The following is a reflection submitted by Julie Diercks based on her time in ministry at First Covenant. As of June, Julie's position will have come to an end but we rejoice that we get to keep her around in the coming year as she continues to live and work in Anchorage and is a part of our church community. Thank you Julie for all you've given in Christ's name to serve our church and our youth.
Three years ago I was invited into something. I was invited into a group of people who wanted me to be a part of their family. Their community. Their Church.
And in these last three years, I have been reminded time and time again, that I am a part of something. Something old. Something new. Something...together.
First Covenant Church has shown me generosity, hospitality, love, and grace. They have shared their kids with me and entrusted them to me, as I entrust them to God. They have shared their resources with me. They have built me rooms in their basements and literally “welcomed me into their family.” They have given me a couch. They have invited me to be their neighbors. They have allowed me to preach and paint the Jr. High youth room orange. They have prayed for me. They have encouraged me in so many ways that I cannot even list them all.
An image that depicts how a church should work is a group of gears in a clock or other mechanical device. When one moves, it empowers the other to move, which empowers the other to move and in that forward motion, are all moving. All the parts move together to make sure that the clock or mechanical device is functioning the way it was intended to function. And we are not solitary moving gears. A gear can move by itself, but what would benefit from that? We move, not just to move, but to move others.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Hebrews10:24
At First Covenant, I have seen many “gears” move together. Some gears keep the building running smoothly, repairing appliances and mechanical problems. Other gears build things for the church. Other gears use their resources and gift the church with things for the church to use. Other gears share their time with the Whole and spend a Sunday morning in the nursery, Sunday School or Kids Time. Other gears use their creativity and make beautiful banners that draw us into worship. Other gears use their musical talent to lead the worship team on Sunday mornings. Other gears show their love for relationships and teaching by leading a small group. Other gears share their home and practice hospitality on a regular basis. It is the reason why I love potlucks so much. It represents the different elements and gifts people bring to benefit the Whole.
These gears move to move others.
In the past 3 years, I have been moved by these gears. I have been moved in generosity, hospitality, love and grace. And I hope that my forward motion will “spur” others on, move others on, towards these things as well. And that together, we will represent the Church, and all that it was intended to be.
Here is a blog entry written by Amy Kimble, our CYAK youth leader, written from her blog in November 2011. It's a good testament to God's provision and the faith we can have in his goodness. Enjoy!
Last week I took a walk with my mother-in-law, Helen, on a beach in Rhode Island. This beach is her favorite spot to take us when we come home, and she's made a point to bring all three of us (Jordan, his brother Chris, and me) to this place this year.
Helen and I talked a lot on this beach, as well as took over 400 pictures. I should mention she loves to capture all of us on film, too :) She asked me about everything: our new life in Alaska, new friends, new job, and grad school. I shared with her how peaceful I feel about living up here and how much God has blessed Jordan and I since we moved. Although it has been such an emotional year, looking back, I definitely see God's provision through and through. I shared about how much my trust in God has grown this year as I've left a job, moved across the country, and started a new job that doesn't pay until I fund-raise. In every aspect, God has placed me in situations where I am left with no choice but to trust Him with the next step.
As we were walking back, I started opening up about how sometimes I feel pressure from outside sources to get a teaching job, to earn a retirement, to start "thinking about the future". I feel inward pressure that I'm not doing the right thing because I am not earning any money, and yet I want to go to grad school debt and loan free. I sometimes feel guilt in my gut that I am not contributing to our marriage financially, and I should be. I'm sure some of you have had these feelings before, as they are valid to the world we live in today.
But if I am truly going to claim I am a Christian and minister to people, I need to ignore all doubt and guilt in my life. They are not from God, they are from Satan. Point blank. So as we're walking I share with her how I am just trusting that God is going to provide for my future. That He is leading me to places that are good and fruitful, not harmful. He is opening my doors, as I ask Him to, and He walks beside me as I go through them. I have no reason to doubt that fundraising support will come in, that people are praying about CYAK right now and deciding whether or not they want to give, that tuition is going to be taken care of, and some day, so will my retirement. I just have. to. trust.
And then Helen and I look down in the sand... and there is a quarter. Not a shiny quarter. A quarter that has clearly been soaking in the salty ocean and washed ashore. I pick it up, thinking, "huh, that's unusual" but not really anything more. Until about 20 feet later we find another quarter.... and then a dime. "What is going on?!" we say to each other. Helen grabs my arm and tells me we have to stop and pray right now. That God is showing us something and we need to pray for God to open our eyes and hearts to whatever it is He has in store for us. She prayed for prosperity, that God would bless us, that we would be faithful and trust. After she finished praying we continued our walk and found two more quarters.
Friends, let me be so bold as to say that I do believe God was with us on that beach last Monday and He was listening to our hearts and showing us how much He loves us. I know that $1.10 we found that day will multiply beyond imagination in my lifetime. And I am so joyful that He is walking beside me today, tomorrow, and every day. And He can walk beside you, too. You just have to invite Him.
Below is an excerpt from Helen's current book project that she has been gracious enough to share with us. Enjoy!
Most of us look at our reflections in mirrors all day long--even after that first sleepy morning look into the bathroom mirror. We look at mirrors that were given to us by our parents or our teachers, our bosses and siblings. We carry these mirrors into our relationships, our work places and our faith communities. Usually the first mirror that comes to mind is the one that shows off our flaws, our imperfections, even our habitual sins. The look of that mirror encourages us to mask everything that does not feel right; or begin on a self-improvement plan to find the perfect self; or simply to give up and accept that we are defined by the things that are not right about the way we look, or act, what we know or how we feel about ourselves or others.
However, each of us has been given another mirror. It is the mirror that we received from a loving grandmother or nurturing parent, a favorite teacher, a close friend, or a pastor. When my pastor sat down alongside my hospital bed when I was an angry twelve year old, he had every reason to resent having to visit me, or at the very least, pity me. But instead he offered another mirror that gave me a picture of myself I might have missed altogether. When he offered me that view of myself--he blessed me. What he saw was someone who was bright and intelligent. While others brought stuffed animals to comfort me, he brought me books to challenge me. What he saw was a glimpse of a woman that I had not yet met, the person God created me to become. Through his eyes of blessing, I caught a glimpse of her as well.
Just for a moment now to lay down the first view that shows each blemish, and pick up this mirror that sees another side of who you truly are. The look of blessing offers you a glimpse not only of what is but leans into what might be. It is clear-eyed enough to see what is wrong, but it always highlights the gift that you are, the image of God that might be tarnished but is right there in plain sight in your own life.
Looking at yourself in the lens of those who love you best—what do you see? Do you see your loving nature, your sense of humor, your bright intelligence, your generosity, your gift of healing or teaching or listening? Sometimes the look of blessing reveals the more hidden fruits of the spirit—a genuine affection for others, or an exuberance about life; a serenity of spirit or a willingness to stick with things; perhaps a sense of compassion, a conviction that a basic holiness permeates all things, loyalty to your commitments, or an ability to direct your energies wisely and not force your way in life. (Galatians 5:22-26 The Message)
The more we look through the mirror that magnifies our fears, our inadequacies, our unattractive features, and even our outright sin, the further we are from the look of blessing. Perhaps that mirror’s view began as an almost casual, seemingly innocent assumption that you were the silly one, or the less pretty, not as athletic, or as smart or as good as someone else. Comparison seems often to be bred into the bone of each of us until we find ourselves trapped by the way we look in relation to others and not who we were created to be in Christ. When we spend our time looking to the right or the left, it is ourselves that ends up in the center—and striving to be better than someone else, we become completely self-centered. And there is little opportunity for God to speak not only truth into our lives, but God’s own longing that we might live into all what he hoped for us all along.
Each of us has the same choice to receive the look of blessing from God—or not. And we also have the choice to offer the look of blessing. The choices come in our churches, in our homes, in our offices and in our schoolrooms. They happen every day with church members and family, with classmates and friends, with strangers and even with enemies. We can choose to bless—or not. Cursing or blessing—the choice is ours but let’s be clear that one leads us toward God’s love and peace and hope; the other choice leads us away from that same Presence.
Because my mother continued to live in the small Wisconsin community where I grew up, I continued to see my former pastor even after he had retired from the church of my childhood. Those meetings were always filled with the same look of love and blessing that he offered to me so many years ago. Toward the end of his life, he was having dinner with his wife at the restaurant where my mother and I were just being seated. By then I was a minister, a wife, and mother of three children. When he saw me my pastor friend came over to greet me. A tall man, he stood behind me, placed his hands on my shoulders, leaned his long frame over me, and asked, “How’s the Reverend Mother?”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
We hope we'll have many contributors from our congregation. I imagine we will have regular and occasional contributors. If you'd like to contribute a poem, a photo, a devotion or anything that you believe enhances our life together, please contact Pastor Criss to learn about posting.