february 1, 2023

Reflection 2023-02-01


I was delighted that David Shirey accepted the invitation to preach last Sunday.  On Sunday, January 22, the people of Coolwater made the difficult decision to list our building and property for sale. When I learned that David was going to be in worship on January 29, I didn’t hesitate to ask him to preach.  Who better to address the congregation of Coolwater after this decision than the founding pastor?  David asked me how he could help Coolwater at this time.  I responded that hearing words of understanding and blessing from him would be immensely comforting to this congregation that both of us as pastors love dearly.


David didn’t just knock this opportunity out of the park.  No, he knocked it to the moon!  His words conveyed compassion, abiding love, wisdom, and grace.  I felt that tension eased and a burden became lighter.  I felt understanding and empathy.  I heard words of gratitude and guidance. 


On Sunday January 22, I had referenced Old Testament stories where the Hebrew people had gathered stones to help people remember their faith, their heritage, and their purpose.  Last Sunday David picked up on the stone theme as he wove words based on the idea in I Peter 2:4-5 that we are living stones.  We are not tied to a building.  Coolwater is made up of people - people who follow Jesus, who serve Jesus, who love Jesus. 


David began by saying that God does not want us to suffer under a crushing debt.  God wants us to be free to be living stones to the best of the abilities we share together.   These were words of comfort and words of grace.  


David also reminded us of the difference between deciding and discerning.  He urged us not to decide our future as a congregation, but to discern.  Discerning involves prayerful and thoughtful listening to what God is saying to us. Discerning means thoughtful and careful listening to each other as we seek to form a collective sense of what God is guiding us to do.  This discerning will be a journey we take together as a congregation. 

Jesus’ life began with a journey to Bethlehem.  Jesus’ ministry took him on a journey all over the Holy Lands.  Jesus’ ministry took him on a journey to Jerusalem we remember during Lent and Holy Week. That final journey led to his death.  But death wasn’t the end.  His death was the beginning of a new journey for those who follow Jesus – a journey from death to life, from despair to hope, from giving up to going forth in mission. That journey is one that Jesus invites you and me to take as living stones, wherever following Jesus leads us.  

Blessings to All!

Rick

january 19, 2023

Reflection 2022-01-18


At home I am working on taking down the Christmas tree down and putting the Christmas decorations away.  I do realize that most people are finished with that task, perhaps even for quite a while now.  So why do I wait so long?


For me, the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas is extremely busy and hectic.  I find that I enjoy the feeling of the peace of Christmas and the hope of Christmas more after Christmas Day than before it.  I like to keep the tree and decorations out so I can enjoy them after the whirlwind pace, busyness, and activities have passed.  I know there are some people who are able to really enjoy those things in the days leading up to Christmas.  I just don’t often happen to be one of them. 


For me the most peaceful times are when I am looking at the tree when all the other lights are off.  Nothing else is on in the dark of the late night or the early morning hours.  No one else is up (not even a mouse!).  These are times to enjoy golden moments of silence and the beauty of gleaming, cheerful colors.  For a few blessed moments all is calm, and all is bright.  


Often those moments also become times of reflection for me.  Those reflection times offer some sense of renewal.  Those times may offer a sense of direction, or insights, or clarity about something I am pondering. Maybe an attitude adjustment on my part about something.  I try to listen for God’s leading or sense where God may be directing me.  I need those moments.  I imagine that you do also.  A time to step back and think something through.  At time to listen to the leading of God in your life.  A time to connect with God and open yourself to Him. 


The Gospels point to the fact that Jesus took time to make sure he was connected with God.  He wandered away to a quiet place.  He separated himself from the busyness going on around him and the demands of life.  He took time to be quiet, reflect and pray.  

When I am finished with those quiet times and reflection times, the difficulties that I face haven’t magically disappeared.  Life has not become less busy or demanding.  However, I often have a clearer idea of what I need to do.  I often feel less stressed.  I may have a better idea of a course of action or the approach I need to take.  I often feel more refreshed and more on course in the living out of my faith in Jesus.   I hope that you also take time to find some quiet moments.   They really can make a difference in your life and how you see and respond to the world around you. 


Blessings!

Pastor Rick

january 4, 2023

 Last Sunday I wore a Christmas tie.  You may not get why it is a Christmas tie with just a quick glance.   It was my Twelve Days of Christmas tie, adorned with pictures of characters.  There are 12 different depictions on the tie, but they aren’t numbered 1-12 to help you get the reference. There are drums, dancing ladies, and leaping men.  The tie also features fowl of several varieties.  The biggest image is at the bottom and looks like a bird in a tree bearing fruit. A lot of people get it at that point.  “Oh, that’s a partridge in a pear tree”

   

On Sunday I mentioned this seasonal song titled “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  This song comes from the tradition of marking the period of time from Christmas Day to Epiphany, which begins on January 6.  In between December 25 and January 6 are the 12 days of the Christmas season.  That was when the early church celebrated Christmas.  Centuries ago people had all kinds of parties, and lots of food, and even giving and exchanging of gifts, but it was during the Christmas season, not during Advent. 

 

During the time before Christmas, the people prepared for the coming of Christ.  It was a time to wait, to anticipate, to hope, for a new light to dawn.  The emphasis wasn’t on decorating, buying presents, and having parties.  You didn’t fight crowds at the malls and get caught in shopping traffic.  Advent was a time of prayer and reflection.  It was time to when you asked yourself some important soul-searching questions.  The purpose was so that when Christmas came, you were really prepared to welcome Christ once more into your heart, and to give thanks to God for that great gift.

 

This because this practice helped earlier Christian people see beyond Christmas Day.  They knew that when the Word became flesh it wasn’t just a one-time event in history.  The wonder of the incarnation is not only that Jesus came into the world and was present to people long ago, but that Jesus continues to be a real presence in our world today.  The angels said to the shepherds and to the world, “A savior has been born to you this day.”  Not just two thousand years ago.  Not just “someday” God will come.  Today – here and now – God offers light in the midst of all our darkness. With the hope of Christ in our lives today and every day, we can look forward to the new year with hope and joy. 

  

Have a great week, I'll see you Sunday!

Pastor Rick

december 21, 2022

During both last Saturday and Sunday evening, Coolwater hosted on our second Drive-thru Live Nativity.   Our event drew a sizeable turnout.  Here are the totals: 61 vehicles, 165 people, and assorted dogs. We also collected many non-perishable food items and $272.00 in donations for Foothills Food Bank.  The evenings were clear and not too cold.  Nevertheless, firepits and a heater were very appreciated by the people portraying the characters.  


This event took a lot of work, beginning with the planning and preparation stages and continuing through the weekend of the Live Nativity.  Sonya Tinault and Iliana Rowhani headed up the event this year.  When our team began planning, we wanted to make the event an even richer experience. We added two scenes this year.  We created “gifts” to give out at each of the six scenes. The gifts were reminders of the significance of the scene. We added panels depicting a town in Biblical times behind the welcome station where vehicles would stop first. 


I have to mention the Tinault family.  Sonya has poured so much into this event the last two years.  Much of this event the last two years is due to her ideas that took amazing shape in the scenes of the Nativity.  Joe and Justin Tinault helped her visions take shape.  Last year Justin Tinault welded the wings of the angel that appeared at the shepherd scene.  Joe and Justin Tinault conducted repairs to the angel this year and constructed the assembly that suspended the angel way up in the air.  Joe and Justin constructed amazing set pieces, worked long hours behind the scenes, labored in set-up and cleanup process, and even played characters in the Nativity.   They also created the letters that spelled out “The Journey” in the front of the church to help advertise the Live Nativity.

Ok, so I have to mention a few other people.  If Sonya was the head designer, then the project manager was Lynn Allen.   She kept the project organized and on track.  Lynn and Chris Allen steadily worked on numerous tasks that needed done along the way.  They set up the equipment that enabled us to broadcast music on an FM channel for the vehicles driving through last weekend.  Mansoor and Iliana Rowhani built and painted the exquisite scene that made Bethlehem appear in the distance.  Karen Blue supported the event from both the office and with her time and effort.  As usual, Dick Huggins engaged in tasks too numerous to mention throughout the entire process.


THANK YOU to all the people who played characters for your time out in the chilly night and your interaction with the people in the vehicles as they passed.  The cast included Natalie Weale, Pam Huggins, Gina Miller, Laura Gates, Millar Gates, Greg Comstock, Wes LaDuke, Joe Tinault, Justin Tinault, Iliana Rowhani, Mansoor Rowhani, Tatiana Rowhani, Corbett LaDuke, Jenn LaDuke, Sydney LaDuke, and Sonya Tinault. THANK YOU to all the people who assembled goodie bags, and helped string lights, and put time into set-up and take down, designed and printed brochures, helped advertise the event, and all the other assorted other tasks that made this a huge success. 


The last scene of the event featured two signs that left people with something to ponder.  The first sign appeared in the shape of a gift box.  It stated that “The Gift of Jesus Has Been Given to You.”  The second sigh appeared as an open box and asked, “How Will You Respond?”  Possible responses such as Love, Faith, Prayer, Joy, Believe, and Serve emerged from the top of the box.  Sonya interacted with the occupants of the vehicles at this last scene as she encouraged them to consider how they would respond to the gift of Jesus. 


We planted some seeds with this event as shared the story of the gift of Christ to the world. This last scene also reminds you and me that each December we have the opportunity to once again ponder that same question ourselves.  How will you respond to the gift of Jesus?


Merry Christmas!

Pastor Rick

december 14, 2022

This weekend Coolwater is holding the Drive-thru Nativity.  This event was quite a success last year.  It is a wonderful way to share the story of the birth of Christ to the surrounding “community.”  The event will be held on Saturday, December 17 and Sunday, December 18. As vehicles pull into our parking lot, we will hand out bags for each person inside. The bags contain a brochure about the Drive-thru Nativity as well as treat items for each person in the vehicle.  


We have advertised the event in a variety of ways including our website, Facebook, a large professionally made signs on our church property, information through the Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce, and a newspaper for our surrounding area. This year there has also been an article about the Drive-thru Nativity in Images magazine.  We also included a request for canned goods to support Foothills Foodbank in our publicity. 


The event last year has made getting ready this year a little easier.  The event in December 2021 gave us experience.  We also have kept some vital materials and set pieces from last year that we didn’t have to create again. 


We are also adding to the event this year.  We wanted to make it an even better experience for people who drive through this weekend.  For instance, there are two more scenes this year, which brings the total number to six in all.  This year a vehicle will receive a “gift” at each scene. Each gift consists of a card with a scripture about the scene and an object attached to it.  The gifts are tangible reminders of the significance of each scene. Here are the scenes and the gifts.  Each vehicle will also receive a tasteful cloth bag for storing the gifts.  Each bag has Coolwater’s name on it as well.


1. The Birth of Jesus Foretold – feather 2. The Journey to Bethlehem – a candle 3. The Angels and the Shepherds – a piece of wool 4. The Wise Men – cards with a gold coin, the scent of frankincense and the scent of myrrh 5. The Nativity – straw wrapped in a piece of burlap 6. What Will Your Response be? – scripture card and question.


Like last year, the efforts of a lot of people have helped us prepare.  The work is not yet over and the event is still to come. The event this weekend will involve a lot of people helping out wherever there is a need.  The Drive-thru Nativity is sharing the story of the birth of our Savior.  It is a story of hope, peace, and joy.  It is the story of the gift of God’s love to the world.  We know how great this story is and what a difference it can make for people.  The wonder is that every time you tell this story, it may touch a life.   And so this time of year we sing, we decorate, we celebrate, and tell the story.


Blessings!

Pastor Rick