May 23-29, 2005



Come, Holy rain
Rural central Pennsylvania, where I live, had been dry for many weeks before last Thursday, when the heavens opened up for a nice two-day soaking.
The dryness had been worrying the farmers. They kicked up dust clouds as their tractors worked their parched fields. Day after day the dry, the tilled fields remained arid and brown, reminiscent of those photos sent back from Mars. The seeds lay in the ground suspended in limbo between life and death.
But a strange and wonderful thing happened when it rained. Overnight, the fields sprouted distinct, fragile rows of green. As each day passed, the seedlings gained inches of height and seemed to soar heavenward. It all happened astonishingly quickly, as if the seeds were crouching in the ground just waiting for moisture to spring to life and sprint toward the sky.
That is how our souls experience growth in God. In the dry times of our souls -- brought by sorrow, by busy-ness, by death, by illness, by divorce, by selfish turning from God -- in dry times we are somewhere between death and life as we yearn for the Holy Spirit's fertile, moist touch to revive us, refresh us, to bring us to life, to growth, to health, to shalom. Sometimes when we are dry in our souls, we only then understand how much we need God, and so turn our prayers, our faces and our lives back toward the Holy.
Churches experiencing stagnation can also learn from this model. Pastors and congregational leaders who notice that giving and attendance have declined can take comfort knowing their congregation is merely in a dry place, awaiting the reviving presence of the Holy Spirit. And they can begin to expect the Holy Spirit to work among them, to show them new possibilities and insights. 
Maybe the pastor will begin a new sermon series. Maybe members will open their Bibles and learn to tithe. Maybe the Christian education committee will start a new class, a new curriculum. Maybe new people will join.
But the rain will come, the growth will come. Just as the seeds cannot help but burst forth in life, for that is what they were created to do, so our souls and our churches cannot help but bloom with life in God's spirit, because that's what we were created to do.
-Rob Blezard, editor and webmaster
New this week!
The 'Recycling Bin' is now the 'Treasure Chest'
We're changing the name of the Recycling Bin to the Treasure Chest of Resources? Why? Yes, we ARE recycling the resources to the home page, but Recycling Bin makes the them sound like trash. In fact, they are treasures -- the best this website has to offer. Click Here for the Treasure Chest of Resources.

 Our risky, right choices

When four young women from out-of-state show up at her church, our columnist learns a powerful message about how hard it is to live the words of Jesus in Matthew 25, "We make choices knowing that there is right and wrong in all of it in life and we just pray that God can make the best even of our bad choices." Click here for the Rev. Dana Reardon's weekly stewardship column.



Great stewardship link!

Check out this great stewardship website from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. Stewardship for the 21st Century contains hundreds of resources, including Bible studies, sermons, essays, articles, etc. Its two stated purposes are to help free people from the "myth of scarcity to live an abundant life in Christ," and to encourage people to become "confident, courageous stewardship leaders." Wow! Click here for Stewardship for the 21st Century. Be sure to sign up for its free weekly e-newsletter.


Fifteen-plus environmental action ideas
  Environmental stewardship can become an integral part of your congregation's life and education program. How? This resource lists practical, easy-to-implement ideas. Click here for Fifteen-plus environmental action ideas. From the Evangelical Environmental Network, whose website has lots of good stuff.


An exercise in growth

"There are a thousand ways to grow and a thousand ways to help that growth, but you won't get off square one until you sit down and understand needs to target as some initial goals." Great reading in an essay packed with practical tips for a congregation.  Click here for the piece by Tuck Aaker, columnist for ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Widow's Walk ... Does Jesus idealize poverty?
Stewards love Jesus' story of the "widow's mite" as the ideal illustration of sacrificial giving. Here's a fresh wrinkle: "Our culture counsels us to became like the honored scribes, but Jesus counsels us to become like the dishonored widow. We are to model our lives on one we would normally overlook, being too busy admiring the lifestyles of the rich and famous." Click here for Widow's Walk. By Mary Anderson, pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Incarnation, Columbia, S.C., printed in The Christian Century. This week's Treasure Chest resource.