Thursday, March 31, 2011

Newsbrief: Henri Nouwen on Prayer

I was reading through a Lenten devotional and decided I just had to share it with you.

It comes from a collection of Henri Nouwen’s writings called “Renewed For Life.” This particular devotion deals with the subject of prayer.

Prayer is the discipline of the moment. When we pray, we enter into the presence of God whose name is God-with-us. To pray is to listen attentively to the One who addresses us here and now. When we dare to trust that we are never alone but that God is always with us, always cares for us, and always speaks to us, then we can gradually detach ourselves from the voices that make us guilty or anxious and thus allow ourselves to dwell in the present moment. This is a very hard challenge because radical trust in God is not obvious. Most people distrust God. Most people think of God as a fearful, punitive authority or as an empty, powerless nothing. Jesus’ core message was that God is neither a powerless weakling nor a powerful boss, but a lover, whose only desire is to give us what our hearts most desire.

May this Lenten season by a time when we all dare to trust in the amazing gifts of God’s grace, mercy, and love.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Trial Balloon

Along with the new computer system at the church, we were able to start digitally recording my sermons. This past Sunday was the first stab at capturing that audio, and this post is my first attempt at posting the MP3 files to the web. There are still some bugs to work out, but it sure seems worth a try.

This past Sundays sermon was called "Living Waters" and draws from Exodus 17:1-7 and John 4:5-42.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Newsbrief: Strengths

“Our strengths are many, and our weaknesses are manageable.”

Those were the wise words that Dave Groves used to sum our Administrative Council Retreat two weeks ago.

It was a wonderful event. The Administrative Council Retreat was the very beginning of a process of discernment we’ll be a part of here at First Christian Church Scottsdale as we strive to live into the bright future God is preparing for us.

One of the tools we used that morning is called the SWOC Analysis. SWOC stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Challenges. It is a brainstorming activity that helps an organization to evaluate itself across those four metrics. In a sense it is a way of asking: What are we good at and what can we do better.

Instead of sharing all of the results with you (which would fill up pages!) I thought it might be worthwhile to share a handful of the answers that came up in that very first category – the answers that led Dave to affirm “Our strengths are many…”

  • Fundraising!
  • Friendliness and Caring
  • Inclusiveness amd Diversity
  • Outreach Oriented
  • Church Campus
  • Good Youth Program
  • Fresh Start! - A new time in the life of our church
  • Energetic Pastor
  • People are looking for an intimate community like ours
  • Use of Technology
  • Terrific Lay Leadership
  • Financial Stability
  • Fabulous Music Ministry
  • Communication Tools
  • Members who are generous with time, talent, and treasure

Isn’t that a great list! We truly are blessed as a congregation to have so many blessings and strengths to draw from!

And I’m curious: What strengths do you see in the church? What other blessings can we lift up and celebrate? As we listen for the voice of God guiding us into the fullness of the future, our strengths will be the things that help bring us there!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On the Whiteboard: Living Water

As we continue our journey through the Season of Lent, this coming Sunday we inherit two more of the great stories from our Biblical tradition -- Moses bringing forth water from the stone (Exodus 17:1-7) and Jesus meeting the Samaritan women at the well (John 4:5-42).

This Sunday we'll be talking about living water, about the gift of faith and the ways that Christ is calling us to the fullness of life. On the third Sunday of Lent we'll cast aside all stumbling blocks that keep us from knowing the grace, love and mercy of God as we drink deeply from the well of living water. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Newsbrief: New Computers!


They are a central part of our modern lives. From the personal computers we use to check e-mails to the cellphones we carry around to the check-out machines at your neighborhood grocery store.

Computers are also a central part of our ministry at First Christian Church. I mean, you wouldn’t be reading this blog post without computers!

From the e-mail messages we exchange to the Elder’s Rotating Visitation List to the Worship Bulletins on Sunday morning and the Sermon Slides I create every week, we use computers in almost every aspect of the church’s ministry.

Which is what makes this announcement so exciting: This coming Tuesday we will begin installing a brand new computer system for the church!

The need for a new system became apparent when one of the machines in the office started routinely locking up (in the tech world they call it “The Blue Screen of Death”) because it was out of memory. We quickly discovered that the machine only had 32 GB’s of memory (for comparison sake, my cell phone has that much memory; most new computers come with at least 500 GB hard drives now).

The upgrade will also allow us to do some new things in worship as well. Our current server is too old to support the most recent updates to our Worship Software, meaning we aren’t able to take full advantage of what it can do. We can also start digitally recording the worship service and making my sermons available for folks who cannot make it into church on a particular Sunday morning. Stay tuned for more news on that in the coming weeks.

We are fortunate that we can pay for the entire new computer system (3 desktop PC’s and one Server) by accessing unrestricted Memorial Funds. However, if you would like to make a onetime contribution to help offset the expense, that would be fabulous. Simply mark your donation for Fund 5017 and we’ll make sure it gets to the right place here at the church office.

By the way, the system we use to keep track of donations and the church budget…all done on computers! I told you they were central to our ministry!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

John 3:16 on the Whiteboard

This Sunday's scripture couldn't be more familiar. Or, at least one part of it.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son..."

In fact, you'll find "JOHN 3:16" slathered on signs and proudly held up at all kinds of public events and forums. Mostly sporting events. Especially football games.

It is one of the defining texts for us as Christians, and this Sunday I'll make the case that we see the covenantal promise of John 3 written all throughout creation...not just on cardboard signs held up in a crowded football stadium, but everywhere that God leads us in our life of faith!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Down Home on the Farm

Yesterday wasn't just Ash Wednesday at First Christian Church Scottsdale.

It was also the Keenagers first field trip of 2011!

We took 22 folks down to Stanfield, AZ to tour the Shamrock Dairy Farm. It was a great time, and I'm not just saying that because they gave me an icecream cone at the end of the tour....though that always helps.

Here are a handful of photos from our day with 10,000 cows!

The Greeting Committee was waiting for us 
when we pulled into the parking lot.

Our crew of Keenagers on the tour 

Lunch time on the farm...for the cows.
We had hotdogs, chips, and pretzels.

If anyone is interested in taking their own tour of the dairy, check out Shamrock Farm's webpage for details. In April the Keenagers will be going on a 90 minute boat ride on the Desert Bell at Saguaro Lake. You can RSVP through the church office.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Newsbrief: By the Numbers

We had all sorts of things going on last Sunday at church. So lets break it down. Here is last Sunday by the numbers:

118 – We had 118 people in church for worship on Sunday morning, and nearly every single one of them came over to the Fellowship Hall afterward for the Chili Cook-Off and Silent Auction. It was great to see so many folks!

$1953 – That is how much money we were able to raise for Week of Compassion this year. 100% of those funds will go to support WoC programs, without a penny lost to administrative costs or overheard expenses.

30 – That is how many hours our youth and young people went without food in order to raise awareness and raise funds for global hunger relief during the 30-Hour Famine. Want to learn more about the excellent organization behind the 30-Hour Famine, click right here.

$403.50 – The total donation for Hunger Relief from the Chili Cook-Off. Of that donation, $200 will go to support the Healthy Packs Program started by our very own Rev. Judy Stall and $203.50 will go to Feed My Starving Children (the organization our youth volunteered with over the weekend).

52 – The number of quarters in the offering plate as part of our “Quarters for Camp” campaign. That is an additional $13 that will go into the Camp Scholarship Fund. Please remember, every quarter you drop into the collection plate goes straight to assisting our young people in heading off to camp this year!

$927.50 – The money raised for DWM’s Budget from the Silent Auction. 50% of DWM’s total budget is used to support outreach ministries.

Last, but not least. My favorite number of them all from this past Sunday…

THREE! – The number of vegetarian chilis at the Chili Cook-Off!

I always joke that as a vegetarian I can measure my popularity in the church based on how many trays of deviled eggs there are at a potluck meal. After your abundant hospitality, I may have to change that line now! I simply cannot tell you how touched I was to see so many options to choose from (I had a little bit from each one, they were delicious!) at the Chili Cook-Off. Thanks for thinking of me and the other vegetarians at the church this past Sunday. It was a wonderful day all around!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

From the Whiteboard: The Transfiguration

This coming Sunday is our last Sunday in the season after Epiphany. For the last two months we have been following the theme of "Let the Light of Christ Shine" and do things ever go out with a bang in that regard!

This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday. We inherit the text from Matthew 17:1-9 where Christ brings Peter and James and John up to the high mountain and is transfigured before them. His face shines like the sun and his clothes became a dazzling white. Then Christ is joined in a private conversation by Moses and Elijah. It is a remarkable scene...that I could only crudely sketch out on the Whiteboard this week.

And it is no coincidence that my sketch bares a passing resemblance to the work of Annie Vallotton. I absolutely love her illustrations and often draw from them when I'm putting something up on the Whiteboard.

I'll see you in worship for Transfiguration Sunday!