Woodlawn CC

Woodlawn CC

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My part of the August Newsletter here at Woodlawn CC

What follows are the two articles that I write each month for the Church Newsletter.  These are the articles written for the August 2015 newsletter.

Have a very blessed day, week, year and life.

Pastor Roy

Pastor's Report:

Well, July certainly was a busy month here at Woodlawn Christian Church.  We had the Vacation Bible School here at the church, and I have to tell you that I enjoyed it immensely.  We had a great turnout of children and helpers and the week was just a pure joy.  I can't begin to think of all the people that need to be thanked for helping out so, I'll just thank Jodi Frank and Janet Daisy and allow them to spread the accolades on from there.  But, truly I do thank each and everyone who was involved in this wonderful ministry. I am already looking forward to this event next year, and also thank you, Janet and Jodi, for letting me teach some of the classes.

On the 12th, there was my formal installation service here at Woodlawn.  I was very pleased with the number of folks that showed up for the service and the potluck that followed.  We had the privilege of hosting some special guests that day as well.  These are individuals who have been instrumental in my personal faith journey that has led me here to be with you all.  I mentioned them last month, but I will do so once again.  Kathy Brown (the wife of my late mentor Jesse), Susan Gillies, Bob Molby and his wife Marcie, my mother in law Mary Engleman, my brother Merrill Karlen and his wife Karen, and also Gail was here along with both of our children Creath and Madeline.  Creath played his violin as part of the service and was very well received.  It was also great to see Marge Walters make it to the church and I thank Leon and Judy for going out and picking her up.  It was also the first time that Kim Gregg made it to a service while I have been here.  Thank you all and God Bless you all!

Ellen O'Loughlin had the Calhoun County Robotic Clinic using our facilities for classes the week after the VBS, and the ten or so children that took part had a great time learning and being exposed to a bit about robotics.  With the way the world looks to be going, skills with working with anything technology related cannot be stressed enough for our children.

Finally this month Evelyn and I were able to conduct our first worship service out at Shady Oaks together.  For one reason or another we've had to cancel this service several times.  It went very well and I'm looking forward to this as part of our monthly ministry.

Have a very blessed and abundant month and remember...

Be a blessing to someone today!
Pastor Roy

Pastor's Pondering:

July found me conducting the second funeral service that I've had since coming here as your settled Pastor.  This past month Steven 'Wiley' Main passed away.  He was well known in the community and died suddenly at the all too young age of 57.  The service was held at Lampe's Funeral Home and the Luncheon was held in our Fellowship Hall.  I want to thank all of the individuals involved in putting together the lunch, you all did a remarkable job and Gloria does a fantastic job as the point person for this ministry.  Certainly, one of the most important ministries we can have is coming to the aid of a family when they have lost a loved one.

Even though it has been a while since the Main family regularly attended church, they identify as a part of our church family.  As I urged you all during service this past Sunday, I will urge you again to please reach out and support this family as much as you possibly can.  God needs all of us to be his angels in this world.  There can be little more tragic than losing a loved one so unexpectedly, and the grief process is just beginning for this local family.

Steven's passing serves as a stark reminder to all of us that tomorrow is never promised.  Hug your family when you are able, tell them you love them often, for from day to day we just never know what might come out of the blue.

Ironically, just the day before I got the call that Steven had passed away, I was in South Dakota at the committal service for my Aunt Silvia, the last of my Father's siblings to pass away.  After the service, I was visiting with my Uncle Don, my Mother's younger brother about the burial plots in the Reliance Cemetery.  Don is the person in charge of the Protestant side (even though Don's Catholic) of the Reliance Cemetery and I asked him to look and see what was available for plots over near where my parents and grandparents plots are located.  I told him that I was going to be back in mid-August and that I'd see what he had figured out for me then.  All of this serves as a reminder that no matter what age we are at, we need to tell our loved ones what we wish for them to do in the case of our sudden passing.  Certainly, having worked out where you wish for your earthly remains to be located is among the things you need to address.

Well with that rather maudlin commentary, I will close for this month.

God's Love, Blessings and Grace to you all.
Pastor Roy

Sermon Video and another Funeral

This last weekend found us conducting the second funeral that we've had to do since I came here as the Pastor for Woodlawn Christian Church.  This time it was for a member who wasn't much more than a year older than I am myself.  Anytime one comes up against deaths for an individual close to your own age it gets ones attention.  Not a one of us is guaranteed tomorrow, so hug your family and tell them you love them today and each and every day. 

I've attached the video of my sermon from this past Sunday's service along with a manuscript of the funeral for Steven Main that I performed on Saturday morning.


Be a blessing to someone today!

In His Constant Care & Grace,

Order of Service: Funeral for Steven Robert 'Wiley' Main - July 25, 2015 - Service conducted at Lampe's Funeral Home:

Call to Worship:

Gathered in Christ's name, let us praise God
who is our certain hope in all life's varied circumstances.
In the face of death believe the good news the scriptures proclaim:
As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.
(Isaiah 66:13)

We have come together within the strengthening fellowship of friends and family:
to praise God for the life of Steven Robert 'Wiley' Main;
to share our grief with God and with one another;
to reaffirm our faith in God's unfailing goodness;
to hear again God's promise of resurrection;
and to commend Steven to God's everlasting care.

Music:  Tim McGraw “It's Your Love”

Opening Prayer:
O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our brother Steven.
We thank you for giving him to us, his family and friends,
to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage.
In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn.
Give us faith to see death the gate of eternal life,
so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth,
until by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Music: Holly Dunn “Daddy's Hands”

Music: Brad Paisley “He Didn't Have To Be”

The Gospel Reading:
Hear these words from Jesus:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If it were not so,
Would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
So that where I am, there you may be also.
And you know the way to the place where I am going.
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
But you will see me;
Because I live, you also will live.
I have said these things to you while I am still with you.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
Whom the Father will send in my name,
Will teach you everything,
And remind you of all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”  
(John 14:1 – 4, 18 – 19, 25 – 27)

Special Music:  Brad Addison “Amazing Grace”

Message:  Pastor Roy Karlen – Woodlawn Christian Church

On July 19, 2015 Steven Robert “Wiley” Main passed away at the all too young age of 57.  Steve was born on March 17, 1958 right here in Lake City, his was a life taken far, far too early but he left behind for all of his loved ones, a life that they will always remember.  

Though I never had the privilege of meeting Steve or 'Wiley' as most of his friends called him, his family told me a great deal about him.

They told me about how he was a very creative soul, that he enjoyed working with wood and had recently constructed a planter shaped like a turtle out of landscaping timbers, at the time of his passing he left unfinished an American Flag that he was fashioning out of recycled pallets.  He was a hard working and big hearted man who apparently never met a stranger and who was always ready to help, even to help a stranger in need.  His family was very precious to him and he loved his children and step-children.  Rachel told me that she and he did everything together, that they were always together doing something.  Steve was always doing something, he didn't care to sit idle and he didn't care to sit and watch television, rather he wanted to be doing something.

He was a very social person and he loved people.  Steve also very much loved to dance much to his family's amusement.  He and his family enjoyed camping, hunting or fishing, or just being outdoors in God's creation.  In listening to his family it was also obvious that he was a man that loved animals, especially his dog “Carly Ann” who he took along with him as much as he could.

Steve's nickname “Wiley” came from his 7th grade friends.  They had heard the ads for the Iowa Congressman Wiley Mayne who represented Iowa in the House of Representatives from 1967 to 1975, and since they had the same last name his friends started calling Steve “Wiley”, the name stuck and he was known as “Wiley” from then on.

Steve and his wife Rachel loved the “King”, a/k/a Elvis Presley, and together they enjoyed his music and collected various memorabilia.  In fact we will enjoy one of Steve's favorite Elvis songs at the close of this ceremony.  Although Elvis was frequently called and widely known as the King, when he himself was questioned about the nickname, he always let it be known that there was in fact only one true King.  Our God, our Lord, our Father in Heaven.

Psalm 23  King James Version (KJV)
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Though Steve has been taken from his family and friends far too early, we know that he is safe in his Father's house in Heaven.  Though the parting is far too early in this world it is but a moment in Heaven.  In our Lord's Kingdom a day is like a 1,000 years and a 1,000 years are like a day.  Though we can count the years that we are parted here, it will seem like no time at all in Heaven where Steven and all of his family will enjoy eternity together with our all gracious and all loving God.

Though we are parted but for a time, we can take solace in the words of Apostle Paul:

1 Corinthians 13:1-8
1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8Love never ends.
Even though we are apart, as long as we have their memories, as long as these memories continue to influence our lives, our relationship with our loved ones that have passed remains.  And when that time comes that we are reunited in God's presence our joy will be complete.  In the knowledge that this separation is only temporary and with the love and comfort of our Lord along with the love and support of our family and friends, we can endure this brief separation.  For love remains, it never dies, it is there still with us.  For as Paul said;

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends, love always remains.

Steve's family loved him and he obviously loved his family very, very much.

At this point in the ceremony, the family would like to make time available for any of Steve's friends or family members that would like to come forward and share with all of us their memories.

Eulogies and Reflections:

Closing Prayer:
Our closing prayer here today will also serve as grace for the luncheon that will follow this service.  The family invites you to join them at the fellowship hall in Woodlawn Christian Church immediately following the service.  Let us pray:

O God, our Strength and our Redeemer, Giver of life, and Conqueror of death, we open our hearts to you just as we are.  We celebrate your gift of life freely given, but are grieved by a sense of loss in the face of death.  The love which binds us to one another leaves us aching as ties are broken.  Accept our tears as emblems of devotion, and transform them into waters of life to nourish us in the days ahead.
We trust you.  We love you.  We know in Christ that your love is everlasting.  Nothing can separate any of us from your abiding care.  With you is eternal life.
With confidence we now entrust Steven to your unfailing love and overflowing goodness.  Through the power that raised Christ from the dead to live eternally with you, lift up this, your servant, to life fulfilled beyond our imagining.  We give you but your own.  Accept him as he is with all his frailties as well as his strengths.  Enfold him in your everlasting arms.  Embrace him as your child.
Now strengthen us, through the gift of your Spirit, to face into the future with confidence that you stand with us.  Grant that the changes of life may leave us stronger as we journey through life.
Reassured of your abiding presence, help us to knit more firmly the ties that bind us one to another.  Renewed by your love, help us to love in ever larger circles so as to embrace your people everywhere till at last we are all united eternally through Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.


Sending Song:  Elvis Presley  “Hound dog”

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sermon and a whole lot of driving around the Midwest...

The last few days have included for me a great deal of driving as well as a whole lot of seeing and visiting with friends and relatives.  On Thursday morning, I drove Madeline up to the airport in Minneapolis.  She flew to Toronto to meet up with her boyfriend Yves and his family.  For the next two and a half months, she's going to be visiting with them as well as searching for a job up there in order to acquire a work visa in Canada.  Once she finds a job and gets her visa she'll be able to apply to attend college in Canada and start working towards becoming an ultrasound technician.

Maddie Karlen, July of 2015
After leaving the airport, I spent a bit of time shopping and then headed south to meet up with a couple of old friends from college, Kent and Sue Haselhorst, who live on a beautiful acreage near Spring Valley, Minnesota.  I had a very nice visit with them at their home and then we went to the local Dairy Queen and had a bite to eat.  It had been almost exactly twenty-four years since I saw them last, and it was great to see that they've aged so well.

Kent and Sue Haselhorst, July of 2015
I stayed as long as I could and returned back to Lake City about midnight, I pray it won't be nearly as long before I have a chance to see them both again.  Thanks to you Kent and Sue for allowing me to call out of the blue and just drop in on you all.  God's love and blessings to you.

Friday morning I woke up, worked out in the garage and then cleaned up and headed to South Dakota.  My aunt Silvia passed away back in February, but she didn't want her service to be held until the weather was better for her family to travel.  I arrived in Oacoma, South Dakota at my brother Merrill's home around 5 pm and had dinner with them.  Later my sister Paula came over and we visited on Merrill's deck overlooking the Missouri until my old friend Greg Powell called me to come and meet him and his wife Terri for a drink at Cedar Shore.  It was wonderful to see both of them again, I do talk to Greg fairly regularly, but it's only once or twice a year that we actually see each other face to face.  Greg promised me that they are going to make a trip over to Lake City some Sunday to come to Woodlawn for a Sunday Service.  I pray they'll be able to work it out as I'd love to introduce them to the town, and the good people at Woodlawn Christian Church.  Greg and Terri, I love you both like family!

Greg and Terri Powell, July of 2015
 On Saturday morning, we all gathered at the cemetery near Reliance, South Dakota for my Aunt Silvia's memorial and interment service.  It was a small gathering of close family and the service was conducted at the cemetery.  After the rest of us left her son Perry buried the urn and then met us all at Al's Oasis in Oacoma for lunch.  It was a wonderful time of visiting and seeing cousins that I rarely ever see and honestly only see at funerals now.  Such unfortunately, is how things seem to go when you get to be middle aged.  Silvia was the last of the 'old guard' Karlen clan, there is only my mother Rosemarie and my Uncle Elton's wife Beth remaining and they of course both married into the Karlen clan.  

Once the visiting was done and everyone needed to get started home I headed to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where I met another dear old friend Kirk Jensen for supper at JL Beers.  Creath was working that evening managing the kitchen and he actually brought our food out to us at the table in order to say 'Hi' for a quick moment before having to get back to the kitchen.  I want to thank Kirk for buying me dinner, you're one of the best souls I know Kirk, God Bless you in abundance! 

I dropped several hints to Kirk that he needs to invite all of the old gang to come see him and his wife LaJean at their home near Beresford, South Dakota.  His home is about as close to the mid-point of travel distance, for the majority of us as one could ask for.  In case you didn't notice Kirk, I just dropped another hint.  LOL

Kirk Jensen, July of 2015
It was a tiring few days, but it was fantastic to see so many faces that I rarely get to see within such a short period of time.  I pray that it won't be as long between visits with all of you as it has been in the past.  Honestly, I've resolved that that won't be the case. 

After leaving Kirk in Sioux Falls, I drove back to Lake City and managed to get home just short of eleven at night.  All of this travel meant that I was a bit weary this morning during our service but it was still a great service and we had a very good attendance again this week.  God Bless all the souls at Woodlawn Christian, I really have fallen in love with this place and am so very thankful that the Lord has called us all together to serve him as partners.

Attached please find the video of the sermon, it was a continuation of last week's sermon and again I went the route of writing nothing down prior to the delivery.  There was no manuscript, no note cards, nothing written down nor even rehearsed.  I had formulated in my mind what I wanted to talk about and then I just started talking.  The only problem for me when doing this is I have no idea how long the sermon is going to be.  Also, I have to make sure and have it recorded as there is no manuscript to publish here or to place into my file of past sermons.

I pray that this blog post finds you all well and richly blessed.

In His Grace and Constant Care,
Pastor Roy

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Installation Service - Woodlawn Christian Church

This past Sunday marked my official installation as the settled pastor here at Woodlawn Christian Church.  It was a great service and I thank Julie Gibson for coming and assisting with the event.  Julie is on the Regional staff and worked with the Search Committee for all the many years that it took for the search process to come to completion.  The church endured a much longer process than normal and Julie's kind assistance and guidance has been richly appreciated by everyone here at Woodlawn CC along with myself.

I was pleased to have a number of my family and friends make the trip to Lake City for the service.  My brother Merrill and his wife Karen, Susan Gillies (Past Executive Minister for the American Baptist in Nebraska), Kathy Brown (my late mentor Jesse's wife), Bob Molby (my current mentor) with his wife Marcie, my mother-in-law Mary Alice, Gail Ann and both Madeline and Creath were able to come as well.

Above is the video of the sermon which I gave during the program, and below is a video of Creath playing a violin solo of 'La Folia' by A. Corelli.

It was a wonderful service and I want to thank everyone at Woodlawn Christian for their faith in me and for calling me to come and reside and serve alongside them as their Pastor.  Thank you to Julie for all that she's done and thank you to Susan, Kathy, Bob, Marcie, Merrill, Karen, Mary Alice, Gail, Maddie and Creath for all their love, assistance and support.  Special thanks to Creath for playing his violin for the church.  Everyone was blown away and just loved his playing, they're all anxious for him to come back and play for them again.  Next time I will try and get him the music for the hymns that we'll be playing when he's here so he can be prepared.

May this blog post find all who read it fully blessed and well in our God's love and abundance.


In Christ Jesus,
Pastor Roy

Monday, July 6, 2015

Vacation Bible School and Sermon from July 5th 2015

This week we are hosting the Vacation Bible School for the Lake City Community.  It's a fantastic week with all these little people running around the building.  There is nothing more rewarding than teaching and working with young children.

A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone that is helping out with VBS, in so very many different roles!  It is amazing to see and I'm so impressed and proud of all the great work and dedication to the youth here in and around Lake City.  What a wonderful place and such incredible people!  God Bless you all!

God Bless the little ones they are so precious.  Tonight in the first class that I taught (the 1st & 2nd Graders) one of the girls asked me if they got to keep the Bibles we were reading I told her no they were just for the class.  I then asked if they all had Bibles at home, all of the children did with the exception of the little girl who asked if they got to keep the Bibles.  I asked her if she wanted one and she vigorously shook her head yes and said yes she did.  So I gave her a Bible of her own to take home.  I like to tell everyone to "be a blessing to someone today", but today I have to say this little girl was my blessing.  She reminded me just how precious a Bible is to have.  Later I saw that she was clutching that Bible tight to her chest and she held it like that until her parents came and picked her up.  God Bless her always.  

I've attached the manuscript for the July 5th sermon for anyone who wishes to read through it.  Gail did record the sermon on her phone, but I forgot to have her download it for me before she left to go back to Omaha.  I'll try and get it this weekend and add it to this post.

In His Love & Care, 


Sermon July 5th, 2015

Woodlawn Christian Church – Roy Karlen

First off, I was pleased to see so many of you make it to the Community Worship Service last weekend in the town square. It was a beautiful day and I thought it was a great day of worshiping with our fellow Christians here in Lake City.

It's going to be a busy week this week with Vacation Bible School going on and then next weekend is, of course, my formal installation service here at Woodlawn CC. We'll have a few special guests coming to be with us hopefully that day. My mentor the Rev. Bob Molby will be here with his wife Marcie, also my late mentor Jesse's wife Kathy will be here. Kathy will have with her, her sister Susan who is the past Executive Minister for the American Baptist in Nebraska. We'll also have my daughter Maddie and for the first time our son Creath will be here in Lake City. Creath will be playing his violin for us so that will be a treat. My older brother Merrill and his wife Karen are also making the trip, so I get another chance to harass my big brother from the pulpit, that's always fun for me. So make sure and be here next week to welcome all of these fine folks. You will also want to remember that we're having a potluck after the service, and you can never go wrong coming to church when there's a potluck.

Before we go any further this morning, let's go before the Lord in prayer;

We desire your presence with us O God.
Still our restless spirits, that with quiet minds and reverent hearts we may hear your voice and worthily worship you.
Prepare our minds and hearts O, God, that through your Word, read and proclaimed, Christ may come to dwell within us, and ever rule over our thoughts and affections as Lord of our lives.

The scripture that we're going to be looking at today is found in the Gospel of Mark in the 6th Chapter. It immediately follows a series of miracles that Jesus has performed and it's followed by the story of the death of John the Baptist. The story of John's death highlights for us just how dangerous this being a new voice was in these times. After the story of John's death, there are more stories of miracles.

Let’s go now to the Gospel of Mark;

Mark 6:1-13 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth

6 He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.
And he went about among the villages teaching.

The Mission of the Twelve

7 And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.

Jesus is in the first few lines of these verses, the hometown boy who's come back to town and the folks back home still see him as he was before. Isn't this the carpenter? Some translations say 'just' the carpenter. Isn't this the guy who we had make that table for us and one of the legs was too short? We grew up with this guy, what and who does he think he is now? And why can he do miracles and not the rest of us? What made him so special that God has favored him above all of us who grew up with him.

In the canonical writings there really isn't much about Jesus growing up other than a little bit in Luke's gospel. But it would seem by what Mark is telling us here that the folks in his hometown hadn't considered him as anything special prior to now. Isn't this just the carpenter and aren't his siblings here with us? Where did he get this wisdom and this power to do miracles?

We tend to have a hard time seeing people differently once we've gotten used to seeing them a certain way. An easy illustration of this would be parents and their children; it's difficult for us parents to see our children as grown adults and not think they still need us to tell them how to do things. I know for me as a father I still have a tendency to think of my kids as much younger and less capable than they really are. Sometimes it's easier for folks who have a bit more distance to see just how wonderful of an adult they might be.

Certainly, a prophet has a difficult time being appreciated in his own hometown, much less among his family and in his own home. We humans often have a tough time seeing what is right there in front of us all along.

Also here, we have no small amount of jealousy this guy wasn't special growing up? Why is he so special now? And why did God favor him over me anyways?

There just isn't the faith in him here where he grew up that is needed to see his work come to fruition.

Now let's look at the next section of this scripture, Jesus is sending his disciples off to the surrounding villages to heal and perform miracles. But get this, he tells them to not take any supplies or provisions along for the trip. He goes so far as to tell them that they are not to even take along an extra set of clothes, just the ones on their backs. And let's not forget the part about no money! He wants them to be entirely reliant on the help and generosity of those whom they are going to aid.

He is telling them to have faith that their endeavor will be supported and welcomed. They are to step forward into the darkness and uncertainty that lies ahead and believe that all will be well and God will ultimately provide for them through those that they encounter on their journey.

Have you ever been in a situation where all the odds seemed against you but you had absolute peace. You had peace because you had faith and an understanding that God would see you through. No matter what lay ahead you would prevail with God's support and love.

Now, I have to confess to you all that my wife Gail has a much stronger sense of faith than I or almost anyone else that I know. I want to tell you all a little story about our daughter Madeline or Maddie as we generally call her. Madeline was due to be born in December of 1994; over Labor Day weekend of that year my son Creath and I went up to South Dakota to visit my family. Gail wasn't able to go along as she was forbidden by her Doctor to travel. While we were there Gail called very early one morning to tell me that she was in the hospital and that the baby was coming. Her water had broken while she was asleep and she had called her mother to rush her to the hospital.

The baby was coming over three months early, well I immediately jumped in the car and drove as fast as I could back the 360 miles to Omaha. When I got to the hospital the contractions had slowed down but the baby was coming, there was no stopping that.  Maddie was born on September 5th, which was Labor Day that year. She was so small that the Doctor handed her back with just one hand to the Doctors and nurses behind him that were there waiting for her.  

Now, I'm sure all of you can do the math but Maddie was coming into this world at 25 weeks term rather than the normal 40 weeks. Twenty one years ago this wasn't a good thing, Gail and I had already lost one child at 22 weeks and I'll be honest I was scared out of my mind. All the hospital staff was obviously concerned as well, but there surrounded by all this chaos, fear and frayed nerves laid Gail, absolutely, serene and assured. She told me not to worry that everything would be fine, I wish I could tell you I believed her completely... she said God would get us through this and that this child would be just fine.

Creath visiting Maddie in the NeoNat Unit.
Well Maddie came into this world at only 2 lbs 2 ounces, but a stubborn little girl from the get go. She gave us a lot of scares, actually she gave me a lot of scares, Gail always believed that everything would be fine... and it was. Maddie came home the day before Thanksgiving she was so small that we gave her baths in a mixing bowl, and not a large mixing bowl either. She was home for a short time before having to go back into the Neonate unit with RSV. She was very, very, very sick and honestly the doctors knew they were losing her. But Gail had faith, everything would be fine.

Maddie was so sick that they were giving her nebulizer treatments with albuterol with 15 minute intervals between treatments. There was no doubt that she was dying, but Gail remained stoic and professing that everything would be just fine.

Maddie's doctor came to us and said there was a drug trial that they wanted to put Maddie into. A new potential treatment for RSV that they wanted to know if we'd let them use on Maddie. Well, of course when you're in a drug trial you never know if you're getting a placebo or a real drug.  We said okay, honestly we didn't have anything else to do, she was dying right there before our eyes. Gail though again was unwavering in her belief that it would all be all right.

Well, they immediately started Maddie on the treatments and almost like magic she started to improve. She literally bounced back from death's door and lo and behold she recovered. Later we learned that she did indeed get the real drug and not a placebo. That drug which I don't remember the name of was shortly the standard treatment for babies with RSV and has saved many lives. One of the first lives it saved though was our own little Miss Maddie Kaye Karlen.

The fact that we just happened to be there when this drug trial was going on is to us no small miracle.  Certainly, Gail's great faith in her God for His provision and great care was well founded.  Maddie made a rapid and complete recovery, though she did have lung damage due to the RSV and her premature birth.  Thankfully, she outgrew this damage as she grew older and today her lungs are as good as gold.

Faith is a difficult thing, to step out and carry on even though the situation looks hopeless is not something that comes natural to us humans. Most of us let fear take over and we start to doubt... fear is normal and it's impossible to say that even the faithful don't suffer from fear. Faith means in spite of your fears and in spite of what should be normal human doubt, you place your faith in God and you go forth. Knowing that ultimately this world can only throw so much against us and that no matter what might come God will bring us through.

Even in those situations where it seems that the world has won, it really hasn't because God's Kingdom is bigger than the world. Now back to our scripture verses, I'm sure that the disciples all thought "what in the world is he trying to do to us, no food, no money, we're going to perish". But none of them did, at least not yet. In the end, of course, nearly all of them paid the ultimate price for witnessing for our Lord. Of course, we know that even in death their faith has saved them. The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Church in Rome:

Romans 8:33-39 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

God’s Love in Christ Jesus

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; 34 who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For thy sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the end, it all works out, faith even into death.  For not even death can separate us from the Love of our God. I forget the name of the movie, but I remember this line from it; “it will all work out in the end and if it hasn't yet worked out, then it's not yet the end.”

In the end it all works out, we are called to journey through the darkness of life with the knowledge that the light of our God awaits us on the other side. We have faith that nothing in this world or beyond can change that truth.

But while we're on this journey of faith, let us never forget that we're supposed to be witnessing and helping others along the way.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father,
Help us to be ever mindful to not be judgmental of others. But let us be ever mindful of living our lives as a reflection of your love for each and everyone. Please forgive us for our failings and guide us daily to a better understanding of you and the path that you wish for us to walk in your creation.
We pray this in Your Holy Name.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Love One Another; In the storms let us remember that we are Christ's followers

Well, it has been an interesting few days since the Supreme Court handed down their ruling on same-sex marriage.  Sad to say it has brought out some of the worst in both sides and there has been no end of ungracious losers, and maybe even more ungracious winners.  But perhaps that is a large part of the problem, we classify each other as winners and losers rather than actually trying to understand and communicate with each other.

Honestly, I've been hesitant to add anything to the dialogue since it seems that so much good and bad is already being written.  But, I sincerely don't think our reactions need to be so complicated and certainly not so vitriol from either and each side.

This is a link to a blog which has a pretty good handle on the issue.  He is however coming from one particular side and seems to imply that the majority of the insults are coming from the opposing side alone, I don't think that's the case.  I think there are offenders equally on both sides.  Both sides need to extend olive branches to the other in my opinion.

Somewhere After The Rainbow

Personally, I was not in favor of the ruling by the Supreme Court.  My position had nothing to do with same-sex marriage however, I see this ruling as a continued erosion of States Rights and I am afraid that the precedent that it sets will come back to haunt us in years to come.  I also fear that without language in place to assure the proper balancing of conflicting 'rights' that the conservative churches will be singled out for abuse by activists and penalized by activist courts.  For this reason, I applaud what they have done down in Texas with passing legislation adding additional protection to those who do not wish to perform same-sex unions.

As to same-sex marriage and the sin of homosexuality, rather than try and repeat what is said so much better than I could anyway... I will again post a link to this video of a sermon given by Danny Cortez.  No matter which side of the same-sex marriage issue you are on pro or con, please, please set aside an hour and listen to this Pastor's sermon.  It's a great sermon and one that all Christians need to hear in this time of renewed controversy and contention.  It is a sermon given with a heart filled with love, grace and a desire for reconciliation... in short a sermon which is extremely Christ-like in nature.

Romans 2 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

The Righteous Judgment of God
2 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.

Pay close attention to the historical context that he brings into his sermon.  This is a very, very important point and is in my opinion what most Christians are missing in their understanding of this highly contentious issue.

In the end though, no matter which side of this issue you are on, let's behave as Christians to one another and communicate in a sense of love and grace.  Let us try to understand and find common ground in our shared love for our Lord.  This division in our hearts certainly grieves our God.  Even if you ascribe to the belief that homosexuality is a sin, go back and read the verse I quoted above from Romans.  We are all sinners, there is not a one who does not fall short of the glory of God.  Do not hate someone just because they sin differently than you do.

The photo above was taken this past weekend during our Community Worship Service during 'Western Days' here in Lake City.  This annual service is held in the Town Square and is open to all the congregations in town.  It's one of two annual worship services held by the Lake City Ministerial Association.  I think it's wonderful to be in a community where the churches are not at odds with one another and actually work together to serve the local community.  Praise God, for such a wonderful and loving community.

Here are a couple more photos from the event.

I need to get back to working on my sermon for this weekend so I'm going to let you all go for now.  May this blog post find you all well and blessed and remember to please "be a blessing to someone today".

In His Grace,