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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.

Tuesday, April 30 2019

We are approaching the final month of this school year and many of us are in the rhythm of learning, testing, studying, and reading. Even if you aren't a student, parent of students or a teacher, we all can be reminded that education is not just a process that happens for the young, learning is a process that happens throughout your life.


Jesus lived on this earth as God in the flesh and even he took time to learn everything he could. There was one time early in his life, when said to his parents, "Why were you looking for me? Didn't you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?" But they had no idea what he was talking about. So he went back to Nazareth with them, and lived obediently with them. His mother held these things dearly, deep within herself. And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people." 

-Luke 2:49-52


As you wrap up this school year, what new things has God taught you? How have you been challenged? What have you been teaching others about who God is through your words and actions? I would encourage you to take what you are learning and let it fill your mind, and also your heart and spirit.


Prayer for Today

Gracious God, I'm going to look for you every day this final month of school. I expect I'll see you around. Give me a heart that's open to your mysteries so that I can see and hear your work happening right before me. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:23 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 29 2019

Do you remember the phrase, "Mind your p's and q's?" The phrase was a reminder to pay attention to what you are doing with your language and manners so that you will be on your best behavior. The wordmind used in this context means to pay close attention. Also, minding involves remembrance. You have to know what your p's and q's are in order to mind them.


In the month of May the word mind is being used to encourage us to pay attention to our mental health.

I appreciate the phrase Mind Your Health because it takes some of the stigma out of the term mental health. Being a pastoral counselor, I have received extensive training to help me understand the complexities of the human mind and soul so that stigmas can be replaced by understanding, acceptance and support. Minding your health is an encouraging charge to mind your p's and q's without the stigma.


This past week, Georgia Woody made a generous gift to JCPC to establish the Minding Your Health fund. This fund will allow JCPC to purchase state of the art books, videos, and other resources that pertain to developing and sustaining good mental health.


As a parent, to mind my p's and q's has meant that I wanted to understand how children best develop strong mental health. Allison Shearouse has identified a wish list of resources which include titles such as:

  • The Whole Brain Child (Dan Siegel)
  • Intentional Parenting (Sissy Goff, David Thomas, Melissa Trevethan)
  • The Sticky Faith Guide for your Family (Kara Powell)
  • Are My Kids on Track? (Sissy Goff, David Thomas, Melissa Trevethan)

Of course our mental health doesn't always

stay on track but that's not because of a lack of faith. These two resources will be helpful reminders and guides:

  • Troubled Minds - Mental Illness and the Church's Mission (Amy Simpson)
  • Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness, Family, and Church (Sarah Griffith Lund)

Here at JCPC we are blessed to have members such as Georgia Woody who are encouraging us to mind our healthand a Director of Christian Education, Allison Shearouse who helps us learn our p's and q's.


Prayer for Today

Merciful God, keep us mindful that the complexities of life are no so much a lack of faith, but rather opportunities for our faith to ground us and give us firm ground on which to work through the issues that confront us. Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:21 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 26 2019

Early in the morning, I quietly pad past a family-room window overlooking a wilderness area behind our house. Often, I notice a hawk or owl perched in a tree, keeping watch over the area. One morning I was surprised to find a bald eagle boldly balanced on a high branch, surveying the terrain as if the entire expanse belonged to him. Likely he was watching for "breakfast." His all-inclusive gaze seemed regal.


In 2 Chronicles 16, Hanani the seer (God's prophet) informed a king that his actions were under a royal gaze. He told Asa, king of Judah, "You relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God" (v. 7). Then Hanani explained, "The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him" (v. 9). Because of Asa's misplaced dependence, he would always be at war.


Reading these words, we might get the false sense that God watches our every move so He can pounce on us like a bird of prey. But Hanani's words focus on the positive. His point is that our God continually watches and waits for us to call on Him when we're in need.


Like my backyard bald eagle, how might God's eyes be roaming our world-even now-looking to find faithfulness in you and me? How might He provide the hope and help we need?


Prayer for Today

O God, may You strengthen our hearts that we might be fully committed to You.  Amen.

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Thursday, April 25 2019

Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the sea became calm. The men were terrified of the Lord. They offered sacrifices and made vows to the Lord.

-Jonah 1:15-16


This time of year, I'm always thinking about transition and what's next. For nature, spring brings new life, and for the Church, so does Easter. But for me, I suppose it's the school calendar that drove my early life and continues to guide it as I work with kids and follow that calendar. I graduated seminary in the spring and was seeking my first call as pastor, and that's when I transitioned to my last call and even to this call. I was on my honeymoon in May three years ago when I interviewed by Skype for JCPC. So the end of spring has marked for me and our family many major milestones in our journey.


All transition and change is loss in some way. For there to be anything new, typically something old must end or die or change. This tends to cause stress and anxiety. Among the biggest changes we experience are marriage, birth, death, moving, job changes, and leaving home for work or college. And this time of year can mean lots of those, especially leaving home after graduation. The anticipation of this change is anxiety-producing for our youth and parents too. Much of that anxiety is around the worry of choice.


I often tell our young people (and their parents) that the most important part of their college decision is prayer. I encourage them to check out churches and campus ministries as much as academics and extracurriculars. And while I firmly believe God can and does call them to specific places and people and experiences, there's something else I'm even more sure of... God will be there wherever they go and make use of them in that place. We cannot mess up God's plans, just follow them creatively. God used Jonah in his circuitous path to Nineveh to witness to the crew of his getaway boat. God did not give up because Jonah fled. God stuck with Jonah. God sticks with us.


In the words of my friend I spoke to this week, "God doesn't waste anything." Wherever we go, as college students, for work, on our own, with family, God sticks with us. God never wastes anything, no matter our path. I encourage you this week to pray about your big transitions you're in the midst of or approaching, and pray for our graduates. God is listening. God is with us. God is leading, coaching, and using us in every time and place. 


Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to follow your calling. And wherever I go or wander, use me to show your light and love to all in need. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:54 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, April 24 2019

"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark . . ." 

- John 20:1a, NIV


Most of us probably recognize these words describing what it was like when followers of Jesus came to the tomb where his body was buried on the first Easter morning. The story goes on to tell us that the body of Jesus is not there. In John's gospel, the resurrected Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and calls her by name. It is only then that she recognizes Jesus.


"Early on the first day of the week, when it was still dark . . ." Those words could also describe what it was like when some of us arrived at our Outdoor Chapel to prepare for the 7:00 a.m. Easter Sunrise Service. As I mentioned this past Sunday, it was so dark when I arrived that it wasn't until I was halfway down the walkway to the Outdoor Chapel that I realized someone was already standing a short distance in front of me. I called out, "I guess this is what it was like when they went to the tomb that first Easter." It was only when I heard the voice that I recognized it was Tom Traylor. I felt better knowing who it was.


We were not the only two who gathered for worship in the Outdoor Chapel on Sunday. In fact, it was the largest crowd we have had in eight years! I was excited by all the folks there. I wondered why we had a larger crowd. It could have been the nice weather, but while it was not raining as it had been the day before, it was cold. I wore a sweater under my suit jacket. We had a fire going and more than one person told me how they wanted to linger by the fire. Maybe people came because we celebrated communion for the first time. Maybe it was the music of our GuitArmy! Whatever the reason, we all celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. By the time we had finished, it was no longer dark. I think it was because the Son was shining on us all!



P.S. - Just a reminder - there will be no Wednesday Night Pastor's Bible Study tonight, but we will meet next week. Please pass the word.


Prayer for Today

Thank you God, for raising Jesus from the dead. Thank you for the light of Christ that shines on us all. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus, the Risen Christ. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:53 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, April 23 2019

God has given each of us seasons of waiting and days of anticipation. Despite the incessant rush of our lives and the world around us, there are still moments when things stop, and all that we can do is wait. God invites us to wait faithfully, anticipating joyfully what is to come. Today I would invite you to take a moment now to think about a situation in your life where you are waiting for something and pause now to faithfully wait with God.


Often when I spend time waiting, I experience some type of blessing or renewal after that period of time. What if we spent more energy looking forward to the times when we feel refreshed and renewed?


Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 
-Isaiah 35:5-7


Isaiah, with poetic words, invites us into just such a space. We ask what the world renewed might look like, and the prophet answers with healed bodies dancing and singing, with a desert becoming a place of cooling, life-giving water. How do you imagine the world renewed? Where do you catch glimpses of it already? Know that God is working in us and through us to make all things new and whole.


Prayer for Today

Gracious God, Help us to look for the new things you are doing in and around us. Help us to see what this world can be so that we can dance and sing with joy while working with you to make that vision real. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:52 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 22 2019

Have you ever found yourself yelling yes! when something you wanted came to be? During sporting events I will yellyes! after my team has scored a touchdown or made a basket. Yes is an exuberant outburst of celebration, validation and at times vindication.


While in seminary, my professor, mentor and friend, David Buttick worked diligently to "drill into our heads" that first and foremost the resurrection of Jesus was God's yes! to Jesus' earthly life. I think he was so emphatic that first and foremost resurrection was God's vindication of Jesus' life because so much of the emphasis is placed on what the resurrection means to and for us. Yes, resurrection is for us, the atonement and the call to become the body of Christ, but first it is God's yes! to Jesus.


Writing about the Risen Christ, Buttrick says this; "Ask, now, what the resurrection of Christ might have meant to the first, frightened huddle of disciples. It was, if nothing else, a vindication. For in resurrection the life of Christ was lifted up and "enthroned" by God. Christ's life was not only declared worthy but was held up as a revealing of God's will for all humanity. The wisdom of priests, the judgment of Rome, the vote of the milling crowd-all these were suddenly reversed by God's judgment. Risen! The word means much more than to be sprung from a tomb; risen is to be exalted, to be lifted to the right hand of God. So Matthew has the risen Christ exclaim, "All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me." No wonder the resurrection material contain "creeds"; "The Lord is risen"; "My Lord and my God"; "He rose the third day in accordance with the scriptures." How can we respond to a disclosure of the risen, exalted Christ except by bowing down and acknowledging his true position; "Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here." The resurrection was a great sign that validated the rejected Jesus Christ; he was and is the Lord!"

He is risen!

He is risen indeed!


Prayer for Today

We humbly offer you thanks and praise, Most Holy God, for the saving grace of our risen Lord. Keep us strong in resurrection faith so that as we exalt our Lord, we will follow him where he leads us by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:50 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 19 2019

The Torn Veil
It was a dark and somber day in the outskirts of Jerusalem. On a hill just outside the city walls, a Man who'd been attracting crowds of eager followers for the past three years hung in disgrace and pain on a rough wooden cross. Mourners wept and wailed in sorrow. The light of the sun no longer brightened the afternoon sky. And the intense suffering of the Man on the cross ended when He cried out in a loud voice, "It is finished" (Matthew 27:50; John 19:30).

At that very moment, another sound came from the great temple across town-the sound of ripping fabric. Miraculously, without human intervention, the huge, thick veil that separated the outer temple from the holy of holies tore in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51).

That torn curtain symbolized the reality of the cross: a new way was now open to God! Jesus, the Man on the cross, had shed His blood as the last sacrifice-the one true and sufficient sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10)-which allows all who believe in Him to enjoy forgiveness and enter into a relationship with God (Romans 5:6-11).

Amidst the darkness of that original Good Friday, we received the best news ever-Jesus opened a way for us to be saved from our sins and to experience fellowship with God forever (Hebrews 10:19-22). Thank God for the message of the torn veil!


Prayer for Today

Dear God, thank you for the reality of what happened on Good Friday that brought us from darkness to light and for us to be able to experience a relationship with You.  Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:49 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 18 2019

As Jesus walked along the shore of Lake Galilee, he saw two brothers who were fishermen, Simon (called Peter) and his brother Andrew, catching fish in the lake with a net. Jesus said to them, "Come with me, and I will teach you to catch people." At once they left their nets and went with him.

-Matthew 4:18-22




If there's one thing I'm quite familiar, it's mission. I've been going on trips locally, domestically, and internationally for over twenty years and twice as many projects and trips as that. Fishing for people to go with me has just been part of the fun. However, other than a little casting with worms from docks and boats, I wouldn't call myself a fisherman.


So when Joe Araoz tapped me on the shoulder one Sunday and says a date in April and says he's going fishing and we are invited, I quickly said yes. To learn from a master fly fisherman is a treat and Joe's a great guy. We were pretty excited to jump on the Soaque River with him.


Vincent, our 12 year old, and I made some PB&Js, dressed in layers, grabbed our polarized sun glasses and hats and rode up to Clarksville with Pastor Randy. We had no fear of any kind. Joe dressed us in waders and boots and outfitted us with poles and tied on flies. We stomped down to the river and he patiently explained the art of casting and helped us paint our first strokes.


In minutes, upstream from some feeders, we had each caught fish. I will admit both of mine would have fit in my front shirt pocket. But, Vincent battled a rainbow trout the size of Joe's arm for fifteen minutes with careful and patient instruction from the master. He followed his words carefully and with much excitement and struggle and joy, he landed the fish and Joe scooped him up in the net. We admired the beautiful and powerful fish, removed the barbless hook, and gently released the fish back to the stream. Joe held it till it recovered and swam away on its own.


If you're curious about fly fishing and supporting our mission efforts, speak with Joe Araoz at church. If you're curious about fishing for people or going with us on our next local service or a domestic or international mission trip, come talk to me. I promise we'll hook ya. And you'll never have more fun. After all, the first handful of folks who followed the Master were fishin' when he called them. 


Prayer for Today

As your disciples were ready to leave their nets and follow you, help me to be ready for your call in my life, ready to give all I have and follow you. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:47 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, April 17 2019

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

- Psalm 34:8a, NIV


Acquired tastes. There are a number of tastes that I have acquired over the years. When it comes to food and drink, I think about coffee, pizza, Asian and Mexican foods -- even spaghetti sauce, salad dressings and toppings on hamburgers. (As I child I grew up eating lots of things "plain" - occasionally, I still do!) Other acquired tastes include jazz, classical, and a Capella music. I could go on, but I think you probably get the picture.


I grew up in a church that did nothing for Holy Week except Easter. Most of what I remember about Easter was getting new Sunday clothes and hoping for good candy in my Easter basket. It wasn't until I because a Presbyterian that I began to even be aware of the longstanding traditions of Holy Week worship services. But, they, too, have become an acquired taste when it comes to worship. However, I am not sure if "acquired taste" is the right terminology. It sounds like I am a consumer of religious experiences, so if I like a particular worship service which meets my needs, then I will be there. Yet, I am also reminded that worship is not primarily about me getting my wants or needs met. Worship is first of all about God.


I once heard a pastor say that at the end of each worship service, we should not ask each other, "Well, what did you think?" Instead, he suggested, we should be asking this: "How well did we worship God?" That is somewhat of a paradigm shift. Soren Kierkegaard said that in worship, we in the congregation are not the audience. He said that the audience for worship is God. It gives new meaning to the phrase we repeat around JCPC: "Worship is the most important thing we do."


I want to invite you to make plans to come this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. for our Maundy Thursday/Tenebrae service. It is different from any other worship service throughout the year. It may even become an acquired taste. The Psalmist put it this way: "Taste and see that the Lord is good."


Prayer for Today

Gracious God, you feed our souls when we worship you well. Help us to make worship a high priority in our lives - knowing that it glorifies you when we do it well. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:46 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, April 16 2019

"Ask and you'll get; Seek and you'll find; Knock and the door will open. Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need." Luke 11:9-10 (The Message)


This verse may be a familiar one to you. I read it this morning as it was the passage chosen for today on my desk calendar. These words were a helpful way for me to reflect on prayer and how I talk with God. Can you think of a time in your life when your conversations with God came from the perspective of making a bargain? Were there other times in your life when your conversations have been more direct? What parts of your circumstances influence the way you interact with God in your prayers?


I can imagine that each of us experience seasons in life that are challenging and raise significant questions about God's role in our lives. Even when we are direct in our prayers and ask for what we need, there are still times when we are surprised by the outcome of a particular life situation. I believe this is because God sees the big picture that we just can't see. God guides us and provides us with what we need when we need it, but that doesn't mean it matches up with what we think is needed.


I can look back on many situations in life and see how God's love is woven through those experiences. There were times in the midst of those situations where it was very challenging to see that same love, but now I can.


I would invite you to take to heart these words from the gospel of Luke in Jesus' message on how to pray. As you reflect on the events of this Holy Week consider, what you need. This passage gives the words to the Lord's Prayer and follows it with this very direct teaching. May these words of Jesus go with you today and help to guide you in your prayer life.


Prayer for Today

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:45 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 15 2019

At some time in your life you have probably been encouraged to "be present in the moment." I know that is a skill I have encouraged many people to practice over the years. Yet this morning I realized how subtly my brain has been trained to look beyond what is happening in the moment.


Case in point; all the advertising letters and brochures that come in the mail and are casually tossed into a pile I intend to get to later. All are crafted to catch my eye, draw me in, and entice me to take action. Over the years I've been conditioned to take action by looking beyond their call to pay attention.


I wonder if there is a similar looking beyond that happens with Holy Week. Certainly worship attendance increases dramatically on Easter Sunday and to a lesser extent Palm Sunday. So at first glance it may not be apparent; yet my hunch is that whole of Holy Week is overlooked. If this is so, may I encourage you to "be present in the moment" with the entirety of Holy Week.


Life is a series of interconnected moments that are best understood when viewed together. The gospels proclaim that Jesus is Emmanuel; God with us. So the drama of Holy Week mirrors the moments of our lives and accentuates the ever present grace of God in our daily lives. Here are a few examples:


Palm Sunday reflects that God is present in the triumphs we work so hard to achieve in our lives. It also serves as a reminder that typically they are short lived.


Maundy Thursday demonstrates God with us in the most intimate moments of our lives and the promises shared. It also reminds us of the betrayals experienced in life; both from others and those that we perpetrate and deny.


Good Friday involves the deepest mystery of God with us. Through our tragedies and our anguish that accompany them we experience both forsakenness and perhaps the most sacred experience of God's presence. What a mystery this is!

Easter Sunday holds together both triumph and tragedy and the resurrection faith that nothing can separate us from the love of God. After all, God with us means in every moment of life!


Prayer for Today

Help us be mindful of your ever present grace, Most Holy God, so that we don't rush to look beyond the precious moments of life, but rather look for you in each moment of our walk with You. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 12 2019

In his book The Call, Os Guinness describes a moment when Winston Churchill, on holiday with friends in the south of France, sat by the fireplace to warm himself on a cold night. Gazing at the fire, the former prime minister saw pine logs "crackling, hissing, and spitting as they burned. Suddenly, his familiar voice growled, 'I know why logs spit. I know what it is to be consumed.'"


Difficulties, despair, dangers, distress, and the results of our own wrongdoings can all feel consuming. Circumstances slowly drain our hearts of joy and peace. When David experienced the consuming consequences of his own sinful choices, he wrote, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. . . . My strength was sapped as in the heat of summer" (Psalm 32:3-4).


In such difficult times, where do we turn for help? For hope? Paul, whose experiences were filled with ministry burdens and brokenness, wrote, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed" 

(2 Corinthians 4:8-9). 


How does that work? As we rest in Jesus, the Good Shepherd restores our souls (Psalm 23:3) and strengthens us for the next step of our journey. He promises to walk that journey with us every step of the way (Hebrews 13:5).


Prayer for Today

Dear God, please help me with the consuming struggles I've experienced and how I respond.  I put my trust in you to meet me in those difficult times.  Amen.

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Thursday, April 11 2019

And God saw everything that God had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

-Genesis 1:31



The NCAA tournament just ended. If you didn't know that, you either don't care about college basketball or your bracket busted early and you forgot it was going on, like I did. The Masters is coming! You probably know that because, if you're reading this, you live in GA. When I lived in CO, few people followed college basketball. I grew up being unaware of it because my parents were from the Northeast and went to schools that cared more about hockey. And every year, my friends line up on Facebook to express how much they love or definitely will NOT be watching the Super Bowl. And, personally, I've been looking forward to the next Marvel movie all year far more than any sporting events. Social media has made it very popular to voice one's apathy. The irony of enthusiastic apathy is not lost on me.


However, a few years ago, a friend posted a cute comic (shared above). It was a powerful reminder that our interests differ as greatly as we do as people, maybe more, even when we share those interests across great divides. What joy it is to recognize those differences as a way that God shows us that we are made in God's image and yet with wondrous variety and calls it Good. God tells us we are made in the image of God, makes us all unique, wildly different, and looks at us and the diversity of life in creation and smiles and calls us Good. So then can't our many interests and passions that we share all possibly contain good as well?


Whether as a Lenten practice or a spiritual practice in your life, spend time this year in holy appreciation and curiosity. Mark it with the Masters. Find someone who loves the Masters or loves it more than you. Find someone who loves Marvel superhero movies and ask them why. Both of these events will draw millions of viewers and billions of dollars. Don't stop there with sporting and movie events. We live in a diverse area. Ask your neighbors and coworkers about religious holidays that happen this year. Ask about cultural events. Ask your kids or the youth at church about events, trends, trips they take, experiences they have. Practice holy appreciation and curiosity this year. Be intentional. And next year, see how it has changed you and how these events strike you in the following year. 


Prayer for Today

Lord, send your spirit to open my eyes and ears wide to all that happens around me and the people I love. Help me to borrow their eyes and ears and excitement to see the world in new ways to better see your image in your creation and created ones. Amen.

Posted by: AT 03:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, April 10 2019

Is it Palm or Passion Sunday? This Sunday is the only one in our liturgical or church year that has two designations. You may or may not know that there is an annual pattern for worship that begins with Advent and goes through Christmas to the season of Epiphany. We then move into the season of Lent, which we are in now. The first Sunday of Holy Week begins with what is called Palm or Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday focuses on Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, while the crowds wave palm branches to celebrate his arrival. Passion Sunday focuses on his death on the cross, which takes place on what we call Good Friday. Prior to that we have Maundy Thursday, which takes its name from the new command or mandate (mandatum novum in Latin) that Jesus gives on the night of the Last Supper to his disciples to "Love one another." Then comes Easter, followed by Pentecost some fifty days later, during which we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit. The next season is called Pentecost or Ordinary Time. Then it all starts again when we get to Advent.


This Sunday is called Palm or Passion Sunday. We will begin by remembering the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem by the procession of our choir and our children waving the palm branches. However, the sermon will focus on the crucifixion as we finish up our series on "The Seven Last Sayings of Jesus." So, we will start the day with a hymn of praise, but we will close with a more reflective hymn, "Were You There." Again and again, the hymn asks us the question, "Were you there?" at the cross when all of these things happened to Jesus. Of course, in a very literal sense, we were not there two thousand years ago when this happen. And yet in another sense, we can all relate to those standing at the foot of the cross, even now. So, come this Sunday as we reflect on what it means to be "there" as Jesus speaks his last words from the cross.


Prayer for Today

Loving God, as Jesus faced the highs and lows of Holy Week -- we, too, face the ups and downs of life. Help us to remember that no matter what we face, you promise to always be with us. And above all, help us never to forget that the final words are hope, resurrection and redemption! In the strong name of the Risen Christ we pray. Amen.

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Tuesday, April 09 2019

During the Lent season, each Sunday I have been spending time in Children's Worship with our children to talk about the lessons Jesus teaches us about prayer. Each week, we reflect on a passage of scripture where Jesus is praying and consider how that may help us understand prayer a little bit more.


This past Sunday, we explored how Jesus teaches us to pray through the Lord's prayer in Luke 11:1-4. I found a great resource that someone shared using six stations with active ways to consider each part of the Lord's prayer and the children traveled through each one. The 2 stations I was helping to lead were, "forgive us our sins" and "as we forgive those who sin against us". I found these two practices to be very meaningful for me as I led the children through them and thought I would share them with you too. 


Lent is a time when we are examining our lives and how Jesus sacrifice impacts us in such a significant way. I have found forgiveness to be a huge part of accepting God's gift to us in Jesus Christ.


As you reflect on confessing sin, here is what I shared with our children, think about something you want to say sorry for and say sorry to God. Blow some bubbles. As they float away imagine giving your prayer to God. When they pop remember that God forgives you. I placed my hands on the shoulders of each child and said to them after a bubble popped, "God forgives you".

As you reflect on forgiving those who sin against you, think about someone who has upset or hurt you. Ask God to help you forgive them. Write their name or draw them on a heart and place it on our prayer board. (This is a bulletin board on the second floor hallway). You are always welcome to place prayers here as a visual reminder of them.


Prayer for Today

Help us to keep watch, O Lord, when the darkness comes and threats abound; hold us steady in faith, placing our faith in you and hope in your future plans for us. Amen.

Posted by: AT 03:12 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 08 2019

Recently, I've experienced close encounters of the third kind in my neighborhood. The encounters are with an owl. It seems this owl has made a home in our backyard and I must say that I'm enraptured by its stoic majesty.



Throughout the ages, owls are harbingers of a dyer message of ensuing death, the symbolic of the return of a deceased loved one as well as guardianship. So much symbolic meaning for such an elusive raptor!


This owl and its catalytic engine for my imagination has my mind thinking of Holy Week and the Garden of Gethsemane. Holy Week reminds us of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem and all the hopes that rode in with him. Though Jesus spoke regularly of his impending death, I suspect the enthusiasm of his arrival in Jerusalem overrode the sensibilities of his followers. I find myself wondering if there was an owl in the Garden of Gethsemane.


If there was, which symbol would his disciples think of when they spied the owl. Would they have that ought oh feeling that something bad was about to happen? Maybe they would have seen it as a sign of divine protection. Or even a verse or two of the Psalms might have entered their minds; a verse such as Psalm 121: 3-4:


"He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep."


Those of us who have the benefit of hindsight know that both owl symbols were in play in Gethsemane. I must say that when I saw the owl in my own backyard one evening and then the next morning that I was spooked. Gethsemane, I think, should also give us that spooked sense of foreboding. The reality of Jesus' death on the cross was real, awful and final. Yet, even though Jesus' disciples did slumber and they did sleep, the God of creation, the God of the covenant, the God of the Exodus, the God of the Prophets did not slumber nor did God sleep.


How do we know? We have resurrection. Jesus is risen!


Prayer for Today

Help us to keep watch, O Lord, when the darkness comes and threats abound; hold us steady in faith, placing our faith in you and hope in your future plans for us. Amen.

Posted by: AT 03:11 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 05 2019

The news was grim. My father had been having chest pains, so his doctor ordered a test to peer into his heart. The result? Blockage found in three arteries.

Triple-bypass surgery was scheduled for February 14. My dad, though anxious, saw that date as a hopeful sign: "I'm getting a new heart for Valentine's Day!" And he did! The surgery went perfectly, restoring life-giving blood flow to his struggling heart-his "new" heart.

My father's surgery reminded me that God offers us a new life as well. Because sin clogs our spiritual "arteries"-our capacity to connect with God-we need spiritual "surgery" to clear them.

That's what God promised His people in Ezekiel 36:26. He assured the Israelites, "I will give you a new heart. . . . I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." He also promised, "I will cleanse you from all your impurities" (v. 25) and "put my Spirit in you" (v. 27). To a people who'd lost hope, God promised a fresh start as the One who could renew their lives.

That promise was ultimately fulfilled through Jesus's death and resurrection. When we trust in Him, we receive a new spiritual heart, one that's cleansed of our sin and despair. Filled with Christ's Spirit, our new heart beats with the spiritual lifeblood of God, that "we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4).


Prayer for Today

We are thankful that God's promise of a new life brings hope when we're struggling with guilt or shame. Help us to rely on the Spirit's power today instead of your own.  Amen. 

Posted by: AT 06:49 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 04 2019

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

-Parable of the Loving Father

-Luke 15:20




This is s fun, but often heartbreaking season for college basketball fans. My own team, the University of North Carolina, was ousted by Auburn. However, I could not have been happier about their sportsmanship. They lost with grace. They showed real concern for an injured Auburn player. And they congratulated their opponents on a big win. I watched this game with my seven year old, a die hard Carolina fan, and I was proud to point out the ways they played and behaved with character. 


After the game, I saw this moment, that one photographer captured between Roy Williams, our head coach, and Kenny Williams (no relation), a senior finishing his last game for him. It reminded me of the important and parental role many coaches take on for their players. And it reminded me of the way God tells us he loves us and is proud of us when we do our very best, no matter the outcome. 


I'm sure that when Jonah was in the belly of the fish, he felt he'd really lost and disappointed God. I'm sure the disciples who scattered during the trial and crucifixion felt lost, especially Peter. I'm sure blind Saul felt he'd lost it all. Most of us have had times we felt utterly lost or as we've let down our coach or the world. I believe scripture tells us that win, lose, our best, or even our best attempt to do our worst, God is there. Never farther than the sideline. Never sitting. Always pacing. Always ready to run to our side. And always there to kiss us on the forehead and say, "I love you. It's finished. Let's go home."


Prayer for Today

Lord, this Lent, as I remember the hard times of your son and his disciples, your prophets and leaders who felt alone or defeated, help me to read those stories with the hope of one who knows the ending of the story... Easter. Be near to me and help me feel your nearness in tough times. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:47 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, April 03 2019

These days we seem to hear mainly negative stories about politicians. Here is one that paints a different picture. It was a quiet December evening on Ward C43, the oncology unit at Georgetown University Hospital. Many of the rooms around the central nurses' station were dark and empty, but in Room 11 a man lay critically ill. The patient was Jack Swigert, the man who had piloted the Apollo 13 lunar mission in 1970 and was now Congressman-elect from Colorado's 6th Congressional District. Cancer, the great leveler, now waged its deadly assault on his body.


With the dying man was a tall, quiet visitor, sitting in the spot he had occupied almost every night since Swigert had been admitted. Though Bill Armstrong, U.S. Senator from Colorado and chairman of the Senate subcommittee handling Washington's hottest issue, social security, was one of the busiest and most powerful men in Washington, he was not visiting this room night after night as a powerful politician. He was here as a deeply committed Christian and as Jack Swigert's friend, fulfilling a responsibility he would not delegate or shirk, as much as he disliked hospitals.


This night Bill leaned over the bed and spoke quietly to his friend "Jack, you're going to be all right. God loves you. I love you. You are surrounded by friends who are praying for you. You're going to be all right." The only response was Jack's tortured and uneven breathing. Bill pulled his chair closer to the bed and opened his Bible. "Psalm 23," he began to read in a steady voice. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...." Time passed. "Psalm 150," Bill began, then his skin prickled. Jack's ragged breathing had stopped. He leaned down over the bed, then called for help. As he watched the nurse examining Jack, Bill knew there was nothing more he could do. His friend was dead.


Politicians are busy people, especially Senate committee chairmen. Yet, it never occurred to Bill Armstrong that he was too busy to be at the hospital. Nothing dramatic or heroic about his decision - just a friend doing what he could. (As told by Charles Colson in Kingdoms in Conflict.)


Prayer for Today

Thank you God, for those who take time to lay down their busy lives for a friend. Help us all to do the same. We pray this in the name of Jesus, who laid down his life for us all -- whom he called his "friends." Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:45 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, April 02 2019

Our small congregation decided to surprise my son on his sixth birthday. The church members decorated his Sunday school classroom with balloons and set up a small table with a cake on it. When my son opened the door, everyone shouted, "Happy birthday!"


Later on, as I was cutting the cake, my son came over and whispered in my ear, "Mom, why does everyone here love me?" I had the same question! These people had known us for only six months but were treating us as longtime friends.

Their love for my son reflected God's love for us. We can't understand why He loves us, but He does-and His love is freely given. We've done nothing to deserve His love, and yet He lavishly loves us. Scripture tells us: "God is love" (1 John 4:8). It's part of who He is.


God has poured out His love on us so we can show this same love to others. Jesus told His disciples, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).


The people in our small church community love us because God's love is in them. It shines through and identifies them as followers of Jesus. We can't comprehend God's love fully, but we can pour it out on others-being examples of His unexplainable love.


Prayer for Today

How have you recently experienced God's love through others? What can you do to reveal His compassionate ways to others today?

Posted by: AT 06:45 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 01 2019

Happy April Fool's Day! Have any of you been fooled or pranked today? While this is a day for practical jokes I want to talk with you about something that is no joking matter; cancer. As many of you know a cancer diagnosis hits you like a ton of bricks and it's as if cancer says, "The jokes on you!" Cancer can take the fun out of living. This is no joking matter; but rather life and death.


So in April 2012, JCPC sponsored the first Atlanta CanCare training. CanCare believes that "cancer is hard, but it doesn't have to be lonely so during our inaugural Atlanta training we certified 24 local CanCare volunteers in class #57.


This past weekend, we trained 17 new CanCare volunteers for clas #89. Our training was hosted by Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Roswell, GA.



The goal of these CanCare volunteers is to provide "a survivor by your side." Nobody should have to go through cancer alone. Since that first April training class, CanCare Atlanta has trained almost 130 cancer survivors and caregivers to fulfill this mission. Praise the Lord!


The power of survivorship is hope; hope that the cancer patient will not only survive their cancer but also learn to thrive so that the joy returns to their life. As you can see on the smiles of these newly minted CanCare volunteers that the joy of giving back is one of the true spiritual practices to which we are called.


St. Paul emphasized the spiritual practice of giving back this way;  "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."


All CanCare services are free in the spirit of God's grace. However, we do need funds for our operating expenses. So I'd like to invite you to our annual Concert 4 a Cause Fundraiser. We will have tons of fun together while fulfilling the calling of helping others in their troubles through providing a survivor by your side.


Click here for more information on Concert 4 A Cause.


Prayer for Today

Gracious God, keep us mindful of others and kind in our responses for each has their troubles to bear. Teach us to bear each others burdens through sharing the love of Christ. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:41 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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