East Side Presbyterian Church Blog
July 25, 2018, 10:48 AM

Being proactive when danger looms and disaster strikes


What can we do to help?

When danger is looming and disaster is already here, what can we do to help?

As Christians, we believe God is present everywhere, and this includes situations of danger and disaster.  Whether or not the vast rescue team was aware, hundreds of people not only collaborated with one another to rescue the Thai soccer team, they co-labored with God. We know God saves and we know this is about much more than simply avoiding hell. It is about the new heaven and the new earth that God is bringing into being. It is about the reconciling of all things in heaven and on earth in Jesus Christ.

The words of the prophets remind us that we are called to join God's work to give all people a place to live and be fully human, to grow their own fig trees and enjoy their shade and their fruit. Jesus said that he came to give life, and abundant life at that.

So we know what God was doing in the caves in Thailand.

This means we also know what God is doing right now in Girard, PA, as the First Presbyterian Church of Girard faces the destruction of their church building. Not just a part of the building, but the whole building. Some brick walls still stand, but they hold up no roof, and they're singed.

We know that God heals and saves, and we know that, somehow, God is working even in the midst of this awful loss for good.

It is easy to misunderstand God's plan and work, however. How does God provide? How does God create goodness for us out of disaster?  So very often God provides, heals, and saves through us

Of course, this is why we Presbyterians have and support the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) program. The director of PDA, Laurie Kraus, has already been to Girard,  and a team is there now for the coming week. The Presbytery of Lake Erie is on the ball.

What can we do to help?

At least two things:

1. Pray

2. Donate.  DR000180-Girard, PA is the fund set up by the PDA to donate specifically to the First Presbyterian Church of Girard. You can also write checks with " DR000180-Girard, PA" in the memo line and either bring them to church or send them to the PDA. Let me know if you need more information.

That's how we can help now.

But we can be more excellent and joyous in all our helping.

We know and believe that God is always working to bring about the new heaven and new earth, always working to save, heal, and provide. The more we practice laboring with God, the more danger and disaster will be handled in a way that affirms all human life.

I want each of you to be able to grasp the depth of God's love for you as well as for the world. So I have a suggestion for you: pray and discern.

When you get up in the morning, ask God to show you how you might love God that day with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and how you can love your neighbor as you love yourself.

And at the end of your day, reflect on how your actions and thoughts of the day reflected your love of God, love of your neighbor, and love of yourself. With whatever insights you gain, pray to God praising God for the opportunities to show love and asking help from God to love even more deeply the next day.

And today and all days, may you receive all the help you need from God's overflowing heart and God's people.




July 9, 2018, 12:00 AM

Rescuing the Wild Boars


A remarkable gathering of divers, medical personnel, logistics specialists, mental health specialists, engineers, providers of food and more have been working at the entrance to the cave system in Thailand where four boys and the coach of their soccer team - the Wild Boars - are still stranded.

Eight of the boys have been rescued as of this writing. These rescue efforts have been complex and dangerous because of water levels and topography, and one former Thai Navy Seal has died in those efforts.

I wonder if we would feel the weight of the world's dangers and sin if we focused on statistics about children in various events. Currently, our country is facing our government's separation of parents from children, even very young children, at our border. These boys in Thailand remain in danger, even the ones already rescued, because of ten days without food and only water dropping down the wall of the cave. One third of children in Ashtabula County live below the poverty line.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tries to teach the disciples about children not once, but twice. The kingdom of heaven belongs to little children, Jesus tells us, and earlier in Mark we read this:

“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

It makes all the difference how we treat children. Our behavior in this regard is not a formula, as though if we do such-and-such for children we are meeting requirements God has set down. Rather, in Mark, these words of Jesus exhort us to a way of orienting ourselves to children, of understanding that our relationships with them are directly tied, not just to welcoming Jesus, but to the very kingdom of God. Directly tied even to welcoming God!

Let us celebrate the rescue of the Wild Boars as an event where we see God and Jesus welcomed. These children, going through a terrible experience, will be welcomed back to their parents arms with the same tenderness that God welcomes us, and because of that, these are welcoming God.

May we understand the depth of this welcome, and our call to welcome God by welcoming children!




July 2, 2018, 12:00 AM

Monday Afternoon, July 2nd


If you could plop yourself down in whatever place you wanted, where would that be?

And who would you want to be plopping down with you? Friends? Family?

Would there be a meal? What kind? Maybe a picnic?

Would there be a lake? Mountains? River? Walking trail? Boat?

Would there be a plane or a car? Or a motorcycle?

Would there be books? Knitting supplies? A place to bake? A workshop? Museums? Concerts?

Would there be a hammock and a gentle breeze? A bed by a fireplace with cozy covers?

Sunshine? Rain?

 

If you can take a deep breath and sit for a couple of moments, go ahead and envision the fullest, richest life you can imagine. The kind of momemt when your heart and mind say, "my goodness, life is good" before you even think the words. The moment when your heart is settled and full to the brim and everything is joy.

"So Jesus spoke again, “I assure you that I am the gate of the sheep.  All who came before me were thieves and outlaws, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest." John 10:7-10, CEB

Jesus came to us so that we could have life--indeed, so that we could live life to the fullest.

So that all of us and each of us could life life to the fullest. And, given that earlier in the gospel of John we read that God so loved the world, we also understand that Jesus came so that all people could have life--indeed, that all people could live life to the fullest.

As you consider your dream day - wherever that is, with whoever it is with, whatever you are doing - let all the good feeling of it sink deep down inside you. Because that is reminder for you of what God wants for you.

And, as you consider your dream day, and as you let that feeling sink into you, remember that this is what Jesus came to provide for all of us.

Any time you make life fuller and better for someone else, you are contributing to the life Jesus came to give us all.

 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Michelle




June 27, 2018, 9:25 AM

East Side Presbyterian Church Blog Coming Soon!


We here at East Sde Presbyterian Church in Ashtabula, Ohio are beginning the expansion of our social media presence. On this blog you will find updates, news items, important announcements, reflections from the pastor, and other items of interest. In addition, we continue to update and tweak our website so that we can connect with our internet community as much as possible.

Please check in from time to time, and, as we go forward following God's call, pray for us as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace,

Michelle

 

Rev. Michelle J. Bartel, PhD.

Pastor, East Side Presbyterian Church