by Pete Schrank
My faith is very important to me but I can say that I do not walk around asking people “Do you know Jesus?” “Are you saved?” “Do you have a personal relationship with Christ?” That does not mean when I am asked about my faith or through my daily action I don’t strive to show I am a Christian. I do believe that we all need to stand and deliver. Deliver that powerful simple message of by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone we are saved.
I have been blessed to have a job that allowed me to travel to many locations around the world and meet many people. I wear a crucifix every day that is very visible to all those I meet. After 10 years of wearing a tie to work, business has gone casual. I hope that this crucifix is something that sparks a question or a conversation about faith.
I have been to China were religion is not a wide spread practice. I have visited Ireland where people take their Easter food to the church to be blessed and the Catholic Church is a big part of people’s life. Also to Europe where the great cathedrals sit empty except as tourist attractions, with an average Sunday attendance of 5%. My last trip before retirement was to India where it appears that people are so poor all they have is their faith. I have talked to a Muslim about the Holy Trinity. I have been asked by someone in China why I am a Christian. I talked to Hindu believes about the lord Ganesh (one of the 100,000 gods of the Hindu faith). I have had great conversations with Catholics here in the US about purgatory and Martin Luther. I have had conversations with atheists who tell me my faith is foolishness and a fairy tale. In a recent Concordia Bible study it was stated that there are over 4,000 different religions in the world. We humans are built to seek God.
The purpose of this article is to encourage all of us to witness for our Lutheran Faith. This witness may come in many different forms, some direct questions, sharing a statement of faith and/or by our actions and attitude. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable about these opportunities or insecure about our ability to be an effective witness. We just need to remember that we have the Holy Spirit inside of us to help say and do the right things. The Holy Spirit as shared by Paul in Galatians 5:22-25 states But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Remember we are Christians 24/7; being God’s hands, feet, and witness is what we do. There are great opportunities to witness everyday.
by Barb Mazarakos
We are at the great stage in our life where most of our social activities revolve around our kids. Now if you know me, you may not be sure if I say this with sincerity or that snippet of sarcasm you know and love, but I assure you that most days I mean this. We are blessed to have two happy, active kids but man, are they busy! For my husband and myself-who both spent our teens and twenties involved in our respective schools and churches-jumping in as parent volunteers seemed a natural thing to do. But it is a whole different ball game (pardon the pun during this busy baseball and softball season) when kids AND parents are involved that requires, if I am being totally honest, restraint beyond what I once would have thought I could show.
Those of you who have coached your child’s team or served as a Scout leader or with your school PTA know what I mean. You start out doing it for your child, to spend more time with them or maybe save a team without a coach from being disbanded, meaning your own child can’t play. You get to know the other children and maybe even develop a soft spot for some. Kids can get to you that way with their humor, insight, and quirks that make them beautifully unique. Well, except that one kid. You know the one: he never listens, calls the other kids names, mocks what you say. THAT kid tests your patience. But the parents- THEY are great. They cheer their kids on and pay for their camps and have LOTS of great ideas that could “really help” the way you are already doing things. And they would LOVE to help you, but, you know- they are really just SO busy. If you need more ideas, though- they are your person!
Now I know this sounds snarky, and for good reason- it is! I’m at the tail end of a long string of big volunteer activities and I am TIRED and people are demanding and sometimes when things don’t go exactly as planned they can also be unforgiving. So every day I pray that God leads me to be an example to those I come across with both my actions and my words. Because sometimes that kid who won’t listen is making me crazy and I want to snap at his behavior. Left to my own accord, I do. But when I listen and let God in, He guides my words and actions and I keep my calm and instead re-direct the child who may just be having a bad day. And that parent with all of the un-asked for advice? Instead of telling them they are welcome to volunteer and do it their way if they’d like (I may or may not have done this at some point) I thank them for their input and think on it later to see if it really could benefit our activity.
Most people don’t go through life trying to be difficult; most times, those who are simply may be struggling in some way you may not know. And when you deal with people in a volunteer capacity, especially if it’s in a leadership role, it becomes easy for people to act as if it is your job- yourself included. Sometimes you need to step back and remind yourself of why you got involved with that team/pack/school to begin with and reconnect with the part of you that wanted to help. God will find a way to put you where He needs you, and what better way to show our faith than to love our neighbors as we were commanded wherever that may be? It’s not always going to be easy, but if you start each morning with a little prayer, “Lord, help me to reflect your light to those I meet today” you never know what might happen if you just ask Him to show you the way.
Faith Bigger Than Fear
by Heather Green
This has been one of the more difficult articles to write. I kept thinking that I needed to share something profound or of deep significance to make it important. But then I realized sometimes simple is more.
As many of you know, I had a very difficult pregnancy. There was one day that was especially terrifying where I thought I had lost the baby. I was still in the first trimester and was having a complication. I was at work and had to get to my doctor. It was the equivalent of living in Orland and needing to get downtown in 45 minutes on a Friday afternoon. I didn’t expect to make it in time. I got in my car and started driving. While I was driving, I began talking to God. Not praying, but actually talking.
I asked God to be with me and help me get there safely because I was an emotional mess. I remember telling God that everything was in His hands, but to please give me peace and help me. And I listened. I really listened. I also realized that as I was driving, there was hardly any traffic. The drive that should have taken close to an hour because of traffic, was mercifully light and I got to the office with minutes to spare.
I also realized during the drive that I was not alone. I was emotional, I was scared, I was driving myself, but I wasn’t alone. At some time during the drive and conversation, I felt a peace, unlike anything I had ever felt come over me. It was an indescribable feeling. I finally felt like I could breathe again. I knew one way or another that everything would be all right. I know it probably sounds crazy, but I actually felt like someone was with me.
When I got to the doctor’s office and into the exam room for a scan, I felt like someone was there holding my hand, keeping me calm. I knew God was with me. When the doctor found the baby on the screen and told me everything was fine, in a way I wasn’t surprised. Somehow I knew it already was.
There is no explanation I have other than it was God. This experience has stayed with me – I can still remember the feelings as if they were yesterday. I can say I always believed in God, but this experience changed the way I experience God.
When we are at the scariest, loneliest, seemingly most hopeless times in our lives, I know God is there. He has not forsaken us – He is waiting for us to talk to Him and for us to listen.
(As an aside, my daughter who was born 10 weeks early, is now a happy, healthy, almost 7-year-old.)
Service: The Stewardship Committee – Who We Are and What We Do (Part 1 of 2)
by Heather Green
If you are reading this article, then you are familiar with the Stewardship committee (even if you don’t realize it); the Stewardship Committee develops and distributes the monthly e-newsletter. The purpose of the Stewardship committee is to share the Gospel and our faith in Jesus Christ. We share this message through the newsletter, social media, and the church website.
Unfortunately, many people merely associate being a steward by sharing your “treasures” with the church, often overlooking time and talents. The Stewardship committee focuses on the sharing of our time and talents with others. Once a month, usually the second Thursday of the month, we meet as a committee to discuss newsletter themes, possible articles, upcoming events, social media interactions, outreach opportunities, and the church website.
There may seem to be a lot of focus on technology: the website, the emailed newsletter, social media outreach, but these are modern tools we use to spread our faith and the word of the Lord. As Lutherans, we know the importance Martin Luther placed on advocating for the Bible to be translated and printed in German, a feat made possible by the invention of the printing press. Luther used the most recent tools at his disposal to share his faith with the lay people, just as we are using the most recent tools to share our faith.
Currently there are six active members on the Stewarship Committee: Pete Schrank, Barb Mazarakos, Heather Green, Dean Porzel, Chris Chleboun, and Pastor Rohlfs, but we are always interested in new members. If you have an interest in writing, sharing your faith, or using technology, we have space for you on the committee.
Pete Schrank, in addition to being the congregation president, is acting chairman of the Stewardship Committee. He is a lifelong member of Christ Lutheran Church. When Pete is not sharing his time with the Stewardship committee, he also leads Men’s Bible Study, sings in the Men’s Choir, and is a lector.
Barb Mazarakos is the newsletter editor as well as the social media account manager. She is a lifelong member of Christ Lutheran Church and has been a member of the Stewardship Committee for the past 5-1/2 years. She has a vast history of volunteering at CELC, including serving as the Sunday School Superintendent.
Heather Green is a newsletter contributor. She was confirmed at Christ Lutheran but moved away after high school. A few years ago she returned to the area and rejoined CELC. In addition to writing for the newsletter, she is an active member of the LWR Quilters Group at Christ Lutheran.
Dean Porzel is the Christ Lutheran website administrator. When Dean is not updating or maintaining the church website, he volunteers his time playing guitar and singing with the Joy and Praise Choir.
Chris Chleboun is the newsletter coordinator and distributor. She compiles all the articles and arranges them in the newsletter format then sends it to all the email subscribers. Chris is a lifelong member of CELC and despite a temporary relocation for work, still volunteers with the Stewardship Committee.
Cemetery Board Actives and Duties
by Arlene Gronwold
The Cemetery Board has six members who care for all the activities of Christ Lutheran Cemetery (147th Street and 82nd Avenue). These activities include transacting the selling of lots ($1,000.00 current price) and making the arrangements with our contracted grave digger to assure the smooth and dignified burial of the departed, regardless of the weather.
The board also makes sure the cemetery grounds are in tip top shape. This includes arranging for the regular mowing and fertilizing of the lawn and the timely removing of snow. Tree limbs, sticks, and the ever-present windblown trash is also cleared by this hearty group of volunteers.
The board oversees and schedules physical improvements that need to be done to keep the grounds safe and well maintained. Recent widening, blacktopping and seal coating of all the driveway surfaces as well as installation by one of the board member of a shed to keep the trimming and other gardening supplies are a good example.
Last fall a flag pole with surrounding paver bricks was erected in a prominent location at CEL Cemetery. This was an Eagle Scout project for our own member Conner Sterling. The flag is dedicated in honor of all the veterans and is flown 24 hours a day with the help of solar panels, batteries and a bright LED light.
A few days before Memorial Day every year some of the board members place an American flag on each veteran’s grave, and a special plaque is placed on the grave of the only veteran who was killed in action (Vietnam). On Memorial Day Monday a short service is help on the cemetery grounds to commemorate all the veterans buried there. The American Legion Honor Guard performs a touching ceremony that includes the posting of the colors and the firing of three volleys. Christ Choir sings several patriotic hymns during the service, and Pastor Rohlfs reads the names of the 77 veterans currently buried at the cemetery. Those in the audience are then invited to name any veteran from their family who has died in action.
Remember that Memorial Day is to honor those who gave their all for their country and our freedom, not a national cook out day, so please take some time to remember the fallen!