The Messenger: January

Letter from the Editor

It’s easy for me to go for periods where I do not actively read my Bible. I get my “fix” from the sermons on Sunday or online devotionals I read or that I am sent. Sometimes I look at my Bible and think, despite so much evidence in my own life to the contrary, “This 2000-year-old book is great, but how applicable can it really be?” But then, when I am eager to hear God’s voice, I flip open my Bible and let Him know, “I’m ready! Let’s get down to some wisdom.”

God-on-demand – is that what I really want?

I page through the Scriptures, using my handy topic index in the back of my Bible to find the words of wisdom I know are waiting for me and usually I get back…nothing.

“Hello, God, I’m here. I’m ready for an answer.”

Silence. (more…)



Happy New Year 2016

Resolution One: I will live for God.

Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will. 

~ Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

As 2015 closes and 2016 opens, many of us will make resolutions for the New Year. We can all think of common resolutions to quit this, do that, lose this, et cetera—perhaps we made one ourselves last year or in previous years. While all of these are rooted in positivity, 1 Timothy 4:8 reminds us, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Although there is nothing in the Bible or notable in Christian tradition about New Year’s resolutions, many good stewards take advantage of this time of year to become closer to the Lord. Whatever your resolution may be, turn to the Lord. Ask the Lord for guidance, strength and perseverance in achieving your resolutions. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength,” (Phil 4:13). If God is the center of our New Years resolutions, they have a better chance for success.



Top Books BelPres Library*: Part 1 of 2

*According to user data.

Explore these books and check next month’s Messenger for more of the most popular books at BelPres.

These books and many more are available in the BelPres Library. See our online catalog, listing over 5,000 resources, at belpres.org.

Surprised by Hope Rethinking heaven, the resurrection, and the mission of the church.
N.T. Wright

What happens after we die? Wright shows how most Christians get it wrong. We do not “go to” heaven; we are resurrected and heaven comes down to earth—a difference that makes all of the difference to how we live on earth.

Simply Jesus: Who He was, what He did, why it matters

N.T. Wright

Summarizes 200 years of modern Biblical scholarship and models how Christians can best retell the story of Jesus today. (more…)



Pack a Meal. Change a Life.

If you were asked to design a perfect service opportunity for our church family, what would it be? It would need to appeal to both young and old, and to those muscular and not so muscular. It would have to overflow with the joy of serving, the fun of new friendships, the call to impact lives, and, of course, be infused with an overwhelming sense that God is there.

Friends, I introduce you to the Meal Packing Marathon.

Last January, you may have been one of the lucky 300 people who joined us for the first Meal Packing Marathon at BelPres. In two hours, this hearty group of volunteers packed 70,000 dried meals for vulnerable children in Sierra Leone, West Africa. By investing a morning of energy, our BelPres community made a lasting impression in God’s rescue operation to the world, feeding children who would otherwise go hungry.

Wearing aprons and hairnets, these 300 joyful servants put chicken, rice, lentils, and spice into bags, which were then weighed and sealed, and later boxed. Children who participated were happily running food bags to the sealing stations, coloring boxes, (more…)



The Longing in My Heart

Psalm 1 (and other Psalms) speaks about loving the law of the Lord, and for many years that felt stifling to me. Loving laws? That seems contradictory to my desire for relationship. But when I delve into the Psalmist David’s engagement with God, I see a relationship that is real, relevant, and brutally honest. There was something about meditating on scripture that fed David’s soul. He clearly had a sense of calling, and if he ever forgot, he had Samuel there to remind him. David put all of his emotions, his sense of being chosen, his whole life on paper, as he records his conversations with a relational God.

Over the years, I have come to understand David’s longing for God’s word, as my longing has morphed from an “I should” to “I want to,” because of the ways that God has met me in His Word. Through the practice of personal lectio divina (“Divine Reading”), I have found longed-for answers, challenging directives, and revelations that have left me breathless. For many people, reading scripture for information (facts – who, what, where, when, and why) has breathed life into the words on the page, but for me, with two degrees in theology and a life of studying scripture for information, the practice feeds a feeling of disconnect from a relational God. But when I began to read formationally, listening to the voice of my heart in the reading, and trusting that God has a specific message for me in each and every day and story, I have found that it is true that when we seek God, we will find Him. Scripture has connected to my life in whole new ways. (more…)



Coincidence or God?

It has been said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Well, I need to “out” God. Many times I receive very appreciative and thoughtful comments about the Sanctuary worship music and about its close relationship to the message of the day. Truth be told, I often sit there in the service and see endless connections of the message and music that are completely unintentional. At least to me. It is uncanny how often this happens, and not just in the Sanctuary but in Modern Worship as well. I’ve been witnessing this for years, going back to the days of our former pastor Dick Leon in the old Sanctuary up the hill. So I thought I would take a moment to share a case in point, the first Sunday following the Paris attacks the evening of November 13.

A PARISIAN KYRIE. When we sing we not only proclaim God’s word and minister through the incredibly emotive language of music, but we also pray. Music in worship is also intended to support the preacher’s message but musicians have to plan far in advance and preachers don’t always have that luxury. Sometimes I haven’t a clue as to what the scripture or message will be (and Scott Dudley might say the same thing!)

In September I was looking for an opportunity to work into our fall worship services a remarkable setting of one of the oldest known prayers, the Kyrie (prayer: Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy) from a lesser-known Mass by the French composer and organist of Notre-Dame (Paris), Louis Vierne (1870-1937) for the Sanctuary Chorus to sing in worship. November 15 was thematically “open” so I scheduled it, even though I had concerns it may be too “stern” sounding or “loud” for a prayer of mercy. I didn’t realize the connection the piece had to the Paris massacre until I was doing my final score review that Sunday morning at about 5:30am. It was as if we were praying, pleading, and, yes, demanding, for mercy and peace for all humankind with an inner gentle section calling on the love of Jesus. It was a powerful, emotive, cathartic, experience for the singers and judging from comments on Facebook or elsewhere, for many in the congregation as well. (more…)



Changing Lives: High School Fall Retreat

Danielle Merseles, Pastoral Resident

High School Ministries annual Fall Retreat might just be my favorite weekend of the year. There are the staples – s’mores, mountaintops covered in snow, lots of hot cocoa, and spending Saturday afternoon playing games together. This year was no exception. Rev. Daniel Triller spoke on friendship. Who were Jesus’ closest friends? How do we create strong, life-giving friendships? I got to witness our students grow in relationship with each other, with leaders and with Jesus. I saw God show up through a volunteer leader offering students a morning devotional time and the abundant laughter during a game that turned into a dance party. I experienced the presence and power of the Spirit through the all-student worship team that led us in song and prayed over us. My Fall Retreat experience is just one of the 66 leaders and students that came together in Leavenworth.

Here are some stories from a few students…

Lindsay Metz, Sammamish High School, Class of 2019

Never have I felt God’s presence stronger than I did at Fall Retreat. I got to better my relationships with friends and get to know new people as well. Fall Retreat for me was a little break from chaos and a breath of fresh air. I had prayed that Fall Retreat would be a chance for me to reconnect with God and feel His presence in a new way. So I walked into the worship room, and it was full of people I love and music I like to sing. We then ‘opened ourselves up to God’ in any way we chose. I bowed my head and tried my best to listen. All of a sudden I burst into tears. Now I am not one to share my feelings in a public manner, as a matter a fact, I dread bonding on a deep emotional level with really anyone. But there I sat, unable to stop crying in a place full of people. (more…)



Finding Our Balance…Again

Leaving work a few weeks ago, I noticed two bike riders approaching the stoplight on 12th and Bellevue Way. Single file in traffic, they pulled up side by side at the intersection. They slowed down carefully, avoiding a full stop, to keep from losing momentum and putting a foot down on the pavement. 

One of the riders began to wobble precariously, and as he was losing his balance, the other biker reached over and steadied him, keeping him from tipping over, until the light changed and they got moving again. Once the rider regained control of his bicycle, his friend let go, and they continued their journey—together.

We all lose our balance at times – if not on a bike, in life. Our deacon can be that rider beside us, who reaches out to keep us from falling, helping us to regain our balance.

When I was newly married and just a year into seminary, my husband and I were knocked off balance by the sudden discovery of a mass in my brain, leading to emergency brain surgery and a long and difficult recovery. The church we belonged to had a small but effective group of deacons who appeared at our sides, keeping us from crashing to the ground. They brought hugs and company, hand-picked flowers and a hand-stitched quilt, notes, a meal, a phone call. Small things, I suppose, but I remember them as bright lights of love and connection amidst a consuming darkness. In a time when my family’s balance was tested, those deacons reached out and steadied us, more than a few times, as we scrambled to get our footing and get on our way.  (more…)



Truth and Grace

“Dad and Mom, I’m gay.”

A few years back, our daughter—age 19 at the time and away at college—announced to us that she was gay. She told us that she

had known since early junior high.

Our daughter’s coming out challenged us to reflect on our understanding of homosexuality and scripture. Now 24 years old, she is a generous and talented young woman whom we love for who she is. We want to be able to talk candidly to her about faith, the church, and what it means to live into God’s plan for our lives. (more…)



Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day

Monday, January 18

“Things are different now. The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s often vocal sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”

Excerpt from “The Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Martin Luther King, Jr., April 16, 1963 (more…)



Behind the Scenes with Steve White

I don’t really relish Hawaiian shirts. I think it takes courage to wear one, especially at church while greeting. You risk falling victim to whisperings from us female fashionista types. But that doesn’t bother Steve White. Greeting is just one of the ways he serves at BelPres. And when he does welcome us, that Hawaiian shirt goes on! He explains that when folks come through the door they’ll think, “Who is this nut in the Hawaiian shirt anyway, and maybe it will make them a little more joyful.”

Steve was raised in a large Presbyterian church where Sundays started at 6:30am. That’s when they arrived at church – not got out of bed. He folded bulletins, attended Sunday school, the main service, and Fellowship Hall. The family would head home around 2pm.

Fast forward 25 years. Steve landed a promising career in Seattle with Boeing. He couldn’t be happier to give up that Sunday routine! He’s a free man; except for the nudging in his heart that something’s missing and those weekly calls from mom asking if he’s found a church. Through someone at work, he’s directed to University Presbyterian Church in Seattle.  (more…)



Birth Announcements Jan 2016

William David Schlitt
Born 6-2-15 to
Michael and Desiree Schlitt

Bradford Thomas Jackson
Born 10-17-15 to
Brad and Jill Jackson

Tessa Fe Kaloper
Born 10-8-15 to
Scott and Nemecia Kaloper

Tyler Franklin Burdulis
Born 5-18-15 to
Kelsey and Nathan Burdulis

Blakely Hope Sherlock
Born 9-10-15 to
Chris and Amy Sherlock

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.



Thank You!

Thank you, Christmas Eve Volunteers! Your gift of time made it possible for over 6,000 people to share the joy and celebration of the birth of our King! Parking hosts, technical crew, greeters, ushers, snack room helpers, medical personnel, candle crew, child care, and all of the very many vocal and instrumental musicians, thank you!

We also would like to honor all of you that reached out to our community this Christmas season. To those that prepared a meal or gift boxes for those without homes, helped with Angel Tree, or prepared boxes for Operation Christmas Child, thank you! To everyone that helped with KidREACH or contributed to the Alternative Gift Market, thank you!

You all made 2015 a wonderful season of giving.

Gratefully,

GetConnected and BelPres Staff