Christmas Memories

Christmas Memories

Weekly Word

I think about her often. She lived in a modest home built by her father. She walked with a limp; I was with her when she broke that leg. When I stayed overnight, we made fudge together. She taught me how to play poker. She was the first person I knew who had a remote on her TV, and yet, she never did get a dishwasher. She volunteered tirelessly. Her hospitality was comfortable and gracious, no pretense. Her door was always open. There was always room at her kitchen table. The coffee was always on.

She was my Grandma Elliott. She raised three children in the Great Depression. She carried the family on her back when my grandfather was ill. She loved me. I always knew that she loved me, and she loved Christmas.

She loved Christmas, the tree, the decorations, her family gathered at her house. The cards, the food, the friends, the music. She loved Christmas. She loved the story. The promise of new life stirring mysteriously in the womb of a virgin. The journey by donkey from Galilee to the sleepy village of Bethlehem. The stable, the shepherds, and the angels. The Christmas Star bearing witness to the light of the world. The lamb of God lying in a feed trough. The journey of the Wisemen as they sought the face of God.

It was just a few days before Christmas when she died. I was with her. Struck down by some strange disease that attacked her immune system. She had contracted the disease through a blood transfusion. The doctors did not even have a name for the disease then.

I remember that Christmas vividly. Presents under the tree from a Grandma who was gone. The celebration continued, carols were sung, the story was shared. Grandma loved the story.

▪ The light shines in the darkness.
▪ The cries of a baby who came to dry the tears of a thousand generations.
▪ The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Grandma loved the story.

My friends, don’t lose the story. Don’t let the story be obscured by the bright lights and advertising. Love the seasons. Love the traditions. But don’t lose the story. Come to church and hear. Invite friends to visit the story with you.

For unto YOU a child is born.

Much love,

Pastor Jim

Lutheran Disaster Response – California Wildfires

Lutheran Disaster Response – California Wildfires

It is hard for us to comprehend the magnitude of the devastation; the grief and loss that is being experienced by our neighbors in California. 7,000 homes destroyed, entire communities gone, hundreds of thousands of people displaced.

100% of your gifts to Lutheran Disaster Relief will be used to assist those in fire-ravaged areas to survive and rebuild their lives. Lutheran Disaster Response teams are already on the scene, working with local and state agencies.

What can we do? We can pray, and we can give. We can give generously to those in need. We are Blessed to be a Blessing!

You can give by following this link on our church website.

You can also make out checks to TLC and put “Fire Relief” in the memo. Those checks can be mailed to TLC at PO Box 97, Freeland, Washington 98249. You could also drop a check off at church or put a check in the plate this Sunday.

Together we can make a difference.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

 

 

Pastor Jim

Prayer and Miracles

Prayer and Miracles

We have been engaging in serious theological conversation the past two weeks. You are all theologians and I am proud of you. What is a “theologian?” A theologian is one who studies the movement and mysteries of God. It is important to note that theology is not exactly a science. The more you learn, the more questions you have. The mystery and majesty of God will never be fully comprehended by mere mortals.

What is the place of Prayer and Miracles as we consider our life and faith?

If God offers us no insurance, and very little if any protection from the perils of this life, then does prayer make a difference and do miracles still happen?

The answer is YES and YES!

Prayer has the power to change lives, to change families, to change the course of history. When we pray, we open the lines of communication to God. In doing so, we open our hearts and minds to God. The Holy Spirit has entrée into our lives. The Holy Spirit can change our lives.

Prayer puts us in the path of the Gospel. As I said Sunday, I don’t believe that prayer changes God, and it certainly does not provide God with any new information. Having said that, prayer can and does change us, and in that change God can work to change the world. God answers prayer and 99% of the time those prayers are answered by the loving care of the people that God puts in our lives.

Miracles– miracles still happen. I believe in miracles. I have witnessed miracles and have heard your testimony to the miraculous way that God has moved in your lives.

Miracles still happen, but 99% of the time God works through people to accomplish miracles. The Red Sea does not part very often, water is rarely turned into wine, and I have not seen anyone walk on the Sea of Galilee. But everyday people are healed of their diseases, relationships that were thought to be dead are mended, and simple acts of grace bring about miraculous results.

Prayer is critical—keep praying. Open your heart to God. Miracles still happen. But God needs a prayer partner and God needs a miracle partner. And that partner is YOU! Prayer without our participation is like sitting on Santa’s lap at Christmas. The expectation of a miracle does not preclude our participation in that miracle.

Celebrate miracles, but do not bet your future on them. Say your prayers and then get out there and work for good.

You are all theologians! What did one theologian say to another theologian? “God knows.”

See you in Church!

Pastor Jim

Seventeen Years Have Passed

Seventeen Years Have Passed

Weekly Word

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where is my help to come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

The sun had just risen on September 11, 2001. Two days earlier we had rallied for the Fall and used, for the first time, our new gym, kitchen, nursery, and Sunday School wing. The sermon title on September 9th was “The world will never be the same.” The words were unintentionally prophetic.

Seventeen years have passed now. I am quite sure that there has never been a seventeen-year period in human history with more dramatic change. The sweeping change is unparalleled. Our nation is not the same. The world has changed, technology companies have changed our economy, social media has transformed the culture, travel is more complicated, churches and service clubs are closing. The younger generations have been raised with constant war and a fear of terrorism. We are more connected and less intimate than ever before.

The seventeen years have passed so quickly. The man in the mirror sports more wrinkles now. There can be no denying the march of time, the changing of the seasons, the passing of the generations. We are dust and to dust we shall return. What will the next seventeen years hold? Will we survive the next seventeen? There are precious few guarantees.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where is my help to come? My help comes from the Lord, the marker of heaven and earth.”

Everything in life is changing, sifting and decaying, but God is faithful. God is with us. God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. We have nowhere to turn but to God. Our hope is not found in national security, financial security, or the latest workout program.

My help comes from the Lord. Seventeen years later that has not changed. Three thousand years after the Psalms were penned, that has not changed.

I will see you this Sunday in Church. That’s right, I am showing up this Sunday. Wear your tee-shirts and put yourself in the path of the Gospel.

Love,

Pastor Jim

Open 24/7 But Closed Today

Open 24/7 But Closed Today

Open 24/7 But Closed Today
Weekly Word

I was on the mainland yesterday and decided to wash the smoke and ash off my car. I noticed a sign that said, “New Touchless Car Wash. Open 24/7.” Perfect, I pulled up to the car wash and there was another sign. This one said, “Closed today.”

Sometimes life is that way. This is a first world problem, but in fact, it is not really a problem at all. I could simply wash my own car or I could find another car wash. Comfortable in my car, and dressed in a shirt and tie, I looked for and found a very open and acceptable car wash. Mission accomplished.

Open 24/7 but closed today. Sometimes things are not as advertised. Sometimes promises are not kept. It has been a season of weddings for me. I have officiated at many this summer, and I have five more in the next eight weeks. Young or old, couples stand before God and their loved ones, and promise to be faithful until death parts us. We know that 40% of those marriages will dissolve before death parts them.

Open 24/7 but closed today. I was sitting with my Jewish Uncle Mike a few years ago. Mike teaches at Harvard and is a Pediatric Cardiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. A wonderful Son, Father, Husband, Grandfather and humanitarian. We talked of life and faith. He said something that I have never forgotten; “In the end, there is only one measure of a person’s life that matters. Did they keep the promises that they chose to make? Were they faithful to their chosen vows?”

Money, degrees on the wall, fine homes and fine cars, traveling the world, and earning impressive titles at work are all good. But in the end, the measure of one’s life is simple, and readily accessible to the rich and poor and to the educated and less educated. Did we keep the promises that we chose to make? Were we faithful to our chosen vows?

No matter what the verdict is on our life or our marriage, it is good to know that we are bathed in the Amazing Grace of God. For God is The Promise Keeper. God’s promises are simply and few: We are loved—always. We are forgiven of all of our sins—and vow breaking. And we are never alone— in life and in death we are never alone.

Open 24/7 but closed today. God’s Promises are trustworthy and true for eternity. For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Even death cannot separate us from the love of God.

Keep smiling!

Pastor Jim

 

Putting Worry in its place

Putting Worry in its place

This Sunday the sermon title is “Putting Worry in its place.”

We have more to worry about than ever before. We have less to worry about than ever before.

Both are true. Thanks to social media and a 24-hour news cycle we have more to worry about than ever before. My Viking ancestors never worried about forest fires in Oregon, floods in Pakistan, the melting of the glaciers, or political tweets in the middle of the night.

If you spend enough time watching the news, reading opinions on Facebook, and scanning the headlines, you would think that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. There are certainly plenty of worries to keep you from sleeping.
We have more to worry about than ever before. We have less to worry about than ever before.

Both are true. Most people in our country who want to work are working. Most people have cell-phones, cars, and a roof over their heads. We are not likely to fall victim to contagion, and our streets are actually safer than they have been for most of our history. We are living longer and aging better than any generation before us.

Putting worry in its place. I know that most of us are worried about something. At a very human level, it is impossible not to worry. God gets that. I get that. There is a place for worry.

Worry can motivate us or paralyze us. This Sunday we will work together with Jesus to “put worry in its place.” This Sunday, the TLC Family will gather to laugh and cry, to sing and pray together. The music will be uplifting, the coffee will be hot, and the cookies will be calorie free.

This Sunday—it won’t be the same if you are not with us.

See you in Church!


Pastor Jim