F R O M   T H E   B L O G

Recent Posts


“Losing People”

It’s such a paradox. I don’t think there are words to clearly descibe the emotions. It’s that deep bittersweet feeling of losing someone really important in your life, and also rejoicing in their personal victory over death.

Last week, 2 Very Loved People (VLPs) in my life here in Arthur, left this world, to begin anew with God.

Sandy Dolan: an amazing trailblazer of a young woman and a saintly teacher of God’s Word as an older woman. The number of people whose lives she touched and changed seems to be endless. I just happen to come along toward the end of her earthly life, but still I reaped all the blessings of her spirit for God and for children. And we are ALL Sandy’s children. Even now … or maybe even more so now … she continues to bless us all. After all, as Sandy’s children, we now have our own personal Sunday School Angel in heaven. And as hard as the loss of her earthly life is, we now have her spirit for eternity. Let’s apply it wisely.

Lucas Otto: one of the most happy-go-lucky superstars I’ve ever encountered on a ballfield. Lucas had the precious and rare gift of liking everyone on the team. And showing it! Does that sound simple or naïve? It’s neither. It’s difficult and profound. And it’s such a beautiful thing to be around … the way Lucas would joke around and share that great smile (one that I’ll never forget), not just with his friends on the team, but with every player on the team. He united our starters and upperclassmen with our rookies and subs. How? He liked them all … and he loved them all. Lucas was a gifted young man who never put himself above other players. He made friends with all of them. And that’s why so many opposing players and teammates of Lucas – are hurting over this loss. Let’s hold all of them, as we hold Lucas’s family – close to our hearts as we keep lifitng them in prayer.

Funerals are hard for me to attend. My heart breaks to be with so many heartbroken loved ones of the deceased, and the overwhelming expressions of love and gratefulness for one life. Funerals show our true nature – in the end, it’s all about the love, isn’t it? People have many names for funerals these days … for me, it’s more like a love-fest. I just wish we would have more of them for the living, rather than waiting till death comes.

Despite the sadness of losing people in our lives, people that we have risked to love with all we have, there is still, and always, light in the darkness. For everyone. Death is merely a human experience. Earth is the only place that it happens. Sandy and Lucas have left earth, and death, behind. They are free from all that would hold them back from God. And as Jesus told us, there’s a room just for us, too, when we leave death behind. And that day, like these past days, will be full of sadness for those left behind, but then as now, God will bring victory over death, and peace to His people.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

Pastor Bob Silvanik <><                                                                                                                                                                                                    


Read more

God Bless Sandy Dolan

Perhaps you’ve already noticed. Sandy is still with us, and will be till our time comes.  Her spirit is all over our church, in every room, part of every song, within each of our hearts, and watching over us now, so that all our Vine Street kids have their own personal Sunday School Angel in heaven.

 

Here are some thoughts that I shared yesterday at Sandy’s service. 

 

Finding Sandy in the Gospels:

 

  • As the single woman who comes to the altar to present her offering. Of course, she came with children, and she gave all she had. Jesus told his disciples that she gave out of her own poverty. “She put in everything she had,” He said. That’s so Sandy …
  • As the sister of the “rich young man” who came to Jesus to find the key to eternal life. Jesus knew the man’s heart, and told him to sell everything he owned and then give the money to the needy. The man walked away sad, because he owned so much. His sister, however, did as Jesus said and one day inherited eternal life. That’s so Sandy …
  • As the woman at the well, who served Jesus water, and then discovered the meaning of “living water” – the kind He offered. When she drank of that water, she went to her village and saved the whole village. That’s so Sandy …
  • As the woman with the alabaster jar filled with precious oils, who intrudes upon men eating together so that she can anoint her Lord with the oil she has brought. That’s Sandy …
  • As the mother-in-law of Peter, who was ailing with a fever upstairs in her room when Jesus came by. He went up to see her alone; ordered the fever to leave her; and then He lifted her and she began to serve Him. That’s so Sandy.

 

 

As you can see by now, Sandy Dolan shows up all through the New Testament. In fact, I’m willing to go so far as to suggest that when 12-year-old Jesus stayed behind in the Temple to be with the scholars and experts in the law, I’m pretty sure it was Sandy in that Temple teaching the Bible to her young student.

 

Indeed, there is enough Sandy in the New Testament to establish a brand-new gospel …. The “missing fifth gospel has now been discovered – The Gospel of Sandy. It contains the daily situations and encounters Sandy had in our village, and how she and God walked through life serving God and serving people. It’s the Good News of Sandy Dolan!

 

The 5 things I learned from Sandy:

 

  • Putting “Kids First” can NEVER be wrong!
  • Never stop teaching the stories of the Bible.
  • Little things done with great love matter a lot!
  • Nothing compares to spending time together with someone.
  • Only when things are beyond your control should you miss Sunday church.

 

I’m wearing five love bands leftover from VBS this week to remind me of each one of these lessons. If I only make a little progress on 1 or 2 of these, I’ll still be carrying Sandy’s spirit of humility, grace under pressure, peacefulness, meekness and, of course, selflessness. Won’t you join me? I will have a basket of love bands on the front lobby table at church. Pick one up (or five!) for yourself.

                                                                

  Have a blessed week … but treat each day like it’s the only one we have … love recklessly.

Pastor Bob <><         

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                         

 

 

 

 

 


Read more

Learning From a Real Smart Guy

 “The Conversation”

(Author unknown)

 

Professor: You are a Christian, aren’t you, son? Student: Yes, sir.    Professor: So, you believe in GOD? Student: Absolutely, sir.

Professor: Is GOD good? Student: Sure.

Professor: Is GOD all powerful? Student: Yes.

 

Professor: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to GOD to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But GOD didn’t. How is this GOD good then? Hmm?

(Student was silent.)

 

Professor: You can’t answer, can you? Let’s start again, young fella. Is GOD good? Student: Yes.

Professor: Is Satan good? Student: No.

Professor: Where does Satan come from? Student: From … GOD …

 

Professor: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world? Student: Yes.

Professor: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And GOD did make everything. Correct? Student: Yes.

Professor: So, who created evil? (Student did not answer.)

 

Professor: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they? Student: Yes, sir.

Professor: So, who created them? (Student had no answer.)

 

Professor: Science says you have 5 Senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son, have you ever seen GOD? Student: No, sir.

Professor: Tell us if you have ever heard your GOD? Student: No , sir.

 

Professor: Have you ever felt your GOD, tasted your GOD, smelt your GOD? Have you ever had any sensory perception of GOD for that matter? Student: No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.

Professor: Yet you still believe in Him? Student: Yes.

 

Professor: According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says your GOD doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son? Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.

Professor: Yes, faith. And that is the problem Science has.                Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?

Professor: Yes.

Student: And is there such a thing as cold? Professor: Yes.

Student: No, sir. There isn’t. (The lecture theater became very quiet with this turn of events.)

 

Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.

(There was pin-drop silence in the lecture theater.)

 

Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?

Professor: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?

Student: You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light. But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it is, well you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?

 

Professor: So, what is the point you are making, young man?

Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed. Professor: Flawed? Can you explain how?

                                                                                                           

Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good GOD and a bad GOD. You are viewing the concept of GOD as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, Science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing.

Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. Now tell me, Professor, do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?

Professor: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.

 

Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?

(The Professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument was going.)

 

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor. Are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?

(The class was in uproar.)

Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?

(The class broke out into laughter.)

 

Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

(The room was silent. The Professor stared at the student; his face unfathomable.)

 

Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.

Student: That is it sir … Exactly ! The link between man & GOD is FAITH. That is all that keeps things alive and moving.

<>< 

By the way, that student was ALBERT EINSTEIN.

<>< 

I found this “conversation” while restackiing the stacks on my desk. I’m not sure who gave it to me (if it’s YOU, let me know!). Uncle Albert is demonstrating to us how important an open mind is, as well as the self-willingness to stretch your comfort zone and grow some new flowers! That’s what I’m trying to do this summer. Let’s do it together.

 

Oh! By the way. The topic I really wanted to write about was my favorite Einstein quote. This quote had a very large impact on my approach to learning. It was one of the lessons that helped lead me to God. Why? Because it “allowed” me that I could embrace the reality of  the concept of “faith,” and that faith can be more powerful intellectually than knowledge. At least it should be.

 

Here’s my favorite Einstein quote:

 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”   ~ Albert Einstein

 

Let’s do some faith-based brain yoga!

   <>< Pastor Bob


Read more

THREE BICYCLES A Poetic Reflection by Pastor Bob

3 men’s bicycles

standing together

in the front yard

of the duplex on the corner.

 

Not often seen

attracts my attention

and then wondering begins.

 

Why are these 3 bikes here?

Whose are they?

What could they mean?

 

But perhaps better yet

who is it that would ponder

such deeply profound questions?

And I’m so glad I did …

 

… stop to notice

… and wonder

… and be blessed.

These three things could make a life.

 

Each of these bikes … a life

not make believe nor hypothetical

All 3 God’s own

like us

yet not.

 

3 bikes

one for each

who fled from home

seeking refuge

in ours.

 

Separated from their only ones who really matter

in midst of great uncertainty

and death

with fearful hearts.

 

Each bike a life

a hope

for good life

safe secure settled home.

 

Not yet though

adjustment first

this means Arthur

for three men and their bikes.

 

Here is home for now.

Welcome neighbors.

 

Men of empires start wars

flaunt their might

destroy lives.

 

But people of God

respond to wars

rebuild lives

offer God’s peace.

 

 

People of God

in our midst

called to respond

as Jesus taught.

 

3 bicycles

3 men

3 neighbors

3 lives of hope.

 

Love?

Neighbors?

Love

as Yourself.

 

 

 

 

 


Read more

21ST CENTURY GOSPEL STORIES

                           “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”

 

If you could have seen her, you would know right away that life had been a heavy load for Stella. In and out of relationships her whole adult life. Often used, and sometimes abused. She bore the colors and wrinkles of a woman much older than she was.

And it wasn’t just the heaviness of everyday life that weighed on her, but she also suffered from an ailment that brought her great pain and discomfort every month. It seemed that she aged faster than most of her peers, and every month added to her weak and worn body.

Stella had tried to get help for her serious health issues, but after getting the doctor-to-doctor-to-specialist-to-specialist runaround for years, she finally resolved herself to the agony of her monthly cycle.

Not only that, she also had spent almost all of her savings trying to get the help she so desperately wanted. Even though the medical professionals couldn’t come up with an answer to heal her, they still charged her plenty just for the honor of seeing her. Stella was broke, and broken. Darkness had enveloped her days, and fear consumed her nights. She was at the end of her rope.

Then she heard a name that made her feel unlike anything she had ever experienced before. That name was Jesus. Why would just hearing that name bring her hope? What was it about this mysterious wanderer who called himself Jesus that lifted her veil of darkness and stirred her spirit like no other name she had ever heard before?

Jesus.

Jesus.

Could this Jesus be the answer that she had prayed for in her own desperate silence. Some said he was a magician who could walk on water. Others called him the Messiah, and walked with him all over the lands. Magician or Messiah? Well, Stella thought, whether he is one or the other, why not take a chance.

Word had spread throughout her village of Gadara in Capernaum that Jesus would be coming to town soon to teach and preach … and to heal and make whole. Stella had already been swindled by the inhuman and greedy medical system, so her thinking was; Why not? What does she really have to lose? When someone lives in pain and darkness for much of their adult life, they become willing to believe about anything. And if this Jesus wanted to call himself Messiah, what was it her as long as she found relief from her agony.

A few weeks later the day came when Jesus was expected to arrive in town. Stella woke up that day and said a little prayer. She hadn’t prayed in many years, but for some reason she thought, this time God is listening. She left her small shack with hope. She didn’t know why … but she was about to find out.

After walking for 2 or 3 hours, she approached the town and could see the crowds that had formed around the one they call Jesus. It wasn’t just a little crowd that could easily be forged. This crowd was expansive, and firm. Nobody was going anywhere, and no paths to Jesus seemed to exist. Stella thought she had reached the end of the road again.

But as she contemplated returning home and facing the harsh realities of her life, something inside her would not let her turn away. She was fixated on trying to see him. For some reason she thought that might be enough … just to see him. It wasn’t.

She stayed on the fringes of the crowd most of the afternoon, and just as the sun began to fall, she caught a glimpse. Jesus. Seeing the man made her heart leap. She was covered with cold chills, and yet her skin was on fire. She knew at that point, there must be a way to him. And she decided not to return home, but to do all she could with whatever strength she had left in her to reach him.

It was still impossible for her to make headway toward Jesus. But impossible was not going to stop Stella now. She didn’t care if it seemed impossible. Her heart told her it was possible. That reaching Jesus was her destiny. That touching him was her remedy.

So, she began to work her way through the crowd, being led by her simple intuition, and trust. At last, she came close enough that she could reach out and touch the hem of his robe. Instantly, she felt the ailment leave her body. And then Jesus turned around and said, “Who was that that touched my robe?”

The disciples were befuddled with this question. So many people crushing around him, how could anybody tell who touched Jesus in that town that day. It would be impossible, they told Jesus, to discover who had touched him.

Jesus said, “I know someone with faith has touched me, for I felt the healing spirit flow from my body to another’s.” It was then that Stella knew she had nowhere to hide. So, she threw herself down at Jesus’ feet and tried to tell him what the touching of his robe had done to her.

Jesus looked at Stella with great compassion. He said, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole. Now go in peace.”

And she did. And that’s how Stella got her groove back.

 

Lesson: No matter how desperate you may be, or how dark it may seem, there is always a path to Jesus for you. Never stop seeking more Jesus, and you just might get your groove back too!

 

Seeking More Jesus,

Pastor Bob <><


Read more

Another Voice: Spread the Good News!

Everyone agrees that spreading the Good News of Jesus is one of the most important callings for Christians. The “Great Commission” is our Gospel reference point for this. Here are the first words of Jesus to His disciples as He comes to see them after His resurrection.

 

Matthew 28: 16 – 20

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

          Rev. Alex Ruth, a recent addition to our DOC Regional Office, shared some of his thoughts with Pastors this week, and I thought it would be valuable for all of us to hear. Many times, evangelism comes down to an individual act – someone sharing with another. And that’s hard for us to do! And yet … Jesus said …

Take a few minutes to check out this short article, and let it speak to you personally as you discern how best you can respond to Jesus’ Great Commission.  

Peace – Pastor Bob <><

 

“E” is for Evangelism

By Reverend Alex Ruth

I know, for some of us evangelism is almost a dirty word. We may fear knocking on doors, standing on street corners holding up signs, or cornering coworkers around the water cooler with warnings about eternal punishment if they don’t repent and change their ways. I want to take a moment to assure you that it is perfectly OK to feel a good amount of fear about those types of evangelism. You are not alone.

Most people I’ve met shudder (or flee outright) from these more assertive forms of evangelism. And, while those fears are normal and understandable, they have kept many of us from sharing the Good News with others. We might worry that we don’t know the Bible well enough, or that we might not have the “right” words to say, or simply be uncomfortable sharing our personal faith with others. Whatever the reason, our “mainline” denominations have done a pitiful job of evangelism over the past few decades.

There is an outright lack of evangelistic effort in our churches. However, I expect that most of us can point to a time in our lives when God’s presence was almost tangible. Maybe you got through a touchy financial situation without depleting your savings; maybe you experienced a miraculous healing; or maybe you understood in a very personal way that you needed the comfort of Christ walking beside you every step of the way. Whatever your story, whatever makes God real to you, that is a powerful story.

And, that is the basis of evangelism. We are called to share our stories with others. That doesn’t have to mean that we grab the arm of a stranger in the store. Telling our story can start with our friends and our families. Telling our story can start in the safety of church.

I remember several years ago when my grandfather died. As we gathered in the church for his memorial services, my father stood up to speak. I honestly don’t remember any of the words he said that day. But, I do remember understanding for the first time how much my dad loved his father. I understood how much his life had been shaped by this man we both loved. Maybe it was because I was a new father as well, or maybe it was just my time, but I came to see my dad in a different way that day. Our relationship changed, with a few stories about his life.

That’s really all it takes to help someone change their life; few stories, a relationship, openness to sharing part of ourselves with someone else. That is the basis of evangelism. But we can’t stop there. People need a community of faith. And so, we invite people to join us in church, because it is important to us, and something we would like to share. That’s not easy for all of us, it certainly isn’t always easy for me! As a pastor, it can be awkward to invite someone to come and hear you preach, but the community of faith gathered together had been (and I believe will be in many ways) essential to our journey of faith.

 

If we focus on building the relationship, between ourselves and others, and between all of us and God, evangelism won’t be so intimidating. And, as we work together in sharing our stories we’ll find that evangelism isn’t a dirty word after all.

 

Rev. Dr. N. Alexander Ruth

Associate Regional Minister for Transformation

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Illinois and Wisconsin

 

 


Read more