October 10, 2017
”And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
Such words of comfort and reassurance in this time of upheaval. From threats of war, to natural disaster after disaster, to mass murders, humanity has been under siege. We look for meaning, understanding and don’t find it. We long for peace and calm to reign and instead crises and tension only seem to multiply. “Enough” we say! Yet we are clearly not the ones in control. Except for the choices we make. Whether faced with personal challenges or those of a country or world scale, as children/family of God, brothers and sisters of Christ, we are all called to follow him in faith. Which means daily/moment by moment he wants us to be talking and listening with him. To have a deep, active relationship with him so that our faith is our first strength and tool in meeting those challenges, for they will come and are already here. Jesus says to his disciples upon his physical departure, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. Always and to the very end. And that will never change.
So as you find your spirit unsettled because of worldly chaos, remember your strength and hope is in Christ who is always present, always ready to get you through. Make sure your day is a continual prayer, reading scripture to free your soul, worshipping Him through thanksgiving and song, through noticing His presence and drinking deeply of His Spirit. Open yourself to Christ’s ways so that each moment, each encounter is a sharing of God’s love and mercy helping all of us to change the world to the better. We can do this because Christ first loved us and has shown us how. So turn your soul to Him and let Him lead you through step by step, day by day until the end of the age.
May blessings and peace fill you in the glory of Christ.
July 11, 2017
Well, the season has begun. The dip netting season that is. Here in our part of the world that becomes the sole focus of the community. Dip netting on the Kenai River. We grow from 4500 to 18,000 in population and people seem to only be thinking of getting onto the river to get their fish. If only we had such passion about our faith and willingness to make disciples for Jesus Christ! There would be no stopping His church. Truly. But instead we pull back from our willingness, the riskiness, of speaking up about our faith. Old images of people knocking on our doors professing faith come to mind and we reject them. So what if, the more relevant image is of doing what is right and good and just and compassionate in all of our actions and words. What if, our faith was one that was full of action in making this a better world and in the midst of our active lives, we also spoke a word or two of faith. “God bless you!” when someone does a kindness to us. A “I’ll be praying for you” when someone expresses a hurt or suffering. A “come to church with me this Sunday. Worship has made a real difference in my week and my life and we have a great family in Christ there.” I’ve got to go and help at the Food Pantry, or the Wednesday night dinner, or help clean the church this week.
It is in the every day that we can and do make a difference. The visits that happen with strangers on the river can so easily be a time of sharing one’s faith: by looking out for each other. By celebrating a catch with each other. By sharing with each other. By being aware of who is around us so that all are kept safe. By being generous in traffic and patient in line. Use those times to pray for everyone out there. Remember those on your prayer list at home and be praying for them then. You matter in God’s world. So your faith in action matters to this world. So as you are fishing, or moving through our enlarged community, when the cell phone and internet don’t work as quickly as usual, remember you are a child of God and give others the patience that God is giving you every day. Let this be a safe, successful and blessed season of dip netting and fishing here on the Kenai peninsula and may God’s kindom grow and flourish with each catch and times in line.
God bless you! Have a great summer! I plan to. See you in church!
March 7, 2017
A blessed Lent to you! What a potent time in our nation and world. And in our faith. People are showing evidence of giving in to fear and anger, of recoiling from one another instead of digging deep within and finding that God spot within us where Love resides. I am not talking about a an emotion, something sappy and trite. I am talking about the Act, the way of Being that is God in the world. That Love within whose fire and life force you were made, is calling for you, for all of us, to move deeper into relationship with God so that we can act and be in his power and strength. The power and strength that is Christ himself. We are told in Philippians 4:13 that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. All things. So to be a loving presence in the world when so many have moved into hating, fearing, being apathetic, is a life changer. Yes, you have the power to change the world. When you love your Savior, Jesus Christ, with all you are, with all you have. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” (Luke 10:27) Put everything you are into loving the Lord. Then, “love your neighbor as yourself.” For it is only when we are full on God that we have the heart and power to love when everyone else is in fear, and thus less, so very less, than they were created to be. Society has taught us to go “looking for love in all the wrong places”. Christ, the Bible, hopefully the church, prayer have all taught that only God is the right place to look for love. Only God. Because God is Love. Yet in our bending to society, we find that very hard to do.
I invite you, in this season of Lent, a season of preparing to receive the resurrection of Jesus Christ and new life for yourself, to join us in worship, in service, in study, in prayer, to start looking for love in all the right places so that we, together with Christ, can and will begin a transformation of the world into God’s loving kindom. Please join us and let us together show the world how to love as Christ loves so that violence, prejudice, warring, threat, fear, all become memories of the past and healing, wholeness, wonder, joy, creating and abundant life become a part of our present and future. God bless you and be that constant in your life, that you too may bend to Love and Love’s ways over your own.
October 19, 2016
Max Lucado recently wrote an article about our upcoming elections. In a nutshell he said, no matter the outcome of the November 8 elections for all offices including our Presidential Election, ‘when we wake up November 9 God will still be God and reigning from on high.’ What a moment of wisdom in all the chaos that is going on in our Country right now!
As a Christian, a follower of Christ, we are always and everywhere called to be Christ’s presence and live his laws in the world. That means we are ‘to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, AND to love our neighbor as ourselves.’ (Luke 10:27) No small feat. I get that. If we are trying to do it on our own. But God’s word also reminds us that “with Christ, we can do all things” (Philippians 4:13). Including being thoughtful in the heat of disagreement. It is the life we are called to when we take our baptismal vows. Instead of reacting we are called to listen and respond with prayerful thought. Instead of railing at another, we are called to prayerfully consider what is the best response to make. Maybe it is to agree to disagree and walk away. The world is full of chaos. We, through social media, speak our mind before we’ve had a chance to consider what we are saying. And the damage is done. Reaction is celebrated for the turmoil it presents making more news. The cycle is vicious and can be ongoing. Until someone steps in to offer a different way of being in the midst of the chaos and even violence.
So, how many of you are praying for the candidates? All the candidates? Whether you agree with them or not. Are you praying for our Country and what is happening right now? I’ve had a number of people respond to those questions with a resounding, NO! Well why not? How do we really expect to make the wisest choices regarding candidates, to influence change and how do we expect them to heal, to do their best for the country, to become candidates of worth and integrity without the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit? The more of us praying for them, the more courageous they will be to do what is right and good for the Country and the world.
I challenge us all in these last few weeks to commit to prayerfully moving forward keeping our whole country, election candidates, discussions, debates and process in prayer lifting it all to our Lord in hope of a God lead outcome that will help us all. Are you with me? I pray so.
July 20, 2016
Last week at Jurisdictional Conferences, (meetings that are held every four years following our General Conference, and have the business of electing and retiring bishops for our denomination), two milestones for our denomination happened. The first African American Woman Bishop was elected to serve in the Southeastern Jurisdiction and the first Openly Practicing Homosexual Woman Bishop was elected to serve in the Western Jurisdiction. Because we are a denomination that is not of one mind regarding such actions, it is a fact that our denomination needs to be held in prayer. I ask you to do so. Please.
As the president of the Council of Bishops has said, “Though conflicted and fragile, The United Methodist Church remains a strong witness to the transforming love of God and the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We affirm that our unity is not defined by an absence of conflict, but how we act in our disagreements. We affirm that our unity is not defined by our uniformity, but by our compassionate and Spirit-led faithfulness to our covenant with God, Christ’s Church and one another…Our differences are real and cannot be glossed over, but they are also reconcilable.”
I appreciate Bishop Ough’s faithfulness in keeping to Christ as he seeks to guide our denomination in the ways of Christ in the midst of our current world. It is exciting that things keep changing in our church. It says to me that the Spirit is stirring within us. It may not always be comfortable. It may not always be welcome. But, it is a sign that we are still a vital presence in this world. Even more, how we handle these changes is and will be a telling witness to the world of how deeply and daily we drink of Christ’s life giving waters. For without him we will fail. With him, we will rise up and glorify God through our actions, words and presence.
It is my prayer, that each one of us take up the call to be in prayer for Christ’s Church through the United Methodist denomination. This world needs us. This world needs to know the hands, heart, feet and lips of Christ through our presence and actions. There is where we excell in ministry. We can only be that presence however by immersing ourselves in scripture, prayer, fellowship and worship on a regular basis. We can only be that presence by spending time with our Lord and believing in his power that overcomes all evil, all pain, all fear, all anger, all anxiety, anything that is not of him.
So I call you to please join me in praying daily for this denomination of ours that has pledged to answer Jesus’ call “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”; for our own Soldotna UMC that has committed to answer the call to “Do justice, Love kindness and Walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8)
The world needs we followers of Christ, we United Methodists, more than ever right now. Not people wearing a label of Christian, but followers of Christ who live our faith day in and day out. Let us come together each Sunday to refill our souls in his word and grace, and then let us come together to serve him through our actions and words throughout our week whether working through the church or living our lives out in the world.
God bless each one of you and may we together, filled with the Holy Spirit, be a blessing to the world, in Jesus’ name.
May 31, 2016
This week, June 3-4, 2016, will be our Annual Conference meeting for the Alaska United Methodist Conference. It will take place in Anchorage at St. John UMC. Any and all are welcome to join us for worship and the meetings. Each church (and ministry) will send their pastor(s) and lay members to represent their local churches/ministries in all aspects of our time together. It is a great time of fellowship, reconnecting, supporting, challenging, praying, worshiping, and working together to strengthen, renew, dream, implement and carry forward God’s will here and now for all of us.
As you go about your week, please make time to pray for all of us. It is such a profound experience to know we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses while we go through these hours together; to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s movement and presence that we be stirred to a Holy Conferencing and thus a powerful witness of what God is and can do in our midst.
General Conference, that meets every four years to update our polity and social principles, just concluded their work on the 20th of this month. Sadly, it was a time full of fracture and pain as people were divided over sexuality issues. I pray, that as we gather in this great state of Alaska, we gather in Christ’s Spirit of love, welcoming all persons, seeing with Christ’s eyes and heart, that we may truly love one another as ourselves in the light and love of our God.
God bless you, and thank you ahead of time for praying for all of us.
P.S. Those from our congregation who will be representing our congregation will be myself, Cosette Kilfoyle our Lay Member, and Susie Smalley who has been a part of the Leadership Team for the Conference this past quadrennium and is our Lay Leader.
April 19, 2016
How amazing is our God! We are in the throws of Eastertide. The season following Easter Sunday. A whole season of intentionally learning to live as resurrection people. To be Easter people sound good, but try putting it into practice! To live wide open to the hope and promise of Christ risen among us right now. Whatever you are going through today, are you living through it with a real sense of Christ with you? Or are you living as though that will be sometime in the future? Christ is risen! He is. Not will be alone. Nor was. But he IS right now with you carrying your burdens, listening to your cries, dancing with you in your joys, waiting for you to wake up to him and live, here and now, his joy and love.
Come worship with us! Our worship focus this season is “The Cup of Freedom”. We are celebrating communion every Sunday to help us learn, to remember, that “Christ has died. Christ IS risen! Christ will come again!” It is a season of learning to live free of our sins, of the thought we need to live this life alone, independent, isolated, totally self dependent. When in fact, we have a Savior who went to the cross for us. He died on that cross with our sins. He paid the price for each and every one of us that we would be free. Free ‘to move forward, sing, follow, rise again, love, heal, open and be filled’. He gave us life in abundance. If we are not living aware of that grace within us then we are not living as Resurrection, Easter, People.
Whether life is easy right now or terribly hard, whether boring or uncertain, remember our Savior lives! With him, we have the power to live as well. With him, we have grace sufficient to rise above the darkness and faithfully walk with him through it all.
The angel Gabriel says to Mary when she is told she will carry God’s son, “For no word from God will ever fail or, ‘For with God nothing shall be impossible’.” (Luke 1:37 NIV/KJV) Paul says in Philippians 4:13 to a community struggling, “I can do all things things Christ who strengthens me.” As resurrection people we can do what seems impossible to the world and live, live fully in Christ, through whatever happens in life. Even death does not have the last word because of God’s gift of love through Jesus Christ. Be bold. Be courageous. Choose life. And live as one who is free in the kindom of God.
In Easter joy, Pastor Karen
January 5, 2016
12th Night. We are at the end of the 12 days of Christmas on the cusp of Epiphany, the day of the star when the Wise Men found Jesus and family and saw God’s reality among us. The beginning of a season of light and revelation. And yes, a new year with all the possibilities and hope of Christ out before us, you. It is an unwritten story with the blank pages and pen in front of you to start creating what this year will be. Will you live with hope and light, or choose darkness and fear? Yet to choose darkness and fear as so much of the world does, is to turn away from Jesus, from God and God’s light and love. Remember what the angels kept saying to people at the surprising in-breaking of God’s Spirit, ‘do not be afraid’. ‘I Am with you.’ God is with us, you, in Jesus, in the Christ.
With that grand reality, perhaps the next step of this year is to start your day with a thank you prayer. ‘Lord, thank you for rest/sleep, and the promise that this day brings. Thank you for being able to wake up and create with you a new chapter to my story.’
Tomorrow is Epiphany. The season of light. Light that has overcome darkness. Light that breaks into our life and helps us see where we need to go that we may grow in spirit and life, in love.
You are cherished. You are loved. Soak that reality in. Then get out of bed and with Christ, live a life blessed in Him.
God bless and keep you I’ll see you in the light, Pastor Karen
September 8, 2015 – ‘What If’ – a quote by Terence Grant
“Christ is the vine, we are the branches. We labor under the delusion that we are isolated from other people. The consequences are fear, suspicion and conflict—all of which are destroying our world today. Imagine what would happen if people were to drop this fantasy of separateness. What if even just the Christians were to let go of this delusion? What if we were to move beyond our little, separate self to discover our true Self, this shining sun that each of us is? There would be a revolution.” From The Silence of Unknowing
I wish I had seen this quote before last Sunday. It would have been a good focus for my sermon. For Alaskans, this what if is huge. We like our independence. We like, in many instances, our isolation. We like believing that we can do it all on our own. It is a badge of honor we wear daily. At least for many of us. So to entertain this idea is radical to begin with. Then to believe we are, through our faith, indeed connected to our Lord and to one another ramps up our importance in the larger scheme of things because our worth is elevated. It is now no longer just me, my and I but we, ours and us. We become our sisters and brothers keepers. We are family. We are called to notice one another and be involved. We are connected. United Methodism has said that from the beginning. Ours is a connectional system. But it goes even deeper than a denominational concept. It is theological. It is of God. We are created in God’s image. Male and female and we are meant to be in relationship with God and one another. The two laws that we are given to follow – love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself – tells us that we were created to be connected.
Christ is the vine. We are the branches. God is the vinedresser. We find ourselves in an interconnected state of being that will not let us go. Unless we choose to become dead weight. Unless we refuse to respond to the tending of our God to our souls. Then we find ourselves being pruned and at the worst, cut away for not responding and living as God created us to, as caring souls on this earth.
What if we hold onto our faith in Christ and what if we let go of our fear, suspicion and all conflict. Wouldn’t our lives and the world around us be brighter? Wouldn’t we find ourselves having more full lives? Wouldn’t we experience an incredible freedom that dares to live boldly in the midst of humanity instead of away from it? It is a radical concept that is thousands of years old. Isn’t it time we gave it a try?
August 20, 2014 – Where did the summer go?! School has begun! Yesterday our children of school age started a whole new school year of adventure and learning. We pray for each one of them that they find the courage and confidence to stay engaged with the learning process that they will look back upon this year next summer and say, ‘Wow! What a great year that was. I learned so much. I made new friends and discovered some new and good things about myself.’ Wouldn’t that be awesome. And for all the teachers and school staff, we lift them too in prayer. We hope that they will have the patience, the strength, the compassion and hope to rise to each challenge and opportunity with God’s grace so that all in the school system will know the gentle and true spirit of our God who delights in our serving and our learning.
So I invite you to pray with me:
O God of wisdom and grace, of promise and hope, we lift to you all the children/youth who are facing the school year with excitement and wonder, with fear and uncertainty. Help them to know how much they are loved. Fill them with a deep certainty of their worth. Awaken in them a courage to grow and consider new possibilities, new approaches and ways of thinking/doing. Lift them up in your hope that they find the strength to face challenges as adventure and uncertainty as a window to something new and good.
Hold deep in your heart all the teachers and staff of our schools. Fill each of them with the strength and energy they need to be light and wisdom for and with these children and youth. Help them to take care of themselves, leaning into you for their needs and finding with you comfort and solace, peace and calm, space to be. Help them all to start each day aware of the gift that is within them to make a tremendous difference in these young lives that our world may finally learn to be children of light and peace.
For parents, may they too know your care upon their souls that each day may begin and end in thanksgiving for these children/youth, for the schools that help in educating their children and for the gift and opportunity to be the instruments of love and mercy with each one every day.
We give you thanks, dear God, for you and your belief in each of us, for the gifts you have planted into each one and the wonder of your kindom as we grow into those gifts sharing them with all. In the power and love of Christ we pray, Amen
July 23, 2014 Jesus says in Luke 6:27: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (New International Version) This was 2000 years ago he said these words. Could they be any more relevant for then as for today? I think not. Have you ever tried this before? When someone is trying you, when you find your heart growing hard against another, even hating them because of their behavior, their attitude or associations, start praying for them. Really. It is amazing how that one act can change your heart, your mind. To sincerely pray for them for healing, for their safety and well-being, for wisdom and clarity in the choices they are making and for a change of heart for both of you. For God to help you see the bigger picture and not just the small one of irritation, anger, panic and pain that you see now.
As we look to everything from the current boom of tourism in our own neighborhood of the Central Peninsula (we grow to over 3 times our population for 4-6 weeks every summer), to the warring in eastern Europe and the middle East, to the crisis of children crossing our southern U.S. border in search of safety and well-being, and the crisis of domestic violence/sexual abuse in our state, we need to pray instead of give over to anger and hatred. We need to ask for God’s care and wisdom in these situations instead of condemnation and violence. Our answer and gift needs to be turning to God, loving God, and in that embrace learning to love our enemies, our estranged neighbors, our trying siblings, the unknown stranger whom we fear, who irritates or threatens us.
So the next time you find yourself wanting to scream at someone for holding you up from getting to your appointed destination on time, or the news is full of one more bombing or wave of children and parents crossing our borders, lift your voice instead in prayer. “Lord, protect us all on the road, helping us all to be wise and alert as we move about…heal the fear from within those of us who choose to war, to use violence as our answer to our pain and fear. Amen.”
July 2, 2014 I love this time of year. Everyone is telling their fishing stories. Ha. I caught one THIS big or small, as in some cases. Living on or close to the Kenai River let alone so many other rivers and tributaries, fishing is a favorite pastime for many of us. Thousands flood our area in hope for that big catch to have their name behind it. Yet by the time one has bought all the equipment needed to cast the line or put in the net these fish we catch are really quite expensive. And, the stories that go with the hope of catching make the adventure of fishing truly priceless. A big smile spreads across the face and eyes shine as we relive that precious moment of victory. The thrill is relived time and again.
Oh that we would have as much fun and hold such excitement for catching people who are looking for home, a home we know to be Jesus Christ. He called us to fish for people, to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Like those fish, these people have found their way into the river of life. There is a deep, natural draw within them to God which pulls them through the currents of life to that destination of deliverance and final rest. They need the fellowship of others to encourage them along the way. They are hungry and easily tricked at times into taking someone’s bait that isn’t the true food of God. They need us to cast the truth to them, the Good News and communion of God that they may finish their journey aware of the grace of God and the salvation of Christ for them.
So how do we do this? By sharing our faith, being kind and generous. We help them when they are in need and strive for justice that they can come to know a healthier way of living and being. We witness to our faith by going to church, participating in its life and ministry, inviting people to join us, to make our outreach exciting and interesting while holding true to our God. We are welcoming and interested in others while praying for them in the here and now. It is studying the Bible, God’s Word, and talking about it, exploring understanding with each other. And just as we go out to the rivers and lakes, the open waters to fish, we need to go out into the world to hook these people who are in such critical need of connecting with our God and Savior.
As you head out on that fishing expedition, whether in your backyard or miles down the road and stream, be sure to take your faith along with you and use it to help your neighbor find their way home, upstream, through the life giving waters of our Lord. And have fun! Pastor Karen
June 17, 2014 My first day back from vacation in Seldovia, Alaska. What a gift that trip was. It was my birthday gift from my husband Dennis. If you have never been to Seldovia you need to understand that it is off the road system. That means it can only be accessed by water or air. It is a town of 200+. There isn’t much to ‘do’ yet there is everything to do as in being. Being present. “Being still and know I am God.” Psalm 46:10 It is a place to rest which I did for the first time in years. Truly rest. We watched the tide go in and out. We watched the eagles play in the air and listened to the roar of the ocean waves hitting the beach below us. We picked up a fishing pole and found the local fishing hole so Dennis could bring in his first King. It was a place to enjoy an espresso at Slough side and notice the progression of pine cones from beginning to full growth on a single limb of a spruce. This may sound boring to anyone who is into busy. But for anyone who needs to rest, to be still (which is all of us at regular points in our lives) it was a beautiful experience of how deeply our God exists within and around us. We miss that reality every day. Because we insist on being busy. All the while God is saying, ‘be still, and know that I am God’. That is all you have to do and I will do the rest. The rest. The rebuilding and recreating so that you can go on and be to the glory of my kingdom. That is God’s kingdom. We can be and are a part of the kingdom of God just by being. When we allow ourselves to be still, to rest, then we can know the presence of our God and Savior and we can find just how deep that well of living water is within each one of us. So the next time you find yourself rushing off to ‘do’ the next thing, try doing as in being with our God first and then do. Until next time…peace. Pastor Karen