Randy's Reflections
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August 12, 2014, 2:00 PM

Randy's Reflections "Coffee in Calvin"


Last week I was talking to a friend who wanted a recommendation for a book to read about faith. We all know that as Christians the Bible is our primary resource, but God has given us a community, through the centuries, which shares their insights with us through the written word (and with current technology through the spoken word). These insights help us grow, not only in head knowledge, but also in heart knowledge.

    That is as we grow in our knowledge about God, head knowledge, we also need to grow in our connection to God, heart knowledge. As we grow in our faith we also grow in dependence on the Holy Spirit for insight, for direction, for encouragement, and for courage to face all that life brings us.

    One way to grow in heart knowledge is through reading a daily devotional (or an every other day devotional, depending on how often you make time for it). My friend who was looking for a book shared that he wanted something to supplement his daily devotional reading. I realized then that it has been a while since I have read a daily devotional. The thing a like about daily devotionals is that they set the tone for the day. They give me an opportunity to look at the world through the lens of that particular theme for the day.

    Recently I renewed my subscription to The Presbyterian Outlook, as a bonus I was sent a daily devotional called “Coffee with Calvin.” How more perfectly orchestrated can it get? Here I was inspired, by my friend, to start using a daily devotional and right there in the mail before me was a new daily devotional.

    John Calvin was one of the pillars of our reformed faith and to start the day with a short quote and some inspired thoughts about Calvin sounded like just the ticket. As I thought about it more I realized that many of us use coffee to wake us up to greet the day. It gives us a jolt or a nudge, depending on your choice of strength or additives, to meet the day.

    Today’s reading reminded me that God’s providence is that which we can depend on and trust. “We can trust that God’s work will be for our welfare. This is the great comfort and hope for God’s providence for us and for our world” (Coffee with Calvin, Page 5). Just as I realized my need for a daily devotional so I had a daily reading gifted to me at just the right time. God’s providence in action? I think so.

    So today my soul is encouraged, my mind is opened, and my heart is embraced by God’s care. I hope you too are using or can find a devotional which will help you greet the day, a day which is a gift to you from God and a day filled with his work for your welfare.

 

    Reading with you,

 

    Pastor Randy




August 4, 2014, 9:00 PM

Randy's Reflections "Patience"


Last year I heard about a new on-line Hebrew class. The class is conducted via Skype and the professor resides in Israel. When I first considered taking this class, it was way out of my price range. A few months later I was offered a 60% discount, but I decided I couldn’t allot the necessary time to it at that time. I, therefore, asked to defer until the spring of 2014; this request was granted. In January I received an email informing me that my class would start in February; I asked to defer one more time, at least until after Easter. This request was granted with the caveat that if I asked for one more deferment I would have to pay an additional fee. This was no problem; I just asked that the one hour class be on Thursday mornings, as I had been told that there were many different times available.

    In March I was informed that the class would begin the last Wednesday in April from 6:10 to 7:10 pm. This was not what I had asked for, but not wanting to pay for yet another deferment, I began the class on the last week of April and have now completed twelve class sessions. It has been a long time since I last studied Hebrew. I am surprised at how little I remember from my previous studies, but I am enjoying re-learning the language, along with the special nuances this instructor brings to each class.

    The last two class sessions proved to be challenging. Two Wednesdays ago, while I was in Los Angeles meeting Alyssa’s boyfriend’s family, I had to excuse myself for an hour to a secluded room to Skype with my instructor and other classmates for that particular class. Then last week, when class was scheduled to meet, I was at Pinecrest Lake, where I had to pay for Internet usage and the connection was erratic. About twenty minutes into the class I lost signal. I was frustrated at being unable to hear, see, or participate in any way. I tried closing out of the class and then reentering, hoping for a better signal. Just as I began the close out, the signal came back on and I heard my instructor for a few seconds before the connection closed. Once I reconnected with the class, I was asked to answer a question; unfortunately, since I had missed the instruction while I was trying to get reconnected, my answer was incorrect. Frustrating. If I had only waited a few more seconds, perhaps I wouldn’t have lost the connection. Another option would have been to view a recording of the class session later, but I wanted to participate in the “live” class and not have to wait to view the instruction.

    Because the Internet has made information, goods and services more easily and immediately available, I have grown less patient with waiting for things to happen. By contrast, consider the fact that Jesus took three years to teach his disciples the simple command to love one another. Think about all those centuries God took before he sent his son to embody his love to his chosen people. Or even that the proclamation of his love to the world has taken thousands of years to disseminate across the globe.

    In the book, Slow Church, the authors remind us that, “The local church is the crucible in which we are forged as the patient people of God. We have been united with each other in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. As we mature together into the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13), over time and in our places, we learn patience by forgiving and being reconciled to one another. Our brothers and sisters may incessantly annoy us. But we are called to Christ to love and to be reconciled to them” (page 87). We are even reminded by Tertullian, a third century church father, that the first word to describe love in 1 Corinthians 13 is patience.

    Most of us want to belong to a church, a family, an organization which celebrates with us, supports us, and even challenges us, but that means we need to be patient with each other, as well as with ourselves. Are we willing to wait for the good things in life? Are we willing to take the time to grow in relationship with others? Are we willing to take the time to get to know other people in our church so we can offer them the support they need as well as be able to share with them our requests for support?

    Patience is not a highly prized commodity in our culture. We don’t want to have to wait in line for anything, although I have met some pretty interesting people while waiting in lines. We don’t want to wait for that new furniture, appliance or car, but perhaps saving up for that item would be better in the long run than taking out another loan.

    Like the consumer impatient for their goods, not wanting to delay gratification, I want to know Hebrew right now. I want to be able to read the Hebrew prayers at our next Seder meal, even though I am now only a third of the way through my class; I will probably need to take another 30 week class before I can read and understand what I am reading.

    Perhaps as summer draws to a close, it is a good time to consider what you are willing to wait for. Perhaps it would be good to ask God what is it that you want right now, but you need to learn to wait for. I know there are certain things I would like right now, but now is not the time for me to have them or experience them.

    As I watch our new granddaughter grow, I am impatient for us to be able to walk and talk together; in reality, however, a few more years is really a short time in the span of my life time and certainly in hers. I hope that as our relationship with each other develops, she and I will learn to be patient with each other and to more fully appreciate those walks and talks, especially if we can speak in Hebrew.

 

    Praying for patience in all our lives,

 

    Pastor Randy




July 5, 2014, 3:00 PM

Pastor Randy's Summer Reflection


“Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”
Acts 17: 23c

            As I write this, we are in the midst of the World Cup. The buzz on the street is about soccer and the USA team’s chances of making it beyond the preliminary rounds. There is high expectation and many positive thoughts about how well the USA can and will do. Even though not everyone is glued to the games on their TV, tablet, or Smartphone, almost everyone knows this is an event being watched around the world.

            Spirituality is also something that most people accept and think about now. During the last half of the 20th century, belief in spiritual things seemed to be waning and people often made disparaging remarks about those who held to some form of spiritual belief. Science and human effort were touted as the source of the world’s salvation. However, although we were able to put a man on the moon, wars continued to erupt, disease continued to flourish, and natural catastrophes still plagued our earth. We finally came to the realization that we can’t solve all our problems and we recognized that changes in people’s lives sometimes happen without any logical explanation.

            The importance, and even efficacy, of spirituality is now accepted world wide. We know there is something more than just the physical reality we encounter in our daily lives. There are unexplained miracles, fortuitous events and transformed lives which can only be attributed to another force beyond our own.

            This is the issue with which the first century Athenians had to contend. Their solution was to honor a god that they didn’t know by name but who they saw operating in the world. This is what many people in our world do today as well; they acknowledge there is a God, a higher power, a spiritual realm out there, but they don’t have a name for it.

            So we, like Paul, need to help people learn the name and personhood of this God. Our God, the three-in-one, is most easily understood as Jesus, the fully human, fully divine person who walked on this earth two thousand years ago. This God is also the Creator who is manifested in the Holy Spirit, but most easily understood as the Son of God, Jesus.

            Our mission statement is currently: “To Honor God and follow the Son, while loving and serving others.” Giving God honor is something the Athenians did without knowing who that God was, but Paul understood they needed more than just to honor God. God wanted a relationship with them, and in order to have a relationship they needed to know God, so Paul was going to be the one to tell them who God was, and is.

            Can we really know God? Not completely, but God did give us his Son to catch a glimpse of what he is like and he gave us the Spirit to walk with us, the Paraclete (the Greek word used in the Bible). And God gave us Scripture which tells us about him and his desire for a relationship with us.

            Perhaps it would be good to add to our Mission Statement that we wish to not only “Honor God,” but we also want to “Know God.” As we get to know God then we can be like Paul and help others to get to know him also.

            Maybe you are not sure you know God well enough to share that knowledge with others. If that is the case, then I urge you to continue to read the Bible, to pray and to ask God to make himself known to you, as well as to spend time with other people who are interested in knowing God also.

            We may not have the answers to everyone’s questions about who God is, but we can certainly let them know that we have a glimpse of God in our life and we would like to share it with them.

            Seeking to know God with you, Pastor Randy!


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