Monthly Archives: May 2016

05.31.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

Janelle_GregoryAh, holiday weekends! Due to an out-of-town holiday trip, Nicole Alison was not able to write for today. Instead, we offer you a reflection on John 6 that Janelle Gregory (who serves on the Resurrection staff as a Human Resources Specialist) wrote in 2013.

I grew up in the church. I was in Sunday School every week. I sang the songs, I colored the pictures, and when the class was asked a question I was the first to raise my hand. In high school I was president of my youth group, and then I became heavily involved in college ministry. I went on mission trips and retreats and I memorized scripture. I even wore the t-shirts. Yes, I was “that kid.” And as an adult, I came on staff at Church of the Resurrection.

Yet six years ago or so, the floor of my faith dropped from under me and I fell into a time where I doubted God. It’s not that I didn’t trust in God. I was struggling to believe that He even existed. It had all become too much – the stories, the miracles, the resurrection, the Holy Spirit – the whole thing. I mean seriously, when you stop to think about it, it all sounds like something right out of a fantasy movie. Throw some elf ears on the disciples, and you’ve got yourself a summer blockbuster!

So here I found myself with everything I had believed to be true, the foundation I had built my life on – it all suddenly crumbled into a pile of rubble. It was becoming apparent to me that the Bible was just made up of fictional characters and fanciful stories handed down through generations of people in need of explaining the ways of the world.

With this new understanding, I entered a very dark and lonely time. I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone. How could I? What would they think? They seemed to have it all together. Nobody else was questioning, and certainly not anyone that had been a Christian for as long as I had. How could I be so deep, so invested, and yet so lost? I went through weeks of uncertainty, weeks of going through the motions, forcing myself to play the pretend game of a believer. I would talk about God with conviction, but behind those words was a cloud of doubt.

And then the day came when I couldn’t do it any longer. I remember running into someone that asked the everyday question of, “How are you doing?” Well, the truth was that I was not doing well – not at all. Little did they know that this polite inquiry would result in me pouring my soul out, and finally coming to ask, “Is it real? Is God really real?” In a quiet assurance, this person’s response was, “Yes, He’s very real.” He then took the time to stop and pray with me. I can’t really explain it, but after that God revealed Himself to me in ways that settled my doubts.

So… what’s the point? Why am I telling you this?

Because I wish that at the time I would have known that it’s not abnormal to question God even years after deciding to follow Christ. I was so caught off guard by my lack of faith that I didn’t know how to respond. I felt that there was nowhere to turn, nobody to understand. But I can’t believe that I’m the only one that’s experienced this. After all, we read today in John 6 that even those that had heard Jesus’ words from his own mouth and saw Him with their own eyes thought that He had lost it after a while. So if those that touched Him had doubts, we shouldn’t be surprised when we have those same doubts 2,000 years later.

If you’re reading this, it’s highly unlikely that you’re experiencing a crisis of faith right now. But don’t be surprised if one day you do. My hope is that should that day come you won’t feel ashamed when you question, because you’re certainly not the first to do so. Others have been down that path, so don’t feel like you have to forge that path alone. Talk to someone – a pastor, a mentor, a friend.

Six years later, I know that I am so thankful for the people around me that support me in my faith, those that will surround me should my foundation be shaken again. And most of all I’m grateful to God for His continued love for this wandering follower.

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

05.30.16 – Insights from Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Guest Connections Program Director at Resurrection.

I’m a recovering control freak. It’s true. Maybe a softer way to say it is that I am planner who has learned to let go of the plan. I like structure. I like knowing what’s coming next. There’s a certain level of security in knowing what to expect. I’m not talking about the little things like what to make for dinner tonight (my family is happy I have a plan to feed them), or how they will all get to the fun activities they have planned for this week (again, they are glad to hear there is a plan mostly involving me as a taxi). No, I’m talking about the big things in life–what job to take, where to live and where to give.

Now some would say I have that backwards. You should live in the moment and plan for the future. And there’s some wisdom in that, I suppose. After all, we are called to be good stewards of what we have been given. The problem for me, and maybe for you, is that whenever I make plans God tends to step in and change them. It’s like he looks at my plans and says, “That’s a nice, neat little plan you have there. Here’s what’s really going to happen” and it all changes. When I was younger it used to scare me. I felt like maybe God didn’t really know who I was. I wasn’t an adrenaline junkie, adventure seeking, fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl. I’m an introvert! But time and again God pushed me to try new things, to step out in faith, to move beyond my comfort zone. I think he must have chuckled, thinking, “I know you. I made you. You can do this. Just trust in me.”

Trust–that’s really the key, isn’t it? It’s asking God the question, “What’s next?” and being willing to move from plan A to plan B or even plan C. Trust is what allows us to do that. Trust that the God who made us and knows us isn’t simply willing to leave us where we are, but yearns to move us closer to Him. Often the way that God does that can’t be wrapped up in our nice, neat, safe plans for what comes next. Rather it’s in the mysterious, one glimpse at a time, moment by moment reveal that God moves us closer to Him.

And I’m not sure I’d have it any other way. Sure, it can be scary not knowing exactly what comes next, but it’s also exciting. This control freak has learned to embrace that unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach when a big decision looms on the horizon because I know God is about to do something really cool. Something that blows my nice neat plans out of the water. Something that forces me to move in His direction, and in the end will stretch me, grow me and prepare me for the next adventure.

This summer as you continue to make plans for all kinds of things (again, plans aren’t bad) I encourage you to be willing to let them go when God prompts you to move in a different direction. Maybe the question “What’s next, God?” needs to move to the top of our summer question list. Embrace the adventure! (If you’re an introvert, just remove the exclamation point.)

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

05.28.16 – Insights from Michelle Kirby

Michelle-Kirby-GPS Michelle Kirby is Resurrection’s Associate Director of Discipleship Ministries. She is co-author of the Journey 101 Course, provides shared leadership in the Adult Discipleship ministry and has been a member of Resurrection since 1998.

I love to travel and have had the opportunity to go to some really interesting places teaching about the Christian faith on various mission trips including India, Liberia, Cuba, and Honduras among others. The places I’ve been aren’t necessarily on everyone’s bucket lists—but they’ve been experiences I’ve enjoyed immensely.

Some of the things I most appreciate about these trips are meeting new people, being introduced to new cultures and learning new things. I will admit that there have been a handful of times when I’ve encountered situations which have pushed me out of my comfort zone. I love what author James Michener once said about traveling: “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”

As I’ve traveled and been exposed to new places and ideas, my mind has been opened to new or expanded understandings of things I thought I had already understood. By the same token, I hope that these trips have helped to serve those I’ve encountered with the opportunity to learn from me as well.

It’s been interesting to observe how our Christian faith is practiced and Scripture interpreted within various cultures. This has challenged me to consider how we come to understand one another’s decisions, and how I personally apply and interpret Scripture.

On one trip, I met a winsome young man who was a nationally recognized artist before becoming a pastor. Though we are the same denomination, in that particular culture, they understand Scripture to say him being an artist is in conflict with him being a pastor. In addition, they consider anything in the artistic world that doesn’t have a Christian theme “worldly.” We in the U.S. wouldn’t apply Scripture in this way or have the same understanding.

While this probably isn’t the most pressing situation in our denomination, these are the types of things that we encounter in our church world-wide. When we’re in those moments we have to have some type of response.

Our mission team and a group of their pastors discussed this, and it was very challenging. So how should we have appropriately responded to them when they were presenting their case? Do we try and correct their logic? Do we say nothing and risk this person not using his incredible God-given gift? We could tell he felt torn. He is an artist. At the same time, his supervisors were persuading him that it was a directive from Scripture to no longer paint.

How do we come to accept and understand one another about such things? One of the keys for us is that we’ve kept dialogue open and forged a relationship. We listen to one another and pray for one another. I think that is the key to understanding.

As the Apostle Paul reminds us in today’s passage from Romans, it isn’t up to me to judge their decisions or to treat them with contempt because they think differently. Though it pains me as an art lover to think of my friend not painting, I know he made the choice to do what he’s doing—and he’s a wonderful pastor.

We face challenging times in our denomination, in the world-wide church and in our societies. In the words of James, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” We need to truly love one another and keep in mind, again from Paul’s letter, “…each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” It’s up to each of us to treat one another with love and act responsibly on what God is asking and expecting of us. We live within our cultures and understandings, but ultimately it is God we have to please.

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

05.27.16 – 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.

One of the most powerful things I have learned in seminary is the history of reverence toward the “Two-Spirited” persons in Native American theology.

Two-Spirits were people who had both feminine and masculine characteristics. In parts of our culture today, they might be described as a “man who is too feminine” or a “woman who is too masculine,” and treated as if they lacked a clear gender.

However, in native tribes the Two-Spirit person was viewed as gifted in their superior abilities to communicate with every member of the tribe. They were relevant leaders who could speak the language of both women and men.

Two-Spirits were often gifted healers and wisdom guides for the tribe. It was thought that the Great Spirit above had blessed Two-Spirits with a complete set of human characteristics and they were thus capable of greater visions and wisdom.

Author Will Roscoe has published multiple books on this topic, and in his research has found similar traditions of reverence in many indigenous cultures. It appears that some of our human ancestors honored and revered differences.

What if we approached everyone today as a gift of potential rather than focusing on what they lack or how they are different from us? What if we listened to one another with open eyes and hearts to learn a new perspective? What if we stopped judging and began to look at all people through eyes of love?

Imagine the possibilities if we could see each other as God sees us: whole and fully gifted for our purpose of contributing love to one another in our own unique way.

The history of the Two-Spirited people invites us to see things in a new ancient way.

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

05.26.16 – 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.

One of my favorite people in the Bible is Paul. Paul, once a self-righteous, pompous man, known for condemning and killing Christians, was completely transformed into a man of great humility and submission. God called him His “chosen instrument” to carry His name to the nations (Acts 9:15-16). Paul’s transformation was drastic. We believe that Saul (Paul’s name before becoming a Christian) heard Peter’s defense of the Gospel in front of the Sanhedrin. Five short chapters later (Acts 9), Paul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus, is blinded by the Lord’s light, continues to Damascus (as the Lord instructed), tells Ananias what happened, regains his sight, and is baptized. Paul, once a murderer of Christians, was now launched on a life path that made him a martyr for Jesus Christ.

Paul’s life is a testimony that no one is beyond God’s reach. Through his story, the Lord continues to pursue the lives of many. I think one of Paul’s best attributes was his humility. Paul refers to himself as “the least of all the apostles” and goes on to state he is not even worthy of the title (1 Corinthians 15:9). Basically, Paul believed if he could be a Christian, it was possible for anyone. People were drawn to him, despite his past. People could, and continue to, see parts of their own stories through Paul’s. I imagine Gentiles and Pharisees hearing Paul share his story and thinking, perhaps for the first time, “Maybe I can follow Jesus, too.” I believe the Lord can shape us through a variety of means, but the testimony of people helps to bring our faith to life.

My prayer for my life and yours is that we draw people to Christ and not away. My hope is that, like Paul, we let ourselves to be used as instruments for the Lord—that we are reminded of our need for redemption, and approach each situation with a humble spirit, and a willingness to love. As noted in today’s GPS, Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth, encouraging them to allow their lives to be a “letter from Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:3). In the same spirit, I pray that we open our lives to be testimonies of God’s unconditional love and grace to everyone around us.

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

05.25.16 – Insights from Rev. Steven Blair

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

Coke is the “Real Thing” as the old slogan claimed. Diet Coke is a lot like Coke, but you can tell the difference from the taste. Acts 15 illustrates an argument between Grace and Diet Grace. As the message about Jesus the Messiah spread, some were excited while others had their worries. One group believed that we were saved by grace alone and not by anything that we would add. Another group also believed in grace, but believed that circumcision was also required for anyone who wished to be saved. For those in the first group, requiring circumcision of the Gentile (non-Jewish) converts was equal to saying that grace alone wasn’t enough.

God’s Grace is powerful and is all we need for salvation. We humans are tempted to add onto the list of requirements and argue that salvation requires grace plus (fill in the blank). This approach sounds a little like God’s Grace, but it falls short. It puts too much importance on what we do, which is one of the reasons why some people prefer it. Focusing on our own behavior as a key component to our salvation gives us control, or at least the illusion of control, as it relates to ours or another’s salvation.

God’s Love is unconditional. God’s Grace is unmerited. How can we tell the difference between this Biblical Grace and the substitute we try to replace it with??? They taste different.

Drink from God’s relentless Grace today, a Grace that loves you as you are and not as you should be. Stay away from Diet Grace.

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

05.24.16 – 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.

I lived most of my adolescent life in a small town where we didn’t have the privilege of being exposed to a lot of diversity. I had some amazing friends who were very sincere in their faith, mostly through my church. We tried our hardest to love other people in our lives.

But, as was the case for many people in those same circumstances, we also had a little bit of fear of things we didn’t fully understand, things we didn’t have a lot of exposure to. For the most part, this didn’t stop us from loving unfamiliar people. It mostly came out when we were together behind closed doors, together in our sameness, free to laugh at the others who weren’t like us. We loved them, but we weren’t afraid to have a few laughs at their expense. We joked about people with vastly different moral triggers than we had. We joked about people of other religions, or even other denominations within Christianity. But there was one group I laughed at then that I now regret more than any other: gay people.

To be fair, this was the 90s, and we were coming out of an era when gay people weren’t exactly taken seriously in popular media. Sure, shows like Will and Grace gave some insight into gay lives, but there was still a good chance that whenever a gay person showed up in a movie or television show, it was either as shock value or the butt of a joke. Due to their newfound prominence, gay stereotypes and jokes were rampant in popular media, and, despite the success of some shows like Will and Grace, it was rare for a gay character to be any more than one of these stereotypes.

This habit followed me when I went away to college. College was a much more diverse environment than I was used to, and I found myself face to face with many of the people I used to laugh at. I quickly adapted, and there were many people very different from myself that called me a friend. But I also had friends very similar to myself–and, just like I did back at home, I found myself laughing at the same different groups when behind closed doors with my familiar friends. Some joked along with me, some gave mildly disapproving looks, but what did I care? Different people were funny, and I continued to joke to my heart’s content.

A few months into my senior year of college, I realized that I hadn’t seen my roommate from the year before for almost the entire semester. We were quite close–in addition to roommates, we were both liberal arts majors, and both leaders in our campus ministry. When I asked around, I was puzzled to find out that most of our mutual friends had seen him. I chalked it up to bad luck until I found out why. My former roommate was gay.

He had hidden it for his entire life and tried to live a “normal” life in denial of that part of himself. But over the summer, he realized that he was never going to get rid of those feelings, and he was never going to be happy in denial. And, as my roommate and one of my familiar friends, he was there for just about every joke I cracked about gay people. He was there every time I laughed at the part of himself he so desperately wanted to get rid of, but couldn’t–every time I laughed at the deepest, darkest secret he held onto. So he realized he could never be happy in denial–but, thanks to my not-so-harmless jabs, he realized he could also never be happy among people like me. He didn’t come back to our campus ministry. He didn’t come back to church. He didn’t fall out of love with God–he was pushed away by people like me who put out a message that his kind didn’t belong in church.

Paul’s condemnation of Peter and his treatment of the Gentiles in Galatians 2 may seem harsh. But, to this day, I wish someone had been that harsh with me. I wish someone would have shown me the destructive power of my words, and how people different from me deserved love, respect, and the opportunity to get to know God–before I alienated my friend and former roommate.

I’m not sharing this story to make any sort of moral statement, aside from this: the views and prejudices you hold behind closed doors matter. Sooner or later, you’ll discover those closed doors were not as closed as you thought, and the destructive power of those seemingly harmless views will come into fruition in the real world. I had to learn this the hard way. I’m sharing this in the hopes that you won’t.

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

05.23.16 – Insights from Randy Greene

Randy Greene serves in the Communications ministry as the Digital Media Specialist. He helps develop and maintain the church’s family of websites.

A couple months ago a local organization held a panel discussion called “The Crossroads of Politics and Religion.” The event featured panelists from various backgrounds – pastors, politicians and leaders of Christian nonprofits – coming together to discuss the way their faith impacts the politics of our nation. It was fascinating to hear how different people understood the way faith should inform their politics. Over the last few weeks, though, I’ve been noticing how frequently we Christians seem to flip that and let our politics inform our faith.

I do this all the time. I am so quick to lump a person into one of two buckets: either someone is “conservative” or they’re “progressive” (sometimes I call it “liberal”). And once I’ve labeled that person, I think I understand everything about her. But that is so wrong! A word cannot sum up a person’s beliefs, and it most certainly can’t adequately describe their identity. That person has unique views, experience and context that don’t fall within any simple descriptor, and by reducing her to a word, I’m saying that her perspective doesn’t matter – I’m arrogantly placing my understanding above hers.

As Christians, we are called to be better than that. We are all created in the image of God. Acts 10 reminds us that, even when we disagree with people, we are not to call them unclean – we are not to condemn them or avoid them. Instead, we are to remain in close communion with our fellow children of God. We are to abide with them and break bread with them. We are to listen to their stories and share their hearts. We are to see the beauty of God in them.

There is a lot of talk about unity these days. Many people question if it’s even possible to be unified across our vast spectrum of culture and belief. I don’t have an answer to that question, but here is what I do know:

Unity begins when I am willing to lay down my ego and confess that I don’t have all the answers. It begins when I sit at the table with those I disagree with and refuse to label them, choosing instead to listen to their stories and understanding their hearts. The choice for unity is mine.

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

05.21.16 – Insights from Ginny Howell

GinnyHowellGinny Howell serves as the Mobilization Program Director at Resurrection. She oversees All Church Serve Events, New Member Connections and our Re-Connection Team. Ginny is passionate about helping people get engaged in the life of the church and would love to visit with you if you are looking to find a way to get involved.

I love words. I think they are one of the most powerful resources we have. The words we use are tools to help each of us be who God intended us to be, and glorify God with the gifts and talents that we have been given. But just like Peter, sometimes what we say in a given situation doesn’t represent our truest selves. His words in the high priest’s courtyard cursing Jesus were not the words of a beloved disciple.

I am sure each of us can think of times when we have fallen victim to anger, frustration, fear or some other circumstance that lead us to saying or doing something completely against our character. These challenges present us with a defining moment in life. We can get stuck and become stifled within our own minds, paralyzed and afraid to move forward, or we can act with bold faith and make a conscious choice to participate in our own second chance.

The resurrection is our ever-present reminder that there is a second chance available for each and every one of us. I believe Peter was ignited by this realization when he spoke to the Israelites, and I am inspired by the conviction in his words:

“Listen to this…” he commanded.

“I tell you confidently…”

“be assured of this…”

I encourage you to let go of any words or actions that you feel might be holding you back from being who God has called you to be. What ways can you exercise your faith boldly like Peter did?

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

05.20.16 – 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.

My wife, Doris, is an ultimate DIY (Do-It-Yourself) gal & would be described in psychological texts as a “serial hobbyist.”  When we were courting, I was amazed at all of her interests: sewing, cooking, stain-glass design, leatherworking, woodworking, scrap booking, gardening, pottery, beading, painting, tiling, & rug hooking.  (Who knew hot glue guns even came with a holster?)  I got an inkling of what I was in for when, ala Norm at Cheers, the clerks at Jo-Ann’s yelled, “Doris” when we came into the store.  I also learned that in the midst of any home-improvement project one does not simply go to Home Depot once.

Aside: When we were in the Resurrection Pre-Marital class in 1998, the grooms-to-be were spontaneously asked as an introductory/icebreaker question, “What they liked best about their bride-to-be?”  I was first to go and, with very little preparation mind you, said, “Doris is so creative & imaginative.”  Every other, and I mean every o-t-h-e-r, guy replied, “Because she is my best friend.”  Fully realizing I would pay dearly for this error on the day Doris selected my nursing home, I pleaded for but was ultimately denied a “do-over.” Fortunately, Pastor Winger allowed extra-credit & Doris helped the curve so we were still able to scrape by with a probationary G.E.D. equivalent certificate.  (At this point, I’ll be delighted if my nursing home has indoor plumbing.)

Of course Doris also loves reclamation projects “saved” from the trash.  Every wagon, sewing machine, TV tray, & baby food jar is just waiting for its repurposed life.  (I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being a tad nervous that she is co-chair of the Church of the Resurrection Annual Rummage Sale this year – Donate July 12 & 13 / Shop July 15 & 16!)  I had to smile at my early marital naiveté when rummaging through her craft room last week helping her find some pillow stuffing for who knows what when I ran across an old banker box that I had meticulously labeled, “Doris’ Craft Projects” – as if that single box would suffice.

Our friend Peter is also a DIY kind of guy (Hallelujah! – a Biblical reference – Editor).  He is there ready to walk on water, ready to be bathed from head to toe at the Last Supper, & ready to fight to the death in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Yet, when questioned by various servant girls in the courtyard as his friend Jesus was enduring a kangaroo court procedure, Peter denies even knowing who Jesus was.

Peter must have been in a state of agony over that Holy weekend as he re-played those scenes in his mind.  Peter may have even viewed Easter morning’s Good News with some trepidation as he tried to think of some way he could be worthy of sharing in Christ’s great victory.

What could he possibly do to atone for his shameful behavior?  In a word: Nothing.  There wasn’t anything Peter could do to rectify his actions or to make amends with Jesus.  He had to have Christ’s help.  Jesus initiated the process on that awful Friday afternoon & brings it to its glorious conclusion in today’s passage when He gives Peter a second chance to re-declare his love for Him.

I’ve always wondered why Peter, the leader of the church, would allow the story of his denying Christ see the light of day.  We know of leaders who brag about transparency but try to hide every little thing that might cast them in a bad light.  Yet, Peter had to be a source for the story & probably had to help explain to John the full implications of his restoration conversation with Jesus.

Perhaps Peter, knowing full well that we future Christians would also deny Christ in our own way, desperately wanted us to understand just how much God loves us & how much Jesus is willing to sacrifice to offer us the gift of redemption.

So, while DIY is the perfect can-do attitude for our hustling & bustling lives, perhaps we would be wise to remember that when it comes to our faith walk we are never alone &, instead, have a mindset of DFY.  (Died For You.)

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