January 4, 2015 – Fellowship Church, Columbia Falls

The Parable of Talents

Here we are.  Or perhaps, here I am.  Although, I do not think I am alone in jumping into a new year with renewed spirit and determination to better myself.  Reflecting on the past year, I can say that it wasn’t a bad year.  Well, actually it was a very bad year for my waistline, but considering all things great and small I really have no complaints.

We all strive for different, better, more.  Of What?  For whom?  Why?  These particular questions had a much different meaning for me at 9:59am this morning before I attended church service today.   I enjoy writing.  Some say I even have talent…a gift.  I humbly accept compliments, but on the inside I beat myself up and know that I am certainly no Janet Evanovich.  After a glass (or two) of wine, you might catch me saying, “If I didn’t have to work, I would just write and do beading!”  and chuckle at the fantasy as I take another sip.  Up until today, my purpose and motivation has been purely selfish.  I write for myself.  Even though I write and publish a public blog, I do it because I would eventually love to be published and make enough money to write for a living.   This fantasy would give me more time with my family, more time to travel, to experience and write about new things.  It would give me the freedom of being in charge of my schedule and life to do the things I want to do when I want to do them.  It’s all about me.

Well, God has different plans, doesn’t he?

This year’s journey began at the 10am service at Fellowship Church in Columbia Falls, Montana.  I have attended service here once before and the pastor made my list of top three speakers.  He is passionate about his calling and is following his talent.  Pastor Joe doesn’t lecture.  He tells a story.  I feel like the sanctuary should be outside, with the congregation sitting on logs surrounding a crackling campfire at dusk.

This morning Pastor Joe recalled the Parable of Talents from Matthew 25:14.  Who knew there were parables in the Bible?   According to Joe, the verses are Christ explaining what the kingdom of heaven will be like.  I will let you read and interpret the verses at your own discretion, but, basically I have been a wicked, lazy servant and better shape up!  According to Pastor Joe and God, IT’S NOT TOO LATE!  Phew!  Praise the Lord on that news!   It is a sin to bury our God-given talents, and by talents he does not mean skills, but aptitudes.  And here’s the clincher.  It is just as big of a sin, if not bigger to use our talents for selfish reasons.  Wow!  That sure flushed my New Year’s resolution down the toilet!   My skill may be writing, however my aptitude of communication given to me by God himself, better be used to give back to God.

Where am I going with all of this?  My journey includes YOU!  It isn’t all about me after all!  It’s about reaching out to the world and I do mean world!  Lately, Word Press stats tell me that I have at least one click per day from someone in Brazil.  It means reaching out to family, friends and strangers to share my experience and journey of a closer relationship with God.   If one person can relate to my story and their world shines a little brighter as a result, then my journey is worthy.

Thanks, Joe for the wake-up call!

I will leave you today with a verse that Pastor Joe left with us:  Ecclesiastes 7:8 “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”

Fellowship Alliance Church, July 22, 2012.

Logan and I jumped back in the saddle today by attending the 10:00 a.m. service at Fellowship Alliance Church in Columbia Falls, Montana.  Turns out my neighbor across the alley goes there and arrived shortly after we found our seats and joined us in the long, beige padded pew.  It was another great Google find!   Should I feel guilty that my church selections are mostly based on time and location through a Google search thirty minutes before we scurry out the door? 

I have been itching to express my observance of the double handers.  While growing up, my parents would occasionally send us to church with my religious grandmother.  The Little Brown Church; a quaint, non-denominational church in Bigfork, that just so happened to be painted a chocolate brown, was my grandma’s home on Sundays.  I found the sermons boring and the organ music a bit too stoic.  But, I was a kid.  What did I know?  During the songs of praise, my grandma would raise her right arm in the air as if trying to reach for a jar of canned pickled beets on the top shelf of her pantry.  I was embarrassed and wondered if the saucer of prescription pills she took every morning with her coffee and black toast was a dangerous concoction. 

Now, in the midst of my journey, visiting several different churches- I have a different kind of wonder.  In the eight months of going to church, I have only attended two church services where there was not a single hand raiser in the bunch.  A few congregations have had only one or two black sheep brave enough to praise God among conservative masses.  Many churches have several single and double hand raisers.  I observe with curiosity. 

Witnessing people worship sometimes feels like I am peeking in on a couple making love.  It is that intimate.  There are some who are a little reserved in their praise and keep their elbows by their side and bend their arms upward with their palms facing up.  Some bounce or wave their arms with the music.  Whatever it is…they feel it.  And my immature youth feelings of embarrassment have turned into immature adult feelings of jealousy.  I want to feel what they feel.  I want to drink their Kool-aid.   Not so different than the infamous quote in “When Harry Met Sally.”  I’ll have what she’s having. 

Now go to any rock concert or just pop into the Great Northern Bar in Whitefish, Montana on a Friday night and CROWDS of people have their hands in the air…both of them!  They FEEL the music.  They FEEL youth.  They FEEL good …no, GREAT!  Ok, in all fairness, the majority of this behavior may be alcohol induced.  But, my point is that people are not afraid to openly praise musicians in a concert or bar.  Church is different.  The majority do not have their hands in the air.  So, I am not alone.  I am part of the empty majority.  (And, please do not take offence if you are not a hand raiser and completely feel the power of God moving you.  I am not writing and sharing to judge anyone but myself.) 

The service today at Fellowship Alliance Church was moving.  I did not catch the name of the Pastor.  The message was about living a full life.  His sermon was passionate and relevant.  He provided us with just four questions to ask ourselves.  “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?”, “What is wrong with the world?” and “How can what is wrong be made right?”  He guided us through the answers found in Colossians 1:15-23. 

It looks like their church website posts past sermons, www.cfallschurch.com.   I certainly hope they post this one.  I’ll let my audience ponder the above questions.  But, I will give you a hint on number four. 

Jesus is the Kool-aid.

God comes in nuggets too! 2/12/12 – The Paul Harvey!

Big Mountain Fog
A Two Chair Fog Day

Wow!  Nothing like a spike in your blog stats to inspire you to get up at the crack of dawn to write!  Thanks for all of the loving comments!

A few weeks ago I was skiing while my four year old son, Logan attended his weekly two hour ski lesson.  Two hours of freedom for his mama is worth its weight in gold!  Good thing we actually don’t have to carry around gold anymore, but if we did, I guarantee those two hours would be worth it!

There is a benefit to skiing solo.  You get to hop in the singles line, cut in front of everyone else and ride with total strangers.  You can choose to chat about the snow conditions or pray in silence and ignore your lift mates, whatever suits your mood.  This particular week I chose to chat with the friendly people next to me.  The conversation strangely enough brought up church service.  The woman was telling her out of town guest about a weekly church service held at the summit of the mountain, at the top of chair one.  She had never attended, but had heard about it and recalled the time of service being at 2:30pm.  I was excited of my new option if I happened to miss a morning church service. Plus, how cool is it to worship God at the top of a mountain, looking at a 360 degree vista of God-created splendor?  Mental note taken.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and once again, our rushed Sunday morning routine found me taking a deep breath and thanking God for my back up plan.  For those of you that know me, this going to church every week commitment is HUGE!  Not the actual church part, but the getting there part…on time.  I am used to creating flexibility in my life.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do when Logan actually has to attend school.  Pray for me please!

My back up plan required some orchestrating.  Logan’s ski lesson ends at 3pm.  If church service starts at 2:30pm I did not think I would be able to attend church service at the summit and ski down to the base of the mountain to pick Logan up in time.  I arranged for Logan’s ski instructor to leave him at the pricey day care center after the lesson.  They will charge in 15-minute increments, so I managed to justify the expense in my single-mom budget.

It was a foggy day on the mountain.  I know this is no surprise to my local audience.  Skiing solo also has its drawbacks.  I count on God for a lot of things, but I don’t expect him to bail me out on account of stupidity.  I play it safe and ski on the popular runs where hopefully someone will witness a life threatening fall if my skis decide they have a mind of their own.  For the first half of my two hours, I enjoyed skiing chair two, a lift with access to the lower part of the mountain, where the fog seemed to be only a two-chair fog day, instead of a one-chair fog, or no-chair fog day.  (Fog can be rated by how many chairs you can see in front of you while riding the lift.  Handy!)

At two pm I headed to the summit via Chair 1.  The fog was thick and I was already nervous about my traverse down the face of the mountain.  Perhaps God would clear the skies for me, not that there are more pressing prayers to answer, right?  I arrived at the summit early.  I assumed that the service would be held on the large deck of the Summit House.  The Summit House is a large building which serves skiers with plenty of fast food, plastic bottled beverages, a full bar, plenty of tables and chairs to rest your weary ski legs and dry your drenched clothing, restrooms and a gift shop with useless souvenirs and forgotten necessities.  Let me digress to the sentence before last.  I believe the only thing I learned in my high school senior year chemistry class, taught by Mr. Hartford, was that fact that when you ‘assume’ something…it often results in making an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.  I take that back.  I learned two things.  Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and ballroom dancing.

So…I believe I am early.  I am the only one sitting on a frosty picnic table bench on the entire Summit House deck.  A hippie-looking fellow walks up and places his skinned skis on the table and starts the process of removing the skins.  I glance over and he is concentrating on his skis.  I am wondering if he is there for the service too.  I keep glancing at the time on my cell phone.  It was now 2:35pm.  Perhaps the Pastor was nervous about the fog too and had canceled the service.  At 2:40 I finally walk inside to the gift shop and ask the shop clerk about the service.  She says, “Oh yes, the service is right there,” as she points to the mass of people that are mingling about, unloading from two different chairs and shuffling from every direction headed toward their favorite run.

I make my way outside, clip on my skis and glide over toward the moving wave of skiers.  As I am glancing around to determine if there is actually an organized group of summit church-goers, I see a woman carrying a staked blue sign displaying the words “Worship Service 2:30pm.”  She is headed to the small white building next to the unloading zone of chair one.  Assuming (there’s that word again!)  the service is over; I approach her and ask her where the service meets should I wish to attend in the future.

“Actually, no one showed up…but, I could do a service for you,” she says with eager sincerity.  “Sure!”  I reply, relieved that I will be fulfilling my Sunday quota without reverting to plan C of an evening service.

I follow her shuffle to a less crowded area next to the boundary tape.  She stabs the stake into the packed snow with force which proves this aint her first rodeo.     She introduces herself as Sue and immediately informs me that she is not a pastor, but is a volunteer and attends the North Valley Baptist Church in Columbia Falls, the town in which I live.  She also informs me that this is just a nugget of a church service.

She starts out with a prayer.  I bow my head and balance myself with my ski poles.  She then places a small yellow slip of paper in my ski gloved hand and asks me to read the bolded responsive words after her.  “You be ‘THE PERSON’, instead of ‘THE PEOPLE’.”  We both chuckle.  I read my three lines after her three lines.  She then shares a devotional thought, which I might recall if I had a habit of writing immediately following a service rather than weeks later.  We say the Lord’s Prayer together (which is engrained in my head from four years of attending Al-Anon meetings) and she wraps up with a quote of scripture, Jude 24-25.  That was it…my five minute-tops, nugget of a church service!  It was quick, to the point and left me feeling spiritually satisfied.

Ski on!  Church on!

Keep those comments coming!  I love them!

Have a wonderful day my friends!

Update…2/27/2012

Evening Candle Service
Evening Candle Service

For those of you who think I am a total flake…well, God thinks differently.  I have actually made good on my commitment.

December 11, 2011:  Glacier Church of Christ, Columbia Falls

December 18, 2011:  East Haven Baptist Church, Kalispell

December 24, 2011:  Christ Lutheran Church, Whitefish

January 1, 2012:  United Methodist Church, Columbia Falls

January 8, 2012:  Four Square Church, Whitefish

January 15, 2012:  Whitefish Assembly of God, Whitefish

January 22, 2012: Calvary Chapel, Whitefish

January 29, 2012:  East Haven Baptish Church, Kalispell – evening service

February 5, 2012:  United Methodist Church, Whitefish

February 12, 2012:  Glacier Country Resort Ministries, Summit, Whitefish Mountain Resort

February 19, 2012: Faith Bible Church, Spokane, Washington

February 26, 2012:  Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Columbia Falls

In my short twelve weeks of church services, I have discovered that, like the movie “Love Actually,”  where Love is actually all around, that God is actually all around too!  I have enjoyed every single church service that I have attended.  I recently watched the movie “The Answer Man” and there is a scene where the main character is in a church, moving from pew to pew trying to position himself in an optimum local to “connect” with God.  Sometimes I feel like this character.  But, like most things in life, I feel we tend to over analyze things.  I am taking what I like and leaving the rest.  I am praying everyday.  I pray with my son every night before bedtime.  We light a candle and hold hands and pray for Elihume, the boy we sponsor through Compassion International from Ethiopia.  We pray for Logan’s dad.  We pray for our family, our friends, our enemies, strangers and those that are sick, homeless, cold, lonely, heart broken, grieving, hungry…etc.  We then give our gratitude for everything we have and the opportunities and gifts we have been given in life.   We are creating a bond with each other and with God.  Sometimes Logan tells me that Jesus wants him to eat candy…and I am good with that.    I am happy that Logan and Jesus have a fun side…happy spirits.

A writer is inspired by people reading their writing…please comment and let me know you were here.  Just to give me encouragement if nothing else.  It takes a village to raise a child.  It takes an audience to hone a successful writer.

Thanks for stopping by my little world.  Feel free to “follow” my post.

Love to all of you.

January 29th – Easthaven Baptist Church 6pm Service

Easthaven Baptist Church

Our Sunday mornings are usually rushed.  Not only do we scramble for church clothes (which now I am thrilled to death, includes jeans), but Logan is enrolled in the Buckaroos ski program from one to three pm on Sundays and we have to round up a multitude of ski garb.

This morning was different.  I woke up early. I was relaxed.  Logan was sleeping in.  I took a hot bath.  I was in no hurry to go anywhere.  I had googled our destined church service and if we were in good time, we were headed to the First Presbyterian Church with a service at 10am.  If we were running late, there was a 10:15am service at the United Methodist Church.  Both churches are in Whitefish, which is the quaint town at the base of Big Mountain.

Still soaking in my hot bath, I reach over to take a look at the time on my cell phone.  It was nine thirty and Logan was still sleeping.  I took a deep breath and decided in that instant that I was not going to turn into the crazed pre-church maniac that normally possesses me.  I took another deep breath and knew there was a back up plan.  Evening service.

The day had its ups and downs, including a warning on my windshield when I had parked in the kid drop off zone for longer that the 30 minute maximum time limit;  a texting quarral with my ex, ending with a rejected plea for him to join us at church (he might get a thing or two out of it) and the up of Logan turning and stopping on his own with rave reviews from his underpaid instructor, Austin.  We managed to get down the mountain, stop at the house to strip off a layer of clothing and head to Easthaven Baptist Church.

This was our second visit to Easthaven.  We attended a morning service in December with a friend and her four year old son.  The evening service happens to be led by a Pastor Matthew Fitzwater…a classmate I last saw at my twenty-year high school reunion, when I no doubt had a few cocktails in me.  I remember him having more hair, but he still has a great smile and a kind demeaner.  His lovely wife greeted us with a program as we entered the sanctuary.

The evening service offers a relaxed atmosphere with low lighting and glowing candles.  The music was folksy and welcomed us with warm fuzzies.  (Well…that’s how I felt.  I swear I am drinking nothing but water as I write this entry!)  A lady introduced herself and invited Logan to the preschool program offered in the middle of the service…after the music, before the sermon.  We were early, so we had time to preregister him out in the lobby.  I am glad they laughed when I answered, “Church” to their question, “Is he allergic to anything?”  Finding God, does not mean I have to leave my sense of humor at the sacrificial altar, does it?

During the folksy singing part of the service, Logan sat on my lap and and we both had some toe-tapping rhythms moving through us.  A handful of young women were in the row behind us and I would have voted for them in the early rounds of an American Idol season.  It was pleasant.

When they excused the kids, I took Logan to the children’s wing for Preschool Praise, where they also have a cool jungle gym like you find at McDonald’s.  Logan was excited at the beginning, but when push came to shove to leave the little guy…he chose the boring church service over the jungle gym.  He clung to my leg and I am not one to force him in uncomfortable situations.  So, back to the sanctuary to hear what my homey Matt had to say.

He had us refer to our Bibles.  Psalms 119.  Now let me say, I have to look in the table of contents (or whatever the Bible equivilent is) to see where to turn for the books of the Bible.  I think that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are grouped together, but whatever knowledge I had of the Bible must have seen its last day during my phase of jello shots and Bartles and James wild berry wine coolers in my early twenties.  I turned to Psalms.  I saw Book I, so when he said one-nineteen.  I was looking for chapter nineteen in book one…then looking for the verse…couldn’t find it, so was looking at chapter one, but there are not nineteen verses in chapter one.  I was lost.  I reluctantly glanced at a person in the row in front of us and saw 119…ok, how hard can this Bible verse thing be?  Geez, I have a long way to go!

Matthew had some great things to say.  Talking about how we need to be prepared in difficult situations.  He compared a hunting trip where the truck slid off the muddy road in Eastern Montana, miles from the ranch house and trying to dig out the truck with hunting knives and spoons.  Since that experience, he is better prepared, making sure he has a shovel and a few other manly tools.

Do I want to fight life’s battles with a butter knife or a sword?  Pastor Matthew challenged us to memorize some verses, so that we may refer to them in a time of need.  Not just look them up in our Bible, or Google a verse or two, but to memorize them.  Feel them resonate in our hearts.  I can relate with the Serenity Prayer.  The Serenity Prayer has certainly helped me during some difficult times during a five-year relationship with an alcoholic.  I admit I still say it under my breath at work now and again when dealing with difficult people or while driving behind a tractor when I am in a big hurry.  It’s simple.  It helps.  So, I guess I should look up a verse or two and see what I find.

Seeking God is not a like 70/30 health plan or 80/20 mortgage as Matthew indicated.  It’s 100%.

So, my journey continues.  One step and one percentage at a time.

Thanks for following.

If you are reading my blog for the first time, please read the archives.  It tells about my journey.  I plan to visit a different church service each week during 2012.

Glacier Church of Christ, Columbia Falls 12/11/2011

I had great intentions of starting my journey at my childhood church, Northridge Lutheran Church in Kalispell, Montana.   Let me just say that I am not the most timely person, and this day was no different.  Getting ready and going to church is more difficult than I thought.  The first thing on my mind was “church” clothes.  I have none.  I scoured my closet and came up with a long black skirt that had slits up to my thighs on both sides.  I don’t even recall buying the skirt or wearing it for any occasion.  I searched for nylons.  I guess I sent those to the thrift store during my last cleanse after watching an episode of “Hoarders”…since it had been several years since I even wore a pair.  My last ditch effort to look somewhat presentable found me sliding on my black SmartWool ski leggings underneath my liberal church-going skirt.  Note to self:  black attracts every speck of hair, lint, etc. that inhabits my less than clean house.  I have three dogs.  (Thank goodness two of them are black.)  Enough said.

So, I was ready.  What about Logan, my four-year-old son?  Does he have church clothes?  I had no idea!  All of his clothes are gratefully accepted hand-me-downs from a good friend who delivers them by the van load.  I find out what he has when they come out of the bins on the day he wears them.  I would like to add that he is an independent little guy.  (He was recently expelled from his Christian daycare/preschool, need I say more?)  I like to give him choices when I can, so I summoned him over to the dresser to help pick out some proper attire.  He immediately grabbed a blue t-shirt.  I was game, until I saw the word “evil” on it.  It was a Transformer T-shirt that said “Fight Evil” which was actually somewhat relevant, but I immediately banned it from the church wardrobe possibilities.  Logan threw a fit and I grew impatient and found my voice raising.  I instantly questioned my behavior and whether my mommy dearest demeaner was even church-worthy.

Bottom line:  we were never going to make it to the service of my childhood church, but gosh-dang-it, I was bound and determined to start my journey that I had put off for so many weeks.  I found the first step to my journey on Google.  “Churches in Columbia Falls, Montana” was my search.  Come to find out there are actually more churches than bars in Columbia Falls, which is rare in Montana.  I think the scales are usually tipped the other direction or at least balanced.

So off we went to “Glacier Church of Christ,” thanks to its close proximity to our house, time of service and Google.  The website informed me what to expect at the service and had a nice photo of the young pastor and his wife.  He actually looked like a teenage version of my cousin, so how could he possibly put the fear of God in me as his elder?  Yes, Glacier Church of Christ was my first step on my journey.  I will continue my writing and share my experience of this delightful service.  I have a lot of catching up to do.  Journeys are not all that easy to put into words.  Please be patient.  This is work in progress.   I will get to the God stuff, don’t worry.

Church of Christ
Logan in front of Glacier Church of Christ

Continuous.  Thank you Kasey.

p.s.  Pastor Kasey was wearing jeans.  My frantic pre-church clothing episode was fruitless.  Perhaps it was a useful lesson I can look back on and smile.

Visit them at www.glacierchurchofchrist.org  They have a facebook page too!

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