Monday, December 30, 2013

Jesus' Recipe for Popcorn (Part 3)

Jesus has a special unique recipe for POPCORN – and it involves us!


Because we know Jesus is seated in His unique place of absolute divine authority, we can fully trust Him to work on, in, and through each of us, so that we are able to proclaim fully “thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph [as trophies of Christ’s victory], and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God in every place.” 2 CORINTHIANS 2:14

The apostle Paul tells us in a different passage in EPHESIANS 4, how God has been bringing forth His perfect will, since completing His inauguration of the New Covenant in the great work of Jesus’ ascension:

EPHESIANS 4: Yet grace (God’s unmerited favor) was given to each of us individually [not indiscriminately, but in different ways] in proportion to the measure of Christ’s [rich and bounteous] gift.

Therefore it is said, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive [He led a train of vanquished foes] and He bestowed gifts on humanity.

In his very first sermon, on the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem, at the Feast of Pentecost (just 10 days after Jesus’ ascension, as prophesied in the Old Testament and by Jesus Himself), Peter confirmed this for us:

ACTS 2: 33 Being therefore lifted high by and to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promised [blessing which is the] Holy Spirit, He has made this outpouring which you yourselves both see and hear.

Jesus not only put the devil and all his minions under His feet by His overwhelming triumph, but our Lord also has given to each of His followers His Holy Spirit, to fill us and to gift us as we may have need to accomplish His tasks necessary to bring His Kingdom into the earth.

Even as the devil has been thoroughly defeated, and is only able to mount rearguard actions as his territory is being diminished, we are being transformed from glory to glory, to become more and more like Jesus, through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit within us.            (2 CORINTHIANS 3:16–18, 4:6–7)

God is calling us to fix our eyes on Jesus as He continues and completes that process, so that we are allowing that lifelong transformation to also be the ground of great and mighty deeds, which He has planned for us to walk in each and every day:

EPHESIANS 2: 10 For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His own workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

We are walking our spiritual journeys out daily, by being led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14-16), keeping in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25), and continuously opening ourselves and being filled and re-filled by the Holy Spirit (EPHESIANS 5:18-20).

In so doing, we are empowered and enabled by God in so many ways.

Neil Uniacke
Executive Director

Monday, December 23, 2013

My Christmas Angel

Back in the Spring my husband Steve and I signed up for a European Christmas Market Tour with a tour group based in Canada. The plan was for us to catch a small plane from the Harrisburg Airport and then connect with the rest of the group at the Toronto airport to fly over to Munich, Germany. The dates for the tour were December 9 - 16. This would be our Christmas present to each other. Big vacations are not something we ordinarily do and we are not experienced travelers, having done very little of it in our married life.

The morning of December 9 dawned snowy and cold. The first thing we found out was that our 10:40 am flight to Toronto had been cancelled. The tour leader booked us on a 4:40 pm flight instead. This would make it really tight to make our connecting flight which flew out of Toronto at 7:45, but as long as everything went smoothly we would be able to make it. Of course things did not go smoothly. The flight was delayed and then delayed again. When we finally left Harrisburg it was 6:10 pm. We were losing hope that we would make it on time.

We landed in Toronto at 7:25. We had no idea where we were supposed to go but we "ran" out of the airplane and headed in the only direction there was to go. After "running" for about 5 minutes down a long endless corridor we came to where we had to make a decision whether to go left or right. We asked airport personnel for help and were pointed to a place where we had to declare if we were taking anything out of Canada to Munich. The man behind the counter slowly looked over our documents as we waited impatiently. After a while he looked at the flight we were scheduled to go out on and commented calmly, "This flight is leaving in a few minutes." Duh! We assured him we knew that and asked where the gate was that we needed to board at. He told us to just follow a certain hallway. We began walking as fast as we could and although we thought we were going in the right direction there was always the feeling that we weren't. We felt lost in the huge airport and were desperately afraid we would miss the flight. Suddenly a man appeared ahead of us. I'm sure he had heard us talking and it was obvious that we were flustered and hurried. He asked where we were going and when we told him we needed to catch Flight # 745 to Munich, he said "I know where that is. Follow me." And follow him we did. He walked briskly and we kept up with him. He brought us right to the gate where are tour director was anxiously waiting. All the passengers were boarded and our leader was pleading with the airline to wait for us.

We were so happy and relieved to have made it, that I am not even sure if we thanked our "angel" who guided us to our departure gate. I have no idea who he was, but he was not an airport employee. He was just dressed in casual attire and I believe he was carrying a briefcase. After entering the airplane and settling into our seat just as the door was closed behind us, I wondered if he was an angel sent to guide us.

We had a wonderful time with our tour group enjoying the European Christmas Markets. The Alps were truly magnificent and sometimes we could only gasp at the beauty of them.  God certainly made a beautiful earth for us to enjoy. I am also grateful that he takes care of us by sending "angels" to us when we so desperately need them.

Have a blessed Christmas. Enjoy this brief video of a band playing Christmas carols in the square of Oberammergau, Germany.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


For the last several months I have been feeling "tension" in  my life in several areas. I am not alone in this. I was talking to several friends from high school and they were feeling overwhelmed with full time jobs, family obligations and helping with aging parents. We feel "tension" because we have so many obligations and we do not know how we will have the time to do everything we feel we need to do. Or, how we will have time for our own refreshment.

I also feel "tension" at my job. Because I work in retail, the bottom line is how our sales are doing day in and day out. It becomes easy for me to think I am doing a good job when sales are good, but I can lose sleep when things are not going as well as I would like them to go. I can become obsessed with all of the jobs that need to be done each day.

However, I need to always remember what is really most important at work each day. Yes, the sales and the bottom line are important. But, when I allow that to be more important than the volunteers and the customers, I focus on the wrong thing. I feel a frequent "tension" to make sure I keep my eyes on the best thing and that is loving others. That seems easy to do when I spend time with God each morning. It is another thing when I walk into the door of the store and I come face to face with difficult situations and people that are sometimes hard to love.

And now it is Christmas and the Advent season. Wow, do I feel "tension." The world tells me how to have a "perfect" Christmas by decorating a certain way, baking all the right things and buying the right presents. It all makes me feel like I should not sleep between now and Christmas so I can get all the things done that will make my Christmas perfect.

But, is that what I want my Christmas and my Advent to be about this year? Or, do I want to take time this month to prepare my heart for the greatest gift the world has ever received, a baby come to earth. And so, I have been taking time this short and hectic season to focus on the greatest gift I ever received. I have been trying to spend some time in silence and solitude to listen for the quiet words that God wants to speak into my heart each day. I have been reading a Christmas devotional by Ann Voskamp called "The Greatest Gift." My heart has been touched by God's grace, love, patience and tenderness to me as this book takes us through scriptures to the coming birth of Jesus. What an example Jesus is to me as I remember that He willingly left the splendor of heaven to come to earth--for me.

And so, I will continue to feel "tension" as I walk through my life day by day. It is the "tension" of knowing how I want to live to please the God who loves me, but also knowing that I live in a world full of sin. I will continue to ask questions, and work through this "tension." My desire is to learn to keep my eyes on the things that truly matter for eternity. I will be asked if I am ready for Christmas. I hope my answer will be that I am preparing both my home and my heart for this Christmas season.

Deb Riddell
Closet Manager

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Carrot, An Egg, and a Cup of Coffee

As I reflected on what to share this month for the New Hope Blog I came across this story. I found it applicable to me for this past month has been one of hills and valleys for my family. How interesting it is to see how people respond to the difficult events that come to us in life.

“A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see." "Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hardboiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?"

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. "Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to permit you to see how blessed you really are.

Connie Hanten, BCMCLC
New Hope Christian Life Coach

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jesus' Recipe for Popcorn - Part 2

Jesus has a special unique recipe for POPCORN – and it involves us!


We know from many eyewitness accounts that Jesus the resurrected Theanthropos (God-Man), appeared for 40 days after He rose from the grave.

During this brief time period, He also interacted with many people in the visible, physical realm of ongoing historical human existence, so that He could strengthen, encourage, and through the Holy Spirit (LUKE 24:45, ACTS1:1-11) to finish His teaching and training of His first disciples.

This post-resurrection period culminated in Jesus’ physical ascent to heaven, even while these disciples watched Him from the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. The amazing ascension event was followed up immediately, with an incredible angelic promise verbalized to the disciples who had been watching Jesus depart, concerning His visible and physical return in the same way to that same place!

In EPHESIANS 4:8 -10, Paul describes Jesus’ ascension as a visible sign to us, of His absolute spiritual victory over every false authority on earth (the cosmos world system of humanity) and under the earth (the dark demonic network of invisible powers, principalities, world rulers of darkness, and spiritual powers of evil). 

EPHESIANS 4:10 He Who descended is the [very] same as He Who also has ascended high above all the heavens, that He [His presence] might fill all things (the whole universe, from the lowest to the highest).

In the full exaltation of His ascension back into the Father’s Presence, Jesus fully manifested His triumph over all opposition, both natural and supernatural, completing His mission as the ultimate overcomer.

Jesus passed not only above all lower realms, both physical and spiritual, while destroying the works of the devil in each sphere, but concluded His sojourn on the earth, positioned with His Father together at the maximal spiritual pinnacle, highest over all the created universe and above ALL the heavens for eternity.

Only the Divine Person Jesus, God the Son and Son of Man, could be exalted alongside His Father God, above all the heavens forever!
Only the infinite Lord of All, Jesus Christ, could then proceed to fill all in all, which literally means to make complete in every particular, to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally, to flood, to diffuse throughout, to pervade, to take possession of and to ultimately control the whole universe, so that from lowest to highest realms might be filled entirely with His boundless Presence! 
As the apostle Paul states unequivocally in EPHESIANS 1:21-23, when Jesus ascended to His throne, He became positioned as the God-Man reigning absolutely over His new creation:

Far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named [above every title that can be conferred], not only in this age and in this world, but also in the age and the world which are to come.

The Father has put all things under His feet and appointed Him the universal and supreme Head of the church [a headship exercised throughout the church],  Which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all [for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and Who fills everything everywhere with Himself].

Neil Uniacke
Executive Director

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanksgiving "vignettes"

It’s that wonderful time of the year again…the time we call Thanksgiving. How thankful have you been in the past year? I want to share a few short Thanksgiving “vignettes” with you that call us to reflect on how thankful we really are.
Vignette #1: Dr. H.A. Ironside, a well-known Presbyterian minister from Philadelphia in the early 1900s, once walked into a crowded restaurant for lunch. Just as he was beginning his meal, a man approached Ironside and asked if he could join him at his table. Pastor Ironside invited the man to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked: “Do you have a headache?” “No, I don’t,” replied Ironside. The other man asked, “Well then, is something wrong with your food?” Ironside replied, “I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat. “

Ironside’s guest then said, “Oh, so you’re one of those guys, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks to anyone. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I’ve become successful on my own energy and intelligence. I don’t have to give thanks to anyone when I eat. I just start right in!”

To which the pastor replied: “Yeah, that’s just like my dog at home. That’s what he does, too!”

Vignette #2: Many of us have heard of Captain Miles Standish, who came with the Pilgrims in 1620 to Massachusetts. We know the story; that first winter many of their group died. Standish’s wife, Rose, was seriously ill and was confined to the Mayflower, which was anchored in the harbor. Rose’s chills would turn to uncontrollable shaking and there were no medicines to cure her. By spring of 1621, only 5 wives remained of the 18 who had come to Plymouth. Rose was not among them.

Thanksgiving? What was that? The golden dreams of a new world that Standish and Rose had cherished together had evaporated into hollow hopes. And yet Captain Standish joined other bereaved Pilgrims in that first Thanksgiving celebration.

The real test of thankfulness is whether we can give thanks from the heart for what we do have, despite the wounds and pain of yesterday’s struggles. Ours in not some fair-weather faith, but a resilient trust in the midst of pain and struggle. The Pilgrims lived close to the edge of survival. Perhaps that is why they were so thankful.

Vignette #3: During the Great Depression of the 1930s, when it was at its worst, one day a group of men was sitting together discussing the sad state of affairs. One of them was a Methodist minister and college professor, William Stidger. The conversation concerned the decline in commerce and grew more dismal at every moment. But as Thanksgiving Day was near, another minister chimed in: “I have to preach on Thanksgiving Day. I want to say something affirmative, but how can I do that in such a period of depression and gloom like this?”

Pastor Stidger began to think of the blessings HE had enjoyed in life, and the things for which he was truly thankful. He remembered one of his teachers from school whom he hadn’t heard from or contacted in many years. Although it was years ago, he still remembered how she had gone out of her way to instill a love of poetry and literature in him, and Stidger had loved poetry and literature ever after that. So he wrote a letter to this now quite elderly woman. This is the reply she sent him. Barely legible because of her trembling hands, it began: “My dear Willie.” He was thrilled to read that. Stidger was over 50 years of age, balding, and a bit of a “pudgie” seminary professor, and he didn’t think there was anyone left in the world to call him “Willie.” Here is some of what Stidger’s school teacher wrote:

My dear Willie, I cannot tell you how much your note meant to me. I am now in my 80s, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely, and like the last leaf of autumn, lingering behind.

You will be interested to know that I taught school for 50 years and yours is the first note of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a blustery, cold morning and it cheered me as nothing has in many years.

Stidger was not a sentimental man, but he wept over that note. There were numerous other notes he wrote during the next weeks, thanking people who’d had a vital part in shaping his life.

Who do you need to thank today?

Submitted by Tom Horst, MA MFT
Marriage and Family Therapist

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Special Blessing

On Friday evening, November 1, 2013, I had the honor of being the invited guest speaker for a Pastor Appreciation Service. The two pastors (a married couple) were my former pastors. I have known them for many years. I was asked to share my testimony and how these two pastors have influenced my life. I talked about how I have "[followed their] example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1).

I shared about how, through God's help and the help of others like these two individuals, I embarked on a journey from a young single parent on welfare to go on and earn my doctorate in social work. As I shared with those in attendance, I could certainly testify to the truth that "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

I think I was blessed most of all when one of the pastors gave the invitation to accept Jesus Christ following my testimony. A teenage girl came forward. I was very overwhelmed with joy. I went to be a blessing to the pastors by sharing how they had impacted my life. A young woman was blessed as she decided to give her heart to Jesus (I trust that the other people there received a blessing as well). And I was truly blessed by pouring out what the Holy Spirit had given me to impart.

After I ended my story, I reminded everyone that my story is not over. I know this because in John 15:16 it says, "I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit..." I will continue to seek the Lord's guidance and strength so that I can continue to bear the fruit that he has left for me. Will you do the same?

Ann L. Gantt, Ph.D., LCSW
New Hope Counselor

Monday, November 4, 2013


Fall is a beautiful time of year. The trees change their color, the air is crisp and clean, and the squirrels scamper about to collect food for the winter. I was recently reminded during my devotions one morning that we don't prepare for the "winters" of our life. Winter in our life can be the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of our home or any other type of loss. So how do we survive our "winters"?

In order to survive we often have to come up with a "new normal" and it isn't easy to make changes or accept change. With the death of my father this year it has brought with it the beginning of a lot of "firsts" without him: birthdays, Sunday lunches, and soon we will experience Thanksgiving and Christmas without Dad. When my mother died 37 years ago my siblings and I had to bond together with our dad in order to survive and now we have to move forward once again.

So how do we get through all of our roller coaster emotions? My dad's favorite verse was Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." At first it is hard to imagine any good coming from difficult times; however, we don't know the whole story--only God does. All we see is a little sliver.

So how do we survive? We have two choices every day. Either we pull the covers up over our heads and don't deal with the situation or we face the situation head on and turn it into a positive. This is not always an easy task but life isn't easy. How we choose to deal with our "winters" determines who we will become through Christ.

Elaine Campbell, MA, MHC

Monday, October 28, 2013

Jesus' Recipe For Popcorn - Part 1

Jesus has a special unique recipe for POPCORN – and it involves us!


Jesus has a deep desire – to set us free from the constraints of our own pasts, to transform us into His own image, both individually and corporately, and to make us more usable for His Kingdom purposes while taking us forward in fulfilling our true eternal destinies.

In order to do this, He has poured out His own life, and in the end every drop of His blood, to perfectly fulfill all the requirements of righteousness on our behalf, and to ransom us completely.
Jesus initiated this pouring out of His life at His incarnation, literally fulfilling the eternal decrees of the Triune Godhead, by leaving behind His pre-incarnate existence as God the Son, and entering into physical reality and human history, as the divine Son of Man, to be birthed and live a fully human existence like each one of us! 

John’s Gospel so eloquently describes this ultimate spiritual reality for us in his 1st chapter. Capping that beginning section of the chapter, John tells us:

JOHN 1: 16 For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift.17 For while the Law was given through Moses, grace (unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual blessing) and truth came through Jesus Christ.18 No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known].

Jesus’ perfect, pure, sinless life on the earth, His completed work on the cross, His glorious resurrection victory over death, and His ascendant supremacy to His eternally exalted position at the right hand of His Father, are the fountain of all supernatural blessings, the only sure foundation for our salvation, His sanctifying graces to us, and His power given to us for His eternal purposes in and through us.

Out of this same sure foundation, we receive the ongoing present-day work of His continued heavenly intercession for each of us, as well as His release of all the necessary enablement and empowerment for any of us to walk with Him each day in triumph.
Neil Uniacke
Executive Director

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Cherished Gift

Have you ever received a gift from someone after they were long gone?

When we were cleaning out my parents house after my dad died, my sister found a diary that my mom had kept for the first half of the year of 1992. Recently, she gave it to me to read. My mother died in 2006 and we had not known that she had ever kept a diary. As I began to read through it, I was at first swept with a feeling of sadness, not because of anything my mother had written, but because I realized it was just a mere two years before she was struck with that awful stroke that changed the rest of her life. She was so active and busy and each day was filled with ordinary things that she would have never guessed she would soon be unable to do. As I continued to read, my emotion changed from sadness to thankfulness. What a blessing it is to have this memory of my 66-year old mother instead of the difficult last 12 years of her life that usually come to my mind. This was truly a gift from her  that I received seven years after she died.  It has brought back wonderful memories of a time when she was uninhibited by the physical and mental obstacles that took over her life far too early.

Her first entry of the year reads:

January 1, 1992 Wednesday. The Lord privileged us to greet another year, asleep of course, but that's a blessing too when I sometimes have near sleepless nights. We enjoyed the day quietly at home, watched most of the rose parade on TV from 11 to 1, and ate pork and sauerkraut for dinner. Delicious! The weather was balmy enough in the afternoon for us to take a hike on the boardwalk. (She refers to the wooden steps going down to the park area on their property as the "boardwalk")
On her birthday she writes:

February 3, 1992 Monday. The Lord gave me still another birthday, and it was a good day. I had several phone calls and an invitation to supper at the Clymers (my sister’s family). I was working on the comforter most of the day. We enjoyed a good supper and then played several rounds of Rook. It was a very enjoyable evening!  Soon after we got home, Glen (my brother) called and we talked a long time. It is such a blessing to have a telephone.
And on my parents wedding anniversary she journals:

March 11, 1992 Wednesday. This is our 44th wedding anniversary. That's a milestone we didn't even think about 44 years ago. Although neither of us have had all our expectations met, they have been good years and we thank God for them and for each other.
The end of April and early May she and my Dad took a trip to Florida. I’m pretty sure this is the last time that my parents made this trip by car to visit my brother and his family:

April 30 - May 7, 1992We drove to Florida. It was a very good trip. Enjoyed our time with Glen's family, met an interesting couple from Manitoba, Canada, who also stayed at Weaver Villa, and spent several hours with Duane (my nephew) and the V.S. Unit at John's Island.
Several days later she ends with:

May 12, 1992 Tuesday. I'm tired writing in this Diary now, so I'll just be sporadic for awhile. Too much work piling up on me.
 And that is pretty much it.  Except for a few random entries in the next couple months, Mom stopped writing in her diary. Two short years later, her life as she was used to it ended. Although she made some recovery from her stroke, never again could she walk and talk easily or do other activities that she had enjoyed doing with ease. I am grateful for this little glimpse into Mother's world (pre-stroke) and I love the memory that it brings back of days long forgotten.

I like to think of the Bible as a gift as well. Words that were written so long ago, speak to us today. The words often meet a special need in our life just when we need it most.  I have been reading through the Bible this year. Through the first part of the Old Testament I loved the stories about long ago. When I reached Psalms and Proverbs, a song or proverb often encouraged me and I would ponder on it throughout my day. As I move into the New Testament, I know that I will read about the biggest gift of all that God gave to us—His Son and how Jesus gave us the gift of salvation through his death on the cross. If not for the written word how would we know any of this?
I am thankful that my mother and God both left me “diaries” to read.

Mary Lehman

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Wake-Up Call

Philippians 4:6,7 tells us "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." I know these verses and say I believe them, but I have been worrying over details at work. The Community Closet Thrift Store is part of the Best Kept Secrets Tour in Lancaster County. We need to open early and stay open late. We have no idea how many extra customers we will get and I was not sure we had enough help for the first couple of days. I was worrying.

I woke up the first day of the tour going over those details I still had to finish. Then the rain came--HARD. I got a call from one volunteer that she would be late because the roads were flooded. I worried more.

Then, my son called, "Mom, I'm okay. I was in an accident, but I am okay." After I finally figured out where he was, I put up a sign that said we would open the store late and went to pick him up. On the way, I had to remind myself that the four students who were in the car are way more important than the store opening on time, or than being on a tour.

When I got to the house where the kids had made their phone calls from, there was an ambulance in the driveway with four cold and shaken up students. I was able to take my son home. Daniel already had a scheduled doctor's appointment for that afternoon. God knew he would need to be seen.

As we drove home, I found out the car had flipped and they ended up in a stream. With all of the rain, the driver had lost control on a wet spot. They had to break a window to get out of the car, but they were all okay. They had all had their seat belts on. So, why do I worry about those day to day details? Why don't I let God's peace guard my heart and mind? I trust so little sometimes.

After I got back to the store, the details of the tour no longer overwhelmed me. My son and his friends were all okay. I don't always like how the "wake-up" calls come, but I hope I hear God's voice when He does try to remind me what is important and what is not. Our God is indeed a patient God when we mess up. He lovingly calls us to admit our shortcoming and ask for His forgiveness. He forgives me and tells me He loves me. God's love for me is so very patient. How blessed I am.

Deb Riddell
Closet Manager

Monday, September 30, 2013

Life Purpose

     Have you ever seen the movie “Facing the Giants”? Throughout this movie, numerous life obstacles are presented to Grant Taylor and his wife. He owns a car that constantly dies on him, they live in a house that has numerous problems to be fixed, and he does not make enough money on his job. As if that were not enough to overwhelm them, Grant and his wife have desired to have children. Their attempts for four years have been unproductive. Needless to say, life is not going well for them. Does this sound familiar? I know that a few of these situations have been the events within my life from time to time.  But in the mist of it all, God has a purpose and a plan. 
     Let me share a scene from this movie that had a major impact on me. Coach Grant Taylor has his football team on the field, practicing drills. His lead player, Brock, has a negative attitude that is affecting the whole team. The coach is addressing this issue and has just said, “Attitudes are the aroma of your life.” He calls out Brock, (who is displaying a bad attitude), to do the death crawl. With another player on his back, he is asked to crawl as far as he can.  Coach Taylor blindfolds Brock so that he does not give in at a point in which he feels that he has done well enough. He wants to have Brock give him his best. As Brock crawls the coach is encouraging him all the way. He directs him, and consistently tells him not to quit. When the weight is starting to cause Brock pain, the coach tells him to keep going. Brock yells, “it hurts, it’s too hard”, but the coach yells back, “keep on going, don’t quit, 10 more steps, you can do this. Give me your very best!”  Brock continues on and then collapses on the field. The coach takes off the blindfold and tells Brock to look up; he is in the end zone.
      Coach Taylor tells Brock that he is his most influential player on the team and if he walks around defeated, so will they. He points out the fact that he just crawled from one end zone to the other with a 140 pound man on his arms. Then he says “God has gifted you with the ability of leadership- don’t waste it.” 
      Maybe you are like Brock, with a bad attitude that is becoming a roadblock to your potential. Maybe those attitudes are affecting the power of your influence on everyone around you, your family, your co-workers, your friends. Maybe you are feeling like the weight of life is just like that player on Brock’s back, too much to bear.
      You see, I passionately believe that God has gifted every one of us with abilities, to lead, to comfort, to inspire, to create, and to share. How has He gifted you and are you like Brock, just wasting that ability?
       As a Christian Life Coach, I help clients to step into their destiny and discover all that God has created them to be.  I am here to cheer you on and speak into your life, “Don’t quit. Give your very best, keep going, you can do this.”   

Connie Hanten, BCMCLC

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Part 6: Growing in Jesus' Love Means Going Global

The love of God is universal!

God loves everything and everyone He has created.

What He does not love is the horrible distortions and destruction, brought to pass by selfishness on the part of both spiritual entities and His human children, since His perfect universe exploded forth, originally birthed by and in His limitless love!

Looking honestly at the full “breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of God, we can easily see that, by our nature and through our experiences, we obviously fall far short of the kind and scope of His inimitable and humanly unattainable love.

In other words, in our thoughts, words, and deeds, we each and all fall far short of this universal love God has toward His entire creation.

Our learning curve must be fully lifelong, to move toward loving like Jesus. As we have already noted, this special agape love of God begins to grow in us, as we open up to receive it from Him. As we begin to be filled with Jesus’ light and love, we are also being transformed to share the love with other people in our lives.

Growing in love, we learn to include many different members among our local gatherings of believers, as fellow travelers through this life, creating true caring communities that share Jesus’ love with all those around us.

We also learn to love other like-minded believers who may be scattered abroad, even across the entire earth. These followers of Jesus are like us in both our doctrinal outlook and the practice of our faith, so that we have a similar church culture, background, and perspective on how to live out what Jesus and the Scriptures teach.

God has many higher levels of love for us to learn and grow in, as expressed in what has been called His “High Priestly Prayer” recorded for us as chapter 17 of the Gospel of John. This was the culmination of that portentous gathering of the apostles and disciples for the Last Supper with Jesus.

Although that evening is recorded in all 4 Gospels, John gives much greater detail concerning the teachings, revelations, prophetic insights, and commands of Jesus given at that time to His followers.

It is His High Priestly Prayer which focuses His heartfelt desires for the protection, proclamation, and propagation of His people, both at that time and into the distant future.

In this unique prayer to His heavenly Father, Jesus refers to the multi-generational transmission of His message and His will for His followers in all times and in all places, yet to be unfolded:

JOHN 17:20 For these alone I do not pray [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but for all those who will ever come to believe in (trust in, cling to, rely on) Me through their word and teaching, 21That they all may be one, [just] as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that You have sent Me.

Each of us, and every believer who has existed since this prayer was spoken by Jesus, is included in the words He proclaimed that night!

Everyone who names the Name of Jesus as their Lord, does so based on the fact that they have heard of Him, through their words and teachings that are recorded in the Bible.

These are His dedicated followers of whom He speaks, by virtue of the fact that they trust in, cling to, and rely on Jesus. It is these disciples who Jesus desires to become one, united not only in purpose but in His love.

We know that the unity spoken of by Jesus in His prayer, must be completely enveloped in His divine love, not simply holding to certain doctrines and practices. As recorded in John’s Gospel, Jesus had already shared in many ways that very evening, about receiving His love, flowing in His love, and living out His love for others in all that we do.

Paul underscores Jesus’ stated views that unity must be endued and imbued with the divine love of God, when he writes to the Galatians, in chapter 5:6, where we are told “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.”

John, Jesus’ beloved disciple, also confirms that everything done by believers must be done in love, when he writes in 1 John 4:8, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

If we are each growing in love, and if our local fellowships are growing in love toward greater unity with all other dedicated followers of Jesus, both within our localities, our areas, our regions, our nations, and with all the people of Jesus throughout the world, we are moving closer to what Jesus prayed for: true unity around Him in His love!

As we are drawn by the Spirit of God into this kind of loving unity, we somehow supernaturally become more completely connected to the union of our Father God, and His only begotten God the Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Our loving unity becomes a stronger and more visible reflection of the Oneness of the Persons of the Triune Godhead. This spiritually rooted and grounded unity makes the love of God in sending His Son, Jesus, into the earth increasingly able to be received and believed by many more people.

As the people of this world see God’s divine love shared among His children, overcoming all human divisiveness and selfishness, they will begin to be drawn to Him in powerful ways.

When many who trust Jesus for their salvation, somehow grow to the point, that they are able to place the Person of Jesus and His work of redemption above being right about lesser aspects of doctrine, they will see Jesus lifted up from the earth by this shared love, and will come to the greatest love of all.

This kind of love cannot stop there. We are called to rise up with Jesus, to love all people everywhere, whether His followers or not.

This does not mean that we must agree with them or step away at all from our faith and what Jesus and the Bible teach. It simply means that we love them no matter what they believe or who they are. Our love from Jesus, is never to be diminished by anything about the other person, or it is not God’s supernatural agape love.

Any limitations we place on love, based on any criteria, causes it to be less than the love of Jesus. We know that to go beyond our limitations is to walk by faith and to receive His love when we just don’t have or just can’t do it!

This also includes loving His created order, His whole world in which we live. If we come to realize that we are called to doing all that we do with love, we will treat everything: animal, vegetable, or mineral with thanksgiving to our God, and with care and concern.

This caring way with all things, is an extension of the love God has placed within us, to return His love for us back to Him, but also to encompass all that He has made and all that He does.

The ultimate reality of love, is that God is so good and so worthy of our love, that He also teaches us to love and gives us the enabling grace to begin to love all the people and all the things He has made and loves continually!

Neil Uniacke
Executive Director

Monday, September 16, 2013

Supporting Those With Mental Illness

Recently, I shared an address with a group of people dedicated to addressing the mental health needs of their faith communities. What follows is part of that address:

So, how may we support people who are experiencing mental illness? I want to use three words as a framework for our thinking about this question:

1) Compassion - defined as "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it." That word "together" is so important, for it speaks of the need to put action together with our sympathy.

I work with people all the time with various types of mental health issues and what I hear consistently from them is: "We just want to be treated like full people." Somehow, there is a tendency to marginalize people with mental illness, to treat them like they are less than we are, like they are second-class citizens, like maybe they don't have feelings like we do.

As I look at the example of Jesus in the gospels, I see someone who had compassion. "When he saw the crowds he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matt.9:36) Jesus' compassion moved him to touch people, even the lepers, to listen to them, to ask them questions, to take time with them, to meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

It's important, if we're going to be compassionate people, to be there for people with mental illness in their time of grief. People who have mental illnesses experience loss in their lives: loss of significance, loss of relationships, maybe loss of job, loss of health and sense of wellbeing, perhaps loss of children (if they are unable to perform their duties as parents), loss of family (if they have to be hospitalized). Are we there for them in their grief? Or do we minimize their loss?

Another important side of compassion is to allow people to ask questions without thinking we must give answers. I recall as a pastor, journeying with people through their grief, sometimes the grieving person would ask questions like: "Where is God in all of this?" or, "Does God really care about me?" or, perhaps make a statement like: "I feel God is far away...I'm not sure he even knows what I'm going through." I learned that such questions are a part of the grief process...they are expressions of the person's pain. It is good to allow them to express their pain, suffering and loss, without feeling the need to answer those questions at the moment, or fill in some cliche or Scripture verse.

All one needs to say in such a time is perhaps: "I am so sorry for your loss...for what you're going through right now. I want you to know that I am here for you and your family. What could I do right now that would be helpful?"

Henri Nouwen wrote about the healing power of listening:

To enter into solidarity with a suffering person does not mean that we have to talk with that person about our own suffering. Speaking about our own pain is seldom helpful for someone who is in pain. A wounded healer is someone who can listen to a person in pain without having to speak about his or her own wounds. When we have lived through a painful depression, we can listen with great attentiveness and love to a depressed friend without mentioning our experience. Mostly it is better not to direct a suffering person's attention to ourselves. We have to trust that our own bandaged wounds will allow us to listen to others with our whole beings. That is healing.

2) Education - another way to support persons with mental illness is to do what we can to educate ourselves on the particular condition the person is struggling with. Now even as I say this, I realize someone may take this to mean that I should educate myself so that I can tell the person what they should do, or what meds they should take, or some particular treatment option. No, that is not what I'm talking about!

I am talking about becoming informed about the illness, so that I don't have to ask the person a lot of questions, and so that I can avoid perhaps doing or saying things that will increase the person's burden rather than lighten it.

I discovered for myself, after my cousin's wife (and I might say, this cousin and his wife, and my wife and I, were very close, and had become dear friends over the last 10 years) took her life 2 years ago after descending into a profound depression, that I didn't understand depression as I thought I did. That's when I bought the book by William Styron, Darkness Visible (Styron’s memoir of his own journey through clinical depression) and re-read A Grace Disguised, by Jerry Sittser, (an excellent book on grief) because I wanted to know more about what depression actually does to a person.

And once we have exercised compassion toward a person with mental illness, and journeyed with them for a time, then we can ask some questions; gently probing questions that will help the person share what they are feeling, so we can better understand their journey. Questions like:

ñ  Tell me how you are feeling today

ñ  What can I do that would be most helpful today?

ñ  What is your greatest struggle right now?

ñ  Do you mind me asking some questions?

ñ  Can you tell me your deepest fear right now?

Other ways we can educate ourselves might be to attend a seminar on a given mental health issue or condition. Reading is key. There are many good books which will inform us and give us helpful insights into what our family member, friend, etc. is experiencing.

3) Presence - this is a gift to people who are struggling with mental illness. The gift of physically being there, often in quietness, saying little. I think of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible, and all the suffering he experienced...we know about that. And then his 3 friends decided to go and comfort Job.

When Job's 3 friends...heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for 7 days and 7 nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

What a gift to Job! The gift of physical presence. No words! Just being there! Job felt so alone in his distress...but then his friends came. People who suffer from mental illness often feel so alone. Where is everyone? All my friends? Where are they? People often stay away because we don't know what to say. We don't have to say anything! Just being there is so people don't have to be alone.

You see, it was when Job's friends began to speak that their comfort of Job ended. They added more suffering and misery to their friend. "It's your fault, Job! You sinned. Confess your sins to God and you will be delivered." Wow! That only added more pain to Job's already pain-wracked body and mind.

Can we be comfortable with silence? For those of us who are used to talking a lot, silence can be uncomfortable. We think we must say something to fill up the space. But for the person with a clouded, troubled mind, being with someone who is just there, filling up the lonely space, silence can be healing.

We might say to our friend, spouse, or family member: "I'm here with you, for you. I'm comfortable with silence...if you want to speak, I'm here to listen. If you want me to speak, tell me what would be most helpful. This is about what is helpful for you. That's why I'm here."

If appropriate, touch is also helpful. Touch, without words, can be very healing. Holding the person's hand, giving a hug, a hand on the shoulder. Again, whatever is helpful to the person I am with. This is not about me doing what I think is helpful. What is helpful to my friend? My child? My spouse?

For my child, holding them close when they are suffering; for my husband, my wife, holding them when they feel broken and alone...these actions can be very healing and comforting. Let us not deny our loved one the gift of touch when they are feeling alone and vulnerable. Jesus reached out and touched the leper in Matthew 8. Touch communicates love and compassion. It communicates acceptance...that you are not untouchable...but a person.

Written by Tom Horst, MA
Marriage and Family Therapist