Sometimes we get a glimpse of glory and the only thing we can do is praise God! The other day on our evening walk, I saw the most beautiful sunset. The colors shone through the trees with such brilliance, that I thought – “If I saw a picture painted with those colors I would think the artist was making it up.” No sunset could have those depths of color. But there it was and I could only say praise God!
by Pastor Linda Skinner For many years now our church has selflessly sent youth teams to Honduras to work amongst the poorest of poor. I’ve had the privilege of leading the amazing team on our annual auction supporting our mission projects. As part of the auction, the youth team kids work hard. They procure items for the auction and help on auction night as part of their preparation for the trip. It has been one of the highlights of my ministry at Washington Cathedral watching the kids who go on these trips come back with such a heart for Jesus and the “little ones” he loves in all parts of the world.
This year, for the first time since we have been working in Honduras, I had the honor and privilege of going on the Youth Mission trip with the team. That means I got to work with the team in preparation for the auction, in preparation for the trip and taking part in all aspects of the trip. For all of us on the team, our hearts were stolen by the children we served in La Paz, Honduras. But in addition, my heart was stolen by the young people from our church who went on this trip.
Every step of the way, I watched them courageously step out of their comfort zones and do things they never imagined they could do. As the time to go on the trip approached, there was the combination of excitement mixed with a little trepidation. For some, this was their very first mission trip experience--and they had no idea what to expect. In preparation, they had to have vaccinations not necessary in this country. And we had to brief them on health hazards and dangers of entering into a third-world country where you do not know the customs or speak the language well. I know this all added to their sense of apprehension.
John says these words in 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear….” I witnessed this phenomenon the minute our kids stepped into the San Jose Orphanage and met the children of the orphanage. Despite age, language and cultural differences, they were drawn to one another. The love of Christ shone on the faces of our kids. Before I knew it, they were had a soccer game going, they were playing “go fish” and teaching one another “clapping songs”. Loved reigned supreme in the hearts of all.
Every day, they grew closer and closer to one another. We learned one another’s names. We even visited homes of some of the children in the NiCo Tutoring center. God worked in our hearts and none of us wanted to leave. But the day came that we had to say “good bye,” and again that beast of fear entered in our hearts. Fear of leaving and letting go. Pastor Rey asked us to be brave and not to say or do anything to hurt the hearts of these children who have suffered their entire lives with feelings of abandonment. We needed to be strong to hold back the tears and leave them with joy and laughter.
I think this was the hardest assignment our kids faced. I was so proud of all of them. They showed such maturity and compassion. They were crying inside because they didn’t want to say "Adios", but outside they were filled with joy for the time God had given them with these precious little ones. As our bus drove away, they shouted one another’s names saying “Adios”, some of the kids ran alongside our bus, waving, laughing and calling our names. It is a picture of “Love and Courage” that will forever be emblazoned on the hearts of all of us. We went on a Holy Adventure and God changed us all.
This weekend Pastor Josh, our Youth Pastor and Mission Team Leader, is going to preach on his life verse Joshua 1:9 and he will be interviewing some of the team members. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to celebrate what God is doing in our midst through the youth of our church.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4
To my recollection, I think my first “Empowering Encounter” of worship was when I was about 12 years old. It was on a beautiful summer night in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California.
Summer vacation for our family was always a trip to our cabin in Calpine, California. Being farmers, my parents had few vacations in the summer, but they had a co-op deal with another farmer who would look after our chickens and animals while we were gone and then we’d look after their turkeys and animals while they were gone. However, the vacations we had were always memorable. Early morning trout fishing in the streams of the Sierra Valley, delicious trout and egg breakfast, games and swimming in the heat of the day, and bonfires at night.
One evening, we were having a bonfire at the reservoir above our cabin. I walked up the levy with one of my girlfriends, Susie, and we laid down in the soft grass and looked up into the sky. It was the most spectacular sight I had ever seen. It was a hot August night, the moon was just a sliver, and the only light was the glow of the bonfire in the distance. The stars seemed to be so bright and the sky was full of stars of all different sizes layered for millions, upon millions of miles. I could only say “WOW, God is big!” We both laid there in absolute awe of the majesty of our Heavenly Father. I never felt so small and yet so filled with the sense of God’s deep and abiding love for me. Amazed that the creator of everything, would love and care about “little ol’ me”.
I don’t think I realized at the time what an incredible act of worship I had just experienced. But from then on, I was much more aware of the how God’s creation shouts His Glory to all.
Join me this Sunday as we explore together “Living Worship” in our everyday life. When we can do that, it takes everything to a new level of excitement and joy.
Pastor Linda Skinner
Sunday is my favorite day of the week. Rich and I have a routine -- get up at 6:45 am, shower, dress, drive to PCC Market on Avondale, get a cup of coffee (or tea), go through their breakfast buffet line, stop at bakery section and get a mini croissant (that’s for me), sit down in their little eating area and enjoy our breakfast, leave at 8:10 to arrive at the church in time for music rehearsal, run through the songs with Eliot and Rhonda (laugh a lot – Eliot is really funny in the morning), greet people who are coming to worship and then spend an hour worshipping with the 9:30 congregation. I love that time. I can’t think of anything more fulfilling or exciting than worshipping our Almighty God with a group of people I love to be with.
For several years of my life, I didn’t have the same excitement and enthusiasm that I have now. To get up early Sunday morning and get ready to go church to worship with my friends. Sleeping in or riding my horse or bicycling to Folsom Lake to swim, had a bit more appeal to me than going to church to worship. But in my mother’s household there was no other option available to me. So, when I moved out on my own, Sunday morning became a time of sleeping in (I mean it was my only sleep in day). I worked and went to school and Sunday was my only day off. Dr. Phil might ask “And how did that work for you?” Let’s just say it was not my wisest move. I fell into the “I can worship God anywhere” trap (which is true, but there is something about worshipping God in community that is irreplaceable by individual worship time.)
What I discovered is that for me my enjoyment and my enthusiasm for worship has direct correlation to my attitude toward God. When my relationship with Him is strong then my enthusiasm for worshipping with others is high also.
When Rich and I travel we always find a place to worship with other believers. That has been a great experience and a great way for us to understand that worshipping God really is not about what is happening in the service, but what is happening in your heart. One of greatest times of worship was in a small Catholic Church in Florianopolis, Brazil. We were not familiar with Catholic forms of worship, we don’t speak Portuguese and we didn’t know a soul. However, we entered this beautiful little church which was filled to standing room only. The priest was leading the singing and he was a bit off key but everyone was singing out. They were all dressed like we were in their summer shorts and t-shirts and you could tell they were very excited about being there. We just got caught up in their enthusiasm and it was a bit like Pentecost. I told Rich, I think I know what they are saying. When they sang words, we hummed along. It was a great experience. I realized then what true worshipping “in spirit and truth” was all about. It’s about my heart and where it is at. It’s about my relationship with God.
This week I look forward to sharing with you what God’s word teaches us about the “attitude you bring” to worship each week.
Look forward to seeing you.
Blessings on your life,
Pastor Linda Skinner
I was raised in a small Northern California community outside of Sacramento. My family had a farm and their main crop was eggs – so we raised chickens for our livelihood. It was really a small family farm, not like some of the big commercial farms you see today. My mom and dad and my brothers were pretty much the workers on the farm. I can’t remember any time that we had a hired hand on the farm. If we did go on a short vacation to our cabin in the mountains, one of my dad’s friends who had a turkey ranch would come take care of our chickens and livestock and then we’d do the same for him on his farm.
On our farm, we did not have a need for migrant workers, but several of the farms around us did. Especially the farms that had harvest times – especially in the tomato fields and rice patties in our area. So in my elementary school we often had children of migrant farm workers come to school for a few months out of the year. I always felt sorry for them, because they weren’t with us long enough to get to know us. Some of the kids in school were even kind of mean to them because they looked different, dressed different and usually they were even one or two grades behind, so some kids called them stupid.
When I told my mom about how mean the kids were to the “visiting” kids, she (as she often did) pulled out her Bible and read...“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him/her wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
Then she explained to me that these “visiting” kids’ parents worked on farms and they had to go where there was work so they could feed their family. Because of moving around so much, it was hard for their kids to keep up with their studies like those of us who had parents who worked in one place. So, she said, God wants you to help them and encourage your friends to help them feel welcomed in your school.
Now I live in a neighborhood full of people who might be considered “strangers sojourning” in our land. People who are here on job assignments from countries and lands far off. They are much better off than the migrant workers from my childhood, but many of them feel lonely and out of touch. Our native languages are different, our cultures are different, some dress different than we do, but I always remember – “you shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” Whether in the grocery store, the bank, or walking down the sidewalk let’s greet all with enthusiasm and respect, because we have all been or will be “sojourners in a strange land.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For I know that when our faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow….” James 1:2-4 NLT
For many years I operated under that assumption that when I was “walking in God’s will,” and things would go smoothly that “doors would open”. I discovered that God can use “closed doors” to also get me to the right place. As a matter of fact, those “closed doors” shouted much louder to me than “open doors.”
As I shared this past weekend, I felt my business career seemed to be a big open door. I was proceeding under the assumption that God was going to use me in the business world to honor Him. I had great success in that area. I was advancing and, at a time, when very few women achieved the level of Vice President, I was being groomed for that position. We had moved to Seattle for a job opportunity for my husband, Rich and I was able to transfer to the Bellevue Office.
About 2 years after working in the Seattle office and getting rave reviews, my boss, the Vice President of the NW Region, decided to move back to his home state of Alabama. I felt I was ready and he felt the same. As a matter of fact, he recommended me for the position. In my mind, it was a “done deal” and I was preparing myself for the new task at hand.
Shortly, I received a call from the Western Regional VP informing me that the decision had been made and they decided to hire a new young guy who lived in Texas. He had no experience with our products and services (or with marketing for that matter) and he hoped I would be available to help train the guy. As a mature business woman, I thanked him for the call, told him I was disappointed and would have to think about the training thing. I hung up the phone; went into the bathroom and bawled my eyes out--and then I called my “mommy.”
After much prayer and talking to people of wisdom in my life (Pastor Tim for one), I decided not to stick around to train the new guy. I gave up my career with that company and quit my job (Something I most often advise people not to do, by the way). That was an event that was a changing point in my life, and through a series of events it brought me to my new career as God’s sales and marketing person at Washington Cathedral. Which is where, I know now, God was getting me ready for and pointing me to become.
I only know this as I look back at the series of events in my life. I had no idea at the time, instead I had to claim in faith the words God gives us in James “when trouble comes your way, consider an opportunity for great joy.” I have come to believe with all my heart in soul the words of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not on your own understand, acknowledge Him in all you do, and he will guide your path.” It doesn’t really matter whether the door is open or closed, when you are walking with your Lord he will guide you through, around or turn you the other way.
May you find His joy even in the face of troubles.
Pastor Linda Skinner
Have you ever had a slightly (or maybe not so slight) irrational fear of something? I think we all have something that frightens us and we really can’t quite figure out why, but it is still there. My fear was of being alone. It did start when I was a child, but as a child I can’t think of one time that I did not have either my mom or my dad in the house with me at night. Even in college I had a roommate asleep in the other room at night. When I was a live-in nanny, I had the family I worked for with me. So it wasn’t until I got married that I had my first experience of being totally alone.
My husband, Rich, was in the Air Force and he had times that he would need to travel and I would be left in our apartment alone. This was in Forest Hill, Maryland, and I knew no one. My parents were 3,000 miles away (literally) and I had not had time to get acquainted with our neighbors. I laid awake all night tossing, turning, and crying. It was so bad that Rich finally called my mom and dad, unbeknownst to me, and arranged to have my dog flown out to live with us. That was really sweet and I will love him forever for his kindness, but Gidget weighed all of 15 lbs and was not what you would call a watch dog.
Even after Rich was discharged from active duty and took a job at an advertising agency in Philadelphia, he still traveled. My fear kept me awake most of the nights he was gone. This continued for about 30 years of our marriage. I could not seem to shake it. It was so bad that even installing an alarm system did not help me sleep.
I kept telling myself it was not rational and I needed to get over this. But all the self-talk in the world was not making a difference. I loved my life, I knew I had many loving friends, I knew that I was loved by God, but being alone haunted me.
One night I was crying out to God to take away my fear and I opened up my Bible to Psalm 91. The entire Psalm spoke right to my heart, but the words that jumped out to me were “You will not fear the terror of night…If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you….For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” I felt a peace come over me. That night I slept so soundly and awoke refreshed and renewed.
From that point forward, if I ever felt anxious, I recalled God’s angels standing guard. I thanked Him that He was with me. It became real to me at that time, that I am never alone. You are never alone either. God’s loves you. He designed you specifically to live in relationship with Him and He will never leave you. That is not my promise to you. That is His.
Pastor Linda Skinner
Interview and post by Pastor Linda Skinner with artist Kathleen Henderson “Creation and creatures applaud you, God; your holy people bless you. They talk about the glories of your rule, they exclaim over your splendor, letting the world know of your power for good, the lavish splendor of your kingdom.” Psalm 145:10-12 (The Message)
Recently I had the privilege of interviewing a very special lady in our church, Kathleen Henderson. Kathleen is a painter and right now her art is being displayed in our very own Inscape Gallery located in the Spirit Falls building. (Inscape Gallery is a part of Washington Seminary one of the 5 non-profit organizations affiliated with Washington Cathedral.)
Kathleen has been a part of the Washington Cathedral family for many years and she has been painting under the instruction and mentoring of Kay Barnes for the last 5 years.
She feels that God planted a seed in her life when at the age of seven she received a Christmas gift of watercolor paints and paper. Later in college she dabbled in painting with Acrylic.
A few years ago, and after experiencing loss, she saw some paintings that a friend had done. She liked the style of painting, she called it a “realistic style”, and she wanted to give it a try herself. She wanted to try creating something beautiful.
She got in touch with her friend about an art instructor, Kay Barnes, and she signed up for weekly classes. Kay has been a wonderful mentor and friend to Kathleen as she has helped her discover the gift she had buried deep inside.
Kathleen told me that she found painting very challenging and hard. So I asked her “Why do it?” She passionately answered that it brought her satisfaction and she liked learning and seeing the progress she was making.
When I asked her what she did if she finished a painting and looked at it and just didn’t like it, she immediately replied, “I throw it away.” “How many have you thrown away?” I asked. Her reply was “Very few.” Then she added, “But when I’m painting I pray to God.” I responded back, “Maybe that is why you don’t throw many away.” She looked and me nodded her head and smiled. Kathleen brings God into her paintings and it shows.
Kathleen paints the two things she loves most – flowers and dogs. She loves using exciting colors, and painting from a very up-close perspective. Her hope is that her paintings will urge viewers to stop and look closely. When they do, her prayer is that they will see the profound beauty of God’s world.
While I looked around her house, I saw many picture hangers with no pictures hanging on them. Curiously I asked, “Is that where all your paintings normally hang?” And with a little sadness in her eyes, she nodded her head. So I inquired of her if she missed her paintings while they are display. And she responded “Very much, they are my friends.” She said “People ask me why I don’t sell them. I can’t sell my friends.” But if someone commissions me, I love to paint their dog or flowers that mean something to them.”
I hope Kathleen doesn’t mind me sharing this, but she started painting in her 60’s. She’s had a number of very serious health challenges and I think God has used her painting to help her through. At the same time, He blesses us through her.
If you would like to see Kathleen’s beautiful art. Come by Spirit Falls building on a Saturday night or Sunday morning and you will experience some beautiful paintings. On March 11 at 7:00 pm there will be a “Closing Conversation” in Spirit Falls Sanctuary and you can meet Kathleen and let her know how much you appreciate her using the gift God has given her and for sharing “her friends” with us.
By Pastor Linda Skinner
Growing up on a farm taught me so many important life lessons. I didn’t appreciate it fully when I was a child, but as I have experienced more of life’s up and downs I have come to cherish the many lessons I learned. One lesson I learned is that worldly riches are very fleeting, but the richness of God’s Love and of family and friends is what is most important.
Farm life is full of “ups and downs.” Our product was eggs and chickens. At one time I remember my dad saying we had 2000 laying hens. Now that is a lot of egg production. However, chickens only lay eggs when they are healthy and happy. So our income depended on many conditions – no disease or sickness, good weather, and well fed and cared for chickens.
Now the care was under our control, but the disease and weather not so much. We lived in Citrus Heights, California, which is outside of Sacramento. If you know anything about that area, you know that summers get really hot. However, usually it cools off a bit at night. I remember one summer it was well over 100°F for days in a row and it at night it only cool by a few degrees. It was a heat wave. If there is one thing chickens don’t like, it is a heat wave. A picture I’ll never forget is my dad, hose in hand, spraying cold water on hundreds of chickens laying on the ground suffering from too much heat. Not many eggs that year. And several chickens didn’t make it.
As a child I didn’t understand all the implications of that heat wave, but my mom started working for JC Penney’s making custom curtains. She’d used remnants of those fabrics to make dresses for me for school. We ate more out of our garden and freezer than we did normally. It was lean times.
What amazes me as I think back on it, I never remember complaining or moaning about our bad luck or anyone playing the “blame” game. I just remember we adjusted. Mom would say, “This is what the Lord has for us this year.”
On the other hand, my fondest memories are from those times. I don’t remember many of the Christmas presents I received as a child, but I remember the gift I got that year. My mom made a big rag doll that stood about has high as I did. She put elastic straps on the bottom of her feet so I could strap her feet on top of mine and we could dance. And we danced and danced around for hours. I didn’t fully appreciate that gift of love. I didn’t know it came to me because we didn’t have the money to buy things from the store. I didn’t know how many sleepless nights mom must have spent on that doll between making curtains, housework and her farm chores. I just enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with a family I loved.
I look back and this I realize how fortunate I was growing up. My parents were never “rich” in worldly goods, but they were rich in love and generosity. There was always laughter and concern and care for others in our household. I learned that no matter how much or how little you have, to always be thankful and enjoy what you do have. My mom always told me, “God will provide” and I have always found that to be true.
My prayer for you is that wherever you find yourself, with much or little, that you can come to appreciate that God has provided what you have for your enjoyment. You are blessed.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19
By Pastor Linda Skinner Christmas Eve was a glorious time this year. How I loved sitting in the choir chairs on Christmas Eve and watching the faces of people enjoying the lore of Christmas. A message that comes through the music, the beauty of the manger in the rain, the dancer with the little cherubs and Pastor Tim’s unfolding of the Christmas story once again.
I watched the excitement of parents and grandparents, when their little angels, some with dangling halos, danced on the stage in front of the manger. We were blessed to have one of our high schoolers play the most beautiful cello solo and I couldn’t help but notice his dad sitting on the front row, eyes closed, a smile on his face, enjoying every stroke of the bow on the strings. I almost missed my entry cue on the song (don’t tell Rhonda, ok?). So many people thanked our church for making their Christmas Special.
Pastor Tim shared that in his over 30 years of ministry he has never known a time where we need Christmas more than now. It got me to thinking about how important Christmas is to us 365 days of the year. Some of us celebrate only on Christmas Day with family and friends, other traditions celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas beginning on Christmas Day and ending on January 6, but no matter how you celebrate Christmas is a celebration of New Birth. Not only our Saviors’, but our own as well.
Wednesday night, December 30 (the 6th day of Christmas), our Women’s Ministry at Washington Cathedral cooked and served a holiday meal for the Camp Unity Community-- a tent community currently located at a church in Woodinville. What a feast it was!
Two months ago when I signed up for that night, I was a little concerned about how many ladies would be willing to cook a meal between Christmas and New Years Day. How many would even be in town? What kind of support could we rally? Well, I wish you could have been there. First, everyone was prepared to serve the meal outside in the freezing cold. Our helpers came bundled in layers of cloths, scarfs, hats, and gloves. Ready to face the freezing cold. Our first miracle was that the church opened up their fellowship hall and kitchen for us to use. Allowing us to be in, out of the cold, but more importantly allowing the residents to enjoy a delicious meal in the beautiful warm area.
Second miracle was the food. I had this crazy idea that I wanted everything to be home cooked. My mom taught me years ago that you give your best to those who have the least. Well it was beyond my wildest imagination. Turkey, Ham, Potatoes, Dressing, Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, Sweet Potatoes, Soup, Cooked Vegetables, Salads, Pies, Cakes – all delicious and lovingly cooked by the ladies of our church. I was blown away (it brings tears to my eyes as I’m typing this). One lady brought some delicious whipped sweet potatoes (enough to feed an army) and she told me her kitchen is being remodeled and she had to cook the sweet potatoes a few at a time in her micro-wave--plus she has a broken arm.
Third miracle was the amount of food. We had enough food for twice the number of people whom we served. I spoke to Chris who runs the kitchen at the church we were using and he said that on New Year’s Eve they were planning to serve Camp Unity and they’d love to use the food to serve that meal. I couldn’t believe that what our ladies prepared was not only so delicious but it was so plentiful that it would bless this community for New Year’s Eve.
The fourth miracle was the people. What a blessing to see our church spending time enjoying food and fellowship with the people of Camp Unity. One family drove all the way from Seattle to a place they had never been, driving in the dark--even getting a little lost--to serve in the name of Jesus.
All of these miracles are a result of people living Christmas in their hearts and lives. As we enter this New Year 2016, maybe in place of all the resolutions that seem to fade by January 15, I’d like to challenge you to think about what you might do differently in 2016 to live out Christmas for the next 365 days.
Take a few minutes and meditate on Romans 12:1-5.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
God Bless You and Those You Love.