What Children Need

March 1st, 2012

According to the inter­na­tionally recognized children’s advocacy and education organi­zation, The Search Institute’s “What Children Need: The Building Blocks for Children and Youth,” children need supportive adult relationships in their lives other than their parents.  As an educator and a mom, I believe this both on a personal and profes­sional level.  It is important for children to spend time with other supportive adults, especially at church.

When our pastors met my son for the first time, they looked right at him and said “hello.”  They didn’t look over his head and talk to me. They didn’t just ruffle his hair and walk by. They acknowledged him as an individual person.  Ethan was two years old at the time.

There are several reasons why this is important to me, but to put it in a nutshell, children are people too and they are on their own spiritual path.  Having the pastors at Grace recognize that the youth are members too is a large part of why we are members at Grace.  I especially appreciate the times when my son has an oppor­tunity to interact directly with the pastors.  Here at Grace the children at the 11:00 AM Sunday service sit with the pastors and listen to a children’s sermon.  At VBS (Vacation Bible School) the pastors lead activity stations, facilitate the opening and closing sessions, and participate in songs and fellowship.  The youth at Grace get quality time with the pastors and in turn, the youth have adults that they can trust and rely on.

It’s known that within any organi­zation, the leaders set the tone.  Because Grace’s pastors believe in the importance of supporting youth, other members do too.  There are many other adults at Grace who know my son well, and have helped him learn about God’s love.  I see that as a very important role in a child’s life, and am thankful for those who took the time to share their faith with him.

My true spiritual path did not begin until I was an adult and there was a huge hole in my life until I found Grace. I am so happy that my son is a part of this wonderful community of Christians who care about the youth of Grace.

Jodi Becker


Living Faith

March 1st, 2012

James 2:14–17

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is faith? In the same way, faith by itself is dead, if it is not accom­panied by action.

I suspect that most Christians struggle from time-to-time about the status of their faith. I happen to be one of them, but I also feel that my faith has become stronger because of James 2. I first came by this Bible passage in an unusual way. It happened to be at a time in my life when I was asking myself many questions about my faith and not getting many answers. I was reading the QC Times newspaper one morning while eating breakfast and like every morning I passed over Bill Wundram’s column (I never cared for his column and therefore, never read it). However, my peripheral vision spotted a statement in his column in very bold print. It read: James 2: Faith without action is dead.

I didn’t quite understand its meaning, but I was compelled to look into it. I think that James 2 was telling me that faith alone, if it is not manifesting itself by action (deeds), is idle or useless and shows no sign of life. Faith will do no one any good if it is not exercised. We must work out our faith to be fruitful and useful.

I concluded that God’s desire for me is to have a life that has a purpose. A life that challenges me to accomplish something for his kingdom and not just take up space. My discovering James 2 was another mysterious way that God provides answers to difficult questions that can’t be found in any book. I’m convinced that James 2 jump-started my faith journey.

Bud Johnson

 


Spirit Moves

February 15th, 2012
I see the Holy Spirit working at Grace each and every week.
This is through the group of people that volunteer their time to make the Saturday 5:30pm and Sunday 11am services happen.
This includes the musicians, singers, the power point operators, and the sound techs.  Also, those that do the readings and those who perform special presentations.
Sometimes we have no idea how it’s all going to come together, but it always does.  The feeling of accom­plishment is evident by the smiles and looks of relief.  Things never go exactly as planned, but that sure would be boring wouldn’t it?  We are in God’s greater family, but here at Grace we’re part of a team.  Anyone that partic­ipates can feel it, and what a great feeling it is.  (Go Grace!)
 Dan Haugen - Contem­porary Music Coordinator

Simon Peter

February 5th, 2012

My bible story is Peter’s story, or rather a collection of stories throughout the New Testament. Peter’s quest to develop a relationship with his Lord is full of bumbles and stumbles. In his journey with Jesus, he almost tries too hard, which in turn exposes his mistakes even more vividly. From his limited and selfish thinking (Matthew 16:21–23), his unintel­ligible blabbering on the mountaintop (Mark 9:5–6) and his peaks and valleys in his own faith (Matthew 14:28–31), to a failed testimony stating he would stand with Jesus no matter what (Luke 22:33), Peter constantly fell short despite his over-eagerness to follow Jesus.

My story is Peter’s story. I am too eager to grow as a Christian into a steady and secure relationship with Jesus. But the closer I move to my goal, the more obvious my failings become. I can see and understand more clearly than ever my past and present sins. The more I engage in my quest, the more my sins stick out. I cannot go very long before I catch myself in a selfish thought, a careless word, a neglected deed or a faltering faith. I am much like Peter. But just as Peter’s story paints a floun­dering picture, it also brings with it a story of redemption. Jesus saw Peter as he was, and called him on it when he predicted his denial (John 13:38). Never­theless, Jesus gave Peter the keys to the church to open the door to all who would believe. God never abandoned Peter, but loved him and gave him the grace to grow and serve his Lord. And in this, I find my hope.

Sally Meier


Bearing Fruit

February 3rd, 2012

I am the vine. John 15:5

If we imagine the world as part of God’s enormous garden, the idea of people being part of the fruit makes more sense.

God is our vine and we are nourished and supported through His care. At times weeds grow around us but God’s people help remove the bad and replenish what is good.

In the process, our lives produce some delicious crops and we share our bounty in the world. We use our gifts and talents to our best abilities and understand how we are loved by God.

Though diffi­culties come into our daily lives and storms overcome our pristine spirit, we are sometimes forced into silence and reflection in order to have a closer walk with God. It is as though God prunes away those parts of us not needed anymore. We might even feel vulnerable and naked in the garden, but God provides us with the real neces­sities we should have.

When our leaves are clipped and the ground around us is upturned, new life can begin again as the water and nutrients are absorbed in our roots.

The “vine” text was given to me as my confir­mation blessing years ago, but it is firmly planted in my heart. We are God’s family members and He loves how we grow. Each one of us is a unique planting an our fruits are as varied as the sand at the seashore.

If we look to the horizon during the season of fall, the array of colors from the dying leaves fills us with awe. The trees are breath­taking in the hews of yellow, orange, red and brown. But soon those leaves fall to the ground, are covered with the winter’s snow and are buried in the earth providing nourishment for future generations.

In the spring tiny buds appear and we wonder how did these seeds survive the freezing temper­atures of winter. Yet as the days get longer and the sun warms the soil, the pastel colors of Easter flowers brighten the landscape and lifts our souls out of the doldrums of winter.

The seasons are part of God’s plans and we are part of His harvest. Let’s be sure we do what we can to nourish those around us, express our thank­fulness through action, support one another when things are rough and display our fruits and gifts from God.

Linda Smith Kortemeyer


The Gift

January 30th, 2012

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. (Psalm 24:1)

Sometimes, we need to step away from our busy lives and recognize the gifts that God has provided to us.

Bob & Kathy Shriver


Faith Changes Everything

March 1st, 2011

By Hannah Campbell

This article first appeared in the publi­cation “In His Grip”, a publi­cation for youth in congre­gations of the South­eastern Iowa Synod.

Guatemala had everything one could hope for in a mission trip-lots of sun, dirt, and smiles.  Most impor­tantly it had a lesson-an eye-opening, heart-filling, faith-growing, bubble-blowing lesson.  It taught me that faith can change everything and thanks be to God for that.

When I stepped off the plane in Guatemala City, it was like stepping into another world.  The airport was dark and small.  Everything seemed small-the streets, the buildings, even the people.  I saw a lot of things I never expected to see.  There were beautiful green mountains with patchworks of farms going up the side.  Cows were everywhere, crossing the road and grazing in cornfields.

There were things so “American” it shocked me.  SUV’s were driving down the tiny streets, past McDonalds and huge hotels.  They weren’t too far from houses made of mud and tin.  They weren’t too far from fire stations run by volunteers, with only one working truck and ambulance.  Those who couldn’t afford “private hospitals” had to rely on these volunteers.  That’s a lot of people.

Many people didn’t have running water.  The village where the Grace team worked, Las Rosas, used wells.  The emergency room in the public hospital was packed, while loved ones waited outside.  (There was no room inside for relatives to stay, so many just slept and waited outside until the patient got better.)  Most kids had to work at a very young age, so continuing their education for very long would be impossible.

Yet, for everything the people of Guatemala didn’t have, they did have an abundance of spirit.  Someone always gave a wave and a smile, even to a perfect stranger.  It seemed to be cultural to make the most of what they did have, including faith.

The faith of the people of Dios con Nosotros and Emmanuel was amazing to say the least.  It wasn’t just something to have, it was a way to live.  Hundreds packed the not-so-big chapel of Emmanuel weekly, even though this could mean a long and difficult journey.  Outside of church, members gathered in their hometowns for prayer and worship.  Perhaps the most amazing thing about Guatemalan faith was how willing people were to share it.

When members of the Grace team went to Emmanuel to meet and sing with their members, we were embraced as brothers and sisters, literally embraced, as “hermanas” and “hermanos.”  It had never hit me until just then, but we are.  We had never met, didn’t know a thing about each other, didn’t even speak the same language, yet we were family.  I knew we were family, on in Christ’s love.

The same sense of family and unity followed the team to the work site in Las Rosas.  I could hardly understand a word the members of Dios con Nosotros said, and I’m sure they could hardly understand me.  However, that didn’t stop us from shoveling sand and dirt, swinging pick-axes, and just plain working together.  We even played together.  The kids were shy at first, but once the bubbles came out, so did they.  Before anyone knew it, memories were being made and good times were being had, sharing the spirit of joy.

No matter what we were doing, I felt connected.  I think that must be what the Holy Spirit feel like.  I think I’ve grown a lot in my faith.  Faith is a blessing, something that only gets stronger with each test.  It’s a blessing to share it, because that’s what makes strangers family.  It’s a way of life, something to live by and celebrate, not just have.  It makes a heart grateful and everything enough.

Faith changes everything.