Posts by Communications

Holiness in our Midst: Session 72

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LXXII: ON WHY WE ARE BORN

Why are we born? Why has God put us here?

In a classic episode of the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” daughter Ally, age 8, asks these questions. Her mother Debra had just assigned her father Raymond to give Ally the “facts of life” talk. Ally wasn’t interested in the “birds and bees” details, which he had prepared extensively to give her. Instead, she wanted answers to these deeper questions of life (which baffled Raymond and the whole Barone family, who deferred them, in an emergency call, to the family priest).

What is your answer to these questions? As we listen to each other’s answers, we gain insights into what motivates and shapes the perspectives of those with whom we agree and differ. My answer comes from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which I had to study to join Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Des Moines, IA at age 11. The first question was: What is the chief end of man? The answer: Man’s Chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Having put aside the masculine language, I still retain the belief that I exist to glorify the Creator, but my primary goal has always been to enjoy the Creator. This carries with it the capacity for relationship. That means that the Holy One can enjoy me back! I also believe we are here to make our little corner of Earth more like Heaven, and, using our highest gifts, work toward the common good. How do you view Life’s purpose?

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: Why are we here?

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Reflect in your journal on the ultimate meaning of life.

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LXXII.
  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

District News & Announcements – August 2018

 

District News & Announcements

August 2018

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by August 25th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

In this issue

  1. Message from the Moderator
  2. District Conference Announcements: August 3-5
  3. District Conference Worship on Facebook Live
  4. Annual Conference DVDs for Borrowing
  5. Songs of the Pines: Sept. 1st
  6. Closing Service for Beaver Church of the Brethren: Sept. 8th
  7. Continuing Education Courses for the Fall
  8. District Educational Event: Sept. 16-18
  9. Southeast Iowa Circuit Ride: Oct. 6-9
  10. In Our Prayers
  11. Holiness in our Midst
  12. Leadership Development Musings
  13. Pastoral Transitions
  14. Principe De Paz: A Journey of Grace – By Jess Hoffert
  15. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Northern Plains youth and advisers pose in front of their bus on the way to National Youth Conference.  Photo by Barbara Wise Lewczak. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 71

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LXXI: ON INFLUENTIAL TEACHERS

Share how a teacher influenced your life.

I was only in the company of the teacher who most influenced my life for 15 minutes. Her name was Mrs. Talbot, and she taught in the combined third and fourth grade classroom at the K-12 Fernald (IA) Consolidated School in the mid-Fifties. I was a second grader, being escorted to her classroom to determine if I read well enough to advance a grade. I whizzed through the pages in an advanced reader. After all, I had read 80 books in a reading contest (and won!) in the first part of my school year. Mrs. Talbot suddenly asked me to stop reading, closed the book, and said these life-altering words: “Young Lady, don’t you ever, ever read ahead!” “Okay,” I said. The following month, I moved away, so I never learned her verdict on skipping a grade. Nor did I ever understand the reason for the words. I only knew that they were said with a frowny face and enough gravity and force that they stuck with me. To this day, I don’t read tomorrow’s daily devotionals today.

In retrospect, this teacher’s influence proved to be both detrimental and helpful. On the negative side, I never worked on or anticipated future assignments throughout my schooling, I was a good but not outstanding student. After college, I didn’t spend enough time looking out for my personal future.

On the positive side, as a writer type, I owe Mrs. Talbot a debt of gratitude. In following her warning, I have stayed rooted to the day at hand, immersing myself in the lives of people along my path, in rural Iowa or far-away mission sites, and recording their everyday stories in magazines and newspapers. My religion involves seeing God in the ordinary and encouraging others to do the same. My writings are a record of the sweet, quirky meandering journey, even as I continue to spend more time looking around at today’s scenery than mapping the road ahead.

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: How was your life changed by a teacher?

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Remember on paper an influential teacher and his/her life lessons.

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LXXI.
  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

District News & Announcements – July 2018

District News & Announcements

July 2018

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by July 25th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 70

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LXX: ON VISIONS FOR THE CHURCH

What is your vision for the church? It’s a question that denominations, congregations, and individuals are wrestling with in this Age of Incivility.

The question was inspired by a wall hanging in the office of my optometrist, Dr. Kristian Dugger, on Main Street in Nevada, IA. The framed sign reads: VISION: The art of seeing what is invisible to the eye. My answer, addressing a vision for my local congregation, is informed by my current read, A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community by John Pavlovitz.

The author’s suburban upbringing had not prepared him for the cultural diversity that he would find in the city. He writes: “Philadelphia provided a free master class in beautiful, messy diversity…I found myself to be a new, tiny, irregular piece shoved awkwardly in a massive mosaic of need and affluence, of diverse dialects and unfamiliar spices, of street vendors and corner prostitutes, of young families and elderly beggars—and I found every second of it thrilling, if not regularly terrifying.” He wrote that it laid “the foundation for the kind of pastor I would one day become, an all-people pastor.”

Building on Pavlovitz’s awakenings, I vision for my church to construct a bigger table, based on his four “legs,”: radical hospitality, total authenticity, true diversity, and agenda-free community. I picture my church, First Christian Church in Ames, IA, hosting frequent interfaith services; developing ongoing small groups with persons of differing races, faith traditions, and sexual orientations; putting on dinners hosted by persons from other cultures; and delving deeper into the study of other religions and traditions. And that is just the beginning…for us becoming known for radical diversity that is visible to the eye.

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: Fill in the blank: What is your vision for your (denomination) or (congregation)?

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Create a word portrait of what is happening in your ideal denomination, congregation, or Sunday School class.

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LXX.
  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

District News & Announcements – June 2018

District News & Announcements

June 2018

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by June 24th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

 

Holiness in our Midst: Session 69

 

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LXIX: ON ‘WHEN I WAS A CHILD____’

My friend Tamara Andrews, a French teacher at Johnston (IA) High School, uses this story prompt both to teach tenses used in French and to encourage her students to share their stories: When I was a child, I_________. With her permission, I pass it along as an excellent starting point to elicit deep sharing among group members.

What is your answer? Mine is: When I was a child, I actually had a childhood. I ran free as a red-winged blackbird on our Iowa farm. I skipped alongside my father to feed the cows and pigs; my mother protected me as I gathered eggs from the feisty laying hens. My little hands were welcomed to weed and hoe our big garden. In season, I helped can and freeze the fruits of our labors. My labor was always voluntary.

I had time to swing, dance and turn somersaults and cartwheels. Late in the evening, under the yard light, I chased lightning bugs or played tag with my brother and sisters. On Sundays, I went to church, twirling all the way in my pinafores. I feasted on delicious casseroles and red fruit punch at church basement potlucks and family reunions. I accompanied my mother to Garden Club and Farm Bureau meetings, playing under watchful eyes with the other tag-along boys and girls. On Friday nights, we rooted for local sports teams. Church, school, community and extended family were strong threads woven together seamlessly, forming the fabric of our everyday lives. Life would get more complex beyond my first years. My mother passed away when I was seven, and we moved many times after that. But I’ve retained a sense of rootedness and place from my idyllic beginning.

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: Fill in the blank: When I was a child, I_________.

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write about your childhood, using the story prompt. Because it is so open-ended, try several variations

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LXIX.
  2.  Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

District News & Announcements – May 2018

District News & Announcements

May 2018

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by May 25th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 68

 

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LXVIII: ON HITTING THE ‘PAUSE BUTTON’

In a series of Lenten sermons, my pastor, Mary Jane Button-Harrison from First Christian Church in Ames, IA, explored the subject of personal renewal and growth during these trying times. With her permission, I share one of the questions from a series of “take home” exercises she handed out in a bulletin insert:

How do you renew, hit the “pause button?”

My answer is to take out my trusty yellow legal pad and do some journaling. The entries are functionally letters to God. They serve the purpose of anchoring whatever thoughts are preventing me from focusing on the tasks at hand. The act of writing down my real thoughts and feelings calms me down before I head back into my daily routine. (The “letters” can be divided into four categories: wonderment, gratitude, questionings, and desperate pleas for mercy.)

Pausing with pen in hand is the main way that I pray. I view the events, experiences, and encounters that come my way each day as God’s answers to these written prayers. In that way, my journal/letters are a form of dialogue with God, a constant source of renewal.  Sometimes I wonder: What if Jesus had a pen and paper when He went off by himself for “alone” time? How would His Record read?

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: How do you hit the “pause button,” renew?

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write about renewal in your journal, using the Story Circle Prompt. Also, try re-creating Jesus’ journal from His time in the wilderness, or moments away from His disciples, or His last hours on Earth as he waited alone in the Garden.

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LXVIII.  
  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

District News & Announcements – April 2018

District News & Announcements

April 2018
Happy Easter!

 “District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by April 24th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

In this issue

  1. Address Correction: David and Judith Whitten
  2. Venture’s Course: April 14th
  3. Ministers’ Professional Growth Event: April 15-17
  4. Women’s Retreat at Camp Pine Lake: April 19-21
  5. Child Abuse Prevention Workshop: April 21st 
  6. 42nd Stover Memorial Music Festival: April 29th
  7. District Conference Announcements: August 3-5
  8. Message from the Moderator
  9. Holiness in our Midst – On Signs of Hope
  10. Leadership Development Musings
  11. Song of the Pines with Friends with the Weather: Sept. 1-3
  12. Announcing New Camp Director and Kitchen Manager
  13. Jess Hoffert’s California Adventures
  14. Church Updates, Pictures, and Announcements
  15. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: The EYN work team poses by the finished well, funded by the Northern Plains District.  Photo by Zipporah Samari. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.