CEREAL IS AWESOME

What’s your favorite kind of cereal? I’m gonna cheat and say that I have a tie for the number one spot in my cupboard. First is Cookie Crisp. I know, it’s dessert for breakfast, but it’s so good. Number two is Cracklin Oat Bran. It’s like saw dust pressure-packed into little o’s with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled in. Sounds gross but trust me, it’s fantastic. I’ve always been a huge cereal fan. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and it’s a simple recipe—just add milk. I wrote a paper in college on why cereal is the greatest food ever. And it’s because of this simple fact: I could eat cereal for every meal of every day for a month and never have the same flavor twice…but still be eating cereal.

I wonder if God thinks of us (people) like cereal. I bet He does. We’re all so different, aren’t we? We’re racially different. We’re socio-economically different. We’re culturally different. We are all kinds of different. And yet, we’re all still human. There’s more diversity in humanity than any aisle in your grocery store but we all fall under the same category. But here’s what kicks it up a notch: God made it that way. He’s that creative. He’s that impressive. Which means He loves us way more than we could ever possibly love cereal. And when you factor in that we so often reject Him and His love, it makes it all the more breathtaking. Think about it: if your cereal turned on you and decided it didn’t want to be your cereal anymore…into the garbage disposal it would go, right? But that’s not what God did with us; because He loves us more than we could possibly love cereal.

Instead, he sent his son to save us. That’s love. No matter what flavor we are, He loves us enough to allow His son to be brutally murdered on our behalf. I’ve grown up going to church my entire life and need reminding of this mind-boggling truth regularly. And when the news is full of stories about division and hate, I need reminding all the more. We’re different but the same. We’re diverse but loved by the One who made us that way. I’m trying to become a person that looks at the diversity in humanity like I do my cereal and appreciate it for it’s diversity. Listen, Cheerios are no gourmet meal, but what makes them great is the fact that the next time you have cereal, it might be something different. Cereal is great because it’s so vast in it’s manifestations. Why not appreciate God’s creativity in us with the same bend?

Listen to God’s words through Paul: I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

All people. Everyone. Humanity. If every heartbeat on the planet matters so much to God that He’d go to the great lengths He did to reconcile us to Himself, then they’d better matter to us. So today, let’s be a community of people that lives as citizens of the Kingdom—a wonderfully diverse Kingdom—by loving it for being that way. Let’s be people who bridge the gap when there’s division, just like Jesus bridged the gap between us and God. Let’s be different from the world.


JP

After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.

THE WORSHIP OF MY LIFE

I don’t know how it goes in your life, but in my family’s, plans go awry. 

And they go awry often.

This makes me feel crazy to say the least. 

But with five children, two parents and one dog, it seems inevitable that plans change. Sometimes, they change moment by moment, depending on the need and the circumstances that either slowly bubble up or explode, volcano-style. 

Take last weekend, for example. Our whole family, all seven of us, had intended to spend the weekend at my in-law’s family cottage. 

But because a lot of life happened, and I’ll leave it at that because you know what that means, we ended up splitting up and going separate ways. Our youngest daughter went with my mom and step dad. Our small and medium boys went to the lake as scheduled with their grandparents. My husband and I stayed home with our teenagers. 

My initial reaction to this change of plans was frustration, sadness and longing. I’d really wanted to go to the cabin and enjoy the lake with our family. 

But that’s not what was happening. In that moment I stood at an emotional crossroads. 

The disappointment and frustration were building inside of me and threatening to overcome while at the same time the Holy Spirit was whispering, “Maybe you didn’t see this all coming, but God knew. You can either sink into a pity party or you can respond in worship.”

“Worship?!” I snorted as the inner dialogue continued. The Spirit began then bringing to my mind words that He was inviting us to embrace that weekend. 

Words like rest, beauty, celebration, creation, feasting, connecting, laughing, growing and enjoying flooded my mind.

Worship. 

And so as I began processing those words, I also began praying that God would help us enter into a weekend of worship despite the fizzling of our best laid plans. 

We brainstormed with the teens how we would play out rest, beauty, celebration, creation, feasting, connecting, laughing, growing and enjoying that weekend, and one of the ways we chose to connect, grow and enjoy was through taking turns picking songs that meant something to our hearts while we were driving to destinations through out the weekend. 

As we each picked, listened and appreciated, we grew to know each other on a deeper level and understand each other a little bit better. 

Some songs were of love. 

Some were of loss.

Some songs were heartbreakingly sad. 

Some were of joy and overcoming. 

Some, a mixture of it all. 

And some were just plain hilarious, ones that made us laugh. {You just haven’t lived until you’ve rocked out to What Does the Fox Say? with teenagers!}

Each of them revealed a little bit about the song picker, though, helping us to know more about each other. 

We were all a little surprised when we walked into Immanuel Sunday morning and the message was about worship having spent the weekend intent on living out worship. 

When Josh likened our lives to songs on Sunday, I realized then that each of our lives are essentially a song of expression that tell a great deal about each of us — just like the songs each of us picked during our weekend together were small reflections of each of our own hearts. 

As I pondered living life as a response to God — living a life of worship — I asked myself what I wanted the song of my life to say. 

Do I want to the song of my life to be a reflection of my circumstances?

A reflection of my emotions?

A reflection of my heart?

A reflection of my God?

Yes. 

The answer to all of those is yes. Well actually, the answer is “yes and.”

I want the song of my life to accurately reflect my circumstances, my emotions, my heart, and I want it all to be in response to who God is. 

Yes, some of my circumstances are hard pressing, and God is there and bigger. 

Yes, many of my emotions are big and difficult to navigate, and God is strong enough to walk with me through each one. 

Yes, my heart is equal parts joy and mess, and God can take it all and make something good of it. 

I want my life-song to accurately reflect my life, and I want it to sing a song of the God who came so we could have life and have it to the fullest. 

I want my life to sing that when my plans go awry, it’s ok. Because God is over it and in it and permeating through every space. 

May He remain the chorus of praise in the worship of my life. 


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Hyacynth Worth is beloved to God, wife to John, mom to two boys and two girls and author of Undercover Mother. 

AWE-FTEN

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of being awestruck lately. If I’m being honest, it’s an important part of loving God that I don’t practice enough. And here’s what I mean by awestruck: respect, fear and wonder all wrapped up in a mouth-wide-open-head-scratching stare at God. I don’t think those moments are hard to come by because God is anything short of awe-inspiring; it’s more we’re just too busy to remember that He is indeed just that. And most of us don’t have the resources (time, money, energy) to go on retreats and/or vacations that allow God the space to stir that up in us. So lately I’ve been trying to find ways to stand amazed at God between the proverbial “spiritual highs.” Because I think we should be in awe, awe-ften. See what I did there? So here are 5 places I’ve been in awe of God in the in-between lately:

Sitting in traffic. The most frustrating place on earth is a traffic jam. But look around you. In a two-mile stretch there are roughly 3000 cars. Let’s say half of them carry two people. That means there are about 4500 people within two miles of you on that interstate. That’s 4500 people God created and no two are the same. That’s 4500 people with a number of hairs on their head that God knows precisely. They each have a name and a story that matters to Him. That’s awesome.

Lawn weeds. Think about it, we spray chemicals and pull until our hands hurt and yet they’re back next week, waiting for us even if we’re talking about concrete. We don’t water them or care for them and yet they grow. We’ve actually made our children’s growth spurts sound impressive because they behave like something in the yard. God created a hardy, incredible mechanism when He created weeds. They have no support and still they thrive. That’s awesome.

Humidity. At this time of year where I live in Chicago, it’s hot and humid. And a lot of people would say they don’t mind the heat, it’s the humidity; preferring the “dry heat” of Arizona. But did you know scientists are finding that the flu has a harder time surviving in a humid environment? Haven’t you ever wondered why your mother always says you should run a humidifier when you’re sick? Summer in the Midwest usually lasts a week or so; isn’t it cool that God set it up where our likelihood of being sick for that short timeframe is lessened? That’s awesome.

Election season. I live in a country where I get a vote; where I get to worship my God every weekend without fear for my life. So even though it all feels uncertain, and everyone has a strong opinion, and I don’t know who to believe…there are millions and millions of people all over the planet that would trade places with me. I’m fortunate. I’m blessed. That’s awesome.

Exercise. I’m not a fan. I’ve tried so hard to find joy and pleasure in working out, but I can’t. However, it’s amazing to me—what our bodies can do if we start to move around a little more often. Every November and December I put on a few. That is not awesome, but I can’t get over the contraption God created in my body. It can literally change shape over time. If I run long enough and lift heavy enough, my physique changes. And all I am is bones, muscle fiber, and water; yet it can morph like an Autobot (shoutout to Transformer fans). That’s awesome.

So I’m convinced the key to being in awe more often is not getting away with more regularity— although I think that’s important to do every so often—instead, I think it’s finding the incredible in the mundane. I think it’s finding a big God in the little things; finding the good in the bad. Because God is that…awesome.


JP

After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.

FEELING VS. TRUTH

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel like the daughter of the King, much less that the Holy Spirit lives within me.  I make a ton of mistakes.  I still get angry, frustrated, and depressed at times.  I know no one is perfect.  Even if you have been faithfully walking with Christ for years, I know the truth of humanity is that everyone messes up.  We all struggle with something regardless if you are Christian or not and no one gets it all right all the time (…unless you’re Jesus).  Yet knowing all this, at times I still struggle with feeling like a child of God, feeling the Holy Spirit living within me. Well, thank the Lord that our adoption to sonship, through the Holy Spirit, and our Christian faith is not based on feelings.

It is hard to be a Christian.  People are dying for the faith, facing persecution, and oppression.  While we do not face any of those harsh realities in America, it is nevertheless hard here too.  In the American culture we are taught to be independent, follow your heart, be happy, and do what feels right to you.  It’s literally reinforced everywhere: in schools, music, movies.  We are taught from a very young age that those are the honorary goals to strive for throughout life.  

The problem is that feelings are fleeting and ever changing.  So today I might feel on top of the world, but tomorrow I might suffer from feelings of condemnation because of a mistake.  Whatever the case, the Bible tells us feelings cannot be trusted.  We literally have to unlearn everything we have been taught. Thankfully, we have a God who is never changing and tells us truth through scripture to battle the ever raging war on feelings versus truth.   

“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool…”  -Proverbs 28:26

“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick.” – Jeremiah 17:9

 The human heart, both mine and yours, is deceitful and desperately sick.  But even during the times when you don’t feel like a child of God, or like the Holy Spirit is even there, when you feel condemned because you have made yet another mistake, rest assured that that is not the truth. We have hope. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  In the battle of feeling and truth, truth always wins.  So choose to live, act, and believe based on what the Bible says, not on what your feelings tell you.      

Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.” – 1 John 3:20.


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Katrina McElvain is the daughter of Trisha, and oldest of her siblings, Grace and JP.  She loves spending time with family and friends, watching movies, dancing, and writing. She teaches dance at night and is a teacher’s aide by day. She also loves Immanuel and listening to the sermons every Sunday morning.