Month: November 2020

Thanksgiving at Living Word

Yesterday, a crew of volunteers from Living Word served 215 Thanksgiving dinners. Volunteers, led by Living Word attendee Jay Englar, have been serving Thanksgiving dinners for those who need a place to eat for the past 11 years. On Thanksgiving Day in 2009, Jay was convicted to help people who had nowhere to go on the holiday. The next year, in 2010, the first Thanksgiving meal at LWCC was served. That first year, only 37 people attended.

Sadly, due to COVID-19, this year’s meal was served drive through style at our main entrance. Normally, Thanksgiving at LWCC is an opportunity for those without a place to go to gather, eat, and have community with others. That time together is more important than the food to many who attend.

On Tuesday Jay Englar, preparing to lead the meal for his eleventh year said, “I’m praying that the Lord can supply enough food for everyone that shows up.” Yesterday, he did.

We are so thankful for the Living Word volunteers who make this meal possible each year.

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What’s Your Story?

This past week, we had a special service at Living Word: our annual Cardboard Testimonies service. This service is always a really special time of sharing how God has worked in the people of Living Word in the past year. As we all know, 2020 has been a difficult year, but this service was a special reminder that God is still working in our lives. 

In his introduction to the book of Exodus in The Message, Eugene Peterson writes, “It is significant that God does not present us with salvation in the form of an abstract truth, or a precise definition or a catchy slogan, but as story. . . Story is an invitation to participate, first through our imagination and then, if we will, by faith, with our total lives in response to God.” God gives each of us a story. And our stories are important. They matter.  

What’s your story? What has God done in your life in 2020? Take some time this week to think through the questions below. You can write down your responses, or talk them over with a friend.  

Rewind to January 2020. What is one piece of advice (or warning!)

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Our 2020 Christmas Devotional (Pick One Up Sunday, November 29th)

Many years ago in 2003, when Becky and I returned to Living Word and our relationships with dear friends picked back up, one of those friendships was with Gordon Carpenter. Gordon had always been interested in spirituality and spiritual formation. He had a long history of journaling and using devotional guides as a supplement for his Bible reflection.

Gordon turned me on to using Advent devotionals – that is, a resource designed for Christmas. Over the years I have used many of them and found them so useful for getting into the Christmas narrative.

Many years ago we began to write devotional guides at Living Word, to go along with the sermon series. We have heard over and over how much people appreciate these devotionals.

From time to time, we create a more substantial devotional resource. We decided to do that this year for Christmas 2020.

We have a 25-day devotional experience for you in an attractive format. These daily reflections will help you build a good spiritual rhythm for this Christmas season when so much seems so disrupted.

COVID-19 disrupted our routines. We want to help you build some new ones, and our Christmas devotional will help you do …

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Those Who Make a Difference

Here is a little story that came my way recently. It was in a newsletter by Dr. Mardy Grothe.

On November 22, 2001, Mary Kay Ash died at age 83 in Dallas, Texas. The creator of one of the world’s most famous brands, she once said that her management principles were based mainly on “The Golden Rule.”

Fittingly, at her death, many recalled words she had offered years earlier: “My goal is to live my life in such a way that when I die, someone can say, she cared.”

In 1963, at age 45, and after working as a salesperson for more than 25 years, she quit her job in frustration after a man she had trained was hired as her supervisor at twice her salary. Disillusioned, she originally planned to write a book for women in business, but instead founded her company in a Dallas storefront.

In equal parts a shrewd businesswoman, servant leader, motivational speaker, and life coach, she was fond of telling employees (she preferred the terms “associates” or “consultants”) that they could achieve all their dreams if they only helped customers achieve theirs. When she died—38 years after founding her firm–she was a legendary entrepreneur with …

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Creating a Culture of Gratitude in Your Family

Next week we will celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to being thankful and expressing gratitude for what we have been given.

Scientists have actually found that gratitude improves physical health. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

Scripture repeatedly reminds us to be thankful to God, like this simple verse from Colossians 4:2: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

At your Thanksgiving meal, you might dedicate time to expressing thanks to God, but that attitude can be kept up all year long. If you would like to cultivate a culture of gratitude in your family, here are some tips:

Play “highs and lows” at dinner

Encourage your family to share their daily “highs and lows” each evening at dinner. This simple activity will help kids to keep their bad times in perspective, and express gratitude for the “highs” of each day. (This is a simplified version of the spiritual discipline of the daily examen, a great practice for the adults in your family to do.)…

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Real Family Sacrifice and Submission (Guest Post by Pastor Aaron Kunce)

In Ephesians 5, Paul calls us to submit to one another as Christ submitted to the cross. As we submit to Jesus and one anotherand model this in our familieswe begin to get a sense of God’s kingdom coming in our lives. Our lives aren’t about power plays and levels of authority, we are called to share, support, encourage, and love sacrificially. 

We could learn a lot from the rule of Saint Benedict. For the monk, life is all about collaboration and mutual submission. The rule says: “Monks no longer live by their own judgment, giving in to whims and appetites, rather they walk according to another’s decisions and directions.” Love, without obedience to limits and rules of conduct, is shallow love. It’s thin love. It’s not thick enough for these important relationships. Love without some wise limits and rules of conduct is unable to really give (except when it meets my needs or makes me feel good). 

The rest of this post might read as a film review because I want to use an excellent film to illustrate my point. A couple of years ago, my wife and I went to

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Creating a Positive Home Environment for Your Teen (Guest Post by Ryan McCleary)

Ryan McCleary, a counselor from The Counseling Center at Living Word, specializes in working with teens. Today he shares tips for creating a positive home environment for your teen.

Parenting presents great challenges—especially with a teenager! As parents, our experiences, attitudes, and judgments are completely different from those of our teenagers. If you have been struggling with trying to improve the relationship and/or communication with your teenager, there is much hope in your plans to build and foster a positive home environment. Proverbs 14:26 states, “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.” Why would a “secure fortress” be important? Why do teens need a refuge? A home environment that is secure and serves as a refuge provides your teen the space, stability, and security to make mistakes and experience growth and transformation. Here are three simple aspects to assist in creating a positive home environment for your teen.

One of the key steps to building and fostering a positive home environment (secure fortress) for your teen is listening. One of the biggest mistakes we often make as parents is being quicker to react, judge, and fix than we …

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Back to the Land of the Living and a Few Updates on What God is Doing at Living Word

Hi everyone,

I wanted to give you an update on how I am doing and what Living Word is doing about COVID-19 spreading in our community. I also want to give a preview of Cardboard Testimony Sunday, a “Yay, God!” shoutout, a Thanksgiving meal update, and a word from God to help us in the days ahead.

Making My Way Back to the Land of the Living

It was a wild and crazy 2 weeks of COVID-19. Actually, it was a deathly boring, monotonous, lethargic, listless, “where did the last 2 weeks go?” kind of time. I’ve had pneumonia, the flu, and bronchitis. I have had horrible “bugs” in overseas travel when I thought I was going to die. But the last 2 weeks were right up there for as miserable as anything I’ve had. And as difficult as it was, my breathing remained sufficiently strong that I never had to go for more intense treatment. I don’t have my strength or stamina back yet. I had such severe coughing for a number of days that my throat is still sore and my voice is raspy. Talking is still a chore, but I am certainly in recovery and I am …

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Cultivating Healthy Work-Life Balance (Pastor John Hilliard)

I’m dating myself, but in the early years of television entertainment, variety shows would have performers who would balance spinning plates on vertical sticks.  The challenge was to see how many plates you could keep in the air before they started to fall.  As they began to slow down and start to wobble, the performer would have to run from one to the other to get them spinning again.  So often life feels like that, but instead of plates we have responsibilities that require attention: the kids, work, spouse, church, friends, family and a host of others.   There are always more things to do than we have time for, so how do we balance all these responsibilities? 

Here are four ideas for keeping life balanced: 

1) Keep the main thing the main thing: It’s good to take a step back occasionally and see if you are focusing on the most important things in life.  There is a phrase the tyranny of the urgent’ where the urgent takes over and we neglect the things that are more important, significant, and healthy for us and those around us. 

2) Don’t keep adding to

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Not The Brady Bunch (Guest Post by Lisa Long)

When my husband and I got married, we each had a 10-year-old and a 13-year old. We were a regular “Brady Bunch”—only not so much. Real life is never like a sappy TV series.  

We knew that raising four children under the same roof was going to be quite an undertaking, so we read everything we could get our hands on regarding stepfamilies. (We highly recommend The Smart Stepfamily by Ron Deal.)  

Even though we established our new family with our eyes wide open, there were days (weeks, months) when it was a struggle. Here are some of the basic principles that helped us keep it together. 

First and foremost, my husband and I were united front. We could not allow our kids to divide and conquer, so we talked daily about any family issues or concerns. Then, if one of the kids needed to be spoken to, the biological parent did the talking. We came up with a decision together, but the child’s parent, not stepparent, delivered the news.  

We prayed with and for our family regularly. Sometimes all we could do is encourage each other and say, “With God’s

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