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Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email,  provide your email address.

Friday, May 29 2015

The temple is not for man, but for the Lord God.  
-1 Chronicles 29:1b (NASB)
The scripture passage above is a brief excerpt from 1 Chronicles.  King David addresses the congregation, preparing them to build a temple - not just a meeting place for people, but a house where God meets us.
Did you know that most churches spend roughly 82 percent of their budgets on staff and buildings that are only open a few hours per week, and offer mostly programs designed specifically for church members?  I am grateful that we at JCPC affirm that our church is not for us alone.
Members and friends of our congregation offer amazing ministry "out there" in our mission field!  We feed the homeless, support missionaries in Russia and Albania, volunteer in the food pantry at Hands of Christ, collect baby bottles full of pocket change, and build schools and install water systems in the bateys of the Dominican Republic, to name only a few!
But we also offer life-changing ministry inside the walls of JCPC.  For years, our church has sponsored scouting programs that have afforded immeasurable opportunities for learning and growth for hundreds of youngsters.  Our preschool has nurtured thousands of children, modeling the love of Christ while teaching ABC's and 123's.  Our academy of fine arts offers exceptional instruction to cultivate in students the love of music that we believe is a gift from God. 
Toastmasters, Alcoholics Anonymous, CanCare - if you take a look at our church calendar, you will see entire portions of days full of ministry listing not a single event for church members.  This is what it means to be the church in the world, a temple of grace, a haven for the lost, a place of rest for the weary.  Thanks be to God!

Prayer for Today
Lord, we pray that we may look for ways to be caretakers of Johns Creek Presbyterian Church, and to be open to ways to use our buildings and our gifts not for ourselves, but for others.  May the light of Christ show through our generosity as we reach out to the family of God.  Amen.


Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 08:38 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, May 28 2015

My dad is dying.  The end appears really close. I've been with him the last three nights, and he won't eat, get out of bed, or respond beyond an occasional grunt.  He sleeps throughout the day, stirring only occasionally for a few moments.  For the one evening his eyes were open, it was as if he were gazing blankly into space.  He is in the last stages of Alzheimer's disease, where he has lost his ability to speak and now even walk.  My brothers are coming in this weekend from California, Tennessee, and Florida to say their good-byes.  It is a sad time in the Huie household.

 And yet, at the same time we rejoice.  We rejoice in the life and legacy of the man I call Dad, the man who enlivened in me a love for God and a love for ministry, the man who was my preaching professor, the man whom I love so dearly. 
My last remotely cogent exchange with Dad was two weeks ago, as I read to him the sermon I was going to preach the next day.  Dad just sat there silently staring at me with his mouth open.  As I finished reading with my typical "Thanks be to God" ending, Dad responded in what seemed like his last moment of clarity.  "Thanks be to God," he whispered.  He then just seemed to fade back into never-never land.
Indeed "Thanks be to God" that my father will soon be going home.  I imagine Mom will be there to greet him, along with my nephew Ryan.  May God bless that man.
Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 
-John 14:1-3

Prayer for Today
O God, into your hands we commend Dad's spirit, as we do all our loved ones who have entered into life triumphant.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 09:36 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, May 27 2015

This past weekend we have seen many occasions honoring and remembering those who have served our nation in the armed forces in ways which cost them their lives. These men and women have been willing to make "the ultimate sacrifice" on behalf of others, and we are grateful for their dedication.

The whole idea of sacrifice on behalf of others is one we find in scripture. In the gospel of John, Jesus said, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command." (John 15:12-15, NIV, italics mine) Here, Jesus tells us that there is no greater love than to be willing to lay down one's life on behalf of one's friends. Again, it is about sacrifice.
When it comes to giving - sacrifice is a key component of what Christian generosity is all about. We are called to give, not just what we can or what is convenient for us to give -- we are called to give at a level that actually costs us something. That's what we mean by giving sacrificially - it costs us something to give to others.
C.S. Lewis, the Christian writer and scholar, once said that unless our giving is costing us something and we actually feel the sacrifice, then we are probably not giving enough. This is not some form of religious masochism, rather it is a way of choosing to give that not only helps others, but invites spiritual growth on our part. Yet, what is amazing about this kind of giving is this: in the long run, it shapes us into people who are better able to experience the joy of the Christian life!
So as we continue to honor those courageous individuals who have made sacrifices on behalf of others, may we be inspired by their example in all areas of our lives. And may we have the courage and the compassion to give generously and sacrificially of our time, talents and treasure as followers of Christ.

Prayer for Today
We give thanks for Jesus who gave us life for each one of us. Thank you for his example of sacrificial love. Show us one way that we can give sacrificially to someone else today of our time, talent, or treasure - believing that our giving will not only make a difference in the life of someone, but it will bring us joy, as well. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 10:02 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, May 26 2015

Have you ever been really thirsty? What is it like to take a cold drink of water when you are very thirsty? Think about that feeling for a moment.
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water. -John 7:37-38
What are some of the dry or thirsty places in your life? Take a moment to identify them and place them before God.
Are you in need of a drink? Are you in need of living water? Are there people in your life who are in need of it as well? What would living water look like for them?
Over the past few days I have encountered a river, an ocean and a downpour of rain. I can visualize these three encounters with water and they remind me of the ways that God was speaking to me through these experiences.
Find a time and place this week when you can stop, take a drink of water and consider places in your life where you need God's living water to flow. I hope that you will be refreshed and renewed so that you can share this good news with those around you.

Prayer for Today

Creator God, Thank you for promising to satisfy our thirst, to fill our cup, and to cause it to run over. Thank you for giving us living water that comes from the well of Your Son, from the river of Your Spirit, and from the water of Your Word. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 08:31 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, May 25 2015

We are celebrating Memorial Day today. I hope that all of you are having a relaxing day and at the same time remembering the sacrifice that many brave men and women have made for us by serving in the armed forces.
Reflecting on the meaning of sacrifice, I traveled to Webster's Dictionary and discovered that the word sacrifice comes from the Latin word, sacrificium and its root words mean to make. Sacrifice is action which is creative. When I think of sacrifice, I often think of death. However, sacrifice, at its heart is a core activity of the creative process.
Notice how the month of May could be called the month of honoring sacrifice. Earlier we celebrated Mother's Day and what else is at the heart of mothering than sacrifice; the giving of oneself, 24/7, for the survival, growth, and promise of your child(ren).
Today, on Memorial Day, we memorialize the sacrificial service of the men and woman who stand for freedom and give their lives for their fellow countrymen and women. We have developed creatively as a free people through their sacrifice.
In the final weeks of May, youngsters graduate from high school and college and celebrate the milestone which was paved by the sacrificial efforts of parents, teachers, and themselves.
At the heart of creation and the creative process, we are who we are through sacrifice.
As we honor sacrifice today, this month and throughout the days to come, enter into the depth of God's sacrificial love for us. Read Romans 5.
I leave you with these words from the Apostle Paul:
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  -Romans 5: 7-8

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, thank you for the saving grace of sacrifice. May the sacrificial love and devotion that we share in tending to our nation, our families, and others be a reflection of the love of Christ, who gave his life so that we could have life eternal. Amen.  

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 08:31 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, May 22 2015

I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  
-Matthew 25:35b (NRSV)
Scott Dannemiller - speaker, author, blogger, worship leader, leadership consultant, and former missionary with the Presbyterian Church - recently wrote a blog titled "The Church Is Not Your Home."  I found this to be a most interesting read, and I couldn't help but note the obvious parallels between his thoughts and our church's motto 
non nobis solum.
One of the things that most attracted me to this church 
in 2005 were these words on the front of the worship bulletin:  "Welcome!  This church opens wide its doors and, in the name of Jesus Christ, says, "Welcome to our Father's house!"

The Statement of Purpose on the front of that same bulletin offered that this "is a spiritual home and caring family in Jesus Christ, welcoming ALL to share God's love."  One of the Guiding Principles stated, "We are called to love God and our neighbors and to serve all people."
And just in case you didn't "feel" welcomed enough, there was another paragraph that read, "We are delighted you have chosen to worship with our church family!  We pray you will experience the presence of the living God as you worship with believers in this place, and that you will be encouraged in your relationship with your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Scott writes that "Christians are pros at welcoming.  If welcoming were an Olympic sport, churches would be Michael Phelps, only with coffee stations and tuna hot dish."  We roll out the red carpet and strive to treat Sunday morning visitors like guests in our own home!  We want them to feel like a part of our church family!
Scott challenges, however, that we should take a deeper look at the definition of what it means to be "family" in the context of church.  Yes, we warmly welcome folks in worship, and we absolutely want them to join our church family.  But are we truly meeting them where they are, or are we asking them to meet us where we are - must they worship like us, believe like us, look like us? 
Do we expect newcomers to quickly learn the history of who we are so they can assimilate seamlessly into our midst?  Or do we take time getting to know the "stranger," learning about them and how they feel called to serve this church?
What if the stranger who walks into the Welcome Center this Sunday has never before entered the doors of a church?  Will we expect that person to know how to "behave" in church?  Suppose the individual didn't get the memo that cut-offs and flip-flops are not the "acceptable" attire for Sunday morning.  Are the rules and traditions of our church "family" such that we unintentionally exclude the stranger in our midst?

Prayer for Today

Lord God, in the words of the beautiful hymn we sang last Sunday, help us to truly welcome ALL to "Come!  Live in the light!"  May the light of Christ show through our openness , reaching out to the family of God.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 10:44 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, May 21 2015

In this season of graduation ceremonies, I found Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington's speech last Saturday to the graduates of Dillard University in New Orleans very compelling.  His very first words were very direct and to the point.
"Number one," he said slowly and resolutely. "Put. God. First!  Put God first in everything you do.  Everything I have is by the grace of God. Understand that. It's a gift."
Denzel then told a story about his life 40 years earlier. He had a 1.7 grade point average and was sitting in his mother's beauty parlor when a woman gave him "a prophecy."  Washington said the woman told him he would "travel the world and speak to millions of people." But he added that while her words came true, "the most important thing that stayed with me since is that I've been protected, I've been directed, I've been corrected. I've kept God in my life and it's kept me humble."

"I didn't always stick with him, but he's always stuck with me," Washington said. "Stick with him in everything you do."  Washington then urged graduates to "fail big" and take chances. But in regard to material things, he cautioned that "you will never see a U-Haul behind a hearse."
"I pray that you put your slippers way under your bed tonight," the actor noted toward the end of his time behind the podium, "so that when you wake up in the morning you have to get on your knees to reach them. And while you're down there, say thank you. Thank you for grace, thank you for mercy, thank you for understanding, thank you for wisdom, thank you for parents, thank you for love, thank you for kindness, thank you for humility, thank you for peace, thank you for prosperity. Say thank you in advance for what's already yours."

 "True desire in the heart for anything good is God's proof to you, sent beforehand, to indicate that it's yours already," Washington said.
Good words for our graduates, Mr. Washington.  Good words for all of us. 
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."            
-Matthew 6:33

Prayer for Today
O God, today we pray for our graduates, from pre-school all the way up to graduate school, and especially our high school graduates.  Give them your peace and a confidence that as they go, they go in your hands.  Enable them to love and to serve wherever they are and whatever they do.  Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 10:43 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, May 20 2015

Last Thursday we held the graduation service for our Preschool. Each year I write a letter for the program and this is what I wrote in 2014:
This evening, we are celebrating your child's preschool graduation. Hopefully, this will be the first of many graduations in your child's life. I became curious about the word "graduation." I found out that it comes from the Latin word gradus which means "step." There are a number of words in the English language that owe their origins to this word including grade, gradation,
gradient, gradual, and of course graduate and
graduation. This graduation time is a step in your child's life that will sometimes feel gradual, and other times like you are moving up a gradient as your child passes each grade. I want to encourage you to hang in there because, as you have probably heard, it will be over before you know it - so enjoy it as best you can!
We are honored that you have chosen to let your child attend Johns Creek Presbyterian Preschool. We hope that your child has learned and grown - as well as experienced the love of God through our wonderful staff. May God bless you and your child every step along the way of life!
This past weekend we attended our oldest daughter's graduation from college, but I can still remember her graduation from preschool. As I said in my letter, it all goes by so fast and their childhood is over before you know it. I came across some interesting Bible verses about the steps of our lives:
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.  -Proverbs 16:9 

 A person's steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way?  -Proverbs 20:24

 The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.  -Psalm 37:23 

May God guide your steps and those of the ones you love in the days to come!

Prayer for Today
Guide us, Lord, as we take the steps of our lives. Make firm the places where we might slip. Enable us to delight in you and your way in our lives. We pray this in the strong name of the Risen Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:08 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, May 19 2015

I am the Lord, who heals you.
-Exodus 15:26

The doctors I know are smart, hard-working, and compassionate. They have relieved my suffering on many occasions, and I am grateful for their expertise in diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medication, setting broken bones, and stitching up wounds. But this does not mean that I place my faith in physicians rather than in God.
For reasons known only to God, He appointed humans to be His partners in the work of caring for creation (Genesis 2:15), and doctors are among them. Doctors study medical science and learn how God designed the body. They use this knowledge to help restore us to a healthy condition. But the only reason doctors can do anything to make us better is that God created us with the ability to heal. Surgeons would be useless if incisions didn't heal.
Scientists can learn how God created our bodies to function, and they devise therapies to help restore or cure us, but they are not healers; God is (Exodus 15:26). Doctors simply cooperate with God's original intent and design.
So I am grateful for science and doctors, but my praise and thanksgiving go to God, who designed an orderly universe and who created us with minds that can discover how it works. I believe, therefore, that all healing is divine because no healing takes place apart from God.

Prayer for Today
Father God, You are the Great Physician, and I ask for healing, whether mind, body, spirit, or in all of these. I believe You will give what is best. Thank You for Your goodness, kindness, and love in all things. Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 08:58 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, May 18 2015

A tradition we have created at JCPC is our 24 hour prayer vigil which ushers us into the season of Lent. The month prior to the vigil we give the congregation the opportunity to write prayer requests on index cards. I would guesstimate that we prayer for close to 100 prayer requests that are submitted with these cards. Following the vigil I consistently hear people say that they weren't aware of all the deep needs within our congregation.

Scripture suggests our need to constantly keep each other in prayer.
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
So, we don't need to wait until Lent to pray for each other. Let me share an opportunity for you to sign up and pray for a prayer partner who will be on a mission trip this June. Alice Ann Nilsen has taken the biblical mandate to pray for each other. Alice Ann heads up our prayer team, Holy Hands in Prayer, and has been encouraging people to prayer for a mission team member as they travel out of country into our mission field.
If you would like to be a prayer partner with a mission team member to either the Dominican Republic or Jamaica here you can email Alice Ann. 
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..." 1 Thessalonians 5: 11.
Why not be an encouragement to one of your brothers and/or sisters in Christ.

Prayer for Today
Help us to encourage each other, O Lord, and pray for each other, so that through prayer and encouragement, we will be fulfilling your will. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 11:56 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, May 15 2015

After a 71-year-old South Korean woman was rescued during the tragic sinking of a ferry boat, she struggled with survivor's guilt. From her hospital bed she said she couldn't understand how it could be right for her to have lived through an accident that had taken the lives of many who were so much younger. She also regretted not knowing the name of the young man who had pulled her out of the water after she had given up hope. Then she added, "I want to buy him a meal at least, or hold his hand, or give him a hug."
This woman's heart for others reminds me of the apostle Paul. He was so concerned about his neighbors and countrymen that he said he wished he could trade his own relationship with Christ for their rescue: 
I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.  -Romans 9:2-3
Paul also expressed a deep sense of personal gratitude. He knew he didn't understand the ways and judgments of God (see verses 14-24). So while doing everything he could to proclaim the gospel to all, he found peace and joy in trusting the heart of a God who loves the whole world so much more than we ever could.

Prayer for Today
Lord God, Your ways are so far beyond our comprehension, yet we know without doubt that You love us. Help us trust Your loving heart with the things we don't understand. 

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 10:50 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, May 14 2015

What do you suppose was Jesus' last prayer before facing his crucifixion?  Was it that his death wouldn't be so painful or that his disciples would be holy in his absence?  No, according to the Gospel of John, his prayer was that his followers would simply be united after he left-that they-that we-would be one.
I look around at the church today and I'm not so sure we have done a good job being united.  Often there seems to be more that divides us than unites us.  It begs the question, in the famous words of Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"
This Sunday in worship I will be preaching on this famous prayer, the longest one recorded in the gospels.  Here Jesus in essence turns his mission over to the disciples and, by extension, to all believers who would follow.  We will wrestle with what such unity looks like for our fractured church today.
This prayer also concludes a sort of commissioning or graduation, which is apropos as this Sunday is High School Senior Recognition Sunday as we honor our soon-to-be graduates at our 11 o'clock service and special banquet to follow.  It will indeed be a great day to be in church!
I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.   -John 17:20,21

Prayer for Today
O God, in these difficult times, help us, the church, to be one.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 10:49 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, May 13 2015

Sometimes people talk to me about how hard my job must be. Maybe they will mention occasions such as being there with a family during the loss of a loved one. Those times can be hard - especially when the death is unexpected or it involves the loss of a child. On the other hand, those moments can be very moving, sacred times. I often have the privilege of gathering with a family, not only to mourn the loss of a loved one, but to share memories about the good aspects of that person's life.

Yesterday, we held a memorial service at the church for Max Singleton. While Max was not a member, his wife Joy is, as well as Kim Raines, Max's step-daughter, and her family - Becky, Mackenzie, and Larry. Max visited JCPC often with his family and I enjoyed my encounters with him. But when I met with Max's family to plan the memorial service and talk about his life, I learned so much 
I did not know about Max's rich life as a professional musician, expert marksman, songwriter, photographer, fitness enthusiast, and coach. Just recently we lost another of our newer church members, Jan Jubon, and he was someone else who had an amazing range of interests throughout his life.
Sometimes we only get a passing glimpse of a life when we briefly encounter someone, and yet they may have lived an amazing life which we know nothing about. This richness of life reminds me of the words of the Psalms that say: 
What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels,And You have crowned him with glory and honor.  -Psalm 8:4-5, NKJV
God has made each one of us "a little lower than the angels" and God has "crowned" us "with glory and honor." I invite you to remember all the good that God has created in you, and to treat everyone as someone created in the image of God. 

Prayer for Today
Thank you God for the richness of the women and men you have created and placed in our lives. Open our eyes to the glory in every one of your creatures, and help us to honor the glory you have put in each one of us. We pray this in the strong name of the One who shows us your glory and honor most perfectly - Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 10:48 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, May 12 2015

Take a moment to look at your hands and feet. What do you notice? For many this is a time of year when we experience conclusions, wrapping things up, graduating, end of year ceremonies, recitals, and many more. As you may be closing a particular chapter at the end of this school year, think about all of the places that your hands and feet have gone.
Your hands and feet are a constant reminder of the journey you have taken this year. You have probably learned new things and seen new places. Your journey has often required courage and strength. Wherever you have been this year, God has been with you.
The places where you have traveled in your life, you have left an impression, a mark. The words of these Old Testament prophets give us some guidance about ways that we can leave an impression that reflects God.
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.
-Amos 5:24
He has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?
-Micah 6:8
Do others see the face of Christ in the impressions or marks that we leave behind? What can you do this week to leave an impression that reflects God's love, justice, kindness, and humility?
In July, we have the privilege of hosting Vacation Bible School to over 150 children this summer and we are always looking for adults willing to share God's love and teach the lessons of Christ during this amazing week. I would invite you to consider this opportunity to leave an impression from July 13 to July 16.
What will you do to leave an impression this summer?

Prayer for Today
God of Truth, Let our faith show in how we treat others. Let our worship reflect who we really are. In Christ's Name, Amen. 

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, May 11 2015

Psalm 136- Read the entire Psalm before reading/after reading this Reflections article.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures him alone who does great wonders, His steadfast love endures forever.
May is traditionally known as one of the busiest months for families. Perhaps only the Thanksgiving through New Year's time frame is busier; perhaps.
Just this week in the Kuhlhorst household we have celebrated red letter days. Michael arrived home on Wednesday having finished his junior year of college - 
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever!
Maryneal turned 18 on Thursday -  O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever!
Mother's Day was celebrated on Sunday - O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever!
Michael turns 21 on Friday - O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever!
Later in May, Maryneal will graduate from Lambert High School - O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever!
This month of May is packed full of events, celebrations, and rituals that become fuller when we  offer God thanks and praise for God's steadfast love-hesed- endures forever.
Psalm 136 functions like a faith statement in which the Psalmist identifies many of God's mighty acts and gives thanks for each. The message is that our lives are full of wonder, grace, and God's creative acts of redemption.
Take a moment to review your calendar and notice what happens when you say after each event, celebration or ritual: O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever!
Let your inner Psalmist guide your gratitude as you acknowledge the abundance of blessings God has bestowed upon you.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever!

Prayer for Today

We give you thanks and praise for all your mighty works, 
O God. Keep our minds thankful and our hearts hopeful, so that in all things, we will see you working for good in those who love you. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 08:25 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, May 08 2015

Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.  God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light day, and the darkness He called night.  And there was evening and there was morning, one day.  -Genesis 1:3-5

I love the night skies!  Or should I say the early morning skies?  Or both, because they are not the same.  By nature, I am a morning person - a very early morning person.  Folks who never rise before the sun are truly missing out on a glorious portion of God's creation!
I am not a night owl, mainly because I start my day so early that my batteries have completely discharged by 11:00 p.m.  However, for as long as I can remember, I have been enamored by the sights, scents, and sounds of summer nights.  Sitting on my front stoop late at night, it's a noisy place in the front yard, even after turning off the mower and the blower. 
I am blessed that the end of my cul-de-sac backs up to the Simpsonwood Retreat Center, acres of natural habitat to a wild animal kingdom.  I close my eyes and listen to the singing chorus of cicadas, crickets, and katydids, competing with the neighborhood hoot owl and howling coyotes.  The occasional engine noise from a passing vehicle is the only reminder that I live in suburbia.
Connecting with God in our modern culture is becoming more and more challenging.  We live in a world where many things vie for our attention.  Our lives are filled with the noise of multimedia.  We have a wealth of information - some useful, some not - at our fingertips 24/7.  Yet, we crave simplicity, a life where we can get back to the basics, finding and creating a more intimate, holy space with God without the many distractions which clutter our lives.
One of the ways we can connect with God is to simply reflect on what God has created, a blessing which is just outside our door.  Go on a prayer walk, tend to God's creation through gardening, or savor every moment of a beautiful sunset.  Dwell on the majesty of God and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul as you enjoy the beauty of God's creation. 

Prayer for Today
For the wonder of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale, and tree and flower, sun and moon, and stars of light:  Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 09:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, May 07 2015

Last week I had the good fortune of spending a few days in San Diego, California on a business trip and found myself with a half day off to myself.  What do you do with a half day off in San Diego?  Why, of course, you go to the world famous San Diego zoo, so that is what I did.

Throughout the day, I travel by foot, by the Skyfari gondola buckets, and by a double decker bus to take in as much of the 4,000 animals and 650 species as I could.  What a glorious place to roam and discover the wonders of God's creation!  I marveled at the Malayan tigers, the albino koala bear, the wide variety of scary snakes, and of course the panda bear, who posed for me as I took his picture (see below). 
But of all the species I encountered that day, most impressive was one imported from Russia, a precious six year old Homo Sapien who just plopped herself down in my lap after I got situated on the top of the double decker bus.  Without any inhibitions, she asked, "What's your name?"  "Scott" I responded.  "What's yours?"  "My name is Masha, and that is my big sister Dasha and that's my mom, Olga," as she pointed with pride to the rest of her family.  And from that point forward, for the next five hours, I accompanied that family and carried that darling little girl from one exhibit to the next.
I come to find out that Olga is the United States national champion ballroom dancer, and the family is passing through on the way to Los Angeles for Dasha to participate in a ballroom dancing competition herself.  They hold dual citizenship between the U.S. and Russia and now live in Seattle. 
It was the most delightful afternoon imaginable.  I gained a renewed appreciation for that beautiful potpourri of God's creation known as the animal kingdom, especially the human kind! 
And God said "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind." And it was so.  God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind.  And God saw that it was good.  Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he create them."                       
-Genesis 1: 24-26
Prayer for Today
O God, we thank you for the wonders of your creation, for animals and for people.  We thank you especially for those life experiences where we encounter others who bring sparkle to our life.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 10:16 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, May 06 2015

$61,266 - that is how much we raised through our "In Harmony for Cancer" CanCare Concert this past Saturday! That is better than we have ever done. All of it goes to minister to those battling with cancer through the incredible work of our CanCare volunteers.

There are so many folks to thank. First of all, I want to thank everyone who gave in some way to help us create these funds that can change lives. That includes those of you who bought items, those of you who provided items for the auction, and those who simply gave a donation or a sponsorship. I want to thank our Leadership Team headed up by Susie Howard and Jill Angove. Their hours of dedication and their excellent leadership equipped all of our volunteers to do their work so well. I need to thank Neal Kuhlhorst for providing the primary staff leadership for this event. We could not have done this without Neal supporting our volunteers. We also had a number of corporate partners who underwrote many of the expenses associated with this event.
Neal has talked about how this concert is transitioning from a JCPC event to a community-wide event. That is a great thing as we bring more and more folks together to do something good. This good work can only grow beyond the present outreach with the help of more community partners.
Finally, I am grateful to God for the beautiful weather and the spirit of cooperation that I attribute to the work of the Holy Spirit. That Spirit of the Risen Christ is at work whenever there is something good that brings healing, wholeness, and hope. John's gospel talks about the Holy Spirit being like the wind at work in all sorts of places: "You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going." (John 3:8a, NIV) Last Saturday evening, I think I heard the sound of the Spirit blowing through the music of Banks and Shane, the inspiring words of Kay Royal, and the joyful conversations of those who gathered on our ballfield. May that same Spirit continue to blow in our world today!

Prayer for Today
Gracious God, may the Spirit of the Risen Christ blow through our lives today. Use us to be instruments of peace and healing in the broken places of our world. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 11:17 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, May 05 2015

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
-Psalm 90:1-2, 4, 12
How often in your daily conversations do you use the words time or busy? When you use them, what are the phrases they are included in? Take a moment to write down a phrase that you often use that includes either the word time or busy.
Do you think that our culture talks about time in a way that encourages us to be more frantic? Are there terms we need to let go of so we can think about time in a more gracious way?
May is often a month that seems more "busy" than even the holiday season in December. A lot of things are wrapping up in terms of the school year and all that goes along with it. I would invite you to read these words in Psalm 90. For a brief moment, I pray that they can bring some calmness, peace, and pause to your day.

Prayer for Today
Creator God, you are the Maker of everything that exists, the Author of the world of nature and of all living things. You are the Creator of both space and time. Because you give us the gift of time we have the opportunity to think and to act, to plan and to pray, to give and to receive, to create and to relate, to work and to rest, to strive and to play, to love and to worship. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearousoe AT 11:38 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, May 04 2015

Saturday evening at around 7:45 p.m. I exhaled and began to relax. In Harmony for Cancer was humming along with Banks and Shane entertaining the audience of 400+, the silent auction was in full swing and all around me were contented faces, smiles, and a deep sense of community. Beforehand, I was experiencing pre-game jitters even though I had tremendous confidence in the team that made the evening such a tremendous success. The sky was clear, a full moon was rising over the church, and at that moment and in that time all seemed right in the world.

The news coming out of the world seemed anything but right during the week. Riots and protests in Baltimore disturbed all who were watching the news. Conflicts with Iran, Russian posturing, North Korean threats, and a whole potpourri of destabilizing politics have created an anxious what is wrong with the world questioning.
So I enjoyed the moment of what was right in the world. 
I sat down to visit with Tim Park, Chaplain at Emory Johns Creek Hospital and his wife Mary who is an endocrinologist in Decatur. We talked, laughed, and soaked up the moment and then Mary said something to me that struck a cord.
"This is what makes America great, she said, there is no other country in the world that is as generous!"
Wow! I was focused on what was right before me and Mary took the moment to a different level. Her observation brought to my awareness what I have appreciated my entire life, yet somehow don't focus on enough. We live in a great country which at its heart is built on generosity. Yes In Harmony for Cancer is CanCare's lone fundraiser in Atlanta, but she wasn't solely talking about money. The spirit of our community is a giving spirit where cancer survivors and caregivers volunteer give back what they have been given. This giving spirit permeated the evening and we all felt stronger, more bonded to each other, and hopeful because we had gathered on a ball field, whose land was gifted many years ago, so that one day our community would bear witness on May 2, 2015 to what makes us great!
To God be the glory!!! Amen.

Prayer for Today
Gracious God, fill us with your generous spirit and free us to be cheerful givers who share all that we have and all that we are in Christ our Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 09:08 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, May 01 2015

Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another.
-Colossians 3:12-13

At the end of a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, our group traveled from the conference center to a guesthouse to prepare to fly back home the next morning. When we arrived, one person in our group reported that she had forgotten her luggage back at the conference center. After she left to retrieve it, our group leader (always meticulous on detail) criticized her sharply to us in her absence.

The next morning when we arrived at the airport, the leader discovered to his dismay that he too had left his luggage behind. It and his passport were back at the guesthouse. It was now going to cost us even more to go for his baggage. Later, he apologized and said to all of us, "I'll never criticize so harshly again!"
Because we all have faults and weaknesses, we should bear with one another and forgive each other when things go wrong (Colossians 3:13). We need to be constructive in our criticism and "clothe [our]selves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (v.12 NIV).
When correction is necessary, it should be done with kindness and love. In that way we become imitators of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer for Today
Dear God, You know that there are times when I just don't feel patient and humble and gentle. Those days in my life, the fruit of Your Spirit seems in short supply. Please enable me to love others today. Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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