The Runaway


Ask people what they must do to get to return to God and most reply, “Be good.” Jesus’ stories contradict that answer. All we must do is cry, “Help!” God welcomes home anyone who will have him and, in fact, has made the first move already. Below is a modern day telling of the Prodigal Son from the great book, "What's So Amazing About Grace?" by Phillip Yancey. May we all have a sense of wonder and awe as we think about the impact Grace has had on our lives!


A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, and the length of her skirts. They ground her a few times, and she seethes inside. “I hate you!” she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument, and that night she acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of times. She runs away.

She has visited Detroit only once before, on a bus trip with her church youth group to watch the Tigers play. Because newspapers in Traverse City report in lurid detail the gangs, drugs, and violence in downtown Detroit, she concludes that is probably the last place her parents will look for her. California, maybe, or Florida, but not Detroit.

Her second day there she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. He offers her a ride, buys her lunch, arranges a place for her to stay. He gives her some pills that make her feel better than she’s ever felt before. She was right all along, she decides: Her parents were keeping her from all the fun.

The good life continues for a month, two months, a year. The man with the big car—she calls him “Boss”–teaches her a few things that men like. Since she’s underage, men pay a premium for her. She lives in a penthouse and orders room service whenever she wants. Occasionally she thinks about the folks back home, but their lives now seem so boring that she can hardly believe she grew up there. She has a brief scare when she sees her picture printed on the back of a milk carton with the headline, “Have you seen this child?” But by now she has blond hair, and with all the makeup and body-piercing jewelry she wears, nobody would mistake her for a child. Besides, most of her friends are runaways, and nobody squeals in Detroit.

After a year, the first sallow signs of illness appear, and it amazes her how fast the boss turns mean. “These days, we can’t mess around,” he growls, and before she knows it she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, but they don’t pay much, and all the money goes to support her drug habit. When winter blows in she finds herself sleeping on metal grates outside the big department stores. “Sleeping” is the wrong word—a teenage girl at night in downtown Detroit can never relax her guard. Dark bands circle her eyes. Her cough worsens.

One night, as she lies awake listening for footsteps, all of a sudden everything about her life looks different. She no longer feels like a woman of the world. She feels like a little girl, lost in a cold and frightening city. She begins to whimper. Her pockets are empty and she’s hungry. She needs a fix. She pulls her legs tight underneath her and shivers under the newspapers she’s piled atop her coat. Something jolts a synapse of memory and a single image fills her mind: of May in Traverse City, when a million cherry trees bloom at once, with her golden retriever dashing through the rows and rows of blossomy trees in chase of a tennis ball.

God, why did I leave? she says to herself, and pain stabs at her heart. My dog back home eats better than I do now. She’s sobbing, and she knows in a flash that more than anything else in the world she wants to go home.

Three straight phone calls, three straight connections with the answering machine. She hangs up without leaving a message the first two times, but the third time she says, “Dad, Mom, it’s me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, well, I guess I’ll just stay on the bus until it hits Canada.”

It takes about seven hours for a bus to make all the stops between Detroit and Traverse City, and during that time she realizes the flaws in her plan. What if her parents are out of town and miss the message? Shouldn’t she have waited another day or so until she could talk to them? Even if they are home, they probably wrote her off as dead long ago. She should have given them some time to overcome the shock.

Her thoughts bounce back and forth between those worries and the speech she is preparing for her father. “Dad, I’m sorry. I know I was wrong. It’s not your fault, it’s all mine. Dad, can you forgive me?” She says the words over and over, her throat tightening even as she rehearses them. She hasn’t apologized to anyone in years.

The bus has been driving with lights on since Bay City. Tiny snowflakes hit the road, and the asphalt steams. She’s forgotten how dark it gets at night out here. A deer darts across the road and the bus swerves. Every so often, a billboard. A sign posting the mileage to Traverse City. Oh, God.

When the bus finally rolls into the station, its air brakes hissing in protest, the driver announces in a crackly voice over the microphone, “Fifteen minutes, folks. That’s all we have here.” Fifteen minutes to decide her life. She checks herself in a compact mirror, smooths her hair, and licks the lipstick off her teeth. She looks at the tobacco stains on her fingertips and wonders if her parents will notice. If they’re there.

She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect, and not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepare her for what she sees. There, in the concrete-walls-and-plastic-chairs bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of 40 family members—brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and great-grandmother to boot. They are all wearing ridiculous-looking party hats and blowing noisemakers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads “Welcome home!”

Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She looks through tears and begins the memorized speech, “Dad, I’m sorry. I know … “

He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. You’ll be late for the party. A banquet’s waiting for you at home.”


How To Pray In Times Of Stress


becca This is me with a few of the kids from our church’s Cathedral Kid ministry getting ready to worship and pray at camp.

This Prayer technique developed for me during the season of pregnancy, labor, and lack-of-home-ness. In the past 3 years we’ve had 2 kids. We’ve had roofs over our heads, but not a home of our own for the last year. In other words, this has been a season where prayer has been essential. I thought I’d share how I like to pray and how I teach the kids in my ministry to pray too.

Think of this practice as a chiastic structure, where each step is essential.

Part 1: “The second commandment is equally important, love your neighbor as your love yourself”

1. Listen to yourself

a. Set a timer for 60 seconds. Take one full minute to sit still in silence. Try to breathe.

2. Understand yourself

a. Write down on a piece of paper the main thoughts that occupied your mind during that time of silence. What worried you? What felt out of your control? What feelings were alive in you?

3. Respond to yourself

a. Take a moment to care for your body. Stretch, breathe deeply, reflect on what you’ve eaten, how you’ve slept, and if you can, take a short walk outside.

Don’t stop here. Step one only prepares yourself to listen.


Part 2: “Love the lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength…”

1. Say thank you.

a. Write down as long a list as you can of what you are thankful for.

b. Now go deeper, write a paragraph on why you are so grateful for one of the things from your list.

2. Remember who you are talking to.

a. Listen to the noises in the room, how it smells, how your seat feels under you. Think of where you are located in your building, then your street, then your city, then your state, then the country, then the continent, then the world then the universe. You are in the presence of the creator of the universe.

b. Picture Jesus with you. How is he sitting or standing? What expression is on his face?

3. Turn from Sin. Turn to God.

a. In light of the greatness of God and His intentions for humanity, is there anything in your life, in your heart, in your relationships, in your workplace, the way you vote, the wat you’re spending your money, where your thoughts have been that are out of line with God’s best intended life for you?

b. Ask God’s forgiveness. Trust that God is powerful enough to forgive you. Set your heart back on Jesus.

4. Trust God; Ask for help.

a. Based on the worries that most occupied you in part 1, ask God for help, knowing that he loves you, he wants to help you, and he is capable of helping you.

5. Listen.

a. Set aside time just to listen to God. Listen in the way that is most helpful for you. Listen while walking, listen while playing a worship song, listen with a pen in hand and blank sheet of paper in front of you.

Don’t stop here. Step two only prepares yourself to obey, change, and grow.


Part 3: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”

1. Act on what God has told you to do

2. Keep Listening and involve your community- you are not alone!

a. The 10 commandments are not a suggestion, be involved in your church community, honoring the Sabbath day so you have the support you need to follow God.


-Pastor Becca

Family On Wire


The 2008 award winning documentary, Man On Wire tells the true story of Philippe Petit and his seemingly impossible (and very illegal) attempt in 1974 to walk a high-wire between the tops of the World Trade Center. It’s a fascinating look at a man’s courageous attempt to try the impossible!


I remember the feelings I experienced when first watching the film. Tense...anxious...and by the time the movie ended...exhausted! I do a good job of making you want to run out and watch the movie, don’t I?  You’re welcome. 

I thought about Petit’s story while reflecting on my weekend sermon [You can watch it HERE] where I talked about finding balance in our ever busy lives. In my message, I briefly told the story of how I had recently found myself screaming in my car because the busyness of life had just felt like it was becoming too much. In case you’re wondering...yes, the temporary onset of rage helped, but not recommended to try at home, or at your workplace.

Tenseness, anxiety, burdened and exhausted was how I was feeling that morning in my car after several weeks of work, coaching baseball, homework and every other calendar demand that seemed to be pulling at me. That’s what happens to us when life begins to feel like a balancing act on a high-wire. Where you have so much going on in your day that one mis-step makes you feel like your day will crumble, or worse, you feel like you’ll let your family down.

Jesus knew something about being busy, meeting the needs of others and trying to find some time for himself. In all the madness of his busyness, Jesus always managed to stay on course and honor the Father with his life’s mission. And that should be our goal, too. To honor God with our daily living while not getting lost in the chaos of our calendars!

Of course, we’re never going to be perfect at this. We’ll have our moments of insanity where we find ourselves screaming in cars. (Or maybe that’s just me...)

Grace. Lots of grace, friends. And patience. Be patient with yourselves and your family. Life does feel like a high-wire act at times, but be patient as a family and remember that no one can ever be "all things to all people".

Are you currently feeling overwhelmed by busyness? Like your calendar has become your master? Like everyday is a balancing act on a tightrope? Remember this promise from Jesus today.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Grace and Peace.

Pastor Rex

Grip it


We are currently in the middle of a new series, “Getting a Grip” on finding God in your family.  When I hear our sermon series title golf comes to mind, because in golf they have a saying ‘grip it and rip it.’  Growing up, my dad taught all of my brothers and me to play golf when we were very young.  It was not optional.  He continued the tradition, teaching his grandkids too. However, growing up we used to hate it.   We played when it was windy and we played in the snow.  One time we went to play when the green was frozen solid and the staff would let us out on to the course. Despite all that time practicing and playing I still had room for improvement. For example, one afternoon I hit my brother with an errant golf ball as he was playing on another green.  Rubbing his soon to be bruised skin he yelled, “Tim, you always do that!”  I responded truthfully, “I couldn’t do that even if I tried.”  After all those unpleasant, grumpy, uncoordinated experiences, as we become men we’ve learned to love golf.

One time out on the green, I was with my three brothers and dad playing golf at Apple Tree in Yakima.  Storm clouds were closing in on the horizon, so we had the course to ourselves. So here we were playing one of the most beautiful courses in the state all together.  We were young and our dreams were fresh.  Suddenly it started to down pour rain.  We weren’t going to let it stop us from enjoying this rare opportunity.

Rain-GolfAs we approached the signature green shaped like an apple in the middle of a beautiful pond.  One of my brothers complained, “it’s raining to hard out here.”  My dad always the one to make his boys into men responded, “Aw, there is no rain. It is a beautiful day somewhere.  ‘This is the day the Lord hath made and I will be glad and rejoice in it.’  Let’s just tough it out.”  We all ended up having beautiful drives and our next shots were iron shots approaching the par four.

When it was my dad’s turn to shoot first, he swung into the heavy rain with all of his might.  He swung so hard that the ball bounced two feet in front of him. Despite this disappointment his swing took a surprising turn when his nine iron flew perfectly toward the hole.  We all thought it was going to be a hole in one with his club.  It was a high arching flight, flipping in the air just barely missing the hole.  My dad just turned and said, “I think I will play my club instead of the ball.” We all laughed so hard we almost fell down.  That is why they say, ‘grip it and rip it.’ You can’t play golf unless you grip the club.  And you can’t find God in the family unless you are very intentional about it.

I loved Doug and Jeanie Sutten’s story they shared this weekend with church of God at work in their family.  He is so present in their family because they place him there; on their vacations they have devotions by different family members every day.  They intentionally keep their kids involved in church.  They sit together in worship.  They share rejoice when their grandson accepts Christ.  They share stories of God’s presence in their lives, in their blessings. And they were very intentional about this important task. Sharing stories about God has deep Christian and Jewish roots.  We tell the stories of our families in faith just as Passover is celebrated.  We are a family of God and instead of filling sorry for ourselves we reach out and adopt others into our family and drive down deep roots of friendships and faith.

I hold fast to your statues, O Lord; do not let me be put to shame.  Psalm 119:31

Grip it and hold on – when it comes to faith in your family.

Your friend for the rest of my life,

Pastor Tim White


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Learning To Love (and Like) Crazy Uncle Eddie


Central to Jesus’ teachings is the message that we are to love others. In fact, he says in John 15 that his very commandment is to love each other the way that he has loved us. Love. At first glance, we might think, “No problem. I love people!” But his word for love has a much deeper meaning than what our society often understands, embraces, and practices. The word for love here is “Agape”. It simply means that we will fully love others in ways that show sacrifice and humility. Remember when Jesus washed his disciples feet? That was agape love. If we believe Jesus died on the cross for us, then we essentially have accepted his agape love. Even when we did nothing to deserve this kind of love. When it comes to family, most parents understand and practice agape love to their kids all the time. They understand the sacrifice of putting the needs of their children before their own. That explains why we, parents of young children, often look tired and haggard walking into church!screen-shot-2015-12-13-at-2-13-20-pm-1 But what about our crazy Uncle Eddie? You know...the people in our family who not only are difficult to love, but to LIKE?!? What about these people? How do we show agape to them when we’d rather not be in the same room with them? Frankly, there is never an easy answer this..

Rather than try and provide solutions, I thought I’d offer a couple insights that are worth remembering when we are having a hard time loving (or even liking) difficult family members:

  1. It’s worth remembering that Jesus showed agape to others when they had done nothing to earn it, or even deserve it. Are we making anyone in our family feel that they have to earn our love and acceptance?
  1. When Jesus displayed agape to others it was also a way of showing his respect to them. Despite some family being hard to love, are you respecting them? Do you shame them behind their back? Do you disrespect them in front of other family members?
  1. Remember, that to someone, somewhere we are probably difficult to love, too. It’s never just about others and not about us. We need grace just as much as crazy Uncle Eddie!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Rex

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Celebrating Christmas as a Family

By Pastor Becca McCary
 If you've been looking for some ways to help your family connect spiritually with Christmas, I thought I would share 25 ways to Celebrate Jesus this Christmas. I put some of my favorites in bold if you don't have time to read the whole list.
1. Start the season off right, remembering what it's all about by reading the Christmas story in Matthew.
2. Kiss your spouse under the mistletoe. A happy, healthy marriage is a gift to our whole family and reflects the love of God. 
3. Get a Christmas Tree, remembering Jesus great act of love at the end of his life- hanging on a wooden cross to forgive us of our sins.
4. Sing Hark The Herald Angels Sing as a family, written by the great pastor Charles Wesley. It does a great job of reminding us of the Christmas Story.
5. Go for a long walk as a family, reflecting on Mary's Journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She traveled 80 miles while pregnant to get to her cousin for some support. How can you support each family member in God's calling on their lives?
6. Drive and look at Christmas lights. John 1:5 tells the Christmas story in one poetic sentence. Read the passage as a family and talk about how you can let more of God's light into your family as you turn to God.
7. Read the "Saint who would be Santa Claus" to learn some Christian history behind this pop culture icon.
8. Set up a nativity before bed and remember all the people sleeping in the cold tonight just like our savior did in his manger. Say a prayer for them.
9. Participate in our Santa Claus Conspiracy and share some joy this Holiday! 
10. Make a Christmas card for your neighbor and invite them to our worship services.
11. Pray for all the single moms you know, who have a daunting but powerful calling on their lives, just like Mary did. 
12. Pray for all the families and young toddlers fleeing their countries for asylum just like Jesus did when he fled for his life to Egypt.
13. Order a copy and read "The Living Nativity, The Story of Saint Francis and the Christian Manger" by David and Hellen Haidle. This children's book made me cry when I read it because it told the good news about Jesus so well, while also teaching some church history too. Seriously, check it out!  
14. Have a Christmas party! Laugh, dance, and enjoy! Celebration is a spiritual discipline and laughter heals the soul.
15. Commit to worshiping together as a family every Sunday this Advent. You won't regret this chance to connect with God and find rest for our soul in worship.
16. Tell your family what your favorite Christmas Carol is and why. Many of these songs have such rich spiritual content! 
17. Read "Saint Nicholas" by Ann Tompert with your kids. It has illustrations but might be a little scary for little ones since it is an account of the Christian roots of some of our Christmas traditions like gift giving and St. Nick caring for children.

18. God showed us love, making himself vulnerable, by coming to us as a baby, so that we could be close to him. Over a cup of hot chocolate, reflect on what relationships in your life could improve with more vulnerability and less defensiveness. 

19. Listen to the song "O Holy Night", reflecting on the reverence expressed in this song.  Share with your family members the things you do that help your heart to revere God.
20. Read Luke 1:46-56, Mary's song of praise. Share with your family some of the things you want to praise God for in your life.
21. Jesus' needs were provided for when the wise men brought him gifts. Is there someone in your life that has an unmet need, maybe for friendship or food or prayer, that you could reach out to this Christmas?
22. Joseph listened to God, and chose to love and care for Mary, even when it cost him his reputation. While eating a Christmas Cookie, consider, is there a person or group of people that makes you uncomfortable to love? How can you embrace a love that takes risks and puts others, even uncomfortable others, before your own ego, understanding, reputation, and assumptions.
23. Embrace Simplicity since the savior of the world had such a modest and simple birth. In the early church, if someone was hungry, and there wasn't enough food to go around, the church would fast for a day in order to have more food to share. Take one day to fast from technology to be generous with your time or take 25 days to fast from eating out so you can be generous to people in need with that money. 
24. Put people first since Christmas is about God being intimately involved with people.Volunteer to serve in the church for our Christmas services with the goal to get to know some people better who are in the family of God. Our faith is best lived out through relationships and you might be surprised at how you see and experience God through relationships at church.
25. Take an evening home to rest and connect as a family. Relax, breath, pray, laugh. Watch a Christmas movie. Sleep. During this busy season we often feel to busy for family, too busy to pray, too busy to worship. During our most busy moments are when we need connection the most. God is speaking all the time, and if we can pause to listen, we will be comforted by his sustaining presence.
I hope you have the most meaningful Christmas of your lives this year! Blessings on all of your families this Christmas!
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How to study the Bible as a family....

Written by Pastor Becca McCary An ancient Christian prayer/bible study practice called "Lectio Divina" (Latin for Divine Reading) is meant to help you listen to God as your study His Word. This prayer practice is not just for adults or “serious” bible scholars but can also help young children grow in their faith- bringing the pages of the Bible alive and helping them make connections to biblical characters.

This prayer practice can easily be done as a family in a developmentally appropriate way if crayons and paper are used.


Here is how it is done...

1.) Choose a bible passage to read and appoint one person to be the reader. - HINT: A great place to start is part of the Easter Story from Luke 22 or 23.

2.) Give everyone a sheet of paper and Crayons or markers

3.) Read your passage one time. As the passage is read, everyone draws the scene, but NOT Jesus yet. Try to soak up every detail of the passage. The scenery, what people are thinking and feeling. All of it.

4.) Read the same passage a second time. As the passage is being read, everyone adds a layer to their drawing by including Jesus this time. You can use light colors to show characters responding to him with open hearts and dark colors to show characters whose hearts are closed to him. What is Jesus thinking and feeling? Where is his power seen? Is anything surprising about Jesus?

5.) Read the passage a third time. As the passage is being read, everyone adds in one final layer- the put themselves in the drawing. How would you respond to Jesus in this scene? What colors would be around you? How would Jesus address you? What would he have to say to you?

6.) Share what you drew and why? What did you learn from the details of the passage? What does God want to teach you personally from this story?

 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

 Colossians 3:16 (NLT)

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Lent Devotion: Study



God wants to meet with you this Lent. He wants to come into the ordinary times and places in your life in a holy way, transforming your life. This week’s ordinary space transformation challenge is: Study.

Scripture Reflection:

1 John 4:9-10 (NLT)

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.


Write down or paint the word "Study" on a rock or piece of paper as your holy reminder. Then choose an ordinary space in your life where you are going to focus on study. Try to practice study one time in that ordinary space your life this week. Then, watch God transform this ordinary space into a holy space for you.


Put the word "Study" in an area of your life like your lunchbox, your end table, or fireplace. When you go to eat lunch, before you watch TV, or when you are relaxing by the fireplace, take a moment to read the story of Jesus' death.

As you study God's word, remember that the creator of the universe loved you enough to die for you. This story is the root of our faith.

Lent Devotion: Worship


Written by Pastor Becca McCary


God wants to meet with you this Lent. He wants to come into the ordinary times and places in your life in a holy way, transforming your life. This week's ordinary space transformation challenge is: Worship.

Scripture Reflection:

Psalm 104:33-34 (NLT)

33 I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.


Write down or paint the word "Worship" on a rock or piece of paper as your holy reminder. Then choose an ordinary space in your life where you are going to focus on worship. Try to practice worship one time in that ordinary space your life this week. Then, watch God transform this ordinary space into a holy space for you.


Put the word "Worship" in an area of your life like your shower, your makeup mirror, or running shoes. When you are showering, doing your makeup, or exercising, sing a worship song.

The worship will begin on your lips, move to your mind as you understand what you're saying, and then move into your heart as you start to truly mean what you're saying. As you worship in these ordinary spaces, you will see that they are suddenly transformed into holy places.

Here's a song to start your week in worship:

Lent Devotion: Serve


Written by Pastor Becca McCary

Keep Calm And Serve OthersIntroduction:

God wants to meet with you this Lent. He wants to come into the ordinary times and places in your life in a holy way, transforming your life. This week’s ordinary space transformation challenge is: Serve.

Scripture Reflection:

Philippians 2:3-5 (NLT)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.


Write down or paint the word "serve" on a rock or piece of paper as your holy reminder. Then choose an ordinary space in your life where you are going to focus on serving. Try to practice serving one time in that ordinary space your life this week. Then, watch God transform this ordinary space into a holy space for you.


Put the word "serve" in an area of your life- like the place you eat, your toolbox, or your cell phone charger.

Then, this week, as you eat, clear away someone else's plate. When you fix something, try to fix something for someone else. Or when you go to charge your phone, text someone, offering to help them with something specific that you know they might need.

As you serve others you will remember the ways that God serves you. Thank Christ for all he has done for you.

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