others around us. As I reflect on this season in my own life, each week I'm reminded of the fruits God has blessed us with, and am always humbled by the encouragement to grow into and nurture each fruit.
This week, I've been challenged by the fruit of patience. When you are so eagerly awaiting something, do you find it easy to become impatient? Maybe you're looking forward to a visit from someone special, an upcoming vacation, a yummy meal … it could be anything. For me, a lot of changes are on the horizon, some very exciting, some bittersweet, but at the end of the day, I know I can anticipate great joy, peace, and love in this season. When I find myself feeling impatient in this season, I pray for wisdom, for peace, for patience … and I pray that I can extend those to the people around me.
My encouragement for all of us this week is to pick a fruit, any one of them, and reflect on who has exemplified that fruit or how you've experienced that fruit in your life … then think about a way you can spread it to others!
In His Name, Kierstie
soloist. She had the words of her song printed in type large enough that I could easily read it over her shoulder from where I was sitting. It was as if I could see the future of the service written on that sheet of paper. I knew what would happen in a few minutes. The soloist has a beautiful, haunting voice. She has a way of singing that draws in your soul and makes you feel the emotions she is singing. So, when I read the words on her music stand, I could anticipate the joy we were all going to experience when her turn came to sing. And, the anticipation was nothing compared to the experience of hearing her sing it.
God has a similar relationship with you and me. God sees our lives in the coming days, months and years, long before we live them. In Isaiah 46:10 God says, “Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” God sees what is coming. He can’t wait for the joys and he grieves the challenges and disappointments that await us. Whatever is coming our way is no surprise to our God. He stands behind us and sees our future over our shoulder. He knows what is coming and he will never leave us or forsake us. We know our Lord is walking with us into the future. While it is unknown to us it is as clear to God as those words on that music stand were to me. I take comfort in that knowledge and I hope you can as well.
In His Name, Pastor Neal
is harmful to me and not something anyone wants to celebrate. Avoiding issues, minimizing hurts, and running scared is not something we give out medals for. The problem is that this type of behavior comes so naturally to me.
There are several passages about running in the Bible. Beautiful passages of hope, like Isaiah 40 which highlights that with God’s help we will not grow weary. Psalm 119 is a wonderful chapter on God’s faithfulness and wisdom, and those who choose to run in the path of His commands will find a broader understanding. Hebrews 12 challenges us to throw off worldly things meant to entangle us and run with perseverance. Perhaps one of my favorites is in 2 Timothy 4 where the apostle Paul near the end of his life describes having finished the race and the joys waiting for him in heaven.
There are also passages of great men and women of God who ran in fear, which is nothing new for humans. Adam and Eve ran and hid after they ate the fruit. Cain was nowhere near the first murder scene when God asked him where his brother was. Jacob ran from his brother and his father-in-law. Joseph’s brothers ran from the pit they threw him into so they could discuss their next move. Moses ran from Egypt. Elijah ran in fear for his life and cried out to God in heartache, thinking that all of his fellow prophets had been killed. Jonah and his famous attempt to run away only to be swallowed whole for a few days of uninterrupted self-reflection. Those familiar with the Bible are also familiar with Peter, who vowed never to leave Jesus’ side only to run away in fear and shame when challenged by a young servant girl.
Perhaps one of the most unexpected stories of running in the Bible is the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Jesus used this parable of the prodigal son who ran from all of the goodness of his father’s house only to find himself in a pig pen. The son suddenly realized even his dad’s servants back home had food to eat while he was starving with the local swine. So he begins the long walk home, thinking how to convince his dad to accept him as servant, with all hopes of being accepted as a son were gone. What the son did not know was that his father stood by the road hoping for his son to return. The happy day came when from a distance the father sees his son, and the Father runs to meet his son. Before the son can beg for a job, the Father embraces him and declares his love and joy for the return of his son.
Somewhere between the hopeful passages of running with perseverance and the humbling stories of running in fear is where we find the Father. It is God’s desire that all humans find peace and rest to stop the fearful obstacle courses we so naturally build for ourselves. Instead of running scared, Jesus came to show us a new perspective, one of running toward something: relationship. In our various forms of running, we often forget that God himself ran the good race towards restoration and relationship so that we could have the joy of eternity with Him. If running has left you weary and in some messy places, I encourage you to turn your eyes to God, and you will find the Father ready to run towards you, eager to join you as together you run the good race.
LOVE. (‘Whosoever’- isn’t this a wonderful and hope-filled word?) Yet Easter didn’t always have a meaning of rescue and redemption for me.
The cliché of ‘getting out of the forest in order to see the trees’ is a useful figure of speech to describe my spiritual 20/20 hindsight. In my second part of life, I can look back and clearly see how Christ, in his ‘perfect for me’ way, was not only real and present in my life, but — also in his perfect timing and preparation — revealed his participation in my journey. It is ‘God’ to whom I prayed in childhood times of fear and worry. Jesus, the baby, had something to do with Christmas. Advent candles were lit as a countdown to Christmas. When I started sporadically attending a junior high youth group, via The Joy Bus, my mother gifted me a copy of The Living Bible. Then, because it seemed important to be married in a church, I chose the Methodist Church where my best friend had been married. Slowly, Jesus Christ was drawing me close to him through events and relationships.
After marriage, we moved to McMinnville, Oregon, where Jim attended Linfield College. Through a friendship at work, we were invited to attend the Church of Christ in the small neighboring town of Amity. It was there that I accepted Jesus as my personal savior and was baptized — immersion-style. (I was 6 months pregnant with our third child, Michael, and was worried — needlessly — that I wouldn’t go under because of the baby bubble. It gives me joy to say that Michael was baptized twice: first, in utero; second, in FPC.) My baptism became a milestone marker in my faith journey.
Prior to baptism, I had experienced coincidental “miracles” and subtle promptings which hinted of ‘a God thing.’ Those small events that one could either pay attention to or easily push aside. Yet, when I arose from my immersion, I literally heard the Lord speak out loud in my mind with what I call a teeter-totter message. First: “I am pleased by your obedience.” This was IMMEDIATELY followed by a seeming conviction to humility: “Understand this is not your doing, but Mine.” As my faith was in its infancy, my understanding was also simple and immature. Though I felt both the personal pleasure of my Lord, and then a directive to humility, there was something more of the truth that was just beyond my grasp. (Apparently, I needed to hear the humility directive as clearly as possible, as ‘pride’ is truly ‘the thorn in my side.’)
Now after three decades (almost as long as the Israelites wandered the desert) of living and learning in the middle of God’s crazy, amazing love, I realize why it is so overwhelming. It is the grace of God. God’s grace. God-almighty and God-all-vulnerable. While it may seem obvious, it is totally beyond simplistic in that it is given both individually and universally. It was personal and pointed in my conversion experience at baptism. I heard it as ‘I did this for you.’ Yet it is offered to ‘whosoever’ believes that Jesus, the Son of Man died, and rose again as Jesus Christ.
Certainly, Christ’s personal giving of grace is total joy on its own, but the importance of the personal is that it allows me to see the universal perspective. If God’s grace is for me, me with that ugly thorn of pridefulness, me who is also included in ‘whosoever,’ then it is only a single, grace-granted step to seeing that the Christ living in me lives everywhere. And this individual step toward the perspective of universal grace is where it gets exciting. This is where the work of kingdom-building can happen. This is where revival is activated. This is where Love1st becomes a beacon to those needing the message of this amazing grace. It is thrilling to be at First Presbyterian Church in this time of exploding grace.
The Christ in me greets the Christ in thee.
Peace, Yvette Wyatt
Stan is a local award-winning watercolor artist. He was born on a small farm in Southeastern South Dakota in 1949 and eventually moved with his family to Spokane when he was 15. He graduated in 1973 from Spokane Falls Community College with an Applied Arts degree and a Commercial Art degree. Visit Stan’s website to learn more and view some of his amazing art: Stan Miller
hooked on Ted Lasso. ‘Ted is a man who shows empathy and kindness to everyone, even those who seem to not deserve it. His acts of kindness range from offering a comforting word, to baking biscuits (cookies) for his boss — and throughout each episode, viewers see how Ted’s actions take off as other emulate him, knowingly or not.’1
To provide some context, Ted is an American football coach who knows nothing about soccer and yet he’s hired to coach AFC Richmond, a fictional premier soccer team in England. The team’s owner hopes to ruin the team with this hire just to spite her ex-husband. Can you imagine being hired to do something with the hope and expectation that you will fail miserably? Not very kind!
Practicing kindness is simple — it's teachable (Pastor Neal’s Kindness & Positivity class) and it’s contagious (Ted Lasso).
So my prayer is that we all do our best to practice relentless kindness. Never give up.
In His Name, Janet
1 Ted Lasso Reminds Us of The Importance of Kindness. Marijke Vroomen Durning, November 23, 2021.
2 Why Ted Lasso is a Better Christian Than I'll Ever Be.
I was immediately assigned to lead the Membership Committee, and it seemed to me that the largest responsibility was making coffee for coffee hour on Sunday morning between services. So, one Sunday I started the brew in the large coffee pots and somehow got distracted after I’d turned the pots on and forgot to put the lid on one of them. Off I went to do something else. When I came back a while later to check on things, I found a couple of elderly female members of our congregation aghast and staring at the ceiling as coffee intermittently spurted up like a geyser and ricocheted off the ceiling tile, creating a nice brown stain. I rushed past them and quickly picked up the lid and slammed it down on the pot, grabbed a towel and started to clean things up as I escorted them out, probably saying something like “Show’s over; nothing to see here!”
Thinking about this now, 37 years later, reminds me of the unique gifts and talents that we all have and how all of us offer a different gift to the overall body of the Church, as 1st Corinthians 12 so beautifully describes.
Obviously, coffee-making may not have been a talent of mine at that time, but maybe God wanted to use me to learn, so I could serve in other ways in the future. He wants to challenge us to do what is out of our comfort zone to grow us in Christ.
Let’s all try to be open to His calls for us, even if we make fools of ourselves sometimes! After all, He does seem to have a great sense of humor!
In His Name,
looking for a church to be part of. They made us part of their family and became like a surrogate father and mother in the Lord to us. But as special as the Lamberts were to us, it was their daughter, Vicky, who inspired us.
Vicky struggled with cancer for 20 years. When we met her, she had already been through 10 years of treatments. If it hadn’t been for the physical changes the treatments made to her appearance, you would not have known Vicky was ill because of her demeanor. The love of Christ literally showed through her. It was like she glowed! Her thoughts were not of herself, because she felt the needs of others were more important. Her view on life was that God has given us a number of days which only He knows, so it was best not to waste them. She expressed God’s love through caring for her parents who were not in good health. She never missed calling them each night to check up on them, even when she was violently sick. When she was able to attend church, her concern was for people in need or those who just needed a listening ear. Eventually, God took Vicky home, but the work that she did continued through others who were inspired by her God-given concern for others.
God also blessed us by bringing Frank into our lives. Frank was the manager of the apartment building in which we lived. If you had the time and would let him, Frank would share scripture for hours. He was an encourager and would use scripture to both encourage and to teach. His ministry was mostly to young men, but anyone who spent time with him walked away feeling uplifted. Frank had diabetes and went into a diabetic coma one day. When he came out of the coma, he discovered that he had lost most of his sight and a lot of the feeling in his legs and feet. Later, he developed gangrene in one leg and had to have it amputated. You would think that not being able to see well and not being able to get around well could discourage him, but Frank wasn’t discouraged. We would go to the hospital to see him or to his house in order to encourage him, but instead walked away encouraged ourselves. What a gift of God! The joy of the Lord and His Word is what lifted Frank up each morning; God used Frank to spread that joy. He made people laugh and smile until the day God took him home.
I can think of other people who God brought across our paths, but talking about them would make this posting too long. The one thing that these people had in common and which inspired my husband and me was that God was the most important thing in their lives. Every moment of their lives was focused on Him, and, as a result, God used them to minister His love to others. I only pray that God will use us the same way.
Yours in Christ,
These triggering devices were large, about as big as a bus. They had a hundred detonators (exploding-bridgewire detonators if you must know), each one a small bomb capable of blowing a person to bits. Together, in a synchronized dance of destruction, those small detonators would crush a large uranium capsule that then, triggered the atomic blast.
Our engineer got a call to come disarm one of these triggering devices. It seems that the people assembling it had accidently armed it! Our engineer had to crawl inside this bus sized triggering device with its hundred detonators all around him in order to disarm it. Each detonator was designed to be set off by electrical current. Coincidentally, disarming it cause an electric arc. Luckily, the nuclear part of the bomb wasn’t installed yet so he wouldn’t have destroyed area 51 or wherever his secret base was, but if just one of those 100 detonators had gone off, he would have been instantly incinerated. His work was all top secret. So while he was disarming the device, he idly wondered what the Air Force would tell his wife was the cause of death.
And, why am I telling you this story you wonder. I am telling you because this engineer was called on to disarm those triggering devices four times! On his fourth time he decided to change his line of work. I don’t know about you but I might have made that decision a little sooner!
How many times do you and I need to be prompted by God’s Spirit before we are willing to make a change? John Wooden once said, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” That was literally the case in this engineer’s situation. You and I may just miss the opportunities God is wanting to give us for our sakes and the sake of others. The next time you feel a small prompting in your Spirit, consider following through with it and see where it leads.
In His Name, Neal
Contemplative Worship service which was one of the 5 Big Moves. As lovers of liturgy, we were delighted at the invitation to help craft this service, all the while participating in the 9:00 service. After a few fits and starts due to COVID, we’ve now been able to keep the fledgling Contemplative service available going on six months. You can even find us on the church website! We are heartened to see folks from many walks of life and different ages begin to visit and participate in the service.
One beautiful outcome of having two services with a common foundation expressed in creatively different ways is that we are seeing our own church members enjoy worship in both services. Dan, Evan and I relish the energy of the first service followed by the quiet of the second service, and the chance to digest Pastor Neal’s sermon again as he presents the same ideas in two very different ways. We love being able to take communion every Sunday.
Because both services stem from the same essential ideas, there is a synergy between them. For instance, during the season of Lent, our responsive prayer in Contemplative Service is based on the idea that Pastor Neal suggested in his sermon of 2/27, wherein Gratitude produces Repentance (turning away from and turning toward, rather than Penance), and blossoms into Hope. As an example, here is a snippet of the call-and-response during Lent:
If you’ve never experienced Contemplative worship, the service contains elements of quiet music, Lectio Divina reading of scripture, Pastor Neal’s sermon, responsive prayer, and communion every week. Incorporating liturgical elements, minutes of silence, and an intimate atmosphere, the Contemplative Service is especially suited to the inward-looking exercises we are encouraged to practice leading up to Easter.
If these thoughts intrigue you and inspire you on your Lenten journey, we would love to have you join in to both services during Lent or all year long! Attending first service with a break in the middle for donuts, coffee, and fellowship, followed by the quiet covering of the second service makes for the perfect Sunday for our family. Perhaps it will for you as well!
In His Name, Susan
Our staff is voluntold each week and with grace they share their thoughts.