Being Used by the Master Carpenter by PASTOR DICK RILEY Rockford United Methodist Church Once upon a time, some tools at a carpenter’s bench were having a conference. Someone complained that Mr. Hammer was making too much noise and ought to leave. “Well!” said Mr. Hammer. “If I have to leave, then Mr. Screwdriver should leave, too, because all he does is turn things around and around!” “At least I try to go into some depth,” said Mr. Screwdriver. “On the other hand, Miss Plane is only concerned with superficial appearances.” “Excuse me!” Miss Plane retorted. “I may be concerned with appearances, but at least I’m not like Sister Ruler who is always making judgments—as if she were the only one who is right, or like Brother Sandpaper who is always so rough and can rub you the wrong way!” As the discussion grew more and more heated, the Carpenter from Nazareth walked in. Putting on his apron, He went to work making a pulpit from which God’s Word could be shared. He used the hammer, the screwdriver, the plane, the ruler, and the sandpaper. And under His guidance and authority, the tools began to turn very rough pieces of wood into a most beautiful work. When everything was done, Mr. Saw remarked, “Friends, I see that we are all made perfect in the hands of the Carpenter.” And, humbly, everyone agreed. Or, as the Apostle Paul shared, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” (I Corinthians 12:4-6) Question: Are you letting the Master Carpenter use you and your gifts? I encourage you to go to a church of your choice this week, and see how our Lord can use you!
Prayer is a Relationship by PASTOR SCOTT SWIX Hope Community Church “Oh, God, please HELP with ____.” (Fill in the blank here—job, wife, husband, health, school, kids, mortgage, loved one, fear of flying, etc.) That’s a very popular prayer indeed, and has been for thousands of years. It’s often combined with “if you do, I will ____.” (Fill in this blank too, such as “never do it again,” “start going to church again,” “become a monk/pastor/priest,” etc.) Yeah, that’s a common prayer combination. Hey, we are human, and usually a bit self-absorbed, and tend to turn to God when are in a spot of trouble. And that’s not all bad. While making “deals” with God is discouraged, God encourages us to ask for help. There are lots of great examples of that in the Bible. Then again, is that the only time we talk to God? If it is, or if the rest of our prayer life is just a short nightly Lord’s Prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” a Hail Mary, or something similar, then we really should ask ourselves, “How does God feel about that?” How would we feel if someone claimed to be our friend, our really, really good friend, and the only time they called was when they needed something? Or, maybe they occasionally call really quickly, like a Facebook status post, and simply say, “I did this today” and then hang up. That’s a pretty one-sided and disappointing relationship. But it is an easy habit to fall into. Most of us tend to want God to be there when we need God, and want God to listen and answer our prayers, and then… well, then we’d really like to get back to our own life until we hit the divine 911 again. Listening to God takes time, and there’s always the risk God might actually say something that I don’t want to hear. It doesn’t take much to admit that God probably doesn’t find that a very fulfilling relationship. The really sad part, perhaps, isn’t that God is disappointed; it is that we are short-changing ourselves. Our own bad habit keeps us from God’s blessings. God wants to be part of our lives, wants to hear about our […]
Be attentive by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church, Rockford As summer draws to a close, we reluctantly step on the treadmill of fall programming. We leave behind the quiet of the lake, the watery mist of a boat ride, and the relaxed conversations at sunset from back decks. As I entered the high school with my daughter to accomplish registration for a new year, the noise seemed deafening. So much energy goes into launching a new initiative. How do we hold on to the replenishment of the summer? The Lakota Indians say to one another, “Be attentive.” They exhort one another to be so attuned to their world that, even when a trail of tiny ants walks by, it will sound like drums. A gift of the Native Americans is their awareness of their life-giving connectedness to all of creation. They balance community life and celebrations with solitary immersion in God’s world. As we step back into busy schedules, clutching our day planners lest we miss an appointment, let us be attentive to God’s grace. We must become aware of our own biases that obscure an honest appraisal of our surroundings and look for God in the faces around us. Let’s listen for voices of need that count on our response. If we are humble, we will find God’s blessing from people and circumstances we might have considered beneath us. As the noise amps up in dance studios, school cafeterias, football stadiums and boardroom discussions, we are challenged to BE ATTENTIVE to the still, small voice of God. The prophet Elijah was unable to hear God in the storm that swirled around him. It was in the hush that followed, with his senses heightened, that he knew God’s presence. God grants us energy for all that is required of us. God gives us meaning so that our activities are carried out with holy purpose. Without God, we simply slog through each day, weary and emptied. Let us BE ATTENTIVE as we register for autumn opportunities so that we will be able to hear God always!
One way God is talking to you right now by PASTOR JON HUIZENGA River Rock Church I was camping the other night, out in the woods, at 11 p.m., away from light. The night sky was beautiful. I identified a few constellations and wished I knew more. The sight distances are so vast! I regretted how many nights I settle for a ceiling over my head, artificial light, and some screen with its shallow content. God talks outdoors! Look in the sky at night and you can almost hear God quietly and powerfully say, “Yes, I am here.” Did you know that the Bible says God talks outdoors? Here it is, Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech. Night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” Look for God outdoors. He is there speaking about his majesty. It is a shame to miss him, so look. You spend too much time indoors: Ceiling above your head, artificial light, building sounds (fans, pumps, compressors), indoor smells (cologne, food, staleness). Have you noticed how being outdoors relaxes you? The sky is big. The smells are nice (usually). The light is pleasant. One thing you miss indoors is that sense of power. God is speaking about his vastness and his power out there in the sky and we humans stay in our rectangular rooms. Of course, we have to go to work. Of course, we must escape harsh weather. But God talks outdoors in a way that we shouldn’t miss. One more thing: No matter where you are on planet Earth, no matter what language people are speaking, no matter what culture is present, human beings are hearing this voice of God. Tom in Michigan and Kaaya in Tanzania hear the same God-voice in a language they can understand. Soon it will be getting colder and you will have to put forth more effort to be out there. Now, however, it is easy to get out there. Go outside! God is waiting to talk to you. Oh, and while you are out there, say “Hi” back.
Here Come the Pumpkins by REV. HELEN H. COLLINS North Kent Presbyterian Church If you have driven or walked on Kuttshill past North Kent Presbyterian Church in the last few months, you have probably noticed that we turned some of the land around our church into quite a pumpkin patch. Odd thing for a church to do, I suppose, but we had very good reasons. There’s also a big pumpkin sign that says, “Come Grow with Us.” The pumpkin drawing is courtesy of one of our church preschool kids. So, we’re growing pumpkins as a fundraiser, and we hope we’re attracting some attention so that people will know we’re here and that anyone and everyone is welcome to join us. But here’s the thing about pumpkins: Better than any of the other fruits and vegetables God gave us, the pumpkin reveals some wonderful truths about our relationship with God. The best and most common use for pumpkins is for making Jack o’lanterns. (They make great pie too, but that’s another story.) You start by cleaning off the pumpkin, getting rid of any of the garden dirt. Then you cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin and clean out the inside. It can be a messy thing to reach in there and pull out all the yucky, slimy stuff and the seeds, but you have to do it so that you can carve a face. When I did that as a child, I always wanted to give my pumpkin a smile to start with, then a nose which usually ended up looking like a triangle, and finally some eyes. We would put our pumpkins in the living room window so they faced the street, and mom would let us put a candle inside so that people could really see the face lit up as they went by. Several years ago a piece ran around the e-mail circuit with the story of the pumpkin and how it demonstrates what God does with us when we give our lives to Him. First, Jesus picks us up and cleanses our life from sin. He removes all the yucky thoughts and the seeds of doubt, hate and selfishness that we have inside. Then he puts a smile on […]