Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Lent Resources for 2019

Lent is around the corner!

Here are some recommendations 
for reading during this Lenten season.

For children and families, the 40 days of lent are a great time to grab a book and spend a few minutes each day or week celebrating Lent by reading together.  Here are two books that would be great:

Meet the Saints: Family Storybook by Lindsay Hardin Freeman is great for all ages. It contains twenty-four stories of saint for families to read together. The stories feature short profiles on monks, missionaries, prophets, doctors, evangelists, and more.  Settle in together once or twice a week during lent and start from the beginning - or pick the the stories that peak your interest.  We have copies of this book at the church if you would like to preview it or borrow. 

Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible by  Elizabeth F. Caldwell and Carol A. Wehrheim is great for younger kids (ages 4-8 seems to be the target) and has 150 Bible stories divided into themes.  I would recommend picking a story to read everyday from the sections about Jesus' life and teachings.  At the end of each story there are three simple reflection questions - Hear, See, and Act that will prompt conversation about the story.  Take a trip through the table of contents of this story bible and pick what you like. Themes include Strong Men and Women, Listening for God, Parables, and Healings and Miracles.  I have a copy of this one at the church if you would like to preview it! (Wehrheim is also author, editor of the Sunday school curriculum that we use at Sixth Church called  "Feasting on the Word.") 

For Adults: 

Presbyterian Today's 2019 Lent Devotional is called Awakening to God's Beauty: A Lenten Invitation to pray with art. The text, meditations and original photography are the work of the Rev. Krin Van Tatenhove, long-time Presbyterian pastor, hospice chaplain, substance abuse counselor, traveler, photographer, and storyteller. The devotional contains a variety of original photograph with a short   short guided meditation for each day during Lent. We will have a limited amount of copies available at the church. You can also order it  here

The Poetry of Lent: A Lenten Companion to Mary Oliver's "Devotions" is a weekly devotional created by the SALT Project. This is a down loadable six-week devotional that features passages of scripture and meditations on key Lenten themes centered around poems from Mary Oliver's collection, Devotions. We will have copies of this devotional along with the selected poems available in the church office.

God is on the Cross: Reflections on Lent and Easter by Dietrich Bonhoeffer has 
forty-seven  devotions that move move thematically through the weeks of Lent and Easter, with  themes of prayerful reflection, self-denial, temptation, suffering, and the meaning of the cross. Passages are taken from  Bonhoeffer's letters and sermons.   

Where You There? Lenten Reflections on the Spirituals by Luke A. Powery uses African American spirituals as the basis of the devotions to take you through Lent. Each selection includes the lyrics of the spiritual, a reflection by the author on the spiritual’s meaning, a Scripture verse related to that meaning, and a brief prayer.

Lent for Everyone: Luke, Year C by N.T. Wright guides you  from Ash Wednesday to the week after Easter.  By the end of the book readers will have been through the entirety of Luke, along with Psalm readings for each Sunday. 

Forgiveness: A Lenten Study by Marjorie J. Thompson is a six-chapter study on forgiveness. The brief chapters could be read one each week during  Lent, and help to deepen the reader's understanding and practice of forgiveness.  A study guide is also included at the back of the book that is appropriate for either individual reflection or group discussion. 

(Unless otherwise noted,  these books should be available to order through your favorite local bookstore or book vendor.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What We Are Reading - February 2019

Here are the books we will be reading during
Extended Session during the month of February ! 

All theses are available through the Carnegie Library.

Always remember

by Cece Meng 

Amazing Grace

by Mary Hoffman 

If I never forever endeavor

by Holly Meade

Love Monster and the last chocolate

by Rachel Bright 

The story of Ferdinand

by Munro Leaf

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Reflections for Youth - Fishing with Jesus

If you met Jesus - what would it take for you to be convinced that he was truly the son of God?

Would you have to witness a miracle? 

Would that be enough?

In this week's scripture passage is was enough for Simon.  

Read Luke 5:1-11

This gospel lesson is like last week's narrative about Jeremiah.  
It's a call story.  Luke is telling the story of how Simon (and James and John) became disciples.  

We know from the parables and many other stories from the New Testament that Jesus used things that were commonly understood during his days to teach and get his message across. 

Simon, who Jesus renames Peter, along with James and John were fisherman. (Also, Andrew - but he is not mentioned in Luke's version of this story.)  So, it makes sense that Jesus calls them by using something they know about - fish. He also uses the fish to demonstrate his ability to perform miracles  - to show them that God is capable of providing great blessings. 
So Jesus is hanging out on the shore of Lake Gennesaret (which is Luke's name for the Sea of Galilee.) As he spoke, more and more people crowded around to hear him teach.  Jesus had to steps out into a boat owned by Simon and asks him to take it our on to the water so everyone can see can hear him.  Once on the water,  Jesus sat down in the boat and began teaching the large crowd which has gathered on the shore.

Then he says to Simon,  “Let’s go fishing.”

Simon tells Jesus they had already been fishing all night and had not caught anything. But he tells Jesus that they can try again if that's what he wants. They took the boat out into the deep water, and Simon and the other fishermen threw their nets into the sea. Soon they catch so many fish that the boats almost began to sink. They call over James and John and fill up their boat with fish as well. 

This is when Simon starts to freak out. The Bible says he fell to his knees and said “Master, I am not good enough to be near you.”
I'd be shocked, too. That's a lot of fish. 
Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. Follow me, and you will not just catch fish, you will catch people for God.” 

The scripture days Simon and the other fisherman left their boats on the beach and followed Jesus, becoming the first disciples.
So, here's what I am thinking about this week:

Simon and the others are being called away from what they know to go tell others about God's love with Jesus. What would it take for us to drop everything and do that as well? What kinds of miracle would we need to experience?

What are some of the things that God might be calling you to do?

Simon tells Jesus that he feels like he is not good enough to be around him after Jesus does something incredible. When have you felt like Simon? 

This story reminds me to look for and recognize God's blessings and generosity in the world. It reminds me that sometimes we might be in a place where we don’t expect anything exciting to happen and then we see and are filled with God’s love in a new way. 

Was Simon, after a frustrated night of not catching any fish, expecting to be overwhelmed with abundance from this strange dude wandering around and preaching about love? Probably not.  Have there been times that you have been surprised with an unexpected blessing? How did/does that make you feel?

Maybe it doesn't have to be something miraculous - like's Simon's boat full of fish. Maybe it  is seeing a sunrise or something so beautiful that you can't describe it in words.  Maybe it's playing with a puppy, hearing a song that you love, or hearing raindrops on the roof.  Maybe it's anything that you can recognize throughout the day that makes you feel joy, content, and happy.  

I am thinking this week that I need to remind myself everyday that God's grace and love can be revealed in ways that are wildly miraculous and small and subtle -   and is always more generous than I can ever imagine. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Reflections for Youth - Jeremiah and Suprise Snow Days

Anyone else a little stir crazy from the cold?  The weather this week has certainly caused a disruption in our weekly routines.  Schools were closed, stuff was canceled. I hid on my couch under a blanket pretending that it was not that cold out there.

This week I have been thinking about the winters when I was a kid and how we used to sit by the radio to find out if our school had been closed for a snow day.  I remember the times that it was most exciting were the days when we were not expecting it at all.  Those mornings when it snowed over night and you wake up to your school's name being read by the voice on the radio.


Snow day!

 I remember on those mornings listening for a whole extra half hour when the news break would come around again just so I could hear the announcement again and make sure. 

 I love a good surprise.

Sometimes though,  surprises can catch us totally off guard and we need a minute to catch up, catch our breath, and figure our how to process what's happening.

That's was the case for Jeremiah - who gets surprised by God who is calling him to be a prophet.  Our Old Testament scripture for this week is one of the most familiar call stories in the Bible. Call stories are stories in which God calls people to do something or to be something - called to a task, a role, or given a message to relay to the people of God.  

Jeremiah is an Old Testament book of prophecy written around the time Israel was conquered by Babylon.  Remember, in the Bible -  prophecy isn’t about predicting the future. Instead, it’s a word from God to warn us of consequences when we’re treating others in unjust ways and to promise us that God also restores and rebuilds.

Read Jeremiah 1: 4-10

When Jeremiah was just a boy, God spoke to him and told him that he was going to be a prophet.  

The people that God chose to be prophets were usually a surprise. They were not usually the best preachers or the most honored family members. God often spoke to the most least likely people to be prophets.
And when God spoke to Jeremiah and told him he was going to tell all sorts of people about God—Jeremiah was really surprised.
He said to God: ”Wait - what?"
And so God and Jeremiah has a big chat.
“Jeremiah,” God said. “I knew you before you were even born. And you were born to be a prophet.
Jeremiah said, “I am just a kid! I have no idea what to say to grown-ups.”
God said, “We’ll do it together. Where you go, I will go with you. When you talk, I’ll give you the words.”  And then there's that whole part about how God touches his lips and tells him that his mouth will be full of God's words. I love that part. 
We are all like Jeremiah because we sometimes feel like we don’t know what to say—especially especially when we are taken by surprise. But God's words to Jeremiah in this passage remind us that  God is always with us.  And what ever it is, we can do it together.  
Some things to think about this week: 
  • When have you been surprised by God?
  • What are some doubts you sometimes have about your abilities? 
  • How might God be empowering you past your doubts?
  • When this week can you take a moment to breathe,  catch up, and listen to ways God is working in the world? 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Youth Reflections - Ear worms, body parts, and what it's all about.

Ugh! Here I am talking about ear worms again. You know, a song that gets stuck in your head and it starts to drive you a little bonkers?  The Hokey Pokey. That's what has been stuck in my head all week. (Sorry, it it's stuck in yours now, too.)

So, let me take you on a little adventure of things from this week that have triggered this ear worm.

First we are getting ready for the church's annual congregational meeting on Sunday. During that meeting, we will be approving the 2019 budget and I've been thinking about all different parts and people that have to come together to make the budget work.

Second, the church's Session is meeting this week and welcoming it's new members. Hanging around the meeting space on the walls in the Chapel are newsprint posters that list all the different committees of the church and their functions. It's a reminder that it takes all different kinds people with all different kinds of abilities to make the church work.

There are individual parts - like hands, arms, legs, and all the other things in the Hokey Pokey song that you put "in."  But they all have to work together to get to the last verse where we put our whole self in. 

And then there's Paul - writing to the Corinthians in one of this week's scripture passage. If you remember from last week, Paul is writing to folks in a house church in the urban city to help them live better together in community.  He instructs them about the talents and different abilities gifted to people by the Holy Spirit. These are all unique and individual gifts that should be used together with others for the common good.

In this week's passage. Paul continues on into analogy land by using the human body as a image for the church.  This is a pretty widely know passage and you might be familiar with it already.

Read I Corinthians 12: 12-31

Paul tells the people the church is like the human body  - which has many parts. But it’s all still one body. We are many different kinds of people, but we all come together to make up the church.  Just like our arms and legs and hands and eyes and noses do different things - God made us each different and we can do different things to show our love for God.  But, all these parts and these people need to work together.

Which leads me to the Hokey Pokey. 

So, what if you were doing the hokey pokey  - and all of a sudden your right hand said "no way!  I don’t want to be a hand. I want to be a foot?"

Or if your foot said “Um excuse me - I am not as important as a hand. I don’t want to be a part of this body.”
Or what if your head said—” Nope!  I don’t need the rest of you—I can Hokey Pokey all by myself.”
 Then  you couldn’t sing the song—and you couldn’t put your whole self in.
Paul is telling us that it’s pretty silly for us to think that one body part is more important that another. And it’s pretty silly of us to think that one person in our church is more special or important that another. We were created—and our body parts were created to all be very special individually—but we all have to work together to share God’s love.
Here are some things to think about this week:
  • Think about your family, your friend group, your class at school, or any group that you are part of where you have to live or work together.  What part of this body are you? What parts are your family members  or friends and what roles to they play in overall functioning of the group? 
  • How can you use your specific talents and gifts to help the whole "body" of your community? 
  • Most people hate group projects that you have to do for school or work. I think it's because there are always people who do more than others,  get a little bossy, or don't take responsibility for their part. How could this image of the parts of the body help you next time you are involved with a group project? 
There are a lot of people that just like to do everything by themselves and in their own way. Paul is reminding us that the church, and our families and communities, function better when we embrace all the parts, no matter how large or small, and allow them to work together.  

That's what it is all about! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

January 2019 - What we are Reading

Cold weather is the perfect time to curl up with a good book. 

Here are the books we will be reading during
Extended Session during the month of January ! 

All theses are available through the Carnegie Library.

Hello hello

by Brendan Wenzel   

The day you begin

by Jacqueline Woodson 

Good people everywhere

by Lynea Gillen 

Something happened in our town :
a child's story about racial injustice

by Marianne Celano 

Baby Monkey, private eye

by Brian Selznick 

Be kind

by Pat Zietlow Miller 

Mixed : a colorful story

by Arree Chung  

Rescue & Jessica : a life-changing friendship

by Jessica  Kensky 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Reflections for Youth - Spiritual Gifts

Do you like to take quizes? Not for school - but for fun? Facebook and the internet is full of all kinds of tests you can take to learn things about your self.

If you were a tree - what kind would you be?

Which cartoon character are you most like?

Answer these questions and we will tell you what color/food/quote most represents you.

You may have seen a quiz or a test that helps you explore your "spiritual gifts."

"Spiritual Gifts" are things listed in the Bible describing different gifts and talents given by to people by the Holy Spirit that can be used help the world and other people. 

But let's backtrack a little. 

For the next couple of weeks, the Epistle readings will take us through continuous passages from 1 Corinthians.  This book of the Bible is attributed to the apostle Paul and is a letter to the people in community of Corinth.  Corinth was a urban community located in south-central Greece.  The recipients of the letter were Christians that more worshiped together in house churches. Like most of the letters that Paul wrote to churches and communities, we can tell that he is writing to help solve problems that may be happening in the church and/or community. But, we don't exactly know what those problems were.

In the 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul lists a few of these gifts, perhaps encouraging the people to recognize their strengths and to use them in a way that will help the community. 

Read 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11

Here's a list of the gifts listed in the scripture and some thoughts about what they mean:

  • Wisdom - having good ideas and the ability to make good choices.
  • Knowledge - ability to learn new things and explain things to other.
  • Faith - trusting and believing in God's love for the world.
  • Healing - ability to help people feel better physically and to comfort hurt feelings
  • Prophecy - ability to tell and others how to live in God's ways.
  • Languages - the ability to understand what people are saying and explain their words to others. 

Each person, Paul says, is given gifts that are manifestations of the Holy Spirits to be used for the common good.  Paul reminds us that each person's faith and gifts are different and are meant to be shared.  I have no idea why Paul lists these particular gifts - but I suspect it had something to do with the problems that the church members were having with each other.  Perhaps he was pointing out that while there is a diversity of people's gifts, they can all be used to help unite the church. 

So I've bee thinking this week about just what my spiritual gifts are and how I am using them to help others and serve God. 

Thinking about what your gifts may be? Here are a few questions that might help you it out:

  • What do you love to do?
  • What are you good at doing?
  • What are three words that describe your personality? How do you feel about asking other people to share three words that describe your personality? We so often never see ourselves as others see us. I dare you to do it. I did it this week on Facebook and it was quite interesting. Sometimes asking others that we love and trust to describe us can help us  to us realize what we might be good things that we might not recognize in ourselves.
  • In what ways can your gifts be used for the common good? 
Remember, Paul's list of gifts is not exhaustive and can can include many other things not named in the scripture. And can you have more than one? Absolutely!  Think about it! And remember what every your gifts you are a beloved child of God.