Monthly Archives: January 2014

Weekly E-News Message

Happy New Year, Hope Folks!

As we move into a new year with a new all-church annual theme - Roots & Renewal - I invite you to add one more resolution to your 2014 list that will bless your life and satisfy your soul in a way nothing else can …

Go all in with God this year!

New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, but hard to keep. It’s human nature. Resistance to change is built into the physical universe. Newton’s First Law of Motion reminds us that a body at rest tends to stay at rest … unless acted upon by an outside force.

So, going all in with God isn’t easy, because it’s a big change for most Christians. We prefer to keep God at a comfortable distance. The 10 Commandments are barely known and rarely applied. Loving enemies is something we say easily, and do hardly. Worship is relegated to penciled-in-status on Sunday mornings, easily erased for “bigger” life events. It’s our nature, and we tell ourselves we can’t change. We’re bodies at rest, stuck in bad habits and old ways … unless acted upon by an (extremely powerful and radically life-altering) outside force. One who moves us!

Enter the Holy Spirit.

Truth is, we can change, because God can change us. So let’s get moving! It starts this weekend at worship … bring a Bible and a few friends. Let’s dig deeply into the rich soil of God’s grace and truth this year, discovering our spiritual roots and finding renewal through the Holy Spirit. Let’s go all in with God in 2014 – a resolution worth making, and keeping!

Mike Housholder
Pastor. Preacher. AP Physics Student, Chicago Taft H.S., 1981-82.

go(serve) Daily Devotions

Date: Thursday, Jan. 2
Mission Partner: Mission Board, written by Adam Obrecht, board member
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:9b

“For you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

Commitment can be used in many different settings, from professional, athletics, personal and obviously spiritual.  But what does it mean to be committed?  For me it is the daily struggle to keep focused on God and his works in my life.  To me, being committed to God means to be a messenger or a vessel for him to use in my interactions with others.  When I do get this right it just puts a smile on my face to see how God can use someone for his work.  I have been involved in many different mission opportunities in the community, whether it is serving food, talking with someone about their financial struggles, serving as part of a host committee, or taking pictures.  I get a front row seat to see how God is using me and others to bring light into this world.

One of my favorite times to see this is taking pictures at events.  While I am not a great photographer, I enjoy finding unique and subtle happenings in the church during large events.  During the Christmas services I am amazed to always be able to find a child holding grandpa’s hand or a reflection of someone during the candle light song and to see the pure joy that is in someone’s face during these times.

Another area I have been able to serve is helping families deal with financial hardships.  While it is tougher to find joy in the initial conversations I have with families, I get to see a transformation start to happen.  Once a family has committed to look for ways to improve their situation you know their process to improvement has begun.  Then as time passes, and sometimes it is a long time that passes before you get to see the change happen, you can see the change from despair to hope happen.  The years it can take families to make changes can seem like a dark time for them.  When additional issues come up for them it is easy to not stay focused on the long term and only remember that the car needs repaired or how do I find another job.

Following Christ out of the darkness is not an easy task.  There are many distractions that can bring us to not keep our commitment on him.  For me seeing how he is working in others’ lives is how I can keep my own focus and commitment to Christ daily.

go(serve) Daily Devotions

Date: Wednesday, Jan. 1
Mission Partner: Lutheran Services in Iowa, written by Jane Scanlon, volunteer
Scripture: Micah 6:8

“O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Injustice has varied faces. I encountered many of them as a volunteer with the refugee program of Hope’s mission partner, Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI). All refugees are forced to flee their home countries through no fault of their own. They are innocent victims of political, social, ethnic, racial or religious injustices, which prevent them from living in their native land.

Many of the Burmese, Bhutanese, Africans and Iraqis I’ve been honored to meet, spent years in lawless, primitive refugee camps in neighboring countries before being sponsored for resettlement in the U.S.  They were driven from their homes and witnessed the murder of loved ones. Many women and girls were assaulted and men were forced to serve the militias who attacked their villages. All knew hunger well.  I could not undo the injustices they suffered but I thought I could do justice by helping them rebuild their lives here by teaching them English (ESL).  Of course, my students taught me so much more than I taught them: life lessons on the resiliency of the human spirit.  I saw that the God-given capacity for joy, kindness and humility endures despite extreme injustices inflicted by others, that divine spark within is always there, somewhere.

One of my vocabulary activities was a “class mood questionnaire” where students would survey each other about whether they were feeling happy, sad, angry, tired, excited or worried. We would tally the results on the board.  In my six years as an ESL teacher at LSI, almost every student reported they were either “happy” or “excited”.  Occasionally there was a “worried”.  Only once was there was a man who said, “sad.” Why? Not because he had a college degree in his country, had lost everything and was now working on an assembly line. “Because”, the young man replied,  “next week is holiday and no English class!”  I always came away from my classes with a bigger, lighter heart and a much smaller concern about most everything in my life.  “Blessed to be a blessing” defines my experience as a volunteer with refugees.

During New Year’s Day, as we are invited to explore new beginnings, I am reminded of another life lesson I learned from a student who had recently arrived from Burundi (Africa). We went on a “field trip” to Valley West Mall to see the Christmas display and learn about American traditions. As we looked down at the elaborate Christmas village and the well nourished Santa Clause on his throne, I attempted to explain the Santa story in simple English: “On Christmas Eve, he rides through the sky on a sled pulled by reindeer – like antelope –and brings gifts for children all over the world….”  After staring at me wide-eyed for a few moments he asked, “And this man lives here at the Valley West Mall?”

Driving home afterwards, chuckling as I reflected on how newcomers interpret things they encounter here, I was struck by how God invites all of us to live life as newcomers: to see with a child’s eyes as though for the first time. Jesus asks us to set aside what we think we know and cultivate what the theologians call, the “beginner’s mind.”  This New Year, Lord, may I assume nothing about anyone or anything. May I greet every encounter with curiosity. May I discover new joy in doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with you alongside my brothers and sisters of all countries and cultures. Amen.