Musings About Grace

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by Martin Schlomer

Reading Steve Kearns’ Last Word last week brought back some fun memories. He got me thinking about my past 16 years at Elim. In September of 1993 I sent my resume to a little church with a strange name located in a place I never heard of, Puyallup, Washington! What followed was a wild journey of faith for the Schlomer family and the Elim family. Following a series of phone interviews with the search team and an “in person” interview in early January of 1994, Elim called me to candidate and voted to call me as Senior Pastor on February 13, 1994. They took a huge risk on a young man with little experience.

My first official day was April 1 (Yes, it was April Fool’s
Day :-)). It was a bit surreal. I had never served as a Senior Pastor before. The expectations I placed on myself were huge. They were only surpassed by my fears. I spent the first few months asking God, “What have I gotten myself into?” Our journey here is one of grace. The fingerprints of God’s grace are everywhere. When the challenges exceeded my giftedness, God always filled the gap. God gave strength, wisdom and encouragement on a daily basis. He provided friends for our children and friendships for my wife. He provided an incredible place to live on 88 acres in Graham. When I was told I wouldn’t be able to afford to buy a home in the foreseeable future, God provided one within 9 months.

The fingerprints of grace were present through God’s people. The people of Elim have always been gracious to me. They have been patient as they waited for God to mature me as their pastor and forgiving of me when I made mistakes. They have always prayerfully supported God’s vision for this Body.

There are many individuals who come to mind who were like dispensers of Grace. Art Nissen would often drop by my office just to let me know he was praying and to tell me, “Pastor, don’t forget to preach the cross!” Larry Joecks would always write notes with various words of encouragement accompanied by passages from Scripture—I still have those notes! I am still moved by the many times of intercessory prayer that were held in the home of JC and Diane Williams (now the home of the Shorts), then in the home of the Hills and more recently in the home of the Prices. While there were only 5-7 people who would attend, many more were impacted through their prayers!

Over the years I have experienced great joy in working with the many men and women who served on the elder board and various ministry teams. I have many memories from the many retreats, outings and family camps that still make Kim and me laugh! John V., remember when you dared me to try to throw you off of the tube as I pulled you behind your boat?

Elim continues to be a place of grace. In the midst of God’s grace we have learned to laugh together in the good times and we have learned to cry together in the hard times. We have had to say farewell to those who have gone home…Anna Davies, Art Nissen, Larry Joecks, Norm and Muriel Spann…. In those times God’s grace has and will continue to be our joy and our strength!

Most recently, you are living out God’s grace and support to the next generation. We have an INCREDIBLE group of high school and college & career adults who have grown up at Elim! I LOVE this group of people. They have passion for Jesus and a commitment to His Body. They serve everywhere from nursery to worship! I am blessed to see Nate Champneys and Elissa Hirschfelder leading us in worship; Noah Messick and James Hirschfelder playing piano and keyboard…. I could go on and on listing those young adults who serve Jesus in this Body but space is limited! Just know that this kind of involvement and heart to serve is rare in this generation but not here! The older generation has graciously empowered the younger generation and because of this, future generations will be blessed and God will be glorified!

I close with a personalized version of Paul’s heartfelt words to the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 1: 1 To the church of Elim in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. 2 I always thank God for all of you mentioning you in my prayers. 3 I continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

May we continue to be dispensers of God’s grace to all we come into contact with.

God’s blessings…

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Milestones and Memories

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by Steve Kearns

Quite often the last word is spiritual in context, but not this one. This one is a look back at the last twenty years at Elim. Why twenty years you may ask? That is because this month marks twenty years ago that the Lord brought Lorna and I to Elim. We left the church that we were both saved in (together by the way) and had called home for fifteen years. It is always hard to leave a church, especially the only one we ever really belonged to. But Elim made that transition a very healthy recovery for us.

The first month was quite special as Larry and Ginny Vrieze took us under their wings and really made us feel special. They even tricked us into buying one of their dogs which turned out to be one of the best if not the best pet we have ever had.

The church was here for us as we went through the loss of my father, my younger brother and then my mother. The people here mourned with us and were very supportive of us during these very difficult times.

We have seen many of our friends come and go due to career changes, going into ministry, going home to be with the Lord, or just following God’s leading them to a new church home. Missing them but knowing one day we will all be rejoined at a wonderful homecoming.

I have had the pleasure of serving in almost every area of ministry except the nursery. I may have filled in there once or twice. I have seen the children in this church grow up and become responsible adults. Some have gone on to do ministry themselves.

More recently it has been a joy for me to have served in Awana with my two oldest children. Through our Awana club our oldest granddaughter accepted Christ. Two of our grandchildren are currently in Elim’s Awana club.

One of the best things that have happened to me over the years is Martin. He has become quite a good friend as well as my Pastor. He is the only person other than our kids who could walk into our house and go straight for Lorna’s secret stash of chocolate help himself and get away with it.

Let’s see, Brian rates up there with Martin also. Having Brian (who is the same age as my youngest) as my accountability partner is well let’s just say a match only God would understand. He is an interesting friend to say the least. Both Pastors are such a blessing to me and Elim, and all the rest of you are so much a family that I look forward to the next twenty years here in God’s house called Elim. I know I am leaving out a whole boat load of memories and people who have made the last twenty years so enjoyable. But nobody wants to have to read a full length book. God Bless you all and I pray that each of you are building memories here at Elim also.

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Asleep In The Food Dish

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by Bill Parsons

Through the years, my family has rescued many homeless cats. My wife, the animal lover, says God sends them to us, but I don’t believe her. Most of them showed up at our door, but one particular kitten came from a job site in the country. He appeared under a tree one day and drove the crew crazy as we tried to build a house while hearing his constant mournful cry.

The kitten was determined to survive, and spent three days meowing and raiding our lunchboxes. I decided he was too skinny for coyote bait, so I threw him in my truck and took him home to my daughter. He immediately began to explore his new surroundings, being particularly enthralled with the large dish of dry food, as if he couldn’t believe he could have his fill and still have leftovers! We watched him race between the food dish — gobbling as much as his little mouth could hold — to the human beings who were waiting to pet him, then back to the food dish. Over and over he ran this path, until he was so exhausted he finally plopped into the food dish, stretched out his tiny feet and fell asleep.

Have you ever had this experience? We have. When we were in business, a client failed to pay us for a major remodel, causing us to lose a huge amount of money. We fought for two years to collect the debt, but the situation ruined our financial health for most of the next 15 years. We were finally able to work our way out of debt, getting to the point where we could pay our bills and have leftovers. When that time finally came, I would go to our online bank account every day to make sure the money hadn’t disappeared. When my wife teased me about it, I would answer, “I’m just going to sleep in the food dish for awhile!”

For a long period of time, Elim also struggled financially. I remember when we had to wait until the offering was collected on Sunday to know whether we could pay the pastor on Monday. We had to split his paycheck, giving him half one week and half the next. Staff members were cut and we couldn’t pay the utility bills. Most of our elder meetings were consumed with discussions on how to juggle funds to survive.

As we near the end of 2009, we marvel at how richly God has blessed our church. We have enough for expenses, have given away more than we budgeted, and still have leftovers. But when I look at the financial reports, I’m afraid I may want to hold on to this abundance too tightly. I don’t want to be caught asleep in the food dish when the opportunity arises to do God’s work. What plans does God have for His resources? How will He use us to accomplish those plans?

For this reason, the elders have been praying that God will make it clear how He wants our church to use all of the resources He has provided. Please pray with us, praising God for what He has done and asking His wisdom and guidance in our decisions.

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Jehovah Jireh – God Sees and Provides

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by Martin Schlomer

At this time of Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season, the most important thing that we can remember is one of the names of God: “Jehovah Jireh” … God will provide. It is one thing to say it on a Sunday morning. However, do we live our lives in such a way as to demonstrate that this knowledge has taken hold of our hearts?

Some of us are currently enjoying a season of blessing and hopefully are lifting our hands in praise and thanksgiving to our God who has not only provided basics but has provided richly above and beyond. According to James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” Philippians 4:19 reminds us that God will provide “ALL” our need according to his glorious riches.

Others among us may currently be going through a lean or difficult season of life. In this case, it is all the more important for us to worship God as Jehovah Jireh – our provider. We need to remember this name and many of the other names of God. He is our provider, our banner, our shield, our strength. He gives life each day and the ability to breathe each breath. He gives us the jobs which we work at, the ability to do them. He gives us the blessing of family. He gives each new day as it comes, and the best thing we can do each day when we wake up in the morning is to start out by saying, “Good morning, God!” (Rather than, “Good God, it’s morning!”)

As one of my favorite songs so perfectly expresses, “I will praise you in this storm.” It is a recognition, appreciation and thankfulness for everything and everyone which we have that will help us to say to God, “I will praise you in this storm.” Even if your home is empty (aside from yourself), God desires to provide companionship to you through his Spirit, through people in the church family, through neighbors, etc. Any day in which you are still breathing and can open your eyes is a day to give thanks to God for providing that for you. As long as we consider that, then everything else is just “icing on the cake.”

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How do we pray through this week’s events?

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By Larry Short

This week has been a difficult one for all of us, emotionally speaking, as we have all had to deal with the terrible news of the tragedy striking the Lakewood Police Department, when four of their officers were murdered in cold blood last Sunday morning while sitting at a table in a Forza Coffee Shop in Lakewood, just 20 minutes’ drive from our church.

For some it has probably been harder than others. One of the slain heroes, Mark Renninger, was a resident (with his family) of Puyallup, and my understanding is that his daughters attend a local school here. One of the young men in our college group has done weapons and tactics training with Mark. Some of our families no doubt have children who know his daughters. Another young man in our congregation is an acquaintance of one of the barristas working in the coffee shop.

I’ve been confronted all week with the question, How do we most faithfully deal with a tragedy of this magnitude? The Bible says, “Cast your cares on Him … for He cares for you.” We know that because of His love for us, God wants us to look to Him at difficult times like this. He wants to wrap His arms around us, to provide comfort and perspective and meaning in the face of a tragedy that seems to us so senseless and terrible.

It’s in an effort to do this, to look to the Lord, that we are calling our congregation to prayer this weekend, and especially next Tuesday, the day when the officers’ memorial service is scheduled. If you could fast and pray with us on Tuesday, that would be wonderful, and we believe the Lord will be faithful to help heal our hearts and also do wondrous things in our community as a result.

Here is how your pastors and elders would ask us to pray, specifically:

* Pray for grieving families, friends and loved ones deeply affected by this tragedy. All four officers had spouses and children. It’s during times like these when God has an opportunity to speak most directly to the hearts of people who might otherwise be too busy with the cares of life to notice. Ask that He would reveal himself as the Healer, Hope-Giver and Comforter to anyone wounded by this tragedy.

* Pray similarly for emotional healing and spiritual growth for the barristas and others who witnessed this traumatizing event.

Pray for a spirit of humility and wisdom for all who are dealing with and responding to this event. Pray for the family and friends of the shooter, many of whom themselves were implicated in the event and its attempted cover-up. I was once again starkly reminded this week — during a moment of anger! — that there, but for the grace of God, go I. Thank God for His demonstrated power to turn hatred to love, to forgive sinners and to reconcile the alienated. Pray for the police officers who protect us, that they would be able to put this event into proper perspective and find healing for their own emotions so they can continue to do their jobs most effectively.

And pray for us (as a church). Pray that in the midst of tragedies like these we would be a light to the community around us, that they would see God’s love and redemptive power when they look at us. Pray that God would protect our church from the evils of such a violent and twisted society and culture, but also that when we are personally impacted by this violence, that we would be prepared to respond in manner that honors and glorifies God.

The Elim church facility will be open all day next Tuesday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., to provide a place for us to pray together. Consider fasting with us, and please swing by at your convenience to connect with others and with our Savior as we “cast our cares upon Him.”

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