What’s Got Your Attention?

Last week during our welcome and call to worship I shared briefly the story about the young man who got rich buying into Bitcoin. (Although we found out we are all rich, right!) I’ve probably had more comments and questions on that welcome than most other ones, so I want to share a little bit more of that story and application for you to think about this week.

The young man’s name is Erik Finman, now age 19, and you can google him and read his complete story from many different sources. It turns out I had a few of the details wrong. Erik was lucky, but that wasn’t the complete story. He also has a lot of entrepreneurial spirit in him. Seven years ago he received a gift of $1,000 from his grandmother, and he used it to buy his first 100 bitcoins. Again, I won’t take the time to explain what Bitcoin is, exactly, and I’m not even sure I could. The main idea is that it is an online, encrypted currency that claims to be able to protect itself from the other threats to regular currency such as theft, deterioration, and counterfeiting. However, detractors such as Warren Buffet, tell us cryptocurrency has no real value and could implode at any moment… so I don’t suggest risking your savings on it!

Eric watched the value of his investment grow, and finally he sold the bitcoins for $1,200 each, or over $100,000 after taxes. Then he launched his own online-education company, called Botangle, and later sold it for 300 more bitcoins. Today he has 401 to his name, and his net worth is close to $4 million. Although both of his parents are Stanford-educated doctors, he made an agreement with them that if he was a millionaire before turning 18, he wouldn’t have to go to college. He won. Now he spends time giving advice to other young people about investing, as well as collaborating with NASA on a future project.

I have my own story along these lines on a much smaller scale. Back in 2008 when the markets were in major turmoil due to the mortgage crisis and other issues, I had saved up about $6,000 and decided to try my hand at online investing. The volatility was off the charts that year, so it was possible to buy a stock in danger of bankruptcy one day and see it double the next. Of course the opposite possibility was true as well. To make a long story short, over the next six months I made a lot of money and lost a lot of money, but in the end I had tripled my investment account to close to $20,000.

So why didn’t I just keep going and become like Erik Finman or Warren Buffet? The truth is I probably got lucky that year and things would have eventually evened out, because I don’t have the talent or steely nerves of those guys, but the more pressing issue is that I could feel my hope shifting away from God. I would wake up in the morning, sometimes after a bad night of sleep, and the first thing I had to do was check the markets to see how I was doing. It was easy to project in my mind how at the pace I was “making” money, I could be quite wealthy in only 5 or 10 years. But before I got too deep into that mentality, God graciously called me back and reminded me there was much more to life than material wealth, so I gave up online investing and renewed my focus on ministry and family. Later the money I made enabled us to live in Haiti as missionaries, so it is good to know God can use even our wanderings for His purposes.

During the last few weeks Mike has given us some great teaching on stewardship and how to leverage our resources for God’s glory, but the truth is what God really wants is very simple. He wants my heart, and He wants yours. He desires that relationship above all else. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13) Money and wealth aren’t bad things, but they have the potential to distract our attention from God and our calling to build His kingdom, and that’s where the true riches are found!

Cory Grimm

 


I Have a Dream

I have a dream.

Depending on your age, those four words probably trigger a memory of Martin Luther King Jr addressing a crowd at the March on Washington, or possibly a whimsical song from the movie TangledTangled is a story about Rapunzel who has a dream to see the floating lanterns that appear in the sky each year on her birthday.  Through a tangled web of events, she enlists the help of the kingdom’s most wanted thief, Flynn rider, to take her to see the lights.  That is until they end up at the Snuggly Duckling Tavern and a group of ruffians capture Rider and Rapunzel’s dream seems to be on the verge of unraveling.  Rapunzel uses her long hair to disarm the bandits and confronts the group of thugs to plead her case for her dream of seeing the lanterns and asks them, “Haven’t any of you ever had a dream?”  The ringleader grabs an ax and approaches Rapunzel with anger in his eyes when he turns and says, “I had a dream… once.”  What follows is the “I Have a Dream” song where the room full of vicious scoundrels share their unlikely and touchy-feely dreams.  In the middle of the song, they ask Flynn Rider what’s his dream.  Rider denies his singing ability and having a dream until he’s held at knife point.

I recently watched a video of Gary Haugen, founder and CEO of International Justice Missions, who talked about leaders having a dream and not being afraid to follow those dreams.  Haugen went on to say that fear was the silent destroyer of dreams.  And while our most powerful dreams flow out of love, fear is a preoccupation with ourselves.  His personal fear in leaving a good job to start a non-profit global ministry was the fear of looking like a failure.  This was all very interesting to me, but as I listened to the presentation, I felt like Flynn Rider and not having a dream that was worth singing about.  As a youngster, I had a dream to become a nurse, but that dream was short lived with the realization that the sight of blood made my head spin and my stomach roll over.

Some people have grand dreams of opening a restaurant or writing a book.  Others dream of being famous or fighting an injustice.  As my mind hovered on the verge of my “No Dream” pity party, the Spirit began to remind me of the dreams I do have.  Though maybe not as concrete as a college degree or a Super Bowl ring, I have a dream, or maybe multiple dreams.  I have a dream to help people experience the freedom of surrendering their life to Jesus Christ, to know the power of his unfailing love and accept his grace and mercy.  I dream of a world where each person is celebrated as a child of God regardless of their past or present.  I dream of a community that cares for all it’s people.  I dream of a church where all would be welcomed and loved, where pettiness would disappear, and where people would worship with all their hearts and be willing participants.  I dream of families that would stick together, respect, honor and serve one another.

I don’t think it would take much to imagine that the apostle Paul also had some dreams for the world in which he lived.  He dreamed about people having the eyes of their heart enlightened that they would know the hope to which they were called, the riches of their glorious inheritance and the incomparably great power for those who believed (Eph 1:18-19).  He dreamed that the people would be rooted and established in love and that they would grasp the width, length, height and depth of the love of Christ (Eph 3:17-18).

Another dream I have stems from the conversation in Mark 12:30-31 where Jesus tells the people that the two most important commandments are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  I don’t want to start a new program or develop a new ministry, but I envision God’s people being deployed in this community, wearing t-shirts that say Love God – Love People, and humbly offering a hand wherever and whenever there is a need… cleaning up after a storm, picking up garbage after a baseball game, pitching in at Hot Dog Night or Tri-State Band Festival, living a life of service for the glory of God and the transformation of the world.

So how about you?  Do you have a dream?  Is there a dream or vision that God has for ARC?  I’m confident he does!  Let’s seek that dream together!

Erin Jacobsma

 


On Wings Like Eagles

Have you noticed any bald eagles around your area recently? I have heard several sightings of these magnificent creatures in the last months. As a child it was truly a special moment to see one in its natural habitat, since they were becoming a scarce species. It would seem as though the laws of protection have worked as we now see them more often.

Since last fall, our family has had the privilege to watch a pair of bald eagles in our grove. We have lovingly named them “Fred and Wilma,” as though they are part of the family. Josh and I were certain they would leave when temps dipped as low as they did, but they are still around perched high in the treetops. The unfrozen creek nearby must be a good source of food for them. Although, Austin witnessed a squirrel run like crazy across the field to avoid the outstretched talons going after the little fuzzy creature. Half way across the section Josh discovered a huge nest in a small group of trees, so we are looking forward to some eaglet sightings later this year. Since bald eagles tend to come back to the same nest, we may be lucky enough to witness these sightings for several years to come.

Most of you probably know eagles are very intelligent creatures with a great amount of strength and incredible wing span. Since Fred and Wilma’s arrival to the Ossefoort Ranch we have been doing a little research about our feathered companions. We have learned bald eagles have about a 20 year life expectancy, build enormous nests, and the females are larger than the males. I was surprised to learn that an eagle can actually sense a storm before it comes and prepares itself by flying high in the sky. As the storm hits, they lock their wings and soar. The winds of the storm actually lift them up above the chaos below. Because their wings are locked in an outstretched position with no flapping, they actually burn very little energy and are able to allow the storm to pass before resting. While the eagle cannot avoid the storm, they use the wind to protect themselves.

In John 16, we hear Jesus telling the disciples we would experience trouble in this world. (vs. 33) Those difficulties and storms of life seem to come in all different shapes and forms. We live on a planet where everything is unstable and could disappoint at any time. We experience things not going as we had planned, death, and not to mention a very real enemy who actively seeks to destroy. The storms of life are unavoidable and we each will encounter them along the journey of life, even as a Christian.

28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

Like the eagle, we too can soar above the storms of life, rather than be sucked into the disorder and confusion below. We prepare for the storm by spending time with Jesus daily where we learn to trust Him and discover His love and faithfulness. Only then are we able to understand that same love, faithfulness, and trust when uncertainty comes our way. Because of our salvation in Him, we can put our hope in the Lord who will hold us upright and renew our strength. When we are able to trust God through all things, we do not grow weary or stumble and fall. Instead, we are able to spread our wings and soar above the storm, experiencing renewal and peace, as we are lifted up by our Father in Heaven.

Spreading my wings,

Becky Ossefoort

 

 


We are Speaking

In light of the recent surge of reported sexual harassment and abuse in our nation over the past several months, I submit the following joint statement from the RCA Women’s Transformation and Leadership and Local Missional Engagement initiatives calling the Church to end harassment, abuse, and sexual violence against women and girls:

 From the earliest story of our faith, God has painted a picture of a reality in which women and men together reflect the image of God.  In Genesis 1:26-27, God establishes a vision—a vision God calls very good—of a world where men and women alike are treated with dignity, respect, and love as people created in God’s image.

And yet, not long after that vision was cast, an insidious narrative took its place.  For far too long, women and girls have been victims of harassment, abuse, and sexual violence rather than being treated with the dignity God intended for them.  Women have shared their stories of pain, only to have those stories fall on ears that did not wish to hear.  Many women who dared to speak have been mocked and vilified.

A culture of shame and secrecy has stifled the voices of countless others (men and boys included). These people have not felt safe to share their stories because of the very real fear that their lives would be destroyed by those in positions of power.  This culture has begun to shift in recent days and weeks, and we in the church are obligated to listen and respond…[Because this evil has equally infiltrated the Church as well]…

We believe the church must find its voice and speak.  As RCA interim general secretary Don Poest lamented last fall, “Too often, by our attitudes and actions or inactions, we have tolerated or encouraged or participated in ways that have devalued the women and girls in our midst, rather than honoring them as God’s beloved daughters.”  This should not be.  The church must speak out at just such a time as this.

If we keep silent, we are complicit in the continued dehumanization of women and girls.

If we keep silent, we fail to be coworkers with Christ in the renewal of the world and of the relationships between men and women.

If we keep silent, we ignore God’s call to be agents of change committed to ensuring that all people are treated with dignity.

We are speaking, because we are committed to standing with and for women and girls who have experienced harassment, abuse, and sexual violence.

We are speaking, because we are committed to seeking healthy ways for men and women to live and work together.

We are speaking, even if words fail us and our anxieties leave us uncertain about what we can do.

We are speaking, because of our Christian convictions and because of the kind of world in which we want to live.  When one part of the body is mistreated, the whole body is mistreated. When one person suffers, we all suffer.

We, as women and men, as children of God, as a church, courageously stand together against any word, deed, or policy that diminishes the dignity of women and girls in our communities.  And we are compelled by God’s original vision for humanity to live into this statement by taking action.  We are investing ourselves in the Holy Spirit’s movement to bring about healing and restoration until every person is valued as one who is made in the image of God.

Dads, I believe the redemption of this cultural sin begins with you and me.  I challenge you as you apprentice your sons to treat girls and women with dignity and respect and that any kind of sexual immorality is inconsistent with being a follower of Jesus.

Under His mercy, Mike Altena

 


Slave to Beloved

There are a lot of great songs about how we are no longer slaves bound with the chains of sin.  “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)”, “He’s a Chain Breaker”, and “Break Every Chain” come to mind.  These songs remind us that through faith in Jesus Christ it is now possible for us to obey God and overcome sin in our lives.  We have a whole new identity as children of God, and He no longer sees us as slaves but as beloved family members.

What the book of Philemon teaches us, however, is that it is hard to see ourselves and others that way.  We are constantly tempted to look at other people and see the person they used to be, and we often do the same thing to ourselves.  In just one chapter Paul writes to the house church hosted by Philemon and reveals a powerful story of transformation and potential reconciliation.  The story goes something like this…

Philemon owned a non-believing slave named Onesimus, who was a pretty worthless servant, no doubt unmotivated by his lack of freedom and faith.  Philemon was a new Christian in the church of the Colossians, and he was also a slave owner.  One day Onesimus ran away.  We don’t know the next part of the story, but somehow he ended up serving Paul, who was under house arrest in Rome.  He became a believer and was powerfully transformed by the Holy Spirit into a passionate servant of Christ.  Finally, Paul discerned it was time to send Onesimus back to Philemon with a note we now call the Book of Philemon.

What did the letter say?  Paul explained that though he could order Philemon to receive Onesimus back, he was asking the slave owner and Christian to wrestle with the question himself and arrive at his own conclusion.  By law Onesimus should have been executed as a runaway slave, or at best be accepted back to days filled with endless labor and sleepless nights in chains.  However, Paul asks Philemon to consider elevating Onesimus to the full rights of a brother in the church.  What a challenging request!

We don’t know how the story ends, but it illustrates the principle this article started with.  It is hard for us to accept former spiritual slaves as full brothers and sisters.  Maybe you know a believer who used to be cruel to you or others, or maybe he/she was well-known for various sins.  Have you allowed yourself to accept that person fully, as God has, or are you waiting for them to slip up and prove all the doubters correct?  What about yourself?  As you continue to struggle against various sins in your own life, maybe even some that trace their beginnings to the time before you knew Jesus, have you begun to doubt if you will ever be free?

What would church be like if we saw each other and ourselves as God sees us?  What if we allowed ourselves to full accept our new identify as His children?  We’ve tried to fight against sin with the weapons of shame and fear and judgment for way too long.  All that does is add another layer of chains on top of the old ones.  Only the truth can set us free, and the truth is the moment we place our faith in Christ, we are no longer slaves!  Begin today to allow yourself to see the good in others and in yourself!

Cory Grimm

P.S.  While I was finishing up this article, a woman came in and told me how she helped someone get a vehicle this past weekend, and two days later they were picked up (again) for drunk driving. She said sadly, “I should have known better,” but I encouraged her, “At least you believed it was possible for the person to change!”


Awake, My Soul!

“Good morning, good morning, good morning.  It’s time to rise and shine.  Good morning, good morning, good morning.  I hope you’re feeling fine.  Come on, get up, get out of bed.  You gotta get up, you sleepy head.  The day is dawning just for you and all your dreams are coming true.”

These are the words to a wake-up song that I would often sing to our children when they were young.  As they grew older, the wake-up routine became more of an announcement – “Time to get up”.  By the time they were in high school, they had their own alarm clock and were encouraged to get up on their own.  However, this didn’t always happen and mom’s voice was the backup plan.

As I reflect on our morning routine, I realize there have been numerous changes over the years.  Not only has the method changed, so has the attitude of the slumberer.  As toddlers, the wake-up song would bring smiles and stretches and hugs.  The older the child became, the likelihood of smiles and hugs decreased.  The early childhood banter morphed into moans and groans and grumbling.  Instead of popping out of bed, they pulled blankets over their heads and ignored the morning announcement.  A friendly call to arise would sometimes turn into threats of punishment or warning of an impending bucket of water over their head.  One particular morning, a refusal to get up led to a blast form an old bicycle horn for a stubborn teenage boy.  Harsh?  Maybe.  But at least he learned his lesson and seemed to arise more willingly after that.  Maybe it was a good step before getting roused by a drill sergeant at basic training.

As I was reading in the Psalms this week, chapter 57:8 caught my attention.  It says, “Awake, my soul!”  The three words were like the beep-beep-beep of an alarm clock on the page in my Bible.  Two things entered my mind.  First, sleeping seems to be the opposite of being awake.  I evaluated how awake I was.  The time of day was early, so I still had bed head and morning breath, but I was up and conscious; maybe not ready to present myself to the public, but alive and attentive.  Second, this command—AWAKE—was directed to my soul.  In John Ortberg’s study “Soul Keeping”, he describes the soul like this: “Your soul connects your thoughts, your sensations, your emotions, your will, and integrates them into an entire being.”  Now, I know that my physical body goes to sleep.  And trust me when I tell you that it’s for everyone’s benefit if I get a full 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night, but to consider a sleeping soul was bothersome.  In the midst of my physical activity and busyness, has my soul been asleep?  When I searched the antonyms for being awake, I was humbled to find words like ignorant, inattentive, unaware, unconscious.  Yes, I would have to admit that there are times when all of those words would apply to me and I need to wake up!

In Mark 8:36 Jesus asks the question, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet lose their own soul?”  So what is the level of consciousness of your soul?  Is it drowsy and lethargic, or alert and attentive.  Do you cherish the health of your soul like you do a good night’s sleep or do you hit the snooze on your slumbering soul like you do on your alarm clock?  Whatever the current condition of your soul, it is my prayer that you would awake!  And whether God would woo you with a pleasant song, an alarm clock that opens your eyes, or a loud blast that makes you jolt out of bed, be thankful that he cares enough to call out to you and not leave you sleeping through another day.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Reflecting Forward

When I was a child, I was told by the year 2000 we would have flying cars and all sorts of other out of this world items.  Here we are in 2018 and I am still waiting for a flying family sedan.  I find it somewhat entertaining to revisit the things I was told as a child that would “completely change the world.”  Take the internet for instance. When I was in junior high, our computer teacher told us our assignment for the day was to type an email to the President of the United States of America.  The teacher had my full attention and I was ready to see how it worked because I had never sent an email or visited the World Wide Web.  We watched the teacher go to a closet and flip a switch.  Suddenly the whole class could hear a new noise with a series of techy “boings,” static, and screeches.  (If you have ever used dial up internet services, you know exactly what I am talking about.)  Several minutes later the noise stopped and our class was given a new assignment because the computer was unable to make a connection.  I recall turning in my chair thinking this internet thing is such a joke; it will never amount to anything.   Now, several years later, it makes me chuckle to know I carry the internet around in my back pocket.  Turns out it did amount to something and eventually grew into something huge!

Reflecting can be a good and healthy way to look towards the future.  I often even find motivation from my reflecting because I am able see where I started and how far I have come.  Mike’s message on Sunday challenged us to reflect on our year and find areas of growth and perhaps point out spaces in our life we could work on in the New Year.  I do not believe his challenge was meant to upset us or belittle our lack of growth, but rather help highlight and motivate us to bring health to those parts of our spiritual life we have maybe neglected.

There are several ways to grow a deeper, stronger connection with our Heavenly Father.  We can count on God to be at the center of our growth because He lives within us and is always actively growing us from the inside out.  When we develop and work on a spiritual discipline, all efforts will be richly rewarded as we spend time seeking the Father’s face.  Another idea is finding an accountability partner.  Oftentimes when someone wants to change a habit, they find a friend to help them achieve their goal.  I had someone reach out just recently that is looking to strengthen her walk with the Lord and wants someone to journey alongside her.  When one wants to grow deeper in their spiritual life, we surround ourselves with others who faithfully study God’s Word and seek His guidance in everything.

I pray this is the year for you to find a stronger connection with your Father in Heaven so when you look in the mirror a year from now you will find an even sharper reflection of who you were created to be.  May the new image looking back at you be a person who is not as easily angered when things do not go as planned, one who can find a fresh dose of patience when you have had enough, and a person with a great amount of peace even in the midst of trial.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17.  May it be so of each of us that we set out to grow a strong connection with our Father in Heaven as we become an even greater reflection of our Savior in 2018.

Becky Ossefoort

 


Worth the Time?

It’s possible, whether at home or at work, that there are responsibilities you carry out each day and you wonder if the amount of time and effort it takes to complete the task is worth your time.  One such responsibility I have that I question is worth the time and effort is writing these ARChive articles.

Now before I share my thoughts on this matter, I would like to thank Cory, Erin and Becky for accepting my invitation to take a turn each month to write one of these articles.  I am thankful that you are continually paying attention to those daily experiences that become an emotional hook which eventually turns into your ARChive article.  And I am blessed by how you connect the wisdom of God’s Word with your particular experience.

Usually when I finish reading my ARChive articles, it would appear to me that a person could sit down and type out an article in 20 minutes.  However, as in the case of this article, it rarely works that way. For me, this is often how it goes.  We all know when our articles are due, so we can never use the excuse that we didn’t know it was our turn.

Sometimes not knowing what to write about becomes the challenge, like this week. J I had several things I thought about, but other than one, I didn’t feel strong enough about any of them to write about them.

Other times discerning whether or not I can write about a certain issue often becomes the challenge of writing an ARChive article.  I have many experiences and issues that would make for great articles, however, the level of authenticity would be more than some people can handle.

Then there are times when you plan on sitting down to write your article, but something of much more importance comes up.  Like, I planned on writing this article on Thursday, but then two pressing issues that took priority popped up and I chose to work on my sermon instead.  I thought maybe I could crank out an article after taking care of the second issue, but by that time I had no energy left and so I thought I would get up early on Friday morning and write it.  And then wouldn’t you know it, the repairman called to see if he could come early to fix our microwave, so I felt obligated to scoop the driveway first.

The one issue that has created the greatest emotional hook for me this week is the death of my cousin who spoke in our church on December 3.  I was able to share some meaningful time with Dave and his family Wednesday afternoon before he died, and then because their Pastor is on vacation, they asked if I would do the memorial service and so I have been thinking a lot about his favorite verse from Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say in response to all these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?”

So I was going to write some thoughts about that verse, however, when I started looking into our response “to all these things,” I realized my article was going to be 450 words too long.  And so here I am rambling about how difficult it is to write an ARChive article when I should be working on the funeral mediation—an article I’m not sure anyone will read or will actually care about.  And I really have to get the funeral mediation done before 4:00 because we have my family Christmas in Sioux Center this evening.  And so on occasions like this, I wonder, is it really worth the one hour and eleven minutes it took to put these thoughts on paper?

May all of you be blessed in this New Year, even when doing those things that you aren’t sure are worth your time.

Grace to you and peace, Mike Altena

 


Good News of Great Joy

I recently ran across this heartwarming story and I thought I would share it with you:

In 1994, the Russian Department of Education asked two Americans to go to Russia and teach morals and ethics based on biblical principles. They went to public schools, prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments, and a large orphanage where 100 children had been left in the care of this orphanage. The Americans related the following story…

Since it was nearing the holiday season, we wanted the orphans to hear the Christmas story for the first time. Throughout the story, the children and the staff listened in amazement. After telling the story, we gave the children pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger.

Each child was given a small paper square cut from yellow napkins we had brought along. Following instructions, the children tore the paper into strips to lay in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel cut from a discarded nightgown, were used for the baby’s blanket. A baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States.

The orphans were busy assembling their mangers as I walked among them. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat waiting after he had finished his project. He looked about six years old. As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the boy why there were two babies in the manger. I thought perhaps he had misunderstood the story. The child began to repeat the story very seriously. For one who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related it accurately, until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger.

Then Misha said, “And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mama and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him, but I told him I couldn’t because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did.

“I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?’ And Jesus told me, ‘If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.’ So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him for always.”

As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him, FOR ALWAYS.

Although this is a very heartwarming story, when trying to find the author, I discovered there are at least eight different versions ranging from 507 to 729 words; all giving credit to an unknown author. Many of the details were different in each, and in the shorter versions, many original details were left out (I’m guessing to make the story fit their newsletter or webpage).

As I reflected on this touching story and the additional versions, I thought, may it be said of you and me that we would also have child like faith in thinking of ways we could be a blessing to Jesus… and may it not be so with you and me that we would ever modify the story of Jesus’ birth in order to make it fit our lives.

Bring you good news of great joy…Mike Altena

 


Main Street or 5th Avenue

This is another song I recently wrote called “Main Street or 5th Avenue” which was born out of prayer, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and personal experience.  It describes our ability as followers of Jesus to befriend any person from any background without fear of being compromised by them, either in the small town setting (Main Street) or the city (5th Avenue).  This song speaks directly to the concept in Ridder Church Renewal of crossing boundaries and reaching the “other side.”    Cory Grimm

Within the urban centers and across the countryside, there still exists an old, disturbing trend

I might show you kindness, you might offer me a ride; but heads would turn if we became friends

They’d say we’re much too different, our worldviews are not the same,

and by all rights we should be mortal enemies

Because crossing ancient boundaries and drifting from our lanes is like chopping down old familiar trees

But something draws us closer, a force we cannot understand, some kind of cosmic curiosity

We’re searching for directions to elusive Promised Lands, described by Moses and by Dr. King

There are strongholds in the cities, and fortresses in towns, always preserving what is comfortable and safe

But foundations are eroding and old walls are falling down, as we march together keeping up the faith

I will walk with you down Main Street or 5th Avenue; it doesn’t matter what the people say

Small town or city street, we’ll smile at everyone we meet; I wouldn’t have it any other way

We started spending time together, like normal friends will do; at first we thought no one seemed to mind

Your circle was accepting me, and mine showed love to you, but then we both got wounded from behind

Sometimes the biggest obstacles to realizing peace are not the soldiers fighting on the other side

When you wave the white flag and hostilities cease, there still might be the threat of friendly fire

I will walk with you down Main Street or 5th Avenue; it doesn’t matter what the people say

We’ll stroll along without a care, even if they stop and stare; with each step we’re overcoming hate

We’ll change the world on both 5th Avenue and Main

We think we know a person by their culture, class, and race; we pack them in our boxes neat and nice

We overlook the sacred stories written on each face; we dismiss the holy longings in their eyes

Cause’ when we make our judgments, it’s ourselves we idolize, sitting on our thrones like manmade deities

In the waters of forgiveness, let us be baptized; in true communion, let us be set free

I will walk with you down Main Street or 5th Avenue; it doesn’t matter what the people say

The two of us make quite the pair; we’ll stretch the bounds of savoir faire;

and gather other friends along the way

I will walk with you down Main Street or 5th Avenue; it doesn’t matter what the people say

Small town or city street, we’ll smile at everyone we meet; I wouldn’t have it any other way

Let’s change the world on both 5th Avenue and Main