Monthly Archives: December 2015

12.31.15 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

This is it – the last day of 2015. Another year in the books. Between Christmas-card letters and social media, I’m sure you’ve been hearing a lot of “my year in review.” I love reading the updates of friends and family. You get to find out who got a new job, who traveled out of the country, who has a new baby, who has had health issues. If you’re lucky, those last ones are pretty general. I once got a letter from a lady who shared about her bout with diarrhea. “Merry Christmas! I had the runs!” Ewww.

I could share with you some of my own 2015 highlights (none of which would involve gastrointestinal issues), but I thought that maybe today we’d do something a little different. I’m going to challenge us all to think back over this past year. You could probably pick out a few meaningful events that stand out amongst the rest. But beyond looking at what we did or did not do or accomplish, I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be beneficial to ponder what God did in our lives this last year.

So stop and think – where did you see God in 2015? How did he move in your life? In what ways did he direct you? How did he comfort or encourage you? When did you feel his presence?

It’s valuable to take stock of where God has been and what he’s been up to over the last year. Understanding how he’s previously moved just might change how we approach our unknown future.

So whether you’re ready for it or not, the clock will strike midnight tonight. 2016 is knocking at our door. I’m certain God has great things in store for you in the year ahead. But before you drive off into the future, take just a moment to check your review mirror.

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

12.30.15 – Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

Angela_LaVallieAngela LaVallie is the Worship Logistics Program Director at Resurrection. However, her after-Christmas schedule prevented her from writing today.

Instead, we offer you a reflection that Pastor Molly Simpson wrote for Dec. 28, 2010, when she was the campus pastor for Resurrection’s West campus. This may take on even more meaning now, as the West campus is hard at work expanding the building to which Pastor Molly referred in her post 5 years ago.

It is often said that few people really understood the kind of king Jesus was to be. Most anticipated a Messiah with military might and a commanding presence so powerful that none would challenge his authority. I wonder what Mary and Joseph were anticipating. When they looked at their son, did they have ideas and dreams about what his future would hold? I wonder if Simeon’s words rattled them? Not necessarily his first words at recognizing the Lord’s Messiah, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel,” but the words in verse 34, about Jesus causing the rising and falling of many and the sign to be spoken against.

There have been a few moments in my life in which I have had a profound experience with the Holy Spirit in a manner that follows this pattern–joy and blessing, followed by the lump in the back of my throat that is related to the weightiness of going where God leads. One of these moments was when I was praying for confirmation that we ought to proceed with a capital campaign and building project at our West campus in Olathe. There was the extreme joy of getting the opportunity to lead our congregation through such an awesome time… but along with that came the weight of responsibility of taking on a multi-million dollar project and the realization that this was going to demand more of my faith than perhaps anything I had ever been a part of. (We anticipate moving into that building in December 2011, by the way!)

Have you had an encounter like this with God? Have you experienced both the comfort and the discomfort that the leading of the Holy Spirit can cause? Excitement and trepidation?

Simeon’s blessing reminds us, even in this Christmas week, that the road that Jesus takes is both the most blessed and challenging way and that we have the opportunity to follow.

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

12.29.15 – Insights from Courtney Felzke

Courtney_FelzkeCourtney Felzke is Pastor of Silver Link. Resurrection’s Silver Link Ministry serves senior adults who become unable to fully engage in the life of the church, including those who are physically frail or suffering from dementia. Courtney seeks to maintain a connection with all such Resurrection participants through pastoral care and worship.

In reading today’s Scripture passage, the words which stuck out to me were: “revealed to him by the Holy Spirit” and “Guided by the Spirit.” Several things came to my mind as I read these words. First, the importance of being open/alert for where God is working in our lives. Simeon knew to go to the temple because he was listening to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s hard to feel God present with us and working in our lives. However, when we’re attentive to God, I believe we’ll see and feel God all around us.

The second thing which came to my mind as I read the above mentioned words was our need to trust in God. This goes hand in hand with being open to where God is at work in our lives. I believe that in order to see God working in our lives, we must first trust that God is present with us at all times. As we give our lives fully to God, as we trust that God is always walking with us even during the most difficult of times, then we will be able to more easily see God’s mighty hand working throughout our lives.

Both of these thoughts have been especially helpful to me during difficult journeys in my life. I remember one time when I felt so overwhelmed by all that was going on, my heart was racing and I didn’t know how I would do all that was expected of me. That day I broke down in my car. Through sobbing tears I told God all of my concerns. I said, “God, I’m giving all of this to you. I need your guidance and your strength to get through this time.” Not five minutes later I had clarity regarding how to handle the issue, and renewed energy to tackle the issue. Our Father God was walking right alongside me, guiding me every step of the way.

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

12.28.15 – Insights from Roberta Lyle

Roberta_LyleRoberta Lyle has been on the Resurrection staff since 2006. She oversees the Collection Ministry, coordinating the donations of clothing, beds, food, furnishings, cars and computers and re-purposing them through our ministry partners to provide to those in need in our community.

My husband and I have spent quite a bit of time over the past few months researching our family’s genealogy. One of the key ways we have found important information about our family’s roots has been through German baptismal records. Finding this information revealed to me how important faith traditions were to my ancestors who made sure their precious babies were baptized within days of their birth. Unexpectedly, these records gave me a feeling of connection to family members I never had the chance to know here on earth.

Singing hymns brings a similar feeling of connectedness with Christians through the ages. I feel united in worship with those who sang the same words across the centuries and am reminded of the many who have received strength and comfort through the messages contained in sacred music.

We have just spent a season of advent singing many special Christmas carols and taking part in other traditions that remind us of the “reason for the season.” While we enjoy special times with family and friends we also make a special effort to remember those in need, whether by dropping funds into a red bucket, filling a bag with ready-to-eat food for families living in motels or purchasing toiletries and thermal underwear for the homeless.

A serving experience I had on Christmas involved joining a team of volunteers in transporting food prepared by many members and delivered early in the morning to the church parking lot. The food was transported to the Healing House dining hall where another team from Resurrection heated and served it to the residents as they returned from a morning spent ministering to those living on the streets. As I visited with one of the resideHealing House crossesnts, he told me I had to see a nearby “field of crosses.” He took me next door to the dining hall to show me about 20 crosses erected on the empty lot next door. On these crosses Bobbie Jo and the residents had placed new winter coats and other outerwear for anyone who needed them. There were no strings attached, no requests to be made. Anyone who walked or drove by was welcome to take what was needed. What an amazing and tangible reminder of the incarnate Christ who came to show us how to love and honor the forgotten and downtrodden!

I was humbled by the thoughtful, caring way that Healing House residents remembered the Lord they serve and who they belong to through their tremendous love for their neighbors next door and across the urban core.

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

12.26.15 – Insights from Liz Gyori

Liz-GyoriLiz Gyori serves as the Group Life Training Program Director at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

What would you do to save the life of a child you love? A helpless child, who depends on you for care and protection? If that child’s life was threatened by a murderous tyrant, by a murderous approaching army, would you stay in your home and hope for the best?

No, you would not. You’d gather whatever items you could carry and you’d leave that place as quickly as possible, all the while fervently praying for safe passage. You would run on foot, you would escape in a car, you would board a rickety boat, you would hand your life savings to a “coyote”–whatever it took to get that child to safety, you would do it. And when you arrived in a safe land, you would fling yourself at the feet of strangers, and you would pray that they would show you mercy and kindness. You might not do all this to save your own life, but you would do all this, and more, for the life of that trusting, innocent child.

We don’t know the details of how Joseph fled with his family, but Matthew tells us that they left in the night. With this urgency, it’s likely they weren’t able to bring much with them. We don’t have specifics about their time in Egypt. Because there were Jewish communities there, perhaps they found shelter and security with relatives or friends. Or perhaps they arrived, hungry, disheveled, and terrified, without a place to stay, needing to rely on the kindness of strangers until Joseph found work. Either way, what we do know is that Joseph acted to save a little boy, entrusted to his care, from Herod’s slaughter.

Borders were porous in Jesus’ time, and an adult Jesus specifically addresses the concept of welcoming the stranger in Matthew 25:35: “I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” The Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Greek, and the Greek word for “stranger,” xenos, can also mean “foreigner” or “immigrant.” Jesus understood, from experience, what it was like to be that very person.

Which brings us back to where we started. We know what we would do to save the life of a child we love. We would do anything and everything. Now we need to ask ourselves, what will we do to save the life of a “stranger’s” child? Will we do–anything?

To learn more about the global refugee crisis, how you might help, and how the United Methodist church and other organizations are welcoming the stranger, click here.

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

12.25.15 – Insights from Ginger Rothhaas

Gingeer RGinger Rothhaas is a seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology and is serving in Congregational Care at The Church of the Resurrection.

Merry Christmas!

Last night, as we passed the candlelight at our Christmas Eve services, I was filled with a sense of peace and awe. I know that you likely had the same reaction.

Peace, as I looked at the angelic faces of people I love.

Awe, at how a single candle can shine so brightly in a dark sanctuary.

A greater awe, felt in my heart, as I watched how that single flame can light thousands of candles simply by people sharing the light with one another.

This is a metaphor for us to remember our calling and purpose on earth: to bring the light of God into the dark places, and share it with others until the light takes over the darkness.

As we honor the birth of Jesus today, may we remember that he physically brought God’s light and love into the world.

We–you and I–must take that light and love and show it to the world. That’s our purpose. Every day in every way.

May you soak up time with family and friends today as you remember the birth of our source of light and love. As we are loved unconditionally, we are reminded to show others that same love. In doing that, we will truly have a merry Christmas!

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

12.24.15 – 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.

Today’s passage (Matthew 2:1-6) tells about “wise men from the East.” They were looking intently at the stars in order to find out what God might be up to. They were scientists, of a sort, studying the skies. They were seekers, asking questions: “Where is the child?” They were wonder-ers, wondering about the shining light cast in the night sky.

When they find this child, “the king of the Jews,” in a manger, they do not turn away disappointed at the unspectacular, crude scene. No, they are “overwhelmed with joy” (v. 10), willing to acknowledge what is in front of them, kneel down and pay homage.

This time of year, I think a lot about wonder-ers, seekers, scientists–thoughtful folks who ask questions, who look deeply into the heart of things. I think about people who practice awe every day with microscopes and telescopes. They are in our families, in our workplaces, and among our friends. They are in our churches and not in our churches.

This Christmas Eve, what do they see that perhaps we have overlooked? What star, what light in the darkness, do they proclaim? How is God calling to them–and us–through their wonder?

Scientists, seekers, wonder-ers–paying attention to light in the darkness. Longing to find the child who is the Light of the world. Expectant that something amazing is happening. Ready to kneel before a lowly child in a crude manger. May we all share in their joy this Christmas Eve!

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

12.23.15 – Insights from Kari Burgess

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

Joseph’s side of the Christmas story casts a different light on the anticipation of the coming Christ child. Scripture suggests Joseph might have been feeling afraid and stuck in a bad a situation. As Pastor Scott said this past weekend, the good news/bad news Mary gave to him might have seemed like all bad news at first. So when we are thinking about Advent and the season of preparation for the coming of our Savior, it is interesting to consider perhaps not everyone was preparing for this event with delight. Joseph perhaps was feeling stressed, trapped and consumed by fear while preparing for this child to arrive.

Then to have a visit from an angel, reassuring him to do the right thing for Mary and the Christ child–well, what a relief! When faced with a difficult decision, to be given a clear cut message from God not only helps to lift the stress, but also gives the courage to do the next right thing. The circumstances Joseph found himself in must have been daunting. But after a fitful night of sleep, trying to sort it all out in his head, he wakes up confident in the decision to stand by Mary because the Son she was to bear would save the world. It might have been difficult for Joseph to do the right thing, but it is apparent Joseph felt peace with the decision he made. The angel was a word of hope to Joseph in the midst of crisis.

Over the next few years, an angel would visit Joseph at several key points, guiding him to protect the Christ child in fulfillment of the prophecies. An angel advised Joseph to take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt before Herod could get to them. An angel appeared to Joseph and commanded him to return to Israel with Jesus and Mary once it was safe. An angel advised him in a dream to go to Nazareth specifically. How in tune to God’s will must Joseph have been to be able to hear the voice of the angel or take seriously the dreams he had?

There are those who struggle during Advent, finding it difficult to celebrate in the midst of grief, personal crisis or struggles. If you or someone you know is going through this season of Advent feeling less than delighted, please know you are not alone. Joseph’s anticipation of the coming of the Christ child may also have been filled with trepidation, fear, stress. If you are struggling in preparation of the coming of the Christ child, I invite you to pray into the promises of the Christmas season:

Pray for Hope to rise in your heart. Pray for Joy to fill our world with light. Pray for God’s Love to surround you with His comforting embrace. Pray for God’s merciful second chance. Pray for His peace to awaken in your soul.

And pray for an angel (the word meant “messenger”–angels don’t always have to have wings!) of the Lord to give you peace and reassurance that God is with you every step of the way, lighting the path for you to take, no matter what you may be walking through.

Christmas is all about the fulfillment of these promises. Christmas IS coming. And Jesus IS near.

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

12.22.15 – Insights from Brandon Gregory

brandongregorygpsBrandon 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 most interesting passage to me in today’s passage (Luke 2:1-20) was verses 1-3. That’s right: a seemingly inane detail like a census seems like scarcely a footnote in this story, but it has a greater significance.

You see, God chose the time and place for Jesus to be born. He chose the Roman empire for a number of really good reasons (a good system of roads, common language, the birth of philosophy, and many others); but an often overlooked detail is that he chose that manger in that little town of Bethlehem, and he used the census to do it. If the census had not been called, Jesus would have been born in a house or some sort of shelter just like every other child of the time. Instead, the chosen birthplace for Jesus was a first-century parking garage, and his bed a feeding trough.

A child born in such conditions would ordinarily be little cause for celebration, which is probably why the angels had to raise such a ruckus to get the shepherds’ attention. In fact, there are a lot of things underwhelming about Jesus’s birth. First-century Jewish believers had latched onto the idea that their savior would come to deliver them from Roman rule. They wanted a warrior, riding in on a mighty steed, welcomed in by the most important Jewish people. They got a baby in a manger, welcomed by foreigners and the lowest of Jewish society.

God didn’t choose a warrior for his Messiah. He chose a baby. He chose a manger. He chose shepherds. We’ve heard the story so many times that we’ve forgotten how little sense this made to the first century believers. And yet, this is the man we worship to this day.

This Christmas, remember the humble beginnings of our savior, and don’t be afraid to get in touch with your faith’s roots. Jesus was found and heralded in by the lowest of the low. The point is, God chose to deliver Jesus to us in such a humble way to humble us, so that we wouldn’t forget the foreigners and the shepherds of today. Maybe you’ll find Jesus this season in a homeless man who needs some food and kindness; maybe it will be that overworked retail clerk who’s being disrespected by everyone; maybe it will be that former friend whom everyone has turned away from and is spending this Christmas season alone. Don’t forget about these people this holiday season, because our faith started in the lowliest of places.

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

12.21.15 – Insights from Donna Karlen

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

What is engraved on your heart?

As a member of Resurrection’s communications team, I have been helping to put together information about this year’s Christmas Eve offering. As part of the project, I accompanied our video team to Avenue of Life, one of this year’s offering recipients. For two years this organization has been working to break down barriers that keep Kansas City families trapped in what can seem like a never-ending cycle of poverty. (You’ll learn more about Avenue of Life at Candlelight Christmas Eve worship, and you can also visit for more information.) We interviewed some of the people whose lives have been impacted by Avenue of Life and its partner organizations.

From a father of 5: “I didn’t know what I was going to do. It’s hard to tell your family, ‘we don’t have food to eat today… I don’t know where your shoes will come from.’ I want to strive to make my life better – be able to stand up and take care of my family.”

Avenue of Life provides emergency help for families needing clothing, transportation, food, housing and more.

From a single mom of two who had been homeless for 18 months: “I was so broken when I came here. I couldn’t get back on my feet. On the day I came to Avenue of Life, we’d been put out. I came to Impact Wednesday on the same Wednesday my life crashed.”

At Impact Wednesday, several community agencies come together at Avenue of Life to help families get back on their feet and find a pathway out of poverty.

From a single mother who left an abusive relationship, bounced her children from home to home and school to school, and who had, herself, grown up in foster homes and changed schools often: “It was really hard to go to a new school and meet new people – and the difference between the teachers …”  

Avenue of Life, in partnership with the KCK Public School District, is helping children impacted by homelessness to be able to stay in one school, graduate and be ready for college or a career.

So I got to hear the stories of these three families that day at Avenue of Life. The parents knew they had made mistakes, but they loved their children and just needed a hand-up so they could give their families a safe and secure home – a hand-up Avenue of Life provides by equipping and empowering families to become self-sustaining and independent.

“If we didn’t have this place, I wonder where we would be.”

“My sons are different now. They’re not sad, they’re not scared.”

“I don’t feel hopeless anymore. And just that little bit of hope can carry you through.”

God has engraved their stories on my heart. And we – as a church – will be able to share the hope, love, joy, mercy and peace of Christmas with them and others through our Christmas Eve offering.

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