Category Archives: After the Fire

11.27.09 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

I spent 2 summers during college as Facility Manager at the Historic Ward-Meade Park in Topeka, Kansas. (“Facility Manager” is the Greek phrase, I believe, for “he who puts up tables & chairs.)  The Park included one of the oldest homes in Topeka, a train depot, a re-produced log cabin, a one-room-schoolhouse, & a brown-sided, one-room building.  Roughly the size of a one-car garage, this simple structure contained a cot, a roll-top desk, & a typewriter.  This was the study used by Reverend Charles Sheldon to write his sermons & books.

Dr. Sheldon came to Topeka in 1889.  While writing a sermon the following year, he was interrupted by a scruffy looking man seeking work.  Since he had nothing for the man to do, Dr. Sheldon abruptly turned him away.  Upon reflection, Dr. Sheldon began to ponder what this man must be experiencing as he sought to support his family. 

With Topeka experiencing a recession, Sheldon decided to conduct an experiment during the brutally cold winter of 1890.  He dressed as a man down on his luck & spent a week seeking work.  Many times his queries weren’t even acknowledged.  Rarely did anyone make eye contact with him as he went in every establishment on Topeka Boulevard.  As the day went on, Sheldon’s hands & feet began to become numb with cold.  For someone unsuccessfully seeking work, the thermometer doesn’t accurately measure just how cold & dreary one can feel.

For 3 more days he wandered around Topeka seeking work.  On the 4th day, he reached the Santa Fe Railroad yard.  He so wanted to feel needed that he volunteered to shovel the snow off the tracks for free.  He was thrilled when they let him work.  He returned the next day & was offered fifty cents to shovel coal out of a train car into the coal bins.  He felt such a great joy in working alongside others & just feeling useful.  This experience would help Sheldon’s congregation support & comfort those seeking work.  It would also be the inspiration for one of the best-selling books of all time, “In His Steps.”

Now, Dr. Sheldon would readily agree that his experiment pales in comparison with the sacrifices Christ made on our behalf.  For a culture that seems to consider Frank Sinatra’s song, “I Did it My Way,” as a motto, it is rare to discover an example of someone voluntarily ceding prestige, comfort & power to serve others.  It can be very hard for us to even comprehend Christ’s humbling Himself & becoming human.

While recognizing this challenge, Paul is still urging the Philippians (& us) to set aside our personal ambition, our pride, & our desire for wealth.  He is encouraging us to imitate Christ’s example of trusting & following God’s will.  Why does Paul recommend this?  So, that we may come to enjoy & experience the benefits of a life with Christ.

Taking Paul’s challenge to heart, today may be a good time to tweak our theme song a bit.  Instead of “I Did it My Way,” perhaps we would be better served singing, “I Did it Thy Way.”


11.26.09 Thursday Insights from Pastor Penny Ellwood

I Chronicles 29:10-17 is a wonderful scripture for Thanksgiving. It records King David’s prayer for the extraordinary giving of the Israelite nation for the construction of the Lord’s temple; the temple that would be constructed by David’s son, King Solomon. In this prayer, David prepares his people to build the temple for God and reminds the Israelite people of their place in life. “Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand.”   The clear, outstanding message of these words is, “It’s all God’s.”  Everything we have, including our very life, is all God’s.

As we gather with our loved ones around our Thanksgiving tables today, preparing to fill ourselves with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie let us not forget from where God has brought us and how much God has done in our lives as well. Today is a good day to reflect on how God has been present with us, leading us on, doing for us even when we aren’t aware of it.

We cannot ever forget what God has done for us individually –and as a church–how far God has brought us from our humble beginnings, and what a privilege it is to be where we are and do what we are doing for his glory.

Have a happy Thanks — giving!

11.25.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

It has been said that the best way to get a sense of the priorities in a person’s life is to look at their check register and their day planner. Any one of us – pastors included – can talk a good game about following Christ. But at some point our stated values and priorities have to show up in the actions we take and the decisions we make about using our two biggest resources; time and money.

I say that I value time spent in prayer alone with God. And yet I will confess to you here that my morning prayer yesterday was a rushed and rather hurried affair. Tuesday was also the annual Thankful Day of Prayer Vigil at Church of the Resurrection, and although for me participating meant standing up, walking out of my office and around the corner to the Wesley Chapel, it almost did not happen as I scrambled to respond to emails, and meet the other demands of my workday. So in light of today’s scripture passage I really need to take a serious look at my real, enacted values and how they collide with my verbally expressed values. Or as Jesus might say it, “… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (v. 21) Jesus challenges us each to ask ourselves where our treasure (i.e. values) actually lie.

The passage beginning with v. 22 that speaks of the eye as the lamp of the body turns our modern understanding of the eye upside down. Whereas you and I think of the eye as a window that admits light into the body from outside, Jesus is saying that the eye is more like a lamp that shines light out of us into the world. He is telling us that, in essence, people should be able to look into our eyes and see what matters most to us.

Where is your treasure? Do your check register and calendar reflect a different set of values than you espouse verbally? And finally, what can I see in your eyes about the things that matter most to you?

As we spend time preparing our Thanksgiving feasts for tomorrow, let us also spend time reflecting on the ways we live out the values we profess.

Rev. Russell Brown, Pastor of Support Ministries

(913) 544-0219

11.24.09 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Scott Chrostek

Indescribable gifts are really something, aren’t they?  Have you ever received something so great that you couldn’t describe it?   If not, then maybe you’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced the opposite, a gift so terrible that it had no adequate explanation.   Either way, today is Tuesday, November 24th.  We are exactly one month away from Christmas Eve.   We’re just one month away from the last shopping day of the Holiday Season.  We’re one month away from the day when millions upon millions of people will be receiving indescribable gifts.  For most people these gifts will be little hand-wrapped surprises placed beneath the Christmas tree.  An unexpected train set, the latest tech gadget, that perfect pair of shoes, the set of earrings you’d secretly been hoping for.  Is that really the kind of indescribable gift, Paul gives thanks for in today’s text?
As we approach Christmas and Thanksgiving before it, I’m wondering what might happen if you set aside the shopping list for a day and instead tried to live an entire day as though it was a gift given to you?
I wonder what might happen if for a day, you treated every one of your words as though they were gifts to be received and opened by the others in your midst.
What if, for a day, you looked at all things, the people, the places, even the predicaments that came your way, as though they were gifts given to you by God?
The Apostle Paul closes today’s scripture by saying, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” Paul is thankful for the surpassing grace of God; a gift so great that it quite literally surpasses all understanding.  Paul was thankful for the gift of life.  Every day, no matter how great or how difficult, Paul considered it a gift to be opened and unwrapped, to be celebrated and rejoiced over, because God gave it to him.
As a way to give thanks for all that you’ve been given, for the blessing of this day, for the gift of life, for the gift and blessing of this church and for the thousands of people who have come together in Resurrection hope to build Christian community where non-religious and nominally religious people can become deeply committed Christians, I want to challenge you to take a moment to give thanks to God for the gifts you’ve been given, and then I want you to find a way to share a gift, any way you can, with someone else.
Today our church will pause to give thanks to God during our Thankful Day of Prayer Vigil. If you feel so led, come on out and experience the power of prayer.  The Wesley Covenant Chapel will be open for prayer from 6:00 am until 10:00 pm.  Over the course of the day, every Resurrection family will be prayed for by name.  We hope you’ll join us!  God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving!

11.23.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

Last Monday, the scripture was also about a widow who exhibited great generosity in the midst of difficult circumstances. In today’s scripture we see once slice of a picture – a poor woman giving to the temple. We do not know much about this widow from this story of scripture. Who was part of her family? Was she employed? Had she just been released from her job? Had this widow been searching for a job for months? We don’t know. However, we do know that she is generous.

It is evident that this woman is poor and it is clear that she is marked by her generosity. Jesus is struck by the gift of this woman and calls his disciples to share the story. This woman’s generosity is a characteristic of her character and her life. Sometimes I wonder how my life is characterized. Would others comment on my generous spirit? More importantly, does God see my life as one that is lived with generosity?

I hope that my life is characterized by generosity. As my wife and I made our commitment to the life of the church for 2010, we did so with the hope that it is part of a life that is marked by generosity and drawing closer to God. The story of this woman’s generosity is an inspiration to me and I hope that it is for you as well.

11.20.09 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

“I spy with my little eye…” starts off the popular children’s guessing game that has been a blessing on many a long car trip for parents with youngsters.

 Jesus is playing a little “I Spy’ with us in today’s scripture selection.  Jesus urges us to “not worry.” His first contention is for us to “consider the lilies of the field.”  Let’s ponder why He might suggest this.

 When we look at the scenery around us, what do we see?  Perhaps the beautiful colors of the leaves remind us of debris that will need to be raked & bagged.  Perhaps a thunderstorm points out the danger & vulnerability that we all occasionally experience.  Or perhaps, in the midst of our hectic pace, we completely overlook the many scenes of our everyday life.  Maybe we are missing something.

 In the city of Florence, Italy there is an old building that 700 years ago was once a palace.  Around 1300, the artist, Giotto, painted a portrait of the poet Dante in a mural on a wall of the palace.  Over time, the palace became a jail for common criminals & its walls were covered with whitewash.  Giotto’s portrait was all but forgotten under the grime & multiple coats of paint.  In 1840, the mural was rediscovered.  Since it is the only portrait of Dante done during Dante’s lifetime, its value is beyond estimation.  The building, The Bargello, is now a museum & gallery.  A wall that was once was perceived as plain & common now reveals a great artist’s beautiful creation.

 When Jesus looked to the lilies of the field, He saw the loving handiwork of God.  To Jesus, the field is alive & filled with the proof positive of God’s amazing touch & care.  One can imagine God smiling at the beautiful field of flowers as each plant tries to “out-do” each other in proclaiming God’s awesome creation.

 Perhaps our perception is skewed.  If we didn’t see God as some distant being far away from us & our worries, then maybe we’d be able to take Jesus’ charge to heart.  If we began to see God’s great care & love in creation all around us, then perhaps we’d come to understand God’s great care & love for our needs as well.

 The common wall at The Bargello became transformed with the discovery of Dante’s portrait.  The portrait had always been there, but was not seen.  Perhaps we need to wash away our blindness & complacency, to reveal the great Artist’s beautiful creation that demonstrates His love.  Perhaps if we start to consider the beauty of the earth as proof of God’s love, then we can begin entrusting our worries to God’s care.  Let’s play a little “I Spy” today & see where we can spot examples of God’s amazing touch.

11.19.09 Thursday Insights from Rev. Wendy Lyons Chrostek

I am reminded of a Seinfeld episode when I think of this passage of Scripture.  One night, George has gone out on a date at the restaurant where he and his friends frequently dine.   While there, Elaine stops by and they ask if she would like them to order her any food to go.  She responds that she would like a big salad. So, Elaine leaves, they order the salad, and George picks up the tab.  When they deliver the salad to Elaine, George’s date gives her the salad and accepts the thank you.  George is infuriated…it wasn’t that he really wanted to receive a thank you, it was just the principle that Elaine has thanked the wrong person and his date so casually accepted the gratitude.   Finally George can’t stand it anymore and so he tells Elaine.  It somehow gets back to George’s date that he went out of his way to make sure that Elaine knew that it was him who bought the salad.  When she confronts him, his response is “How does a person who has virtually nothing to do with the big salad claim responsibility for that salad and accept a thank you under false pretenses.” 

Now, there are ways that we can take this little story a bit too far so far as to never accept a compliment for the things that we do, but I think that there is an interesting principle behind it.  If we go around believing that we deserve the credit for the wealth we receive and forget to acknowledge that the power and the gifts that make it possible for us to earn that wealth come from God– then we’re missing out on the opportunity to thank God for these blessings in our lives.  And it isn’t like we always do it intentionally, because often times it’s because we truly have worked so hard to get where we are.  But there’s something to be said for keeping in the forefront of our mind the blessings that God has bestowed upon us.  And when we do take the opportunity to thank God, we are the ones who feel truly blessed, for the more we think about the gifts we have, the more we realize we have.  It’s funny, when you really start to think about all that you have to be happy for, you can come up with a rather long list.  So, over the next week, I hope you’ll start compiling a list of things that you are thankful for, so that when Thanksgiving comes, you’ll be able to overflow with gratitude.  And with gratitude also comes a great attitude.

11.18.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

James encourages to live aligned with God’s purposes. In today’s passage, he emphasizes living life with humility, justice, endurance, and patience.

James starkly portrays that wealth can be an obstacle to aligning ourselves with God’s purposes. He is not saying wealth or money is bad, but we need to be aware of possible pitfalls.   Sometimes acquiring wealth can give us a false sense of security or we feel morally superior to others. We may decide that we must have all things now and not wait. Other stumbling blocks could be that we focus more on ourselves than sharing generously with others.

James’ admonishment reminds us to be patient, humble and care for others well.  To watch how we can be people who exemplify these characteristics.  Today take a moment in silence – reflect and see if there are stumbling blocks that can hinder you from being patient, humble and just.

May we be people who are humble, just, patient, and generously give to others.

11.17.09 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

As I was signing in to write this post, a bit on the wordpress homepage caught my eye–it was an exerpt from someone’s post called “Running Out of Space.”  The author writes about the amazing progression of the size of hard drives on computers–how we have gone from 30gb hard drives that seemed huge to the new standard of 1tb as default.   The author muses: 

When did we ever find the need to have 1tb of information on our computers?! … We’ve amassed so much junk, haven’t we? I can barely fit my life into my 160gb Hard Drive currently, but I remember a day when I didn’t know what to do with a 30gb computer. My how times change, but more poignantly…my how our lives are full of junk.”

That reminded me of our rich man with the abundant harvest (from today’s passage, Luke 12:16-21) who decides to tear down his barns to build bigger ones to store his crops so he can take it easy and enjoy life.  But much like our computer hard drives, when we store up material wealth, it never quite satisfies and we always end up wanting (or “needing”) more.  For this farmer, he has invested in the wrong thing–he thinks his security comes from the large barns filled with grain when in fact his richness towards God is what is about to be measured. 

So what about us?  Beyond our computers full of junk, do we have rooms in our houses stockpiled with toys that didn’t hold our interest or closets with lovely clothing that we hoped would define us?  Take a look in the garage or the basement or the attic–the places we store things many of which we don’t really need or use.  Now consider what it means to be rich toward God… do we store up time to deepen our relationship with Jesus?  Do we collect prayers on behalf of others?  Take a look around the house–is there evidence of our faith anywhere?  Try this with me today–find some material thing in your house and give it away, then intentionally seek to be spiritually wealthy by spending time in prayer with God.  Perhaps we will find this to be the most “successful” day we’ve had in awhile. 

Rev. Molly Simpson is the Campus Pastor of Resurrection West, and is available by emailing

11.16.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

This is a pretty amazing story. Elijah has transitioned from a place where God has provided for his food and drink to encounter this widow whom God has told him will provide him with food and water. I am amazed at Elijah’s boldness in going to a woman that he has just met and declaring that not only will she provide him with food, but that her food supplies will continue to be sufficient to provide for her family. I am amazed at the boldness of the widow in telling a man whom she has just met the honest truth about the dire circumstances in which she finds herself and the boldness to trust Elijah in sharing her last bit of food.

This is truly a story of God’s work. I appreciate Elijah’s trust in God and the widow’s honesty about the circumstances in her life. In my own life, I find that it is at times more difficult to share honestly with others when I am struggling than to trust for God’s provision. Trusting in God’s provision may involve conversations with my family, but most of all it is based on my relationship with God. It is much more difficult for me to share those struggles with someone else. However, I find that when I share what is really going on in my life, I allow others to support me when it is needed. Likewise, when I offer help to someone who has made themselves vulnerable to me, I find my own faith and life strengthened.

This is the paradox of God’s provision – sharing the strength and truth of God with others does not decrease, but instead strengthens my own relationship with God. Following God’s call to ministry, marriage and to serve in Kansas have been times in my life in which I have trusted in God and found God’s provision to be sufficient and God’s blessings to be overflowing.