Friends may not have family close by, or the means to travel, or family members could need extra assistance and love. Being available for them could be as easy as visiting, going shopping together, sending a card, or dropping by a meal.
There are so many ways to make people feel loved. If they have gone through something hard around the holiday season in a recent year, this can make their feeling of loneliness even worse. This also holds true for people we could meet out in the world.
Deuteronomy 24:14 says, “Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns.” A restaurant server could be working on a day they desperately wanted off, or a cashier might be feeling very drained after working many days straight with no breaks. Have love, grace, and patience with them, and make sure they are taken care of.
Romans 12:13 is also very important at this time of year, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” There are also many friends in assisted living that cannot make it to celebrations, who would absolutely appreciate a few hours of chatting. Many of them do not receive a lot of visits as the roads get worse.
When people are feeling forgotten, everything seems dark, but even something small can make a huge difference. Be a little light for someone if you can, but if you are the one in need of a little light, please make sure to reach out and don’t stand alone.
In His Name, Kyler
My Road to Thankfulness
none of these activities are wrong. Many of them are actually very good. However, they leave little time for me to reflect and nurture my relationship with God and my love of Christ.
So I had an experience last week that really scared me and made me stop and reevaluate my goals and how I'm spending my time. So here’s the story. We have been doing some improvements to our 5-acre property, which involved the removal of many aging and unattractive trees. The goal was to improve the aesthetics of the land and give us better protection from wildfires. Once that was accomplished, we discovered that there were a lot of areas which needed to be reseeded, as the loggers had mulched the ground where the trees were removed. Who would have known that getting the best grass seed would be a challenge; but I was looking for grass that was drought-tolerant and slow-growing. Mowing the larger portion of 5 acres was not something I was looking forward to. So, after some research, I discovered a seed company in Tekoa, Washington which was about an hour's drive from our home. So on a beautiful, sunny day, I ventured South.
I activated my navigational system, plugged in the address and took off. I had personalized the audio on my system to have an Australian gentleman (whom I named “Mick,” as in the film Crocodile Dundee) give me the directions. All was well until I left Hwy 95. Then, things got complicated. First of all, it started snowing. Visibility was marginal. Mick initially seemed to be telling me all the correct directions, so I proceeded “to the route” as instructed. I let him do the thinking for me. I should have suspected that something was wrong when he directed me to a dirt road which (due to the recent rains) was really more of a mud road. I thought briefly about thinking for myself and turning around, but Mick was persistent. He insisted that I should continue on and that the designated address was drawing near. The road was really almost undrivable. My tires were sinking into the mud, I was weaving back and forth, and there was a sharp drop-off on one side.
The road (I use that term loosely) was set in the middle of rolling hills of winter wheat. It really was very beautiful. I saw several deer who looked astonished that there was someone actually on their road. That should have been my first red flag. Mick, in the meantime, was encouraging me to “proceed to the route.” After I had gone way further than a normal person would have gone, I stopped and contemplated turning around. The problem with that was that my tires were stuck in the mud, and every time I tried to turn, I got a little bit closer to the edge of the road and was in danger of rolling down the steep incline. Mick had let me down. I was totally isolated in the middle of rolling farmland, stuck and embarrassed that I had used such poor judgment. I thought about calling 911, but there was no signal. I thought I was on my own.
So I turned off Mick after giving him a brief scolding. And I sat. And I started to pray. I prayed for guidance, for safety and for forgiveness for not turning to God sooner. And I sat some more, visualizing my undignified demise: I would be found weeks later as I lay in my ruined car, buried at the bottom of a cliff, all because I didn’t think for myself; and when I needed Him the most, I didn't put my faith in God.
The end of the story is a happy one. Eventually, I felt God’s presence. I am certain His hand was there as I slowly extricated myself from this ridiculous situation. Once back on a regular road, I pulled over and gave thanks to the God who saved me. I know for a fact that I didn’t get out of there safely by myself. So the moral of the story is to always seek the Lord’s guidance when you encounter adversity. He will be there for you every time. I am forever thankful to know such an amazing and forgiving God!
You don’t have to look too deeply before you see the myriad of ways that our church affects people’s lives in deep and meaningful ways: through the local schools, through non-profits that we have helped to launch or partner with, through everyday relationships our congregational members have with each other and with folks in the community, as well as our own internal ministries. We feed the homeless, help people suffering with addictions, clothe the needy, match needs to resources locally and abroad, comfort those experiencing pain and loss, and we serve as a refuge in a world that feels like it’s raging at times. Most importantly, we show the love of Christ and help lead others to the peace that comes from giving yourself to God.
As your current Stewardship Committee person, I think it’s important to consider how blessed we all are for being part of the Mission of 1st Pres and the work we are doing to share the good news! None of this would be possible without your continued faith and generosity. These are dynamic times, and costs are rising all around us. This is true for 1st Pres as well. Yet, our work continues and grows.
As we come into the season of making our new monetary pledges for the coming year, I’m reminded of 1 Peter 4: 8-11 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has to serve others faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” This is a great reminder that as Christians, we are called to give freely of our time, talents and treasures. As our pledge cards for 2023 start to make their way out for your consideration, remember to honor where we’ve been and look forward with eager anticipation to where we are going. Collectively, we have defined the next steps in our journey to serve Christ. and I encourage you to continue to support our new shared vision.
There are many, many ways to serve others through 1st Pres. If you are a new member, or someone who hasn’t been active for a while, I would encourage you to participate in a way that uses your Christian gifts. You can join a committee, work on a task force, serve on Session or as a Deacon, or reach out to a mission partner where you can volunteer your time to show God’s love. We are called to join in the “great mission” to serve others and be living examples of His goodness. Think of what a difference we can make in this broken world if we each do just a little bit more!
In His Name, Matt
My Father's Flag
I do not have any memories of my father that I could look back on with a sense of pride; he simply was not there to build them with me. So, like many children in my situation, I found something to be proud of to try to redeem my father’s name. My father was a solider in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. During a time when many young men were drafted into service, my father chose to enlist to serve his country. I have always been proud of this fact. I do not know what horrors my father faced or which of his actions caused him shame. I do not know what jungle he was in when he was doused with Agent Orange or what humiliations he endured when he returned to his nation. What I do know is that part of my father was left on the battlefield. All of these events were before I was born, but they would have an enormous impact on me for the rest of my life.
The term PTSD was a relatively new term when our soldiers returned from Vietnam, and, at that time, there was not much hope of healing. The trauma of war changed my father, and he began a life of running away. He chose to run away with drugs and alcohol, which only increased his fear and paranoia. At times, my father would disappear from society and live on the streets. He would resurface from time to time with shame in his beautiful blue eyes. For most of my father’s adult life, the mental health world was still in the discovery process of how to deal with trauma and questioning how to provide hope to those suffering with PTSD. Somehow, I always understood that my dad had problems, and this helped me as a child to have some compassion on my father and to fight off resentment at his absence. Later, as my understanding of trauma grew, I was able to apply the compassion and healing of Christ to both my father and my hurting heart.
When I visited the funeral home to finalize details following my dad’s death, they handed me my father’s flag. I have seen many families receive their loved one’s flag, but nothing prepared me for that moment when the flag was handed to me. It was not until that moment that all of the impact of my father’s service hit me, and, of course, the tears came. Tears of pride for the young man who chose to serve his country. Tears of hurt that my father was not able to be my dad during my life. Tears of peace knowing that my father could finally stop running and not have to be afraid anymore.
As I held that flag and cried, facing the fact that my father was gone, I knew that as I walked through the process of grief, I would not walk alone. God understands loss and grief, and He has stated so many times in the Bible that He is willing to walk with us through these times. It still hurts that my dad is gone, but the comfort is that I have a good Father who is always close by. As I walked out of the funeral home with the flag held tightly in my arms, God brought to mind words of hope and of comfort to remind me that He has a plan for heartache and tears. That His plan will be something completely new, untainted by the traumas of this world.
To all of our veterans and their families: thank you for all of the ways you serve. One day, God will wipe away every tear, but until that day, please remember that your Father is always close by, and He cares deeply for you and I as only a good Father can.
Our staff is voluntold each week and with grace they share their thoughts.