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360 Acoma St
Denver, Colorado 80223

720-250-8278

We are an Anglican Church in the Villa Park neighborhood in south west Denver.  We seek to share in the life of God together by re-defining and re-orienting everything around the gospel of Jesus Christ. We follow a liturgical form of worship and welcome friends, neighbors and strangers alike. 

Journal

Moving In - God's goodness and provision in our new building

Elizabeth McGowan

“Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than we can ask or imagine
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forevermore.”

We began using this acclamation, a condensed version of Ephesians 3:20-21, at the beginning of our worship service a few months back. So wonderfully fitting! After a year of searching, praying, discussing and fundraising, we found a home that far exceeds what I imagined to be possible. I sometimes feel like pinch myself because it is so hard to believe.

The beauty of the sanctuary,
the joyous sound of our proclamations of faith and our songs of praise,
the room for our kids to learn and grow,
the fresh opportunity to connect with new neighbors,
and the financial freedom of having it cost even less

than we were paying at Mi Casa…is all amazing to me.

Of course, it has not been perfect. There have been challenges with the trash removal and with the renovation of various parts of the building, the sanctuary does not afford a lot of room to grow, and it remains sad to no longer be in Baker, but all these things pale in comparison to the gift we have been given.

But, perhaps more than any of this, I have been blessed to see so many invest so much in this new building. The hundreds of thousands of dollars we have raised, the small army of people who gathered to fix it up the day before our first service, the multitudes that have come by to help with envisioning, cleaning or fixing or painting or tearing things down during the week, the little team that went and met with neighbors, and the great group of people coming together each Monday to discuss how our new location impacts our mission as a church.
Our shared energy and enthusiasm has been beautiful to behold.

In the coming year, I pray that this church building not only gives us a greater sense of stability and a wonderful place to worship. I pray that it gives us a greater sense of ownership and togetherness as a church. This is a home we all share in together. It will be exciting to see how our family grows up here together: who God will add to us, how many kids will learn about Jesus among us, how many potlucks and parties and weddings and baptisms and funerals will be held here, and how we will share the hospitality of the gospel with our neighbors in Villa Park, West Denver, and throughout the Metro area.  

There are still a number of finishing touches that will take shape over the coming months. If you have an aesthetic bent, let us know and we would love to get your input. If you have not been able to worship in the new building yet, I pray you will join us soon. I believe you will come away greatly thankful for this space.

Our “grand opening” complete with block party is scheduled for September 18th.
Hope you can make it…and that you might even consider inviting some friends!

- Pastor Rob Paris

An End of 2015 Letter from Pastor Rob Paris

Elizabeth McGowan

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we come to the end of 2015 and prepare for the birth of Christ, I want to write to thank you for another great year at Church of the Advent!

We have welcomed a wonderful new people to Advent. Every year I am so amazed at the quality of people God sends our way, and this year was exceptionally blessed.
Of course, we said good bye to many wonderful people as well, including Ken and Sarah, but we have continued to move forward and I see signs that we have grown in our sense of ownership and focus as a congregation. 
We have five wonderful small groups and a multitude of relational connections that are weaving us together as Christ's Body and spurring us on towards love and good deeds.

We have begun to raise funds for a new building, and have raised $182,000 towards our goal of a $250,000 down payment. We raised over $29,000 since the end of October and as a result, the $25,000 matching goal has been met!! Thank you to all of you who have given. We still have $68,000 to raise in order to hit our $250,000 down payment goal. God is faithful! 

With so much to be thankful for in 2015, I am really looking forward to 2016!

We hope to make substantial progress on our building fund and property search in the coming months. Cannot wait to see what space God will lead us to!

We look to have a new ministry to refugees forming in the coming months, as Jennie Ridley has brought together a group of folks who are eager to take this to a new level in the congregation. Very exciting!
We will continue to do the great work we have begun in Baker and beyond through our connection with Hirschfeld, the Women's Homeless Initiative, potlucks in the park and so on.
We will continue to offer relational discipleship opportunities for all, now with an new and improved curriculum that I am very excited about.

All that to say, we have much to give thanks for and to look forward to as we end 2015.
May you enjoy a very blessed and encouraging Christmas as you reflect upon the gift of Immanuel!

God's Peace,

Rob

Lincoln High School

Elizabeth McGowan

by Lindsey Hazel

Hi! My name is Lindsey and I‘m really excited to share a little about myself, my passion for working in impoverished Latino communities, and how the gospel of sharing God’s love inspires me every day.

I work for Denver Public Schools in the southwest region of Denver at Lincoln High School, located at the intersection of Federal and Evans. Lincoln is 99% latino with almost every student living at or below the poverty line. It also has one of the lowest graduation rates in all of Denver with less than 70% of students graduating from high school.

The struggles that students face everyday are real—from hunger and homelessness to gang violence in their homes and neighborhood. One example is a student that I work with named Christian. Christian lives with his mom and dad, both of whom work full time jobs. Their salaries, however, are not sufficient to provide for Christian and his two younger siblings, especially with rent in Denver rapidly increasing. As a result, Christian works a 30 hour week at a nursing home, in addition to attending school, in order to buy food for his family. He often misses school because he is tired.

Studies show that the most effective way to help families overcome poverty is through education, education for both students and their parents. Once parents become more involved in their children’s education, their children tend to increase their attendance and academic achievement.

Listening to the sermon series on money, and tangible ways that we can use our money to support the gospel, my mind immediately jumped to Christian and how we can support his family, and so many other families at Lincoln.

One of the initiatives I lead at Lincoln is a parent engagement initiative. Each month I conduct a series of parent trainings. Once parents attend these trainings, learn about the school and the how important education is, they are more likely to become involved at the school and strong advocates for education. As a result, their students perform better at school, are more likely to graduate and help to move their families out of poverty.

In order to increase attendance at parent trainings, I always try to offer a gift card raffle to parent participants in attendance, which often doubles parent attendance. So today, I would like to ask the congregation of advent for support of the parent training initiative at Lincoln, both through prayers and the purchase a $10-$20 gift card to King Soopers or Walmart. The purpose of the giftcard is twofold- through a gift card raffle at my next parent trainings, I will be able to provide a family like Christian’s a little extra support around the holiday season, and secondly, I will be able to invite parents into the school community, allowing them to become empowered and to positively influence their children’s education. 

A Wilderness of Plenty

Elizabeth McGowan

by Gladys Drew

Then they spoke against God; They said, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? - Psalm 78:19

One of the things God gave me to woo me to Himself, was food. I have always been interested in food-- nutrition, recipes, cooking, health and taste. I had also heard of Jesus, but I didn’t know much about Him. What I did know was substantial, but I was clueless about it:  that He was the Subject of every church and the Person in whom you prayed to God.

In 1991, I lived in a small ranch home with a fellow artist and her children. The ‘Dolly Hut’ was a little addition to my friend’s house that had its own entrance. It was a magical jumble of dolls, fabrics and embellishments. I occupied the ‘Dolly Hut,’ where I created and sewed my art dolls. Things were going very well and we had plenty of work in the public school system, area galleries and with private and public dollmaking classes.  I felt on top of the world.

But things came crashing down when I returned from a ten-day trip to Jamaica and started having mental health challenges. I soon lost much sleep and became fatigued. Frightened, I wandered from one fellow artists’ studio to another, unable to work, just sitting there and staring at their hands while they worked their creations.

“You’re depressed,” said one of them. “You should apply for disability.”

Not knowing what else to do, that’s what I did. A friend offered me their cabin in Conifer and I took off for a mini retreat thinking that I was just overtired. In the meantime, my housemate’s boyfriend moved in and took over the Dolly Hut. When I came back from my little rest, I had to move out immediately and found myself homeless.

Thankfully, my former housemate knew someone who worked in a private shelter that could put me up in staff housing until the summer was over. People were there in the daytime, but I never saw them. I started pounding the pavement looking for a sufficient job. At night, there was no one there beside myself. I was told to eat anything I found in the refrigerator each evening. What I found was a lot of gourmet dishes donated by local restaurants and my,
they were so tasty. It was surreal, all these wonderful dishes during such a difficult time in my life.

I landed a job in a fine craft gallery. My friends kept coming in to say hello, but that would trigger an outburst of tears on my part, and I finally had to quit the job. I just couldn’t hold it together. I moved back to my hometown where I stayed with friends while awaiting disability. I still did not know God, in fact, the last thing I had said when asked about Him was, “I don’t believe there is a God.”  My questioner had gasped. At the time I felt her reaction to be rather ironic, since this woman worshipped many gods and not just one.

My depressed emotional state continued on. I called my friends to talk and tried to explain what was happening to me. That proved to be impossible, since I didn’t even know myself! Having enough funds was another issue, so little by little, I sold off my belongings to raise the money for food and rent. After the money and possessions ran out, I started to pray in earnest to a God that I did not know… in Jesus’ name.

One fall morning there was a knock at the front door. I answered and there were a group of college students standing on the porch with boxes.

“Do you need any food?” they asked.

‘Wow,’ I thought to myself. That was a quick answer to the prayer that I had prayed only the night before! They asked if they could come inside, so I invited them in. They had a small illustrated tract, which they showed me and read to me.  It explained that I was a sinner, and that Jesus was the only bridge back to God. I learned what sin was, what Jesus did to repair our broken relationship with God and what one’s response must be to gain forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life. They asked me if I prayed and I got excited as I ran into the other room to retrieve the latest book I had been reading about prayer. It was authored by a guru and they shook their heads as they went out. I took the box of food they left and feeling ashamed, I threw the book away. 

Two days later, I was kneeling by my bed after the events of a very strange day. I had had the feeling that I was being urgently pursued by God Himself. So I prayed yet again, this time telling God that I surrendered. That He could have me. I felt a great sense of relief and peace.

There are many more stories I have of God providing me literal food for His table in my disability wilderness—the day I received $50 from Publisher’s Clearing House which I cashed for groceries, the evening a believing friend called and asked me if I needed food.

“God told me to buy you food. I want you to fill your cart all the way.
I mean it,” she said insistently.

And yet another time where He demonstrated that He could provide for TWO tables at once; one for me and one for a disabled friend. She had lost her food stamp benefits and I told her God would bless her. And indeed He did, so much so that she gave the overabundance to me. The more she gave, the more she gained. She ended up with more food than she ever had while on food stamps. This happened without her even having the cash for much food. Supernaturally, the food came her way through others, through ridiculously amazing sales and through circumstance. Needless to say, we were astounded and deeply grateful to God.

We laughed with joy every time we recounted that season of wilderness. Through it, I learned that Jesus is my Portion, my heavenly Bread and my spiritual Food. He is the great I AM who tells me to ‘be still and know that I am God.’  I open my mouth and He fills it. He welcomes me to ‘taste and see that I am good.’ He feeds me His body and His blood in remembrance of Him. In Christ, I am fattened with satisfaction and blessed beyond belief.
There is no turning back for me.  
Amen.

Valentine's with the Homeless

Kenneth Robertson

On Valentine's Day 2015, a large group of Adventers joined with our regular team that serves at the Women's Homeless Initiative to throw a Candlelight Dinner for these beloved ladies.  Below, you'll find pictures (click on the cover photo to see them all) and hear a few glimpses of where those who helped saw the love of God expressed.  If you'd like to join the WHI team on a regular basis, contact Emily Fitzrandolph at emily@saskia.com.

I really saw love in the way the women interacted with Emily’s dog, Quincetta. It was clear that the unconditional love of a dog is powerful and the women were clearly so happy to see her, pet her, love on her. It was fun to watch! Also, it was amazing to see people working together. There was a lot of unity of purpose and vision in the group.
I saw love in Pablo washing dishes with one of the women.
I saw love in Ginny’s careful addressing of valentines to all the women.
I think all the Adventers went into the evening with enthusiasm and love. What I sensed from the women was the pleasant and upbeat conversation during the meal. I’m more comfortable giving them hugs than I used to be.
I saw love in [client] Cindy’s face to face loving of Quincetta. Cindy told me that all the necklaces she wears are from her street children. She has many. Her love for everyone is evident.
[I saw love in volunteer] Saundra’s desire to give back to those who are in the situation she was in for a couple of years. She is a lovely woman who is willing to do anything.

Redeeming Resolutions

Kenneth Robertson

New Year’s Resolutions are pretty predictable endeavors: 1 part hopeful imagination mixed with 2 parts “pull-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps” usually equals failure by February. At best, New Year’s Resolutions become a punch line.  At worst, they become another reason to wallow in guilt and lose hope that our lives can ever really change.

The Spiritual Practice of Resolving 

But these resolutions can be more than just failed self-help exercises: they can be channels through which God transforms our lives to reflect the new creation He is bringing into the world.  The simple act of making a resolution requires some basic gospel attitudes.  For one, to make a resolution is to confess that you haven’t liked where you’ve been.  To have a resolution is to say, “I want to get better at that,” and the very act of saying you want to get better reflects a conviction that there was some lack in that area previously. Second, you’re repenting (“turning around”) and taking steps forward into a new kind of life.  Repentance is the process of leaving behind one thing and turning towards another. It's fundamentally a change – of heart, and of practice – that can become very specific in a resolution. 

Confessing and repenting are the entryway into the family of Jesus, and they are our ongoing spiritual food along the length of the journey.  We never need to stop confessing, and we never need to stop repenting.  New Year’s resolutions are a great yearly reminder to make these practices tangible in our lives.

A Tool for Discernment

But what to resolve?  There’s no shortage of things we want to change!  Many people use New Year’s Resolutions as an opportunity to intentionally grow in their relationship with God.  The “Advent Cross,” which we use at Advent to describe different areas of our church’s ministry and every Christian’s life, can be a helpful tool for discerning where you feel drawn to grow.

Worship and formation describe the way the gospel transforms our relationship with God. In worship, we’re drawn into God’s larger story of the re-creation of the world.  In formation, we see our lives being changed as our stories intertwine with God’s.

Community and mission describe the way the gospel transforms our relationships with others.  In community, we realize that we have brothers and sisters who are also part of the family of Jesus, and – like any family – we need to support one another (and let ourselves be supported by them!).  In mission, we seek to be a channel of blessing to those who are not experiencing God's re-creating love, either because they are resisting the love of God or are crushed by the brokenness of the world (poverty, poor health, etc.).

The Advent Cross can be a great tool for discerning where God may want to work in your life. Which area jumps out at you? Some potential resolutions for each area might include the following.

Worship
Attend Sunday service more regularly
Have a consistent, personal daily time of worship
Intentionally listen to worship music on your commute
Memorize some prayers from Sunday morning worship to use throughout the week

Formation:
Find a “spiritual friend” who will encourage you in your journey with Jesus
Read some solid Christian literature on a topic you’re interested in
Commit to seeking a particular virtue (kindness, humility, self-control, etc.)
Read through the Bible in a year (or at least get started!)

Community:
Invite people from the church or your small group over for a fun dinner
Send notes of encouragement to those who have impacted your faith journey
Join a small group or attend a Men’s & Women’s Gathering if you haven’t yet
Invite others into areas of your life you’ve kept hidden for a long time

Mission:
Make a connection with a next-door neighbor you haven’t met yet
Free up the finances to give generously to the church and ministries devoted to God’s mission
Serve the marginalized in an ongoing, regular capacity
Have some hard conversations with friends about your concern for their spiritual lives

There are, of course, a million things you can resolve that impact your spiritual life. Since we are whole people whose spirits, bodies, and minds are all inter-connected, exercise and healthy eating can dramatically impact our spiritual health as well as our physical health. God’s re-creation is touching everything: nothing in the world, and no part of us, will be left out! Therefore, everything is spiritual, and every resolution is too.

Not What, But How

But the most important thing is not that you resolve, or even what you resolve: it’s how you resolve.  The most important part of that “Advent cross” we put above – and the most crucial part of our life with Christ – isn’t the wings of the cross.  It’s the middle.  It’s the hub of the Christian life.  It’s the message that our salvation doesn’t come in what we do or accomplish, but in what He has done and is working out in us.  It’s the gospel.

Resolving without the gospel means we’re reliant on our own strength and efforts to accomplish our goal.  And unless it’s a pretty small goal, we’re probably going to fail.
Resolving within the gospel means we have the resources of the Holy Spirit – God’s presence with us on earth – to support us in the task.

Resolving without the gospel means that when we fail, we fail. End of story. Done. Until we have the energy to get going again, at least.
Resolving within the gospel means that our failure is a tool God uses in our restoration. Our failure isn't the end - it's just the beginning. As we fail, we can confess that we’re weak, repent to get back on track, and start again knowing that God hasn’t given up on us.

Resolving without the gospel means that whatever progress we make here, it has an expiration date: one day we’ll die, and our achievements will die with us.
Resolving within the gospel means that what we do in this life echoes in eternity.  As Saint Paul said in 1 Tim. 4:8, “…godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life, and the life to come.”  In the re-creation of all things, all our efforts here will be wrapped up into the wondrous renewal of God, and none of it will be in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

Resolving without the gospel means that, ultimately, our destiny is in our own hands.  We are our own Gods and Goddesses, our own Lords and Masters, who rise and fall by the sweat of our brow.
Resolving within the gospel frees us to live in the knowledge that we do not hold on to our lives nearly as tightly as we are held.  Christ, as perfect man and God, lived the life we could never live.  As we are united to him, we are united to his life.  When we look at life through this gospel lens, all our successful “resolutions” are simply a participation in his perfect resolve. And all our failures are reminders that it’s not our resolve that ultimately matters, but his.

Philippians 2:12-13 says it well: “Therefore, my beloved…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  This year, “work out” your resolutions with everything you’ve got, while always remembering that it is God who is at “work in you:” with more resolve than we can ever muster!

Happy New Year, Advent!

Pastor Ken

P.S.  For those of you who are curious, my New Year's Resolutions are:
(1) Worship: Praying the Daily Office (an Anglican "daily devotional") each day
(2) Mission: Getting through 3 CD's of my Rosetta Stone Spanish Language Program
(3) Exercise: Run. Often.
(4) Family: Serving my wife when the baby gets up in the middle of the night without complaining (Lord, have mercy...I'm gonna need it).

The Power of Confession

Kenneth Robertson

This journal entry was sent to us by our very own Kelsey Detzner.  Thank you for sharing this part of your journey with us, Kelsey! Confession is available at any time through one of the clergy, and there is a confession liturgy you are free to use at any time with anyone.  Contact either Pastor Rob or Pastor Ken if you're interested, have questions, or would like to learn more.  

Growing up in the evangelical tradition, I was skeptical of the idea of confessing with another person.  To me, this seemed to go against the grain of the idea that Jesus was our High Priest and Mediator—what did I need with another person when I could approach his throne of grace with confidence on my own?  However, when Ken and Rob offered confession to the congregation at the beginning of the Lenten season, I knew it was something God was inviting me into.  So I set up a time and went, not knowing quite what to expect.  

Without going into all the personal details of my confession times, I can only say that God has used them to bless me beyond measure.  The original nudge towards it was the continuation of a theme that the Father started for my season of Lent.  I was in a place where my thoughts and feelings were tangled up inside me and cycled through my mind, becoming (like most things closed off from light and air) toxic and putrid.  I had convinced myself that I was alone and that the cycle was doomed to repeat endlessly.  However, God used the words of a friend to begin to invite me out of that: “Pour out your thoughts—I can’t fill an already-full vessel.”  Confession was the beginning of this outpouring for me.  

Even more, it was a safe place for this.  I have never been to a time of confession without shedding tears and feeling incredibly exposed and vulnerable.  But I have also never been to a time of confession where I was received with anything less than complete lack of judgment and shown the utmost grace, dignity and compassion.  This was key for me.  Part of my struggle dealt with trust towards God and others, and in fear of being hurt, I had withdrawn into myself. In inviting me to share my heart in the presence of another - in a safe, sanctified space - the Father was leading me out of hiding.  It has been a process of slowly rebuilding the trust I had lost.  And since my first time of confession, God has continued the work He began in my heart.  He has used it to break barriers I didn’t even know existed so that everything blocked up inside could flow freely.

Another blessing I’ve received is the way God has been able to speak to me through another person.  When I’ve gone to confession, the person I've confessed to (known as the "confessor") has always had an insight or verse to share that furthered my journey, which I wouldn’t have come on alone.  This speaks to the concept of community, something that an introvert like me can easily forget.  We were never designed to live in solitude; we were built with the need for other people, and this is reflected in the way that confession is doubly powerful when another person can speak their perspective into your life.  This was clear to me from my first confessional visit. The minute I began praying with my confessor, the tears started flowing. They led me through the prayer of confession in the Book of Common Prayer, but when it came time for me to pray out loud and confess my sins, the words stuck in my throat. Finally I admitted that I didn’t feel I could pray a prayer of turning from my sin and turning toward Christ when I knew my sins were still in process, and I feared I would return to them. They nodded understandingly and gently reminded me that while my sins may be in process, God’s forgiveness isn’t.  I could pray in the confidence that, no matter what path my actions took, Jesus’ saving grace still covered me.  With that reminder, I was able to pray.  Afterwards, although I was tempted to return to those sins again, it was almost laughable, because they were so powerless in the light of Jesus’ already-won victory over them.  In having already named them, I was easily able to call them out.

Rembrandt's "The Prodigal Son"

Rembrandt's "The Prodigal Son"

I still believe that Jesus is our High Priest and Mediator, and we can confidently approach his throne on our own.  However, speaking as one who used to live in this place, if you feel alone in your faith, or if your heart desperately needs to receive some grace and compassion, confession is a wonderful way to receive it even when the darkest, ugliest parts of yourself have just been exposed—and to be reminded that those dark, ugly things have no power. Confession isn’t a time to feel ugly and low and lament our own smallness.  It’s a time to see God’s beauty and strength, and recognize His greatness.  


Exploring the Art for the "Waiting for Jesus" Sermon Series

Kenneth Robertson

This Advent season, we're turning our focus towards "Waiting for Jesus" with sermons based on the gospel stories preceding Jesus' birth.  In a world that can't (and won't) give us all we want or need, our posture is one of waiting for Jesus to come and restore the earth in the ways he promised. Each sermon will highlight a different aspect of what it means to wait for Jesus: a needed perspective in a culture that seems to be allergic to the concept of waiting!

For our bulletin art, we chose to feature H.O. Tanner's "The Annuniciation." H.O. Tanner was the first widely-recognized African-American artist, although racism in the United States made his adopted France a more comfortable "home base" for his vocation.  A poor, religious upbringing probably contributed to the fact that many of his works portray scenes of ordinary African-American life or religious themes. 

"The Annuniciation," painted in 1898, portrays the encounter between Mary and the angel, who announces that Mary will be the mother of the Christ-child (Luke 1:26-38). This passage will be the focus of the 2nd message in the series.  Tanner's depiction is beautiful, realistic, and restrained.  Mary looks rightly perplexed and concerned; the depiction of the angel, instead of veering into schmaltz, simply reflects how indescribable it must be to encounter an angel! Mary's clothes practically swallow her, signifying the role she is stepping into is far too large for her to fill.  The red cloth hanging on the wall seems to point forward to the pain this incredible announcement will one day cause. But for now, Mary sits - waiting - with closed body posture but eyes open to a wondrous possibility.  "Could it be?..."

Our website banner had much humbler beginnings: as a stock photo. But the empty chairs, vibrant colors, and modern "Bebas" font give can give us a different glimpse into waiting on Jesus. The chairs seem like they might belong in a waiting room somewhere, but not a normal waiting room. The variety of colors suggest that everyone's waiting will be different: everyone's journey to, from, and in these chairs will be potentially exciting, potentially vibrant, potentially transformative.  The chairs also aren't so comfy that they're a destination.  They're a stop, a resting place, on the way to something bigger.  And significantly, the chairs aren't full. Waiting is not a matter of stopping and giving up; waiting is simply a different type of "going." Waiting is launching out into life in trust that a place to sit and rest truly exists, and that it will be available when we need it. Waiting isn't drudgery: it's claiming a role in a larger adventure. And these chairs - in some small way - seem to communicate just that.

We hope and pray this art helps you enter the Advent season more fully.  Many, many blessings on you and yours as we wait for the coming of the King!

- Pastor Ken

What Are You Doing With Your Bible?

Kenneth Robertson

A guest post by the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, Foley Beach.  Archbishop Beach is based in Atlanta, and is actually the bishop who ordained our very own Andy McGowan! This article - based on the collect prayer we read at worship last Sunday - was first published here.

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reignswith you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Collect for Proper 28 from the 1979 BCP

As Anglicans we have an incredible heritage regarding the Bible. The Collect above was put in the first Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer, and has been in every BCP since. It reminds us that the Scriptures have been written for our instruction and gives some practical ways to learn them. Based on Romans 15:4, the prayers tells us that God is the One who caused the Scriptures to be written, and as 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us: All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for correction, for reproof, and for training in righteousness so that the man (or woman) of God may be equipped for every good work.
The prayer offers five suggestions for us to “take in” the Bible.

1) Hear them – In the first century through the fifteenth century century, the main way for most people to understand the Scriptures was by hearing them read in their local church. In our modern world we still read the Bible in church but we have other ways to hear the Bible: iPods, iPads, CDs, radio, and smartphone apps. A friend of mine downloads parts of the Bible to his iPod and he listens to it every morning as he takes his morning walk.

2) Read them – In the 21st century we are blessed to have an abundance of Bibles here in North America. We have an unbelievable privilege of having the Bible available in a variety of translations and paraphrases, with study guides and notes, available for our computers,
iPads, smartphones, and Kindles. 

In the 1500s there was an Englishman named William Tyndale who attempted to translate the Bible from Latin into the English language. He was branded a heretic by England and went to Germany where he translated the Bible into English by hand. Pocket-size versions of his Bible began to be smuggled into England and ordinary people were
able to have their own Bibles. Tyndale was burned at the stake for his gift to the human race in 1537. A few decades later in 1611, his translation was used almost word for word in the King James Version – so ordinary people could read the Bible.

You and I are blessed to have the written Word because of the sacrifice of others who literally gave their lives, preserving it, translating it, and printing it – so we could read it ourselves.

3) Mark them – This means to underline, circle, highlight, and make notations in one’s Bible. It is okay to write in your Bible. Underline important passages that speak to you. Circle key words. Highlight connecting thoughts. Put question marks by things you don't understand. Write other verses in the margin which relate to the passage. Write dates next to a verse when God speaks to you through the passage.

4) Learn them – What does the verse or passage really mean? What is the context of the passage? How does this apply today to my life and ministry? How many of the 10 Commandments do you know? How many of Jesus’s Commandments do you know? Can you explain God’s plan of Salvation? Do you know any of the promises of God which apply to your life now? Can you share any of the miracles which Jesus did? Can you explain any of his parables and what they mean? God’s people need to learn the Word of God. Learning the
Word of God includes studying and memorizing it.

5) Inwardly digest them – This means to meditate on them; reflect on them; and think on them. The Hebrew word for meditate is a word picture of a cow chewing its food. How does a cow eat the grass? Chews on it; swallows it; brings it back up; chews it some more; swallows
it; brings it back up; and chews it some more. This is what we do with the Word of God. We are to inwardly digest it; think about it.

What are you doing with your copy of the Scriptures? I want to encourage you to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them– so that you may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which God has given us in His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church in North America

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover

Kenneth Robertson

By Ken Robertson

The other night, I was with my family at the Albertsons on Alameda and Broadway, perusing the Redbox with my clerical collar on.  Normal.

A short, Hispanic man approached me. One tooth, wrinkled face, slightly bent over.  He asked if I was a pastor. I prepped myself for the request for money. Normal.

Then he asked me if I had a degree in Divinity. Not quite normal.

Then he asked me if I had ever read the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas (one of the most complex, rich works of theology in all of Christian history). Not normal.

Then he asked if I would read some of his own writing on how the Summa Theologica could be read through the lens of modern Christian existentialism. DEFINITELY NOT NORMAL.

As it turns out, my new friend Gill is a devout Catholic, a self-taught theology student, an aspiring writer, and a man who loves thinking God's thoughts after Him. We stood and talked for 15 minutes: we swapped favorite movies, talked authors, and he even gave me a volume of C.S. Lewis as a gift (right out of his backpack...of course).  I gave him my number, and he promised to contact me.  I hope he does.

Because he's a powerful reminder that my eyes aren't yet trained to see a kingdom that sprouts up in the most unlikely places. 

...for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
— 1 Samuel 16.7


Confirmation 2014 - Testimonies & Callings

Kenneth Robertson

Confirmation is a one-time opportunity for those who have already been baptized (either as an adult or infant) to celebrate & confirm God's work in their life and be strengthened by the Spirit to follow their God-given calling.  It is, in a sense, an "ordination of the people." 

On Nov. 2nd, 11 people were confirmed at Church of the Advent. Each confirmand participated in a month-long class rooted in the fundamentals of the faith, reflected on the work of God in their life, and met with a pastor to discern their gifts and personal calling from God (“vocation”). A glimpse of the fruit of this preparation is below.

May these testimonies encourage you in your own walk with God: God is working!


Bethany Bailey

Since I came to know God in my early childhood, He has affirmed in my life the truth of His presence, the goodness of His ways, and the unending grace of His love. God has shown me His incomparable peace in an uncertain and ever-shifting world, and has grown my faith in His will for me. He continues to reveal the joy that comes from a life lived in faithful communion with Him, and has reignited the desire to know Him deeply and to share His transformative work with those around me.

Bethany approaches life as a contemplative, seeking to engage people, ideas and God deeply and meaningfully. She expresses her heart for marginalized people and her passion for language and communication in her career as a speech therapist (a source of much joy!). She loves to take care of people in creative ways, and hopes this may involve being a mom one day as well. Pray for Bethany as she continues to weave her gifts of discernment, mercy, and teaching together with these skills and passions to love and honor Jesus. – Pastor Rob

Josh Bailey

My faith has been strongly reinforced by family and friends throughout my life; however, my faith life has endured seasons with varying degrees of conviction and varying emphases within our Christian tradition. Throughout college I grew in my appreciation of God’s heart for the oppressed, non-violence, and in the understanding that Jesus’ incarnation affirms the beauty and centrality of the material world, including human bodies. Together these principles have impacted my desire to serve and support marginalized populations through medicine. More recently, I have mostly experienced intimacy with God through this church community and in contemplative practices, and I have regained a deeper sense of trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness.

Josh Bailey’s faith and ministry are deeply rooted in the compassion of Christ. The oppressed and marginalized are a constant burden on Josh’s heart, and he senses God asking him to devote his life to serving “the least of these” through a career as a medical doctor.  Josh’s vocation also goes beyond outward healing: his heart yearns for reconciliation, wholeness, and “shalom” in relationships between those who would naturally be strangers in this world. Pray for Josh as he discerns the next steps after medical school, seeks God more deeply through prayer, and journeys into his call with his wife, Bethany. – Pastor Ken

Bekah Chew

Since my baptism in 2007, God has brought me face to face in new ways with the depth of my own brokenness and the vastness of His grace. He has walked me through many seasons, including the loss of relationships and the gain of sweet community, dark months of depression followed by months of healing and joy, and a period of doubt while considering a different faith, which was eventually replaced by a rooted confidence in the Christian God as revealed by the Bible. Through these experiences, He has been teaching me the difference between merely understanding who He is and actually being in a dynamic, intimate, and exhilarating relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ. I have come to personally know Him as a faithful, loving, and merciful Father as He has spoken truth into the lies I have believed, as He has exposed and healed sin patterns and wounds, and as He has been patiently teaching me how to simultaneously carry my cross and rest under his light and easy yoke.

One thing Bekah is confident of is her calling to intentional relational ministry.  Currently she lives and works at Providence House, a community of recovering addicts. She has a deep sense of God’s calling to this type of ministry.  The specifics of how God will continue to lead are not immediately obvious to Bekah, but at this point her vocation seems to be entering into relationships with the profoundly broken who are out of resources and pushed to the margins of society. Pray for Bekah as she listens for and obeys Christ’s call. – Deacon Cindy

Christina Dudley

Since baptism at 15, God has taken me from a broken home and given me a faithful family in my own home and church. He healed me not only from lymphoma cancer at 26, but from emotional wounds and misconceptions that came from my past. In these past 18 years, He has used me and my story here and abroad to teach His Word, lead others to Christ, and also to write and perform dramas and dance to impact others toward Him. 

Christina is called to teach the Word and languages.  The Lord is using this vocational calling to allow her to influence students with the Gospel and expose them to Kingdom principles for living.  Her call also includes a desire for the global mission field for her future.  Christina envisions her vocational calling to teach as an avenue to share the Gospel abroad. Pray for Christina and Jason as they discern next steps together. – Deacon Cindy

Jason Dudley

Growing up in a Christian home and being baptized at a young age, much of my life has been post-baptism. As a teenager, I made a deep commitment to Christ at a youth camp worship service and God has kept me close ever since. As an adult, I've been on a journey toward authentic and free faith that is true to the Gospel, as well as discerning my unique call to serve the Kingdom. This has been primarily through biblical studies (seminary included) and the "iron sharpens iron" of marriage and parenting, but also a personal renaissance of creativity in recent years.

Highly adaptable and flexible, Jason employs his positive, joyful spirit to bring people together, usually around humor (laughter ensues whenever Jason is around). He also utilizes his broad base of skills (graphic design, videography, web design, and programming among others) to enable others to do whatever they do with greater excellence and beauty. A man with a servant’s heart, he deeply enjoys helping other people’s vision come to fruition.  Pray for Jason as he seeks to take more risks in life so as to invest in the kingdom of God through the creative arts. – Pastor Rob

Danielle Elliott

I grew up in a loving home with a very strong and dedicated Christian mother and supportive and loyal father. I had a very powerful and emotional encounter with Christ and asked him to be my savior in my middle school years. In high school and college I decided I knew better than everyone else, including my Heavenly Father, and walked on my own for several years; yet always had a stirring in my heart to be back close to my Father. In 2009, I moved to Colorado and through the support of an incredibly loving Christian man and a faithful church community, my relationship with God has been restored, and I have been growing in his likeness ever since.

Danielle combines an empathetic heart with an analytic mind in beautiful ways. She is usually on the go, working hard at her job as a Nurse Practitioner, at church as a Small Group Leader, or at home as a wife and new mom. She feels a deep longing to nurture and guide people in their spiritual journey. Pray for Danielle as she explores how she might utilize her gifts of hospitality, service, leadership and teaching even more effectively in the coming years, perhaps in a pastoral role working with youth.  – Pastor Rob

Thomas Elliott

I was baptized as an infant by my great-grandfather and later made the decision to follow Christ as a result of involvement in Young Life during high school.  The Lord has taken me on quite the adventure ever since: I have been stretched, lead, and taught in ways beyond what I ever imagined.  I’m redeemed and forgiven, I’ve been given grace and mercy, and I am learning to give to others.  Since being married to Danielle and John Pierce, I’ve seen God in new ways and understood his love from an entirely different perspective.

Thomas Elliott reflects God in the world through a genuine welcome and a desire to pour his life into others.  Whether at work, with his family, or tutoring at-risk children, Thomas demonstrates deep care for those around him and tries to find ways to help others realize their full potential. He relishes the meaningful conversations that come from working alongside other men in the construction industry, and he finds deep satisfaction in spending time with his wife and infant son. Pray for Thomas as he learns to become the pray-er, husband, father, and worker that God has made him to be. – Pastor Ken

John Knippa

In the last few years, I have experienced some deep struggles and have felt lonely not being able to 'see' God as I once had.  Yet God is showing me a broader picture of his faithful presence during times when I have doubted that he even remembers or cares for me.  Through some difficult pain and suffering,  God has continued to bring me inner healing, leading me to live more fully into his grace and love, which is good news to a guy who has lived with a deep-seeded drive to 'be' good enough to be loved.  God is slowly breaking down my fears and self-reliance, leading me to be loved by him, and to love him and others.

John Knippa most clearly senses he is a channel of God’s blessing when his hands are getting dirty, either in tangible service or in life-on-life ministry. As a carpenter, John longs to not only frame houses, but to use his gifts to serve the needy and provide mentored training to carpenters just entering the business. In his volunteer work, John is journeying towards a vocation of service to those who are hurting, left out, or lonely by building meaningful relationships and blessing them in tangible ways. Pray for John as he asks God to bring these passions together over the coming years in new and transformative ways. – Pastor Ken

Sara Knippa

In my adult life, God's journey with me has been about moving from a place of "supposed to" and fear of what others may think to a place of freedom to be the unique person He made me to be.  I'm learning to express more honesty, generosity, and openness.  It's still a work in progress, but I'm seeing God work through His grace, rest, and gift of “life with abandon.”  I look forward in faith to the future.

Sara’s gift of discernment is evident in her vocational calling as a wife, in her workplace, and in relationships. Her calling to be John’s wife is to be both supportive and encouraging. Her calling in the workplace is to serve others as a coach and mentor, helping them to determine and move in the direction they are to go. As a friend, Sara is a compassionate listener and faithful guide. Pray for Sara as she embarks on a season of listening to God in order to know his will for her more deeply. – Deacon Cindy

Danielle Williams

Saved from a young age, I grew up in the church with high school and college being especially formative as I encountered God through worship, missions, and Godly mentors. Looking over my journey of ups and downs, I overwhelmingly identify with the psalmist who says, "where can I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to the heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! ...[if I] dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me" (Psalm 139). He has lead and sustained me even through times of darkness, and shown Himself to be my Comforter, Deliverer, Healer, Provider, Savior and truly a "love that will not let me go." I seek to have a willing and open heart to follow where He leads next and always.

Danielle has a tender heart for God and for people. This is powerfully expressed through her career as a nurse, her joy in worship, and her investment in her family. She has a passion for women’s health, a gift for hospitality, and creative skills in problem solving.  Please pray for Danielle as she explores the possibility of bringing these gifts and passions together in a new way, either at home or abroad. – Pastor Rob

Josh Williams

I am grateful to my parents who set me forward on my lifelong journey of faith. Now, I know the journey has become my own. As I reflect on the miles behind me, I am grateful to God for upholding me in thick forests of doubt and for leading me to gilded peaks offering glimpses of heaven. I feel blessed to know more fully who I am. And, I am thankful for the traveling companions he has given me: a loving wife, a joyful daughter, and a thriving community. With confirmation, I raise an Ebenezer of gratitude to the steadfast God who sustains me, and I trust in Him to lead me wisely on the uncertain miles ahead.

Josh Williams experiences deep joy and fulfillment in moments of tender care and wondrous adventure: caring for small children as a pediatrician, traveling abroad with his wife Danielle, or rocking his daughter Eden to sleep. Josh has felt the lure of prestige and worldly success, but he feels God calling him to lead his family into a shared journey of mission, serving together in a way that allows his family – and his patients – to flourish. Pray for Josh as he discerns the next steps for life after medical residency and continues to listen for God’s call. – Pastor Ken

 

Trusting God with Audrey

Kenneth Robertson

Adventers Lauren & Will Darr have had quite the journey since their daughter Audrey was born 6 months ago. Open-heart surgeries, angioplasties, and lots of visits to Children's Hospital are not what any new parents hope for.  On Sept. 5th, Lauren and Will found out that Audrey will have to have yet another surgery.  This was Lauren's blog post later that day...

Today we found out that Audrey will most likely need another surgery in the next year. I guess there’s really no way the doctors could have predicted this, but it still feels like a surprise. Today we had a follow up appointment after the angioplasty a few weeks ago. Dr. Shaffer explained the approximate upcoming year plan for Audrey: angioplasties every 2-3 months until Audrey’s artery is wide enough for a surgery.

Honestly there are moments of panic when I just want to move back “home” to Dallas where my parents and family live, thinking it will be better to face this reality with them. Just a few weeks ago I was suggesting to Will that we can just sell our house and move back to Dallas. However, I know that’s not what needs to be done. Driving home after the doctor appointment today I thought of this option but then quickly dismissed it. Our home is here in Denver with our church, friends and this city. Just last night Will and I were talking about how perfect my new job is, how God clearly has been providing for us. I only work Tuesday-Thursday each week and it’s a pretty peaceful situation, taking care of Audrey and one other little baby. I get a 4 day weekend every week, so it feels like I have vacation at the end of each work week. I thought about this today as I look ahead at the coming year. We make Audrey’s angioplasty appointments for Fridays, then come home Saturday and we still have Sunday and Monday off before work. It’s really going to be okay.

I asked Dr. Shaffer when all this would be over and I guess there is no answer. The surgery would make Audrey’s artery larger but then it might need to be worked on again as she grows bigger. This next surgery will hopefully solve the main issue of blood flow to her left lung and the rest would just be maintenance.

It’s really hard imagining your baby in the hospital over and over and over. This is why I have thought about moving home so many times, because I would rather hide in a cave than face this reality of being strong for Audrey. Each hospital visit is being strong and happy with her, pressing forward and hoping for the best. It’s emotionally exhausting! She is an extremely happy baby though and she’s doing so wonderfully. I thank God for her joy and for giving Will and I patience and love for her. I’m also really thankful for our Bradley Method birthing classes and Attachment Parenting for teaching Will and I how to nurture and comfort Audrey in ways I was unaware of before she was born. I have a desire to encourage other moms to hold their little babies close, especially in hospital situations. Maybe this is a new calling, maybe it’s not about me at all.

We are going to stay here in Denver though, and press forward through all of these hospital visits and another surgery. We aren’t going to focus on the visits though, we are going to continue living our life each day and finding the joy and beauty around us. I haven’t always trusted God through all of Audrey’s health issues, but I can honestly say that I know God is good and He is taking care of us.

Q: What's a Good Strategy for Finding Answers to the Most Important Questions?

Kenneth Robertson

Each week, the Q small group meets to explore an important question about faith together through discussion.  In this blog post series, Pastor Ken will sum up his views on a question that was previously discussed at Q.  Feel free to respond in the comments section below!

Does God exist?  

Is there an afterlife?  

How can we tell good from evil?

What does it mean to be human?

All these are fantastic questions, but too often we jump right to answering them without asking the question we asked at Q the first week: "What's a good strategy for finding answers?"  Logically, this is the first question we should ask, because it's foundational to everything else.  So often, disagreements arise on ultimate issues because we're reasoning based on different foundations.  We have to "lean" on something - put our "trust" or "faith" in something - in order to find out answers about anything.  If we lose all trust, we turn into radical skeptics: and that's not a recipe for a very fulfilling life.  But how do we know what to trust?

Paths to Knowledge

Philosophers and theologians over the centuries have spent a lot of time thinking about "epistemology:" how we know what we know, and whether we can trust anything or anyone to lead us to truth.  There have been 4 major "paths to knowledge" that have been batted around through the centuries: some more popular in some eras than others.  The 4 are listed below, with some summary thoughts on each.

1.  What God says - Divine Revelation.  In this category, the Divine tells us things about reality that we couldn't know ourselves: He "reveals" things that would otherwise lay hidden.  For Christians, this category includes the Holy Scriptures - God's Word written - and ultimately Jesus Christ, the incarnation of the Son of God in human flesh.  Interestingly, divine revelation cannot stand completely on its own: it needs to be interpreted using the other categories of tradition, reason, and experience.  However, the primary question for answering any ultimate question is whether divine revelation plays a primary role, a secondary role, or doesn't even merit discussion because it's divine source is rejected. Where you stand on this issue sets you on a trajectory that strongly influences where you will arrive. For Christians, divine revelation is the primary source of our knowledge about God: not as a blind leap of faith, but as a revelation from God that is consistent with the other sources of knowledge.  Scripture is therefore primary in discussions about ultimate things from a Christian perspective.

2. What Others Say - Culture & Tradition.  If something is true for everyone at every time in every place, you probably won't be the first one to discover it.  That's where the voice of the community (through culture & tradition) plays an important role: it protects us from overly privatized opinions. For many, though, the problem is the opposite: their beliefs simply slide uncritically into the view of the dominant culture (or their chosen sub-culture). How many conversations about morality or God's existence could, in our day, be honestly summed up as, "Well, no one I know and respect believes _____, so I don't either"?  Peer pressure didn't die out in middle school.  For Christians, the traditions of the church - formed over thousands of years - can either be a stabilizing root system in the high winds of an anti-Christian culture (a good use of tradition), or an excuse not to think critically about beliefs and simply accept them at face value (a bad use of tradition). Both uses exist in every branch of the church today.

3. What Logic & Science Say - Reason.  Most of us put a lot of trust in the discoveries of reason: you won't find many flat-earthers around!  Our minds are powerful instruments that seem to correspond well to reality and can uncover some secrets of the world that we wouldn't know otherwise.  However, there is a drastic difference between a belief being founded solely on reason and a belief that is reasonable.  Many people claim to use reason as their only foundation for truth (and thereby discredit the existence of God, who they claim cannot be proved from logic or science). But that position arrogantly ignores the other 3 sources of knowledge. Thorough-thinking Christians have often claimed that beliefs should be reasonable: they should be coherent, correspond to the world as we experience it, and not contradict the laws of logic.  Christianity should definitely fit that bill.  But if we exalt reason too highly, making it the only determiner of truth, we can force realities that might lie beyond human reason, like God, into a little box of our own understanding. And the mystery of God doesn't squish into boxes very well.

4. What Our Intuition, Feelings, and Personal Story Say - Experience.  This is probably the dominant path to knowledge in our day on the really important issues.  "It feels good, so it must be right." "My spirituality is really important to me: it makes me feel good."  But when we base our views of ultimate reality only on what we've experienced, that's a pretty limited data set. Can we trust that our fickle feelings, our momentary glimpses of insight, can tell us everything we need to know about the world around us?  But experience is certainly not a bad thing: Christianity has always claimed not only to be a set of beliefs, but to be a doorway into a new experience of God and the universe.  Christianity without experience is dead dogmatism, so Christians can expect, in varying ways and over long periods of time, to have their experience confirm their beliefs.  However, a Christianity (or any other spirituality) founded on experience is trouble, because our experience notoriously shifts and changes over time.  And truth, if it's truly truth for everyone, shouldn't.

To summarize: none can stand alone.  As people who truly desire to know truth, we have to seek to integrate each source of knowledge as we answer these questions.  On any given topic, we should be asking, "What does divine revelation tell us? What wisdom does my culture or tradition have? What is reasonable? And how does my experience impact this?"

But we have to start somewhere, and we have to decide which one is most important.  If we choose to start answering these questions via culture & tradition, reason, and experience, honesty will demand that we eventually acknowledge that each comes up short: they make humanity the final arbiter of truth, and it seems dangerous to make such a powerful claim about our limited viewpoint!  However, if we are seeing these categories clearly, they should eventually give us hints toward the fuller truth contained in divine revelation (Rom. 1:19-20).  If we start with divine revelation, we gain a gracious "shortcut" into the nature of the reality: but we still need to interpret and integrate these truths using the other categories.  "All truth is God's truth," and these different sources of knowledge can work together to lead us to a more unified picture of our place in the universe...and God's.  

In short, the journey toward truth should be an ever-ascending spiral.  No matter where we start, we should always be seeking, always be learning, always be growing...and ideally gaining confidence that we are growing closer to the truth. Though there may be seasons of disorientation as one path to knowledge seems to chafe against another, the only way through the impasse is to integrate.

Our Desire, and God's

However, there is another major factor in this discussion that merits attention: our attitude towards seeking strongly influences what we find.  In philosophical jargon, this is called "virtue epistemology."  The crux of vitrue epistemology is that our posture toward seeking truth greatly determines how much of it we gain.  We've all been in situations where we weren't really engaged in a class, discussion, or book; and therefore, we didn't gain much insight.  Our desire to know is probably just as important, if not more so, than the paths we take to get there.

Turns out, Jesus was ahead of the curve on virtue epistemology.  If you want to find, Jesus says, you have to truly seek: "For everyone who asks, receives, and everyone who searches, finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:8).  In another place, he warns those whose search for truth was eclipsed by their search for glory: "How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?" (John 5:44).  Jesus' message is clear: if we really want to find the truth, we'll find it. But often, we really don't want to know, because of the what the truth might require of us: conviction, confession, repentance, or transformation! No amount of searching in the world will matter if we refuse to grasp the truth when we find it. Often, we are staring it right in the face, and simply refusing to acknowledge it. 

But there's good news in the face of our ambivalence: according to Christianity, this isn't just a one-sided search. Throughout the Scriptures, God makes clear that his desire for us to find the truth far outweighs our desire to find it.  No matter how much we may seek, we can only grasp God because he was first grasping us.

Luke 19:10 - For the Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost.

Romands 5:8 - But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

John 1:14  - And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Hebrews 1:1-2 - Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son... 

A Good General Strategy

Therefore,

(1) Start with Scripture and seek to interpret and confirm what it says through tradition, reason, and experience.  If you don't trust Scripture, be clear-eyed in your search through tradition, reason, and experience and honestly see if it points toward truths contained in Scripture.

(2) Commit yourself to follow the evidence wherever it leads...even if it's uncomfortable.

(3) Trust that God is seeking you far more deeply than you are seeking Him.

May your search for answers be fruitful beyond your wildest expectations!

Pastor Ken

Exploring the Art for the "Human" Sermon Series

Kenneth Robertson

By Ken Robertson, Assistant Pastor

Starting Sunday, September 7th, Church of the Advent is launching into a new Sermon Series rooted in Genesis 1: "Human."  This sermon series will use the text of Genesis and the gospel of Jesus Christ to look at what it means to be truly and fully human.

To complement this series, we're highlighting two works of art that reflect this theme.

Michaelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" - c. 1511

Michaelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" - c. 1511

For the sermon series website banner, we focused on Michaelangelo's "The Creation of Adam," a fresco painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1511.  It is an iconic image of humanity's creation in the image of God for a reason: the physical anatomy, the dynamic movement, and the symbolism (check out Wikipedia's "Popular Theories" section on the piece) are captivating.  For the website banner, we chose to zoom in on God's & Adam's hands: both because genitalia on a website banner would be slightly awkward, and because the hands are so exquisite they just about say it all.  The font used is from the Aquiline family, chosen as an homage to the age of renewed humanism that inspired Michaelangelo.  However, this age often chose "Man" over and against God, and reflected a humanism that results in a dead end philosophically and spiritually.  Our desire is to foster a "Christian humanism" that sees life in Christ as a recovery of full humanity.


For our bulletin cover, Adventer Jason Dudley chose a work by Expressionist Georges Rouault titled, "Head of Christ," painted in 1939.  Rouault was an avowedly Christian painter, who was once quoted as saying, "My only objective is to paint a Christ so moving that those who see him will be converted." However, his work was significant both for its subject matter and its form, and it has earned great acclaim in the years since his death in the 1950's.

"Head of Christ - 1939" - Georges Rouault on the Advent bulletin cover.

"Head of Christ - 1939" - Georges Rouault on the Advent bulletin cover.

"Head of Christ - 1939" is a beautiful portrait of the humanity of Christ.  Painted in earth tones, with a simplicity of style and downward focus, the painting reflects the Son's condescension to take on the form of dust that is our mortal nature.  The halo that classically surrounds Christ is hidden and subtle, but not absent: divinity is cloaked in a shroud of humanity. It is only my speculation, but the figure behind Christ seems to be that of a person (only the top of his bare head can be seen). Christ seems to be stepping in front of him, as if to say: "Don't look at yourself to define true humanity: look at me. I am the source, and goal, and the truest picture, of everything it means to be human."  Alternatively, the image behind Christ could be the cross: the symbol of his death, and the symbol of his victory over death. Through Christ, human life is no longer a parenthesis; it is a vocation that lasts into a new creation beyond the tomb. 

As we trace the narrative of Scripture from creation to redemption this fall, may we remember that true humanity comes from being born in the image of God and experiencing the restoration of that image in Jesus Christ.  We hope and pray that as we journey through Genesis, you'll find yourself becoming more fully human in the process.

"The glory of God is a human being fully alive" - Irenaeus

My Daily Prayer

Kenneth Robertson

This journal entry comes from Adventer Gina Villanueva, a resident of Hirschfeld Towers here in Baker.  Thank you so much for sharing with us, Gina!

 God be thanked that He wakes me up each morning to allow me to talk with Him, and my first words are, "Father God, thank you for delivering me, and Hirschfield Towers from evil, the past night." 

Please forgive me my sins, and take me back. 

Father, I praise You for another divine morning, punctuated by Your signature of the beautiful Colorado mountains that seem to grow each day, as I gaze at them from my picture window of four frames: two vertical, and two horizontal, showing me that Your creation is both vertical and horizontal.  You are the owner all of that You have created, including the birds chirping, reflecting the divine music which You alone compose (Psalm 92:3).

If there is discordance in my life, Lord, please take it away from me, and grant me the grace to stay away from it.

I thank You, Father, for placing me in the Church of the Advent, who continually reaffirm my sense of humanity, who shows me that You are love through their fellowship.  I thank you for my church's pro-active, concrete, tangible interface with the Baker neighborhood's everydayness, for keeping my heart in the moment, and for reminding me You are faithful and true. 

I thank You for putting me at Hirschfield Towers, and for blessing its management, and all of its residents.

Lord, I thank you for my attempts at making each step that I make toward my neighbors at Hirschfield Towers, leaving a reflection of Your glory, an imprint of Your love, a fragrance of Your presence -- just by making conversation with one soul sitting at the lobby, staring either at Dailey Park, or, even nothingness, for that matter -- in their wheelchair, or, walker, perhaps feeling weary and just waiting to give up their ghost, from love-deficiency: feeling depressed, useless in their mortal casing, unloved, un-visited by relatives or loved ones...(John 15:5).

Most of all, Father God, on behalf of my church, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my national and international earthly leaders, and Your detractors (poised against me, because I am Your royal daughter), I receive Your blessings and forgiveness for this day, as I walk with You. 

We ask for Your hand to cover us, Your power to keep us, Your face to shine upon us, Your love to fill us, Your strength to sustain us, and Your sufficiency to be our portion in every need we may face today.   We desire the greatest blessing of all, the blessing of Your daily presence, as we listen to Your Word.

We are Here, We Believe, and We are Enough

Kenneth Robertson

By Adventer Josh Lancette.  The rest of this journal entry can be found at Venn Magazine. Click on the link to read on, and congratulations on getting this published, Josh!

I walk into the room and see fifty people of different ethnicities, economic statuses, and fashion styles. Up front, the pastor is dressed in a white robe, a purple sash draped across his neck and falling over his shoulders.

“The Lord be with you,” he proclaims, his hands open and extended towards us.

“And also with you,” we say back. And we mean it, even though it spills out of us as a habit.

Read the rest here...

So Broke We Can't Pay Attention

Kenneth Robertson

This poem and collage were created by Gladys Drew, an Adventer living in Hirschfeld Towers.  Thank you for sharing this with us, Gladys!

 

It’s time to take

The leap into the unknown

Into dry sand and broken bricks

The place where transformation starts,

Where energy burns into a passion

That melds commitment to principles

And the truth that brings forth life.

I love being the broken vessel

Molded into the very image of Christ.

God can use me any way He likes

Because in me, He made a heart

Filled with the softness of new birth,

 With a new love; for now I reside

In His Kingdom, I love His people,

I pray, I obey, I do, I am…

 

© Gladys Drew

 7.14.2014

Love, Laughter, and Lullabies

Kenneth Robertson

This blog post was written by Adventer, husband, father, and medical resident Josh Williams.  The audio of Josh telling this story during the Kingdom Moment can be found at adventdenver.com/sermons.  Feel free to use the comment section at the bottom of the post...

It has not been easy for me to be a dad. In fact, early on, the things of fatherhood grated on me. I did not like waking up every two hours at night, I grappled with losing my one-on-one time with wife Danielle, and I lamented the lack of my introvert time. I had things to do. I had medical facts to learn. I deserved rest from my 80-hour workweek. Sure, there was much joy for me in being a father, but I often found myself resenting losses of freedom and free time. In short, I had become embittered against my daughter, and while I knew that I loved her, I did not often feel it.

About two months ago, these feelings came to a head. Halfway through a 3-month stint of 80-hour work weeks, I found myself beginning a stretch of 5 night shifts on a busy pediatric inpatient ward. While working nights is terrible enough in and of itself, I was planning to finish my stretch Friday morning, return home and shower, and leave an hour later to fly to a scientific conference in Vancouver. There, I would present my research, get back on the plane, and return to Denver within 48 hours for my next shift.

So, on Sunday – the first shift of five – I felt stressed. On Monday, I developed a horrid vomiting and diarrheal illness. Barely able to make it through my shift, I returned home to spend my sleeping hours alternating between shaking chills in the bed and shaking loose in the bathroom.

On Tuesday, Danielle began a stretch of 3 night shifts as well. With both of us away at night, our nanny spent 18 hours a day at our home. When she left, Danielle and I agreed to take equal childcare shifts during the 6 hours she was away to let the other rest. And yet, Eden learned a new trick that week: screaming. Loudly. Every fifteen minutes. In so doing, she ended any real possibility of sleep for me. So, during my time with her, I was livid, and during my time in bed, I was nauseous and livid, drifting in and out of an angry consciousness punctuated by shrill cries.

On Wednesday, I learned my passport had expired three weeks prior. Having already spent over a thousand dollars for the trip, I refused to stay home. So, I journeyed to the Denver Passport Office to spend three of my six sleeping hours waiting in line, filling out forms, and responding to questions from Passport Agents.

On Thursday, I snapped at a coworker during my shift, thought I needed to admit myself to the hospital for dehydration, and spent another 3 hours of my 6 hours for sleep in the passport office. When I returned home, Danielle left to run an errand, asking me to watch Eden as she was about to take a nap. Begrudgingly, I agreed, and I took her into the bedroom with me. After spending fifteen minutes rocking her to sleep, I gently laid her down, crawled into bed, and closed my eyes. Not a minute later, our duplex neighbor started hammering a nail into the wall that separates us. Eden woke up and started to cry.

Unable to bear the burden of work, sleep deprivation, sickness, and screaming any longer, I sprung out of bed, grabbed the rails of Eden’s pack-n-play, and shook them.

Hard.

“Shut up!” I yelled, tears in my bloodshot eyes shooting bullets. “Shut up! Shut UP! SHUT UP!” I raged. “Why won’t you let me sleep?!”

Eden startled and froze, every muscle in her body becoming as stone, a look of panic engraved on her face. Her eyes, always big as saucers, widened even further, and she held her breath – for a second. Then, in a flash, she went berserk. Arms and legs flailed uncontrollably while her screams reached a pitch I had never before heard, one filled with echoes of desperation and fear. It was a scream that cried out for protection…for love. And yet, in that moment, I could not hear her. I turned away, closed our bedroom door, and walked outside while she stormed. Sitting down on our front steps, I broke down, holding out my shaking hands: hands that just 10 days prior had baptized Eden.

***

Three weeks later, Ken came over to our place for RD. It was a Saturday morning and I had the day off, but Danielle was working, so I was watching Eden. I hadn’t told Danielle about the afternoon three weeks prior, and it seemed as though Eden had forgotten. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The day haunted me. I – a father, a husband, a Christian, a pediatrician-in-training – had shaken the rails of a crib while yelling at the infant inside. I was consumed with guilt and shame, and strangely, instead of turning my heart toward Eden, these feelings pushed my heart even further away. I felt more distant than ever.

Yet, just before Ken arrived, I managed to get Eden to nap, so I sat outside on our front porch, trying to skim the week’s material before he showed up. Ken came a few minutes later, greeting me with a big hug and giant smile as usual. We sat down on the porch and started catching up. After hearing from Ken, I started to talk – and realizing that I was speaking in a space that was safe – I kept on talking. I started with the horrible week on nights and never looked back: the vomiting, the diarrhea, the screeching, the passport problems, the sleep deprivation, and then – as tears welled up to sting my eyes – the shouting…the crib-shaking… and the panic of a terrified, screaming, daughter.

The guilt. The shame. The hands…my hands.

Giant salty drops ran from the bridge of my nose to pound the ground below, forming a pool of remorse. I stared into that pool, unable to lift my eyes to meet Ken’s loving gaze. Then, after a silence, Ken asked me a question: “Josh,” he began in a soft voice, “if Jesus had been in that room with you, what would he have done?”

At first, several thoughts raced through my mind, but in a moment of God-given clarity, one took hold. And it wrecked me. Blubbering through sobs, I said, “He would have bent down, picked up Eden, and held her. And when she knew it was safe, he would have held me, too.” Ken nodded, put his arm around me, and let me cry.

***

After a while, I asked Ken to help me pray for forgiveness. He offered a few options, and I chose to journey with him through a rite in the Book of Common Prayer: the ministry of Reconciliation of a Penitent. The text of the rite is below:

 

The Priest and Penitent begin as follows

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses. Wash me through and through from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions only too well, and my sin is ever before me. Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.

Penitent   Pray for me, a sinner.

Priest

May God in his love enlighten your heart, that you may remember in truth all your sins and his unfailing mercy. Amen. “This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

The Priest then continues

Now, in the presence of Christ, and of me, his minister, confess your sins with a humble and obedient heart to Almighty God, our Creator and our Redeemer.

The Penitent says

Holy God, heavenly Father, you formed me from the dust in your image and likeness, and redeemed me from sin and death by the cross of your Son Jesus Christ. Through the water of baptism you clothed me with the shining garment of his righteousness, and established me among your children in your kingdom. But I have squandered the inheritance of your saints, and have wandered far in a land that is waste.

Especially, I confess to you and to the Church...

Here the Penitent confesses particular sins.

Therefore, O Lord, from these and all other sins I cannot now remember, I turn to you in sorrow and repentance. Receive me again into the arms of your mercy, and restore me to the blessed company of your faithful people; through him in whom you have redeemed the world, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Priest

Will you turn again to Christ as your Lord?

Penitent   I will.

Priest

Do you, then, forgive those who have sinned against you?

Penitent   I forgive them.

Priest

May Almighty God in mercy receive your confession of sorrow and of faith, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive you all your offenses; and by his authority committed to me, I absolve you from all your sins: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Priest concludes

Now there is rejoicing in heaven; for you were lost, and are found; you were dead, and are now alive in Christ Jesus our Lord. Go in peace. The Lord has put away all your sins.

Penitent  Thanks be to God.

 

At the end, Ken added prophetic words of his own, words I will remember for years to come: “Josh, God does not regret sending his Son to die for you, Jesus does not regret being crucified for you, and the Holy Spirit does not regret living in you. You are loved.” As tears welled up yet again, guilt and shame fled in haste. I was lost, and now found. I was dead, and now alive. The Lord had put away all of my sins, and there was rejoicing in heaven for me. Ken hugged me, said he loved me too, and left me to my thoughts.

Eden woke up almost immediately thereafter. As the babbles and squeaks from her room echoed through our home, I was astonished to feel excited to play with her. I burst into her room, picked her up from her crib, and smiled as I brought her slowly to my chest in a gentle squeeze. I kissed her, pecking at her chubby cheeks and forehead over and over until she pulled away and rubbed her eyes with tiny fingers – code for “Dad! Stop it!” Yet, even as she stayed away, she looked at me and smiled; this time, her saucer-wide eyes conveyed a different message: I forgive you, and I love you.

***

A few hours later, Eden and I showed up at a park in the Baker neighborhood to celebrate Ken’s 30th birthday. He had encouraged me to stay home and spend the day with her, but the thoughts of good friends, delicious food, and birthday cake were too much to pass up. After an hour of party-going, some people ventured out to toss a frisbee. After checking in with a few ladies who didn’t mind sitting babies, I left Eden in their care and joined the game. Minutes later, as if on cue, the sound of Eden fussing echoed over the field, and I jogged back to the group. After trying a few tricks to get her settled, it was clear she wanted to be held, so I scooped her up and jogged back out to play as a team of two.

It was a beautiful, crisp afternoon. Fluffy white clouds hung suspended in an azure sky, and a golden sun illuminated the verdant field with snow-capped mountains in the background. Birds chirped, dogs barked, and – incredibly – Eden laughed. She laughed.

This was incredible. She had laughed only once before. For my mother-in-law. Allegedly.

And yet, as I jogged back onto the field, Eden’s light form bouncing up and down on my arm in a beautiful yellow sundress, she started to laugh. And she wouldn’t stop. With every throw of the frisbee, every catch, every jog to grab a downed disc, she burst out uncontrollably, and so did I. Her squeals were a salve for my soul, and as her giggles rose to heaven, my soul rose with them. Never before had I felt so much love for my daughter. Never before had I felt so much love as a son.

That afternoon, Eden laughed for another twenty-three minutes. I timed it because in the wake of incredible forgiveness, I saw no reason for God to bestow another blessing. Yet, in His mercy, He was pleased to give me laughter: a divine cherry on top of an exceedingly sufficient cake. Excessive love. Excessive grace. And I took it in with glee.

***

Today, fatherhood is still hard for me. I still lament waking up multiple times at night, I still hate cleaning poopy diapers, I still miss my introvert time, and I still make mistakes. Yet, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, I remember that day on the porch and in the park, and I get up, clean, play, repent, and repeat.

Then, at the end of the day, I listen to a lullaby: the one Eden hears every night while she drifts to sleep. In the calming dusk after a busy day, I cuddle her gently while she grasps my thumb, and we both hold on as words of reconciliation and rest wash over us:

Be still my soul

Be still and know that He is God

Rest quietly

Rest in his loving arms

For He is watching over you

Ever faithful, Ever true

So be still, my soul

Be still and know that He is God.

"You Make Beautiful Things..."

Kenneth Robertson

This post was written by Adventer Shanna Shadoan.  Thank you so much for sharing what God has been doing in your life, Shanna!

 “He will beautify the humble with salvation” - Psalm 149:4

I - who have been consumed with how ugly I felt for so many years - beautiful? But it’s true. The Lord has beautified my life, a life that many times I’ve been willing to throw away.  

I spent the last ten years of my life dreadfully ill, sick of an eating disorder and virtually incapable of an honest relationship.  See, the worst part of being so sick is that not eating gives you so many things to avoid: birthdays, family dinners, Thanksgiving…all celebrations of any sort.  It is, indeed, a holidayless existence.  I can remember wondering how many calories communion wafers have in the - forget birthday cake.  And in order to do all of that holiday-avoiding, you end up lying all the time.  And when you are lying to everyone you love, it is impossible to feel close to them. 

I have been terribly lonely.  Truly, I felt like I was perishing of it; that it wasn’t lack of food, but lack of love, a starvation of the most basic need.  I was lonely for so long that once I finally feared that I couldn’t bear it any longer and I found help with my eating.  It was a blessing of the most tremendous magnitude - I found myself in a situation to have full therapeutic support in recovery. I began to get better, with many tears, one difficult mouthful at a time.

But still I was astonishingly lonely.  Soul-lonely.  Even in the middle of my friends’ birthday parties, I’d feel deeply and terribly alone, such a big aloneness that it would sometimes make me panic. 

At the time, I lived in a very cold place where I could hear church bells every day. And one day, walking home and maybe hearing the bells, or at least thinking about the bells, I knew that I had to write away to some charity that would give me a free Bible.  It was weird, how intense it was, how the idea just came to me.

So I found a website that would mail me one, and I got it, and it just started things changing.

When I moved back to Denver, I Google-mapped all the churches within a certain distance of my house, vowing to stay at the church that was the friendliest. Good news, guys! It was you.  You were so friendly that I felt that this was the right place for me.  And you know the story from there on out, probably, right? The way things change when you know there is an impossible love, that you are a child of the Most High King. Where your heart is so full of peace and brightness and even when things seem impossible there are piles of blessings all around you-AND that peace even when you are in the darkest of depressions and God feels infinitely far away.   Even recently, when I was struggling with a terrible depression and crying for hours and hours, I could cling and wait and know that someday He will wipe away all tears from all faces, and our hearts will know no grief anymore. It’s not that I wasn’t still sad during those times. It’s that my heart was restless until it found rest in the Lord.

Reflection on Faith in the Midst of the Problem of Pain and the God of Oxymorons

Kenneth Robertson

This post is a reflection from our own Liz Meier.  Thank you so much for sharing, Liz!

Walking the road of faith can be a challenge, as we seek to trust in a God that we cannot see, touch or hear.  My analytical mind wants concrete proof, the surety of truth and the reality of a tangible god, but that’s not who God is.  He is instead an oxymoron of sorts that I can neither explain nor express with my finite human words.  He is all knowing, but not fully knowable.  He is just, but forgiving.  He is constantly present, but not visible.  He is grace-filled and righteous.  The tension of this oxymoron was not evident to me in my early days as a young child and teen who blanketly believed what others told me “about God.”  Recently though, my relationship with God has evolved into a deeper, more confused sense of being with a God of oxymorons (seemingly contradictory statements).  He is not at all predictable, but I depend on him thoroughly, as my entire worldview revolves around his existence.  As I’ve walked the road of faith and belief in this God of oxymorons, it’s been most difficult for me to grasp God’s ability to be in the tension of an oxymoron and in the midst of the problem of pain in the world.  Pain isn’t a new reality to me, but one I’ve faced on and off over the years. 

Looking back over the past 2 years, it seems to me that I’ve faced one challenge or painful experience after another, being caught up in the undertow of pain and discouragement and surfacing only long enough to catch my breath from one experience to the next.  This struggle to surface has been utterly exhausting, on top of my profession as an expert “caregiver.”  I briefly tested myself on a stress test that assesses the stress you’ve experienced in the past year or two, and I was amazed at how high the results were.  In the past two years: I’ve been in two major car accidents, moved 3 times, had a major surgery, changed jobs, and lost friends to busyness and babies. My grandpa died, I experienced two break ups [one of which was extremely hurtful and harsh], and I work over 60+ hours a week between my full time job/babysitting/volunteering. I’ve worked in a toxic job where I constantly kept track of my records for fear of being fired, lived in a very lonely, isolated, and oppressive place, and faced migraines, chronic back pain and auto-immune diseases that leave me exhausted and worn out. Many of my dreams and hopes have been deferred or deserted to pay for or deal with other problems.  I've grieved the loss of hopes and dreams of having a family of my own and the strain of how I’ve struggled financially with graduate school loans.  Through all of this, I’ve regularly felt very fearful and alone -- living alone and dependent on only myself, making my thoughts and feelings about these difficult situations that much worse.  But I survived, even if I was, from my assessments very, very broken.  It was hard, because I am used to being - and am expected to be - this strong, independent caring woman, and when I hit rock bottom, people [myself included] were surprised at my brokenness and frailty.   Reflecting back on that time, I also noticed the constant spiritual warfare and work of Satan.  It was often through the smallest emotional and spiritual struggles that Satan implanted lies into my heart.  This pain and stress caused me to question God, his goodness, his basic existence and why he allowed these painful experiences to happen. 

I hit rock bottom hard, as my world seemed to fall apart all around me after the harsh break up I went through as it progressively "broke up" from October of 2013 to March of 2014.  The words used against me were jagged and sharp, cutting deeply into my heart and breaking and marring it, and betraying my trust [I’m cautious as I share this story, to not aggrandize it or make it bigger than it was, but the people who have walked with me through it, recognize the depth of the pain it caused].  Those words continue to haunt me to this day, and I often find myself in a spiritual battle with God over the lies this person spoke into my life.  I was completely empty, struggling and alone.  I needed help, love and grace, but I didn’t know how to ask for it or who to ask.  I felt very alone, even when I was with people.  People, including myself, didn’t really know what had happened to me, the "strong independent unique" woman.  I was a complete mess.  It was all I could do to hold onto my sanity and perform at work, and I found myself curling up into a tight little ball like a hedgehog, which only isolated me further from friends and family.  Regular struggles, like my hopes of being a wife and mother continuing to be postponed, seemed ten times worse than normal. [It was and is a spiritual struggle for me to be content and not bitter while attending a church with 12-14 babies around].  I found myself shut down and disconnected from people I cared about and things I was passionate about.  And I was so exhausted from work and dealing with my student's messy lives that I rarely let people in to help me or let them into see my mess.  For a while, I lived a very numb life.

In the midst of all this, it was difficult to recognize God in my life.  I felt and sensed that he had abandoned me when I needed him the most.  It was a confusing, dark time, as I wrestled with whether or not I even wanted to believe in God anymore.  I had lost hope in life and in God.  In my spiral downward, I railed at God, and I slowly became bitter.  I was angry.  I pushed people away and hurt them unintentionally.  I was a broken mess, and felt like I was hurting people I came into contact with, no matter what my good intentions were for them.  Satan seized the opportunity to plant seeds of doubt in my mind about my relationship with God and about my faith in Him.  It was alarming at how quickly Satan destroyed my strong faith of many years.  At times, I sinned boldly, almost mockingly, testing God’s grace.  I argued with God, all the while keenly aware of my humanity and arrogance.  I almost turned my back on him, but could not find meaning in life without him.  I couldn't understand why God would allow such deep pain in my life, while still expecting me to trust in him as a good God.

In mid-April the storm finally broke, and I could sense I was coming out of the worst of the painful experiences.  If anything, I found hope in God again, and it was like I had finally been able to take a breath of fresh air after being caught in the undertow for so long.  Being able to breathe after having the crushing weight of this pain and discouragement forcing the life out of me was - and is - a huge relief.  It’s been about a month of healing since that time, and I have again found great comfort in knowing God.  At the women’s retreat, I finally shared a bit of my brokenness with others, and God reminded me of two important truths.  The first was that He is near to the brokenhearted, and I cling to that in my grief, stress or loneliness.  The second was a recognition that God had stripped away all my self-made ways of knowing him, until I was so broken that I could only believe in Him with the simple faith of a child.  I also recently went through a session on healing prayer, and was blessed with the beautiful truth that God sees me, God hears me, God knows me and God understands me.  The truth of these statements was like a healing balm to my soul, and healed away much of the pain I had experienced in the past year.  At the end of the healing prayer, God called me to know him.  I think there is great beauty in this brokenness that produced a simple faith in me.  And the magnitude and wonder of being known by God and seeking to know Him has answered my deepest longing – to be known and understood as me -- the unique, precious and beautiful woman that he created me to be.  The experience of facing pain with God is like a refining fire, producing a finer, more beautiful faith in God and a deeper trust in his true, albeit oxymoronic character.  I hope and pray that I remember these truths from this day forward, trusting in the true God.

Blessings,

Liz