Randy's Reflections
October 31, 2014, 3:00 PM

Pastor Randy's November Reflection

No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.
~ St. Ambrose         


I have a pumpkin on my desk from the John Knox Co-op Preschool.

I have party hats on my stuffed dog and giggly toy. I had crepe paper strewn from bookcase to bookcase – “had” because I needed to be able to walk to my desk and back without doing the limbo every time I left the room. I had balloons on chairs, the floor, and my desk. All this was because the staff wanted to thank me for being their “boss.”

Of course, there is a certain amount of tolerance necessary on the staff’s part for us to be able to work together. They have to be willing to put up with my quirkiness, and vice versa. I must say this is a phenomenal staff to work with. There is a willingness to step up when things need to get done, and I haven’t heard any grumbling about having to work here.

The same is also true of our congregation, the people who regularly attend worship and events at John Knox Presbyterian Church. When things need to get done, there is usually someone who will step up to do them.

We have regular events that require work from a large number of people, like our Vacation Bible School event with the carnival the Sunday before and the Picnic Celebration the Sunday afterwards, as well as the entire week in between, with crafts, snacks, games, Bible time, and assemblies. There is also the Easter celebration with special music, special decorations, and greeters and ushers for two services. Of course, this is preceded by our Advent celebration, which starts with the First Sunday of Advent worship time and concludes with two Christmas Eve services.

Every once in a while we have a special event like hosting the Presbytery meeting, a time when people from up to 75 churches come for a six hour meeting, including a meal. Or when we had our Fiftieth Anniversary celebration. Or when we had our “first ever” Neighborhood Barbecue, when we distributed over 1,000 flyers throughout our neighborhood inviting our neighbors to join us for food, fellowship and fun, though we only let the younger folks enjoy the bounce house.

Recently, one of our cast iron gates was sticking and someone offered to fix it; it was done the next week. When we needed the bench around our courtyard tree repaired, it was competed three days later. We hosted a potluck for Pastor Lumu, a pastor from the Congo, and people jumped in to bring food, set up, and clean up afterwards. We have people tending flowers, and providing funds to upgrade our rooms with paint and pictures. Sunday School could not happen without those who answer the call to teach children, youth, and adults.

There is so much I am thankful for in this church. Yet I hope that as we learn to be thankful for each other, we will also be thankful to God. If we are grateful for each other, it behooves us to offer our thanks in words or actions to each other. But if we are thankful to God, then the best way to show our appreciation is to share what we have with each other. I don’t mean the sharing that exacts little sacrifice, but sharing that means giving our time when it seems most inconvenient. Or sharing our talents when our energy is so precious to us. Or sharing our financial resources, even when it means not getting the return we had hoped for.

As we move into this season of Thanksgiving, I hope we can all not only appreciate each other a little more, but we can also give evidence of it by sacrificing our opinions, our convenience, our resources. In doing so, we will exemplify God’s greatest gift to us, His Son, for the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of life in its fullness both now and forever.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1: 3-6


Grateful for your faith in our God, 

Pastor Randy


October 22, 2014, 5:00 PM

Randy's Reflections "An Ishikawa Moment"

    I hate making the last out. I love being on a team. I pretend to “play” various sports. All this added up to an amazing evening for the last softball game for this season for the “Hard Knox,” our church softball team.

    Over the last few years the Hard Knox have gone from taking three seasons for our first win to coming in second place this last summer. This last season we dropped one more win than we needed to get into the playoffs, but last Sunday’s game was awesome.

    We took the early lead and through the sixth inning we had built up a lead to 11-4. I thought I wouldn’t have to bat in the last inning, since we were the home team and it looked like we had it in the bag. By the way I go between wanting to bat and not wanting to bat depending on the score. I thought I wouldn’t have minded batting for I had two hits already and we were ahead by 7 runs. Then in the top of the last inning the opponents found where the ball could land without anyone being able to get it. They just seemed to have zeroed on these places, that is just over the infield defense and just before the outfield defenders.

    They dropped in eight runs before we were finally able to get three outs. The score was now 12-11 their favor. I was supposed to bat third. The first batter got on base, but the second batter hit into a double play. I was going “to have to,” no, I was going “to get to” bat. I hate making the third out. I watched the first pitch come across the plate in a perfect place for a hit, but I didn’t swing. Then came the next pitch an obvious ball. I was still praying not to make that third out. The next pitch I decided to go for it. I connected, but not very hard, I didn’t dare look at where the ball went I just focused on the first base bag and ran. I was almost to the base when I noticed the first baseman was getting ready to catch the ball. It sailed over his head, and I was safe at first.

    The next batter had a great hit, just dropping in front of the outfielders, I ran at the point of contact and made it standing up to second base. Now we had two runners on base, though we still had two outs, but our lead off hitter, Adam, was coming up to bat. I think Adam loves to bat. He also is amazing in the field, making sliding catches and over the shoulder grabs. He wasn’t like me waiting for the ball to come to him, when he was up to bat he would move to where ever the ball came and usually by the second or third pitch he had taken a mighty swing. He almost always got on base, but he had made an out earlier in the game.

    He let the first one go by. But I could tell he was anxious to put that bat on the ball. I knew he was going to swing at the next pitch even if it wasn't close. I was right, he moved to where the ball was coming down and my muscles tensed as I got ready to run as hard as I could. I would be the tying run if I made it to home. He swung and again I didn’t even worry about where the ball was hit I just put my head down and ran. I looked at the third base coach to find out if I should keep running or stop at third. The coach said go for it and “Run” as hard as you can, for the other thing Adam does well is run. He is known to catch other runners ahead of him on the bases and I didn’t want to be run over. He never stops running if it means he has to carry along the runner ahead of him.

    I kept expecting the ball to be coming in to home plate from where ever it landed and after I cross the home base line I turned around and was almost run into by the runner behind me and Adam right on that runner's heels.

    Of course they didn’t count Adam’s crossing the line, because being the last inning we only needed two runs to win the game, which we did. I didn’t make the third out, I got to play on the team, and I even looked like I knew how to play the game. It was an exciting ending to a season of flexing our muscles and building relationships with each other, some of the other team members, as well as some of the umpires.

    As I said we missed the playoffs by one win, but this will be the game I will remember most. What is so cool is the euphoria which follows such a win is nothing compared to what God has in store for us when we encounter his presence. This was just a taste of what it will be like when we encounter our Lord as he greets us with this saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Found in Matthew 23).


Seeking to be faithful and enjoy the game with you,


Pastor Randy


P.S. For your information. Travis Ishikawa is the baseball player who hit the home run to clinch the National League Pennant for the San Francisco Giants. There were two outs when he hit the outside the park home run.

October 2, 2014, 4:00 PM

Pastor Randy's October Reflection

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position...            Romans 12: 15-16

     I love the crispness in the air. I love to sip hot chocolate on cool evenings.  I love to see leaves start to change color.
Fall is an invigorating time of year. Each season of the year holds special memories and special meaning for me; I am grateful for the variety of the changing seasons. 

     When we lived in Reinbeck, Iowa, we had a majestic sugar maple alongside our fifty foot long gravel driveway. The tree towered at least thirty-five feet into the sky, but it was also nearly as wide as it was tall and the leaves turned a fiery red in the fall. Of course each leaf wasn’t exactly the same color, but as you looked at the tree as a whole, the variety of leaves with their different hue and shades of red took on an breathtaking unified appearance.
     Although our yard contained fourteen trees – oak, elm, red bud, pine, walnut and locust – many of them over thirty feet tall, this sugar maple surpassed them all in its resplendent glory. Its presence brought us joy every single autumn of our fourteen years in Reinbeck. In fact, a kindergarten teacher at the nearby elementary school would annually walk her class by our house in the fall to see the tree and gather its colorful leaves. We had another maple tree by the street at the property line. It was not as large as the sugar maple, but nicely shaped and similarly brilliant in the fall. One summer, during a severe thunderstorm, it was struck by lightning. I didn’t see the evidence until the following fall when we noticed black coloring around a particular divide in the tree. I also noticed that the tree was starting to split at that divide. I tried to figure out a way to save as much of the tree as possible, but it was irreparably damaged.
We had to have it taken down.

     Sometimes making changes on our property, in our homes, or in our lives is difficult. I really missed that tree We had to take down. Yet I learned to appreciate the other maple tree that remained even more, and I was also moer thankful for our other trees because I didn’t know how long they would be there.

     I find it difficult to say good bye to people in our congregation. As I have mentioned previously, the population of this church changes more often than I was used to in Reinbeck. People become an integral part of who we are as a community, and then they change employment or life circumstances or decide it is time to go elsewhere.

     We, as well as I, need to extend our congratulations and give people our best wishes as they make the
transitions they feel called to make. I also think we need to celebrate those people who are in our church
and in our lives and be grateful for the blessing of those relationships. Of course not everyone is our
best friend, and we may find it more of challenge to get along with some people than others. But I believe
that each time we gather as a community, and each time we can celebrate as that community, is a foretaste
 of heaven.

      So I hope as we move into this fall season we will have renewed gratitude for one another and
that we will be able to thank those around us for being part of our lives. God has called us together to be his  people, to show the world that we can love each other despite our differences and appreciate the 
gift of each other as a community.


     As we each add our own colorful leaf to the tree at JKPC, I hope we will be able to recognize what a rich mosaic we bring to this community of faith and that, together, we will be able to celebrate a wonderful festival of leaves this fall.

Thankful for each and every one of you,
              Pastor Randy McGrady-Beach