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Archive | Church Connection

Gift of Peace

Pastor Darryl Miller  

Sand Lake UMC, 65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC, 13600 Cypress, Ensley Township 

Too often we end the holiday season completely drained, both emotionally and physically. We then tend to call on God to refresh us, to restore our vigor and our lives to “normal.” But what if we were to ask God for restoration along the way? What if we planned into our busy holiday schedules time to draw closer to the reason for our celebrations? What if we were to decide now to have a spirit of peace despite the overwhelming pressure to live up to expectations to get the right gift, make all the parties, host dinners, send the cards, etc? That is what I would like to suggest.

During this special time, let’s decide not to let the pressures mount up but instead let the Child whose birth we are celebrating bring us the gift of Peace. We prepare our homes for the celebration by decorating so why not prepare our hearts for the celebration of our Lord’s birth, not with hectic lives but with hearts of peace and love. After all, the song says: “Love came down at Christmas” not to challenge us to get the right tree, but to have a spirit of peace and love that shows through the craziness of the world. One of my family’s traditions is to have a Christmas ornament hang in the house all year around. This reminds us not just at Christmas time but all through the year of the wonderful gift of Christmas. Sometimes I think we need this reminder in December most of all!

Another good reason for this approach is that many of our neighbors need something from us this time of year and if we are too wound up in our own schedules, we may miss it. Some have lost loved ones; for some this may be their first Christmas without someone close that they have lost. Others may not have heat, or power, or food. It seems every year our Ministerial association finds out about someone who has no heat or food, but hasn’t told anyone. If we checked up on our neighbors, we might learn about the need and find those who can help. But if we don’t check, we don’t know. If you are in need, don’t be too proud to ask for help, it is limited but it is out there. And if you are feeling lonely this season, check out your local church, we would love to spend some time with you! We will not be waiting at the door with a signup sheet for work that needs to be done and we will not hand you a membership form before you sit down. We will however extend to you the love and grace of Jesus and welcome you in God’s name. My family and our church families wish all of you a truly blessed and merry Christmas!

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Peace begins at home

by Ronnie McBrayer

by Ronnie McBrayer

 

 

In December of 2001, the Jews of Afghanistan celebrated their first Hanukah free of the Taliban in almost a decade. It was a small celebration, for there were only two Jews left in the entire country; and each one celebrated alone.

At separate ends of a rundown synagogue in Kabul, Ishak Levin and Zebulon Simantov lit their candles and said their prayers. Both had survived Soviet occupation, Taliban atrocities, and the American-led invasion. Both prayed for the same things to the same God, and yet they could not share the same space.

Neither of the men could accurately remember what started their feud, but it had deepened and endured. Levin said, “For thousands of years our forefathers have celebrated these nights, and now Jews all over the world are celebrating.” And then speaking of his antagonist he said, “But with him, it’s not possible.”

A decade later Levin was dead, leaving Simantov alone. He is the only known Jew left in the country, living in a single room, alienated from his neighbors, estranged from his wife and daughters, cursing former friends, and demanding money or whiskey from reporters who come to interview him. He is a bitter, old man.

Zebulon Simantov may be alone in his dilapidated Kabul synagogue, but he is not alone in his animosities, even as the celebrations of Hanukah and Christmas are upon us. Untold thousands are at war with those around them, be it the army across the border, or their neighbors across the street. These holidays of shalom and peace aren’t enough to break this hold of ill will.

Yet, it will not always be this way. I believe the day will come when such hostilities will be put to rest, when the world will be at peace. Now, “you might say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,” for this is the assurance of the Jewish prophets, the very hope of Advent, and the promise of all perennial faith traditions: There will be “peace on earth and goodwill toward all.”

Yet, I cannot simply wait for that promised peace to magically arrive. No, I have to practice peace, not allowing this world’s massive levels of toxicity to embitter or isolate me from others. I have to become “an instrument of peace,” as Francis of Assisi prayed, learning to overcome evil with good, beginning, at the place I call home.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

 

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SUZANNE L. ANDERSON

51C-obit-Anderson-webSuzanne L. Anderson, 80 of Wyoming, Michigan passed away on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at Faith Hospice – Trillium Woods. She was born July 27, 1934 in Cedar Springs, Michigan the daughter of Edwin and Hazel (Sullivan) Wheeler. She was Red Flannel Queen in 1951 and a member of the Cedar Springs United Methodist Church, Women’s Club and the Red Hatters. She had worked at the Clipper office and was Solon Township Clerk for over 30 years. Surviving are her children, Janell (Keith) Timmer, Kyle (Teresa) Anderson; grandchildren, Solane Jenks, Jacinda Nykamp, Sarah Perez, Kevin Timmer; four great grandchildren; brother, Edwin (Sherry) Wheeler II. She was preceded in death by her parents, husband, Andy in 2005; sister, Phyllis Brantner. The family will greet friends Friday from 4-7 pm at the Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs where services will be held Saturday 11:00 am. Pastor Steve Lindeman officiating. Interment Elmwood Cemetery, Cedar Springs. Memorial contributions may be made to Faith Hospice, 2100 Raybrook St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI or the United Methodist Church, 140 S. Main St, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

Arrangements by Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home

 

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LOIS JEAN COPELAND

 

 

Lois Jean Copeland of Cedar Springs, 80, born in Grand Rapids Michigan, went home to be with the Lord and her husband December 11, 2014. Together with her husband they raised their family in Flint, Michigan until he retired and moved to their lake house in Cedar Springs, Michigan. Lois was a strong Christian woman. She was known for speaking her mind and for her love of children. She loved long walks, square dancing and spending time with family and friends. Lois was born on April 28, 1934 to Lee and Opal Denton. She married Eugene Copeland and became a homemaker and mother of six. Lois is survived by her children, April (Merill) Stray, Bonnie (Paul) Fleming, Eugene (Carol) Copeland, and Rosie (Jerry) Fleming; eleven grandchildren, twenty great grandchildren and five great great grandchildren. Lois was preceded in death by her parents, husband, Eugene; her siblings, Chuck, Nancy, Cleo, Tesa and Jack; daughter Sandra Copeland and daughter Linda Jenkins. In lieu of a funeral we will be having a life celebration on December 27th at the Oakfield Township Hall, 10300 – 14 Mile Road, Rockford Michigan from 1 to 3 pm.

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JAY CRAMER

C-MEM-CramerJAY CRAMER

 

In loving memory of my dad, who passed away 9 years ago on December 18, 2005.

 

Even though I miss you terribly, Dad, I so treasure the memories we shared. I loved the drives we took looking for turkeys! We never saw any – now I see them all the time! I am especially grateful for that last year we had together while you lived with Terry and me.

 

Bless you, Dad.

 

Your loving daughter

Robin

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BEVERLY B. NAVITSKAS

C-Mem-NavitskasBEVERLY B. NAVITSKAS

January 15,1943-December 14,2003

 

Missing you at Christmas

 

Everyday without you,

Since you had to go,

Is like summer without sunshine,

and winter without snow.

I wish that I could talk to you.

There’s so much I would say.

Life has changed so very much,

Since you went away.

I miss the bond between us,

And I miss your kind support.

You’re in my mind and in my heart,

And every Christmas thought.

I’ll always feel you close to me,

and though you’re far from sight,

I’ll search for you among the stars

that shine on Christmas night.

 

I love and miss you dearly,

Your daughter, Tammy

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Marian C. Christian

Marian C. Christian, 80 of Cedar Springs, died Thursday, December 11, 2014 at Bishop Hills, Rockford. Mrs. Christian was born June 15, 1934 in Grand Rapids, MI the daughter of Peter and Zella (Curtis) Patrick. She and her husband, Robert owned and operated Christian’s Upholstery in Cedar Springs for 20 years. She loved her dog Charlie, enjoyed giving people hugs, and was a member of the Teacup Ladies Group. Surviving are her children, David Christian & Gail Lancaster, Diane & Craig Phipps, Gary & Vicky Christian, Steven & Sherry Christian; 8 grandchildren; 11 great grandchildren; brother, George (Mitzie) Patrick; sister, Dorothy (Jake) Meyer. She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert in 2007; and a brother, Peter Patrick, Jr. The family will greet friends Saturday from 2-4 and 6-8 pm at the Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs where services will be held Sunday 2:00 pm. Deacon Jim Hessler officiating. Interment Algoma Township Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Humane Society of Kent County.

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Peace on Earth

Solon-Center-Wesleyan-webPastor Tom Holloway

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma, Cedar Springs 

(just north of 19 Mile)

 

The holidays are here and that means families get functions, work parties, Christmas programs, and most of all stress! The holidays can be the “most wonderful time of the year,” and also the most painful for many people. For some people it will be the first Christmas without a loved one, the first Christmas without a significant other, the first Christmas without a warm place to sleep. Yet it is for many the best time of the year.

I love celebrating Christmas with my family and my loved ones, and I love giving gifts. I love seeing my children’s eyes light up when they get that thing that they never thought they would get. Of course we can’t give all of the things we would like to give, and my wife and I have basically given up on giving each other anything significant, though I always spend more than I promise to spend on her. As a pastor of a local church, Christmas is the second busiest season of the year next to Easter. So it is one thing after another, and it is the most stressful time of the year for me personally. Yet I still manage to find some peace at Christmas. The question is why?

Why can some people feel stress and some people feel peace? Why is this time of year the best of times for some, and the worst of times for others? I think the answer is the real reason for the season. The birth of Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas, though some in the world would try to disagree. In fact, Jesus’ birth is the reason that we count the years on a calendar.  The term Anno Domini is medieval Latin, translated as In the year of the Lord, or AD on your calendar. He is the reason that we count time. When Jesus came to the earth He came to give us peace. In fact is says this in Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

I don’t think that peace means a life of solitude and a life free from stress and worry. In fact Jesus came into the world in a time of great unrest for His people the Israelites. They were under Roman rule, and they had lost the great power they once had. It was anything but peaceful for Israel and for Jesus. He was persecuted, beaten, mocked, and eventually crucified on a cross for doing nothing wrong. Doesn’t seem very peaceful to me! But He defeated death by His resurrection, and by showing us how to have peace “despite” our circumstances. He allowed us to believe that this kind of peace is possible.

So when you are out shopping and that person snatches that last Furby, or when that crazy uncle comes to the family gathering and starts that political argument, or when you realize that this will be the first Christmas without that special someone, you can have peace.  Peace in knowing that someone loved you so much that they came from Heaven, from their rightful throne, and gave up all their rights so that they could come and serve you and show us how to love others. Christmas is all about giving to others because you have been given the greatest gift you could ever receive—the gift of Jesus, the gift of love, and the gift of eternal life!

 

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The Gift of Mercy

 

by Ronnie McBrayer

by Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

I once read about Charles Brown, a World War 2 pilot on his first mission, just before Christmas, 1943. His B-17 had been shot to pieces; half his crew was wounded or dead, and he was flying alone over Germany. Then, Brown looked to his left and locked eyes with Franz Stigler, an ace German fighter pilot flying no more than a few feet off the B-17’s wing. This was the end.

Stigler saw that his enemy’s aircraft was torn to pieces, and with one hand on the trigger and another on his rosary, he couldn’t shoot. Instead, he nodded at Brown and protectively escorted the bomber to the edge of Allied airspace, saluted Brown, and peeled away.

Brown landed safely and eventually returned home. As he aged, the more he thought about that December day. He decided that he must find that German pilot. His search was showing little progress when he received an unexpected letter from Franz Stigler! The two pilots became best of friends.

Brown was forever grateful for Stigler’s gift of mercy – his whole life had been possible because of it. But the event changed Stigler’s life as well. He said, “The war cost me everything. Charles Brown was the only good thing that came out of [it]. It was the one thing I could be proud of.”

Stigler and Brown died within months of each other in 2008. A book found in Charles Brown’s library after their deaths, a gift from Stigler, had this written on the flap: “On the 20th of December, 1943, four days before Christmas, I had the chance to save a B-17 from her destruction…The pilot, Charles Brown, is for me, as precious as my brother.”

Few stories illustrate so well how transformational mercy can be, for it is a shared gift. When we replace vengeance with compassion; retaliation with grace; and punishment with forgiveness, then, like no other moment, we are giving life to the world.

So who in your life could best be served by the gift of mercy? That old enemy? A shystering, former business partner? A parent, child, neighbor, or sibling? There’s no shortage of offenders, just a shortage of forgiveness. Maybe it’s time to ask God for the grace to grace others, to cling to your rosary, and take your finger off the trigger. The person you save might be yourself.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

 

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MICHAEL JAMES LONG

50C-obit-Long-webMr. Michael James Long of Venice, California, age 43, passed away unexpectedly on Friday, November 28, 2014. He was born Tuesday, November 16, 1971. Michael leaves behind his father Michael (Debra) Long, Sr. and mother Rebecca Jines-Linker; daughters Briana Skeen, Trisha Long, and Deija Long; grandchildren Nevaeh and Xavier; siblings Lori (Terry) Robinson, Mike (Michelle) Long, Jr., and Angie (Mike) O’Dowd; paternal grandmother Mary Merritt; maternal grandparents Martha (Bill) Sanders; grandmother Thelma Slocum; numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins; and girlfriend Noel Wittnebel of California. He was preceded in death by his grandfather Van Merritt. There will be a time of visitation from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 11, 2014, at Pederson Funeral Home, 127 N. Monroe Street NE, Rockford, MI 49341. The funeral service for Michael will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, December 12, 2014, at Grace Evangelical Free Church, 4714 Thirteen Mile Road NE, Rockford, MI 49341. Pastor Kevin Reed will be officiating. There will be a one hour visitation prior to the service at church. Those wishing to offer expressions of sympathy are encouraged to make a donation to assist Michael’s daughters.

Arrangements by Pederson Funeral Home www.pedersonfuneralhome.com

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