Randy's Reflections
February 11, 2014, 10:00 PM

Randy's Reflections "Keeping our Focus"

I love referring soccer games. It doesn’t much matter if I am in the center, where there is action almost all the time, or on the sideline, as an Assistant Referee, AR. We work as a team and we depend on each other to use six eyes, two ARs, and the Center, to make sure the players are safe, equally reprimanded, and enjoying the game.

    Last weekend I was referring a hotly contested game and both teams were doing well. One team was a little slower than the other, but they were able to keep the team from scoring a lot of points because they played the offside trap. It takes close scrutiny and some experience to be able to tell if someone is offside or not. It was one of the most important parts of the AR’s job to make sure there is not an offside infraction. It is probably the most misunderstood rule and if you want to learn how to tell if someone is offside please contact me or read the laws of the game, law eleven, very carefully.

    I try very hard to keep my mind, eyes, and ears on the game, which can be difficult not only because of the constant action, but also because of the fans trying to help you call fouls a lot of the time. Sometimes they are right and sometimes they are not, but the referee team has to make the final decision.

    Anyway, in that game I was watching very closely for a possible offside infraction, but as I was running down the line with my attention on the game a parent behind me yelled, “He is offside!!” I responded, “No, he was not involved in the play.” This is one of the rules for an offside infraction, you have to not only be in the position of offside, but you have to be involved in the play.

    I usually don’t engage those behind me, but I had numerous times ignored other comments and I couldn’t help myself so I inadvertently responded. I left it at that and did not speak to the parent any further. This is something I have learned over the years you can’t argue with a parent and keep your attention on the game at the same time. The problem was that I did turn to the parent when I responded and then missed the next play which was someone kicking the ball out of bounds.

    I was DISTRACTED! First of all I should not have responded to the parent, but secondly I let him distract me from my job of paying close attention to the game. I did not provide the Center referee with the necessary information so he could tell the players who would get to kick the ball into play. The referee made the best decision he could at the time, but I was not able to help in that decision.

    Once you make a mistake like this during the game it is very hard not to chide yourself for losing your concentration or focus. Sometimes if the game is not a very competitive match you can get away with not paying close attention to play. But if you fail to see the play when it is in your area your whole team, the referee team, suffers.

    I think this is true of our Christian walk as well. There are times when we get lazy or we get distracted and we forget that we are to be bearers of Good News to everyone we meet. We get caught up in the moment and we react to something that perturbs us and respond poorly. This is part of being human, but it is also important for us to recognize when we do get distracted and then return back to our focus of being Good News bearers.

    Sometimes we may have had a particularly hard day. We have had people complaining to us or about us or about something we have done till we feel we just want to lash back at them. We all do this at some point, but when we realize what we have done we need to regroup or reconnect with that person. We need to admit that we messed up and we failed to maintain our focus. Then we need to refocus.

    On the field, or the pitch as the call it in soccer speak, I usually end up talking to myself and remind myself I can’t do that again. It is not fair to the game, the players, the referee team, or myself. So I start over again. I refocus on my job and try to start again watching the action more closely.

    So if you ever find yourself distracted, don’t take it out on someone else, don’t beat yourself up about it, just tell yourself you need to refocus and try again. God will forgive you for losing your focus, but God wants you to start over again.

    So stay focused and continue to be the bearer of Good News you were meant to be.

    Peace and trying to stay focused with you,

    Pastor Randy

January 30, 2014, 4:00 PM

Pastor Randy's February Update

To pray is to sit open-handed before God.
~ Georges Bernanos

To pray is nothing more than to lie in the sunshine of his grace.
~ O. Hallesby

Do you have your valentines ready yet? February is a great month to celebrate love, one of those things that make the world go around. In fact, I would say it is the thing that made the world, sustains the world, and is the hope for the world. Perfect love has one source, God. It is God who made the world, who keeps it turning, and who gives us hope for the future.

Love is not something I understand very well. I experience it, but I have a hard time articulating what it actually is. The Greeks had at least three words for love: Eros, the erotic love; Phileo, the love for family, like brotherly love; and Agape, which we know as unconditional love. They did not rely on one word to fit all situations.

One characteristic common to all three forms of love is that it requires another person. It is true we can love ourselves; in fact, to follow the second commandment, “To love your neighbor as yourself,” you must love yourself, or care for yourself in a healthy way. Yet, to perform any act of love requires some kind of relationship with another person.

John, the gospel writer, believes agape love to be the highest form of love. He uses it in the most famous verse about the way God loves the world, John 3:16. He uses it again at the end of the gospel when Jesus questions Peter about his love for Jesus.

Agape love is something that does not come easily. It is grounded in a relationship with another person. For this reason, it must be cultivated, and such cultivation takes time. Not only time in the sense of years, but also making time for the person with whom you have a relationship.

Our relationship with the author of love, God, also needs to develop over time. We need to spend time talking and listening to God. This is the reason for prayer and the reason why we consider prayer to be an essential Spiritual Practice.

Last month we held a class on Spiritual Practices, which included reading the Bible, Praying, Sharing your Faith Story, and Stewardship. Of these Spiritual Practices, I would say that Prayer is probably the foremost essential practice. It is the one practice which can be entered into at any time of day, be it dark or light. It does not require you to choose your words wisely or clearly, for “we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26b). Prayer is not a practice that requires a change in your spending habits or assessing your gifts, which you can share with the community of faith; it may, however, require a change in your schedule, because it does take time.

In our Spiritual Practices class, we discussed some guidelines for prayer that are gleaned from the Sermon on the Mount: 1) Prayer is not for show, 2) Prayer is not a formulaic path to get what we want, and 3) Prayer is a personal conversation between you and the God of the universe.

So let’s practice this special gift we have been given. God has invited us into conversation. Let God love you as he listens and as he speaks to you. Let God share his riches of grace, mercy, and peace with you. Speak, listen, and receive and you will be involved in the greatest love relationship for all eternity. God will meet you in the future. God is with you in the present moment. God’s spirit can dwell within you. I Thessalonians 5:17 says,  “Pray all the time.”

Praying with you, Pastor Randy

January 14, 2014, 11:14 PM

"The Story"

“The Story”

We have a great opportunity this year to do something we have never done. The Woman's Bible Study has started it. The Youth are using it as a curriculum. We were able to purchase copies at a 75% discount (just $5 each.) This is all about the book "The Story." This year we will go through, with a just a few breaks, the entire Bible. If you have never read the full story or you want to refresh your memory, I will be preaching on a section of each of the 31 chapters in succession.

We will begin January 5 and end on November 23, which is Christ the King Sunday, known as the last Sunday of the church year. This is your challenge for 2014 and my challenge as well. Please pray that as many people as possible will take up this challenge as we seek to understand more fully the word of God in its entirety.

Laura Bolin's class Old Testament 101 gave me great incentive to attempt this; and, if you didn't have a chance to attend that class, be sure to watch for and sign up for her New Testament 101 class this spring.

I look forward to learning with you new things which will shed light on our understanding of God's word and how we can rely on its guidance for our current time. The books are available after church.

Moving forward in faith with you, Pastor Randy