Thursday, December 7, 2017

Books I Like

Looking for some book ideas for kids? Here are two books that I recently added to the shelves in our Sunday School rooms. I love to provide the kids with stories about real people who do great things.  Maybe they will inspire the budding artist or lawyer in your house! 

"Keith Haring: The Boy Who Kept Drawing" by Kay Haring tells the story of the author's brother, 
Iconic pop artist Keith Haring.  

Learn about the life and art of Haring and his dedication to helping fight injustice in the world through his art. 

"I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark" by Debbie Levy lets the reader get to know celebrated Supreme Court justice.  This biographical picture book about the Notorious RBG, tells the justice’s story through the lens of her many famous dissents, or disagreements.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Photos - Family Advent Dinner

Thank you to everyone who attended our annual Family Advent Dinner to kick off the holiday season. Enjoy the photos! 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What We Are Reading - December 2017

Here are December favorites - all available through the Carnegie Library.  Enjoy!

An invisible thread Christmas story

by Laura Schroff 


by Ingrid Schubert 

Are we still friends?

by Ruth Horowitz 

Pebble : A Story About Belonging

by Susan Milord 

Penguin's Christmas Wish

by Salina Yoon

Reflections: The First Week of Advent

It's the first week of Advent! The waiting has begun. Time to start decorating, shopping, and getting into the Christmas spirit. But as we start in to the Advent season we start with darkness. The scripture passage we read in church on Sunday is bleak at first, but ends with promise and dare I say - hope. 

Mark 13:24-37(NRSV)

The Coming of the Son of Man

24 “But in those days, after that suffering,    the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
25  and the stars will be falling from heaven
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

We lit the first Advent Candle this week - which is the Hope candle. So here are the questions I am thinking about this week: 
What are you hoping for during these next weeks of Advent?
What things can you do to prepare for the new year?
Where in my life am I wallowing in the darkness?
How can I show the love of God to someone who is also wallowing in darkness? 
This week - Light a candle. Say a prayer for someone you know who is having a hard time. Consider some ways you can simplify your days to make some room for recognizing how God is working in the word. Think about what gives you hope. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Advent is Here! 2017

This Sunday is the
first Sunday in Advent! 

Stop by the table in the Chapel and grab some resources for your family to celebrate Advent at home.  We have kits for making your own tiny Advent wreath,  stickers and chain activities for kids with a daily family devotional,  traditional Advent window calendars, and more! 

Also, check out these links for online Advent devotional option: 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Reflections: Talents and Talents

I am getting ready to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday and am thinking about all the things I need to do to prepare. Packing - making sure someone will take care of my house and my cats while I am away - all the things.  

Jesus told a story—a parable– about a man who was also getting ready to go on a trip. The Bible calls this the Parable of the Talents (which is a word for money in this story.)

Read Matthew 25: 14-30

“I need someone to take care of my money” the man asked his servants and he handed them each some of his money. So, while he was away two of the servants went to the market. They traded the talents and made even more. One servant was afraid so he buried his money.  The man returned and the two servants handed him more money than they had been given. “Good job” said the man. “ You shall have more.”
The third servant brushed the dirt from his talents and said  “I was afraid—I buried my talents. “

The man said  “Give your talents to the others,  You did not use what I gave you and I will not give you any more.” 

Okay Jesus, cool story. but again.... WHAAAT?  It’s pretty hard to figure out sometimes just what Jesus is trying to teach. 

It's a weird story. I mean, it's hard to think that Jesus is telling us that it's okay to take someone's possessions and gamble with them.  To take a risk that might end badly - like the servants losing all the money and the man coming back to all his money gone. 

(Sidebar: Although I wouldn't be that upset if I came back from traveling and my cat sitter had somehow traded some of my possessions for more cats...)

But, I think the point here is the contrast of the first two servants with the third. The third servant was afraid and didn't do anything. In fact, he was so afraid that he hid the money he was given so no one could ever see it.  

Remember Jesus is using these parables to help people figure out how to live together in community as we wait for his return.  If we take the gifts and talents God has given us and hide them away - then they are of no use to anyone, including ourselves. 

But if we use what we are given and act boldly, just maybe our gifts and talents can help us show our love for God and love others. Just maybe we can use our gifts to help make God's kingdom on earth a better place.  

So here is what I am thinking about this week:
What am I good at?
What gifts and talents do I have that make me uniquely me?
How can I use those to love God and love others? 

Jesus is asking us to use our special gifts and talents to help people and do good things in the world and not to be afraid and bury them. 

So, think about all the things you are good at—what gifts has God given you to make you special? Because everyone has special gifts. And think about how you can use them.  Jesus is asking us to put our fear aside because sometimes serving God means taking risks and sharing our talents - even when we are terrified. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

What We Reading: November 2017

Here are November  favorites - all available through the Carnegie Library.  Enjoy!

Reflections - Waiting and Ready?

Here is a text conversation I had with my husband recently: 

Me: I just send you the menu of the restaurant where we are eating next week
Brant:  Nice. looks like some good stuff. Planning ahead? 
Me: I just like to be prepared 
Brant: You still won't be ready when they ask :)

True story. 
I am pretty good at planning ahead.  But not very good at waiting. When I have to wait too long for things I start to worry. And question my decisions. And get distracted and forget what I am waiting for and then I am not prepared.  Anyone else like this? 

Sometimes I can also over prepare for waiting. I am known for taking a whole truckload of books and things to do to places where I might have to wait - just in case. (And in most cases don't need any of it!)  Sound familiar? 

Jesus told a parable about waiting and being ready in the Gospel of Matthew. 

Read Matthew 25: 1-13

This is the story of the ten bridesmaids who were waiting with their lamps and oil to light the way for the groom to the banquet. Some were prepared and brought extra oil. Some didn't. And when the groom is late, the bridesmaids without the extra oil were out of luck.  They went to get more, and they missed the groom and missed their entrance into the banquet, 

This passage in Matthew is part of Jesus' discourse about the end of times.  I am guessing he's talking about wanting us to be prepared and ready for when he will come again. We live in a time where there's a lot of things for which we don't have to wait. We can instantly communicate and look up information on our phones. We are so used to instant gratification, answers, and immediate responses for friends that we get frustrated when we have to wait too long for anything. Jesus, the Bible, and our church season remind us that waiting is part of our faith journey,  We are just about to enter into the season Advent where we wait - and prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Christ. Lent offers us the same (only longer) time of waiting and reflection. 
Maybe during it's during the times that we wait where we will encounter Christ and connect with the God who loves us all. 

So here is what I am thinking about this week: 
How do we wait? 
How do we prepare?
How do we keep hope?
(Especially when we are not exactly sure why and for what we are waiting.) 

So what do we do while we wait? 

We don't know when Jesus will be with us again as promised in the scriptures. But while were are here in this Kingdom of God on earth,  we can use the time to everyday figure out how to better live in community with one another.  How to better love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.  Jesus uses this parable to remind us to work at being ready. He reminds us that this is really not as good as it gets and we should live in hope for what is promised and what will be ... and what is not yet. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Reflections: Am I a Pharisee?

Since childhood, I've always been an approval orientated person. I am a people-pleaser and want to make everyone happy. I also, at times, want everyone to know that I am doing all the things and making people happy. Not an easy thing to admit- but I am sure all humans are all like that to some degree, right? (Some are just worse than others, lol.)

In this week's passage Jesus hits me with another lesson on humility and accountability.  

He's still being questioned by the Pharisees, the Jewish religious leaders. So Jesus turns his attention away from them and begins talking to the disciples and others who had been listening to the Pharisees. "Hey- even though these dudes have fancy official religious titles - listen to what they say but don't do what they do," he says. (Or something similar.)

Read Matthew 23: 1-12

Jesus didn't want the people to follow these leaders in ways that did not lead to God.  Jesus said the Pharisees explained God's laws in a ways that were too hard to follow. He said the Pharisees were good at teaching but not good at practicing what they were preaching. 

He knew the Pharisees were listening so he said "The leaders do things so everyone will see them. They want to stand out in the crowd, They want to look like they are more religious than everyone else."

To me,  Jesus is using the Pharisees as an example and a reminder for people to check themselves before they wreck themselves.  He is encouraging the disciples (and us) to listen to the law and follow God - but not be like the Pharisees and do it for status, recognition, or the approval of others. 

Here is what I am thinking about this week:
What am I doing just so others will see me do it? 
What am I doing to make myself stand out in the crowd?
What am I doing for the approval of others that's not leading to God?
Where in my life am I not practicing what I preach? 

"All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted, " said Jesus.