Friday Reflections – Running Our Race

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Aug 172012
 
Running Our Race 
by Caroline Czerkawski

 

“let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us….

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,    

the author and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2

 During the past few weeks, my family has been mesmerized by the London Olympics. We’ve enjoyed every moment of it…….the various events, the athletes’ stories, the post-event interviews and the extra coverage on the Today Show.

Like the rest of the nation, we were captivated by the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team as they competed. It was hard to imagine how the gymnnasts could propel themselves through the air, flipping and turning.  We were humbled by Claressa Shields’  story. She is the 17 year old  boxer from Flint, Mich. who won the gold medal in women’s boxing despite very difficult circumstances.

Every athlete, when interviewed, said something similar, “All our hard work and perseverance paid off.”  Ryan Lochte, who won numerous medals in swimming, said on the Today Show that he had been in the pool every day for four years.

Although none of us are Olympic athletes, in Hebrews 12:1 God calls us to run the individual “races” that He has planned for us…….and not just run them, but run them with perseverance.  The Christian life, our “race,” is to be pursued and trained for, just as an Olympic athlete pursues and trains for a medal. And when the going gets tough,  we shouldn’t quit; we are to look to Jesus as our model.

We are blessed to have such a wonderful support system here at North Wilkesboro Presbyterian Church. When you feel like giving up your “race,” there is always someone to give you love and encouragement to keep going.

 We must remember that the Christian life is one of endurance; this race is a 26.2 mile marathon not the 100 meter sprint!

Friday Reflection – Our Summer Garden

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Jun 222012
 

Summer arrived this week…and so did a lovely reflection by Caroline Czerkawski!  Our thanks to Caroline for providing us with the opportunity to pause amid our busy schedules and ponder the workings of the Master Gardener.

Our Summer Garden
By Caroline Czkerawski

“Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how….”   Mark 4:27

My favorite part of summer vegetable gardening is just beginning. When I get home from work in the evening, I go out to our backyard garden and see what is ready to be picked.  I love to pick up the long, leafy squash and zucchini tendrils and see what is hiding underneath. The squash are fairly easy to spot, but the zucchini are  more difficult because the dark green color blends in with the earth.

My husband, Drew, always plants the garden and tends it…..watering it frequently, adding organic fertilizer, weeding it and tying up the growing plants, then I come along and harvest it. We know from studying science that a combination of sun and moisture causes the plants to grow and seeds to germinate…. a sort of “internal combustion.”

But what about our own “internal combustion?” What causes our faith to grow and develop? 

Jesus used “The Parable of the Growing Seed” in Mark 4:26-29 to explain to His disciples how faith grows. God’s deep and abiding love for us is the catalyst; He is our “master gardener.”

Throughout our lives, He is carefully tending us….watering us, weeding, adding “fertilizer,” giving us adequate sunlight, and occasionally “tying us up.” Our faith begins as a tiny seed and grows and changes throughout our lives, because of God’s patient nurturing.

His hope is that one day we will be ready to “harvest”; we will become “spiritually mature,” with His love and teaching as our guiding principles.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’m still in the “weeding and pruning” stage; it will be a long, long time before I’m ready to “harvest”!

Hope you enjoy your summer garden!

Friday Reflections – The Gift of Transformation

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Apr 272012
 
The Gift of Transformation
by Jackie Hall, Fill the Ark Coordinator

 

Women are the principle farmers in developing countries.  Heifer International’s Women in Livestock Development (WILD) projects are specifically targeted to address the issue of gender inequity.  Their already difficult work to end hunger and poverty is all but impossible wherever women stand at a disadvantage.

In the developing world where much of Heifer’s work takes place, women are responsible for producing 80% of the food.  yet, they own less than one percent of the land.  Heifer International’s WILD projects are specifically designed to help women around the world overcome this burden of discrimination.

The lives of women who previously had few resources, little self-esteem, and even less hope are transformed.  The gifts of farm animals and training bring boundless energy, ideas, work and–most of all–change.  The whole family and the community benefit.  It’s a uniquely powerful gesture on behalf of women who are looking for a way outnot a hand out.

When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4: 1-30), Jesus treated her as worthy of attention and her life was transformed.  She became a witness to him that bore much fruit.

In donating money to support WILD, you’ll help women overcome hunger and poverty and move toward self-reliance for themselves and their families.

A gift to Heifer International is truly a gift that keeps on giving!

Friday Reflections – Because She Loves Me

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Apr 202012
 
Because She Loves Me
by Caroline Czerkawski

 

Because she loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue her;  I will protect her, for she acknowledges my name…

Psalm 91:14

I don’t know about you, but I was completely blown away by Youth Sunday on Feburary 12th.  The music and the lyrical dancing were both beautiful and the seniors’ talks were inspirational.  The congregrations at NWPC and Wilkesboro Chapel were both moved by this year’s youth-led worship service.

I think most of us can identify with the passage of scripture on which Youth Sunday was based, Isaiah 43: 1-5.  Most of us, at one time or another, have felt they were “walking through fire” and “passing through rivers” (Is 43:3), and that they were being “consumed,” as Hannah Trawick described.

But God promises that when we’re going through these tumultuous times, He will walk with us.  He doesn’t promise that He will always take our pain away, but He does say in Isaiah 43:5 “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”  He promises to be our partner, no matter what is happening in our lives.

That thought is reiterated in Psalm 91: 14-16.  This passage is particularly comforting and reassuring to me because it’s so personal.  When I read it, I substitute my own name in the first line and then substitute the “he” and “him” for “she” and “her.”  At times, I’ve felt emotional after reading these three verses, especially verse 15…

“She will call upon me and I will answer her; I will be with her in trouble…”

This month, April, we’re celebrating Easter, the time when we remember the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  No “fire or river” we ever encounter could even come close to what Jesus went through during Holy Week.  And just as God walks with us, He was walking with Jesus as He went through His final days.  He didn’t remove Jesus’ pain and suffering, but He helped Him endure, and then He brought Jesus to heaven to be with Him.

Easter is a joyous time as we remember God’s promised and especially Psalm 91:16…

“With long life I will satisfy her and show her my salvation…”

Friday Reflections – Feed My Sheep

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Apr 132012
 

Jackie Hall reflects on how Jesus’ call to “feed my sheep”

is related to the upcoming “Fill the Ark” Heifer International Project.

Thank you, Jackie, for both the insight and challenge to join in this mission project!

 

 

Feed My Sheep
by Jackie Hall, “Fill the Ark” Project Coordinator

While the “alleluias” of Easter still ring in our ears with the promise of new life and new beginnings, it is time for our congregation to turn our thoughts to Jesus’ mandate to “do unto the least of these,” “love your neighbor as yourself,” and “feed my sheep.”  The BIG questions of our faith are, “Exactly how do we do these things?”  “How do we decide as individual Christians and as a church family where to focus our time and energy, especially when there are so many needs clamoring for our attention?”  “Where will our action—or inaction–make a concrete difference?”  One obvious issue is world hunger.  People the world over are suffering from a lack of nutritious food (or any food at all).

The story of Noah’s Ark and God’s rainbow with its promise of dignity and productivity has never been more relevant.  With our congregation’s “Fill the Ark” project, we have the opportunity to offer a new and healthy life filled with anticipation and fruitfulness to a few of the “least of these.”  Our goal is to offer this challenge to all children and adults at NWPC through education and inspiration, helping them to undertand how our monetary gifts to Heifer International can make a real difference.

The saying is, “I may not be able to feed all the hungry children, but I can feed one hungry child.”  Well, with our Fill the Ark project, we will do much better than that!  We will provide many families the chance to create new lives by receiving farm animals and the ability to grow their own food.  They will also receive knowledge and skills in animal care and agriculture.  They will receive seeds and trees which will bring important environmental improvements on their land.

Participants are made aware that they have ownership and a responsibility to make the most of the resource that is given to them by people they have never met who care about their well-being.  When people are poor, they are rarely able to choose anything.  They take whatever comes.  Heifer teaches them they have power over what happens in their lives, that some small resource, provided by a donor is enough for them to start making their own decisions.

Yet the sum of what Heifer provides is more than a list of training and animals.  It is a path to personal and community transformation, to self-reliance.  Neighbors learn to take pride in their accomplishments and in each other’s success.  Our Heifer families will also be given something even more important:  human dignity arising from becoming participants in their own food production and eventually being able to help others – to pass on the gift to another family in need.

Our hope is that we can one day see the triumph of God’s grace over the root causes of the desperation of so many of God’s people and so much of God’s creation:  war and the exploitation and relocation of entire communities due to war; the uncontrolled destruction of the environment, and the destruction of native habitats of endangered wildlife.  Until that day, we do what we can.

God told Noah to build an Ark and to take every kind of animal in it.  Our congregation also has the opportunity to build an Ark of Refuge.  Like Noah, who drew upon his faith and hope, so must all God’s people draw on faith and hope to build a future with no hunger and a healthy environment.

Decades later, when our grandchildren and other future NWPC members ask what we did in 2012 to make the world a better place, we can say, “Our congregation helped fill an ark!”

Friday Reflections – The Power of Vulnerability

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Mar 302012
 

I don’t remember how I first came upon this video of a TED talk by Dr. Brene Brown, but it remains one of my all-time favorites.  Why?  Because I struggle with perfectionism and likewise, accepting my own vulnerability.  But like Dr. Brown, I had a defining moment several years ago (okay…it lasted much, much longer than “a moment“) when I discovered that allowing myself to be vulnerable was crucial… if I was going to continue my journey and not stagnate…if I had any hope to connect in any authentic way with God and my fellow human beings…and if I was ever going to really experience the love and acceptance I so desperately sought.

So, in the absence of anyone else submitting a reflection for today, I thought I’d share this video with you—my friends, my family.  You continue to teach me the value of vulnerability and what is it to truly love one another in Christ.

I thank you whole-heartedly for that.

And I am thankful for God and His love….that both are immeasurable….but most certainly do exist.

I hope you enjoy the video,

ellie

Friday Reflections: Life-Changing Gratitude

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Mar 232012
 

Another one of Ben’s sermons that ranks as a favorite among website visitors….and a personal favorite of many NWPC members as well: 

Life-Changing Gratitude from October 2010 is our reflection for this Friday!


 

Life-Changing Gratitude (Luke 17: 11-19)
by Dr. Ben Trawick

Gilliganʼs Island never made sense to me. As you may recall, it was a sitcom from the late 1960ʼs involving 7 castaways on an uncharted island and their adventures and misadventures trying to return to civilization. They became shipwrecked on the island when the three hour charter tour that they set out on ran into a tropical storm.  Included in the gaggle of misfits were the Skipper of the S.S. Minnow and his trusty first mate, Gilligan; a brilliant high school science teacher who was known as the Professor; a glamorous movie star; a Kansas farm girl; and a millionaire couple, J. Thurston Howell and his wife Eunice, known affectionately as “Lovie.” Throw this unlikely assortment together on an island, and Bang! Instant hilarity ensues.

But as I say, several pieces of the puzzle never fit for me. One–itʼs a three hour tour, so why does the movie star have so many different outfits with her? Did she expect to change evening gowns and heels every fifteen minutes during the course of the boat ride?

Secondly, as has been much remarked by others, why is the professor so brilliant yet so useless? He can inexplicably use bamboo and coconut hulls to recharge the batteries for the radio, yet the radio can only receive and not transmit. None of his brilliant inventions or concoctions can get the group any closer to being rescued. In a parody from the later sitcom Roseanne, the character playing the professor states: “This hole in the boat defies all of my advanced knowledge. To fix it would be impossible…now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go create explosive fillings out of sand.”

But perhaps the biggest mystery to me is the millionaire, J. Thurston Howell. He has trunks and trunks of cold hard cash. And again, like the movie star, why is he hauling footlockers of greenbacks around on a three hour boat ride? Doesn’t the man have an American Express Titanium card? Anyway, he has all of this cash–but no matter how much cash he possesses, on the island, it is useless to him. He might be a millionaire, a billionaire, or a septa-hepta-squillionaire, but the amount of cash he possesses doesn’t do anything, can’t do anything, to change his circumstances. On the island, it might as well be Monopoly money–pretty colored slips of paper with no real value. Now it is this last point that I want to connect to our scripture lesson for this morning–the quantity of something one possesses is irrelevant–what matters is how the something can be employed to make a difference. Mr. Howell is a millionaire, but he’s still a marooned millionaire. And the 9 lepers in our story? Well they must have boatloads of gratitude and footlockers filled with appreciation…but what are they DOING WITH IT? It seemingly makes no difference.

Let me flesh that out a little bit:

But first, we need to set a few pieces of background. Luke tells us that Jesus is traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee. This is to say, he is traveling the border between the Hatfields and the McCoys, because for all kinds of reasons, Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. Go back to the days of King David and King Solomon and they were all one people. But after Solomon’s death, the kingdom split in two, a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom. Seven hundred years before the time of Jesus, the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom, and when the Assyrians conquered a region, they dispersed its inhabitants to the four corners of their empire, and moved other people in. It broke down the culture and the resistance, you see. Instead of a group of people unified by language, by culture, and by faith, you had a mixed, mingled menagerie of people who couldn’t muster the kind of cohesion necessary to revolt. Eventually these peoples intermingled and intermarried. So increasingly over time, the inhabitants of Samaria are viewed by the Jews of the southern kingdom as pagan mongrels–not “our people” at all. To make matters worse, when the Jews of the southern kingdom returned from their own exile in Babylon years later, they appealed to their northern neighbors for help in rebuilding the temple and walls of Jerusalem, the holy city. The Samaritans declined. It wasn’t their holy city. So….instant feud. Jews and Samaritan don’t mix.

That’s the first bit of understanding we need to come to grips with our scripture. Secondly, we need to know a little about leprosy and its social consequences. Leprosy was the term used for any number of skin diseases or ailments. It was viewed as contagious and it was viewed as a mark of spiritual uncleanness. As we read in Leviticus (13: 45-46): “The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.” So on the border of Galilee and Samaria, Jesus encounters a colony of lepers–outcasts from both countries…untouchables. They cry out, from an appropriate distance, “Jesus, master, have mercy on us!” The word of Jesus healing power must have spread. In any event, our scripture begins as a simple healing story. Ten lepers call out to Jesus, he instructs them to go to the priest and show themselves (and in faith or in desperation, they go) and on the way, miracle of miracles, they are made clean. All ten, HEALED, by the grace, mercy, glory and power of God.

Now–pause for one moment and reflect upon what this healing means. It is a complete alteration of their circumstances–once a simple ritual is completed with the priests, the lepers are members of society once more. They can live with spouses and families in the village; hug their children; move freely about the market; no more must they shout unclean, no more must they be called untouchable! As we might imagine, the lepers, all ten of them, have, as I mentioned before, boatloads of gratitude and footlockers filled with appreciation. Ask them to count their blessings and they can count to a million, they can count to a billion, they can count to a septa-hepta- squillion–but the crux of Luke’s story is, they don’t do anything with that. Their circumstances are transformed. Their lives–well no. They were at the center of their own lives before (self-centered) and despite their changed circumstances, they are at the center of their own lives after.

The difference–is in the one leper. The Samaritan. They’re pagan half-breeds, remember? We don’t like them. But the one Samaritan leper responds differently. When he saw that he was healed, he turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet, and he thanked him. To the nine, Jesus is that great guy, that wise doctor who healed them. But the Samaritan, transformed, has moved from self-centered to God centered or Christ-centered. His circumstances are changed and his LIFE is transformed. This is why Jesus says to the Samaritan only, your faith has made you well.  All ten were healed…one was transformed

To read or listen to the rest of the sermon, click here to access the audio and accompanying pdf.

Friday Reflections – Serving God

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Mar 162012
 
Serving God
By Caroline Czerkawski

 

“I am the Lord’s servant”…Luke 1:38

 “Speak for your servant is  listening”…1 Samuel 3:10

 
What does it mean to be the Lord’s servant? Recently I’ve been thinking about this question a lot as I’ve attended Anita Crunk’s Sunday school lessons for the senior highs, on the book and DVD “The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem.” (She is also using the same series for her Faithful Friends Bible study group and for children’s worship.)

As a wife and mother, being a servant is second nature. I feel like I spend the majority of my life looking after someone else. But being a servant in my relationship with God is another matter entirely.

This past Sunday, (Jan 15) Anita’s lesson and the DVD focused on Mary. It’s hard to imagine that Mary was only 13 or 14 years old when she was told by the angel that she would bear Jesus. And yet, she didn’t resist. Her answer was, “I am the Lord’s servant.”  She was willing to give up her “own agenda”, and follow God’s leading, even though she was sure to face ridicule, and possibly even stoning.

Am I that brave? I’m afraid that in my relationship with God, I usually give Him my prayer list, the things I want Him to do for me, then I wait for Him to act. If I’m not answered quickly (or His answer is not what I want), I get impatient and frustrated.  I don’t give Him a chance to direct me; I’m too busy telling Him what to do! It’s as if I want God to serve me, not vice versa.

What I should do is let God lead. I should be more like Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:10. When called by God repeatedly in the night, Samuel answered, “Speak for your servant is listening.” He didn’t try to tell God what to do, he just listened.  But how do I go about doing that?

One thing I could do is find a quiet place where I can go and meet God. For me, that is my kitchen table after everyone has left in the morning.  And then, instead of rushing right into my devotional and prayer list, I should “be still” as in “Be still and know that I am God”…Psalm 46:10. Let God quiet my racing heart and brain, and then come to Him with humility.

What God wants of us, as His servants, can be summed up in Micah 6:8….

“And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

And to walk humbly with your God.”

 

Friday Reflections – A Transformed Life

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Mar 092012
 

Today, we share a link to “A Transformed Life.”  

This is a sermon given by Ben back in October 2010 reflecting on the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19: 1-10).

It has been downloaded more times than any other sermon posted on the NWPC website to date (140 times). 

But more importantly, it serves as a reminder of how the love of Christ can transform us…

and how much we are valued and loved by God…

 

A Transformed Life (Luke 19: 1-10)
by Dr. Ben Trawick

Should you ever set out to tell someone the story of Zacchaeus, you’d better back off and give yourself plenty of room. The story
cannot properly be told, you see, without the use of some pretty EXTRAVAGANT gestures!  Everything about the story of Zacchaeus is larger than life, except for Zacchaeus himself, and he’s so small that even his smallness is a BIG DEAL.

How small is he?

He’s soooo short that when it rains, he’s the last one to know.
He’s soooo short, he can sit on the curb and dangle his legs.
He’s soooo short, he can’t drive a mini-van, he has to drive a mini-minivan!

But the reason Zacchaeus’ stature is of any consequence at all to this story is that Zacchaeus’ small size prevents him, amid the crowds, from seeing who Jesus is.  And he really wants…..needs….to see who Jesus is–in the way that everybody who has ever felt like nobody really needs to see who Jesus is…

To read or listen to the entire sermon, click hereA TRANSFORMED LIFE

 

Friday Reflections – Did You Catch Them All?

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Feb 232012
 

NWPC has been blessed with members willing to share their thoughts about their faith life in our weekly Friday Reflections posts here on the web.  Did you catch them all?  If not…or if you’d like to read any of them again, just click on the link below to access every Friday Reflection we’ve posted so far all on one page!

Friday Reflections Archive

 

Members who haven’t submitted a reflection yet are encouraged to do so!  We’d like to hear from you…and it’s easy!  No need to worry about writing “The Next Great American Novel”….just be willing to share 2 or 3 paragraphs about anything to do with your faith life and submit it to Ellie Elledge via email or in person.

Want to share, but need an idea on what to write about?  Check out the previous Friday Reflection posts…they cover a variety of perspective and topics!