The Messenger: February

Letter from the Editor

Last year during Lent I came across the term “Bright Sadness” to describe the season. This perfectly oxymoronic and paradoxical phrase was coined in Eastern Orthodox circles (the Greek translation could also be “joyful mourning” or “affliction that leads to joy”) and has been resting in the back of my brain ever since I first read it: a season of Bright Sadness.

This phrase is as enigmatic to me as the path I follow during Lent. When I think about Lent, my initial reaction could be characterized as apathetic. A time of sacrifice, temptation, and struggle. Hearing the TV remote call my name and remind me of the ease of snuggling up and zoning out as I attempt to do a devotional is not enjoyable. (more…)

Transformation in the Trees

During Lent we see transformation begin to happen in the landscape and in our hearts. The cold, darkness of winter is being re-formed into longer days, with color poking out from branches as the trees seek out a renewed sense of life and growth. Each tree is different than it was last year – its trunk has thickened, its roots are dug deeper, and each branch is being molded into a new shape for the coming season of intense growth and fruit production. Transformation is part of the tree’s life cycle, and is as regular as the seasons of the year. (more…)

The Impact of Immerse

All of the sessions were a blessing. I am going through difficult struggles in my marriage and with a defiant, explosive child. The ‘prayer writing’ and ‘teach us to pray’ session​s were particularly helpful in my process of turning these situations over to God and seeking to discern how God wants to use me to minister to my family.

I so needed a weekend just to be filled. Sometimes life gets so busy that it is hard to remember to spend time with God. This weekend gave me so practical ways to do that; it really met me where I am at. I have always felt envious of people that have said they have seen God or heard God only to learn that God has constantly been talking to me, I just haven’t listened.


Top Books BelPres Library*: Part 2 of 2

*According to user data.

Explore these books and check out more resources at the BelPres Library. These books and many more are available in the BelPres Library. See our online catalog, listing over 5,000 resources.

Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected answers to life’s biggest questions
Timothy Keller                              

The people who met Jesus Christ in person faced the same big life questions we face today. Like most of us, the answers handed down to them didn’t seem to work in the real world. But when they met Jesus, things started to change immediately for them. It seems he not only had the answers — he was the answer.

Simplify: Ten practices to unclutter your soul
Bill Hybels

Simplified living requires more than just cleaning out your closets or reorganizing your desk drawer. It requires uncluttering your soul. By eradicating the stuff that leaves your spirit drained, you can stop doing what doesn’t matter―and start doing what does. (more…)

Growing Higher

Dr. Scott Dudley will join Christian Music Artist Clay Crosse as a keynote speaker at the 2016 Higher Ground Men’s Conference, on Saturday, February 27. Known for its straight talk and practical tools for the very real issues men of faith face daily in a compromised culture, Higher Ground has become synonymous with dynamic life change for men of faith in the Pacific Northwest.

Men just like Kevin.*

“As a young man I married a godly young woman and we served God together for decades. We recently celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary. But we almost didn’t make it.” (more…)

Taste and See

I bless God every chance I get; my lungs expand with his praise. I live and breathe God; if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy: Join me in spreading the news; together let’s get the word out. God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears. Look at him; give him your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from him. When I was desperate, I called out, and God got me out of a tight spot. God’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray. Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see – how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him. Worship God if you want the best; worship opens doors to all his goodness.

Psalm 34:1-9, The Message

Dear Friends in Christ,

I’m about to begin a trip. The calendar tells me it is time once again to begin the journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, from Christmas to Easter. Christmas and Easter are words that  always bring a smile to my face as I joyfully anticipate the celebrations with family and friends. Isn’t it true, we love to be Christmas and Easter people. But this year, on Wednesday, February 10, we become Lenten people, as we turn our hearts and minds to the cross. During this journey, we’ll hear words like ashes, mortality, sin, and repentance. The music is somber. The mood is pensive. We are aware of our brokenness. This is Lent. Some folks say this is a very morose season of the year. I’ve even heard it described as a strange, bleak, irrational church season. And we might all agree. I must confess that through the years I have often not anticipated Lent with great joy, yet I realize Easter has meaning because of Lent, because we need a savior. And so it begins on Ash Wednesday. (more…)

Beauty for Ashes

“He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” Isaiah 61.3

Recently, Community Outreach Team Member, Kris Bennett, and I traveled into the heart of Seattle to visit New Horizons and R.E.S.T. (Real Escape from the Sex Trade), two new BelPres Mission partners. Our first stop was in the Rainier Valley at the R.E.S.T. offices to meet with Edward Sumner, Director of Development, and Deborah Masten, Clinical Program Director. Founded in 2009, R.E.S.T. focuses on building pathways to freedom, safety, and hope for victims of sex trafficking, as well as for people involved in the sex trade in King County. They do this through building relationships with sexually exploited young people and responding to their needs, including understanding the barriers that keep them from living a life of freedom.

On any given night in King County, more than 1,000 young women are sold multiple times for sex. It is estimated that an average of 300-500 are underage teenagers. Sadly, the average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is between 13 and 14. As such, these girls require specialized, trauma-informed care that addresses the compounded, complex abuse they have typically experienced since childhood. In Joel 2:12 we read, “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” The Lord calls us, the Church, to fast, weep, and mourn over the brokenness in our community, where young women, in what is the most intimate of acts, are robbed of their dignity, value and identity as created in the image of God. (more…)


Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Jonah 3:4-6 ESV

The Bible has 56 references to ash. Why is ash and sackcloth such a common theme in the Bible? Ashes were used for various reasons: humility (Ezekiel 27:30), sacrifice (Leviticus 6:11), purification (Numbers 19:9-10), mourning (Esther 4:1) and repentance (Jonah 3:6). There are plenty of reasons and more scriptural examples besides these where ash is used, but it is the act of repentance that interests me the most.

There are definitely cringe worthy moments in my life where I would love to have a redo. I have always done my best to learn from my mistakes and all of them have made me the person I am today. Yet some of them seem so absurd, so out of character, that when I think back on them I am a little puzzled as to what I was thinking. Or more appropriately, what I was not thinking of. Mistakes in life will happen, God makes that plain: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). Due to my addiction to sin, I am called upon continually to repent. I am glad to know that I am saved by grace, “for by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8 ESV). But I would hope that over time I could reduce my faltering by keeping my heart, mind, and body focused on where God is calling me. (more…)

Behind the Scenes with Sandy Mabbott

I’m on day two of no more pumpkin pie, in hopes of brushing up on my self-control. I have to confess I opened the fridge to catch a whiff of cinnamon and cloves and a glance at the whipped cream. Oh, how I love that combo. This is hard! Stick with the pie, give up the jeans. Give up the pie, get into the jeans.

Although this is a story about Sandy Mabbott and not my pumpkin pie indulgences, it’s quite a connection to her after all. Keep reading. You’ll see how she died to something in order to resurrect to something better. Maybe Lent is being practiced here.

But first, as this month’s Behind the Scenes volunteer, let me share Sandy’s long resume of service. For starters, every Monday she relieves the receptionist for lunch. She’s been doing this for five years! As a previous staffer, she knows the phone system inside out. (more…)