Author Archive

Julie

“If people don’t know I’m Christian by my actions, then I am doing something wrong”, I told my daughter, Brie during a conversation this week about what it means to be a Christian.  “How will they know?  she replied.  “People other than Christians are kind, caring, and respectful to other people.  How will they know it is because you are a Christian?” This had me stuck.  I often am quiet about the fact that I am a Christian and this had been a painful, internal struggle for years.  What keeps me quiet in my faith?  The fact that those who are loud about their faith, especially in the public media, do not represent what I believe it means to me to be a Christian.  They often share messages of judgment, righteous anger, and excluding other people.  This is contrary to how I see faith and this is especially strong after the recent sermons by our pastors about not judging others and offering forgiveness to those that have hurt us.  But my quietness about my faith denies people an opportunity to see God through those that see him differently.  If I am still in my faith, how can I show others about a God that loves us, that shows us grace, and that wants a relationship with us no matter where we are? I’m trying to give voice to my faith.  It is uncomfortable, like I’m wearing clothes after a pizza and ice cream binge.  Everything feels confining.  But I’m beginning to realize that I honor my own faith and my relationship with God when I put my faith into words, not just into action.

So the question I often ponder and offer to you is what are some ways for you to give voice to your faith?

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Dreams

Posted: June 12, 2013 in Faith, Family, Grace, Life
Tags: , , , ,

 

As I have mentioned before, there are some nights when I am locking in battle with insomnia. I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking of everything that needs to get done and trying to figure out ways to get it done rather than falling asleep. These can be long nights and the mornings always come way too quickly.

 

Quite often, during these nights, my mind turns to dreams – dreams I have for the future – dreams of what I want to accomplish – dreams of what I want to see during my journey here. Some of these dreams are realistic, and others are just pipe dreams, but I dream them anyway.

 

Dreams are important. They help all of us to set goals and look beyond the immediate nature of today. It is good to have dreams, and to make time to try and find ways to achieve these dreams. But, as I have come to notice, sometimes we get so caught up in dreams for the future that we neglect the gifts we are given today. We are looking down the road and miss seeing what is happening right here and now. So the question is, how do we combine the life we live today with the dreams we have for tomorrow.

 

Back in college, my friends and I would talk about what we would do after we graduated. After graduation, we talked about where we would be in ten years. Now, some of my friends talk about what they will do when they are retired. But what about now? Are we trying to just make it up another rung on the ladder, or are we rejoicing in the blessing of today? There needs to be a happy medium somewhere.

 

For me, the key has come with the issue of time. We only have so much of it, and we need to take full advantage of what we have been given. Taking time to be with the people we love and to do the things we love to do. When we do that, the other dreams fall into place, for we see that all the other stuff – trips, cabins in the woods, etc – are made so much better when we live those dreams out with the people we love.

 

Humans were created to be in relationship with others. Those relationships take many different forms, but are all important. We need to make time to help these relationships grow in the healthiest ways possible, rejoice in the gift of them, and celebrate the dreams we have with others.

 

So what are your dreams for today?

canada lake

Ever get in a funk and just can’t seem to get out of it?

I’ve had days like that. Days when it seems like no matter what I do I just cannot get out of the bad mood I am in, and even the littlest things set me off.

I don’t like those days. I want to be able to change my mood.

I had been reading through some stuff and ran across a line from Tony Robbins: Emotion is created by motion.

Basically what he is saying is that if you want to change your mood, your emotional state, many times what you need to do is get active, to do something.

Michael Hyatt, a leadership expert, said if you don’t believe this then try this little example:

Slouch in your chair.
Round your shoulders.
Take shallow breaths.
Close your eyes.
Frown and then sigh.

If you do this there is a good chance you will start to feel down right away. What you do physically can effect how you feel emotionally.

And it is the same for feeling positive, for changing your mood for the better. Here are a few things I do to help get me out of my bad moods:

1- Get up and get out for a walk. Just leaving the space I am in and doing something different, even if it is just a walk around the sanctuary on a cold day, makes a huge difference in how I am feeling.

2 – Think back to a good thing that has happened during the week. No matter how bad or tough my week has been, there is always at least one thing that has been good and positive. I take some time to focus on that moment.

3 – TAPS prayers – TAPS stands for Thanks, Ask, Praise, and Supplication. I take a moment to pray through the TAPS prayers because it helps to move me away from focus on self only and lift up the good things and others that are in my life.

4 – Music – I crank up my i-pod with the most upbeat music I can find. Again it takes me out of that moment and brings me to a different place where things are better.

So if you need a change of mood, push yourself to do something a little different, a little more physical, so that you can make the move into a more positive area. May your eyes always be opened to the blessings of God in your life.

Today, our family bids farewell to an institution that’s been a part of our lives for almost 9 years. Today is Scarlett’s last day at the Angel Academy, a day care center/preschool that has taught and looked after our daughters for their whole lives. The Angel Academy is closing in a few weeks, since its host congregation is changing locations and will no longer have space for the day care. It’s going to be hard for us to say goodbye to the people and place that have cared for our children for so many years.

 

I remember the first time I took Sierra there, a 7-pound pipsqueak in the infant room. I was sure this tiny baby would cry the whole day. She didn’t. She was cared for well. I’ll remember chuckling as my children chastised me over the years for saying the words “stupid” and “butt,” because those were “bad words” at school. I’ll remember hearing “I’m Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee,” and “Jesus Loves Me” sung over and over after school. We’ll always have the handprint crafts they brought home to us. I’ll remember how Scarlett, at 3-years-old, declared that her school friend Ayden was her boyfriend. Today we say goodbye and thank you to the Angel Academy, because they helped shape our children, and the things they learned and the memories we have, will last forever.

 

This is the time of year when we see a lot of things coming to an end, and a lot of new things beginning. Winter has finally come to an end, trees that were budding just a few weeks ago now have leaves, our spring flowers are giving way to the flowers of summer. And students are preparing to transition from one level to another. And some are graduating, in Commencement ceremonies. “Commencement” doesn’t mean, “The End,” but rather, “The Beginning.” Because when one facet of our lives draws to a close, a new part begins. Life is full of endings and new beginnings. Even when we’re done graduating, we all experience “commencements” in life – new jobs, new homes, having children and grandchildren, new opportunities, new relationships, and retirement. Scarlett is already looking forward to her new beginnings – the new schools she’ll attend, the new friends she’ll meet, the new adventures she’ll have. Saying goodbye and moving forward isn’t always easy, but as we make transitions, we remember that our God is a God of new life, who goes with us, blessing our journey and making all things new.

Pastor Jennifer

 

I number of years ago I heard this phrase, and it has stuck with me – EGO = Edging God Out.

There are many times in all of our lives when we think we know best – we think we have the one and only answer – we think we know the right direction to go. And quite often, this really is our ego getting in the way. As humans we often want to be right, because it avoids embarrassment and having to say we were wrong. And yes, I am as guilty as that as anyone.

I told this story in a sermon a number of years ago, but it illustrates the point well.

It was my first Sunday at my first call, and one of the teenage girls walked up to me and said, “We are going on a trip in the summer. Everything is planned, and you are coming with us.” What else could I say but, okay, what are we doing. The plan was to go to Glacier National Park, go whitewater rafting, and then head to an Indian Reservation to paint a church and teach VBS

It was a long drive, the kids got rowdy, and soon the teasing began. After first pit stop, the cars divided up by gender, the girls in two cars, boys in the other two. Well, we made it to Glacier and had a lot of fun rafting. When we finished on the water, we started to head to my friend’s church that we were staying at for the night. We stopped for gas, and I did something I shouldn’t have.

One of the ladies driving a van full of girls asked me – Do you want a map?

I turned to her, and in my most defiant voice said – I don’t need a map, I know where I am going.

Oops!

So we started out, and yes, I made a wrong turn. I even knew it was a wrong turn about five miles down the road, but did I admit it, NO! EGO

I kept going, hoping that there would be a turn somewhere I could take to get back on the right road. Plus, the boys in my car said – you can’t let the women see you were wrong.

We wound up in the middle a cow pasture.

So, I turned around and started down another road. Then, here comes the girls lead van. As it passes by I notice there is a note in window. It said – We are women, we have a map, follow us!

Ego – it gets in the way sometimes, and when it does, we get lost and need that guidance to get back on the right path. It is not always easy to ask for help, but we need to because we are not perfect, we do make mistakes, and we need others to support, care for, and guide us at times.

May all of us have the courage to ask for help when we need it, and may our ego’s take a backseat to God’s will for us.

Memories from Pastor Erik

Posted: May 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

wastebasket

There are nights when I suffer from insomnia. During these times I try to make sure I do not disturb anyone else in the family, so I sneak out into the living room and turn on the TV. Often I watch shows that I have recorded, but occasionally I will find a rerun of a show I like and watch it.

Earlier I had a night like this and was flipping channels until I came to the show “House.” The episode I was watching had to do with a man who was dying and the disease he had was untreatable. He was losing the ability to breath, his muscles were collapsing, and he wanted to be out of pain.

In watching the show my mind immediately went back to my dad.

Five years ago in July my dad passed away after a battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). It is a nasty disease that eats away at a person’s body until they can no longer use their muscles at all. Dad battled this disease for 18 months, and finally passed away in his sleep on a Wednesday morning.

There have been times since his death that I have caught myself picking up the phone to call him, or turning on the computer to send him an e-mail. Then I catch myself and remember that I cannot do that anymore. I find myself watching a movie, like “Field of Dreams,” and missing the times we shared playing catch in the backyard. I find myself missing all those things that we used to do, and the pain of the loss comes back.

Dad was a vibrant man, full of life, who loved a good laugh and conversation over a cup of coffee. I think of all the gifts that he gave to me, and am quite sad that Sierra will not remember him, and Scarlett will have never met him. So I have to keep telling stories, sharing the memories of him, with them.

I have come to think of memories in two different ways. The first is the joyful reflections of the past – the events, people, and times shared. These are the good memories, and bring tears of joy to our eyes because of the good times and bring tears of sadness because we cannot share those times anymore.

Then there are the memories that keep us in the past. We are so stuck in what used-to-be that we miss what is happening today. These are the times that we cannot move forward because the memories keep us so tied to the past that we cannot live in the present or see the future.

As children of God, we are blessed in knowing that this life is not the end, there is that promise of the resurrection, the promise that we will see and celebrate with those loved ones who have gone before us. It does not mean that there will not be sadness or pain in this life – there will be and all of us know that because we have lived it. It means that the pain and sadness are temporary, and that God’s grace and love will overpower any struggle or pain we are facing today.

So today, as I reflect on the memories of dad, I am reminded to be a storyteller. To tell of the time dad coached my baseball team and saw me hit my first homerun. To tell of the hiking adventures and trips to the mountains. To tell of the first job my sister and I ever had – cleaning his office building, and he helped us find the wastebaskets.

I am also reminded to tell the story that never ends – the story of hope, healing, and new life that comes in Christ. The story that death is not eternal, but God’s love and grace is. To tell the story of stones that have been rolled away and tombs that have been emptied. For this memory, this promise, is the one that holds onto us when we cannot make it on our own. It is the story of God’s love for his children.

bballhoop

I was a kindergartener, walking to school on a spring day with my cousin Julie. On a corner, there was a landscaping rock with plants growing out of it. I had never seen anything like it before, so Julie and I stopped and bent over to look at the leaves. Immediately the owner of the property threw open her front door, stuck her head out the door and shouted, “If you kids touch that, I’m gonna call the police!” As a shy, sensitive 6-year-old, I started crying and ran away.  I felt like a criminal for being a curious kid who was simply looking at her rock. I always resented that the woman didn’t even ask or try to understand what we might be doing, before she jumped to judgment and accusation.

I see interesting things from my office window. It overlooks the church parking lot, dumpsters, and the garage. People constantly walk and drive through the parking lot. I overhear strange conversations and see some things I’d rather not see – heated arguments, littering, kids treating church property like toys, and worse. Seeing some not-so-nice things happen out my window has made me overly vigilant.

Since we’ve got a basketball hoop on the garage, neighbor kids often play basketball outside my window. Yesterday, a couple kids came to play basketball.  But soon, the boy started to try to climb on the dumpster, then tried climbing the doorframes of the garage. I watched for a minute and got angry. I get tired of people disrespecting other people’s property. I opened my window to yell at him. But in a split second, I was brought back to that spring day years ago. That woman hadn’t asked what I was doing. She hadn’t put herself in my little shoes to wonder what was going through my head. She just decided I was a bad kid and yelled. And that’s what I was about to do. But before I could open my mouth, I watched the boy pull something white out of his pocket. He had brought a net for our bare basketball hoop. He wasn’t trying to damage our property.  He was simply trying to find a way to hang the net, to enhance our property for others to use. So after I smiled to myself, I walked outside and said, “Hey! Need a ladder?” The boy jumped in surprise, then smiled back, and said, “Yeah!” As I held the ladder and he climbed to the top, I was thankful that I was able to be a part of hanging the net, rather than just shouting out the window. It’s a small thing, but the whole experience reminded me that when we take time to understand others with compassion, we may become inspired by people who we never expected to meet, and we, in turn, may become blessings to others.

Pastor Jennifer

The Power of God’s Love

Posted: April 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

From: Julie Barthels

Julie

She entered my office for the first time with flowing clothes, long flowing hair, and large teary blue eyes.  She told me she had picked me to be her psychotherapist because she was told by another professional that I had specialized in dissociative disorders.  In mainstream media, it is often called multiple personality disorder or that thing that “Sybil” had.  She would share with me over the next couple of years that she had been raised in a family that belonged to a satanic cult and had survived the horrific torture involved by splitting into pieces inside of herself.  There were times of the year that were particularly painful for her, because dates on the satanic calendar would trigger memories of trauma that were too painful to bear.  We were coming to one of those times, Easter in the Christian calendar.  I worried all Easter weekend that year because I knew she was struggling with a great desire to end her own life.  I kept anticipating a call from the answering service. I prayed for healing for her and for guidance for me to help her.  The session after Easter weekend, I was relieved to see her enter my office for her scheduled appointment.  When I asked her how she had kept herself from acting on her suicidal thoughts, she told me that anytime she felt a strong urge to kill herself, she would sing hymns that praised God.  You see, she had found God as an adult and turned to God to help her create the new life she had established.

There are so many lessons I learned from her during our time together…  How God can heal a heart that was trained to hate into a heart with an amazing capacity to love.  She taught me about facing our most difficult moments by leaning into a loving relationship with God rather than away from it.  She made me grateful to have been raised by two parents who also believed in God’s love and took me to his house of worship.  I feel so blessed to have shared our time together.  She may have come to me because she was trained as a child to worship Satan, but she taught me how to worship God.

So I ask you, who has taught you about a loving relationship with God?   And who do you have the power to teach about God’s love?

The Power of Water

Posted: April 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Power of Water
Pastor Jennifer

PrJennifer

A few weeks ago, we were vacationing on the beach in Florida. We enjoyed a few pleasant days before a big storm blew in. The winds were so strong that we saw heavy beach chairs blown to our beach from half a mile down the beach. The waves were high, and rain fell for most of the day. By the next day, the landscape of the beach had changed completely. It had created a sandbar where there hadn’t been one before. And the new sandbar created a shallow pool of warmer water, which was a delight for our kids to play in.

Water has the incredible ability to both create and destroy. With large amounts of rain lately, we’ve seen some flooding, and we’ve seen the power water has. A few inches of water in a yard can create beautiful green grass and lush gardens. A few inches in a basement can destroy possessions and damage foundations. Water has incredible power.

The power of water is at the very core of our faith. We come into God’s family through water. Even in baptism, water both destroys and creates. Water and God’s Word work together to destroy the sinners within us. Our old sinful selves are drowned, and we emerge from the water having been cleansed and re-created as children of God. Obviously, we continue to struggle with sin and selfishness throughout our lives, but baptism is that new beginning, where God welcomes us as we are, forgives our sins, and promises to never give up on us. It is through water and God’s Word that God welcomes us into his grace. Water is indeed powerful, but it’s nothing compared to the power of our awesome God.

 

He will provide for us

Posted: April 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

This week’s blog is from long-time member, Al Sorenson.

AlSorenson

Many years ago our congregation decided to offer the Bethel Series Bible Study to our members.  The first step however, was to train a group of teachers which took two years to complete.  The class met every week with assigned work to be done including memorizing and covering the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

At the time my job required me to do a lot of traveling and I had little to no spare time.  I looked at my work schedule and then I looked at the class schedule and the homework required.  It seemed there just was not going to be enough time to fit the Bethel class in, but I felt that God was telling me in no uncertain terms to take the class.

I enrolled in the class and found that I could not get all the work done at home, so I took it with me and studied while on airplanes and in motel rooms.  And then an amazing thing happened.  I discovered that God provided just enough time every week for me to get my class work done, never any excess but always just enough.  It was like the Israelites experienced in the Old Testament as they traveled in the desert.  God provided manna as food for them in the morning on the ground.  There was always just enough for the day but never any extra, just enough.

I learned a very important lesson at that time in God’s classroom. If we are willing to follow God’s lead, he will provide for us and satisfy our needs in ways we would never imagine.  The Old Testament put it this way, “If you will be my people, I will be your God”.

I have put my trust in the Lord, for it is in him that I have my life, my strength and my being.