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.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
My son is learning to count from one to ten. He counts everything from toys to trees. He counts things I tend to overlook, like the wildflowers on his way to school or the toes on my feet.
My son is also teaching me to count again. Often I become so immersed in things I haven't finished or things I don't have that I fail to see all the good things around me. I have forgotten to count the new friends made this year and the answered prayers received, the tears of joy shed and the times of laughter with good friends.
Lord, Your works are so many and good I can't count them all.
My ten fingers are not enough to count all that God gives me day by day. Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare. -Psalm 40:5
How can we even begin to count all the blessings of salvation, reconciliation, and eternal life? Let us join David as he praises God for all His precious thoughts about us and all He has done for us, when he says, "How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand" (139:17-18).
Let's learn to count again!
Prayer for Today
Lord, Your works are so many and good I can't count them all. But I thank You for each one. Amen.
"Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple,
that I may be pleased with it and be glorified," says the LORD.
As Associate Pastor for Youth, I spend the majority of my time with youth and their families, and the extravagant generosity I witness here at JCPC falls into two categories: adults who are generous with their time, talents, and treasures to the youth ministry and as an example to them... and the youth themselves, learning from these examples and living into God's call for their lives. It's an example of the first I'd like to share with you today.
It's exciting to serve people who are generous and hardworking and for us to serve alongside each other. One such person who has worked night and day to give the youth a space and welcoming place to gather, to learn, and to fellowship, is Laura Freeman. I've watched her show up with every free hour she has to decorate, to put her sweat, her ingenuity, and her unique ability to carve raw space into holy space in the new building and our gathering space. When Laura recently asked me what we should put at the top of our new chalkboard wall in the youth room, I immediately thought of a phrase from the ordination vows we often use in the Presbyterian Church. "Will you serve God's people with energy, imagination, and love?"
Laura has. And in that spirit, those words will be put over this blank black wall where each week, the youth will be able to write, draw, and respond with, "Energy, Imagination, & Love." I'm inspired by the way so many people here at JCPC have given money, support, and encouragement to the efforts of the creative and hardworking people who are not just building, painting, and decorating, but making space to gather for holy moments, to learn, to grow, to invite, and to share with those who will join us, who God will lead us to and call to be among us. I am grateful to Laura and those who give her the support and tools to envision and make a reality of a place where our youth will gather and be sent out to serve others. When we rebuild places to a new purpose where God will be glorified, we please God.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to be generous with my talents. Help me to choose the things that serve those who need me most. When I become discouraged, help me to offer my gifts in love to preparing places where you will be glorified. Amen.
At 6' 7", Bob Noland is one of the few people at JCPC I literally have to look up to. Bob just happened to have a photo of himself playing basketball for Kansas State, so I asked him to hold it up when I took this picture. If you look closely, he looks kind of like Larry Bird. (Bob said it was too bad he couldn't shoot the basketball like Larry Bird!)
But I look up to Bob for another reason beside the fact that he is a few inches taller than I am. I look up to Bob because of the great job he does most Sunday mornings making sure people, especially our guests, feel welcomed when they come for worship. It is very appropriate that in this picture Bob is standing beneath the words of our church motto - Non Nobis Solum - which is Latin for "Not For Us Alone."
Bob embodies what we talked about last spring - "Radical Hospitality." Bob always goes out of his way to speak to folks. If you are ever out with Bob for lunch, you know this is true wherever Bob goes. He always takes time to speak to almost everybody. I know on Sunday mornings that if we have a guest who doesn't know where to go or what to do, he or she will probably not escape without Bob offering whatever help is needed.
But Bob is not the only one who goes out of their way to show radical hospitality to our guests. Many folks, especially those who choose to become members, tell me of how welcomed they felt when they entered our buildings and how soon JCPC felt to them like "home." That radical hospitality is really related to giving our time and showing #ExtravagantGenerosity. Giving back to God is really about sharing all we have - "time, talents and treasure" - in the name of Christ. We do this out of gratitude for what God has given to us!
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for all of those who are generous with their attention and their time. May each one of us share whatever we have to give, so that others might experience the love of Christ through us. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 10:30 am
In Deuteronomy 6:5-7, we are reminded to, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength. The commandments I give you today must be in your hearts. Make sure your children learn them. Talk about them when you are at home. Talk about them when you walk along the road. Speak about them when you go to bed. And speak about them when you get up.
I get to experience the way our community of faith lives out these commandments each day through the ministry of our Preschool. Every morning around 9 a.m., you will start to see cars lined up ready to drop off their children at school. Many of these children walk through the door with smiles on their faces anticipating all of the exciting experiences of their day. Our Preschool Directors and Teachers are sharing with these children each day what it means to really love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and strength. They take seriously that we are called to share this message with our children. I believe the ministry that they do day after day is what it means to share #ExtravagantGenerosity.
I have an even greater appreciation for all our Preschool teaches our children since Will started attending last fall. Each day he comes home learning something new... a word, a song, a story, a shape or color, a way to be a friend, a way to share, a way to say Thank You, a way to love.
I would invite you this week to make time for God and faith formation in this year:
Keep talking about faith. What did you hear in worship on Sunday? What did you hear in Sunday School?
Pick up a Bible or children's Bible and read together daily.
Use the time in the car, at a sports practice, or during a lazy Saturday morning at home or on vacation to wonder together about God.
Adventure outside together looking for signs of God's love and creation.
Find an outreach project you can participate in together, and help your family understand the connection between helping others and following Jesus.
Pray together as a family.
Write down some of the things your family members say about faith or experiences you share.
The hustle and bustle of this time of year is underway. For many your rhythm and routine have changed. As you are wading through or rushing past, take a moment today to think about how you will make time for God? When will faith formation happen?
Prayer for Today
Creator God, open our eyes and ears to the way you are teaching us throughout our week. In Christ's Name, Amen.
I was speaking on the phone with someone who had returned home following a prolonged stay in the hospital. Without getting into the medical details it was touch and go for a few weeks. If you have ever experienced a hospitalization you know the hospital is no place like home. It's a place where you are sick, feel vulnerable and exposed. Naked if you will.
Upon inquiring about her recovery she wanted to share a thank you with me. "Thanks for visiting with me while I was in the hospital! I was really sick. And I want you to know I still have my knit wit! I use it all the time."
You might wonder what she meant. What knit wit did Neal bring to the hospital with him and why did he leave the knit wit with her? Wasn't that against HIPPA regulations?
What she was thanking me for was the prayer shawl I gave to her; a prayer shawl knitted by our extravagantly generous knitting ministry group the Monday Knit Wits.
As I presented the prayer shawl to her I told her the story of our Knit Wits and their ministry of loving kindness. The prayer shawl took on the personality of the group and for her became her knit wit. I wasn't surprised because when we are infants our baby blankets are soothers that take on the personality of mother who wraps us in with loving kindness. Such early acts of love are remembered deep within the heart when snuggling with a prayer shawl.
In Matthew 25 Jesus tells us that we encounter him when we are providing care of loving kindness.
"I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me."
-Matthew 25: 36
I know of no other extravagant act of generosity that connects in such deep ways as a knit wit; both internally and with our Lord.
Hey Monday Knit Wits...you've been Caught in the Act!
Prayer for Today
Gracious and Loving God, open our eyes to see you in those in need so that we can wrap your loving kindness around those who are suffering. Amen.
And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you,
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
As Associate Pastor for Youth, I spend the majority of my time with youth and their families, and the extravagant generosity I witness here at JCPC falls into two categories: adults who are generous with their time, talents, and treasures to the youth ministry and as an example to them... and the youth themselves, learning from these examples and living into God's call for their lives. It's an example of the latter I'd like to share with you today.
It's exciting to serve people who are generous and hardworking and for us to serve alongside each other. The only thing that comes close to being more exciting is seeing our young people, a generation so many have maligned and given up on, serving and inspiring us. When young people don't just do the jobs we ask them to do, but seek them out, prioritize their faith and serving others with their gifts and time, I am blown away. Those moments of sacrificial love are when the Spirit slips in and ignites my passion for what I do and the faith we proclaim.
Most recently, I was inspired by the extravagant generosity of Emily Johnston. I went for the first time to serve breakfast to the homeless at First Pres. downtown and since it was the beginning of the school year, many of the youth had other obligations. Emily was the only youth able to come and was eager to be there, serving with enthusiasm and representing us well. I should not have been surprised that a month later, she was at it again. This time, she did it on a weekend when she had an extra-large load of homework. Given her limited time, she had to make choices about how to spend her time.
Emily had a busy Sunday. Given the choice to participate in the activities she wanted to that day, Emily chose to get up at 5:00 a.m. and feed the homeless, go to worship, and keep her commitment to practicing hand bells. She had too much homework to make it to the Haunted House trip with the youth group, but with her limited time, she chose to serve others and worship with her family. I know she would have enjoyed going on the fun trip. But I couldn't help be as impressed as her parents and her peers by her priorities and sacrificial attitude and the joy she has in serving.
What has each of us done this week to choose to serve others and praise God in our worship and daily life? How have we set priorities to be generous of all we have and all we are? Let's all be a little more like Emily.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to be generous with my time. Help me to choose the things that serve those who need me most. When I become busy, help me put you first by putting my brothers and sisters first. Amen.
This past summer, I remember walking into the Welcome Center and feeling like I had been transported into another world. Hanging above me were translucent fabrics of blue and pink that made you feel like you were under the sea. As I moved through the Narthex, I saw a huge aquarium-like structure that teemed with underwater life. The Chancel in front of the sanctuary had been transformed into the deck of a submarine. It was so amazing - I wanted it to stay up permanently!
If you were here during those weeks, you know I am describing what it looked like for our Vacation Bible School. Our theme was Finding the Truth Beneath the Surface. Vacation Bible School is one of our ministry events that reaches out to many children who do regularly attend JCPC. It is one of the best ministries of our church that embodies our JCPC theme, Not For Us Alone.
The amazing creativity we saw during Vacation Bible School was made possible by the leadership and hard work of Billie Bothwell. For weeks prior to Vacation Bible School, I would walk by one of the classrooms downstairs to find Billie working on the scenery. Often she would have Sheila Cooley and Cheryl Garner (who was not yet a member!) working with her. When I asked Billie if I could highlight her for our "Caught in The Act" series of blogs during our #ExtravagantGenerosity Stewardship season -- Billie said I could, but only if I mentioned Sheila, Cheryl, and the whole group of volunteers -- without whom Billie said she could not have done this. So thank you to everyone who worked with Billie!
Billie's gift of her time, talents (and probably some of her own "treasure") help us to see what #ExtravagantGenerosity looks like. God has given each one of us gifts to share. Very few of us may be able to be as creative as Billie, but every one of us has some talent to share. This week think and pray about what unique gifts God has given you to share. Then find ways to share them. I know you will be glad you did!
Prayer for Today
Thank you God, for putting those people in our lives who inspire us with their creativity and hard work - all for your glory and for the sake of others. Help each one of us the take an inventory of our gifts, and to find ways to share them through your church and in the world. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 04:12 pm
I always thank my God when I remember you in my prayers. That's because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus. I hear about your love for all of God's people. I pray that you will be active in sharing what you believe. Then you will completely understand every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy. It has cheered me up. My friend, you have renewed the hearts of God's people. Philemon 1:4-8
I was first introduced to this passage in the very short book of Philemon when I was in middle school. Since that time these verses will occasionally come to mind at times in my life when I am grateful, especially for a particular community of faith. After experiencing the hospitality, energy, generosity, and fellowship on Saturday at our first annual Family Fall Fest, this verse came back to my mind and heart. I regularly say prayers of thanks for the community of believers that we are surrounded with her at JCPC. We experience your love, learn from your faith experiences and are often overwhelmed by your generous hearts. There were many adults, youth, Boy Scouts, Preschool families, children from our church and community that enjoyed a fun evening on the ballfield. When we can play together, I believe God renews us in a special way.
A group of dedicated believers from our community of faith made this experience for children and families possible. They embodied what is means to share #ExtravagantGenerosity through their time and service. Julia DeKold led the way as our Children's CE elder and with the help of Caroline Davis, Rev. Brian Daoust, Amanda & Hope D'Erasmo, Shawn DeKold, Ross, Shannon, Rachel & Emily Johnston, Chap Shearouse, Steve Simpson, Ansley & Caroline Swicegood, and Mike Whelan (Troop 2000). Thank you so much for the ways that you continue to be active in sharing your faith and the love of Christ. At times like these, it can be overwhelming to have such an awesome cloud of witnesses to experience life with.
I would invite you to take some time today to think about those that you would remember in your prayers because they have helped you to experience God's love in a deeper way.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, Thank you for each person that you place in our path to help us gain a greater understanding of your love. Guide us as we open our hearts to the ways that you will use us to share our faith and your love this day. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. -2 Corinthians 1: 3-5
Many cancer survivors have the goal to get well, move on with their lives and never look back. That makes sense following the aftermath of diagnosis and treatment. Remembering the trials can feel traumatic.
CanCare volunteers often turn to scripture for the inspiration to "give back" and share in the journey of others so that they can provide comfort and hope. This is reflected in the scripture passage from 2 Corinthians. The extravagant generosity of God's grace calls the cancer survivor to go back "into that world" even when they had thought and hoped they were done with cancer. This form of extravagant generosity takes faith supported courage.
Six years ago this month, Kay Royal called and ask to speak with me regarding a "call that God placed on her heart." It turns out that Kay is the embodiment of the extravagant generosity that St. Paul talks about when suffering is abundant and comfort abounds. Here is how Kay lives out this powerful scriptural truth.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I turned to God and prayed for healing. I found a stronger faith and compassion from family, friends, and my church. In gratitude, I became a CanCare volunteer. Volunteering is its own reward-knowing I helped a client find hope reassures me that I am using my cancer experience the way that God intended. -Kay Royal
Caught in the Act
Prayer for Today
Loving God, help us to offer comfort to those who are suffering. Keep us mindful of the power of our words, hugs and listening ears. Amen.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. -Luke 5:32
The much-prayed-for film night at the church youth club had finally arrived. Posters had been displayed all around the village and pizzas were warming in the oven.
Steve, the youth pastor, hoped that the film about gang members in New York who were brought face-to-face with the claims of Jesus by a young pastor would bring new recruits to the club.
But he hadn't realized that a key football match was being shown on television that evening, so attendance was much smaller than he had hoped for. Sighing inwardly, he was about to dim the lights and begin the film when five leather-clad members of the local motorbike club came in. Steve went pale.
Lord, please help me to see people through Your eyes of love.
The leader of the group, who was known as TDog, nodded in Steve's direction. "It's free and for everyone, right?" Steve opened his mouth to say, "Youth club members only" when TDog bent down and picked up a bracelet with the letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) stamped on it. "This your, mate?" he asked. Steve nodded, hot with embarrassment, and waited while the new guests found a seat.
Have you ever been in Steve's situation? You long to share the good news about Jesus, but you have a mental list of the "right" people who would be acceptable? Jesus was often criticized by the religious authorities for the company He kept. But He welcomed those everyone else avoided, because He knew they needed Him most (Luke 5:31-32).
Prayer for Today
Lord, please help me to see people through Your eyes of love and to welcome all those You bring into my life. Amen.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. -Ephesians 4:29, ESV
Ever used a comment card at a restaurant? Was it good or bad? Do you think the comment box is usually stuffed with bad or good? A comedian recently said that he used to wish he had telepathy so he'd know what people were thinking. Now we have social media and he doesn't wish that any more. Given the opportunity to express in an instant how we feel to thousands of people, are we encouraged to be thoughtful or reactionary?
Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and others allow you to "follow" people or topics or boards who you want to hear this constant stream of thought and reaction and reflection and creativity. You can choose those who are positive or negative. Facebook connects you mostly to the people you were already assigned as family or chose as friends. It was inevitable that Facebook, after creating a newsfeed would then have to create the "unfollow" function. It turns out, we don't want to hear or see the every thought and opinion of even those we love. It's the technical equivalent of "Honey, don't bring up politics, college football, or reality TV when we go to their house for dinner."
We can choose as much with our social media presence as our IRL (in real life) presence to be loving, kind, and a witness to God and the Gospel. We can choose each day to post about the bad drivers and frustrations and use it as a medium to vent indiscriminately to our "followers." Or we can choose the high road. We can choose to post the stories of inspiration and random acts of kindness. We can post about our righteous indignation at the true injustices of the world AND how we see people working to make this world better.
Recently, one Facebook app allowed you to click and see a visual representation of your most used words on Facebook. I was happy with what I saw. But that's the result of a few years of very intentional effort to be positive in my social media world. If you are a believer IRL, be one in your social media life. Be kind, show love, extend grace, and make people curious to know why you are that way. This week, make an effort to share things that inspire you and encourage others. Your digital life will continue to exist, even when your physical one does not. Make it one worthy of the call you have as a child of God.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to make my life and my digital life a witness to you. Help me to always be humble and kind, to give grace, and show others love through creativity, inspiration, and encouragement. Amen.
On Monday I was reading "The Parable of the Sower" from Luke 8:4-15. For many of us it is a familiar story in the Bible about the word of God being like seed that God "the farmer" spreads on the ground of our lives. As the good seed falls in different places and on different types of ground - good soil, along the path, on rock, or among thorns -- only the seed that falls on the good soil takes root and grows. Even though I have heard and preached on this parable many times, some new things jumped out at me.
Perhaps what keeps God's word from taking root deep in our soul is one of three things: distractions, things that test us, and worries. I still struggle with each of these from time to time. Distractions are all around me, especially in this digital age. I am constantly surrounded by screens demanding my attention 24/7. I can get easily distracted from listening for God's word. I know that when I get distracted I need to stay focused on what is really important.
When I face the trials and tests of life (which we all do from time to time) and life gets hard -- I am tempted to give up. It is during those times that I know I need to learn to persevere and stick with it to the end. I can think of very few times in my life when giving up resulted in something good.
Finally, anxieties and worries over many things can derail me from the life God desires for me. I think that as we are about to enter Stewardship season here at JCPC, many of us worry about whether we will have "enough." Taking time to look at why we are worried, and whether we are actually facing an immediate threat, may be a good place to begin. But then the next step is to trust that the God who made us and loves us will provide "enough" for us to make it.
The goal of all of this is a mature faith that is rooted in God's word. As Luke's gospel reminds us, that mature faith is seen in having a noble and good heart - one that can hear, retain, and live out God's words each day.
May God's word of grace and hope take root in your life today!
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for planting the seed of your word in our lives. Help us to stay focused, to persevere, and to trust you each and every moment. We ask this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 07:36 am
How often do you spend each day worrying about members of your family or close friends? I recently heard someone say that we often spend more time worrying about these people rather than entrusting them to God's care. You may be thinking about your child that is in their freshman year of college or your kindergartner entering public school this year for the first time, or your elderly parent moving into an assisted living or care facility. I think that I often spend a lot of time worrying about my family and close friends. I know that I need to spend more of this time entrusting them into God's care.
When I thought about this, I was reminded of Moses' mother who placed Moses into a basket and sent him down the river, trusting that God would take care of him. You know what happens with Moses and how his life is changed forever, when he is found by Pharaoh's daughter in the basket.
So how can we really trust God with the situations and people that are closest to us? What can you do differently today to say to God, "I trust you"? I would invite you to stop yourself the next time you start worrying, which may be later today. When you stop, shift your worry into a prayer to God asking to be open to trust and willing to listen. Often times, the less time we spend worrying, the more time we have to be ready for how God is using us to care for others.
It was by faith that Moses' parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king's command. -Hebrews 11:23
This passage in Hebrews takes the time to note many of the situations in scripture where God's people had faith and trust in God. It begins with this definition of what trust and faith really are:
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. -Hebrews 11:1-2 The Message
Prayer for Today
Faithful God, help me to keep my worries at bay as we experience transitions with members of our family. Give me a confident faith to believe You are always with them. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
I love to walk on the paths of JCPC to clear my mind, pray, and to reconnect with God during my day. For years I have traced these familiar paths which fill me with a sense of solace and renew my soul. I enjoy the times that Gray and I meet up "for a walk" and discuss the ministries of JCPC or share personally.
Oh and did I mention the sunlight? Nature's mood elevator quickly lifts my spirits like nothing else.
Recently, I went "off-roading" with Gray. He showed me some paths behind the Methodist church that I had never walked in 23 years. A whole new world seemed to open up to me that had been waiting for my footsteps for over two decades. I'm a creature of habit so I regularly stuck to the familiar. What kept me from exploring? Routines, habits, and rituals I suspect. They provide comfort, but over time can hinder our development.
The proverb links our faith with paths and sunlight along our spiritual journey with God. Many times I hear someone comment that they "need to get back on track with God." That is often true, but might it also be as true that many times what we need on our walk with God is to explore new paths that God has waiting for us?
At JCPC we have been walking familiar paths together for years. In September, we began tracing novel paths provided to us through our new building. A Great Hall which is...well...great! And the class rooms are phenomenal. Above all the natural lighting calls to everyone who enters. Have you noticed how your spirits are lifted, your mood elevated and an overall sense of well-being comes over your soul?
We are the same church, but are on new pathways together. I am excited about where God is leading us and trust there will be the morning sun shining brighter till the full light of day. To God be the glory!
Prayer for Today
Lead us on paths of righteousness for your name sake, Merciful God, and bring sunshine into our days, so that following you will ever be our purpose. Amen.
Not that I have . . . already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
In 1856, Charles Spurgeon, the great London preacher, founded the Pastor's College to train men for the Christian ministry. It was renamed Spurgeons College in 1923. Today's college crest shows a hand grasping a cross and the Latin words, Et Teneo, Et Tenor, which means, "I hold and am held." In his autobiography, Spurgeon wrote, "This is our College motto. We...hold forth the Cross of Christ with a bold hand...because that Cross holds us fast by its attractive power. Pur desire is that every man may both hold the Truth, and be held by it; especially the truth of Christ crucified."
In Paul's letter to the Philippians, he expressed this truth as the bedrock of his life. "Not that I have...already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me" (Philippians 3:12). As followers of Jesus, we extend the message of the cross to others as Jesus holds us fast in His grace and power. I have been crucified with Christ; and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Our Lord holds us in His grip of love each day - and we hold out His message of love to others.
Prayer for Today
Lord Jesus, Your cross is the focal point of history and the turning point of our lives. Hold us tightly as we cling to Your cross and extend your love to others. Amen.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
A friend once told me that they had trouble falling asleep, but that they would try to recall every blessing in their life for which they were thankful. This friend told me they never ran out of things to thank God for before drifting off to sleep. It's a wonderful way to end your day.
One of the ways we can honor God and his created ones is to show radical hospitality. Another is to be grateful for the hospitality shown to us. I love to study other languages. They give me the ability to show welcome to those who most need to feel welcomed and at home, and they help me to show gratitude to the people who show me hospitality. I've learned to say "thank you," in 13 languages because of my experiences with people different than myself, and this week, Pastor Young Jeon taught me a 14th, Korean... Gamsa-Hamida. It allowed me to show appreciation to New Vision Korean Church as they brought music, leadership, and food to our gatherings this week.
I consider being able to say "thank you," in meaningful ways to be a spiritual practice, one that is good for our whole community. Sometimes, this means learning a phrase in a new language, and sometimes it's as simple as a thank you note in the mail or on the fridge to a family member or a gesture or small gift or thoughtful act of service. Even the Apostle Paul thanked the Philippians in his letter to them for working hard alongside him. It is an ancient practice of our people and a vital one.
This week, think about the people in your life who have helped you or worked hard at something for which you are grateful. Find a way to express thanks in a way that speaks to them in their language, a way that touches them and makes them feel special.
Prayer for Today
Thank you, Lord, for the people and blessings you have put in my life. Help me to notice them, and to thank the people who help me to grow and make me feel your love. Amen.
When I was a seminary student a number of years ago, I was first introduced to writer Frederick Buechner. (Pronounced - Beek-ner) Buechner also happens to be a Presbyterian minister, but most of us know him for his amazing books. I am reading a collection of his sermons and essays called Buechner 101. If you want to start somewhere reading his work, that is as good of a place as any.
In thinking about what makes Buechner so insightful, I think it has to do with his honesty and his willingness to stop and pay attention to his life. Buechner thinks this is one of the most important things we can do. It is also often one of the hardest things to do -especially as the pace of life seems to speed up exponentially every day. Video screens of all types now clamor for our constant attention. Yet, paying attention to our lives is an important part of seeing and knowing God.
Sometimes God actually feels more distant to me than when I was younger. I wonder if God is really more distant, or if my ability to pay attention to the presence of God has been overwhelmed by the bright lights of life. It is like trying to see the stars at night in the sky - sometimes the lights from the city are so bright you can barely even see them. But go away to the beach or the mountains where there are no lights, and the sky radiates with the glorious stars of God's creation. By the way, the stars were always there -- it was just harder to see them when there are so many other distracting lights.
This weekend I am heading up to the mountains with some of our men for our annual retreat. Rev. Robby Carroll is our guest speaker and he will be inviting us to listen to our lives - past, present, and future. I am looking forward to seeing the stars at night, and hopefully recognizing more clearly the God who made them and has been present in my life all along - whether I constantly recognize him or not.
Prayer for Today
Loving God, you promise to always be present, whether or not we recognize you. Teach us to turn down the lights of life so that we might see you more clearly. Thank you for always being there for us. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:41 am
Over the weekend, Will, Belle and I were taking a walk in our neighborhood. In our neighborhood, we often see deer in our backyard or passing through the neighbor's yard, and lately we see them crossing the street. This usually happens later in the day. Will likes to stop and watch their every move, noticing what we one is doing all the while counting how many are in the group. We took a moment to savor the experience and waited for the family to travel across one by one. I enjoy watching this family of deer and it was so nice to have our rhythm interrupted.
It's funny to me how sometimes interruptions in our day can bring moments of calmness and appreciation. There are certainly other interruptions in our day that we try to avoid like the plague. The same situation would have likely brought about a different reaction from any number of people.
I realize that this encounter is not earth shattering in comparison to some of the challenging experiences that we face in life. It just reminded me that when we face situations that are unexpected, our response to them often shapes our faith in a significant way. So then, how do your reactions to life's interruptions or unexpected circumstances, shape your faith? Sometimes I find when life is a little bit unpredictable, I realize my need to live by faith and depend upon God's guidance.
Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?" "No, not seven times," Jesus replied, "but seventy times seven." -Matthew 18:21-22
Ten years ago, Charles Carl Roberts IV walked into a one room Amish school house and shot 10 Amish school girls and then he shot himself. Words cannot begin to describe the devastation his acts of evil brought upon those whose lives were forever altered due to his violence.
Terri Roberts, the mother of Charles, received a visit only a few hours following the shootings from an Amish man named Henry who came to assure the Roberts family that they were not viewed as enemies; after all, they had lost a son as well. Forgiveness was the first act of faith practiced by the Amish community rather than vengeance. For the Amish community forgiveness is practiced out of the starting gate instead of being the end result of a long healing process.
I read about this 10 year process yesterday morning before heading over to JCPC for Sunday worship. For all involved in the fateful day, the healing is not complete but rather on-going. I found myself thinking about Jesus' answer to Peter when Peter asked how many times we are to forgive.
Sometimes forgiveness is a one- time act. Other times, it takes years of active forgiving.
Forgiveness has taken Terri Roberts into some deep places of healing. She has developed a relationship with Rossana, the youngest survivor of the massacre. Rosanna is severely handicapped from her wounds and Terri comes to her home every Thursday to bath and read to Rosanna at bedtime. Forgiveness and healing; 70 times 7.
Below is Terri's picture. Notice the word above the window to her sun room. In the world of 70 times 7 forgiveness this is a true Son Room.
Prayer for Today
Merciful Lord, teach us how to forgive as many times as it takes so that your mercy will bring healing into our lives. Amen.