Letter from the Editor

Do you ever get so excited for something – so eager and expectant that all you can think about is that one thing? But then, when it finally arrives/happens/et cetera, you are left feeling just the slightest bit…disappointed?

I tend to overhype. I am so hopeful for what could be! As a planner, I get so excited by all the possibilities that all too often, I am left wondering why the fiction in my head was so much better than the reality.

Often my overactive imagination gets the best of me during, yep, you guessed it, Christmastime. My thoughts are consumed with the what-ifs and could-bes (alright, mostly about presents and, oh my goodness, thank you, husband, for the surprise trip to Bora Bora!) Usually, I am left feeling letdown. (more…)

Nativity

“Mr. Michael is Joseph!”

“Look, the donkey!”

“Oooooh, an angel!”

This year, Sunday, December 20, is a special day in Preschool Sundays, our Sunday school program for children ages 3, 4, and 5. On that Sunday, the children receive the gift of a silent Nativity acted out outside the window of our preschool worship room on the second floor of the Upper Campus building. They watch in amazement as their “big friends” wear costumes and portray the amazing story of Jesus’ birth. The children will hear the story over several weeks prior to December 20, so on this day the story comes to life for them and they are so proud to know exactly what is happening! They watch with eyes open wide and big smiles, and when the little play is complete we sing Silent Night together. 

Who are these “big friends” who are not too cool to dress as sheep, angels, or shepherds, and share the news of God’s love for us? They are our Preschool Sundays youth volunteers: middle and high school students, who faithfully welcome, guide, and teach our preschoolers each Sunday. They bring a sense of fun, joyful play, careful respect for our safety rules, and listening ears to our classes, and the children look up to them. 

Nativity in the Window shows the children that God’s gift of baby Jesus is for all of us – little children, cool teenagers, moms and dads, single folks, grandmas and grandpas. Through the youth volunteers, the preschoolers learn that the true importance of Jesus’ birth is how we respond and share His love with others. Under the Belong + Grow umbrella, Family Life Ministries seeks to be intergenerational and relational in all our programs. God calls and uses people of all ages to teach and encourage children and youth.

Come and peek in the hallway window on Sunday, December 20, at 9:20, 10:05, or 11:20am, and share in the gift of wonder, excitement, and joy that is the birth of baby Jesus! 

Book Review: All the Places To Go: How Will You Know?

By John Ortberg

What do Dr. Seuss and God’s will have in common?

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose…
Oh, the places you’ll go!…
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.”

This sounds very much like decision-making and God’s will. At least author John Ortberg thinks so.

So, here we have yet another book on God’s will. What makes it different from all the others? This one is fun to read and easy to digest. Each page is sprinkled with quotable phrases that can be recalled at a moment’s notice and will be influential for a lifetime. For instance: “Open doors never exist just for the sake of the people offered them.  They also involve the opportunity to bless someone else.” (more…)

Becoming

What are you becoming? Author M. Robert Mulholland, Jr, says, “We fail to realize that the process of spiritual shaping is a primal reality of human existence…”

Everyone is in a process of spiritual formation! Every thought we hold, every decision we make, every action we take, every emotion we allow to shape our behavior, every response we make to the world around us, every relationship we enter, every reaction we have toward the things that surround us and impinge upon our lives – all of these things, little by little, are shaping us into some kind of being.

We are being shaped into either the wholeness of the image of Christ or a horribly destructive caricature of that image – destructive not only to ourselves but also to others, for we inflict our brokenness upon them. (Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey, 23)

We are each being spiritually formed through every interaction and action of the day. The question is whether we are becoming formed into the image of Christ, or into something else.

Transformed into the image of Christ. (more…)

How Financial Peace University Made Life Better

I’d like to share with you a story that touches my heart as much today as it did ten years ago. I have no doubt that God was orchestrating behind the scenes in what took place in my life and my family’s life.

As I recall, it was tax time, 2005. You know, doing the taxes always has a way of stirring things up, forcing you to take a look at your money, and where it’s going. And that’s exactly what happened to us.

As Susan, my beautiful wife, and I were going through the usual paperwork, an uneasy feeling started to creep over me. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I was beginning to see that we were losing control of our money. Human beings have this great capacity to live in denial, and we were no exception. The truth was that we had been living month-to-month for a long time. Not only that, but we had not made any provision for our retirement. We didn’t really know where our money was going. (more…)

Welcoming Peace in Israel/Palestine

It’s near the end of our trip. We’re on our way to Hebron on a day where there are no known protests scheduled. Looking out the window of the bus, I realize just how weary I’ve grown of looking at that wall – the physical symbol of a very broken world. The black water tanks on the roofs quickly tell me that we’re in a Palestinian neighborhood rather than an Israeli neighborhood. And the checkpoints. Soldiers board the bus and ask if there are any Palestinians on-board. The soldiers have their fingers always on the trigger – soldiers the age of my children. And we do have a Palestinian on-board today – he’s a Palestinian Christian, works at World Vision, educated at the Vatican. He has a “P” on his Israeli passport. We’re told that Charlie’s lucky—he’s got blue eyes. Could go back to the time of the British occupation or all the way back to the Crusades.

The thing that most hits me about the young soldiers is that they’re being put in this awful situation.  They’re given authority over other peoples’ lives that they probably aren’t mature enough to handle and it’s a no-win situation that the government puts them in. There were two of them – a girl and a boy. And I say “girl and boy” because I think they weren’t much more than 18. In a couple of more casual situations, they seemed really young and almost casual about toting these guns around – kind of like they were playing soldier.   (more…)

Worshiping Jesus at Christmas

The Christmas holiday may be a blessing for some folks but a stressful, lonely time for others.

If you are one whom is depressed, talk with Jesus.

He wants to hear from you.

Jesus was born to comfort and love us. He needs to be near always, not just at Christmas.

Take time for worship.

The parties and celebrations can wait,

Jesus wants to hear from us.

He is a constant friend.

Shopping for just the right gift can be frustrating and expensive.

Decorating the home has its challenges.

Traveling to another town in traffic jars ones nerves…

Taking children to see Santa Claus takes a toll.

Planning a Christmas dinner can be a plus for some, but a negative for others.

Take some time everyday for prayer,

Open your hearts to the birth of Jesus.

Let Him fill your soul with thanksgiving

The reward is peace and joy.

Everything Is About to Change

It was a crisp Saturday night and my wife and I were on the way to a church movie night at a local gym. Napoleon Dynamite was on the docket, a favorite of both of ours. We were about halfway there when my 8-month pregnant wife asked me to stop because she needed to use the restroom. For those who have children, you know this routine well. Restroom breaks become more and more frequent as the due date gets closer. So without hesitation I pulled into a parking spot and I waited for her in the car. As I sat there, I went over all the details involved in setting up a large projector and sound system to put on the movie night. In a flash, my wife came back to the car with a puzzled look on her face. She got in the car, looked at me and said, “I think my water just broke?”

Everything was about to change. (more…)

Behind the Scenes with Diane Muscutt and Christine Gilbert

“There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.” –Father Strickland, Jesuit Priest, 1863

My interview with Diane Muscutt and Christine Gilbert started with this quote, and spoke volumes to what type of persons these two wonderful, exuberant, and humble secret servants are as co-leads for BelPres’ Sanctuary Chorus, the 120-voice choir that sings three Sundays a month from September to June. (more…)

Birth Announcements December 2015

Elaine Mary Flugstad
Born 8-29-15 to
Nick and Erin Flugstad

Abel Joseph Hulderson
Born 8-13-15 to
Eric & Erin Hulderson

George Gallagher Franck
Born 8-25-15 to
James and Amanda Franck

Ryder John McFadyen
Born 9-6-15 to
Stacey and Mark McFadyen

Reese Lindsey Miller
Born 3-6-15 to
Jeffrey and Kelley Miller

Dean Edward Carper
Born 9-24-15 to
Mike and Michelle Carper

The New Baby ministry seeks to greet new babies in our church community with the love of Christ. If you know of a family who is due to have a baby or adopt a baby in the coming months please contact Di Alexander or the Church Office, 425-454-3082, so we may include them in this ministry.

A Theology of Resources: The Kingdom Value of “the Ask”

Steve Bury, Executive Director for Urban Impact in Seattle, presented a Theology of Resources to those gathered for their Fall Celebration event. Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach, and team members Kris Bennett and Julie Brunings, were glad to attend, and suggested we share Steve’s ideas with our mission community.

Steve shared that his thinking around “the ask” has been evolving into this goal: to develop a consistent message to our greater community–whether materially poor or wealthy–to provide a biblical basis and framework for our work in community development and resource development that brings glory to God and transformation to His people.

Around this goal, Urban Impact has developed the following questions:

Who is God?
Who are we?
How should we live?
How should we work?

They were led to four commitments that Urban Impact believes about God, and everything they do flows from them. Steve was gracious to send his notes to me (Mary) and I’ll share them here:

Four Foundational commitments:

  1. God is relational. Beginning with the Trinity, that dance between God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we see throughout Biblical history even to this present day a loving God pursuing us to be in relationship with Him. This culminated with Jesus leaving the glory of heaven and moving into the neighborhood. When Jesus returned to heaven, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to be our comforter, and to reveal God’s truth and His kingdom to earth. 2 Corinthians 5 lays out His message of reconciliation and call us to be His ambassadors.

A key foundation of Urban Impact is this commitment to reconciling our relationship with God, self, others and creation. We work knowing that Christ has brought reconciliation to all four relationships (God, self, others, and creation). Therefore, we are to nurture, honor and steward these four relationships in a way that honors God and is in alignment with His purposes. These broken relationships are what causes poverty, individual and systemic generational poverty, social, material, and spiritual poverty. We work to break these cycles and build hope in all these areas.

  1. God is creator and owner of all creation. We believe everything was created by God and for God’s purposes. Our sin caused brokenness in our relationship with God; it also broke creation and our relationship with creation. God continues to work toward redeeming us relationally and to see His creation, His Kingdom, healed and brought here on earth. Colossians lays out Christ’s supremacy and His work to restore all things unto Himself. We are committed to combating our American culture of ownership, which impacts every area of our lives, with this foundational truth that God is owner of all and all our work should point back to Him and bring Him glory.

We are committed to Living only under God’s Kingdom. Our culture tempts us to live in dual kingdoms, God’s and our own, but that does not work. We cannot serve two masters.  We live knowing that this earth and possessions will fade away. Therefore we will seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, listening to God’s voice so that we may obey His commands.  We seek this for our entire community: our families, neighbors, staff board, volunteers and giving partners.

  1. God is provider. We believe God is the sole provider of all things, including our possessions, our finances, our families, and our ministry. There is so much laid out in scripture showing how God provides for His people and His work. He provides for what He directs. We see the importance of fighting our tendencies to rely on ourselves, on our expectations of others, and on our resources as the source for our hope and security.  Instead we live our lives full of trust, understanding that God is our Provider.

God entrusts us to steward all that He has provided. God is owner; our role is to be His stewards. This is a very different way than most of us have been living. We see God’s provision as ours and then give Him back a little through our benevolence and good will. Our commitment is to see it all as God’s, and to respond by listening to Him and asking Him not just “what do you want me to give?” but “how do you want me to steward all that You have given to me?”  We surrender all wealth and resources under His authority, living a life of freedom in stewardship. 

  1. God is generous. The final foundational truth that we are committed to, is that God is generous. His nature is generous; we see this in creation, in His redemptive grace and giving His own Son, to His ongoing provision for His people. He continues to give abundantly out of all His resources. We look to God as the ultimate example of generosity and recognize Him as the Giver of all good gifts.

We are called to similar generously as a form of worship and obedience to God. Modeling God we are called to be generous stewards with what He provides.  He provides for us so that we can enjoy and share His resources in community.  He calls us to be cheerful givers, and to take risks, reach out and share everything in a radical way. Acts 4 describes this new church in a powerful way: “The gospel was being proclaimed, grace was abounding, people were so committed to Jesus and this new community that they did not consider their possessions as their own, but sold land to provide for each other.” As a result, “there was no poor among them.” This was a radical generosity that was contagious and powerful. This scripture has become a rally cry for us, and we dream of this being said of our churches and the Urban Impact community. Wouldn’t it be exciting if that is how all our churches and communities were known?!

 

Where have you experienced God’s radical generosity in your life?

Where do you feel challenged and/or invited to give radically in your community?

Praying with Purpose: Bellevue Police Prayer Partners

Hi! My name is Deneen Blake and I’ve been a part of Bellevue Police Prayer Partners (BP3) since 2007, praying for a Bellevue officer. Now that my daughters have both graduated from High School (what?!), I was looking for something new and am taking over leadership of this ministry. I am really looking forward to doing a re-fresh and getting new people signed up to support our officers in prayer.

Why BP3?  Remember that early wind storm that we had in late August? I was stuck in traffic, just wanting to get home to my safe, dry house and away from all of the leaves and branches hitting my car. I finally got up to a dark intersection where a police officer was standing in the middle of the road, being hit by all that flying debris and honked at by frustrated motorists and I realized…he was standing out there to get US all home as quickly and safely as possible. Talk about a thankless job!  I’m sure that members of this congregation honor the speed limits and, in any rare occasion where someone “accidentally” violated a traffic law and was caught, I’m certain that they were polite and respectful to the officer, but I understand that some other people are rather rude and hostile to them. 😉 Car3Police

These men and women see the people of Bellevue at their worst and most vulnerable, and try to treat everyone with respect. I wouldn’t want any of these officers to be out on patrol without their protective vests and I honestly believe that prayer support is as important for these first responders as their weapons and body armor.

First, I’m hoping that everyone who is currently praying for an officer will let me know, so that we can keep you up to date on any changes.  Second, I’m hoping that a lot of new people will join us! Last year alone, 20 officers retired or left the department and 30 new officers were hired. There are now about 180 officers, plus additional dispatchers and firefighters.  The first thing that I want to do is make sure that each of these first responders has at least one person that prays for them regularly.

I haven’t found it hard to do. Whenever I see a police car or hear a siren, I remember the officer that I pray for by name. I pray that he is safe and protected. I pray that he has insight and patience. I pray that he has courage and compassion, and I pray that God surrounds him with a strong support system of friends and family.

Thanks and I hope to hear from many of you soon.

To join BP3, please contact GetConnected.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Basically Wonderful: Baby Basics of Bellevue

Fall, the time of harvest and thanksgiving, is a vivid reminder of the importance of intentional planning, and moving forward with purpose. This is the time of year when we reach out to ask for your volunteer help to continue to providing diapers for low-income young families in our community.

On the Eastside, Baby Basics is one of several “safety net” organizations working for the well-being of poor and low-income families. Poverty, sadly, is a growing problem in our country and in our community. Our purpose is to provide diapers that help babies thrive and help families stay above the poverty line. We also help connect families to other services in the community if they have other needs. It is rewarding to be a part of a larger effort that advocates for poor and low-income families.

October marked the beginning of our fourth year distributing diapers, and by early 2016 we will ????????????????????????????????????have distributed 100,000 diapers. The impact of these diapers is far-reaching. Baby Basics literally needs caring, helping hands to carry on the work we are doing.  As a 100% volunteer-run non-profit, we can only do what we do because volunteers are giving the gift of time, expertise, and kindness.We currently need helping hands and caring hearts to carry on the work of Baby Basics, from bundling and distributing diapers twice a month to working with families by responding to their requests for assistance.

Thank you for reaching out to meet the needs of low-income families on the Eastside.
Contact Get Connected to get involved.

Welcome Home Jean McAllister

Jean McAllister first experienced God’s call to be a missionary while she was on an Impact Team Mission Trip in Rwanda in 2004.  She heard God say to her, “You could live here.”

After returning to the U.S., Jean prayed a lot, read Scripture and consulted with friends, family, and pastors here at BelPres.  Through this process, Jean felt strong confirmation that God was inviting heJean & Alexisr to move to Rwanda.  Jean remembers the chorus from one song being particularly meaningful; “Here I am Lord; is it I Lord?  I have heard you calling in the night.  I will go Lord; if you lead me.  I will hold your people in my heart.” This is what Jean has done since she moved to Rwanda in 2005.

Initially, Jean went to work with Naomi Club (a ministry to help Prostitutes start a new life and get off the streets) and AEE.  Jean hired a language tutor and at the bright, young age of 70, Jean began learning a brand new language called Kinyarwanda.

Jean soon became an advocate for kids living on the street, ages 8-18 years old, who were going to schools called “Catch Up” schools.  The purpose of these schools was to catch kids living with homelessness up on all the education they missed and prepare then for secondary school.  Jean also began personally sponsoring some older students so they could go to college and she helped other young people find sponsors here in the U.S.  As Jean’s mastery of the language increased, she began accepting invitations to teach and to preach in local churches.

One of Jean’s great accomplishments was to develop a network of small local Rwandan ministries with a primary focus on children living on the street, prostitutes and poverty.  Through constant encouragement, casting vision around the benefits of working together rather than separately, faithful perseverance and provision of resources, Jean sustained and matured the network until she was able to hand her leadership over to Rwandan believers.

Jesus has used Jean to change many lives both in Rwanda and here in the U.S.. Catch Up Schools has been able to purchase land and provide teacher salaries; young adults have graduated from college; many Rwandans have been mentored and their needs cared for; individuals and teams from the U.S. have been graciously hosted; a network of ministries to the most poor and vulnerable has been sustained and new initiatives developed; a water project was completed and dedicated in the name of someone from Belpres; and the list goes on and on and on.

Jean’s life is a testimony to the amazing ways Jesus works when we say, “Yes!” to His calling.

Jean’s ministry in Rwanda has come to a close and Jean moved back here to the U.S. earlier this week. We are so thankful for Jean, for the fruit of her ministry in Rwanda, and for the ways she has partnered with Jesus in bringing His Kingdom to earth. Well done, good and faithful servant! Let’s welcome Jean back to Bellevue. Greet her when you see her, but more than that, be ready to abide with her as she grieves her life in Rwanda, and as she finds her way among us now. The transition from mission life to country-of-origin life is a challenging one, and Jean will need our congregation to love, to listen, and just to walk with her through it.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.”
Colossians 1:3-4.