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