OT Wisdom
“Out with the old and in with the new!”
Sometimes that is the best practice. If your phone still flips open, if your computer still has a slot for a floppy disk, if your suit is still polyester, then perhaps this saying is for you. While true for some things, it may not be applicable to all things. Take wisdom for instance. Some wisdom sayings are timeless, such as:
* "Tell me and I’ll forget; show me, and I may not remember; involve me, and I’ll learn."
* "The best things in life are free."
* "Wise men may be learned. Learned men may not be wise."
These and many more are timeless pieces of wisdom.
Believe it or not, there is much timeless wisdom from our very own Bible. The Old Testament provides lots of wisdom that each of us could benefit from. Wisdom, like a fine wine or an aged cheese or a diamond, takes time to fully mature. There is a way to ever so slightly speed up this process and get on with living and that way is to learn from others, sit at the feet of the wise, and keep an open mind.
For the next four weeks, we will dive into the OT wisdom of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Written by the one called the wisest man ever to live, we’ll hear wise words that can and should have great impact in our lives today. 
Real Life Kids Stories
What Bible stories do you remember from your childhood? Perhaps you were taught them using flannel board characters that sometimes didn’t quite stick to the felt covered boards. Maybe VeggieTales helped you learn about some of the basic stories from the Bible.
Many of these stories became our children’s nursery themes, our Sunday School hallway murals, or filled the shelves of our children’s book nooks at home. But truth be told, many of these lessons and books and picturesque murals were the edited and abridged versions of stories that had some PG-13, or worse, adult themes.
What do we really remember about these stories? Were we really told the entire story? Did someone leave out the “adult-themed” material in order to shield our vulnerable minds and innocent hearts? Is there something that we missed that could have been, even the slightest bit, helpful as we grew into adults?
For the next six weeks, we are going to explore some of our favorite childhood Bible stories to see what twists and turns might have been left out. Join us as we dive into some Real Life Kids Stories and learn some real life lessons!
Practicing the Presence of God

If you’ve been around churches and Christians, you’ve probably heard the phrase “the presence of God” in some way, shape, or form. This foundational phrase evokes the sense of connection and communication that God desires with each person. But, sometimes, our expectations can interfere. Is it a feeling? A set way of worshiping or praying? 

When we face hardships, busyness, distractions, or other circumstances, experiencing the presence of God can seem unattainable or even unrealistic! Perhaps we feel unworthy, ashamed, or even just unsure about what to do.

What if, though, it’s not as complicated as we may think?

In This Family We...

Family is an important part of life, whether it’s family by relation, by choice, or as part of a larger community. It can give us deep connection and an unparalleled sense of belonging, but it can also be very complicated. Sometimes family brings out the best in us, but other times it brings out the worst.

During the month of February, we’ll be examining different facets of family in our new worship series, “In This Family We…” Navigating family dynamics can be challenging at times, but God is in the midst and is ready to help us, if we let Him.

Whatever your experience with family is or has been, we invite you to join us for good conversation about how we can grow in our relationships, both with our relatives, our friends, and our community.

It's Time

I have often thought that those who wear a digital watch really are those who need to know what time it is and those who wear an analogue watch are those who need to know how much time they have left.  At least, that is how I have been about what type of watch I wear.  How many times a day do you check your watch or your phone?  Does it depend whether or not it is a work day or a weekend?  Do you feel yourself always wondering, “How much time until….?”  Does time really matter to you at all?  Or maybe, as the new year approaches, you are feeling like it is simply time to do something!  Perhaps you are tired of a habit, a way of life, a thought pattern, or something else that makes you finally stop and say, “IT’S TIME.”

As we stride into 2022, we will look at some things that could conceivably alter the way you live into this new year.  We won’t concern ourselves with diet plans, or exercise strategies, or things that we hardly ever succeed at in any way.  Let’s take a deep dive into how we exercise our spiritual life.  Let's take a deeper look into those things that nourish our souls.  Let’s talk about how we might transform our lives in a way that might make an eternal difference.  

Come Darkness, Come Light

Images of light and darkness are common and meaningful themes in the Bible.  In the very opening lines of the Bible, we find these two forces in play, seemingly pitted against one another.  But in the end, light overcomes the darkness.  In our world, we might think of darkness as evil, scary, painful, and void of joy and hope.  None of us like the thought of being in the dark, left alone to deal with darkness, or experiencing spirituality, what some have called the dark night of the soul.  The reality is that  darkness is simply the absence of light.  So how do we maintain light so that we have no darkness?  Or is darkness necessary so that we appreciate light?  

As we begin our journey into the four weeks of Advent, preparing for the celebration of Christmas, the coming of light into the world in the form of the Christ-child, we will explore darkness and light in ways that help us prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, or as the Apostle John writes, “the light that shines in the darkness.” John 1:5a

You are probably decorating your house with lights this season.  Perhaps you are adorning your Christmas tree with lights of a variety of colors.  If you have a mantle, maybe you have placed lights there also to help bring in the light of the season.  However you choose to light up your house, don’t forget to invite the Holy Light into your home, your family, your soul, and yes, even into those darkest of places that fill all our lives.  

Feed My Sheep
The Bible talks a lot about shepherds feeding and caring for sheep, sheep being lost and found, and sheep needing guidance. Seemingly simple metaphors sometimes result in us “modern” folk thinking we already have it all figured out.
But when we take a deeper look, there are more questions to be asked:
Who are the “sheep?” Is it me, us, them?
And how do we care for these sheep?
Do we get to decide who the sheep are and how we care for them?
How do we move past the transactional and take the time to listen and walk alongside?
And, the big one: how are we preparing our hearts and minds for the practical and spiritual work that God wants us to do as individuals and as a faith community?
For the Bible Tells Me So

Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian Henri Nouwen said, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”  It is a struggle to choose joy all the time every day!

We reciprocate love for God and each other in all the ways we show up, are faithful, and offer gifts and talents to be used to further the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. We choose joy because of the emotion we feel watching children parade up to the altar for children’s time as we excitedly and anxiously await their beautiful thoughts and questions. We choose joy because we have the honor to celebrate the lives of loved ones as we say farewell to them, if only for a little while. We choose joy seeing young people grappling with their faith, asking tough questions, and then claiming their faith through Confirmation. We choose joy, but the underpinning of our joy comes from the one relationship that never fails or falters, never waivers or ends, and never lets us down. That relationship is with God, experienced through the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In our new worship series, “For the Bible Tells Me So,” we focus on the things of faith and church and of God that bring joy, and how our gifts for ministry bring joy to others. The value of our gift is not in the amount, but in the heart with which it is given. We never take for granted the sacrifice we make to God to ensure the ministries of His son, Jesus Christ, are carried out through our Holy Spirited hands and feet. Whatever gift you have to offer, do so with generosity and joy - our relationship with the Savior the kindles joy in our lives.

Reflect, Reclaim, & Renew
All of us have suffered some sort of loss in our lives. Whether it be the loss of a beloved friend or family member to death or betrayal, the loss of a dream, the loss of health, or anything else that was and is no more. Before we, as individuals, can continue effectively functioning in our life-after-loss, we need to pause and reflect.
After reflecting, how do we get back lost time? How can we rekindle relationships? How do we regain momentum? And what about those who were taken from us way too soon and without the opportunity to engage in a proper celebration of their lives? To reclaim these and the other losses doesn’t mean that we do not remember, recall, or recollect. Part of reclaiming is to do all these things. But it also means something even more challenging: to envision, imagine, and visualize the new thing that God is raising up in us and in our church body. We will bring with us, into this new thing, the lessons, memories, and some activities from the past, but the end result will be something new and exciting.
Every so often we must renew things in our life: subscriptions to magazines, gym memberships, or even our driver's license. If you are like me, I have most of these on auto-renewal. If we are not careful, the spiritual life we have subscribed to when we claimed Jesus as our Lord and Savior, can begin to feel like it is on auto-renewal as well. We don’t give much thought to the terms and conditions of the cost of our salvation, much less the fine print (my Bible has small letters) of the covenant, and perhaps we also need to re-examine the vows we took when we said, “I do, I will , or I believe.” A re-commitment doesn’t have to be a daunting task - renewal can be an exciting, life-giving opportunity!