Monthly Archives: March 2016

03.31.16 – Insight from Evan Palmer

Evan Palmer has been a member of Resurrection since 2002. Evan graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in International Relations and worships at Resurrection’s Downtown campus.

Do you ever feel like hiding behind locked doors out of fear of facing ‘the world’? Fear can alter the way we react to situations and, at times, paralyze us to no action at all. After Jesus’ crucifixion, I think the disciples were experiencing almost every negative emotion, but especially those highlighted in this passage: fear and lack of purpose or direction. I often feel this way when I do not have God at the forefront of my being. When we turn to our own abilities, we become self-centered, and are left with a desire to serve ourselves. I am thankful Jesus chose to offer His peace, purpose, and power to His disciples in a moment of fear, isolation, and despair. I am thankful these same gifts are offered to us—His disciples—on a daily, momentary basis.

This past week at Bible Study, one of our leaders told us a story that conveys Jesus’ pursuit of mankind in a colloquial, tangible way. She was babysitting a couple of her nephew’s kids, waiting for the other two to come home from school. The bus dropped them off up the hill from her nephew’s home. Once Kim saw the girls, she called their names and began running towards them. As soon as the girls saw her, they began doing the same; running faster and faster the closer they got. Tears filled Kim’s eyes as she began to tell us of the joy in the moment they embraced. “What a great picture,” she said, “of the Lord’s pursuit of us.” Are you pursuing God the way He pursues you? Is it a constant chase, or only when it’s convenient for you?

Jesus came back to the disciples after his crucifixion to offer peace and encourage them in their purpose. As human beings, we need to be constantly reminded of these truths in order to keep our direction. To remember our purpose, we seek after the One who defined it. We no longer have to be paralyzed by our fear or selfish ambitions. We are empowered to serve, offer hope, and breathe new life into others the way our Savior has and does for us each day.

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

03.30.16 – Insights from Rev. Steven Blair

steven-blairRev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care Pastor of Live Forward and Live Well Emotional Wellness Ministry.

Shakespeare famously asked “What’s in a name?” in Romeo and Juliet. While we have spent time discussing the meaning of names and words, we rarely discuss the power of names. Knowing someone’s name is powerful. A person can make you turn your head in a crowded room by simply saying your name. A person can make you feel known.

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and was surprised to see it empty. She mistook the Resurrected Jesus for a gardener, which turns out to be truer than it was false. Mary didn’t know it was Jesus until she said her name–“Mary.” It caught her attention. It let her know that she was known.

Do you hear Jesus saying your name? He knows it. He reaches towards you as he did with Mary and many others. Let Jesus catch your attention today. Realize you are known, then lean forward. Jesus has something important to say to you, too.

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

03.29.16 – 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.

Mary Magdalene is a minor, although popular, character in our gospel messages, named only about 12 times in the Bible. We know that Jesus cast seven demons out of her, and that she was present at the crucifixion. We don’t really have much more than that. But all four gospels say that she was the first person to witness Jesus’ resurrection. The gospels report a lot of different events — they all have a different perspective on Jesus’ life–but they all make a point to draw attention to this.

With angels making a sudden appearance at the tomb, they really could have appeared to anyone. In other words, God chose Mary Magdalene to be Jesus’ first witness. And, really, she’s an odd choice — so much so that the other disciples didn’t believe her when she reported her finding. She had a few strikes against her. In her time, the testimony of women was not considered to be reliable. We know now that demons in Jesus’ time were often misunderstood (and untreated) mental illness, so she had recently had only a fragile grasp on reality. And, on top of all that, she hadn’t really played a big role in the story thus far.

Mary had lived a life of disappointment. In her time, women were frequently dependent on their husbands to support them. I know from experience that untreated mental illness does not do amazing things for relationships. She had probably grown up lonely, destitute, and depressed. Jesus had been a ray of hope for her, first in healing her, and then in inviting her into his story. So his death must have hit her as hard as anyone else–just one more crushing event in a long line of them for her.

Yet while all of his disciples had given up hope, many of them scattered and shaking, Mary was the one who went to prepare his body for burial. A woman who had known hopelessness perhaps more than any other named character in the gospels was unwilling to give up hope and duty to her messiah, even in death. It was a faith that she could still do something useful and meaningful that brought her to the tomb that day. And God chose to redeem her turbulent life into something extraordinary. I can’t say for sure if God was rewarding her faith in the face of utter despair or if he simply wanted to give honor to someone who had overcome great adversity to follow him, but the end result is the same: God honored this woman who suffered from mental illness and let her be the first to see the miracle in this seemingly hopeless situation.

What can we learn from this? Be inspired by Mary’s faith that she could still accomplish something good even when everyone else had given up hope. When the odds seem stacked against you, when it seems like your Lord has been taken away from you, when it feels like your personal demons are on the verge of crushing you, you’d be surprised how much God can use you — and how much power lies in the redemption he offers.

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

03.28.16 – Insights from Donna Karlen

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

As someone who is a bit over the top competitive, I smile at the way John describes this scene. Twice, he points out who arrived first at the tomb: “the other disciple ran faster…” and “…the one who had arrived at the tomb first…” Perhaps you recall in earlier scenes (described in Matthew’s, Mark’s and Luke’s gospels) when Jesus caught the disciples arguing over which of them was greatest. And at one point they flat out asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Perhaps each was hoping for the coveted trophy. Yet Jesus responded, “Whoever is least among you all is the greatest.” (In this day of “all I do is win, win, win – no matter what!” that’s not the answer many of us may be looking for.)

Back to our scene at the tomb. I do love that it was Mary Magdalene who really was there first – did I mention my competitive nature? But when Peter and the other disciple heard her news of the empty tomb, they took off running to see. I find myself duplicating their behavior at times. So eager am I to know Jesus – to get close to him – that I just cannot run fast enough toward him. But something stopped this disciple when he got to the tomb’s entrance: “…he didn’t go in.” His eagerness to run hard and fast may suddenly have turned to fear once he got there, so he hesitated. Wait – what does this mean if the tomb is empty? What will be required of me with this discovery? I’m just really not sure I want to go there!

Yes, I run fast toward Jesus my teacher, my friend, my savior. But my sacrificed King? – what is that gonna require of me?! Sounds messy and complicated. I don’t think I can do this…

I stop and I don’t go in.

Blessedly, like this disciple had Peter, we have others to help us press on when we hesitate to enter the tomb and fully embrace what has happened. And we have a God who gives us chance after chance to get it right.

This Easter, let us run fast to the tomb – let us go in and find it empty. Let its emptiness fill us with the courage to follow a sacrificed King. Because he is also a risen King. And one worth running to.

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

03.26.16 – Insights from Clif Guy

Clifton Guy serves as the Director of Information Technology at The Church of the Resurrection.

Holy Saturday, as today is formerly known, is the in-between day of Holy Week.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday – the day we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, and being praised by crowds waving palm branches. Maundy Thursday is the day we remember the Last Supper – Jesus’ final meal with his disciples during which he gave his final teaching. Next is Good Friday when we remember the trial, torture, and crucifixion of Jesus. And we all know what happens on Easter.

Holy Saturday is the in-between day: the day between Good Friday and Easter.

Holy Saturday is the day after. It is the day after humans put God on trial and executed him. The day after Love was killed. The day after humanity’s last and best Hope died. Death, evil, hate, fear, despair, and suffering reigned. God was dead.

And Holy Saturday is the day before. The day when all was still lost. The day to begin recovering from the shock of the dead, limp Jesus being taken down from the cross. The day to hopelessly grasp for a hopeful future. The heavy, burdened, dark day day before.

Today’s GPS reminds us of the disciples’ anguish on Holy Saturday. They felt that “evil won, good lost, and death (as always) triumphed over life.” Do you think any of them remembered the hints Jesus left them regarding what would happen on Sunday? The gospels give us a clue that they did not. Luke 24:13-32 recounts the story of two followers of Jesus who on Sunday didn’t know that Jesus was alive. Jesus himself walked with them while they told him about their hopelessness after events of Good Friday, not recognizing they were talking to Jesus.

Many people have gone through times of overwhelming pain and grief, only to discover later that Jesus was there with them the whole time. If you are in such a time on this Holy Saturday, I pray for God’s surpassing comfort and peace for you. Take heart, for tomorrow is Easter!

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

03.25.16 – 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.

For Spring Break our family traveled through the states of Dixie visiting a variety of sites & National Parks like Mammoth Cave, The Hermitage, Perdido Beach, Vicksburg, Shiloh, Natchez, & New Orleans.

While swimming in a hotel pool one evening, the boys slowly began to have an epiphany:  Remember when we were little?  After traveling all day in the car we would always go for a swim & play the game, “Stick?”  (Stick is a game where I throw a diving stick & the boys would race each other to retrieve it.)  It was like every time we were on the left side of the pool, Dad would throw it to the far right.  Then when we were on the right side, he’d throw it to the far left.  We’d end up swimming back & forth the entire length of the pool.  It was exhausting.  Huh.

One of the highlights of our trip was attending a performance of the Grand Ole Opry – a weekly radio show that started in 1925 to showcase country music.  Each program is a mixture of legendary performers, up & coming stars, & established chart-toppers performing country, bluegrass, folk, & gospel music. Of course it also had some comic relief:

Like the songster saying, “I hope you like this next song.  It’s called, “Getting Along with Everyone.”  I wrote this with my former composer-partner.  Man, was he a  jerk.”

Or “I enjoy performing with the Opry house band.  Much better than that Prison Quartet I performed with last weekend.  No, I wasn’t at a prison; I call them the Prison Quartet because they were behind a few bars & always looking for the key.”

One of the performers was Jimmy Wayne, who was abandoned by his father at an early age & neglected by his mother who was frequently imprisoned.  He spent a great deal of his youth being raised in various foster homes, county care facilities, or in a state of homelessness.  An elderly couple from his neighborhood eventually took him under their care & he graduated from high school & community college with a degree in criminal justice.   Mr. Wayne is a staunch advocate for homeless youth & children aging out of the foster system & wrote of his experiences in his best-selling book, “Walk to Beautiful.”

Mr. Wayne performed his song, “I Love You This Much,” – a ballad of a young boy’s attempts to express his love for his absent/unresponsive father.  The boy grows to hate his father & curses him upon his death.  And then:

Halfway through the funeral while the choir sang a hymn

He looked up above the preacher & sat & stared at him.

He said forgive me Father when he realized

He hadn’t been unloved or alone all his life.

His arms were stretched out as far as they’d go

Nailed to the cross for the whole world to know:

I love you this much

I’m waitin’ on you

To make up your mind, do you love me too?

However long it takes I’m never givin’ up

No matter what, I love you this much.

This Friday, this Good Friday, might be a perfect time to pause & reflect on the power of the cross.  At times we may be tempted to believe that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t good enough to atone the brokenness of our own life or for the mistakes made by others. Maybe we should ask for God’s forgiveness for subconsciously minimizing His unfathomable act of love on the cross.  As we prayerfully consider that scene on the cross, let us remember that no matter what, He loved us this much.

Now, who is up for a game of “Stick?”

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

03.24.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

It’s interesting to hear how people picture God. Growing up, I held the very popular image of God being the old, bearded man, peacefully sitting in the clouds. Imagine Gandalf from Lord of the Rings in the world of Care Bears.

care-bears - gandalf

There! That’s him!

When my best friend was a little girl, she thought God looked like this:

king friday

Recognize him?

It’s King Friday from the Neighborhood of Make Believe on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. My drink may have spewed from my mouth the first time I heard her say, “I always pictured God as King Friday.” But the more I thought about it, the more I thought this is probably how many people view God – a king, for sure, but one who can be manipulated by a human hand, having no authority outside a small, confined space (Meow, meow want to live in a tree meow?).

This puppet-king God gives us a “leader,” but when it comes to power, we have no real confidence in him. Why would we? He’s a puppet. So rather than putting our trust in him, we find other kings that seem to be more relevant or compelling. We bow down to the king of our career. We hail the king of our family. We surrender to the kings of money, sports teams, fear, food, intellect, desires, good deeds, good looks, pride, and so many more.

Putting our trust in these kings rather than God would make sense… but only if he’s a puppet-king.

But is that who we really think God is? Or is that just how we treat him? What kind of king has no power?

Perhaps we like the thought of a puppet-king God, because the idea of a supreme being with supreme power is inconvenient at the very least and if we really thought about it – terrifying. We have images of an oppressive, tyrannical dictator, ruling with a heavy fist.

But God isn’t a tyrant, nor is he a weak emperor, under our control and at our command.

No, the King we worship is strong and mighty, but he reigns with a heart of justice, love, and grace. He’s tenacious in his desire to show us his affection, going so far as to taking the form of a man just so that we would know that he gets us. He humbled himself in this way, without feeling a threat to his power. He even went so far as to die a tortuous and disgraceful death on a cross. He so desires us to hear his message: Our king loves us! Our king loves you!

Do you hear him? Do you trust him? Do you have a clear image of your King? Understand his power, believe in his magnitude, and know that your King can handle anything you throw at him – your doubts, your pain, your problems, your shame. These in no way change who he is. Our King is powerful. Our King is strong. Our King is the King of all kings, and he is passionate about knowing and loving you!

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

03.23.16 – Insights from Jennifer Creagar

Jennifer Creagar facilitates the Prayer Ministry and coordinates the Financial Care and Assistance ministries. She is married, has three great kids and three perfect grandchildren whom she loves spending time with, and she enjoys writing and photography.

Today’s part of the story shows us a powerful man discovering that his power – his position in the Roman political hierarchy and the strength of his own will – is not true power at all.  I am sure that Jesus of Nazareth was not the first rabble-rousing peasant Pilot had dealt with harshly. Pilot’s was the kind of power that is at least partially maintained through fear of terrible punishment.

This time, his victim stands before him, beaten, bleeding, dressed in a ridiculous purple robe, wearing a crown of thorns and still calm and powerful. Pilate announces, “Here he is: the man.” He calls him just a man. How can a man in this situation be calm and exude calm, certain power? Even though everyone around Pilate believes he is the most powerful man in this situation, Scripture tells us that Pilate begins to fear he may have missed something very important – the source of Jesus’ calm and powerful presence.

“Where did you come from?” Pilate asks. And Jesus doesn’t answer. In the silence, Pilate’s fear grows. So he responds using the threat of his authority. And then Jesus does answer, telling him he has no authority other that what has been given him from heaven – the only source of true power.

I think this conflict between earthly power and heavenly power has a lot to say to us at this time in our lives. The news, social media, and conversations over dinner tables everywhere seem to be about power – who gets to use it and who will be using it in the future. It is easy to become extremely anxious about the future and overwhelmed by the focus on earthly power.

Jesus said, “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all.” (John 3:31)

Jesus stood before Pilate knowing the horrors and suffering that were ahead of him. He knew what the earthly powers could and would do. Yet he declared that no one on earth actually had power over him, and we know that no one has ultimate power over those who belong to him. This week, as the earthly powers around us continue to proclaim and contend, let’s focus on Jesus, the cross and the resurrection and find peace in knowing what real power is.

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

03.22.16 – 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.

One thought that came to me as I read the Scripture verse for today is the need for self-care. God longs for us to love both God and our neighbor. This is how God intended for us to live as humans beings. We see God’s kingdom fulfilled around us as we extend love and care in this world. However, it can be hard for us to fully love others if we’re not in a place where we first love our self as God loves us. God loves each and every one of us so much, but I think sometimes we struggle to accept ourselves for who we are. We struggle to admit that we might need some help and healing through difficult situations in life.

In our Grief Support group we recently spent some time looking at Dan Moseley’s book Lose, Love, Live. I love this statement from the end of his book: “Loving ourselves–paying attention to our own feelings and desires-–is not selfishness. Loving ourselves is realizing that God has offered us this gift of life and the best thing we can do is to care for it in a way that allows it to live and bless others. Giving ourselves to others is hard if we do not have a self to give” (p. 120).

I believe that in order for us to truly love others, we must start by loving ourselves. This needs to be a part of our normal routine, because we can’t care for others unless we also care for ourselves! I know I’m trying my best to get back into a practice of yoga and meditation. What might you do to love yourself this week, not just for your sake but for the sake of others?

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

03.21.16 – 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.

The Bible passage today contrasted Jesus’ bravery in facing a large number of soldiers with Peter’s unwillingness to admit to even knowing Jesus for fear of personal harm. While most of us will never face any situation as dire as Peter’s, I think we all face times when we have to decide whether to be authentic Christians and choose Jesus even if we risk facing alienation, embarrassment or hurt.

I was reminded of a story from Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. She writes about an incident that happened one day as she ran a quick errand with her then eight year old daughter. It was one of those days when she had left home in a hurry, dashed into an exclusive department store and as she was making her selection her daughter broke into some quirky dance moves when a favorite song played over the loud speakers.  Brene looked up to see a couple of fashionably dressed, perfectly coiffed moms with their similarly lovely daughters, looking on incredulously. Just then her young daughter’s face took on a look of despair as she became aware of the negative attention she was drawing. Brene could have grabbed her daughter and hurriedly left the store, but instead she smiled and shouted out, “Don’t forget this move” and broke into her own dance routine. What the effect was on the bystanders is unknown, but Brene’s daughter left the store with her dignity intact. Brene was thankful she chose in that split second to support her daughter.

We all hope that we would make the same decision as Brene did when it comes to doing what is in the best interests of those who God has entrusted to our care, even if it brings ridicule or scorn on us. Just as Peter pulled his sword and slashed out at those coming to arrest Jesus, I think there are times when we react in a flash without regard to our personal safety. It is in the mundane daily challenges that come our way we have the opportunity to weigh the cost of being true to Jesus and make our choice. We aren’t always going to make the brave choice. We know that Peter didn’t and regretted it bitterly. Yet Jesus forgave Peter and made him the foundation for his church. He will continue to strengthen and use us for his purposes if only we allow it.

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