I also have an inner peace beyond what I have ever felt before. I need the answers less and less. I love the knowledge, but I see it as layers of understanding now, rather than a final verdict.

I imagine this is what scientists experience as they dive into explaining the miracles all around us. They enter the project looking for answers, and what they find is even greater levels of amazement. I love this quote: “If you study science deep enough and long enough, it will force you to believe in God.” Lord William Kelvin said that. He was noted for his theoretical work on thermodynamics, the concept of absolute zero and the Kelvin temperature scale based upon it. Smart guy!

We seek to know things for sure, and what we find is we are just scratching the surface of seeing how God thinks. That’s what science is to me: our human work to try to understand the mind of God.

Science brings us closer to God. Scholarly study has brought me closer to God. Not because I’m getting answers, but because I’m seeing that humans throughout time have longed to understand where we came from and why. That’s all it is…science, seminary, research. It is all about our human need to find meaning in why God created us in this amazing vast universe.

More and more, I think that meaning is found in love. Love for all of creation. So, let’s be open to all of the possibilities, open to the vastness of God, and open to love for God and others. Amazing things will happen. This is just the beginning!!

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



8.20.15 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

“Janelle, your mom broke her neck.”

In all of the words that you hear over your lifetime, there are certain ones that get engraved into your memories. A month ago today, such a phrase came to me in the form of “Janelle, your mom broke her neck.” Time stops. Priorities fade. Life changes its trajectory. The fact that these words came from my father in the emergency room right next to hers (for a completely unrelated reason), just added to this.

I suddenly found myself on a plane headed to Phoenix, leaving my son and husband behind in order to be with my parents. I won’t go into all of the details, but the next few weeks were very trying – emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Yet in the midst of walking through darkness and uncertainty, I found that there was a light and peace from God that glimmered on this journey. There was medical intervention and other answered prayers, but what sticks out to me the most was the outpouring of prayers and care. There were notes of encouragement, calls of concern, meals delivered, responsibilities taken on. It was just immense.

At first it seemed weird to be cared for while simultaneously caring for others. It felt awkward and undeserved. The focus should be on my parents, not on me! But despite my initial resistance, I heard Jesus saying to me – “I am with your mom and dad, but I want to let you know that I am with you too. Accept the care that I’m giving you. This is my way of showing you my love.”

When thinking about the almightiness of God, I generally think of his power to create the universe and the beauty of this earth. I think of a huge amount of strength or an authority over everything in this world and beyond. But these past few weeks have reminded me that the almightiness of God can not only be vast and expansive, but it can be found in small moments as well. In each of our lives, we are intimately known and loved. Our God continually chases after us with his unwieldy affection – in quiet moments, through encouraging scripture, and by working through the lives of others. Certainly creating the world is beyond impressive, but how much more is it to know that on both the easiest and toughest days, we are not alone. God is beside and before us, eager to show us how much he cares.

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