Thursday, July 27, 2017

Prioritizing Prayer

Post by: Kristan Marsden

For as long as I can remember there has been a sign hanging in my mom’s office that reads “Every Christian needs half an hour of prayer a day except when he’s busy. Then he needs an hour.” I remember reading it over and over as a kid and wondering what it was supposed to mean. I’d forgotten all about that sign until a recent visit to my parents’ house with my two young daughters. Despite a major remodel a few years ago, it still adorns their office wall. On this last trip back home, I realized that now, as an adult and a mom, it makes perfect sense to me. Now I get it.

While my parents loved all the time they got to spend with their grandchildren during our visit, my dad must have told me at least half a dozen times, “There’s a reason you have kids when you’re young.” And it’s true. Parenting, this season of raising kids, is a busy one. It helps to remind myself that someday I’ll miss the noise, the chaos and the mess of having two young children. But right now, it’s hard to imagine. Our life is a never-ending cycle of school and homework, soccer games and gymnastics classes. We’re always trying to make time for friends and squeeze in the occasional date night. We’re supporting friends through weddings, baby showers, lost pregnancies and lay-offs. We’re working toward that perfect balance of prioritizing family and pursuing career goals. I have no doubt that this is the time in my life when I need that hour of prayer. I need God’s guidance more than ever.

Yet the busier we get, the easier it becomes to start prioritizing a quiet morning at home over going to church. It’s easy to focus all my energy on our family and neglect opportunities to serve others. When there is so much in my life that needs my management, it feels necessary to take it all on myself. Amid all the bustle, it’s easy to stop nurturing the close relationship with God that comes with constant and regular prayer.

But I’ve noticed the more I try to manage things on my own, the more difficult everything becomes. Busy turns into an energy-draining list of things that must be accomplished. Every decision becomes impossible to make and every set-back is overwhelming. It’s hard to ask for help. It’s hard to give up control and trust God’s plan and perfect timing for our family. That is what my mom’s sign reminds me to do. When life feels busy, maybe even a little frantic, it becomes even more important to spend time in prayer--to ask for help, to listen for guidance, to keep my focus on what really matters and to be thankful for the countless blessings in my life.

Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually   -Psalms 105:4

Being back home and seeing that familiar sign was a good reminder, at a time when I really needed it. I might even pin the same quote up on my own office wall. I’m sure my six-year-old, who is into reading anything she sees these days, will ask me what it means. And I’ll tell her to remember what it says, even if it doesn’t make sense. File it away and remember it. Because someday, when you most need to understand it, it will make perfect sense.

“Those persons who know the deep peace of God, the unfathomable peace that passeth all understanding, are always men and women of much prayer.”  -~ R. A. Torrey

Kristan spends her days living and learning with her two young daughters, Shay and Grace. In her downtime, you’ll find her running (preferably with friends), skiing, struggling through the occasional yoga class and escaping to the mountains every chance she gets. As a teacher taking time off to raise her own kids, she enjoys volunteering in the Children’s Ministry as well as writing about her experiences as a parent and educator. She and her husband, Britton, have been members of BUMC since 2011.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Christmas in July

Post by : Nicole Stegink

Time sure does fly the older you get. It’s hard to believe 2017 is already half over. It really doesn’t seem all that long ago that we celebrated Christmas. In fact, in a few months, the BUMC combined choirs will be spending our Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings rehearsing for the 2017 Christmas Cantata. I guess it’s not so weird that my brain traveled to Christmas. It’s “Christmas in July” season. You know, that time when stores offer amazing deals in an attempt to boost sales through the doldrums of summer. The problem with these types of promotions is that they are short-lived.

We don’t need limited-time only, retail gimmicks such as “Christmas in July” to find a good deal. God freely offered humanity the best deal of all through His son, Jesus Christ. A deal that has no expiration and runs for all time, so I personally decided this year that “Christmas in July” is my opportunity for a spiritual “gut check”. How am I doing when it comes to preparing and opening myself up to welcome Christ into the World and my life? Sure, that preparedness comes easily enough during Advent, a time full of scripture readings, hymns and candle lightings which celebrates Christ’s arrival and fills us with expectation and anticipation, but how am I doing during the heat of summer? Is my heart still as ready in July for the coming of Christ as it was six and a half months ago?

The word Advent is derived from the Latin word Adventus, meaning “coming”. One of my all-time favorite Advent readings is "Come thou long expected Jesus; come as footprints in the snow and show us your way." It’s an invitation to Christ to come into our lives, but I also believe it’s an invitation to each of us personally. An invitation we need to choose to accept every day to prepare our hearts and minds for the many ways in which Christ comes into our lives. And, if it makes more sense to you since it’s July and not December, maybe just change the reading to, “…come as footprints in the sand and show us your way.

Peace swells in my soul with the assurance of Christ's arrival, and that with this most special birth, we are reconciled to God through Christ. I love the imagery these words from the reading evoke in my mind. I envision myself venturing out into uncharted territory. There, in a vast expanse, I encounter a single set of footprints in clean, soft, white snow (or sand), stretching out as far as I can see to the horizon. It is Christ’s guiding presence; his way of saying “I have arrived in the world; I am here.” The footprints silently and gently convey a clear message to me so I know I am not alone; this way has already been traveled.

How comforting it is for me to realize that in seasons of doubt or isolation, in seasons when I feel forgotten, aimless and adrift, in seasons when I know I need to move forward to forge a new course and trajectory but fear keeps me rooted in place, those merciful and encouraging footprints remind me I don't have to find my own way. I don't have to break the trail. I just have to allow Christ to come into my life, trust that the steps lead where I need to go and then follow the way of the One who went before me.

So this July, don’t rely on your favorite store to run some “Christmas in July” promotion to get what you need. Look inward; prepare your heart every day for the coming of Christ as if it were Advent and see how your life might change.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16 (NIV)

Nicole Stegink is a Colorado native and currently lives in Arvada.  She is active in the music ministry of BUMC, singing for both the traditional services and has been a member of the church since 2010.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Creative Writing but currently works in the legal field and doesn’t get to exercise her writing skills as often as she would like which is why she is excited to be contributing to the church’s blog. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Red Letter Days

Post by: Sara Godwin 

Just a little over a year ago, I wrote a Facebook post about making the most of the little things in your life. I was getting ready to go to the funeral of a friend of my daughter. His name was Joey. He had decided that life was just too hard and he took himself out of it. Just like that. He was gone. It hit me so incredibly hard. I couldn’t believe that a person, a child, could feel so despondent that he felt he couldn’t handle life the way it was any longer. His passing and the impending funeral made me pause and reflect on what it is that makes our lives livable. I posited that it was the little things; the push of a dog’s nose in your hand begging to be petted, the sound of the wind in the trees, lying under a tree and looking at the leaves, a warm blanket on a cold day, or a spontaneous hug from a child. For me it’s the smell of onions and potatoes frying, the sound of my husband’s laughter when I make him laugh and the first taste of coffee every morning. I wrote that our lives are made up of hundreds of little occurrences like these. Little snippets of time in our day that are fairly unremarkable, even unworthy of remembering, but the most necessary and beautiful parts of our lives. The big ticket items, the highlight reels of our lives, while amazing and awesome, are often few and far between. If we rely solely on them to make our lives meaningful, I feel that we will be left searching and wondering, “What next”?

I just finished reading a book by Susan Branch called, “Martha’s Vineyard; Isle of Dreams”. In it she is trying to come to terms with a loss in her life and how to go about living in the aftermath. She struggles for a while before coming to the conclusion that each day one should strive to make it a “red letter day”. Basically, one needs take a moment at the end of each day to remember the little things that made your day really good. This takes some practice. I’ve been working really hard at it and at first I thought that the only things that would make a red letter day would be grand things, like going on vacation or getting a raise or going to an excellent concert. You know; things that don’t happen every day. Nope. Nope. Nope. These things are great, but definitely not the ingredients for a true red letter day. A true red letter day is a day in which a hundred little things happen and you can sit back at the end of the day, sort through all of those moments, and say to yourself, “I really enjoyed that”.

As I write this, I’m thinking to myself, and recalling what my items for my red letter day will be today. So far it’s been pretty darn good. I saw 5 baby raccoons in a tree as I walked my dog this morning, (so cute!), I treated myself to a Coke on ice, (YUM), bought a watermelon that I’m looking forward to cutting up, went to the library to get a book, (reading feeds my soul), and had two, (TWO!) most excellent songs come on the radio in a row. Justin Timberlake and The Kongos had me be- bopping down the road for a solid 6 minutes. It was really excellent. And I still have my son’s incredibly tasty, crave worthy meatballs to look forward to for dinner tonight. It really will be a red letter day.
Sara lying under a tree, enjoying the leaves

I wish with all of my heart that Joey had had a few red letter days. I’m sure that he did, but maybe he just didn’t know how to stop and remember them. He didn’t know how to take a moment or two and look at the little things and realize the little things really are the big things. He had an entire lifetime of moments to look forward to and my heart aches that he won’t know them. Our whole lives are a beautiful mosaic of thousands of teeny tiny little moments that make our lives livable. I implore you to sit and contemplate and remember your little moments. Each moment is a gift from God. As I sign off I’m looking out the window and see the clouds and smell the rain; another moment to add to my red letter day.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, which the birds of the air come and perch in its branches. -Matthew 13: 31-32

Sara Godwin has been a member of BUMC since 2003. She is the Assistant Director and Teacher at Apple Tree Christian Preschool and Kindergarten where she has worked since 2007. She has two wonderful children, Rachel and Ian, a loving husband, Shawn, two awesome kitties, Lewis and Lucy, and a sweet dog, Minnie. She began at BUMC working in the Children’s Ministry, assisting with Sunday School before moving to the preschool. She also helps with Wacky Wednesday and is the self-described crazy lady who wears all sorts of costumes every year at VBS.