Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ebenezer - it's not just Scrooge's first name

In our Women's Bible Study we talked about what an Ebenezer was. It is from when God parted the waters to allow the Israelites to pass through. Later Joshua had leaders gather stones from the river bed to remember how God has worked mightily. An Ebenezer is an alter of remembrance.
     In our Bible study, we each selected a stone and shared a story of how God had worked in our lives. It is appropriate that there is a packet of tissue in the picture I took. There were many tears shed as we shared stories of how God had met us, at times at death's door. Then we piled our rocks.
      I took mine home to help me remember that morning. To help me remember the amazing stories of God in our lives, and to help me remember to pray for those for whom God has not yet parted the waters.
  I invite anyone who wants to share their story to send it to me, and I will post it on the blog. More importantly, let us build piles of stones to help us remember God's faithfulness. Let us pass our stories down to our children.
Beth Kropf


Friday, September 23, 2016

Communion and Community

Last Sunday I was ordained as an elder, as my dad talked about in his post. For anyone  not there, I was immediately put to work to help with communion on the same Sunday.  There is nothing more humbling than serving communion. It is me, my imperfect self, serving the elements to the church. I served communion to my parents and grandfather! I served communion to the pastor! What?
            Then in the women’s bible study this week we talked about communion and how in some churches you can’t have communion if you are divorced or weren’t married in the church. I am so glad that LiveOak church does not abide by those rules. I love that Caz emphasizes every time: “This is not LiveOak’s table, this is not a Presbyterian Table, this is God’s table.”Anyone who has a relationship with Christ can partake.
            In our Bible study we talked about inclusion, and how we need to include everyone, even if it makes us uncomfortable.  I want our church to be radically inclusive. I do not want my children to only go to church with children who look like them and talk like them. I want anyone to be able to walk into our church and be welcomed warmly.  
            Communion and community are about being God’s children. Let us allow ourselves to be uncomfortable. Let us teach our children that everyone belongs at God’s table. If we listen, God will place people in our lives that we need to invite to church, or even just invite into our lives and our hearts. And we, at Live Oak, will serve communion to anyone who asks.

Beth Kropf


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Decisions: Guest post by Pastor Rick

Sunday I had the privilege of seeing my daughter ordained as an elder in the Presbyterian church.  What a special day for us.  During the service, Caz talked about how the decisions we make at critical times in our lives can affect our future and the future of those around us.   He cited David, as someone who decided not to take the kingdom away from Saul by force, but instead waited for God's timing.  He took the high road.  And it was the best decision for him and for the whole nation of Israel.  That made me reflect on some decisions I had made during my lifetime.  I especially remembered a decision I made when Beth was still a baby, to get serious about my Christian faith.  I had been a very nominal, lame-excuse believer for several years- to the point that I didn't want anyone to know I was a Christian, because I knew I was such a poor example of one.  One night I made a decision:  I was either going to do this Christianity thing "right" or I was going to get out.  But I didn't know how to "do it right."  I had to learn that Christianity had to be about a relationship with a personal and caring God, not rules and religion.  That began a journey that I'm still on today, one that I made sure my children were a part of.

Then I thought of other decisions:  of a young teenage girl who decided that the "seeker-friendly" mega-church we were attending didn't have any serious discipleship or Bible studies for teens, so she struck out on her own to find a church that would meet her spiritual needs-- and she did.   A few years later, that same girl, looking at colleges to attend, chose not to attend a school with a beautiful campus (on the beach in San Diego!) because it had a reputation as being a "party school" and she wanted something with a more serious, Christ-like environment.  So she chose a very small, conservative Christian college that seemed to focus more on Biblical values.  Those were the right decisions.  They were made with the right motives.  Seeking Christ-likeness over the world's values is always the right decision.  Rising above pettiness and hate and vindictiveness is always the right decision.  Those are values we tried to instill in our children.  And today seemed like evidence that we had been successful in that.   Watching my beautiful, competent daughter being recognized for her spiritual leadership, I was very, very grateful for the blessings that come with following God's direction in our lives.  In fact, all of the good things, the blessings in my life, have come from deciding to listen to God and follow His direction for my life.

A grateful dad.
Pastor Rick


Friday, September 2, 2016

Let's have pie and enchiladas!

     I can't stop thinking about Caz's perfect example of Nealie as a 19 year old away at college and asking permission to ride a bike. As parents, we try to teach our children to think critically and make good decisions without asking our advice for every little thing. At least, that's what we are supposed to want for our children. As a helicopter mom, I will be pushing online college pretty hard.
         God wants us to develop discernment and not wrestle with small decisions. In many ways He is a "Love and Logic" parent who let's us reap the consequences of our choices. When I was in college I was introduced to something called the pie theory versus the dot theory. The dot theory means there is a very specific will God has for your life (job, etc). The pie theory states that we can make several choices and still be within God's will. For example, we don't need to worry about which preschool God wants our children in, as long as we use common sense when making such a choice.  The dot theory breeds anxiety about making exactly the right choice and can lead to absurdity, as Caz mentioned. (Which restaurant should we eat at? Caz- next time, go to Serrano's and order enchiladas. You will not be disappointed) The pie theory allows for more than one right choice.
          We still must develop discernment for the hard choices. We must strain to hear God above the noise of every day life. God will give discernment when we ask. We also need to counsel and listen. We are adults, and God has given us freedom to honor Him and others or serve ourselves. This is a large calling. And yet, God also makes all things new. If we have been self-absorbed, made rash decisions or just really stupid decisions, we can change today.
         Let us make choices that will make our Heavenly Father proud.