Monday, December 27, 2010

Christ's Continued Blessings

With all of our children, spouses, and grandchildren in town, we looked forward to worshiping together, but guess we should have seen it coming when our son was the only one able to join us on Christmas Eve. By Sunday the grandbabies were getting sick and it made sense to return home and do what we could to help.

We managed to wash the sheets (before the washer broke), and the families are on their way home today.

Last month we were surprised with the news that one daughter and son-in-law are expecting twins next June, and on Christmas Day we were blessed with the news that we will have not two, but three more grandchilren by next Christmas. All in all, God has blessed us beyond anything we could have hoped or imagined.

We hope you were richly blessed this Christmas also, and that God continues to bless you in the New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Clinton United Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Clinton United Presbyterian Church, 25 Wilson Road, P.O. Box 175, Clinton, PA 15026, 724.695.7993,, Rev. Laura E. Strauss, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

A pretty country church with soft stained glass, tastefully decorated for Christmas. In addition to the cross on the Communion table, there was a large one on the wall and one above with a window effect.

They have good signage, and we were welcomed well. We sat towards the front to be with friends and had good seats for the Children’s Sermon, which was well done, a good length, and the children responded well.

There was no evidence of joy from the choir, but the pastor’s genuine smile made up for it.

The sermon wove around adoption: Joseph’s adoption of Christ, our adopting of Christ, to our adoption by Christ. We are welcomed to “Christ’s Home” with all ties to our former sinful lives severed.

I appreciated a time for silent prayer – very powerful in a corporate setting. I enjoyed seeing how Christ led the Elder in the mission moment; when He ignites the passion, it’s great to be used. I wondered what other missions may be supported.

I felt called to pray for the pastor and the church and felt/saw an aura that I interpreted as Christ’s blessing. I recall talking with young children in church who always saw the angels there that we adults are too old/staid to see.

Jan’s thoughts:

We had wanted to visit this church to catch up with an old friend, and we finally made it. We had a happy reunion with our friend and her daughters, both of whom were very young when we saw them last. We were glad for an opportunity to chat and catch up as well as get to know the girls some.

The building is well kept and beautifully decorated for Christmas. The facility was a bit confusing downstairs, but the signage helped greatly. The people were friendly: even before we caught up with our friend, folks were recognizing us as visitors and greeting us with introductions and questions.

There was color everywhere: the red carpet, the Chancel covered in red poinsettias, the choir in their red robes, beautifully crafted Christmas banners hanging on the walls, lighter but no less beautiful shades in the stained glass. I think the color added to the excitement in the air – it was awesome!

The bulletin was well done and user friendly.

The children participated enthusiastically in the Children’s Sermon, which centered on where there was room for the Baby Jesus in the nativity scene. This tied in perfectly with the sermon.

The sermon, entitled “He Has Come,” was based on Romans 1:1-7 and Matthew 1:18-25. The pastor explained that Jesus’ birth was all about adoption: literal, metaphorical, and divine. Jesus was literally adopted by Joseph once He entered this world; He is metaphorically adopted by us as “our Lord,” and we are divinely adopted by God.

The pastor told the story of her parents’ adoption of her younger brother and her vivid memories of his arrival at their home. She pointed out that when a child (or anyone) is adopted as part of a family, the family must physically make room for its new member, and asked “Have we made room in our hearts for the adopted Christ?” A good question, I think…any time of year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hebron Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Hebron Presbyterian Church, 1767 Route 30, Clinton, PA 15026, 724.899.2276,, Rev. George L. Leitze, Interim Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

We were led again today, this time to Hebron Presbyterian Church. The church has the look of a modern building with muted blue classical stained glass in the Sanctuary. We found good but somewhat misleading signage: the restrooms are identified and signage indicating additional restrooms upstairs or down, but are single capacity.

There was a screen with announcements before the service, but it was not used at all during the service. The Prelude and music throughout was exceptional, and the anthem was very impressive. Also a good age mix to the choir, and some smiled – they loved worshiping in song.

Though the bulletin had a lot of inserts, I still thought it was easy to use. There is an atrium-type feel to the entrance, welcoming even with stairs. Some of the little things that make me smile were there – the large cross, and the Offering taken in response to the Word, and one of the warmest welcomes we have received. There was intentionality to the greetings before and after the service, even to the woman who inquired as to our lunch plans after.

They refer to themselves in the bulletin as “a lively country church.” There were a number of children in worship and I understand this was less than usual.

The sermon, “Defying Reason” was Christ in a nutshell. To come and sacrifice His life for a bunch of worthless sinners, the love story of Christ. A love that transcends reason, thanks be to God.

There are some good things at Hebron that could be great. We had the opportunity to donate to a mission to provide Pack & Play units for an East Liberty Health Care Center, and there is a good involvement with Angel Tree and a food pantry. There is also an impressive prayer ministry going on.

From what I could discern, they are missing the amazing blessing of tithing. The opportunity is there to worship God with His tithe and your offering, and you will be overwhelmed by the blessings. You can not out-give God, but please try.

Jan’s thoughts:

Again today we ended up at a church we did not set out to attend, but I must believe we were where God wanted us nonetheless.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Interim Pastor at this church was a gentleman with whom I had served on Pittsburgh Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry some years ago.

This is a small-ish country church, very well maintained inside and out. Well-coordinated woodwork, delightful stained glass windows, with a different, offset Chancel, and great signage. We had no trouble finding anything here, as many of the signs stuck out from the walls. Downstairs there were signs specifically stating that the restrooms were upstairs, so someone was thinking like a visitor.

The bulletin was well laid-out and easy to read. The people were extremely friendly: easily half the congregation greeted us before and after worship, and it felt unforced and genuine. One woman noticed Bob’s Marine Corps shirt and thanked him for his service. Many people who extend gratitude to a veteran have no idea how much that means, especially to someone who served in Vietnam.

The Children’s Time brought to the front probably 15 young ones (which we were told was down from the usual 20 or more!). In talking about lighting the Advent Candle of Love this morning, this time seemed at first to morph into a Minute for Mission, but further explanation made me realize it was more of a “hands-on” lesson in the meaning of love: the congregation is collecting funds to purchase 50 Pack & Plays for children in need. I was very touched, both for the mission itself and for the lessons taught to the children in giving and loving.

The music was very well done, and it was a joy to both watch and listen to the choir’s untitled anthem. It was upbeat, and the joy was apparent.

The sermon was titled “Defying Reason” and was based on Isaiah 63:7-9 and I John 3:11-18. The moment I read the title I felt God speaking to me with the resolution to an issue with which I was dealing. And when I heard the pastor say that “love transcends reason and sense,” the resolution to my issue was clear. By the end of the service my heart echoed the pastor’s words when he prayed that God would “help us to be unreasonable.”

I’ve been struggling to decide whether or not to take certain steps that would enhance the view some others have of me or to forego those steps and depend instead on God’s provision. This sermon forced me to remember that depending on God is the better choice.

I doubt anyone else heard this sermon the way I did, but that’s often the beauty of God’s Word in worship – the Holy Spirit helps us hear what our Heavenly Father knows we need to hear, which is usually different from what everyone else present needs to hear. And it’s reassuring to be shown once again that He knows me – and each of us – individually and perfectly. What a magnificent God we serve!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Valley Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Valley Presbyterian Church, 237 Main Street, Imperial, PA 15126, 724.695.0300,, Rev. Jeri-Lynne Bouterse, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

Again God led us to where He wanted us to be, and today I learned not to write the name of the church on our offering check until we know which church He has us in.

Some things I noted: a major improvement in signage, the restrooms have been remodeled, the children’s message was projected on the front screen, well done (i.e., easy-to-use) bulletin. This church has impressive stained glass, and I realized there is something very calming about the colorations in the glass.

The choral introit sounded like the worship and praise I believe it was intended to convey. Some places, I have heard it presented sounding more like a funeral dirge.

The church was nicely decorated for Advent and I enjoyed the children lighting the candles. The children’s message seemed to go a little long.

The congregation seemed very attentive to the message: do we welcome all as Christ did? Maybe more of WDJD…can we do more of what He did?

This congregation seems poised to go forward with Christ’s leading for Valley Church. They seem ready to make a difference for Christ, and I’m sure the Devil is watching and planning his attack. I pray the members will be strong in Christ, and I look forward to the exciting ministry to come.

Jan’s thoughts:

I had wondered if God could still “misdirect” us if we used the GPS, and today that question was answered with a resounding “YES!”

I mapped out the route to the church we planned to attend, but the printed directions led us directly to a dead end. (For the record, I hate to include these details…I’m really a very capable person, but when God wants us somewhere besides where we are headed, He always manages to win. Duh…I’m learning…)

So, we ended up at Valley where our friend Jeri-Lynne is the pastor. This church remains a friendly one; people greeted us before, during, and after the service.

The Sanctuary is aesthetically pleasing, and it doesn’t hurt that the carpet is a deep purple (which I love), with almost-matching pew cushions. The walls are a soothing neutral shade, and the stained glass is lovely. The Chancel is asymmetrical, but balanced. The Christmas decorations were charming also, with all the colors working well together.

Instead of a photo of the church building adorning the front of the bulletin, it was printed with children’s hand-decorated embellishments. What a great way to include the youth in this season of celebration.

The choir was sweet-sounding and joyful.

The Message for Young Christians was immediately followed by the Lighting of the Advent Candles, and both were displayed on the front wall so all present could see.

The sermon, “Waiting for a Welcome Sign,” was based on Isaiah 11:1-10 and Romans 15:4-13 and centered around the unconditional welcome Christ extended to everyone with whom He came into contact. The question is, should we do less?

Communion was celebrated by intinction, and the servers spoke as we partook. Bob comments on this often, but today I noticed myself how much it meant to hear the words. I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s right, the Sacrament is more powerful when I am reminded that these elements represent the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for me…even me.