Personal Choices

Recently, our pastor has been preaching on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which caused me to reflect on the following…

 “Then the son became angry and refused to go in.  His father came out and began to plead with him…”           Luke 15:28

How many times have we felt inadequate to speak the loving truth of our powerful feelings to the people who matter the most to us?   How many of us, as sons or daughters, as partners, or as fathers or mothers, haven’t had an experience of the verse above?  Perhaps it wasn’t our transgression, but a sibling’s that we witnessed.  Or more painful yet, our beloved spouse making an irretrievable criticism to our equally- beloved child….   Or words that we spoke in a moment of sleep-deprived, anxious desperation that completely backfired; that were NOT what we intended.  Ow! 

                Our Christian faith is what paves a way forward for us…. a way of forgiveness, first for ourselves, then for others.  God’s incredible Grace shows us a way to be gracious in complicated situations that seem irresolvable!  God can imagine reconciliation where we can see none.   God shows us a way out.   

I know this because I have experienced it many times in my life.  I have witnessed it happen for others many times, too.  (This is a gift of older age!)  In other situations I am still waiting; still praying for that reconciliation and healing to be revealed.  I will never stop hoping; never stop believing that healing will be possible.   We must keep the faith!

As mature adults we are called upon to act like grownups.  We can’t lash back with petty, caustic remarks.  We must not add fuel to situations that we recognize as being combustible.  We are called to develop patience and forbearance.  Yet we are, also, called to hold one another accountable; to speak truth to power; to hold fast to the vision of what a person can become, and to be steadfast when our loved one is weak.  We are called not to judge, but to love.  Sometimes being loving means doing a hard thing…  We are called to develop Wisdom, and to support one another in our struggles to grow.

                Recently we celebrated a marriage within our family.  Bob and I had a wonderful time, but later we learned of individual struggles going on behind the scenes that caused strife.  We have, also, had bitterly painful experiences of jealousy in our families.  These were situations where we could have chosen to feel righteously wronged, but we developed a test that helped us make a better choice…  We asked ourselves, “Is this about a possession, or about a relationship?  What matters to us?  If we choose to have a growing, long-lasting relationship with this person, then aren’t we called to let this go? Can’t we forgive this?”  It’s interesting how quickly bitterness drains away when forgiveness is unleashed!

                I have learned to pay very close attention to my emotions.  The Holy Spirit often reaches through my busy distractions to grab my attention with emotions.  If I ignore them, the feelings grow stronger; sometimes reaching the intensity of agitation.  These are times to pause; meditate; to listen for God’s voice speaking to me and leading me forward.  The greatest personal and familial healings of my life have happened as a result of my paying attention to these intense feelings.   Often great bravery is required, and honesty.  Jesus is a great role model for us.  I’m so grateful for His example!!

 “Gracious and Loving God, we hear your call to us to grow; to mature; to learn to love and communicate more effectively with others.  Conflict is especially hard for us and we pray for your continual guidance.  May your Spirit lead us into fuller, more joyful relationships, and help us align our actions with your desires for us.   In Christ’s name we pray.  Amen.

Ann Scarborough

First of all, then, I ask that requests, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be made for all people.                1 Timothy 2:1

Intercessory prayer is the act of praying on behalf of another and God calls all Christians to be intercessors. It is God’s desire that every believer be active in intercessory prayer. What a wonderful and exalted privilege we have in being able to come boldly before the throne of Almighty God with our prayers and requests!

I can attest to the amazing power of prayer. This past year I have had several surgeries and when people would find out that I would be in the hospital yet again they would consistently ask what they could do to help. I would shamelessly ask them to pray for peace for me. I asked not only my church family, but secular friends, people I had worked with, once even a stranger on a plane. Somebody told me that they had contacted a cloister of nuns in New Mexico to pray for me. You know what? I felt it! I never experienced fear. I only felt lifted by all those prayer.

Every Sunday, during worship, we have the opportunity to bring our joys and concerns for the congregation to pray over them. The petitions that are voiced on Sunday are emailed out on Mondays so that we can continue to pray about them during the week. But what about those things that happen mid-week that we want to invite a host of people join with us to pray about? Glendale has a prayer chain, consisting of many members who are ready to pray for you at any time. All you have to do is call the church or Becky Jo, give a brief description of your prayer request and an email will be sent to those on the prayer chain who will immediately begin to pray for and with you. The prayer chain is confidential, unless you request otherwise. If you would like to be a member of the prayer chain, just talk to Becky Jo. Prayer does make a difference.

Paula Gaboury

“Opportunities to SEE”

Ecclesiastes 3: 1 is a favorite verse of mine–   For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.   

The 3 letter acronym SEE represents to me a time in life where everything changes, thus stands for a Significant Emotional Experience when everything changes and will never be the same as we live thru this change or transition in our life.  Every September 24thI think about the future, it is the day that our son, Justin, was born.  Birth is truly one of God’s miracles and brought hope, life, and love into our future.  It was definitely a SEE in my life!  Death is a life changing significant emotional experience too. So when our son died, it was another change that brought a major transition and opportunity to me.  In both events; God, friends, family, and community were present to support and guide me through, it did not matter, whether it was a happy time (season) or a difficult time (season).  Both were opportunities for me to grow spiritually during the SEE.

We need close friends to help us thru these seasons in life!  A friend entered my life about 3 years after Justin died, and he got to know my life’s story, isn’t that what God wants each one us to do?  Every year since then; he has sent Ann and me a card in the mail that arrives on September 24th (the exact day the letter always arrives no matter where we have lived during those years!)  Our friend knows what September 24th means, and never forgets that this day is marked in my experience for life, so even though he did not know Justin; he has always thinks about Justin’s life, death, and our future together when that “season” is remembered. 

Please pray for all those in your life who are in the journey of a SEE.  Be there for them in this transition of their life. Ask God to help us remember that we are here to support, guide, and love them no matter what has changed in our lives.

Bob Scarborough

I cherish a word spoken by the French General and statesman, Marques de Lafayette.  He was enthusiastic over the news of the American Revolution, and despite all the obstacles laid in his path by the neutral French government, he left France to join George Washington’s army.  He arrived in Philadelphia in 1777, where Congress appointed him a major general.  He quickly won the close friendship of Washington.  He was wounded at Brandywine and shared hardships of the awful winter at Valley Forge.  Returning to France in 1781 he found his country in the midst of drought and famine.  His farms had produced abundantly during his time in America.

His farm managers came to him saying: “The crops have been poor, the people are hungry, but your barns are full, now is the time to sell.”  Lafayette quickly responded, “No, now is the time to give!”

Many people in our country have not been blessed in the troubled times of rising prices, economic hardship, and uncertain employment. Those of us who have been blessed with more than enough for our needs should hear Lafayette’s call. Now perhaps it is not the time to buy, “Now is the time to give.”

Rev. Jim Ross

Hope is not wishful thinking.  It is much more than that; hope is the confidence that if you do God’s will, God will keep his promises to you.

 

God makes as many promises to us as we are likely to make to God.  First of all, God promises to be there for you in times of trouble.  You can count on God being there to strengthen you and carry you through difficult times.  God doesn’t promise to deliveryou from difficult times; but gives you the strength to endure, to triumph, and to actually be even more than a conqueror over the things that would otherwise defeat you.

Are there those among us who have tried to distance ourselves, only to find that those from whom we are pulling away keep working that much harder to close the gap?  Are there those among us who have felt compelled by God to be the “gap closers” in those lives?

 

I don’t know how many times we, as individuals in the congregation, when we are going through pain in our lives; times of loss, times of suffering, have said to me, “if it wasn’t for the strength that God gives me, I don’t think I could make it.”  God willhelp you in difficult times—that’s a promise to remember.

 

The second thing that God promises is to make good thingsout of the difficult times.  I mean that in the midst of all the troubles, you can be sure that God is at work and God is going to be with you.  Out of difficulty, something good will come.  We live in that hope and that expectation that no matter how dark it may seem, there’s a light at the end of our tunnel, and that God will bring something wonderful to pass.

The third thing that God promises, in addition to being there in times of trouble, in addition to bringing good out of the dark times, is this; God promises that God will never stop loving you.  No matter what you’ve done, no matter what mess you’ve gotten into, God will not abandon you.

When it all looks bleak and dark, hang in there.  Don’t give up.  Never, never give up hope!  Live in the confidence that the God who gave us his Son, Jesus will not turn his back on you.  He’ll be there to carry you through the difficult times and give you the strength to endure.  God will be there to bring good out of the negative.  God will be there, loving you through all that goes on.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.  No matter what has happened to you, no matter what you’ve done, you have a God who can’t help loving you.  It is God’s nature and God will love you ‘til the very end.  Even in death God will be there and God promises eternal life to those who hope in him and walk in that hope.

From a sermon many years ago.

Mike Shultz

 

The Potter

Isaiah 64:8

“But you are our father, Lord. We are like clay, and you are like the potter. You created us.”

 

Over the years in church we have sung these words “You are the potter, we are the clay” many times.  Creator God, you have indeed molded each of us into a unique and individual sculpture.

Your pallet of colors touches us with the seasons. The white of winter, blooming tulips and lilacs of spring. The deep greens of summer with blue skies and the red and gold hues of autumn.

You are our creator and our potter giving each of us the gifts and talents to explore our own creativity.  Help us to use those gifts and talents to create the beautiful sculpture you intended us to be.

Shelley Shultz

Concert Weekend and Worship

Who goes to three live music concerts in one weekend?

Me, that’s who!  I didn’t plan it that way, but one by one purchased the concert tickets (Paramore / Fallout Boy, Boston, Joan Jett / Journey) and realized they were all on the same weekend.  So I had an intense experience of live music as it is performed in the 21st century.  These are my observations:

  • You can feel live music, in ways you wouldn’t be able to feel recorded music.
  • When performers are in concert, they hold nothing back.  They give all their energy to singing their songs.  And so do those concert-goers.
  • Various light, video and special effects (even fire!) enhance the concert-goers experience of music. (When the band Fallout Boy sang “So light ‘em up” and the flames shot up from the stage floor, you could feel those words more intensely)
  • Concert goers love when performers play the music they know (and performers are trying to constantly expand the music known by their concert goers by playing the new stuff).

The “a-ha!” observation for me this past weekend was this:  This is how youth, young adults, middle aged adults and baby boomers are used to experiencing live events.  They are used to feeling music within themselves.  They are encouraged by example to hold nothing back.  Video, lighting and special effects are expected.  And they want to have something familiar to hang onto.

Given that, what does the church have to learn about how it does worship (another live event experience)?

I’m not going to answer that for you.  I just invite you to consider the question and comment.

Pastor Becky Jo Messenbrink