dogs on earth; Anatolian Wolf Hounds. Standing on their hind legs, their heads are over 7' high and they can weigh 300 pounds each! Very intimidating!
From there we went to Tarsus, where Saul (St. Paul) of Tarsus lived. we also went to Greece & Bulgaria and saw many more fascinating Eastern Orthodox monasteries with beautiful artwork and histories. Most of them were also carved out of rock. But the most amazing monastery was built by a man with two interesting goals.
The first goal was to charge nothing. Everything was free. Normally, people had to pay for room & board for themselves and their donkey or camel. He charged nothing.
The second goal was to start a choir. No church or monastery ever had a choir prior to this time. And we were standing where sacred church choir music was well documented about 400 A.D. Our guide didn't understand why I dropped my head and went silent. I asked him to repeat what he said so that I could capture his explanation on my iPhone. I was standing on Holy Ground. Yes, it was a monastery. But it was also the birthplace of Sacred Christian Choral Music.
Thanks be to God!
In His Name,
are represented in our church. Parents were helping children with their plates, and friends helped push some of our honored members in their wheelchairs to a table. People were serving one another, and everyone was excited about the growing dessert table. Our gym was a kaleidoscope of ages and backgrounds. I think one of the best pictures of this was when my great-niece Violet, who is 5 months old, made eye contact with Nina who is in her nineties. They shared smiles; seeing these two women — both young and old--was beyond heartwarming!
I think the reason I like potlucks, beyond the cheesy potatoes, is that they always remind me of a coming feast. The Bible describes heaven in a lot of detail. We know what the streets will be made of, we know there will be trees, and we even have the measurements. So many details of the structure and layout helps us long for heaven and, in some way, be familiar with what will be our future home someday. But there is one thing that is mentioned with very little detail: the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. I mean, where is the sign-up sheet so we don't have 20 green salads? What is the table layout; who is running the grill? Our potlucks are planned out for weeks so that everyone can feel welcome and comfortable. The biggest fear of all church-goers is running out of food, and, yet, the Bible is unnervingly silent on the details for this feast.
What I do know is that God is preparing a feast for us. I remember this feast every time we celebrate communion. In church, I see parents and children lined-up in the aisle; our older members are served and cared for. Young and old are welcome at Christ’s table. We remember Jesus’s words and His sacrifice, and together we eat and drink the simple bread and cup. Christians do this all over the world as we remember Jesus and look forward to being with Him someday. Sometimes we even put the two together, simple bread and wine will be replaced by a feast of celebration where we will all be welcomed in.
As I watched Violet and Nina I realized these two precious women will be seated somewhere at that feast; what a beautiful picture it is to think of God’s love being poured-out to His precious people. I love potlucks, but I long for the day when the church is welcomed home and the real celebration begins.
In His Name,
community with one another. I hope in the coming year, we will strengthen our connections and walk together in whatever season of life in which we find ourselves. Family Camp was such a great example of all generations coming together to build and strengthen our foundations in Christ. It was amazing to hear from families who had been coming to camp for years, parents who were former camp counselors back in their college years, and new friends from all walks of life.
If you’ve met my daughter, you know that her personality is really popping these days. She loves to smile and make friends with everyone in the room. Camp was no exception. She effortlessly made friends of all ages throughout our time. One really awesome blessing that came of her new found friendships was the addition of some of her new friends at meal times. I’ll be completely honest and admit that walking into the dining hall on night one had me flashing back to a middle school cafeteria … walking in slowly, searching for a friend in the crowd while simultaneously trying not to make eye contact with strangers …
That has me thinking about our upcoming potluck this weekend. Does someone newer to us or walking through our doors for the first time feel a similar flashback moment when they walk into the gym for our big potluck? I really want to encourage each of us to make a new friend(s) and invite them to join us at our tables this Sunday. While we may have to add chairs around our table this week, I’m thankful that there’s already a spot for each of us at God’s table. Let’s demonstrate LOVE1st to our whole church family and church visitors this weekend and make sure no one is left out! See you Sunday!
In His Name, Kierstie
encourage intergenerational participation. At 1st Pres, we want to support and serve your entire family; I’m excited to share and participate in Kierstie’s vision for how we accomplish this together.
Ten years ago, I was a recent seminary graduate beginning my own ministry with families in Washington, D.C. At that time, ministry with families followed a blueprint that had been in practice for over 60 years. The blueprint prescribed a never-ending buffet of church activities to fill your family’s weekly schedule. We believed that the best way to serve families was to keep them busy.
A lot has changed since then. COVID and the rapid cultural changes we all have experienced have left churches asking the same question: How do we best serve the families in our care? At 1st Pres, we believe that the answer to this question lies in deep and meaningful experiences that draw you into closer relationship with Jesus Christ and one another. In other words, we want to pursue quality over quantity. We know that the demands on your life and time are many. Our prayer is that 1st Pres becomes a haven of rest and restoration for your family.
As we enter into this new chapter together, my prayer is that you will partner with us in our mission to love our young families at 1st Pres. Whether you represent one of these families or are a retired empty-nester, you have a role to play in this mission. God has given you the talents to participate in pointing others to the amazing grace and love of Jesus. What an incredible calling! As there will be opportunities to share those talents, I pray that you will be bold, courageous, and generous in your service.
We are excited about the future God has for us at 1st Pres. Our walk with Christ together is transformative, and transformation is always better when experienced in a community of people dedicated to supporting and serving one another. Love 1st is the mission of our church family. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to pursue it with you.
Grace and peace,
church was quite some time ago. It was a bit loud — that was the excitement of the children who were going pew to pew with their offering buckets. Yes, it was noisy — that was the sound of all the coins being dumped into the collection buckets; oh, and the children shaking the buckets to hear the sound of clinking coin against coin! If I recall correctly, it was loads of FUN — for the children and the congregants alike. So many smiles on faces as coins/bills were collected and as folks gave generously to fill the buckets!
Well, this special offering is happening once again in our church on August 27, 2023, at the 9:00 am service. The proceeds from this offering are going to benefit the 1st Pres Neighborhood Closet.
But, as I sat and thought of this offering, I wondered how it all began? So, through a bit of research, (sending out the "HELP" SMOKE SIGNAL to 1st Pres folks) I got some background information.
Kierstie let me know that “in the past it has been a fun way for our children to be involved with giving to a specific mission partner. The change hitting the buckets serves as a ‘visual and auditory representation’ of giving with generous and joyful hearts to people and places God has called us to walk alongside.”
Yvette let me know that it was a “fun way for the children to participate in collecting ‘change’ (hence the noise in noisy) for a special project they were supporting”. She also said that the children’s lesson on Sunday, August 27, will be on Matthew 25:40-45 Whatever you did for the least of my children, you have done for me.
Jeannie asked about a tour of the 1st Pres Neighborhood Closet for the children. This could help the children understand how the money collected from the Noisy Offering would support the 1st Pres Neighborhood Closet.
So, during their class time on August 27, the children will be touring the 1st Pres Neighborhood Closet to see the types of new clothing items that will be purchased with the proceeds from the offering. They will get to physically put merchandise on the racks for their peers' shopping experiences.
WOW! What a hands-on way to help children understand scripture.
Over the last several months, the 1st Pres Neighborhood Closet has been mostly providing new clothing to our families. It has been wonderful to hear the comments and excitement on the children’s faces when they enter the Closet and see all the brand, new clothing (with tags attached) they get to choose from.
The following are comments from a few of the children. Most recently, we had a 9-year-old girl come for a shopping experience. Her first reaction was to go to a rack of blue jeans and run her hands along all the tags attached and make a ticker tape noise as she did. It was priceless when she said to her mom, “Look Mom, these are all new!” On another shopping experience, we had an early teen whisper to her younger sister as she picked up a new package of underwear and socks, “This is cool, they’re all new, no one’s worn these!”
This is why we do this! When we serve children and families in a dignified manner, we know we are following the word of God. Matthew 25:40-45, Whatever you did for the least of my children, you have done for me.
Thank you, from the 1st Pres Neighborhood Closet, for supporting children and families with this Noisy Offering.
Blessings, Gina Dingman
that both of their journeys are filled with joy and wonder — the beginning and the end.
I’ve been watching old reruns of Touched by an Angel. You might remember the show that started in 1994 and ran for 9 seasons! The lessons were simple. God exists. God loves you. God wants to be part of your life. Invite God in at every chance.
The beginning of Constance Nora’s life and the end of Grandpa Chuck’s life are in God’s and all his angels' hands. What a blessing! Praise the Lord!
In His Name, Janet
you are sick and have seen so many times that if you accidentally doze off, it doesn’t matter. The latest courtroom drama show I’ve gotten interested in is Bull.
As much as I enjoy legal dramas, I’m really hopeful it is much more boring in real life. I’ve been called for jury duty the week of August 8th.
This disruption to daily life that a jury duty causes has made most people I talk to cringe, and I’m not too thrilled about it either. The one thing that all these shows try to show is how important the courtroom is. It is part of our social responsibilities, and one of the ways we serve our community.
Even though I hope it is more boring than what is on TV, I also hope that it doesn't feel like a waste of time. When we go in to serve, we want to feel useful. We want to feel useful if we are serving for a jury or serving our community. We have to take some moments of serving on a little bit of faith: we don’t get to see the benefits of our service or our service is just another piece of the larger picture. I don’t know if my jury service will be of benefit. I don’t know if there are any long-term benefits to some of the volunteer work I’ve done before. I do know that the act of service is the important part. The rest of what happens after service is up to God. Even if it’s the service we don’t necessarily feel like doing.
In His Name, Tyler
she just didn’t seem to fit in (as if I’d know…). I have prayed for forgiveness for 58 years for the way I treated that girl. I often pray that God had let that foreign girl have a future filled with success and that my hurtful actions didn’t cause her continuing pain.
Fifty-eight years of asking for forgiveness. Had I been Lot’s wife, I would have turned into a pillar of salt and blown away in life’s breezes a long time ago. But, I mentally moved on down the road, only to return to that same prayer over and over and over again.
Why, oh, why do I continue to look back as Lot’s wife did, reliving every detail, praying once again for forgiveness and healing?
After retiring from what had been considered a successful teaching career, I returned to my old school the next Fall to teach for a trimester for a friend who was having a baby. It was a horrible experience: the principal seemed to begin questioning and criticizing my teaching, which he had earlier only praised. I learned several months into that substitute experience that a group of parents had been using me as fodder in their gossipy social gatherings, and the principal’s wife was one of the participants (even though she had no child in my room). I was deeply shocked and hurt. Even though one of the ringleaders in this bashing apologized and admitted that their perceptions had been wrong, it has negatively colored recollections of my entire career. For ten years, I’ve gone over and over my time with former students, questioning every lesson and interaction, praying to God that if I had caused any harm to any student that He might heal them.
Why, oh, why do I continue to look back, reliving every detail, praying once again for forgiveness and healing?
One of the lessons I’ve learned from writing this blog was that I have been conflating an actual sin I’d committed with a sin that was committed against me. By combining them, it increased the weight on my shoulders. It’s time to rightly separate them in the hopes that I might end this cycle of wash-rinse-repeat.
Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but only told her to go and sin no more. And, then when Jesus spoke to the people at Mount of Olives again, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Well, I DO follow Him, and I DO believe in Him, so I have tried mightily to not repeat the sin of hurting others. I have tried very hard to keep walking in His light.
As to the sins committed against me, every time we recite the Lord’s prayer we ask Our Father, who art in heaven, to not only forgive us our trespasses, but also to forgive those who trespass against us. Oh, my, apparently, I haven’t listened very well as I recited that prayer. I will change my prayer when these recollections resurface (as surely they will) to ask God to help me forgive those who have sinned against me.
Let me try to breathe a bit easier with comfort from these words:
Or, perhaps these words by Ralph Waldo Emerson will help end this cycle for me, “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”
Your friend in Christ,
because I had seen the Rankin-Bass cartoon adaptation of The Hobbit a few months earlier. This was the first book I had ever read.
I’m sure it was still the early part of ’78, still winter, because we had not moved to Washington yet. Certainly, it was Neil Church, our music pastor, who recommended The Chronicles of Narnia to me; and thank God he did! I recall coveting a UK published set he had in his office at the church. It was closer to my actual reading level, and, therefore, much more appropriate. I had a more recent US set, and I read these books over and over (probably over 30 times) from then through the ‘80s. There was something in them that spoke to my soul, and it offered me an escape of sorts from life in a world I didn’t feel a part of.
But this recollection was from when I think I was in the fifth grade, late in the school year… so 1979 when I was eleven years old. I was at the top of the long driveway, right before the decline started. I was unhappy, lonely, and found myself standing there, praying that God would give me a passage into Narnia, or someplace like it.
My teacher that year, for whatever reason he had, suggested that I see a mental health professional (though I’m sure he said “shrink”). Not because of the Narnia thing, nobody knew that. I was almost entirely disconnected in the classroom, only occasionally speaking up, correcting the teacher on a mistake and getting myself in trouble.
I saw a psychiatrist in downtown Seattle who got me talking a lot! I don’t remember any of the topics, but I do remember the IQ test. (And I remember seeing a capuchin monkey in a car on the freeway on the way home one day.) A few years would pass before I found out what the doctor had determined about me, but the following school year, my sisters and I found ourselves in a small private school. At the start of sixth grade, I tested at a second-grade reading level. By the end of the year, I was at seventh-grade.
Unfortunately, the prime years for learning the core of mathematics had passed. However, I became a voracious reader, and C.S. Lewis was my favorite author. I had read Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain before I turned 14. I always had two books going: one for home reading, and one I carried when we went out. At home, it was almost always Narnia. Outside, I read Edgar Rice Burroughs, JRR Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, various Star Trek novels, and anything else that came my way. At least once a week, I walked down to 7-11 and also picked up a couple comic books.
In 1982, the private school closed and my parents contacted the school in Texas that had provided their curriculum, arranging for my younger sister and I to do school at home. In 1983, just as my first year of home-school was ending, my family started attending a new church. On the first Sunday there, I met Gavin Anderson. It was also his first time there, and we were immediately best friends.
Shortly thereafter, I was supposed to write a short story for an English class. I don’t think I’d written a story since fourth grade. The result was chock-full of the things I felt inside. It started, “There was nothing special about Steven Collier, and people made him feel that way.” It ended with him discovering a varve that was the portal to another world. He stood there, at the exit of the magical caverns, facing a sylvan scene and two moons in the distant night sky.
In the summer of 1984, Gavin and I spent a month together working at Lakeside Bible Camp on Whidbey Island. We washed dishes, set tables, did general custodial duties… and on a couple of occasions we snuck out of the cabin at night and took a canoe out onto the lake. We sat in the canoe for what must have been hours talking about the things that were of interest to us and (we believed) to no other teenager in the ‘80s. After speculating on what Tolkien might have written further on his world of Middle Earth, I told him about my short story. He asked, “Well, what happens next?”
This was the seed of the story I’d write about Steven Collier in a world of elves, dwarves, and dragons. To date, it’s easily the longest thing I’ve ever written. Over the next years, it was the vehicle through which I experimented with writing. It’s really not good, and I’m sure will never see print, but it holds a place in my heart.
Writing became the door that God gave me into my own personal Narnia.
the cross. In your mercy forgive us, heal us, and make us whole. Set us free from our sin and restore us to your joy.”
Personal confession makes me nervous. I think we are all pretty clear on the deadly sins. It’s a humbling search into my thoughts and my heart that convicts me. To God, all hearts are open, all desires are known, and there are no hidden secrets. He knows all about me and my flaws. Thankfully, he loves me just as I am and only wants what is best in my life.
It is impossible to pray powerful prayers when there is unconfessed sin between me and God. How often do my prayers have less power because I fail to practice meaningful confession on a daily basis? Psalm 66:18 warns that God will not hear me when I harbor sin in my heart.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, we are told to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. When I search my heart, I come up with these thoughts and behaviors that are sinful: being consumed with earthly pursuits, bitterness, fear, and doubt. Attitudes of comparison, prejudice, pride, and feeling lukewarm towards God. My critical, unkind, or unloving words; exaggerating my stories; speaking about others when they are not present. And how about this one: speaking, when I should be quiet?
When I am honest with God, He will reveal areas in my heart that he wants to refine. I must not be afraid to own up to my sins. God‘s grace is sufficient. 1 John 1:9 says when we confess our sins he is faithful, and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all of righteousness.
Our God is so wonderfully patient and gracious. He will meet us right where we are and lovingly guide us to deeper levels of prayer after our confessions.
In His Name, Heather
Our staff is voluntold each week and with grace they share their thoughts.