Have you been wanting to make a difference?
Mentors from Woodland work with kids each week at Larkspur Elementary. It takes just one hour a week to mentor a child that needs your attention, love, and prayer. Would you consider donating your time this semester to be the presence of Christ to a child that needs you?
- substitute mentors
- Prayer Partners
Training is provided, background checks required.
If you are interested, please join us in our Mentor Appreciation Luncheon.
By Sandra Peters
Hallelujah, it’s Christmas Eve and we are celebrating the Present of presents! King of kings! Lord of lords!
Yes! Jesus Christ!! The ultimate Present from God!!! Thanks be to God!!!!
Think about all that has happened in 2016. God through His Beloved Son Jesus has granted us gifts of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love through our church family, our families, a multitude of caring friends, and people we do not even know. We see His Presence everywhere we look
Today our church family joins Christians across the globe, whether in church or at home, to give thanks for God’s Present of Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus, in turn, gives us His presents of Hope, Joy, Peace and Love!
By Randy Edwards
Believing in Jesus is the most counter-cultural thing you and I will ever do.
While the world chases down instant gratification,
demands quick solutions,
politicizes cut and dry platforms,
preaches morality in black and white sound-bytes,
and invests itself in endless Facebook debates,
we as believers are called to get quiet,
pray without ceasing,
Really? Well, isn’t that lame and lazy?
Just sit around and do nothing, you say?
Resting need not be confused with accomplishing nothing. It is not a substitute for productive work, nor does it connote a couch potato. Resting is not the opposite of labor. In fact, one can rest and strive all in the same motion. Rest need not infer weakness, passivity, spectatorism, acquiescence, blind faith, or shifting one’s brain into idle.
The way I read the Bible, I believe resting means actively “faithing” God’s eternal process, which, most of the time is not the common habit of humanity (or, at least, it certainly does not come naturally for me). Our ways and our thoughts demand the quick fixes, clichéd one-liners, glib come-backs, fact-checked truths, and the meaning of life reduced to the 140 characters of a tweet. Keep it simple, we say.
Alas, if we demand that our belief system be utterly simple, totally obvious, and always clear, then that’s a pretty good sign we have created a religion god in our own image. Having tried to eliminate the mystery from our belief system, we have thereby lost the very essence of belief itself. Knowing and believing are not synonyms. They are, in fact, opposites.
A pastor I served with thirty years ago would often say from the pulpit, “I know that I know that I know that I know.” And the hyped-up congregation would pronounce a hearty, “Amen.” Sitting high and lifted up on the chancel near said proclaimer, I kept thinking to myself, “If you’re so sure you know, then why did you have to say it four times? Who are you trying to convince, us or yourself?”
If we know something, where is our need for faith? We know that 2 + 2 = 4. That fact requires not one modicum of faith in order to apply it. But to believe God even when we don’t feel God’s presence, can’t see the whole picture, or strongly disagree with a fellow believer on an important issue, now that is function of faith. And those faith functions are best exercised, not in isolation, but in community with one another.
“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one hope for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”
Rest means hoping rather than knowing.
Rest means trusting when we do not see.
Rest means accepting another when we cannot concur with his opinion.
Rest means “faithing” rather than proving.
Rest means relationship even when there is disagreement.
Rest means taking a deep breath and trusting God implicitly.
Rest means relaxing our fingers and dropping our judgment stones … all of them … in the dirt.
Rest means unclenching our fists to extends hands of friendship.
Rest means allowing the chasm between us to become holy ground.
Rest produces human compassion rather than self-righteous judgment.
Rest means finding a place peace, and celebrating it with everyone
within the reach of a warm and lengthy hug.
By Barbara Higdon
“All day I’ve faced a barren waste/Without a taste of water,” sang the Sons of the Pioneers. “Old Dan and I with throats burnt dry/And souls that cry for water. Cool, clear water.”
Those of us who live in South Texas know well the thirst-provoking landscape that Bob Nolan’s lyrics describe. The psalmist who wrote today’s reading understood that thirst and the deeper thirst of the soul when he wrote, “I seek you, my soul thirsts for you…in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
Mirages beckon, but they fail to deliver. We long for rest, but continue to seek false promises of relief.
“Keep a-movin‘ Dan, don’t you listen to him, Dan/He’s a devil, not a man, and he spreads the burning sand with water.”
How often the false relief promised by a shimmering pool of water on the sand distracts us. We rush towards mirages in hope that we’ll find relief, only to be disappointed. Like the desert dwellers of old, we stumble about dismayed that we’ve been beguiled by lies again.
At the well, Jesus promised the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14).
What a promise.
May our hope rest upon the Keeper of the well that never runs dry. May we drink deeply from the spring of water that gushes up to eternal life.
Father, forgive us when we are sometimes distracted by the sparkling promises of the world. Help us gratefully drink the living water you offer to satisfy our souls and quench the thirst within us. Amen.
By Erica Hanchey
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 NIV
Isaiah’s words to Ahaz, King of Judah, prophesy the conception and birth of Immanuel, God with us, as a sign of Hope for the king and his kingdom. Long before the birth of Jesus, this Hope was upon the Earth. God brought Hope through a prophet to a king and a kingdom. Through a gentle, virgin mother, God made Isaiah’s prophecy a reality. He brought Hope to Mary and to Joseph, even when they doubted or feared.
As a mother, the fullness of Hope that I experienced in pregnancy, childbirth and now experience in childrearing is a gift only God can bring through the Holy Spirit. While marked at times with fear, anxiety and doubt, it is a Hope that is filled with anticipation and promise. I can only imagine what Mary’s mind and heart were feeling as she carried and raised the Hope of the World. And yet, I need not imagine the Hope that God brings me each day for it is ever present with us. When we fall weary, we need only to speak the name of Jesus, Immanuel, or to look around at the great Hope He brought through His life and sacrifice.
My Hope this Advent is in the members of Woodland, who will build each other up as a community of faith and as a source of Hope in our communities and ministries.
My Hope is not in kings and leaders, but in the children who will seek and be shown goodness so that they may shine and become generations of light to the World.
My Hope is in a baby born to be my Savior, and whose prophetic birth was itself a sign of Hope, a promise from God.
My Hope is in Immanuel, always with us, raised to serve and risen to save.
By Garrett Vickrey
If you were to put the book of Isaiah to a musical score there would be a whole rest between chapters 39 and 40. If this sacred book were a piece of music. There would be a gaping silence as the work moved between these chapters. The lament of the brass instruments would fade into silence as the minor riff gave way to the nothingness of rest.
The silence of the rest would house the anxiety of the people in exile. The silence would give voice to their uncertainty as to what would happen to them.
Isaiah 40 would begin with a sustained note. A note of hope coming from nowhere. Middle C surprises. A hopeful note. Add in the 4th and the 5th and now a joyful chord returns to our ears. The anxious rest is broken by harmonic hope.
“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.
Out of silence and brokenness, perceived chaos, God is speaking. God is creating again out of nothing.
A way appears in the wilderness. A straight path home. Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain made low.
The glory of God is being revealed. All this from rest.
From quiet. From nothing.
In that rest are the seeds of the next measure. Without silence music is indistinguishable. Time and tone team together to draw us into melody and harmony. Even in rest there is a dynamic at work we cannot fully understand until the next moment. But, if we trust the composer we have hope that the beauty of the score will be revealed. And it’s the anticipation of that revelation that is almost as exciting as the revelation itself.
Frederick Buechner writes, “The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.”
For now we wait. And in the terrible hope of our joyous anxiety we wait knowing that the end of this season redefines the contour and even the chaos of the present.
By Jason Hanchey
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
On the surface, this passage makes it so simple. I believe, therefore I am granted all these protections? Where do I sign?
This euphoria is short lived. As I read this again and again, I feel the guilt run deeper and deeper. I don’t deserve all these protections! I haven’t lived up to my end of the deal. I am a stronger Christian now than I have ever been, but my past is full of mischief and less than Christian behavior. How will this conversation go with my Savior when standing at the gates of Heaven?
Take a deep breath. I truly don’t think the bible, in any shape or form, is trying to guilt me into being a believer. My God knows I will face situations that challenge my relationship with him. Free will gets us in trouble from time to time. When needed, I often pray to God for his guidance. Lately, I’ve not felt that was good enough. I felt like He was missing from the conversation. Now, when I need God, I feel comfortable just saying “Lord God, you probably know already, but I need to share something with you.” Maybe not out loud in some circumstances, but when appropriate.
So, maybe it is that simple. For me anyways. I believe not only because of great scripture, but also because God is an actual participant in my life. I owe it to God to include Him in my life. Reading this scripture again, its abundantly clear that He is willing to be my protector and give me life beyond this one. What He is promising is much greater than what he asks of us. All He asks is that we believe.
By Garrett Vickrey
It’s here. Christmas. Joy to the world! The Lord is Come!
What will we see now? We have been keeping watch for so long. Have our eyes grown red at the moment it is time to enjoy the fruits of their labor? Christ is come.
Watch. And see.
Franciscans and Eastern Orthodox Christians have always placed a greater emphasis on Christmas and the Incarnation of Christ than others. We have focused on Easter and the cross. But, these other Christian traditions remind us that the Incarnation was already the Redemption, because in Jesus’s birth God was already saying that it was good to be human, and God was on our side.
That is good news. That is gospel.
In the birth of Jesus we can know the truth of John 3:16. That God loves the world. So much that God has given us the greatest gift ― God’s life with us, for us, surrounding us. That’s a gift too good not to be shared. At Christmas we celebrate the unity of humanity with divinity. The earliest theologians stressed the incarnation not be seen as the descent of God to humanity, but the lifting up of humanity into the divine life. Be lifted today.
This gift lifts and invigorates every aspect of our life if we see through the incarnated lens of Christmas. The gift we celebrate this day uplifts every aspect of life, even the most humble or ordinary.
It’s a gift that makes us want to hold open doors for people a little longer. It makes us want to be a little kinder to strangers. That’s a gift that makes us want to be a little more truthful with our loved ones. It makes us want to be a little more generous with our time and money. All these gestures unfold the gift of this day and reflect its mercy. As Kathleen Norris says, “All that exists has the potential to reveal God’s truth and love.”
Keep watching. Keep waiting. In hope. In peace. In joy. Love. The gift is here. It is in us. It is around us. Do we see it? It is God. And it is good.
By Rubye Box
I Corinthians 13
The 13th chapter of I Corinthians is known as the love chapter. Many wedding ceremonies include this chapter because it is a perfect picture of what love should be. The final verse is a summary of the entire chapter.
“But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
This verse has such deep implications for us all. All three are intangible. You cannot hold any of them in your hand and yet they are as real as you and me.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, had incredible faith. Faith in God, faith in what the angel told her and faith that the child she was carrying was indeed the Son of God. Oh, that we could have such faith!
Hope is what keeps us looking toward heaven. Hope is what kept those faithful Jewish believers praying that the promise of God would come true – the promise that a Messiah would be born and bring deliverance.
Love was the ultimate gift God gave mankind. It was there when God created the perfect place where his creation could live and thrive. His love was there with Adam and Eve in the garden. It was there with Moses as he led the Hebrew children out of Egypt. But mostly, it was there the night Jesus was born, when he lived among us and then when he died to save us all. No other love is greater than the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus offering himself for the sins of the world. May we all learn to love as our Heavenly Father loves us.
By Chris Langford
Where do we place our hope when others cause us pain?
This is a question I often seem to ponder and perhaps one that King David reflected on. Our human nature many times may drive us to lash out at those that try to hurt us, furthering a vicious interpersonal cycle of pain and grief. Or we may decide to seek support from close friends or help from mental health professionals. While there may be value in these two options, restoration for ourselves and others will not occur without reaching out to the Lord and placing our trust in him.
We read in Psalm 40 about how King David put all of his hope in the Lord and cried out to him earnestly asking for help (40:1). He developed many enemies over the years often times as the result of his own sins and shortcomings. The Lord delivered David from the filthiness of sin that had enslaved him (40:2). Although David was a new man in the sight of the Lord, the same did not hold true in the eyes of his fellow man. His previous wrongdoings caught up with him (40:12). David’s enemies continually wanted to do him harm by revisiting his past sins and wrongdoings (40:14-15). He could have denied any past mistakes, or succumbed to the negativeness circulating around him, but instead David calls on the Lord’s love and compassion to protect him (40:11).
David, being freed from his former life of sin, cannot contain the joy he has and his praise for God (40:3). Nobody can separate him from the holy reassurance he has in the Lord. When everything else is crumbling around him, David places his faith in the Lord and urges others to do likewise. David concludes Psalm 40 by urging those who seek the Lord to rejoice in him and the salvation he offers (40:16). While humans continued to rebel against God, he sent his Son to die for us, that by his sacrifice we might receive the Holy Spirit, be cleansed, and live as new creations. This is God’s love, this is his faith in us.
We are called to forgive others their trespasses if we are to expect God’s forgiveness of our own (Ma hew 6:14-15). Perhaps one of the greatest measures of faith is praying to the Lord and believing that he will transform the hearts of those that do us harm. Perhaps one of the greatest testaments to that faith is living a life that reflects such a transformation in ourselves. Like David, let us place our hope in the Lord. A hope that through our forgiveness of others’ misconduct towards us that we find forgiveness of our own shortcomings, a hope that we find peace for the pain that others cause us, and a hope that others will find the love of Christ through our actions and they will experience the miraculous transformation that only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can provide.