Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Community of Faith

Post by: Cathy Stafford

“Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and men.”

Merry Christmas! This is my first venture at writing a blog for sisters and brothers in Christ, and I get to do it at Christmas! I sincerely hope that this message finds you experiencing the peace that comes with the knowledge that Our Savior was born.

It is a few days before Christmas as I am writing this, and it is a busy time for me as it probably has been for you. I work for the Family Ministries program at Broomfield UMC, recently coming on staff after volunteering for many years. I really enjoy interacting with families as well as the children.

Probably because of my new role at the church, I am thinking about Jesus’ family life and childhood a lot lately. The scene of His birth comes to mind of course, due to the season. I am thinking about it differently this year, in more detail and also considering the challenges as well as the joy. I think about Mary and her uncomfortable bumpy donkey ride to Bethlehem. I think of her selflessness hosting many visitors when she was probably so tired after giving birth. I hope someone brought her a meal (maybe a big sandwich) along with the gifts for her baby. And although I haven’t done this much before, I think about the days and years right after the birth of Jesus. Was He an “easy baby?” Maybe super smiley like the precious girl who was baptized at church last week? Or maybe He got fussy near nap time and woke up Mary and Joseph a lot during the night? As a child, did He excel at everything He tried? Or maybe He did not and He got frustrated.

Along with wondering what Jesus was like as a child, I think about Mary and Joseph’s life as parents. I want to think it was easy for them, because they had to witness their son’s death later on. But I imagine they had daily struggles that all parents face, along with all of the joys. Maybe they had times where laundry piled up and they were just tired. Maybe they got grumpy when their kids were noisy. Surely along with those challenges, they had wonderful times of joy. I’m sure, like my husband and me, they had times when their children acted kindly towards someone and they were so grateful they thought their hearts would break.

The fact is that the Bible only gives us a few lines about Jesus as a child and Mary and Joseph as parents. I believe that everything written in the Bible, and everything not written in the Bible, is for a purpose. I see the lack of information about Jesus’ childhood and family life as a gift. First of all, I see it as a gift of privacy for young Jesus and His family. Jesus’ family raised God’s Son on Earth, and their private moments and details remain their own. I also see this lack of information about Jesus’ boyhood as a gift to all parents and families who follow Him. When I consider doing something for my family, I don’t feel like I need to compare my story with the story of Jesus’ family. As a mother, instead of thinking, “What would Mary do?” in any given situation, I can just do my best to apply Jesus’ messages of love and forgiveness.

As much as I hope that Mary and Joseph had an easy time with Jesus and the rest of their family, what I really hope is that they had a faith community like the one we have at Broomfield UMC to support them. I can imagine Mary and Joseph going to worship while other people in their community gave lessons about God to Jesus and the other children. Maybe they got an “evening out” to relax and talk while people in their community did fun things with the children. They didn’t have movies back then for a Movie Night, but maybe the kids had games in the fields while parents got to go out. Maybe there were fun activities and faith lessons during long summer days. I hope there were lots of people in Mary and Joseph’s faith community who chatted with the children and smiled when they listened to them sing, like at Broomfield UMC. Hopefully Mary and Joseph had faith leaders who were ready and willing to answer kids’ questions about God. I hope they had lots of community members they could call on for help, and in turn could help them. I hope they had a community like we have at Broomfield UMC, where children learn that other people are fun and kind and good.

The Bible does not tell us much about Jesus as a child. There are only a few lines that summarize His youth. My favorite is in Luke 2:52, which says “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and men.” This line is such a gift, as it reassures us that as long as we are doing our best to help our children grow, everything is good. At church, I am always witnessing how our children are growing in wisdom. They respond to faith lessons with such a simple and honest understanding of God’s love. They talk about praying at home. Besides growing in wisdom, we can all witness that Broomfield UMC kids are growing in stature, especially when we greet one and realize she is taller than we are! The children at Broomfield UMC constantly grow in favor with us and surely with God.

I am grateful to be in this community with you. I sincerely hope the remainder of this Christmas season fills you with peace. Also, I hope that the New Year brings you moments of joy and laughter. Always feel free to come visit the kids’ programs at Broomfield UMC, as you will find plenty of both!

Cathy Stafford is a church member, friend, daughter, sister, wife, and mother of two elementary-age children. She works as a Program Coordinator with the Family Ministries Team at BUMC, which serves children ages birth to 5th grade and their families

Friday, December 15, 2017

Trusting in God’s Timing

Post by: Kristan Marsden

When people find out that I am a Special Education teacher they almost always follow up with something along the lines of, “Oh, you must be so patient.” But I’m not. I’m the kind of person that skips ahead to the last chapter of a book because I can’t wait to find out what happens. If my husband records the Bronco’s game to watch later, I check the score so I know who wins before we even start watching. I hate not knowing what will happen, especially in my own life. The bible tells us many times throughout to trust in God and His timing. 1 Peter 5:6-7 reminds us to “6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Not surprisingly, I struggle with this.

I love the idea that God has amazing lives in store for each of us, if we just have the patience to wait for him to perfectly author our stories as only He can. Each chapter gives us experiences and teaches us what we need to know for the next chapter. We move through them in order becoming closer to God and our authentic selves as we go. But lately, I find myself wanting to flip ahead a few chapters to see what happens next.

I recently made the decision to leave my teaching position to stay home with my kids full-time. It wasn’t a decision I came to lightly. A lot of my sense of purpose in life is tied to my job and I feel the void when I’m not working. I felt a gentle nudge, a reminder that my career will always be there, but my children will grow up, the time with them will be lost. I committed to staying home for two years until both of our kids are in school.

I only lasted about two months before I started searching job postings in my former school district. As grateful as I felt to have the chance to be home with my kids, I struggled to find a greater purpose. I refused to accept the financial limitations of living on one income. I fretted over the gap on my resume and my ability to get re-hired when the time came. So, I applied for a job that seemed perfect. When I showed up to the interview and saw that two former colleagues and friends were on the interview committee I knew that God had made it happen. This was my next chapter.

Only I didn’t get the job. I was disappointed but, mostly, I was confused. I was sure that this job had been part of God’s plan for me. I struggled to understand until I realized that I had succumbed to my old habit of skipping ahead to the next chapter. Rather than reading the wisdom in each word He is writing for me, I was trying to move on to the next chapter without fully understanding the one I’m in.

As I watch my kids rush to the advent calendar every morning to count down the days until Christmas, it serves as a good reminder to trust in God’s timing. I remind them to slow down, notice all the beautiful Christmas lights, hear the joyful music, and truly grasp the Christmas story. They remind me to savor this precious season and move into the New Year with conviction: to linger over every page of my story, read and re-read the words He writes and trust that God, the greatest author, has written one amazing, perfectly-timed story.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

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.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tis the season for ….. “Fasting”?

Post by: Frank Oligmuller

In this joyous season of celebrating the birth of Jesus, we find many opportunities involving the flow of food, drink and other goodies – so why have the thought of Fasting? Isn’t that something we think more of doing during Lent? On the other hand – why not this time as well? Maybe that is a bold idea, but let’s ponder for a bit.

During the Advent season, many get caught up in chasing the spirit of the season by the lure of advertising and promotions thrown at us. But, what needs are we really trying to fulfill. My small group recently studied the aspects of Private Discipline for which Fasting was an example to build on our journey to deepen/grow our faith. Fasting is presented in the bible as a practice to abstain from food while focusing our attention to being fed by God’s word. The main purpose is to realize an ability to be sustained by Him and grow our spiritual relationship to always trust. Jesus displayed this during his time of temptation in Matthew 4:4 “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone. But on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In addition, there are cases where reference is made in letters by Paul as having to go without food for a period of time. But, there is also occasional mention on having to endure other hardships, distresses including sleepless nights as ways to endure and put our reliance on God. As our group discussed fasting, we thought to extend this idea into more than just food. Fasting is definitely the idea, as well as by definition, to abstain from food – buy why only apply food? During the Old and New Testament times, food (whether in fields or livestock) and money were the most coveted of possessions for showing wealth and/or power. Thereby, the example of fasting with food was clearly understandable to those in that time to remove a coveted need of the flesh for focusing on God. And as a secondary outcome of fasting, it can be revealed to us other weaknesses of things that control us other than our faith in God.

Today, food and money are still very much in the mix on how we strongly rely on them. However, though we find a need for food, its possession does not constitute wealth but mostly a need to survive. We now have many other examples of possessions that can convey affluence and wealth – types of cars, latest cell phones, TVs, social media popularity, etc. And, particularly this time of season, there can be added distractions around in getting this, getting that or going here and going there.

So, it is with that idea and thought as why not abstain from our other kind of dependencies each of us find that we feel are needed to sustain us during the day or night. I am sure each of us can find a type of “food” analogy that we feel is needed to sustain us throughout the day/night. Pick your “food” to find a “Silent Night” or “Silent Day” or both. All that said, the challenge to seek what is your “food” is to abstain from during this time of year. And, truly focus to deepen your understanding on the gifts given to us by God with the birth of His Son Jesus. HOPE, JOY, PEACE and above all else LOVE. We may find how they can sustain us and be fruitfully a more highly valued possession.

Have a most Joyous and Merry Christmas.

I grew up in the states of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. After finishing my Computer Science degree at University California - Irvine, I eventually moved back to Colorado with my wife. Over the past 32 years, I have worked in both the aerospace and commercial industries with my degree getting many opportunities to grow in my professional life. However, there always seemed a gap in the growth of my spiritual life. That gap has began to fill measurably since my attendance and involvement at BUMC for which I praise God to have brought us at a key time of our lives. Outside major interests include playing hockey, but time and the physical ability has been an increasing challenging, planning a yearly 14er climb and trips to Disney - most favorably - Walt Disney World. However, I love spending anytime and anywhere with my wife, family and friends. All the while - inviting Christ with me.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Singing in Silence

Post by: Nicole Stegink

Every December since 1998, I have performed Handel’s Messiah with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Between the multitude of rehearsals and performances over the last 19 years, I have the choral sections of this great oratorio mostly memorized. When the music score is in my hands, it seems as though muscle-memory kicks in, launching me into a kind of performance auto-pilot. I have done this work with countless different CSO and guest conductors, and even though each one has brought his own interpretation to the baton and stage in an attempt to breathe new life into this perennial holiday favorite, for me it’s gotten stale. Have you ever done something over and over and over so many times that it starts to become meaningless? It seemed this year as though nothing could resuscitate this epic piece for me except the knowledge that I will not be performing it this Christmas season.

Over the last year or so, I have been experiencing some difficulty with singing and speaking and recently received a medical diagnosis which has the potential to alter dramatically my ability to sing. I am currently on a leave of absence from the Colorado Symphony Chorus until my doctors and I can figure out a plan of action that allows me to move forward and continue singing. Singing…..the gift God bestowed to me. Singing…the way I serve my church and my community. Singing…the very essence of who I am and how I express myself. Singing…what God actually wants us to do and commands us to do. According to an article I read online, there are over 400 references to singing and 50 direct commands to sing in the Bible. We all know the book of Psalms is, in fact, a book of songs. Psalm 47:6 states, “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises!” In Psalm 96:1-2, we are directed to “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.”

I don’t know if this is true or not, but John Wesley supposedly once said, “Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half-dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.” With those words in mind, suddenly, I realized I had been singing as if I were half-dead or half-asleep. This once tired work sung by rote had become meaningless for me and not because the text isn’t as relevant today as it was 10, 20, or even hundreds of years ago. It occurred to me it’s not this masterpiece with a text that comes entirely from the Scriptures which had gotten lifeless, it’s me.

I started my leave of absence sometime in early October, but it wasn’t until recently, over the Thanksgiving holiday, it really hit home that I won’t be performing the Messiah this year. All these many years, I guess I didn’t really understand and embrace how much singing the Messiah in early December initiates the advent season for me and relieves my mind and soul of the previous year’s burdens, preparing my heart to the message of Christ’s coming.

I may not be able to sing the notes this year, but I can still “sing” in silence through my writing. I can look with fresh eyes and a renewed spirit upon the words of the text and lift up my voice with strength in a new way. So I share now with you from Part One (the Christmas section) some of the recitatives and choruses from Handel’s Messiah, along with the corresponding scripture from which they are derived. I invite you to contemplate anew these Scriptures which we all know and which will never get stagnant.

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed. And all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. Isaiah 40:5

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel. God with us. Isaiah 7:14

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion….say unto the cities of Judah: Behold your God! O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, arise, shine for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Isaiah 40:9

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His Name shall be called: Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace! Isaish 9:6

There were shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them: Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:8-11

Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will towards men. Luke 2:14

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.