“Consider my servant, Job.”

“Job Rebuked by his Friends”
William Blake

Mary Sievers

Job. The story of a man of great prosperity falling into deep poverty. The story of a father to ten children, for whom he prayed continually – to have them killed by a great windstorm. A man that went from highly respected to widely ridiculed. From the picture of health to a man ridden with the filthiest and most painful diseases of his time. 

On January 1st, I entered into a plan to read the Bible in one year, chronologically, with a group of women. The first half of this month has been spent in the book of Job. When Satan told God that believers reject God if they lost their prosperity, God takes the upright and blameless man, Job, and asks Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” (1:8). Here is what I’m learning from God, through Job’s story: 

  • In grief and suffering, we do not need to doubt God’s goodness (2:10). In fact, we should worship Him (1:20).
  • Ours is not the task of “figuring out” what God is doing with suffering, ours is the truth that God will work all things for His glory. We have no idea what the scene in heaven is, we could never comprehend the glory that God has in store (28:23-24). “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and see everything under the heavens.” (28:23-24)
  • There is wisdom in silence when the people we love experience deep grief and suffering (4:6). Job calls his friends “miserable comforters”. We don’t need to try to explain God’s ways, because they are not our ways and His majesty is unsearchable.
  • Even in our present sufferings, God’s is good and He is great. It may be reasonable for us to complain, but it is not reasonable to question God’s goodness. (5:9-16, ch. 26, ch. 38, etc.)
  • The Old Testament consistently and constantly points us to our deep need for the Savior. “There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me. Then I would speak without fear of him, for I am not so in myself.” (9:33-35) “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one.” (14:4) “If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come.” (14:14)
  • God is wise, He is mighty, and He is sovereign. “He is wise in heart and might in strength – who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?… Who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number.” (9:4, 10)
  • We should remain faithful to God and our salvation, even amidst false accusations (ch: 22). 
  • Even when we don’t feel the presence of God, He is there. We can press in obedience to God’s word (ch: 23).
  • God will humble us in our pride and call us into a time of confession and repentance (ch: 42).

In the past eighteen months, I have many times entered into an attempt to discern what God’s bigger picture is; to find an earthly explanation. Watching my father suffer in his last months of life, grieving the loss of a parent, and then entering into a global pandemic, I’ve mourned experiences I knew to be good, yet no longer available to me. I have at times entered into a temporary posture of hypothesizing: “if this is happening, then God must be doing _______.” I am learning, from my time spent in Job, that it’s not about hypothesizing. It’s not “if this, then this”. It is the gospel truth that God is sovereign and all things work together for His glory and the good of His kingdom, of which we have citizenship through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

I am learning that while our circumstances are ever changing, our sovereign God is unwavering. Though our complaints may be justified, doubting the goodness of God is not. In the short book of Job, we get a close and intimate glimpse of the gospel. We observe that God created Job as a man of great wealth and riches, and then we witness him fall at the hand of God. We watch God sanctify Job through his grief and suffering, and then we see Job’s call to confession and repentance, his redemption and beautiful restoration; “and the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…” (42:12). 

Mary Sievers, and her husband Jon, raise four children on an acreage just west of the Quad Cities. Their four children attend Morning Star Academy. Mary enjoys being outdoors, great coffee, and is a “work from home mom” as a co-owner of a women’s boutique, Caty + Rose Market, in the Village of East Davenport.

Pears, or Asparagus?

John B. Thompson

After much holiday feasting (including pears and asparagus), it’s fun to feast one’s mind on big questions, such as “what is human nature?” Carl R. Trueman, in his recent book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, expands on such questions. Are we creatures of a fallen world, sinful in our being and in need of redemption? Or are we innocents, basically good and only corrupted by societal influences? Contemporary culture, in its multiple forms and forces suggests the latter, but this is not a new idea—this aspect of anti-Christ thinking has been in the works for a few generations of thinkers from the early Enlightenment period to the present.

With that in mind, let me introduce our players for today: 4th century theologian and bishop, St. Augustine, and the 18th century philosopher jean-Jacques Rousseau. Both were thieves in their younger days and both later confessed their wanton behavior and the life-lesson learned in written memoirs. Augustine, in a youthful misadventure with his friends, decided that it would be fun to steal the pears from a neighbor’s tree. They had no intent on eating or sharing them, just the thrill of stealing itself, and no doubt the fun of throwing them around and having a good time at someone else’s expense. And what did Augustine learn from this event? Upon reflection he recognized the corruption in his human nature—in other words, sin. He enjoyed stealing and the rebellious acts of destruction. Augustine’s was a rueful reflection in which he recognized his need for redemption that could only come from Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross.

Rousseau, centuries later, also a produce thief, stole some asparagus at a friend’s behest. But his life lesson was rather different: having rejected Christ, Rousseau determined that he was innocent (for who needs a savior if there is no sin). And with regard to the absconded asparagus, ‘society made him do it.’ Rousseau reasoned that his human nature was pure, and it was only the need for food paired with the influence of friends that led him to steal. More generally, he figured that it is only our need for recognition, competition, and perhaps a dose of resentment for those more fortunate than ourselves, that leads us to such things as throwing pears or stealing asparagus (or what have you). Sin was irrelevant: it is not a corrupt human nature that leads to bad behavior, it is a corrupt human society that leads otherwise innocent individuals to ‘bad’ behavior.

So what am I learning? From the sea of increasingly aggressive secular culture and media that we all swim in (which is also infecting churches these days), I am learning that the idea of sin and the need for a savior is being elided (that is, not just denied, which requires an idea to be presented and negated, but ignored, eliminated, erased…). The intent to dismantle what would become Christianity has a long history dating back to the very beginning (think serpent, sin…), and more recently in the supposedly enlightened thought of folks like Rousseau (and Marx, Nietzche, Freud, etc.). Over the past several decades, numerous anti-Christ philosophies (e.g. postmodernism) were mostly just the abstract play things of academics. But that time has passed and these ideas have gone mainstream, including eliding Christian concepts such as sin.

So what should we do about it? Many things to be sure (Rod Dreher can help with details), but for now I will say that we must be vigilant consumers, whatever the source (TV, film, books, news, social media, etc.). and we must not just be reactive, or negative, about this phenomenon, but instead be positive (not Pollyannaish)—we need to reintroduce and reiterate the  authentic, historic, biblical Christian worldview, whether about sin, salvation, resurrection or otherwise. Above all we should do this with the kindness of Christ, sharing the hope we have in Him in our attitudes and behavior. And of course, we must critically consume media (and the culture in general) with our children, and teach them to recognize the subtle (and not so subtle) ways that secularism seeks to undermine truth, beauty and goodness, and  instead supplant those ideas with faith, hope and love.

John Thompson is a seminary graduate and associate professor in the school of social work at St. Ambrose University. His teaching and research focus on social and economic justice from a biblical Christian perspective. He and his wife Kendra are the parents of two Morning Star Mustangs. Joe who is 6 and Andi, 4. 

His Poverty, Our Riches

Rob Spykstra

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.”

2 Cor. 8:9

On this Christmas Day consider His riches.

He made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth. He does not live in temples made by mortals, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives all mankind life and breath and everything.

Consider His riches. His companionship was and is with the greatest Good. He does all that He pleases. Everyday goes just as He imagined it. He laughs. He is deeply happy.   

On this Christmas Day consider His poverty. 

The King of the universe is conceived in the womb of a young woman into a world where life is cheap. Two years later, a worldly king, grasping the deception of the Magi, did not blink an eye at the slaughter of male infants in the very village He was to be born nine months later. 

Consider His poverty. He was dependent upon the care and protection of a young couple new to this responsibility of parenting. He was born into a home without much means. When he was brought into the temple to be presented to the Lord, his father and mother offered a sacrifice appropriate for the poorest of the poor. 

Consider His poverty. He is questioned by His own family, rejected by His own people. He is betrayed by His own friend. He is mocked, hit and spat upon by those He came to save. 

Consider His poverty. He sets aside His rights as God and takes the form of a servant learning obedience to the Father, dependent through prayer, living the life we ought to live. His trust in the Father leads Him to an obedience to suffer the shame of the cross. 

Consider His poverty. He becomes spiritually bankrupt. The Father rejects Him pouring out His wrath on His Son for sin that is not His; for sin that is ours.

On this Christmas Day consider your riches.

In Christ, You are adopted by a Father who asks you to call Him, “Daddy.” You have a brother. His name is Jesus. You have His Spirit within you for navigation through this world. You have an inheritance that is untouched by this fallen world. You have a hope and a future. 

On this Christmas Day, consider this. He who was rich became poor so that you might be rich.

Rob Spykstra has been part of the classical Christian movement for nearly twenty years, first as a homeschool dad, then as a fundraiser, and now as a headmaster. Rob is married to Tamra. They have four children, all classically trained. He serves as an elder at Sacred City Church. Tamra and Rob enjoy hiking and walking particularly in Rob’s home state of Colorado.

Blessed Anticipation

“For unto you a child is born, unto us a Son is given…”

                                                                                                -Isaiah 9:6a

Reid Walters

Christmas is a season that is steeped in anticipation: the anticipation of seeing loved ones, the anticipation of giving and receiving gifts and, most importantly, the anticipation of celebrating the birth of the Messiah. However, the anticipation of a coming savior is one that has long preceded the season of Advent as we know it. The tribe of Judah, who Isaiah was addressing in chapter nine, were also anticipating the coming of the Messiah but in a way we can scarcely understand. Judah at the time was torn between warring nations, Israel and Syria to the immediate North and the reigning Assyrian empire which encompassed all three nations. The king of Judah, Ahaz, was afraid to challenge the mighty Assyrian empire and so he sent word to the king of Assyria, warning him of the coming uprising in hopes of receiving protection from the retribution of Israel and Syria. This was a bleak time for Judah, whose dread was only compounded by the repeated prophesies given by Isaiah foretelling the coming destruction and suffering of God’s people. However, amongst all the turmoil, Isaiah offers the prophecy we see in chapter nine verse six: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” These words filled the people of Judah with hope and anticipation. They now know that despite their present suffering God will be sending a blessed child, who will redeem His people and deliver them from suffering and exile.

While the Jews of ancient Judah were expecting a mighty warrior and commanding ruler to come as their Messiah, certainly not a helpless child, there remains much we can glean from their anticipation of His coming. The people of Judah felt lost and abandoned in their present circumstances. They were afraid of what the future would hold for them and whether God would ultimately redeem and restore them as He promised He would. Correspondingly, the time in which we currently live is uncertain and adverse to say the least. However, in uncertain times anticipation can play a powerful role in our lives, just as it did in the lives of the Judeans. Anticipation calls us forward, to things yet unseen. It calls us to depart, even if it be momentarily, from our present circumstances and live in a way that is characterized by a blissful expectation of what is to come. This is one of the most remarkable beauties of the Advent season: taking the standing opportunity to pause and look upon Jesus with anticipation, excitement, and joy. While we may not know precisely what the future holds, we can, as the people of Judah once did, turn to the words of Isaiah and be filled with blessed anticipation for the coming of our savior in this season of Advent.  

Reid Walters graduated from Morning Star Academy in 2017 and now is a senior at Olivet Nazarene University. Reid majors in philosophy with minors in biology and chemistry with the hope of going to medical school after graduation. Outside of school Reid is an avid reader, rock climber, and photographer.

“On Faith”

David McIntosh

“Mary, have you even started to think about what you need to take?” Joseph might have asked, hesitantly. If the Christmas account were taking place in real time in our western culture, now would be the time to be asking these types of questions. Consider and imagine how a woman who is in the last days of full term pregnancy might respond – not forgetting she’s facing a journey of over 80 miles without reclining seats and air conditioning. Anyone glad that the angel didn’t visit your house with the same proclamation given to the Virgin?

Tradition and history tell us that Mary was a moral young woman when the unexpected visitor to her house brought the unbelievable and miraculous news that Mary was with Child (Luke 1:26-38). After the expected question of “How…” (v. 34) the attention turns toward her announcement to her Aunt Elizabeth, who was also expecting a baby known as John the Baptist. There’s much joy and celebration shared between these two expectant mothers as they journey through pregnancy together.

Have you ever stopped to ponder what Mary did during the hard days? A young unmarried woman in the family way wasn’t condoned or celebrated. Her soon-to-be husband contemplated divorcing her (Matthew 1:19) to protect his good name. It wasn’t Mary’s words of pleading that changed his mind (Matthew 1:20). And imagine the laughs and chuckles when she insisted an angel had appeared and told her this was all designed by God to bring Hope to the world. Mary’s pregnancy wasn’t filled with baby showers and shopping for nursery decor. It seems there were times when Mary had to keep faith in what she knew.

There are a lot of moving parts in the first twenty verses of Luke 2. A verse that has caused me some wonder and meditation is verse nineteen. What was Mary keeping and pondering? “All these things” (Luke 1:19). Is it a stretch to agree that Mary would’ve been replaying all that God had done in the last ten months and now it has come to pass? Mary keeps her faith by reminding herself of God’s promises and provision.

But what about us? We’re receiving an invitation, too. We can use this Advent to help bolster and increase our faith. To say that 2020 wasn’t the year we hoped for is a colossal understatement. But we can’t let the uncomfortable nature of the times change how we view God. We’d do well to remind ourselves of God’s Power and Sovereignty. “Did it ever occur to you that nothing ever occurs to God?” asked the old southern preacher A. Rogers. When life gets extremely complicated, we can take time to ponder what God has done and accomplished. Gather family around the tree this year and reminisce. Tough times can be fertile soil for a growing faith if we remain focused on what God has done on our behalf.

David McIntosh met his college sweetheart during their freshman year and after graduation, Dave and Susie married and began working in the wholesale supply industry. They also welcomed Will and Lauren into their family. During 2004, God called Dave and his family to the ministry. Pastor Dave and family moved to Muscatine in February 2012 to serve at Hillcrest.He comes to Muscatine via a great church in rural Jones County Iowa. Dave is a board member at Morning Star Academy.

Arriving at Our Origins

Joanie Mercy

Etymology, or “the origin of words” is a natural study for a student of ancient languages.  Latin is especially fitting to study since it is a root language of our modern English.  Many words we use every day are actually Latin words.  Many more are derived from Latin ones.  Looking at the origin of words is not only interesting, but uncovers layers of meaning and builds connections between us and our own origins.

The season of Advent has its own ancient past, not just in ceremony but in the word itself.  Observance of Advent in the Church started in France in the 5th century.   However, the term “advent” came into popular use in Germany in the early 1800’s.  Advent calendars were printed to aid in the count down to Christmas. 

The word “advent” comes from a Latin root word that was used long before the birth of Christ.  “Advent” as a noun comes from the Latin “adventus” meaning “arrival.”  As a verb, it is derived from “advenio” meaning “come to.”  “Advenio,” in fact, is two Latin words in one.  “Ad” is the preposition “to” and “venio” is simply “come.”  Another root of the same word can be found in the Latin Christmas carol “Veni, veni, Emmanuel” (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel). 

Other English words that come from the advent word family can help give richer meaning to this season.   How do these words and their definitions enhance the meaning of Advent and the Christmas season for you?

Advance –       v. to move forward in a purposeful way

                        n. a development or improvement

                        adj.  done, sent or supplied beforehand

Adventure –    n. an unusual and exciting experience or activity

Advantage –    n.  the opportunity to gain something

When I sat in deep thought over these words, the aptness of the word “advent” for this time in the Christian church calendar rang true.  The birth of Christ was no coincidence, but a purposeful gift to the world, a Redeemer, a Savior, that was planned “beforehand” for our salvation.  And, what more unusual (I would actually say “unique”) and exciting event than that of his coming?

Synonyms for “advent” are equally revealing. 

Approach –      v. coming nearer from a distance 

Emergence –   n. coming into view after being revealed (Christ’s coming had been revealed in the Old Testament through God’s word and prophecies.)

Also, I found this synonym surprising, and probably the most edifying of all:

 Origin –           n.  a beginning

Since Jesus Christ is the Son of God, He being our origin is not surprising, but the idea that His arrival is one and the same with our origins set me deeper into reflective thought.  But, back to the etymology, the “origin” of the word, “Advent.”

Merriam-Webster gives one more definition for “advent.”

Advent –          n.  a coming into being or use (in other words, an origin)

Imagine that.

Joanie Mercy and her husband, Frank Drew, are both musicians. Their daughter Angelique is in 7th grade at Morning Star Academy. Mrs. Mercy graduated form Augustana College, attended University of Iowa College of Music, and formerly performed in regional orchestras including the Quad-City Symphony, Knox-Galesburg Symphony, Muscatine Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra. Mrs. Mercy teaches K-6 Latin and K-8 Music at Morning Star Academy and also conducts the MSA String Ensemble. She currently has 15 private students.

Pausing for Poetry in Luke’s Gospel

Rembrandt “Simeon’s Song of Praise”

Anna Carrington

One of my favorite distance learning opportunities in 2020 is a disruptive practice I call “pause for poetry.” My sons really enjoy this seemingly random occurrence; it means a break from worksheets, and the alliterative repetition of “p” makes it fun to announce.

“Pause for poetry” is simple: we just take a few minutes to read a poem. Both of my sons tend to be analytical and linear, and poetry doesn’t follow patterns they would expect or choose. But they have solid reference points: participating in liturgy at church and reciting poetry at Morning Star have both helped them experience poetry in community.

As we step into the light of Advent, I wonder how we might “pause for poetry” as we encounter the story of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Luke. When telling the story to children, we often skim along familiar plot points like the terrified shepherds and the smelly stable. The people in the story matter of course—but so do the things they proclaim. The praise of Mary, the prophecy of Zechariah, and the prayer of Simeon all reflect God’s promises to his people.

With John the Baptist’s arrival, God ends 400 years of silence (a pause!) to fulfill the words of Malachi: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon all recognize God’s faithfulness, and they respond in faith, recalling the Old Testament poetry in which they were steeped. This included the Psalms, the Song of Moses (Exodus 15), and the words of Isaiah.

Take Zechariah’s prophecy: Filled with the Holy Spirit after months of being mute, Zechariah proclaims a rich tapestry of Old Testament promises—and how Jesus fulfills them. His words link us to God’s Big Story and to the generations that came before. Suddenly we see why the manger is the moment, the cross the hinge, the resurrection the beginning.

How can we consider—and cling to—these weighty words in Luke 1 and 2? Here are a few ideas: Pick one of these three poem-prayers to read aloud each week leading up to Christmas. Reflect on it with your family, and dig deeper into the Old Testament verses it references. Stage your own Christmas pageant in the den, with your older children reading the longer verses. Listen to one of the innumerable settings of Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat. Pray Simeon’s prayer with your younger ones as you turn on nightlights. Pray that Emmanuel, God with us, will come light our hearts.

Anna Carrington is a graduate of Wheaton College (IL), a freelance editor, and an avid reader. She teaches children’s Sunday School and Bible studies for women who speak English as a second (or third) language at Christ Church in Moline. Anna and her husband Wes have two sons at Morning Star.

I Hit a Wall

Kendra Thompson

We’ve found ourselves still living in the midst of a global pandemic. Death tolls rise and restrictions remain. And yet, God, too, is steadfast. What is God revealing to you so you know He is Trustworthy, Beautiful, and Good?

Yesterday, to use a phrase I’ve been hearing more and more lately, I hit a wall. I was clearing plates from the table not long after dinner and I just had to stop. I had to sit down, then lie down. I had to desist from all activity for a few minutes – and then for a few minutes more. Looming, though not heavily, was the prompt for this blog theme. At first, I saw these two things in contrast. But now I see that my predicament yesterday was an answer to the question. How do I know God is trustworthy, beautiful, and good? Because yesterday, I hit a wall.

Yesterday, I hit a wall and I just had to rest a minute. I couldn’t tick one more thing off my to do list I couldn’t fold one more pair of socks, nor could I bag up one more pile of fallen pine needles. I hit a wall and I needed to sit down.

In many ways, my reflection is just an echo of what the other bloggers have said. There is so much that is outside of our control and in those moments when we smack squarely into our lack (like a wall) we are reminded of the 2nd Corinthians passage about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” In chapter 12, Paul writes,

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

How do I know that God is good? Because through moments of limitation and restriction, I am reminded that I’m not in charge of the universe, I’m not in control. Universe set aside, I can’t even control – or schedule – my next fit of exhaustion! But rest comes, grace comes, and God reigns. It doesn’t mean I’m always so quick to grasp this, but God’s mercy comes into focus more clearly when I face my own powerlessness and fatigue.

This is where the Christian life contrasts with the way of the world. There are millions of products and just as many “life hacks” to convince us we need not skip a beat; we can be healthy, organized, centered and successful at all times. These products and promises, though seemingly benign, stand in contrast with the truth of the gospel. And what is that? That we’re not fine, we don’t “got this,” and it might be time to sit out a round. And sometimes (like me, yesterday) we don’t acknowledge this truth, though we know it deep down in our heart, until we hit a wall.

So today, after a good night’s rest, and a dose of humility, I thank God for the wall. And perhaps even more, I thank Him for his sufficiency and grace.

Kendra Thompson is a children’s minister, a writer, a Morning Star parent and part-time director of communications for the school. She and her husband, John, love that their kids’ faith is incorporated into their learning at Morning Star Academy.

Shadows and Light

We’ve found ourselves still living in the midst of a global pandemic. Death tolls rise and restrictions remain. And yet, God, too, is steadfast. What is God revealing to you so you know he is Trustworthy, Beautiful, and Good? 

Joel Rohde

Almost two years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, my grandfather was put into a care facility.  Some call the disease “The Long Goodbye” and anyone who has lived with someone who suffers from it knows the brutality that accompanies the sickness.  Not only does Alzheimer’s wreak havoc on the brain, but it causes daily heartbreak to those around the patient.  Though you understand that the person you love has a disease there is little that can soften the blow of a loved one suddenly not able to recognize who you are.

Placing my grandpa in a care facility was a painful decision for my grandmother.  She had taken care of grandpa for as long as she had known him.  They had come through wars together.  They had faced trials of all kinds together.  Now she was being forced to admit that she had met her match in Alzheimer’s.  She had fought long and hard but there was nothing more that could be done.  He needed care she couldn’t give him so there he sat on the other side of a window.  Due to COVID-19 she wasn’t even allowed to be with him.

His health rapidly declined.  He didn’t understand why he had been separated from the only person he still recognized.  Grandma could only watch through a pane of glass as he retreated deeper into his disease.

Shortly after taking up his new residence I found myself sitting in my grandparents’ living-room across from grandma.  She would talk in waves.  One moment she would be recalling memories of our different family gatherings.  The next we’d be sitting together silently.  In one of these beats of rest, as I listened to the clock steadily remind us of what we were up against, I realized that I probably have never sat alone with my grandma before.  I come from a huge family and there was always a brother accompanying me.  At the very least, grandpa would be around.  Now it was just the two of us.

Then my grandma said, “You know, the Bible says that you should rejoice always and be thankful in all circumstances but I’ve never really understood that until now.”

This wasn’t where I expected the conversation to go.  My grandma had just let it slip that she had cried more in the last week than maybe the whole rest of her life combined and now she was talking about being thankful.  Things were pretty dark in her world and she went to thankfulness in all circumstances.

As I drove home I was forced to re-evaluate my own attitude.  If my grandma could find reason to be thankful then why do I spend so much time inwardly complaining?  Right now we find ourselves standing in two very ominous shadows.  COVID-19 is looming and so is an election.  Both of those shadow-casting circumstances are surrounded with misinformation, campaigns, conspiracy theories, and noise; lots and lots of noise.

What an opportunity to live as a people who are brimming with thankfulness.  After all, we are living in the light of a love that casts out shadows.  We are not surprised by these circumstances but instead find that our only comfort in life and in death is that we belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ who has fully paid for all of our sins with his precious blood.  All truth, all goodness, and all beauty flows out of the cross and the empty tomb and therefore so does a legacy of thankfulness and hope.

Joel Rohde served as pastor of worship and youth at North Ridge Community Church in Eldridge for 14 years before transitioning to his current role as pastor of worship and discipleship.  Joel has a deep love for the church and Classical Christian Education. He coaches fifth and sixth grade students at Morning Star Academy and is committed to using the sport as a tool to guide students toward a life of discipleship and service in God’s Kingdom.

Holding It Lightly

Mary Sievers

We’ve found ourselves still living in the midst of a global pandemic. Death tolls rise and restrictions remain. And yet, God, too, is steadfast. What is God revealing to you so you know he is Trustworthy, Beautiful, and Good? 

The past six months have been a time that the Lord has used to reveal idols, and do the work of “chipping away” at them. When we are stripped of our comforts and our control, idols become evident quickly. I thrive on routine and a schedule. With a personality that strongly resembles the “Enneagram 3 – Achiever” profile, I prefer to have all of the details, desire that situations occur in reality the same way they do in my mind, and shy away from spontaneous plans. When I slip into worshipping this idol of control, my heart grows rapidly weary.

Seemingly overnight in March, the majority of our plans were put on indefinite hold. I stopped crossing things off of our calendar and quit looking at one all together (I’m pretty sure March had 72 days this year). I felt discouraged as benchmark dates passed and uncertainty loomed large. But God, in the midst of what often felt like a thick cloud of disappointment, gave my soul relief from a schedule that had been far too busy, one that did not allow for true soul rest.

Since that time, God revealed His goodness and His majesty, over and over again: remote work schedules and cancelled sports commitments gave us the gift of time. Time to take family walks on our property, to sit around a campfire and debate the qualities of a perfectly roasted marshmallow (slow roasted, golden brown, gooey on the inside, for some – charred on the outside and barely warm on the inside, for others), creek walking, and discovering rhythms of stillness and rest.

As the community around us continues to “re-open”, I am able to hold loosely to our schedule, knowing that tomorrow could look completely different than our penciled-in plans (if it does, maybe it will hold more time for cozy blankets and hot coffee). Cancelled ball games create time to cook a healthy meal at home, and time to gather people around our table.

In the moments that I forget to trust in God’s goodness and recognize that my heart is weary, I am reminded of James 4:13-15,

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 

Whatever tomorrow may hold, God’s plans are greater than our own; unwavering, and certain. He is steadfast. Whatever our desires for tomorrow, God’s plans are greater – for His glory and our good.

Mary Sievers, and her husband Jon, raise four children on an acreage just west of the Quad Cities. Their four children attend Morning Star Academy. Mary enjoys being outdoors, great coffee, and is a “work from home mom” as a co-owner of a women’s boutique, Caty + Rose Market, in the Village of East Davenport.