Time for some Spring Cleaning!
One of our favorite shows on TV was Clean House. It was so cool to see people just like us who ended up living in homes buried in years of accumulated “stuff”, some valuable, most not so valuable. In most of the cases, the persons living in that home were very resistant to giving up much of their “stuff”, even if the items no longer served a purpose.
A Blended Family With 20 Years of Clutter!
My own family can relate. We are a blended family, each bringing to our Bend, Oregon household 20 plus years of accumulated memories, belongings, and “stuff”, and yes, some baggage as well! We, too, were resistant to change, and letting go of outdated and unusable belongings was difficult. The more we came together in agreement as to what should go, there was much relief to see clean in place of clutter, and new things replacing the old worn out ones.
Your House Isn’t the Only Thing That Needs Cleaning!
As I grow in maturity as a Christian, I understand that cleaning my house may be important, but the cleaning of my heart is imperative to my joy, peace and relationship with God and with others. Just like my house, there are corners and dark places that still hold dirt, and God wants to make you as clean inside as on the outside.
A Clean That Lasts Forever
The prophet Ezekiel tells us of God’s desire for us in Ezekiel 36:25-27: 25 “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
So how can we strive to become the clutter free, germ free, clean vessel of the Holy Spirit?
Try putting these items on your to-do list:
Taking the Challenge in Bend, Oregon
We have a favorite antique brass doorknocker that was given to us by a godly couple when we first became Christians in 1991. I have it to this day, and on it are the words of Joshua, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. It is a reminder that we ought to continue to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
That means that though I long ago rid myself of the “biggies” like substance abuse or immorality, I still need to daily take the challenge to rid my heart of all remaining grudges, resentments, bitterness, or unforgiveness.
So, my fellow Bendites, I invite you to join me in this challenge!
When God Says No, A Story from My Life in Bend, Oregon
By Christy Osterkamp
I didn’t ask for anything petty, or illegal, immoral, or indulgent. I simply, again, asked for a basic full time job for my son in law to support his family, consisting of my daughter and their 17 month old son. They were wonderful enough to move down the street from us after being released from the Marines, but ever since they arrived, they have struggled to find enough work to support their little family. I thought I could win God’s favor by offering to have my prayer for my own job denied in favor of my son in law receiving his. It didn’t work. It wasn’t as if I was trying to bribe God. I had heard that if you want something answered for yourself, pray it for another person.
“Who, if asked by his child for a piece of bread, would give him a stone instead?”
Once again, these words from Matthew 7:9 enter my thoughts and I ask yet again, Why God? As Tevye the Milkman in “Fiddler on the Roof” laments, “Would it be so terrible if I had a small fortune?” And I’m not even asking for a fortune! I’m just asking for a basic full time job with benefits, something most of us took for granted until 2008. The economic crash of 2008, combined with the untimely abandonment by our former spouses, left my husband and I bankrupt and starting all over again financially.
My husband and I love word games. When someone says something like “hang in there”, or “God has a better plan for you”, I usually call it a “Duck-billed Platitude”. Those clichés which are meant to make me feel better leave me feeling no comfort at all. If I had a dollar for every application I’ve filled out, and every interview I lost, I would then be rich, or so it seems.
Counting My Blessings
When I am reminded to count my blessings, shame washes over me as I remember that all my needs are met, my bills are paid, my family is well, and my feeling sorry for myself is the height of selfishness. I have no right to whine about being unemployed, when the truth is I am not comfortable being supported by someone else! I had been self sufficient by necessity for six years, playing the role of mother and father and provider to my three daughters, sending two of them off to college, and planning and paying for two of their weddings. Now for some reason totally out of my control, I am RELIANT upon my husband to support us, while I bring in meager income doing substitute jobs while continuing this long struggle to find permanent work again. The funny thing is, my husband never complains, or whines how I don’t pull my own weight.
What could God be trying to teach me?
One thing I have learned in all of this is to Fully Rely on God (the FROG acronym). My son in law is also learning this, and perhaps in so doing we are receiving something of more worth and value than getting what we want right now.
Ask, Seek, Knock
Matthew 7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Tomorrow I will continue to ask, seek, and knock. God doesn’t get tired of my questions and requests. All that He asks for is my faith.
I look forward to the day when I can look back and see where all these unanswered prayers were leading. Then, as Joyce Meyer likes to say, I will turn all my “moanies” into testimonies!
Why In the World Do I Do What I Do in Bend Oregon?
Contributed by Christy Osterkamp
When I first arrived in Bend, Oregon, I believed all the bad stuff was behind me. I had a new life, a new husband, a new future. When I discovered that my PROBLEMS and WEAKNESSES followed me to Bend, I was discouraged. I thought I had left all of those on the coast!! Having past my fiftieth birthday, I was still struggling with these questions: Why do I feel what I feel? Why do I react how I react? Why do I do what I do, even when I hate myself for doing it?
Ask the question…get a plethora of answers…
The world will give us many answers if we seek them, some of them helpful, some of them not. In a strictly psychological sense, my problems can be contributed to being the offspring of a stressed out, unwed mother, who was unable to hold me and bond with me, resulting in a lack of necessary glucocorticoids in my brain. Compound that with weeks in a foster care system receiving questionable care, learning to walk in a hip spica cast (spread eagle), and topping that off with a childhood of sexual abuse and secrecy in my adopted family, I was a recipe for disaster. So now I understood how messed up I was, what in the world could I DO about it?
Seeking Answers Outside the Box
It is said that the definition of stupidity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. I finally got tired of being on the same emotional cycle of rejection and self hatred, and sought help from a Christian counselor. In so doing, I am learning to grieve my past but not allow it to continue to define me. I am learning to accept graciously those who choose not to be in relationship with me, and cherish and enjoy those who do.
Does the Bible Really Understand Me NOW?
Paul the apostle, who authored many of the books of the New Testament, mirrors some of my feelings in Romans 7:15. “15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
So Where is Our Hope?
Paul continues in Romans 7:21, “21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
By: Chrisy Osterkamp
Where Did Santa Come from Anyway?
So where in the world did Santa come from, anyway? I learned about him when my daughters and I took a trip to Colorado, where there is a theme park called North Pole, Colorado, a Christmas themed park near Pike’s Peak. It is a beautiful park full of all the sights, sounds and wonders of Christmas, and among all the attractions is a beautiful little chapel housing a large plaque which tells the wonderful story of how Santa Claus came to be. Nicholas was born around AD 270 in Patara, Lycia, Asia Minor, to Christian parents. His mother and father, Theophanes and Nonna, vowed to dedicate their son to God, after a lengthy time of childlessness.
The Life and Times of The Real Santa Claus
Nicholas’s sainthood was not “bestowed” upon him by the Catholic church, but by popular opinion of generations of people of many nations, Nicholas became known as a saint. The very definition of “saint” describes Nicholas perfectly: “A person who lived a life devoted to God; a worthy example of holiness, virtue, or kindness and charity; someone who lets God's love shine through them to the world.”
A Controversial Figure?
Nicholas was appointed a bishop around the year AD 300, (interestingly the same age as Jesus when He began His earthly ministry). Bishop Nicholas strove to do good deeds in secret (which eventually evolved into coming in the middle of the night down our chimneys, only while we were sleeping, lest we receive lumps of coal instead). Many witnesses claim Bishop Nicholas reportedly performed many miracles such as calming the waves of the sea, healing people, and driving out demons. If you think that these reports sound like a false Messiah, remember the words of Jesus in John 14:12, when He tells His disciples, “ Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
His Love for Children
Being orphaned as a child, Bishop Nicholas had a burning love for children, and it is said that he would toss little pouches of coins through the windows of the homes of poor children, and sometimes the pouches would land in the stockings that were washed and hung on the windowsill to dry. When finding all the windows of the house shut, he would toss the pouch up onto the roof, where it went down the chimney.
Was Santa Claus a Real Person? What Every Kid Should Know this Christmas
I have heard concerned young parents question all the commercialism, the materialism, and the symbols of Christmas that seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with the celebration of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, and the Savior of the world.
However, be of good cheer! The round, jolly, generous man in the red suit may have gone through many transformations over the centuries, but my children and I shared traditions about the real man who grew to be the legendary Santa Claus. We enjoy the stories which evolved over the years, including leaving milk and cookies out for Santa so he would have something to eat after struggling to get down our chimney with all our presents. My mother did a wonderful job of sharing the Christmas spirit with my brothers and me by leaving something out unwrapped that we never saw until Christmas morning, presumably from Santa. I confess that even now my children are grown I cannot resist the temptation to label at least one of their gifts not from me, but from Santa. I do not begrudge any child the joy and wonder of dreaming about Santa and all the good and wonderful things he represents. So as we should all remember the reason for the season, and to keep Christ in Christmas, I submit that for my family and me, we say Santa Claus, AKA St. Nicholas, dedicated every aspect of his life to God’s service, and pointed nations and generations to Christ through his example, and will deserve a place in our home and our traditions. Merry Christmas!!!
If you have other questions about St. Nicholas or about the birth of Jesus, we invite you to fill out the contact form and talk with one of the Pastors of Epikos Church in Bend, Oregon.
Contributed by, Epikos Community Member, Brett Nelson
TAKE COURAGE, I AM HERE
Jesus insisted that his disciples get back in the boat, and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home.
It's a funny thing, the idea of being away from God. I mean He is omnipresent right?! So how is it that at times He can seem galaxies away? Is it only our sins that seem to separate us from Him, or perhaps are there times where He wants to seem distant from us, see how we'll react on our own.
I love those times in life where God is so close, so present! He is my every thought, He is my every desire, He is near and I know it. I want to box those times up, I want them to be what life is forever, but the truth is there are times where He is going to say, "Hey you get back on the boat, go to the other side I have to finish up some business, I'll catch up with you."
Well. It was one of those times. And as it usually ends up for me, it wasn't pretty. I was in the boat, I was just trying to get to the other side. God soon felt so distant. The winds started picking up. The storm just escalated. The waves started hitting the side of the boat, even flowing up over into it. "God where are you??"
And you know things were really ugly because it was three o' clock in the morning, and not a one of them was asleep....
I know the feeling. Things were beginning to suffocate me, life was small, I thought of nothing but my boat being flopped around like a piece of wood. I thought of nothing but being stuck in that moment, thinking it was the end. It was me, and a boat, and a storm that had no mercy, and worst of all, God was nowhere to be found.
And here they found themselves at three in the morning, sleep deprived, afraid for their lives, and now something comes walking up to them on the water..... Are they hallucinating? It was easier to believe that it was a ghost, than that it was Jesus!
And it was right at this moment. In their fear, in their pain, in their hopelessness, on the brink of giving up, Jesus says, "Don't be afraid, Take courage, I am here!"
What incredible words.
God seemed far away. Hope was gone. Fear was about to completely take its toll, all to be washed away in an instant, and by one sentence: Take courage, I am here!
And now my favorite part!
Peter yells out through the storm, "Lord if it's really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water!"
What a picture, what a moment. Peter, looking out at this man, walking on water. This man that clearly stated he is Jesus! "if it's really you." What was this desire in Peter? I doubt it even crossed anyone else's mind! Not one other person on that boat, was thinking, "Yeah, if it's really you tell us to come out in the storm, and do something impossible!" I want to get ahold of that desire! It wasn't doubting God. It was a desire to experience Him in every possible way!! If Jesus walks on water... than I could..... if He tells me to.
That's where I was. Overwhelmed. And then like a ghost, like a shadow God showed up, and revealed Himself miraculous, revealed himself uninhibited to the laws of nature. I saw myself like Peter, "God, if it's really you, ask me to do something impossible, so I know the only way it could happen is you! Ask me to go on an adventure, that I would never have even thought possible, but it will be possible, because you are there, and you asked me to."
In that moment, all Peter saw was God! "Yes, Come!" that was Jesus's response. That was all Peter needed! Oh man, it was on, he was going to walk on water. He didn't think about it, there was no standard to follow, no guidelines on how to go about this, it was him and Jesus. I can picture him placing his feet over the side of the boat, sitting on the edge for a second with his feet dangling, and then fixing his eyes on Jesus and starting out on his incredible adventure, that only he has ever experienced!
That is where I am. God showed up. I was in the midst of the worst storm of my life, and God showed up. An adventure was looming. God if this really is you, then tell me to go to Bend. Tell me to do something I've never done before. Tell me to step out of this boat, step away from everything I've ever known and let me experience life as I have never known it, because I know I can, because I know you are there, and my eyes are fixed on you alone.
And this is a chance to learn from my wise mentor and predecessor in the faith:
But when Peter saw the strong wind and waves, he was terrified and began to sink.
Something very interesting happened. The waves were always there. They hadn't gone away. The wind hadn't died down. It was as bad as ever. That didn't matter to Peter, because it was Jesus, and that was all that mattered. With Jesus anything was possible, he had come to acquire this knowledge over time of walking with Him. But then, as he was walking, as he was doing the impossible, a different knowledge hit him...... the wind, a wave probably smashed right into him, it wasn't easy, it wan't pretty, it was a fierce ocean. This wasn't how he envisioned it. The reality of the situation had hit home. The knowledge that this was not supposed to be happening.
Knowledge is all around us. We grow in our knowledge of God. But we have our own knowledge too, and they usually don't align. Faith does not align with our earthly knowledge! When our eyes are fixed on Jesus, faith is alive, and we find the laws of the knowledge we and everyone around us have grown up with is completely insignificant!! But, it shifted in a second, just one splash of a wave, and Peter's eyes weren't on Jesus anymore, they were on the reality of waves and wind and a storm and the fact that he was standing in the middle of the water, and that was not how life was supposed to be. He began to sink!
We can't have two things in our mind. We either have our eyes fixed on God, and our hearts ready for whatever adventure He has for us, or we fix our minds on reality as we have always known it, which usually ends in us screaming out in a desperate cry, "Save me, Lord!!" And it was just a moment of doubt. It was just a moment where the knowledge he'd gathered his whole life, took over the knowledge he had come to know of Jesus, that nothing was impossible, that as long as He was there, he didn't have to be afraid, he could take courage, he could do anything.... even walk on water.
That is where I am, I took a step out of the boat. The waves are very real. The wind is picking up. But I can't fix my mind on that. I can't take my eyes off Jesus, because I don't care how things look, or what my human way of thinking would tell me to believe, all I know is that I only hear one sentence echoing through my mind......
"Don't be afraid. Take courage, I am Here!"
Epikos Community Blog
Welcome to the Epikos Community Blog where you can find and read blog posts from members of Epikos Church in Bend, OR. At Epikos we believe in the value of every member and this is a place for members to share about the work God is doing in their lives.