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.
He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.
- Psalm 147:8, NIV
As most of us know, we have been in a severe drought for a while. Last I heard, we had gone forty days without significant rainfall! When I used my lawnmower last weekend to cut up and mulch the leaves on our front lawn, I was covered with dust by the time I finished because the ground was so dry.
For a while I have been praying for rain. The weather reports predicted that rain was finally on its way. Monday evening I awoke to hear the sound of water dripping right outside my bedroom window. It was a beautiful sound! When I got up a few hours later to let our dogs outside, it was incredibly refreshing simply to hear the sound of falling rain and to feel the cool mist on my skin. I said a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the rain.
Each morning I try to read through the lectionary passages from the Bible. Sometimes certain phrases jump out at me. The passages that talk about God supplying the rain made an impression on me the past few weeks. Not only was I thinking about how much we need rain and water simply to live, I began to think about our spiritual thirsts. I was reminded of the passage from Psalm 42:1 that says, As the deer pants for streams of water,so my soul pants for you, my God.
Physical thirst or extreme drought can remind us what it is like to feel a spiritual thirst for the presence of God. When God seems far away, we experience a "thirst" for God. Sometimes that requires us simply to wait until God makes himself known to us. Like most of us, I do not enjoy waiting, but I have learned that waiting is an important part of my spiritual life. Advent is often described as "a time of waiting." This Advent, as you wait, may God's presence fill the thirst of your soul!
Prayer for Today
Loving God, as we wait for the coming of Christ anew into our lives this Advent, fill us with the hope for the good things to come. We pray this in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:49 am
What are some special activities/traditions you do in your family to get ready for Christmas?
All around us, we hear commercials, store advertisements, and community events focused around the season of Christmas, but for the Church, we are in the season of Advent. Advent is a time of waiting before the coming of Jesus. Advent is sort of a short form of the word "adventure." Why might this season be described as an adventure?
A scripture we often share at the start of Advent focuses on John the Baptist who was all about adventure. In fact, he was bold enough to go live by himself out in the desert with just the clothes on his back and eat only locusts and wild honey. And he was waiting for something to happen!
What was John to be up to out in the desert? Read Matthew 3:1-12.
Why was he baptizing people? John knew the Messiah, the one from God, was almost here and he wanted people to get ready. Baptism was a way of showing that they were ready to get rid of things in their lives that would get in the way of experiencing the new thing that God was about to do in the world.
Consider what might be getting in your way of really focusing on God and Jesus in this season where so many of the messages we see and hear are about gift-buying and money-spending. How can you simplify your Advent season and make room for God?
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, Open up our hearts and minds to your message for us during this Advent season. Guide us as we live in a way that is pleasing to you. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Hope was in the air. Black Friday sales and Cyber Monday sales were popping. I was enticed by especially steep discounts to venture out last night to land a prized Christmas gift. Initially I was going to buy the gift on-line, but for some reason, the retailer's website said I had to purchase the gift in the store. I called in advance to verify the gift was in the store. I was told that there was one remaining and it would be waiting for me at guest services. My hopes were dashed when I arrived and was told the item I wanted to purchase wasn't there. In fact, they don't even sell it in the store! I was told this is one way they motivate shoppers to come into the store. Bummer!
While the commercialization of Christmas can be disappointing, the message of Christmas is still the motivation for the season. This morning I read the motivation story of a young pastor named Eric So. He and his wife left their careers a few years ago and entered into the mission field. Pastor So moved into a run-down apartment complex in Maryland to serve a diverse group of refugees who had fled their homelands to experience the hope of living in America. While the topic of refugees is politically sensitive, Pastor So felt called by God to serve "these strangers in a foreign land."
"I think probably the most compelling reason we chose to move into the neighborhood was really the story of Jesus, Pastor Eric So said. From the Scriptures I see God sending his son, Jesus, into the world so that he would dwell among the people."
While earthly gifts are pleasing, their acquisition can be disappointing. The gift of God dwelling among us is transformative and leads us into our mission field to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. -John 1: 14.
May the full grace and truth of Jesus Christ fill your Advent with hope.
Prayer for Today
Through your Holy Spirit, fill us with hope, dear Lord. Transform our lives through the gift of your gospel so that we shall be light in the world's darkness. Amen.
As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners? -Ecclesiastes 5:11
How much is enough? We might ask this simple question on a day that many developed countries increasingly devote to shopping. I speak of Black Friday, the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, in which many stores open early and offer cut-price deals; a day that has spread from the States to other nations. Some shoppers have limited resources and are trying to purchase something at a price they can afford. But sadly, for others greed is the motivation, and violence erupts as they fight for bargains.
The wisdom of the Old Testament writer known as "the Teacher" (Ecclesiastes 1:1) provides an antidote to the frenzy of consumerism we may face in the shops-and in our hearts. He points out that those who love money never will have enough and will be ruled by their possessions. And yet, they will die with nothing: As everyone comes, so they depart (Ecclesiastes 5:15). The apostle Paul echoes the Teacher in his letter to Timothy, when he says that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and that we should strive for godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
True contentment does not depend on anything in this world.
Whether we live in a place of plenty or not, we all can seek unhealthy ways of filling the God-shaped hole in our hearts. But when we look to the Lord for our sense of peace and well-being, He will fill us with His goodness and love.
Prayer for Today
You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.
-Augustine, The Confessions
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Last night, our oldest wandered into our room not long after bedtime. He said he couldn't sleep because his mind kept imagining scary things. He crawled into bed and put his head on my chest. I told him how I get scared sometimes too. And when I do, I think about good things. "What good things did you do this week?" I asked him. (I'm not afraid to steal good parenting advice from movies, one of my favorite things.)
"Well. I did play some. And when you're home, I stay close to you as much as I can."
It reminded me of the passage in James. As parents, we often are ready to run to our children when they need us. But I sometimes forget, they find their own ways to draw near to us. Perhaps that's one of the reasons children are the example Christ points to for our faith. We are assured over and over in scripture of God's promise to be near us in times of need. But we must also remember to draw near to God.
So often, our anxiety in a relationship can be measured by the perceived distance between us.
We know how to draw near to God. In prayer, in scripture, in the fellowship of other believers, and in tending to the needs of the least of these. As we gather at table today, we strengthen our ties to family and friends when we draw close to them. As Advent draws near, remembering when God drew near to us in a manger, we prepare our hearts to draw near to God.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to sit in the quiet and draw near to you, to read your word, to be with your people, and to serve those in need. Amen.
Thanksgiving will be here tomorrow. For many of us it will be a day to gather with extended family and friends. Some of our members who stopped by to shake hands with me after the sermon on Sunday mentioned that they were apprehensive about Thanksgiving. They went on to say that their celebration will include folks with very diverse opinions -- particularly when it comes to politics. They were concerned about how they would navigate the potentially controversial minefields.
Knowing what to say, what not to say, and how to say it is a real challenge. It often requires our most advanced humility, self-control, and courage. Knowing when to listen without simply thinking about our next response is hard. It takes discipline. Deciding when it is worth it to speak up, or when it is better simply to let something go, requires maturity on our part. Yet, having the courage to speak up when it feels needed, not necessarily for our own benefit, but for some greater good - that also has its place. Choosing our battles is not only something we struggle with as parents, it is something we all face from time to time in other contexts.
Paul's letter to the Ephesians says to "speak the truth in love." (4:15, NIV) That is not always easy to do. We often want to blast someone with "the truth" (at least as we see it), but rarely does that accomplish anything more than allowing us to vent. Speaking the truth in love demands much more of us. It requires us to care deeply for the person to whom we are speaking.
Some of the best guidelines for times of disagreement were created by the P.C.U.S.A. I have shared them from time to time in various settings. Below is a link to them. They may help you find other ways to prepare for what may be some challenging conversations this Thanksgiving. While they were created mainly for disagreements in church governing bodies, there are many insights here which I believe will help you experience a happier Thanksgiving!
Gracious God, we give you thanks for all of the blessings in our lives. As we prepare for times of family, fellowship, and feasting -- may the Spirit of Christ shape how we speak and listen to one another. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:12 am
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9:6
We are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving in a couple of days and then on Sunday, we will begin the Advent season. As I was making preparations for upcoming Advent programs and services, I read this passage of scripture. It is one we hear each year during the Advent season. This time, the word peace stuck with me as I read this passage. What words come to mind when you hear the word peace? What would it take, do you think, for us to have peace on earth? Where are the places that really need peace right now? What relationships are required? How might God be a part of bringing that peace through us?
Perhaps peace in our world begins with peace in our own lives. We each have places of unrest, and perhaps if we work for peace here, inside our lives, we might be able to know more of God's peace in the world.
Do you think all of the noise and busyness in our lives makes it difficult to find peace? Do our schedules, our time, our lives look like that of a person who wants to experience God's peace? Is it possible that sometimes we search for God in the winds, earthquakes and fires, but God is waiting to speak to us in the silence and peace?
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6-7
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, Help us to see the needs of others around us. Help us to know those needs which we can fulfill. Help us to fulfill them and make your peace known. In Christ's Name, Amen.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is when school aged children commemorate the earliest Thanksgiving. This picture of Pris Horne and our preschoolers should bring a smile to your face.
This week, we celebrate both Thanksgiving as well as the first Sunday of Advent. The candle we light the first Advent Sunday is the candle of hope. For over two decades our preschool has been the first educational experience for thousands of youngster in our community. Let's remember to give thanks for our preschool directors, teachers, board, students and parents. Preschool is the embodiment of hope!
Prayer for Today
Here is a prayer you might pray this week. May you experience the bountiful blessing of our Loving God.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.
During the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900, missionaries trapped in a home in T'ai Yüan Fu decided their only hope for survival rested on running through the crowd that was calling for their deaths. Aided by weapons they held, they escaped the immediate threat. However, Edith Coombs, noticing that two of her injured Chinese students had not escaped, raced back into danger. She rescued one, but stumbled on her return trip for the second student and was killed.
Meanwhile, missionaries in Hsin Chou district had escaped and were hiding in the countryside, accompanied by their Chinese friend Ho Tsuen Kwei. But he was captured while scouting an escape route for his friends in hiding and was martyred for refusing to reveal their location.
In the lives of Edith Coombs and Tsuen Kwei we see a love that rises above cultural or national character. Their sacrifice reminds us of the greater grace and love of our Savior.
As Jesus awaited His arrest and subsequent execution, He prayed earnestly, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me." But He concluded that request with this resolute example of courage, love, and sacrifice: "Yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). His death and resurrection made our eternal lives possible.
Prayer for Today
Lord, may the world see our love for each other-and the deeds that come from it-as a great testimony to the bond of unity we have in You. May they want to know You too. Amen.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Reflecting on what we have to be thankful for as a church, I think that having a warm and welcome space the youth can call home is right near the top. Instead of words this week, I offer images...
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to see the good and be a part of that... Amen.
It has been a little more than a week since the election. I have talked to JCPC members - some gave me high fives while others were in tears. Certainly the outcome of the election seemed like a shock to everyone. I know many ministers preached about this last Sunday, but since we had a guest preacher for Brian's installation service, I knew I had to wait. That was probably a good thing because for some of us, the emotions were still very raw last week.
In our church year or liturgical year, this Sunday is called "Christ the King" Sunday. We order our time around Easter and Christmas - focusing on the resurrection of Jesus and his birth or incarnation. We have two seasons of preparation before each one - Lent and Advent. But one Sunday a year we consider what it means in our day and time that "Christ is King." Since we have just elected the next president, which is our version of a king, it is timely for us to consider this.
This Sunday I want to talk about this question: "So, Who's In Charge, Now?" The Bible story we plan to start with is from John 18:28-40. I hope you will read it this week. It tells of the trial of Jesus and his encounter with Pontius Pilate. Pilate asks Jesus if Jesus is a king. Jesus answers with some insight I believe we all need to hear. It even evolves into an even bigger question: "What is truth?" In a world in which we struggle to know who is really in charge and how that might affect us, those we care about, and those who live on the other side of the world - we need some wisdom that can guide us in living our lives here and now.
Since so many are struggling with these issues, I hope you will invite someone to join you this Sunday. I believe people are especially open at this time to find some hope-filled answers to these questions. See you Sunday!
Prayer for Today
Gracious Lord, we are facing difficult times in our lives and in the life of our nation. We need your wisdom and truth to help us find our way forward. Open our hearts and minds this day so that we might hear your still, small voice. Help us to hear your words and live them out in the way we love one another. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus -- the King of your world! Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 04:28 pm
What does control mean for you? If you were to tell someone, "I have things under control", what would that look like? I often find myself trying to have a plan for everything. By planning ahead, things go more smoothly, right? Sometimes I can get so wrapped up in this mindset that I forget to leave some space to look and listen for the ways that God is at work.
Take a moment to consider these words from the gospel of Matthew, "Look at the birds in the air. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them." (Matthew 6:26)
When you take a look around at God's creation and notice the ways that God takes care of things, it's amazing to see each and every detail. God reminded me of how we are cared for during our Women's Retreat this weekend. On Friday night, you could witness this beautiful masterpiece that God had painted on the porch outside the dining room at Amicalola Falls Lodge.
Max Lucado challenged me with some questions as I was taking some time to consider this passage of scripture.
"If God is able to place the stars in their sockets and suspend the sky like a curtain, do you think it is remotely possible that God is able to guide your life? If God is mighty enough to ignite the sun, could it be that he is mighty enough to light your path? If God cares enough about the planet Saturn to give it rings or Venus to make it sparkle, is there an outside chance that God cares enough about you to meet your needs?"
These are some challenging questions for me as I struggle with the desire to be in control of each situation in my life. Enter into this day, trying to let God be in control. Notice the ways that God is taking care of you in each moment.
I was equally grateful for this image of God's creation that journeyed together, prayed together, supported one another, and laughed together.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, Open our eyes to the ways you are guiding us, lighting our path and caring for us each day. Help us to put our trust in you. In Christ's Name, Amen.
This week I noticed that the words Give, Go, Live now adorn the walls where we enter the Great Hall. They serve as both a wonderful reminder and as our marching orders that the mission of JCPC is to Give, Go, and Live.
A couple of weekend ago, I experienced the power of Give, Go, and Live through the Fishing for Missions trout fishing adventure hosted by Joe Araoz.
I have learned to trout fish from Joe who is a patient, persistent, and encouraging guide. Here Joe is helping me land a trophy trout on the Soque River in the north Georgia mountains. Catching a trout is tons of fun, but there is something else that happens when you go out on the river with a group. At the end of the adventure everyone tells how relaxed they have become and how their worries seem to fade away for a day.
The scripture I preached yesterday at the 9:00 a.m. service says "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." One way that I encouraged the worshiper to think of this passage was that to lose your life is to get out of yourself. Our daily lives are so over-saturated with activities, stress, and worry, that we are more often guided by forces other than Give, Go, Live.
The beauty of Fishing for Missions is that you get to experience a relaxed, joy-filled day while supporting the mission of the church. Just think, if you participate in Fishing for Missions you will be guided by our Give, Go, Live instructions in two beautiful ways. You will experience a day like no other and the stress of your life will melt away. Also, you will be supporting the mission of JCPC and you will be touching the lives of those whom we serve in the mission field.
Have you thought of giving a fishing trip as a Christmas present? Click here for the flyer with all the details.
Joe is looking for a group to take out on the Soque River the last weekend of November.
Prayer for Today
Loving God, we thank you for times of fellowship which relax our souls and pray that you inspire us to serve in the mission fields to which your Spirit leads us. Amen.
You are my friends if you do what I command.
Raleigh looks like a powerful dog-he is large and muscular and has a thick coat of fur. And he weighs over 100 pounds! Despite his appearance, Raleigh connects well with people. His owner takes him to nursing homes and hospitals to bring people a smile.
Once, a four-year-old girl spotted Raleigh across a room. She wanted to pet him, but was afraid to get close. Eventually, her curiosity overcame her sense of caution and she spent several minutes talking to him and petting him. She discovered that he is a gentle creature, even though he is powerful.
You are my friends if you do what I command. -John 15:14
The combination of these qualities reminds me of what we read about Jesus in the New Testament.
Jesus was approachable - He welcomed little children.
He was kind to an adulterous woman in a desperate situation.
Compassion motivated Him to teach crowds.
At the same time, Jesus's power was astounding. Heads turned and jaws dropped as He subdued demons, calmed violent storms, and resurrected dead people!
(Mark 1:21-34; 4:35-41; John 11)
The way we see Jesus determines how we relate to Him. If we focus only on His power, we may treat Him with the detached worship we'd give a comic book superhero. Yet, if we overemphasize His kindness, we risk treating Him too casually. The truth is that Jesus is both at once-great enough to deserve our obedience yet humble enough to call us friends.
Prayer for Today
Jesus, thank You for the privilege of knowing You. I acknowledge Your gentle power. I worship You as the Son of God-full of grace and glory. Amen.
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
In the last few minutes before my wedding ceremony this May, I turned to the pastor officiating, a dear friend and colleague who has been married the better part of three decades. I asked him, "Randy, what's the secret?" He smiled, and with confidence, he said, "Intentionality." We had spoken before about this topic. And I wasn't surprised by his answer. His words, like his actions, were always slow, and deliberate. And that's what made them so wise.
As I think about the busy calendar of our lives and the church's life at this time of year, that's a word that always comes to mind... intentionality. It is fortuitous that a season of giving and receiving is preceded by a holiday and a month of reflection about giving thanks. It mirrors the Eucharist, Communion. The prayer of thanksgiving comes before receiving the gift of Christ's body. The holiday season of Thanksgiving comes before the gift of the Christ Child.
It's not at all surprising that stores and our American culture of consumerism rushes from consuming chocolate at Halloween to our largest shopping season, trampling a season of intentionality set aside for thanksgiving and appreciation. What is surprising is how many of us believers get swept up by it. We forget that being intentional with our time and money and mindset and prayer life with our families can help us be truly prepared for Advent and Christmas by spending a month being thankful.
I hope that as you rush around in the coming weeks, you will find time for intentionality, to look at your life and loved ones and be thankful. Your Advent will be more full of hope, peace, joy, and love because of it.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to slow down and be intentional. Help me to pause between the holidays for this important time of spiritual reflection, holy appreciation, and sincere thanksgiving. Open my eyes to my blessings, and help me be blessing to others, unburdened by the world and selfish entitlement, and filled with a spirit of expectation and hope for the season ahead. Amen.
When we gathered for staff meeting this past Monday, Brian and Allison suggested that we open our Chapel on Election Day for prayer. We have not done that before since I have been here. I thought it was a good idea. We discussed how people were very anxious about the outcomes of this election.
As Christians we believe that one of the best things we can do in all situations is to pray. In prayer we praise God and remember who God is. We confess our shortcomings and sin as a step to having a right relationship with God. God's grace and forgiveness help renew our spiritual health. We express our gratitude to God through thanksgiving. We take time to lift up our concerns - both for ourselves and for others. And we take time be silent and listen for the voice of God.
Brian prepared a prayer guide for us. It included a prayer, as well as suggestions for hymns we might read. I prayed the prayer and then I began looking through our hymnbook for hymns in the section called "The Life of the Nations." Not only were there some patriotic hymns, there were others based on the Psalms. Reading and praying the words of those hymns was very rewarding.
I then moved on to the next section in our hymnbook called "A New Heaven and a New Earth." These hymns were based on the belief that one day, God's kingdom would come to earth and make all things right. All in all, I prayed through about fifty hymns! Surprisingly, it was not boring. In fact, the time flew by.
I realized I had come into the Chapel anxious because of all the news reports about the election, but I left the chapel renewed by being reminded the good news of the gospel! Listen to what Paul says about the value of prayer:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people -- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. -1 Timothy 2:1-2, NIV
Prayer for Today
Thank you, Lord, for hearing our prayers. May your peace fill our lives and our world. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 04:15 pm
God is good to one and all; everything he does is suffused with grace. Creation and creatures applaud you, God; your holy people bless you. They talk about the glories of your rule, they exclaim over your splendor, Letting the world know of your power for good, the lavish splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal; you never get voted out of office. God always does what he says, and is gracious in everything he does. God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit. All eyes are on you, expectant; you give them their meals on time. Generous to a fault, you lavish your favor on all creatures. Everything God does is right-the trademark on all his works is love. (Psalm 145:9-17, The Message)
When I first read Psalm 145, many of the words or phrases seemed to be familiar to me from other Psalms or prayers. Then I read this passage in the Message version and saw this prayer in a new light. Some of the things that struck me in this reading...
"Everything God does is suffused with grace." Suffused is not a word I use very often, maybe never. It means to gradually spread through. What would it look like for you to experience God's grace as being gradually spread through your life, rather than just at times when we needed it the most in large doses? I had to sit with that thought for a moment. God's grace in our lives is spread throughout each aspect of our being, day by day, moment by moment. What a gift!
"Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal; you never get voted out of office." On a day when many are voting or have voted, this is a helpful reminder to me about God's kingdom that surpasses anything we can imagine in this earthly life.
"God always does what he says, and is gracious in everything he does." What would it look like for us to live in such a way that we are gracious in everything that we do? What a way to share God's love in the world through our daily choices and actions.
"The trademark on all his works is love." How can we share God with others leaving this trademark of love with them?
Maybe some of the other phrases in this section of Psalm 145 took on a new meaning for you by reading it in the Message version. I hope that you find a few moments to let it sink in how much love God has for you, embrace that gift and let it gradually spread through each aspect of your life.
Our Chapel is open today until 6:00 p.m. for anyone that would like to pray.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, open our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to experience your grace and love this day. In Christ's Name, Amen.
One of my favorite holiday songs is It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Most of us are turning up for the holidays and hoping as the song states that it will be the "Hap-happiest season of all."
However, there is another reality that many of us experience during the holidays. For those of us who have experience a loss, a death of a loved one or a divorce, the holidays can actually feel like the sad-saddest season of all.
If you are one of us who have experienced a loss and are wondering how you are going to make it through the holidays this year I want to invite you to Safe Harbor.
Coping with grief throughout the holidays and beyond
Sunday, November 20
Have you recently experienced divorce or the death of a loved one?
If so, the thought of the upcoming holiday season might feel daunting.
Safe Harbor is a place to share your grief,
learn coping strategies for the holidays, and experience support.
Safe Harbor is a port in the storm of grief.
We will share a meal, share our stories, and share support.
R.S.V.P. to Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst at firstname.lastname@example.org would be appreciated.
Hosted by Stephen Ministry, Caring Team, and Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst
Prayer for Today
Loving God, your Son Jesus taught us that those who mourn will be blessed with comfort. At this time of year, we ask your comfort on all who mourn and seek to understand their next steps in life. Amen.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
As I was preparing for youth group on Sunday night, I passed by the choir room. I heard the sounds of joy and peeked in. Donna Fallis, our music director, was seated around a table with three young ladies who were singing, reading, and giggling. They were rehearsing for a Christmas drama. Donna was skillfully weaving their energy and laughter and recitations into a fun rehearsal, never missing a word or moment.
I was reminded of the psalmist's words about the trust of the mother swallow who builds her nest on the altar of the Lord. The parents of these girls had made a decision to build their nest on the altar of the Lord, to offer their children to our family of faith and community of believers, to the benefit of these young girls and to us all, and the glory of God. Of all the altars on which their family could choose to build their nest on Sunday afternoon, theirs was being built on the Lord's.
Heidi Chinnock, the other half of our staff's dynamic music duo offered these words from Martin Luther this week... "I have held many things in my hands, and have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." The Extravagant Generosity of the parents of these young girls was the gift of their children, their trust, and the gifts these girls have to offer. They are being nurtured and taught to always offer themselves in this way, and the kingdom is built in such holy moments of laughter and love.
This week, I hope you'll join me in considering how we give of ourselves and how we offer our children to God and trust the Lord to guide their steps.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to trust you and offer what is most precious to me into your hands. Let us be a faith community where children are nurtured to be generous with their time and talents. Amen.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. -II Timothy 4:7
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. Youth group is two hours each week during the school year. Committing to be there weekly is a big deal and hard priority for our youth and families. Then there are youth like Natalie Siegman. Natalie and her family are deeply committed to this family of faith, but recently, Natalie has gone above and beyond, answering yes to the call of many needs.
This year, Natalie was asked to serve as youth representative to the session. This is a vital role she plays for us as a church and to her peers. She also served as a member of the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee, which took countless meetings, hours, lots of prayer, and significant contributions in time and energy to an important process. And all the while, Natalie has been a faithful member of the youth group on Sunday nights, helped to lead music and practice for that, served on Youth Team, gone on mission trip and retreats, and served as an example to her peers and us adults at JCPC.
Natalie's service reminds us all that when we have busy lives, we can choose to tell people how busy we are, or we can choose to ask God to help us remain faithful and serve with energy and enthusiasm as we run the race, relying on God's strength, rather than our own. Ask her about how she serves. You'll get a story, and probably a smile. And I promise you'll be inspired to serve too.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to be generous with my time. Help me to choose the ministries that serve those who need energy and enthusiasm and fresh ideas. When I become discouraged, help me to offer my gifts in love to serve in joy. Amen.