A Penny for Your Peace

By Rae Barnes

My summer with four littles home started with a bang. First, my eldest got lice from one of her girlfriends at school after sharing a headband. Two days later, my three-year-old son tried to eat a penny, and we ended up in the ER at CHOP to get it removed.

It was the evening of Father’s Day. I sat, in the dark, nursing our youngest, while my son Benjamin lay in his bed in the same room. Suddenly, I heard what sounded like near vomiting sounds. “Benjamin, go get your dad. Go to the bathroom.” “Mommy, I ate the money. Now, I need to throw up.” Well, friends, it got stuck. A penny got lodged in his esophagus. He could breathe, but he couldn’t swallow so well. I volunteered to take him to the ER at Abington to see what they said since it was Father’s Day, and Chris was tired from a busy day. They rushed us to x-rays to make sure it wasn’t a battery (as that is considered a TRUE emergency). Nope. We could see Lincoln! (Appropriate, he was born on Lincoln’s birthday). So… we were in for a long, long night at two ERs with an ambulance ride in between.

My three-year-old son that screams and cries when his cereal isn’t poured quickly enough was calm and patient through the whole ordeal. He had a penny in his throat and HAD to be so uncomfortable, but he was still. He asked me to read him the longest, most boring book about Samuel Adams. He asked me to cuddle. He was calm. He even slept. I was shocked.

I expected tantrums. I expected screams. I received none of that. At one point, just after the nurse explained to us the procedure of how they would remove the penny, Benjamin realized I wouldn’t be with him while they did this. He became a little clingy and noticeably nervous, and I looked him in the eyes and told him Jesus would be with him when I can’t be. “You have nothing to be afraid of,” I said to him. He calmed down. The nurse affirmed what I just said, which made this very tired mama tear up.

I do not have as much scripture memorized as I should, but I had this verse in the front of my mind throughout the entire 13-hour ordeal. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I do not claim to be as thankful as I should be. But that night, I found so many things to be thankful for. I prayed constantly, petitioning the Lord, and we had peace. And that peace completely transcended our understanding and our expectations. Thanks be to God our son is back to screaming when his cereal isn’t poured quickly enough (or better yet, he has learned to pour it himself this summer)!

Session/Staff Retreat – Transition

By Ward Shope

Apart from the Lord, none of us knows what the future holds. He assures us that there is stability in the world He has created. God is more faithful to his covenant with his people than the covenant he has with the rising of the Sun and its setting (Jer 33:19-26). But despite the security of his promise, we experience the journey more like a balloon aloft in the breeze, which can and does often shift or contain volatile gusts and which may take us in a direction we never expected.

The important thing is that we make the journey with everyone in the basket. Keeping together at New Life while keeping with the Lord takes a lot of effort. That’s why the Session and the ministry staff met and worked together at the fall retreat on September 9 and 10 and focused on the transition coming to the church with Ron’s retirement and a new lead pastor taking his place.

We focused on five different areas that were raised at the Session Spring Retreat.

  • Probably the most practical part of the transition is moving Ron’s current responsibilities to someone else. Obviously, some of those will shift to the new lead pastor. But our new pastor’s gifts, interests and workstyle may require divvying up tasks and oversight in different ways than Ron has done them.
  • That means we may also organize ourselves differently. Both the Session and the staff will adjust to the leadership change. We are hoping this will lead to healthy interdependency and clarity of how the two groups work together for the good of New Life – and that will lead to unity of purpose.
  • In the midst of transition, we want to allow ourselves to celebrate the ministry Ron and Sue have had among us – and even allow for grieving. At the same time, we want to coordinate this so that Ron and Sue won’t be tempted to jump out of the balloon because of the weighty number of engagements they have!
  • All of this needs to be communicated well throughout the congregation so that we float together. We need to use multiple means and venues to get the news out, including the growing digital resources of our world.  Keep your antenna up here.
  • Finally, we understand that a successful transition is from the Lord. Prayer must undergird all that we do.  We’re looking to intentionally use groupings we already have to promote dependent prayer – but we are also looking at special gatherings as well.

As we do these faithfully, we should all end up landing together on the other side of the transition.  As always, the gospel will be at the center of it all.  And we’ll continue to anticipate how the Lord will use New Life in the future.

Being Still

By Melanie Kauffman

A few weeks ago, I had to get my car inspected in Doylestown and annoyingly enough, it didn’t pass inspection all because the front bumper cover was loose. This preoccupied my thoughts while I drove out of the dealership parking lot and turned in the opposite direction of home. I wandered around a bit, not really trusting that my GPS was taking me the right way, until finally I decided to pull into a tiny little lot on the edge of a lake to see where I was.

My GPS told me I was going in the right direction, but since I had stopped, I figured I might as well get out and look around. I soon discovered a tiny trail leading down to the water.  So I took a book from my car and sat and read. After that I ended up walking around a bit, the troubles of this world far from my mind. I felt a sort of stillness that I hadn’t felt in a long time, and I felt as if God had orchestrated the entire day so that I would accidentally stumble upon what turned out to be Peace Valley Park. Thinking back on it now, I’m reminded of Psalm 23:2-3: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.”

In today’s fast-paced society, it can be difficult to quiet ourselves and listen for the whisper of God. We get the idea in our heads that this requires an inconvenient change in our daily schedule – and sometimes it does. Sometimes it means waking up an hour early to read the word, or setting time aside before bed to spend in mindful prayer. But sometimes it’s as simple as taking an hour out of your day to take a walk in the nearby park, or sit in your backyard and hear the birds chirping and feel the wind in your hair. The next time the world around me gets too overwhelming, I’ll seek out that little corner of Peace Valley Park and I will quiet my heart beside the still water.

Comfort Comes at a Cost

By Todd Hill

The passerby snatched the pamphlet from my hand, took a few steps away and proceeded to tear it into pieces. She conveyed utter disgust as she tore apart the paper I had just handed to her. I found myself feeling highly uncomfortable, knowing that the same disgust she felt toward the gospel, she felt equally toward me at this moment. As I looked away awkwardly for the next passerby, I felt a lump in my throat as I once again offered, “Would you like a ‘blessing’ to read?”

Many at New Life have already heard about our ’16 summer youth missions trip to London with Serge’s “London Evangelism and Prayer Week”. The evangelism experiences were amazing and very challenging.

It was on our last full day of ministry that we stood in a busy shopping plaza, when I felt that I had been stretched beyond my limits. I was tired. It had been a long, exhausting week. Beyond physical exhaustion, I found my spirit was extremely weary. I was tired of being rejected – over and over and over. I was tired of people seeing me with my stack of Gospel tracts and going out of their way to avoid walking past me. I had had enough.

It was in this moment of utter weakness that I heard God speak to me. It was not an audible voice, but it was one of those times when I felt clear that God wanted to communicate something to me.

I stuck another tract out in front of a passerby and waited for the typical awkward rejection. In that moment, God said two things to me. First, He said that He was building His Kingdom through the efforts of the many faithful saints distributing His Word, and that His Word would not return without accomplishing His purpose for It.

The second thing I understood was the most challenging. He said that His primary goal was not for me to feel comfortable. Rather, my experience of rejection as I did His work provided the smallest taste of what His Son Jesus experienced when He was rejected. God wanted to shape me, and our team, to be more like His Son by giving us a shared experience with Him. God was lovingly molding us into the image of Jesus, and He was using this experience – an experience we would not have chosen – to do so.

As our team walked through the doors of Philadelphia International Airport, greeted by the stifling July humidity, we arrived home with a new grid for our lives. When confronted with our tendency to use comfort as our measuring stick for happiness and success, we will be reminded that comfort can come at a cost. When we ferociously pursue the comforts of life as our highest goal, we miss out on deep times of worship and the mighty sound of God’s voice. However, when we stand in front of a stranger who angrily rips up a tract (and our very beliefs) in our face, we will remember in our discomfort, that we have already received the greatest comfort of all through our Savior, Jesus Christ. And His power is surely made perfect in our weakness.

Good, Good Father

By a New Lifer

For the last year of my life, every time I hear the song “Good, Good Father”, I lose it.  Break down.  Sometimes in quiet tears streaming down my face. Other times it is deep, earth-shattering sobs that wrack my body.  Every time I hear the song I am saddened because this relationship, this “good father” is not the paternal relationship I have known.  I have no frame of reference for this “goodness”.

I recently had a watershed moment in counseling.  I came to a realization that the depths of pain that exist in my relationship with my parents, (not just my father), have left me wanting, and greatly lacking, in more ways than I ever even knew.  I never stood a chance at knowing what it meant to be valued, of knowing my worth, because it was never exampled to me.

The day after I had this revelation in counseling, I sat down at my desk at work, and turned on the praise and worship station on Pandora.  The first song to play: “Good, Good Father.”

I sat at my desk and wept. But, for the first time, the tears were tears of joy, happiness, relief even.  It felt as if God had taken a seat next to me, put his arm around me, and whispered to me, “My dear child. Your earthly father may have fallen short, but I have always been here.  I have called you by name, you are mine.”

I am still angry.  I am still processing through all of the emotions that come with such a startling revelation.  Thankfully, my heavenly Father knows me deeply, and He knows exactly what I need, when I need it, and He provides for me.  And has been providing for me, always.

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

It is who I am. A beloved child.

What marvelous news.

Why I Teach Summer Sunday School

By Bethany Serridge

Each year when April and May come around, I hem and haw internally about whether I should sign up to teach summer Sunday School.  After all, the school year is super busy, and by May, I feel ready for a break.  Also, we, like every other family at NLD, travel quite a bit in the summer.  Finally, what do I really know about working with 2nd- and 3rd-graders anyway?  (Not much, but it turns out they are super flexible.)

Each year I always end up so glad that I have made the decision to teach.  Here’s why.

  • The children are wonderful.
  • The time I spend preparing the Sunday School lesson is great for my own spiritual growth and maturity.  I am sure I get much more out of the lesson than the children do.
  • It’s a great way to meet other families at NLD, especially families I might not otherwise rub shoulders with. (i.e. Tom and I are in the “families with teenagers” group, while these folks are “families with young elementary children.”)
  • Did I mention that the children are wonderful?

Reaching Inward and Outward Through Cubs in Motion

By Ruth Anne Burke

There’s a new background track at our house these days. It’s our three-year-old daughter wandering around singing at the top of her lungs, “Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, ooooh He loves me.” We have the staff of Cubs in Motion to thank for these spontaneous outbursts of praise.

Cubs in Motion is the camp New Life runs for 3-5 year-olds every year. This year, 80 preschoolers came through the church every day to be herded through a morning of singing, crafts, snack, Bible stories, games, and playground time. Two-thirds of these kids’ families don’t regularly attend New Life. It is an amazing opportunity to both serve the kids and families of our own church and to reach out to the greater community.

I could tell you many funny or touching stories from this week, but here is one.  Try to imagine fifteen 3-5 year-olds sitting quietly in a line. They’re all watching intently as Amy Gill helps them act out the day’s story. Today’s theme is “God’s love saves us.” She gives each of them a brown paper heart. They scribble on these hearts with their crayons. Then, one by one, they come up and place their dirty hearts at the foot of the cross. As Amy hands them a pristine, white heart, she tells each child, “Jesus takes your sin, he died on the cross for it and he gives you this new clean heart. So now when God looks at you, he doesn’t see your sin, He sees Jesus’ clean heart.” I know that these kids won’t fully understand the depth of that message until later in life, but their simple acceptance of it gave me goosebumps. It was a powerful reminder to me of the incredible transformation Christ’s love creates in our hearts and what it means to receive the kingdom of God like a little child.

Cubs in Motion is a great opportunity for us to reach out to the community. More importantly, it provides an opportunity to live out the vow that we as a congregation take at the baptism of our covenant children: the promise to “undertake the responsibility of assisting the parents in the Christian nurture of this child.” Every church member participates in this responsibility whether we feel a calling to children’s ministry or not.  I am so thankful for the many who make my kids and other kids a priority. I encourage you to start considering now how you can help with Kids and Cubs in Motion next summer for a week or a few days, whether working with the kids directly or not.  There are many ways to serve.