Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NE NEWS - December 18, 2012

Northeast Community News –December 18, 2012
Dear Friends and Family,

In a few days we will gather and sing:

“Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King. Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing!”

Christmas Day is coming! But instead of letting this reminder fill our hearts with anxiety and dread as we remember we have still ‘so much to do,’ let us rejoice in what God has already done! If the cookies aren’t ready; the Christmas cards go out late; and batteries don’t get bought it really will not be the end of the world! Let us do our part to prepare Him room! Let us simply join all creation and sing!

This is exactly how God ended His revelation through the prophet Zephaniah! In c. 3:14 we read, “Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart…” (Zephaniah 3:14).  In our message from God this week, we examined Zephaniah 3:14-20 and read a truly wonderful prophecy of good news!

In the midst of the worst of times – a time when the larger culture had turned to evil and was doing everything wrong on purpose and would be judged for those sins, God declared through Zephaniah it would be different for the faithful. To the faithful He promises to “take away our punishment; turn back our enemy” (v. 15)! We really do have reason for joy and peace this Christmas! But that’s not all!

To the faithful, God declares through the prophet He is “with us, mighty to save us, takes great delight in us, quiets us with His love, and rejoice over us with singing” (v. 17)! As we prepare our hearts for Christmas we are reminded the God of all creation is with us through Christ! In Christ, God has come to save us, take great delight in us, quiet us in His love, and burst into song over us with singing! Wow! But that’s still not all! (Isn’t God truly amazing!)

Finally, in v. 20 Zephaniah prophesizes there is coming a time when God who is gathering will take us home! This has many meanings! Certainly, this suggests God is still actively gathering His children among the broken and hurting. The Holy Spirit continues to nudge and waken cold hearts and draw them to God through Christ. But it also means God is going to give us abundant life now through faith and belief in Christ and the through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and God is going to take us to heaven one day!

As we prepare for Christmas this year in a culture that seems more and more inclined to evil, let join the faithful and rejoice over what God has already done! Let us simply join all creation and sing! “Joy to the world! the Lord is come!”

This week we are NOT going to have a Wednesday Bible study, but we are still going to gather! Confused? Don’t be! Instead of having our Bible study, we are going to get ready for our Christmas Eve service by making luminaries, practicing, and setting up candles and whatever else needs to be done to get ready! Did I mention we were going to eat pizza, too? Yes!
Join us at 6:30pm for food, fun, and great fellowship! If you have any questions, see or contact Pastor Dan or Pastor Amy!

Have you ever heard the pastor(s) say, ‘You really ought to invite someone to church’ and thought or even said out loud, ‘But, I’m not wired to easily do that?’ We get it! We really do! But you know what? Everyone will consider coming to a Christmas Eve service. Christmas Eve is an opportunity to sing Christmas carols from our childhood and hold a candle at the end and sing, ‘Silent Night’ acapella.

Christmas Eve is an opportunity to invite someone who would never normally come to church. You can do this! The question is, ‘will you?’ This year we have printed 500 special invitations for EVERYONE to hand out! If all 50 of us took 5 invitations and handed them out we will have 500 possibilities for God to touch someone this Christmas Eve. The invitations are on the tables outside the sanctuary and on the soundboard. Hand out 5 and make a difference!

Blessings! Pastor Dan

Hello From Pastor Amy/Your Part-Time Church Secretary
My office hours will be on Tuesdays from 8am-5pm, but if you need to see me, you may want to call first. My responsibilities also include preparing our weekly program, so if you have an event that you would like to put in the program or newsletter, please feel free to contact me!

On Prayer Requests: If you have a specific praise or prayer request which you would like to appear in the program and/or newsletter, please make sure to fill out the tear-off sheet in the weekly program, or contact me at any time.

Please Update Me! We have a long, ongoing list of prayer requests. Please keep me updated. Requests will be pulled from the newsletter & program after three weeks. Thank you! Church
Office: 616-459-2773 My Contact Info: 616-514-9521 or amyorban@hotmail.com

PLEASE NOTE! Beginning January 1, 2013, all correspondence with me will switch to a new email address: aorban@nnu.edu. Please save me to your contacts, as I will be sending the newsletter and all other church information from this address. Thank you!


Cookies for Christmas Eve
After our Christmas Eve Service, we usually offer cookies, coffee, and hot chocolate for those who wish to linger and fellowship. Would you be willing to bring a dozen cookies or brew some coffee? Talk to Pastor Amy or Pastor Dan.

Buy a Gift for a Child!
There are still children on our list, will you take a name? We want to make sure each child in our church receives a Christmas gift, and we are asking YOU to help. At the back of the sanctuary is a list of all the children in our church. Simply pick a name and cross it off. Then buy a gift ($5 or less), wrap it and put the child’s name on it, and place it under the Christmas tree in the sanctuary. Gifts will be handed out after our Christmas service (Sunday Dec 23rd) or you can pick them up at the Wednesday night Bible study. Please join us in making Christmas special for our little ones! The “Five and Below” store on Alpine between Target and Best Buy is a great place to find inexpensive gifts, including mittens, gloves, coloring books, and toys. See Linda Kastens or Gerry D with questions, thank you!

Wednesday Night Dinner – Christmas Potluck – December 26th
On the last Wednesday of the month, we gather for dinner at 5:30pm, one hour before our regular Bible Study and Family Night. This month, the last Wednesday falls on the day after Christmas! The good news is that if you are exhausted and tired from Christmas events, we are having a Christmas leftovers potluck. So bring whatever is left over from your food and your energy, and enjoy a dinner with your church family! Talk to Julie Orban to help set-up or tear down. See you there!

Tithe Envelopes Available for 2013
If you would like tithe envelopes for 2013, they are now available. Starting on Sunday, you can pick them up from the table in the vestibule. Talk to Gerry Dawson if you have any questions.

Emotions Anonymous Meets Here on Tuesdays
Do you often feel nervous, tense, or bored? Do you have trouble sleeping or sleep
too much? Do you often experience mood swings or feel useless? Well, you’re not
alone. Our building hosts one of the oldest 12-step Emotions Anonymous groups in
Michigan on Tuesday nights at 7:00pm. At an EA meeting you’ll find others who have
been where you are and experienced many of the same feelings, but found help.
If you would like more info you can find a small literature rack in the corner of
the ‘Community Room’ in the basement, ask Pastor Dan, or call Helen W. (leader
of  EA group), at 616-363-7347. Helen is wonderful and a joy to chat with!

 Reflecting God- Devotions for Holy Living
Did you know that each quarter (fall, winter, spring, summer), our Nazarene Publishing House prints a small book of daily devotions called, “Reflecting God?” This book is a simple way to organize a time of daily bible study, prayer, and meditation around a key thought or insight in the Christian journey. Reading them each day is a simple way to draw closer to God. There is no cost, and they are located on the table outside of the sanctuary, please help yourself to one!

Postcard Greetings Now Available
Is there someone you’ve missed? Someone you used to look forward to seeing each week but they are missing? Maybe there is someone you would like to invite to church or to a potluck or to Sunday school, but you’re not sure how to go about it. Well, one possibility is to send them a postcard! We recently had postcards made and they are available to anyone who would like to send them to invite, encourage, miss, or welcome someone to the church! Interested? See a Sunday school teacher or Pastor Amy or Dan.

Girl Scouts Meeting in our Building! Next Meeting Monday January 14th at 6:00pm
We are thrilled to announce that beginning in October, the Girl Scouts program will be meeting in our building every other week on Monday nights @ 6pm. If you have a girl who is interested in joining, there is a $12 registration fee, and the group will tentatively be meeting every other Mondays of the month. Also, if parents of girls are interested in volunteering, they are also more than welcome to register to be a part of the program! Talk to Pastor Dan for registration forms!

Check out our Website – Find us on Facebook!
Please send any input or ideas to Shannen Parsaca at slparsaca@gmail.com  
Check us out on Facebook under “Northeast Community Church of the Nazarene” 

Want to help, but not sure how?
If you are wondering where to plug in, but are not sure how, we have opportunities. Current opportunities include a soundboard worker, nursery helpers, childrens workers, potluck coordinators, visiting our shut-ins, greeters and ushers, visitor follow-ups, Sunday School teachers, music leaders, people willing to shovel snow in the winter, and much more. It doesn’t matter how long you have been attending our church, serving is a great way to honor God and get to know the people around you! If you sense a call to a specific area or need some ideas to pray about, please contact Amy Orban or Cherry Pakiela or Irene Pratt.

Upcoming Events
Dec. 19            NO Weds Night Bible Study – Christmas Eve set-up instead
Dec. 23            Christmas Sunday
Dec. 24            Christmas Eve Service
Dec. 25            Merry Christmas!
Dec. 26            Wednesday Night Dinner @ 5:30pm, regular Family Night follows

Reflections from Pastor Amy
Weekly thoughts, life-lessons, and reflections from a redeemed child of God,
 a mother, a wife, a student, a sinner under the Cross of Jesus Christ, and a Pastor-in-training.                                    

December 18, 2012

This week, it is hard to reflect on anything without doing so under the heavy shadow of the senseless outbreak of violence which slaughtered the babes in Connecticut. Most of us had that moment when we saw the news footage, but could only stare open-mouthed at the television, because it is nearly impossible to register something like this in your mind.

 These are the times which make us feel that life is something like trying desperately to squeeze our feet into shoes that are too small. Like trying to jam the wrong key into the keyhole to start a car whose breaks go out anyways. Like the windows and doors have traded places and there is no roof anyways so it just rains on us all day every day and what is the point?

These are the times that make something inside of us scream and break and die. I say times, because this is not an isolated incident. Rather, it is just the latest and worst of many which have gone and many more which will come.

These thing are so big and so painful. Denial is not the solution. These things win a fast battle against denial. Acceptance? I absolutely cannot accept that catchy phrase I hear people saying which goes something like “everything happens for a reason, God is in control and everything is how it’s supposed to be.”

Really? What an insulting suggestion to a mother who just lost her child at the hands of a lunatic. No, this is all a product of irrational and evil chaos. This is not how it was supposed to be.

I don’t know about everyone else, but in the wake of this tragedy, there are some things I have not found helpful. For example, I have not found consolation in shallow attempts to explain away the problem of evil. I have not found it helpful to hear other Christians blaming democrats for taking God out of the schools. I have not found it helpful to hear other Christians suggesting that maybe this was God’s will for our corrupt culture, like we are just getting what we deserve.

I have not found the hysterical debates about more gun laws or less gun laws to be helpful, nor has it brought much meaning to the situation to try to compromise at the banning of automatic weapons. Even less helpful are those advocating that we shoot the president and members of the National Rifle Association.

My experience is that it seems to be human nature to want so badly to do something in the face of a situation like this. Everyone wants to do something, to fix something. It’s like maybe if we are doing something constructive, then it will take our minds off of the insurmountable tragedy of it all. It is much easier to do than to just be, especially when our being is torn inside out by something so terrible. Our self-will provides amble distraction from the real issue.

But you see, none of these positions and arguments and philosophies provide any real basis for making meaning out of a meaningless situation. They only provide the opportunity to chase your tail around in circles like a puppy. There are bits of truth, mixed in with chunks of distortion and topped with confusion. That is the nature of evil – irreparable chaos which cannot be sorted out or organized into a nice, understandable report. It’s just chaotic darkness.

So let’s stop making the issue something other than what it is, let’s stop denying reality. These moments bring the one question that matters in our life to the surface. Our very being hates the nature of this kind of evil, and anytime we are faced with it, we desperately search for its alternative. The alternative is Christ, and He is the only help any of us will find while walking through the carnival of horrors which is this world.  

The only thing I can say with any shred of certainty in the face of these horrors is this: cling to Jesus. He is our hope, our rock, our salvation, our fortress in the time of trouble. There is only Jesus. Sometimes there is nothing else to say, except cling to Jesus.

There is no promise, at least no biblical promise, to suggest that we will somehow be exempt from suffering in this life. On the contrary, when you love God, your heart will be shattered into a million pieces, over and over and over again, by this world which He died for.

And as you watch the news stories unfold, and as you go to sleep at night with images of dead little children lying on the floor of a classroom, don’t forget the Cross. Don’t forget that our God is a God of light and love and mercy and hope, a God who will gather us up in His arms. Don’t forget Jesus who wept when Lazarus was dead, Jesus who cast out the demons, Jesus who was betrayed by the people closest to Him. Jesus who got kicked and spit on and went to the Cross.

Don’t forget our God who so loved the world, that He sent His only Son (John 3:16). In Jesus, God is with us. He is with all who suffer, mourn, and question. Immanuel. He is with us.

So this week I am asking myself, what is my role, as a follower of Jesus Christ, under the shadow of the senseless outbreak of evil which took place in Connecticut?

Not, what is the role of the federal government to save the world? Not, how can I come up with an eloquent theological and philosophical response to this tragedy? Rather, what is my responsibility, right now, today?

Pray, always to pray. Pray that the comforter will comfort. Pray that His mercies will be new today for those who are suffering. Try to be the light of Christ shining in a dark world. Weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn. Hug my children, smell the smell of their hair and kiss their sweet skin, and give thanks.

Abide with me, fast falls the even tide
The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee
Help of the helpless oh abide with me…
(Sing to the Lord #584)                                                                       

With Love, Pastor Amy

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