Trail Notes

Our Father in Heaven,

Hallowed be your name.

I write this eight days past Halloween.  “Hallowed,” “Saints,” and “Holy” are all in the same family.  Let the name of our Father who is in heaven (see October’s newsletter) be hallowed, holy, set apart for special use and purposes.  This addresses taking the name of the Lord in vain, but it is much deeper than your word choices after you smash your thumb or witness careless driving.

It goes back to Genesis 1, where the human family is created in God’s image and Genesis 2 where humanity is asked to share the creative process with God by naming the animals.  A creature helps the Creator create.  It recalls Genesis 3 where those creatures deny the shallowness that God gave them and try to seize it for themselves.  And as they seize it, they break it.  They break it on their way to the flood and on their way up and down the Tower of Babel until the hallowedness of that family that God created in the garden is shattered and scattered across the world.  But God graciously marked out a people who are called to live a hallowed life under Torah.  And that hallowed image is fully restored in a baby born to a virgin under a Middle-Eastern star and raised in a little town called Nazareth.  This boy, Jesus, is the restored hallowed image of the God to whom we pray and who then teaches us to pray these exact words.

So what should we do with it?  Why do we pray these words?  If we misunderstand the Father’s identity (“name” is about identity, not just what we call him), we misunderstand who  we are and how we are to pray.  If we get the first part right, the rest comes a lot more easily.

For us to pray “hallowed by your name” is to say that not only do we want to see the Father’s name honored and respected, but all who bear that image.  When I pray these words, I am bound to honor and respect as holy the image of God in everyone I meet and deal with.  Our children, families, neighbors and even strangers and enemies bear the image of God.  And we are responsible for acting like it.  “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not just a way to assure that everyone gets along.  It is for us to respond to the image of God in each person, whether that is something that they see in themselves or not.  Christians are people who look at the mess in front of us and say, “Can you believe that God humbled himself to take up flesh and bone and live in this crazy mess?  That he calls that confused, rude, angry or ignorant person over there “image of God?”  It transforms us for a life of love.

You are reading this in December.  Preparations for Christmas are in full swing and we have an opportunity to renew our commitment to the Holy One who humbly left his Father’s side and demonstrated how divine holiness can reside in, through and with a human being.  May we pray over this truth this month and live holy lives in response to the Holy One in whose image we have been made.

Pastor Jeff

Bishop & Lone Pine Work and Witness Trip

On September 15th, 8  of us left for the Native American Christian Academy (formerly Sun Valley Indian School).  We wish to thank you for your support and prayers.  We were excited to see how others would respond, we were not disappointed.  Everyone went to work.

Linda Sigler got the job of clipping box top coupons.  This program is being discontinued, and the school needs to reach 1,600,000 coupons to purchase a new van.  They are well on their way with 1,000,000.  It takes the patience of a saint to clip, sort, and count little pieces of paper.  Thank you, Linda.

Tom Sigler was astounded to see al the propane tanks scattered around the campus and went to work to assess if there could be money saved.  He quickly discovered that the propane company was doing their part to support the school.  So, the next project for him was cleaning heaters and then water heaters.  He found many in severe need of maintenance.  So, he spent his week in dust and dirt.

Doug and Sherry Wilson spent the beginning of the week wiring Justice Hall, which is being remodeled to accommodate 6 high school boys.  In no time at all that was done.  Sherry W. and Katie Mitchel began sanding and priming the new dry wall.  Doug was off to the chicken coup to install solar lighting.  After that Doug, Sherry, and Katie moved lights in one of houses.

Speaking of dry wall, that was Marston’s work.  Most of the dorm parent’s apartment, the main room and boys’ rooms were dry walled by the expert work of Marston.  What I saw Saturday was studs.  On Friday, finished day wall was up and ready for a coat of paint.

Clare Mottwiler and Jackie Rupp were sent to the Home Ec building where we made king sized sheets into fitted sheets for bunk beds.  Thanks to Clare who pulled instructions from the internet.  That project done, Jan, the bookkeeper, mentioned she would like to embroider the pillow cases with names for Christmas presents for the students.  Using material that has been donated over the years, we came home with enough material to make 60 pillow cases and blocks to make quilts for the children.  We were told that some of the children don’t have blankets big enough to cover them.

Many of the students come from homes with no electricity or water.  Some are there because the mothers fear sexual abuse to their children.  Others are there because the school is gaining a reputation of winning athletic competition.  Whatever the reason for the children being at the school they are receiving an excellent education, good nutrition, constant care, and by far the most important-learning all about our Lord and Savior.

Please continue your prayer and support for the school, the dedicated staff, and children.  The children need more support.  To sponsor one child it is only $50 per month.

Perhaps you might be in prayer about going yourself this spring.  Let’s do it!!

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Doug and Sherry Wilson

Trail Notes

“Our Father, who art in heaven…” We pray these words together every week. Many of us pray them every day. But we also know that to simply repeat words for the sake of repeating them has a certain sort of emptiness. And prayer is not about empty repetition. It’s about encountering God. We use the same words for a few reasons.

When Jesus’ disciples did not know what to say in prayer (how many of us have been there?), Jesus gave them the words of the Lord’s Prayer. So if you had a chance to say to Jesus, “Excuse me, Lord. How should I pray? I need some advice.”–this is what he would say: “When you pray, say ‘Our Father, who art in heaven…” It is rare that we have strict direction about the nitty gritty details of the Christian life from its source and origin. But about prayer, we do have this template that serves as jumping-off point for all prayer. I want to write several thoughts about the Lord’s Prayer over the next several months. I hope they will be helpful to you in your prayer life. We’ll talk today about just those first two words, “Our Father.”

It is natural for us to pray in the first person singular–I, me, my. But Jesus’ prayer does not begin there. It begins with “Our.” Even when we are alone, we pray this prayer with the language of we, us, our. The Christian life cannot be done alone. We may believe in Jesus and put our faith and trust him, but in order to love Jesus, we must follow Jesus and his commands (John 14:15) and that is something that simply cannot be done alone. So even if we are praying this prayer by ourselves, we still do it with the whole Christian community in mind. We do it knowing that although we may be praying privately right now, sometime today, we will be brought into relationship with others. And those relationships are the places where we are challenged to grow our love, to have trust in God and hope in Christ to solve the problems that vex us, to work out the concrete details of our faith. We need the community and that community is present in first word of the prayer.

Father–God, who is the source and origin of all things, is often called Father in Scripture. Here is one of the many scandals of the Christian faith: God is not the abstract Source Of All Things like some “spiritual but not religious” folks might claim. He is the Father. Of you and me. Of the rocks and stars and lizards and clouds, too, but those inanimate things are not very good children. They do not know that they belong to God. But we do. We are children who can and must return to our Father in prayer every day. If we really want to know the loving relationship that God desires, we must learn how to be good children. Trusting that he will care for us, leaning on him for our life and future, putting down the other things in our lives that claim to be a source of life and hope.

And this is where we begin our prayer–with the Father who gives us everything (Thank you, Father!) and with the community of believers that God puts us in to challenge and grow us into Christlikeness. Let’s see if we can’t pay a little more attention to the words of our prayer this month and become more like the one who gives us a reason to pray and the words to do it with.

Thanks be to God!

-Pastor Jeff

Trail Notes…

Lamentations was hard.  It was hard for me.  I believe it was hard for you, too.  No one wants to hear what Lamentations has to say.  But even a book like Lamentations is a part of the Bible and God has promised to speak to us through his word.  We hard better pay attention.

But now that we have born heard that judgment for the past 6 weeks, I am so looking forward to Ephesians!  Paul’s first words for the church in Ephesus is the word “Blessed”–blessed be the Father who has blessed us in his blessed Son Jesus.  Blessed bbq the lavish and rich grace of Jesus!  We have just come from the deep depths of despair in Lamentations.  We had better get ready for the huge hope of Ephesians.  This is not papering over the problem.  It is a fresh vision of the Church that we rarely allow ourselves to enter into.

Why is this?  Why is our vision of our world, of ourselves and of the Church so diminished?  We come to faith knowing that God is great and powerful.  We have such dreams of the church embodying the vision of God’s glory that is promised in Scripture.  For most people who have left Christianity, what they struggle with is disappointment.  They are heartbroken that the Church is not what it promised to be, that Christians did not live up to the promise of a people who look like Christ and have obtained an inheritance and hope in Christ.  The unbelievers’ problem is that we claim redemption and live resignation.  We claim to be a part of the family of God, but then live like every other broken family.

Paul is going to use his letter to the Ephesians to teach us how to live in Christ’s family.  He will give us the theology and then work out some of the specifics of Christian family living.  But the question is always, “Whose family are you in?”  The family of God refuses to forget the people that the world can’t wait to forget.  It hears all our sorrow, mourns it with us and then shares a meal.  The transformation that we talk about does not take place instantaneously.  But Christ is patient and persistent and change happens through a long training in Christ and his ways.

Maybe those unbelievers should be disappointed in us.  It means that they recognize a gap between God’s promises and the reality of God’s people.  It would be more tragic if they were not disappointed and simply did not expect much from the Church.  The job that we have ahead of us is not to deny any criticism, but to learn to trust in Christ’s grace so much that we embody that huge claims of the Gospel before a watching world.

-Pastor Jeff

Trail Notes

Our youth pastor Katy had this to say about our recent trip to Point Loma for Elevate:

“This year, I was blown away by how many kids we had attend Elevate.  We took 12 kids this year which is the most we have had in the last four years of attending the event.  I am amazed at the ways that God was moving and working in these kids’ lives.  Please continue to pray for our kids and the decisions that they are making and that God would move and speak to them in ways that they are able to comprehend and understand and move forward in their walk with Christ.  And let’s pray for our youth leaders that they would be able to walk alongside them and live life with them and teach them about Christ in a way that makes complete sense to them.  Thank you for your continued support through finances and prayer that make events like these happen for our kids.”

What Katy says is spot on.  I could not have guessed that this trip would have been so powerful for our teens,  It reminds me that we cannot box God’s work in.  One of the things that always amazes me is how much we struggle to trust God for the work of witness.  Again and again in Acts, we see God moving through lives surrendered to God.  And really, that is the key:  surrender.  If we want to ask the question of why our ministry does not bear fruit, the answer is often that we need further surrender to God’s purposes.  We may be committed to an idea of ministry that is an idea and not God.  It may be that we fail to be persistent in our compassion and prayer and that hurts our effectiveness.

One more word about this.  I was reminded this weekend that the aim of our ministry is fruit and not numbers.  We could count numbers of people as fruit, but the New Testament tends to count things differently.  It names fruits like Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Godliness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.  Does Evangelism result in those fruits born in our lives?  Or is it a way of controlling the destinies of the people around us?  If we are surrendered to God and always seeking further surrender, the fruit of evangelism is guarantee, even if we cannot be guaranteed a harvest of hundreds or thousands of decisions for Christ.  Nay we be committed to growing more rooted in Christ, bearing the good fruit of the Spirit.

Pastor Jeff

A Quick Reading for Easter…

Behold the Savior of Mankind

Behold the Savior of mankind

nailed to the shameful tree;

how vast the love that him inclined

to bleed and die for thee!

Hark how he groans! while nature shakes,

and earth’s strong pillars bend!

The temple’s veil in sunder breaks,

the solid marbles rend.

‘Tis done!  The precious ransom’s paid!

“Receive my soul!” he cries;

see where he bows his sacred head!

He bows his head and dies!

But soon he’ll break death’s envious chain

and in full glory shine.

O Lamb of God, was ever pain,

was ever love like thine?

-Charles Wesley

Trail Notes

While speaking in Big Bear last weekend, I spoke on Psalm 38.  About halfway through, the psalmist loses his hearing and ability to speak.  After listing out all the terrible effects of sin–rotting bones, festering wounds, being doubled over with pain, contagion that chases away friends and family–he mentions that while his enemies seek his life, he becomes deaf and mute.  He becomes an observer with nothing to offer.   He cannot neither hear what is happening nor contribute to it.  He can only watch helplessly.

This problem happens to us more often than we care to admit.  We lose power to influence our world.  We lose the ability to interact effectively with those close to us.  Politics leave us feeling helpless.  Sin takes hold until our only response is frustration and anger.  We watch our environments degrade until that which supported life now kills it.  Towards the end, this same psalmist does a very strange thing.  In two consecutive lines, he both confesses his sin and faults, but that does not seem to justify the attacks that keep coming.  We are powerless, but praying to the Powerful One.  We are guilty, but the attacks against us are unjustified.  This is the awkward and uncomfortable space of confession.

I was preaching this to teenagers who had hardly ever seen snow.  But despite their lack of experience in the world, they understood that relationships–including our relationship with God–are complex.  There is no easy way to just move past our sin.  Sin scars us from the way we think about ourselves (better than we really are or worse than we really are) to the way we think about our others (out to dis-empower us or not to attack us) to the way that we think about God (out to punish every mistake or too lazy to get up off his throne).  We have attitudes that need confessing.  We have relationships that need work.  We have appetites and desires that need to be either rebuked or encouraged, but we do not know which is which.

During this middle time of fasting and prayer, I hope we understand the purpose of the fast.  It is not discipline for discipline’s sake.  It is not morbid navel-gazing about our sin.  This fast is about using our will in response to God to curtail our appetites and desires so that our attitudes and relationships can be given the space to receive an infusion of God’s grace.  This grace provides for our sanctification (becoming more like Christ) and prepares us for joy.  In the meantime, we feel sin’s full-embodied impact.  We know it’s depth and understand the confusion that it causes.  May we be reminded that as we persevere in our pursuit of holiness, our Savior is faithful to walk with us and lead us through.

“Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!” (Psalm 38:22)

-Pastor Jeff

Trail Notes

My sister and family live 30 minutes from Flint, Michigan where lead in the water has become a major concern.  Here in the Owens Valley, we know about water’s impact on a community.  With this El Niño starting to take shape, if feels like the mountains are coming back to life.  And, while water can be a danger and bother to people who are playing or traveling through places where it builds up, we all know that life without water isn’t really life.

As Christians, we have a special relationship with water.  Our new life begins with immersion as we pass through the water on our way to freedom.  We also look forward to the day when the river of God’s spirit will flow from his throne and all nations, peoples and tongues will live off the flood of God’s grace (Revelation 22).  But there is another dimension that we sometimes fail to notice.  Just as our Christian story begins in the grace of baptism and points towards the grace of God’s flowing Spirit, water is a fitting image for our daily lives.  Stagnant water is disgusting.  It grows all kinds of molds, mosses and much that we don’t want to know anything about.  The same is true with us spiritually.  If we become a pool instead of a channel, we miss God’s power that works in us to transform the landscape.  If our channel gets clogged, the flow stops.  Flowing grace becomes a stagnant pool and all the flesh, frogs and birds that hunt them die out.  Instead, we get mosquitos.  But how to stay open and flowing?

God, in his grace has not left us without a way forward.  Scriptural prayer and worship are the tools to keep our channels flowing free.  Fasting deepens and widens our channel so that a stream becomes a river.  It clears out space so that our lives are clear channels through which the grace of God flows to the world.  Christian fellowship links up our streams so that we can water and impact a larger area with the grace that flows from God.  When we hang onto our need to fee our impulses and egos, when we refuse to fast or pray through our relationship with food, entertainment, friendship, time, and the like, we eventually choke out the grace that God is eager to accomplish through us.  The life that at first had such hope and promise becomes a stinking pool where people come to see that God once did something there, but it had no lasting impact.

Do you have space in your life to let God’s grace flow?  Is your channel deep, wide and clear or choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life (Luke 8)?  We know that our world needs the fresh water of Christ.  May we be given over to the disciplines of prayer, fasting, service and worship necessary to keep a life consistently open to God’s wonderful grace.

-Pastor Jeff

What is Epiphany?

Like all the Church Year, Epiphany exists to teach us something important about God’s work in the world through Jesus and the Church.  Epiphany is the season following Christmas in which we remember the visit of the Magi to Jesus’ boyhood home (January 6th) and other events of Jesus’ life leading up to his ministry.  This typically includes a focus on his Baptism by John the Baptist and reminds us of the way that Jesus prepared the way for us by undergoing temptation by Satan in the wilderness and living a holy life in the power of the Spirit

May we turn our hearts toward Christ in this season as we prepare for the rigors of Lent and the celebration of his death and resurrection.

Advent: Week 4-Lectionary

O Mighty One, you have done great things and holy is your name; your mercy is for those who fear you from generation to generation.  Here I Am, O Lord, your servant.  Let it be with me according to your word.  Come, Holy Spirit and enlarge your presence in me this day, that I may bring into the world more of your life and more of your love.

Sunday:  Psalm 24, 29, 98; Isaiah 42:1-12; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 3:16-21

Monday:  Psalm 61, 62; Isaiah 11:1-9; Revelation 20:1-10; John 5:30-47

Tuesday:  Psalm 66, 67; Isaiah 11:10-16; Revelation 20:11-21:8; Luke 1:5-25

Wednesday:  Psalm 89:1-29; Isaiah 28:9-22; Revelation 21:9-21; Luke 1:26-38

Thursday:  Psalm 89:1-29; Isaiah 59:15-21; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 1:39-56

Friday:  Psalm 93, 96; Isaiah 33:17-22; Revelation 22:6-11, 18-20; Luke 1:57-66

Saturday:  Psalm 45, 46; Isaiah 35:1-10; Revelation 22:12-17, 21; Luke 1:67-80

Like Mary our exemplar, I believe this day that there will be a fulfillment of all that you have spoken, O Lord, and I say to you again, I am your servant, let it be to me according to your word.  Amen.