Staying on course—paddle! by MARCIA HUFSTADER Member, Third Church of Christ, Scientist Yesterday some friends and I were kayaking in a big lake. The waves weren’t huge, but significant, and the wind was blowing. In order to stay on our course we had to keep paddling. If we stopped paddling we’d get blown off course, lose ground and be broadside to the waves. There was no urgency to what we were doing and no danger; we were having a great time, but it definitely reinforced a metaphor for life for me. Sometimes it seems when goals are set there are obstacles in the way, “outside forces” that distract, and problems that arise and slow the process down. If those are the waves and the wind, what do you do? You keep paddling! The “paddling” of life comes in many forms. For me it’s prayer—a deep recognition and contemplation of God being good and being all and directing each of my steps. Recognizing that God is all good, that He is so loving that we can think of “Love” as a name for Him, and understanding that He is the governing divine Principle of the universe including all of his children, helps me let go of human will and trust His direction. Because God, who is good, is an infinite intelligence or divine Mind, why would I look to another source for intelligence or direction? I have found human will to be one of the biggest winds and waves of life that slows down my growth. Human will and preconceived notions of what is right are obstacles that keep me from seeing God’s purpose and direction for me. When I change my thought and look to Him for help I find the paddling is without fear and safe, joyful and fulfilling. The paddling (praying) takes work, diligence and perseverance and the obstacles sometimes seem to never end, but eventually I do get better at negotiating them. Referring to Jesus’ struggles, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Yet he swerved not, well knowing that to obey the divine order and trust God, saves retracing and traversing anew the path from sin to holiness.” Christ Jesus stuck to his course with humble prayers and unconditional love through the assurance of […]
Shouldn’t God expect our best? by PASTOR MARK W. LOVE St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Some children were playing with an old replica of Noah’s ark from VBS and all the animals in miniature. In their conversation about Noah, they remembered that Noah sacrificed some of the animals on the altar as a thank offering for God’s special love that called them, protected them, and delivered them from the great flood. So they decided that they would do same and, without mom or dad’s notice, they built a small fire and sacrificed their defective or broken toys: a camel that had no legs, a giraffe that had lost its head and neck, a boat with a broken hull. Now you may be smiling as I was when I heard this story. Smiling and thinking that it sounds just like kids. When a professor of mine finished telling this story to a church full of people, he smiled and said, “Cute kids, eh?” But then his smile faded and with a pondering face he asked, “Do you think God looks at our often defective and broken sacrifices—and smiles? Does the Lord God who says ‘Your lamb shall be without blemish [Exs 12:5],’ smile at our second rate, and often bottom-of-the-barrel offerings and says: ‘CUTE KIDS!’” Let’s look at it from a different perspective. How cute is it when a husband or a wife thinks, expects and lives for themselves in deference to and the neglect of the spouse they’re supposed to love? How cute it is when a parent spends the vast majority of their income and time on themselves to the neglect of the child they’re supposed to love and care for? How cute is it when a person will only talk with you when they need you to do something for them? So then the questions must be laid upon us: How cute is it when a believer thinks, expects and lives for themselves in deference to and the neglect of the Lord and Savior they’re suppose to love? How cute it is when a believer spends the vast majority of their income and time on themselves to the neglect of the church they’re supposed to love and care for? How cute is it when […]
LeBron James, Jerry Sandusky, and things that matter by REV. ROBERT ECKERT Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church I was a fan of LeBron James when he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. I like to root for underdogs, and the Cavs—until James arrived—had been as unlikely title contenders as the NBA has ever known. Even if it would have come at the expense of the Pistons, I would have been happy to see him carry his team to a championship. Then came “The Decision” and I’ve hated LeBron James ever since. Yup, I said “hate.” I know it’s a strong word, but that’s the beauty of professional sports in America. We can love and hate whomever we want for whatever reason we want; it’s totally arbitrary. So naturally I was disappointed when the Miami Heat won the NBA championship back on June 21 and dreaded the hoopla that began as soon as LeBron had his ring. But the spotlight was soon pointed elsewhere. On June 22, Jerry Sandusky, Penn State University football defensive coordinator, was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. “THAT will get LeBron James off the front page,” I thought. “If he had to win, at least he won’t get to bask in the afterglow.” What!? Was that really the first thing that came to my mind upon hearing the next painful chapter in a devastating tragedy that will have an impact on its victims, its perpetrator, their families and other personal and professional friends and acquaintances for years to come!? I’m embarrassed that I’ve allowed the hype of our national obsession with sports to blur my vision of what’s silly and what’s significant. I’m saddened to realize that I’ve allowed the over-saturation of lurid stories that bombard us daily to anesthetize me to the real pain that lies behind such stories. The unexpected death of a member of our church three days after the Sandusky verdict helped snap me back to what really matters. But that shouldn’t have been necessary. In Hebrew scripture, the prophet Ezekiel attributes to God this intention for the people of God’s creation: “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” How is it that any of us can hold […]
Our Freedom by PASTOR MICHAEL CISLER North Kent Bible Church As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, it causes me to pause and give thanks for the freedom that is available to us. I am thankful for the many who have served and sacrificed in the past to allow that freedom. I am thankful for those who serve and sacrifice today to continue that freedom and to attempt to provide it for others. I am thankful to those who have led within our governmental offices in all levels to first lay the groundwork of this freedom and then to uphold it. I am thankful that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. I am thankful also for the freedom available to us in Jesus Christ, the son of God. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” In Jesus we have freedom from the result of sin, which is death, through the promise of the resurrection. We also have freedom from the bondage of sin, the yoke of slavery mentioned in Galatians 5:1. Sin in our lives can become a bondage that we feel we can’t get away from. We can struggle and struggle against it but feel like we are not breaking free from it. The reason for this is that by ourselves we can’t save ourselves from sin, we need to turn to Jesus to break free from that which holds us. In Hebrews 12:1-2 we find these words, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” We see here the truth that sin easily entangles us and the importance of turning our focus to Jesus. I hope you have both thankfulness for the freedom we have in this country and freedom that is available in Jesus.
Midlife Crisis by PASTOR RON AULBACH BridgeWay Community Church There was a hit song by Paul Simon back in 1986 that can best be described as a man experiencing a midlife crisis. He’s walking down the street and his head full of unanswered questions. Why am I so soft in the middle? Why am I short of attention? Why are my nights so long? Where is my wife? My family? What if I die here? Who’ll be my bodyguard, now that my bodyguard is gone, gone? “You can call me Al” and if you feel like you are living more like Al than you’d care to admit, I’ve got good news for you. These are the questions that most ask. Research indicates that an actual “midlife crisis” is a myth. Not everyone that hits their 40’s and 50’s actually experience a crisis. They don’t all by Corvettes, timeshares and dream of breaking par. David Almeida, PhD at Penn State says the crisis is definitely a myth but “this certainly is a stressful time of life for most people.” These years bring affluence allowing you to finally afford the luxuries you’ve always dreamed of while at the same time having to navigate the heavier demands dealt out by the boss and family. Add to that the likelihood of having to also care for aging parents, and it feels like a midlife crisis is upon you. There is another way to look at the middle years of your life. I’m finding that there really is a difference between “living” my life, and just “doing” life. Doing life looks like a schedule that is consumed with things that have no purpose, and ultimately no passion behind them. Living life means you look for the opportunities that will bring greatest joy to both you and the people around you. Joshua was crystal clear on this, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, but for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Serving is living, and serving the Lord brings the greatest life. Let God be the object of your service, your bodyguard, and the answer to all your questions.