Purple Threads.001

Welcome to my page.  I am Rev. Carol Kress, pastor at the Gladbrook church.  This is my page which is named Purple Threads.  That name has some Biblical meaning.  In the days of the early church, purple dye was hard to find and expensive to use.  In Acts 16:14, we are introduced to Lydia, who sold purple goods and also was a Christian.  Women-of-means, like Lydia opened their homes for Christians to gather in worship, to grow in faith and to unite through fellowship.  The support provided by these women kept missionaries out in the fields where they could spread the Good News of the living Christ.  My prayer is that my work and my support of other Christians will help spread this good word too.

So, just envision that you are seated in the lovely fellowship hall of the Gladbrook UMC, and allow me to share with you a few purple-threaded thoughts about my faith, the church, and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Perhaps you have a few threaded thoughts of other colors that you can also share. Then together we will ask for a little bit of divine inspiration so those threads can be woven together into a beautiful tapestry –  – all for God’s good purpose.

The Human Heart

Posted by on Dec 6, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Advent is the one Liturgical Season which seems to have broad appeal. It is short, and the payoff is long on good feelings. After all, this is the “season of anticipating joy.” Even the dusting of snow and the cold wind are part of what makes this time so special. Our expectations are so high and everything, as we hope for, should join in the festivities of the season. We expect that the “message” we hear from the pulpit will add to our joyful expectations. However, there is a sobering tone which brings us back to the real meaning of this season-Preparation for the Coming of Jesus. The unknown author of Third Isaiah runs the full length and breadth of Human Heart. Israel returns from exile in Babylon. Their hopes were great, but the results were less than spectacular. They realized that human achievements are tainted by sin and always lack the perfection we too often proclaim. There is a limitation as to what humans can achieve, hope and build. Even our best intentions and greatest works leave us still looking for true and enduring peace and happiness. In many instances, we have become fearful of the works of our hands. We must admit that at times we are under threat of what we produce, achieve and discover. From the result of human work, of the work of human intellect and the tendencies of his or her will…human beings are living increasingly in fear. We are becoming afraid that what we are producing…can readily turn against us. With this human condition, the unknown author of Third Isaiah proclaims: never despair. There is always plenty of reason to HOPE. This hope does not come from further exploits in technology or economic stability and prosperity. The ultimate affliction of human heart must turn to God for reconciliation that brings peace and drives out fear. Consider Isaiah 64:8: “You are our Father; We are the clay, and You are the potter; And we are the work of Your hand.” It is so easy for us to be distracted and preoccupied with the things that pass, and to miss the time of God’s coming. Too often we are looking for all the right things in all the wrong places. Advent is time for us to focus our eyes, perk up our ears, and ready our hearts for the God who comes at the appointed time. If we are off busying ourselves with many things, we can easily miss the one thing that is required for our salvation. Part of being ready is the awareness of just how much we need God’s healing grace. Often the season of Advent signals the preparation of a gift-list. And we often check it more than twice. Yet this season is a preparation for the one gift that none of us deserves but all of us need-the Child Jesus. It is so easy for us to busy ourselves and have so little room in the inn of our hearts for his birth, for his coming. Yet God wants to send his Son into our hearts as the ultimate expression of his love for us. Paul captures the power of this gift in writing to the Corinthians: “I thank God always concerning you for the grace of God which...

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“Living in the Realm of Prayer”

Posted by on Oct 31, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“Living in the Realm of Prayer” Pray without ceasing….(I Thessalonians 5:17) Thanksgiving is just around the corner and this means that we will be busy planning for celebrations and family dinner. Not to mention about shopping. If there is one thing we need to do during this time of thanksgiving season, we need to pray.” We need to immerse ourselves in the realm of prayer. As Paul indicated in his Letter to the Christians in Thessalonica, “Pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).    It is not enough for us to merely believe in God. We must cultivate and nurture a hunger that desire to hear from God, to know God and to capture His vision. Prayer is at the heart of this desire. John Wesley pointed out, “Prayer is the breath of our spiritual life. Without prayer, our life in God cannot continue.” He warns, “Nothing can be more plain than that the life of God in the soul does not continue, much less increase, unless we use all opportunities of communicating with God.” Wesley strongly believed that “the neglect of prayer” is the most important cause for Christians losing their faith. If I have one gift to give to our Church, I would offer the gift of prayer. Everything follows from prayer. Have you ever wondered why this is the first promise in our membership vows? I strongly believe that the question asked by John Wesley “How is it will your soul?,” at the beginning of the conduct of Annual Conferences, Class Meetings, Societies and Band Meetings is a question that inquires the hunger of the heart. It evaluates the state of your relationship with God and it is in the context of prayer because Wesley believed that everything follows from prayer. Same with our church! Anything happening to our church is attributed to prayer and everything that will happen to our church can be attributed to prayer. Pastor Kim, the pastor of Qumran Methodist Church-the seventh biggest single congregation of the whole world, is noted for his prayer life. Before he married his wife, Pastor Kim asked her four questions. FIRST, he asked her, “The church is in dire need of prayers. Would it be ok with you, if we just cancel our honeymoon and have an overnight time of prayers instead?” To this, his wife answered yes. So he asked his next question. “The church is so poor, it does not even have a bell what about not buying wedding rings for ourselves so that we could get a bell for the church again?” Again, she readily said yes. Then came the third question, “Also, an extravagant wedding is inappropriate at this time. Let us just have a simple one-no entourage, no photos, no reception. Would that be ok with you, too? She said yes the third time. Finally, he asked, “We also might not ever have our own bank account. You see, the work might require us to give our all to God. Would that be ok with you? She answered this last question just as she answered the previous one. Here lies the secret of Pastor Kim. Together with his wife, they embraced the gift of prayer, lived and still living in the realm of prayer and made God’s concerns their priorities. It took...

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Becoming a Question to Others

Posted by on Oct 3, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

A good question is worth more than a hundred answers. Good questions are often in short supply in an age which lusts after certainty. We prize answers and we despise questions. We love certainty, and we fear uncertainty. We demand certain trumpets from the pulpit to the White House to Wall Street. Offering of a complex answer is viewed as weakness and lack of conviction. We want our leaders to always be sure; even if they are seldom right. We demand guarantees instead of hope. H. L. Mencken once said, “That every complex question has a simple answer and it is always simply wrong. LIFE IS COMPLEX.” We need thoughtful reflection and humble prayer to be prudent in our dealings with others. Good questions challenge us to think, pray and be prudent. Good questions force us to examine those areas of our lives we should rather leave in darkness. In the Epistle of James 4:1, the author offers a good question. “Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from?” (NRSV). We might respond: out there! It is society, our environment or the difficult neighbor that accounts for all my problems vices. If only I could remove the external, the internal would be fine. We blame it to circumstances or others which help to explain the way we are. But the author of James offers a different approach. “Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? What you desire you do not obtain, and so you resort to murder” (4:1-2). Our troubles lie in human heart-a metaphor for inner being. We want to assert our will, wield power over and dominate everything and everyone for our selfish ends. Within our inner beings we experience envy, rage, murderous intent. Our general hardness of mind destroys communities and families. “The other is no longer a friend but an enemy; the other is not a gift but a threat; the other becomes hell from whom there is no exit” (Sartre). How can we overcome this so that our lives can become a question to others? Christ answer is most unexpected: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me….” (Mark 9:37). Those whose lives become a question to others must be childlike (not childish or immature). This is not easy. We try to fill ourselves up with material things, relationships, and honors. Yet none give lasting peace. It is only when we open our minds and hearts in childlike faith that God can fill us with what we truly need. If we try to find wholeness in and with the world, we are doomed to failure. The distractions are outside, but our cravings come from within. Most often, in our search for lasting peace, we look in the wrong places. As the author of James succinctly put: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on yourpleasures” (4:3). Childlike living often evokes the anger of those around us. WE BECOME A SIGN OF CONTRADICTION. We challenge people to change and live in a new way. To turn from our inner cravings and welcome Jesus, like a child, in our faith is to be on the road to spiritual maturity. However, we must not be surprised...

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“Living According to the Riches of God’s Love”

Posted by on Sep 18, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

                                         “Living According to the Riches of God’s Love” ….and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. -Ephesians 3:17- The Bible tells us that being alive means being loved by God. It means that we can love only because we are born out of love, that we can give only because our life is a gift, and that we can make others free only because we are set free by God whose heart is greater than ours. When we place our lives at the center of God’s love, God creates a space where we can enter and dance our own dance, sing our own song, and speak our own language without fear. Our faith walk will no longer be a burden or threatening or demanding but it will be inviting and liberating. God is rich and abundant in love! God is love and that he loves. This is the simplest, deepest, and truest statement the New Testament makes of God. Because He loves, He acts in love. Love is in and over all His works. In love and for love He has created us out of nothing. In love and for love and by love He has redeemed us from sin, death, and the power of Satan. In love and for love and by love He sanctifies us unto eternal life. We are to root our lives in this love. This love is without meaning unless we are rooted and grounded in it. For us children of God, love is not something we arrive at, it is something from which we start. We arrive at love only because we start from it. The story of the movie Fireproof is a classic example of this. Kirk Cameron a heroic fire captain who values dedication and service to others above all else, found himself living from the periphery of his most important part of his life-his marriage. For him, life without his wife will be meaningless. He tried everything, yet he came to discover that no matter how they work hard, they failed to arrive at love. But when they start from love, the ending of the movie shows that they were able to arrive at love. For us love is not so much something we live for, as it is something we live by. Only as we live by love are we enabled to live for love. We, children of God do not so much fall on love, as we fall in love; only as we fall in love have we any right to fall on the love of others. For us love is not a peak we try to scale; it is the solid ground we stand on. Only as we stand on the solid ground of love are we able to scale the heights and peaks of love. Love is love’s reward. The Christian is one who announces to the world that it need not scavenge for crumbs and fragments and live life without meaning and purpose. The world can now live from the riches of God’s glory. And the riches of God’s glory are his love as our heavenly Father, his presence in the person of his Son, his power in the reality of His Holy...

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Something Supernatural

Posted by on Aug 5, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“Something Supernatural” Act 2:42-47 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[b] and ate their food with glad and generous[c] hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. On behalf of my family, thank you for the wonderful potluck welcome fellowship. As I have stated in my sermon, we are blessed, and we anticipate something great and wonderful new beginning. In this transition we continue to ask what is it that God intends for us and for our church? If we are blessed and chosen, if anticipate for something that is great and wonderful in this new beginning, what is it that God intends for us and our church. My answer is that, “God wants us to fully enjoy the life He had promised for us and He wants our church to be His best hope for Gladbrook Community. God wants us to experience Something Supernatural. HOW DO WE EXPERIENCE THAT? We experience it if we share the same motivation with God and with one another. Something supernatural happens when God’s people put their heads and hearts together. Something Supernatural happens when we become one in motivation with God. In order to achieve this, we must be willing to let go of the life we wish so as the life that God wants us to have as a community will come to us. We must be focused in bringing people to God and bringing the Church to the people. We must cultivate the highest motivation in telling the story of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. Something supernatural happens when God’s people put their heads and hearts together. Acts 2:44 says, “All who believed were together and had all things in common….” We experience it when the Church prays much. Do you know that the growth of the church is in direct proportion to prayer? Bishop Trimble stated in his Episcopal Address in 2014, “No prayer, no power. Little prayer, little power. More prayer, more power. Much prayer, much power.” The first business of the church is prayer. The only business of the church is prayer. We become faithful disciples of Jesus through prayer. The coming of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost was a result of the unified prayer of the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Jesus will never gather people to his Church unless the Church will pray much. The Church is at its best when praying to God to make it His Church. We experience something supernatural if we share the same motivation with God and with one another. We experience something supernatural when the church prays much. Pastor...

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Cor. 5:7 There at the top of my book case is a little engraving of that verse inside a frame. It was given to me by church members in Williamsburg. They tucked it into a moving box that went with me to Decorah. The Williamsburg church was about to make an important decision about the old church building and what to do to accommodate the growing congregation. So when I saw the engraving I smiled. The verse provided to us encouragement and assurance that God was indeed, unfolding the map as that church and I walked forward. Little did they know that within five years their congregation would worship in a new building. Little did I know about my future too. I had no clue that during the summer of 2013 God would transplant me once again. This time to Gladbrook. My goodness, since the time of my arrival a lot of water has gone under the bridge. We have some terrific new church members. We have said “good-bye for now” to great Christians who have entered into eternity and are now a part of the company of Saints (including my mother). Our ministry through missions keeps evolving and touching new places. The leaders of Sunday school and the Community Kid’s Club ministry have expanded and grown in confidence. And the children have grown too. Although we are in the midst of changes inside of our beloved denomination, there is stability here. The general mood of our church is lighter, yet it has energy, don’t you think? Moving always pulls on the strings of our hearts too. When I am packing for the moving van, I want you to know that the good friendships, great memories, and experiences God has given to us are being packed for the journey and will not be forgotten. Thank you for being such a faithful Christian community and great friends of mine. The blessing of our denomination is that I am confident Rev Gideon and Jhonna Gallo, (Ruthie and Josh) will lead and serve here with all of their hearts, minds, strengths and wills. It will be awesome to have a family in the parsonage and to be with them as they learn the ropes. Let’s all be mindful that Pas-tor Gideon and his family are “walking by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) too. So I am confident you will do your best to work with the Gallo family and bring to fruit whatever God has intended for the Gladbrook church and community. Let me complete this final musing with something I wrote a long time ago which seems fitting for today. Don’t be afraid of a new horizon. You may not be able to see beyond the bend, but God can. What’s out there might be all of which you have dreamt. So quit waiting and start moving. Forward. Life is a disco ball.” May blessing and unity prevail upon this household of God. Rev. Carol Kress, Clergy – Gladbrook United...

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Devotion Defined

Posted by on May 10, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Many readers know this is among my last submissions for the Gladbrook web site. A moving van will come to town and whisk me away in six short weeks. My intention had been to stay in Gladbrook for six more years. But as Priscilla Crumley says, “The best way to make God laugh is to tell him your plans.” Everything took a sharp turn when I accepted a call from the Iowa Conference to serve a six-year term as the District Superintendent of the North Central District. The van will unload my worldly possessions onto the porch of a new home in Webster City. Let’s hope Patches and Frank-the-cat are cooperative. There are times when Webster’s dictionary helps me prepare articles like this and he didn’t fail me when I needed help writing this column. Webster opened up and a little word that’s packed with meaning popped out of the page. That word was ‘devotion’. The dictionary gave me a great description for this age-old word. It’s an “act of dedicating oneself to a cause, vision or entity that is greater than the individual.” It also has connotations such as “strong feelings” and “commitment.”The synonyms are beautiful too, including “faithfulness”, “loyalty”, “attentiveness” and “love”. It’s no wonder Christian acts of private worship are called devotions and essays like this one are devotionals. Our handy-dandy word is found in scripture. Acts 2:42 explains how the early church hatched, grew and matured into flight. “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship: to the breaking of bread and prayers. Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. And all who believed were together.” That’s a good way to explain the basics for leading a life of devotion to the church and to Christ. Those people did not stop learning, breaking bread together, caring for one another and prayer. Allowing that kind of order to rule the day allowed them to experience something special and godly. And they were united together. Their model for a life of devotion is a good model for Christians and churches today. Upon moving to Gladbrook five years ago, I agreed to join the rotation of local religious leaders who were writing this column and sharing on a regular basis what God had placed upon their hearts. My hope and prayer was that I could offer a word of guidance or wisdom to encourage someone “out there” along the journey of faith. Many times I have sat down thinking I knew what I was going to write only to discover God had an entirely different message ready to spill out onto the page. Those are moments to cherish. It might have happened right now. Regardless, it is time for me to close this message and pack another box. My prayers will stay with you and all the other good Christians in our great community. My hope is you will continue to learn, pray stretch, break bread, and share with each other. Keep your eyes open and watch for the signs that prove God is hear. May you be united to each other and devoted to the great purposes of Christ. Prayer: Dear Lord, you are our Watchful Shepherd. Please continue to lead us upon the journey that leads to...

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by on Apr 29, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

(this Musing borrows from a meditation written by Rev Dr Deborah Stowers, Sr. Minister of the Mount Pleasant UMC. in 2013) These days boxes have taken a new priority in my life. These two eyes can spot and focus upon an empty one from blocks away. Packing peanuts are new treasures too. My appearance may seem to be calm but the voices in my mind have not stopped planning or figuring. They are constant. “Oh, this sturdy box would be good for nick knacks.” “Can a group of small boxes be combined to fit into a bigger one?” “Can I spare this box to use for my Goodwill donations?” “How many boxes of annual tax forms do I truly need to keep?” Yesterday I happened to notice an imprint on several boxes and I was reminded of something Rev. Stowers shared with me. The imprint is a ‘box certificate.’ It contains important information that is helpful to read and follow. It addresses how much can fit in the box, what weight can be safely carried inside of it and how much can be piled on top of the box without crushing. Look at the boxes you have stored in the closet and you might find a certificate too. Apparently the manufacturers of boxes have set standards that report the strengths and limitations of each box. If I were to try packing a drum (25 inches tall) in a box sized at 24 inches, I will be out of luck. And, when I start a new stack of boxes in the side room it’s good to know that they can withstand 32 lbs/sq. inch without falling flat as a pancake and spilling my precious valuables all over the floor. When a carton has a weight limit of 65 lbs before the bottom drops out, a person must pack accordingly. Now you can just imagine why Rev. Stowers felt it was important to tell me about box certificates and how to read them. Human beings do not have a “human certificate” stamped upon our body. But just think how handy it would be to have that information and to know one’s strengths, abilities and limitation before hitting that red zone where they are in danger of being surpassed. Of course people can stretch and grow and change, but there re-main limitations. We may not have this information handy, but God knows us better than we know our-selves. There is a certain amount of stuff we are capable of containing without bursting. The pressure of those things others pile on top of us can only go so high. God has no intention of allowing the bottom to drop out underneath us. Just watch out for those warning signs, because God does provides that to you. And, there is a way to be shored up. Our Loving Shepherd does not expect any one to do any more than what we are capable of doing. A person may not believe it in the moment, but no one will be asked to fit in more that the hours of the day allow. We can-not carry a load that is greater than our strength. Yes, these limitations are tested from time to time. There are seasons for growing stronger. Sometimes I have discovered I am capable...

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by on Apr 2, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Have you used the old expression “Would, you help me out because I’m still in the dark?” Or, have you asked someone to “enlighten” you? Not long ago I attended a class where a lamp stand was passed around, and when someone had a good idea they were encouraged to pull the chord and turn on the light before sharing with the others. The metaphors of light and dark are common in use. And that’s been true through the ages. The Gospel of John explains that Jesus is the Light of the World. All of us understand the importance of light and just what this description of Jesus Christ means So, it isn’t hard to catch onto the depth of despair described in the Gospels as they tell of the death of Jesus. This terrible event was accompanied by darkness that fell across the land at midday. And there was the blackness of the tomb that was sealed with the stone. While I do not know fact, many dramas depicting this event will accompany the telling with murky skies, lightening and mud. Those who were witnesses of these events were left with destitute spirits. The contrast between light and dark or day and night is something I have pondered for a long time. Recently it led me to attempt to find a place where I could experience total blackness. I tried to find a spot outside, but even when I tucked into a shadowless cavern there was light. I tried shuttering myself into an interior room of the house, but even with all bulbs off, light crept under the door. Once, I thought I found a place where I would be in total darkness, but my eyes adjusted, and I saw dusky impressions. So after my failed attempts I returned to scripture with a renewed understanding that light has the qualities of persistence and endurance. It is no wonder when Jesus was described as “the Light of the World” or the “Light of Life” the metaphors are so powerful for me. It is no wonder they are linked to the Easter promise of eternity within the light of his presence. Well, I’m yet not done with my study of ways the two terms, (darkness and light), are used in the Gospel of John, the New Testament and the theology they present But since I’ve spent all this time pondering, I am even more thankful for the gift of light and life Jesus Christ brought to a dull and dying world. My prayer is that all of us will remember the importance of his gift as spring returns to our world, or each time the bright and beautiful rays of God’s sun rise up and stretch over the waiting horizon. Your Servant in Christ Rev. Carol...

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by on Feb 28, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Do you remember the musical ditty used by the Army which beckons “Be all that you can be. You can do so in the Army.” That’s a call which sounds to many more people than just the recruits. What would your life look like if you were living your best life? What are the obstacles to living that way right now? Can anything be done about them? These are big questions. But they are inspirational questions too. When one is mindful of a desire to live one’s best life now- then that same person is not easily swayed off course. What would it mean to be part of a church that was living its best life? In other words, are we striving for excellence in all that we teach, share and do in service of Christ and his kingdom? I have a friend who in high school was quite musical. He played multiple instruments and went on to study music at the U. of Iowa. He is a music director at a large school in Milwaukee today. My friend says. “I told God I’d do anything God wanted of me except be a high school music teacher.” He said, “The reason I didn’t want to do that was because too many teachers and kids in our school music department just want to get by and get a grade. I wanted to take music seriously. Later God told me it was just because of my desire for excellence that I was being called to be a teacher of music. My purpose was to raise the bar and instill the a desire for excellence in the hearts and lives of high school students. Excellence is worth striving to achieve in the church. It’s worth it with regards to our own discipleship too. Our membership vows urge us to support the church through our prayers, presence, gives and service. I believe members of the Gladbrook UMC care enough to do these things to the best of our abilities and to strive to set the bar a little bit higher. The best place to start the process is by offering prayers to God, asking for guidance in the days ahead. When we have a spirit of prayer surrounding us, God can move in a powerful way. Have an excellent week and all of us hope to see you in church very soon. (Phil 4:8-9) R. Carol Kress Gladbrook,...

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