Pass It On

In a former life, I was obsessed with Amish Friendship Bread.

If you’re smiling right now, you’re familiar with the process of making Amish Friendship Bread. If you’re rolling your eyes and groaning, you’re really familiar with it.

For those of you less familiar, here’s how it goes: It starts with a “starter bag”: a soupy mix of ingredients in a gallon Ziploc bag. You receive it from a “friend,” and you tend it for the next ten days, occasionally squishing it around to mix the ingredients and keep the rising agents alive, and at one point in the process, adding several more ingredients into the bag, and then taking out of the bag enough of the soupy mixture to make four NEW starter bags, which you then give to other “friends,” and possibly keep for yourself for future use. Meanwhile, your bag goes on to become a loaf or two of sugary sweet bread so good that my department mates at my last school referred to it as “crack bread” and first adored me and eventually cursed me for its regular appearance on the breakroom table, in all its cinnamony, diabetic-coma-inducing glory.

But those four starter bags…every ten days. This process was as high-maintenance as it was pound-packing. And nobody has enough friends to hand off four starter bags every ten days. Friends who at first accepted them with delight eventually would change direction when they saw me coming, avoiding eye contact lest I foist upon them another Ziploc bag full of soupy, yeasty bread goop. And can you imagine how it multiplies with rabbit-like proliferation? Each of those four starter bags produces four more within a week and a half. And each of those produces four more. And so on! There aren’t enough friends in a city for that level of fecundity!

It ruled our lives. I swear, at one point, my best friend and I were crossing town to bag-sit during each other’s out-of-town trips, to squish each other’s bread-goop bags on the days bag-agitation was called for, just to keep the madness going.

I think maybe Amish Friendship Bread ultimately did more damage to my friendships than anything else, and eventually I had to give it up. Each cycle, the extracted new starter-bag goop got ladled down the sink, and for a while, I limped the process along just making the one new starter bag for myself as the current concoction went on to make the addictive final product, and mostly ate it myself, in my classroom or alone in my house, like a miser.

But that’s not how it was meant to be. It wasn’t half as decadent, not remotely rewarding to just make it for myself. It didn’t even taste good anymore, really. (Plus, within a few months, nothing in my closet fit besides). It was meant to be shared.

The Amish had the right idea, even if the bread was more fuss and abundance than anyone wanted. It was the passing on that was good. What if it had been mere kindness instead of bread-starters one had to pass on to four people every ten days?

If the thing you were passing on was more treat than burden, if it were spare change, loving words, the deep-into-one’s-eyes gaze that says, “I see you…”

If we gave those out every day…and the people to whom we gave them gave them again…that would catch on.

Let’s try it.

Written by Christine Engelen, rockstar high school English teacher and recovering Amish Friendship Bread-making fanatic, as an invitation to offering in August 2018.

Table Talk | 8.25.18 Communion

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In 2015, our denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), took a huge step in relaying God’s message to the world. The Disciples of Christ, at our General Assembly, created a new tagline: All Means All. This statement means that no matter your sexual orientation, gender, race, etc., you are always welcome with us in the house of God.

This was such a huge step for our church as a whole because we finally accepted and understood what Jesus was trying to tell us all along–that at God’s table, everyone is welcome.

It doesn’t matter if you have everything you need or are barely scraping by; you are welcome at God’s table.

It doesn’t matter where you are from or your backstory; you are welcome at God’s table.

It doesn’t matter who you love; you are welcome at God’s table.

Being invited to the table is not something that you have to earn. Communion is not something that you can deserve and no one can be banned from God’s table. The table is an open invitation party, and you just have to show up. You just have to be willing to share in communion with the diverse and vast community of God. You just have to be willing to extend the invitation to come to the table to yourself and others. You just have to accept the love of God for yourself, and for everyone else around you.

Written by Ella Johnson, a junior at Fort Collins High School, on the occasion of the installation of our new pastor, Daniel Lyvers. Ella is active in Christian Youth Fellowship and serves on ECOY (Executive Council on Youth) for the Central Rocky Mountain Region.

Photo credit: Christine Engelen

 

Big fish, little fish

There is a small lake in our neighborhood that is annually stocked with fish.  Stocking day has become a small community event where people bring boats and 5 gallon buckets.  The fish are released from the hatchery truck into the buckets and then dispersed by boats around the lake.

Several years ago a mom brought her three-year-old son.  He arrived with his little yellow sand pail.  My husband put some water in the pail, then added a single minnow.  The little boy was mesmerized!

When mom told him it was time to put the fish in the water, he balked.  She explained that it needed a bigger home in which to swim and wanted to be with the other fish.  Finally he relented.  As he gently released the minnow at water’s edge he wistfully said, “Good-bye, my friend.”  Then he turned, and with just the tiniest bit of pride said, “I let him go.”

None of us can be the only fish, the biggest fish, or the smallest fish here.  Each of us depends on God and this community, and God and this community depend on us.  But, like the little boy, we sometimes want to hold on  –  to what?  Our time?  Building relationships?  Sharing our resources?

We each have our own unique abilities to contribute.  It’s sometimes good to say “good-bye, my friend” to that which we hold back.

Let us bring our tithes and offerings.

Written by Sue Krueger for the offering invitation on Sunday, June 10, 2018.

 

A Letter from Heart of the Rockies

Letters have always been a part of our faith. And although I’m not as eloquent as the Apostle Paul, you’ll also be relieved to know that I’m not as effusive as he is either.

To the church of God that is in Bardstown…and Bowling Green…and Nashville…and Wakon’Da-Ho…and Christmount…

To those who have shaped and molded and encouraged and inspired Daniel, which is to say all of you here today…or all y’all who are here today (did I get that right?!), thank you.

Together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the good an eager folks from Heart of the Rockies Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Fort Collins, CO.

We give thanks to our God always for you because you’ve prepared for us our next pastor, a man who is deep in faith, overflowing with spiritual gifts, and called. Called to Christ’s church.

From our first phone conversation with Daniel we knew he was a most excellent pastor. Our work—and God’s work in us—was to engage in faithful labor of mutual discernment that would allow us to answer with confidence this question: Was Daniel the outstanding pastor God was calling to us?

For each and every one of you who took the time to mentor and pray and listen and advise and consider with Daniel throughout this process, thank you.

By God’s grace and your wisdom and Daniel’s discernment, we all arrived at the same answer—yes, Daniel was and is the tremendous pastor God is calling to Heart of the Rockies. Thank you, God.

We know that as thrilled as we are to welcome him, you are grieving his departure from this region. And so again we say thank you—for your generosity and care in letting him go. Steve and Dorsey, Ben, we expect to see you often. I hate to even mention it, but the Front Range is really quite nice, well, all year long.

Megan and Kelley, although I’ve known you for a decade as trusted and admired colleagues and friends, now you’re also the fierce, fantastic pastors and mentors who nurtured my new partner into his sense of call to congregational ministry. Thank you. Kyle and John, thank you.

Daniel, there’s a congregation full of people who love God and serve others and change lives waiting for you in Fort Collins. They’ve prayed for you, written to you, Skyped and FaceTimed with you, and they’ve prepared a place for you in their hearts. They’re people I love dearly, and they are people who will love you with all they have.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. Our love be with all of you in Christ Jesus. (I borrowed that from Paul.)

We love you, Daniel.

May 27, 2018 | First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – Bardstown, KY

Written by Melissa St. Clair, who is now back to being *one* of the pastors at Heart of the Rockies Christian Church, and shared on the occasion of the ordination to Christian ministry of Daniel Lyvers, now also a pastor at Heart of the Rockies.

 

Communion Invitation | 4.15.18

In the post-credit scene in The Avengers movie (2012), we see the Avengers eating at a restaurant. They’re sitting quietly, chewing; there’s no dialogue. They just fought a huge battle against Loki in New York City and they were able to defeat their enemy.

The scene is comical, but it also reminds me of how we can still be in the presence with others around a table even when there’s no dialogue while still connecting and coping with the big things in life.

We can come to this table after a week of feeling like we saved the world, and we can also come when we’re tired, weak, and vulnerable.

And no matter what kind of week we’ve had, we come to this table in the presence of others to remember what Jesus did for us.

Written by Beth Harding, one of our Youth Ministry Directors.

Epiphany Stories | Heather B.

My name is Heather, and I’m a PK.  For those of you who don’t know what a PK is, I’m a “preacher’s kid.”  I literally grew up in the church.  My dad is a Methodist minister, my mom was the church secretary for a long time, and the church was my playground.  I explored all over, and I always felt comfortable there.

One of the advantages of being part of the minister’s family is that everyone knows who you are.  It’s also a disadvantage.  Whenever you move to a new church, which we did several times when I was a kid – I grew up in NJ and they have an itinerant system – everybody gets to know you right away.  That means I did not develop the skill of moving to a new church and having to introduce myself, which was a challenge when I became an adult.  Things I did learn growing up as a PK: acceptance – my parents were universally good to everyone, as much as I could tell.  We used inclusive language before that was a thing – I grew up singing songs that way before I knew that’s what it was called.

I learned that everyone is loved, God is love, and God loves everyone.  I hear other folks telling stories of their experiences growing up hearing about discrimination or not associating with certain people.  I didn’t know what that was like.  Granted, I did grow up in a pretty white neighborhood and at the same time I didn’t even know derogatory terms for other racial and ethnic groups and I really appreciate my parents for that.

That was me growing up.  Took faith for granted – this is how it is, this is what everybody does.  I went to college and studied a bunch of other religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam – I almost got a minor in religion but I would have had to study Christianity and I was kind of over it at that point.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to believe.

Moved to Colorado in ’91 because my boyfriend (now my husband) was doing his grad work at Colorado State.  Didn’t go to church for a while, then I decided to go back.  Even at that point I was Christian by default.  What really solidified my faith for me was taking a Disciple 1 class.  For those of you who haven’t taken that, you essentially read a good portion of the Bible and really study it, digging in to the roots of the Christian faith and Judaism and seeing how it all ties together.  You may have heard the expression “God doesn’t have any grandchildren” – you can go for a while on your parents’ faith but you have to make it your own.  That Disciple 1 experience really made my faith my own for me.  So that’s how I truly became a Christian.  I was probably in my 30’s when that happened.

I ended up at Heart of the Rockies probably in 2012 or 2013. I know it was around that time because I was in the 2013 directory. I’d been going to a Methodist church in town and hadn’t been happy. I remember my very first Sunday walking in the door and Belinda Kernaghan inviting me to sit with her and explaining the bulletin and that feeling of being welcomed has stuck with me. And I love the way this church is so involved – there’s so many opportunities for service.  I am very much a behind the scenes person which is why you haven’t seen me up here – you can see me at the back quite often.  I just really, really love there are so many ways to be involved. Here at Heart of the Rockies, I see God in your faces, I hear God in your voices.  Thank you for sharing this journey of loving and serving with me.

 

The season of Epiphany reminds us to look for the places God reveals God’s self in the world. When we share our stories, we see how God is at work in and through us. Each week, we’ve seen God revealed through our storytellers.

A Prayer Following a School Shooting

This week, we find ourselves lost…

Lost among the hurt,

the pain,

the media,

the arguments being slung back and forth.

Remind us that You have found us

and are with us.

That when we are busy arguing about laws,

you have a covenant.

When we are worried about who is right and who is wrong,

you are concerned about who needs love.

Open our hearts to your truth.

Give us compassion to feed a hungry world – hungry for your love.

 

Written by Erin Tyler, a soon-to-be graduate of Colorado State University and a very-nearly seminarian.