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.

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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Blessed are the Meek, the Merciful, the Pure of Heart.

Posted by on Feb 26, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Scripture: Matthew 5:5-12  Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Thoughts:  Over the past month I’ve been opening my Bible and reading through the Beatitudes twice a day. It doesn’t take long but I have found a lot of food for thought by doing this so often. My inspiration to take up this practice was when I learned that Ghandi read the Beatitudes twice a day too. He was not a Christian, but he still had great respect for these words of Jesus. It has been said that he founded his non-violent movement for peace and justice upon the Beatitudes.. By reading through them daily I have also been struck by their beauty and insight. They are a mission and vision statement, authored by Jesus, for Christians and the church through all ages. Just think what would the world be like if every Christians was meek, merciful and pure in heart. How would you be challenged, if Christ called you to be both a peace-maker and a defender of righteousness? Over the course of the month I think I see the Beatitudes leading me to be a bridge builder who is meant to carry the message of a “third way.” It is a way that moves Christians beyond the “me vs. them” wrestling matches into which we fall, and seeks to span the distance between us. I really want to do this even though I know bridge-building is hard work. Richard Rohr says, “The joy of serving as a bridge is that you get walked on by both sides. But the goal of being a bridge is to end strife by creating an opportunity for a transformation of the heart.” That may be lofty thinking for Friday morning. Still, Jesus is using the Beatitudes to take me on a journey. While the focus of Christianity may be to gain converts, there is another equally great challenge. It is for Christians to align their lives with the deep ways of Jesus. We can be people who clearly care for each other and for God’s world too. Some days it’s hard to dream of a harmonious and peaceful world. But the Beatitudes renew my desire to strive for that very thing. All of us can be better Christian and contribute to the building of a peace-filled world. Even the smallest gesture gives rise to hope. So I’m keeping up with this practice for the rest of the month and another one too, at least. This is your invitation to do the...

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Monday Morning Musings

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

So, yes. Bishop Laurie Haller will appoint me to be the next District Superintendent of the North Central District in Iowa. Wow, just typing those words causes me to swallow hard and blink twice. There were few things the Bishop could offer to me that might cause me to consider leaving Gladbrook. But God showed her one. The five years I have spent here have been good years for me and, I pray, also for you. You have risen to some interesting challenges and taken on a few new projects. God has called us to venture outside of the church doors and to be his agents in this community. We have touched new lives and hearts with the love of Jesus. It seems like the light is a little brighter. (And that’s not just because the Trustees have found out the best bulbs to use here.) I believe the church is growing toward the Light. The lighted city upon a hill is a descriptive phrase found in the beatitudes. Jesus tells his listeners, ‘You are the light of the world, a city that is set upon a hill cannot be hidden.’ (Mt. 5) This verse was used by John Winthrop, the 17th century Puritan, as he cast his vision of a new society for the colonists who were leaving ship and setting foot on American soil. While anchored in Boston Harbor, on the Arbella, Winthrop shared that vision. He saw their new city becoming a Christian model of communal charity, affection and unity for all the world to see. We may not use the same terms, but we understand their meaning. Charity is an old word for aiding or assisting one who needs help or support. Affection describes a gentle feeling of fondness within a relationship. And unity is a desire for all people to be included, respected and protected. I think it’s interesting that John Winthrop, known as a great Puritan preacher, focused his vision upon the way society should be ordered but he did not speak of a personal relationship with God. Maybe he did that in other speeches. Or he believed that the way Christians treat other is a clear indicator of their relationship with God. If John Winthrop came to Gladbrook, I think he would cast a similar vision for the church. He would call you a shining city upon a hill. Returning to those old terms he would see you as Christ’s agents of charity, affection and unity right now. Surely we can agree that these qualities are desperately needed as darker forces try to pull us apart. Furthermore, he would add a word in the description of our church. He would describe you as a ‘shining’ city. He would use the term in the way of preachers. Objects do not shine on their own, they need a source of energy and light. Our source is the glorified Christ. Scripture states that Jesus is the light of the world. “He is the real light – the light that comes into the world and shines on all humanity.” (John 1:9) Without this source of light, the city grows dim. My goodness, we have taken such a journey together. I believe our church has the capability to just keep serving as agents of charity, affection and...

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by on Jan 1, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

People in my profession tend to have a lot of nativity sets in their homes. A minister-friend of mine (who retired to Colorado) has over ninety. At Christmas time her condo in the mountains must be quite the sight. I wonder if she has room for any visitors at all? My number of nativities is modest in comparison to hers, but I like mine and enjoy setting them up for the holiday. So on Christmas Day I set out the very last one. While I took the set out of the box and found the perfect place for each one of the pieces, I found myself thinking about the shepherds. They have their moment in the spot light, but I find that they are not the first ones that I look at when I reflect upon the nativity sets . Baby Jesus is front and center of all the sets. He gets the spotlight (as he should). On either side are stationed Mary and Joseph who are major supporting characters. An angel glows near the manger. The three kings seem to command a strategic spot where any one can admire the camels and those gifts that made an impression. Even the animals of the stable have spots. I like placing the donkey as close to Mary as I can and I will turn the cow so that her gaze is upon the precious child. But the shepherds don’t have a special spot, I seem to fit them in to balance out the nativity scene. In one of the sets they really do look best standing out in a side pen with the sheep. If you saw them you would agree that those shepherds were meant to watch over things while everyone else gathered in the stable. Who knows what would become of a church that did not have a team of shepherds to watch over things? I think of all the volunteers and quiet workers who serve Christ by tending to so many little things that happen inside the house of God. So much of their work goes overlooked and under appreciated. But without their thought and care, the church would suffer. There are shepherds who keep the flowers watered, the projection current and the sanctuary orderly so there are few distractions to worship. There are shepherds who pay attention to fiscal matters and talk about a greater stewardship of our personal and shared resources. There are shepherds who are planning Sunday school lessons, making costumes, and helping our young people open the Bible. There are other shepherds who encourage everyone to open the Bible and invite it to live within our hearts. We can also mention the shepherds who plan funeral dinners, prepare Communion, care for memorials, or BeFriend to offer God’s loving presence during tender times. I haven’t begun to mention all of the local shepherds. There are many more quiet ways you are a shepherd with your family, the school children, and for others who are a part of God’s living nativity. You may feel that you are not appreciated or noticed . But God sees and knows all things and this is what really matters. I am grateful for the many who watch-over and tend to our little branch of the family of God. Blessings...

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by on Nov 30, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Today is filled with sunshine. Days like this one have been few and far between. That makes sunshine more precious today. The days are shorter now and common indicators of winter are on the scene. What will winter be like? When I was a kid on the farm, my bedroom windows faced the western sky. During winter, I recall doing my homework there while looking out the window to see the sunset over a frosty horizon. My goal was always to complete it before Venus shined in the darkening sky. Although planets do not have a self-generated source they can twinkle with the sun’s reflective light. Jupiter, Mercury and Mars twinkle and if there was a colony on any of them, their people would say that Earth twinkles too. Still, I watch for the beauty of winter sunsets. Certainly, a long winter night can usher in dangerous temperatures and threatening weather. This fact does not stop me from appreciating the sunset. Besides, the winter sky at night cannot extinguish the starlight. Not really. Even when clouds are thick and heavy, the stars shine higher above. When I watch very closely they will peek through to prove their presence every now and then.. Soon we will celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. The timing of this event is so fitting. Jesus was born during one of the longest nights of the year as winter chills settle. To humanity it is a reminder that our bodies need light and warmth to make it through cold, dark winter nights. In the same way, our spiritual bodies need the gifts Jesus brought by way of his birth. These gifts allow us to survive exposure to hard trials and seasons of hopelessness. We cannot do this on our own. It is possible only because of the love of God revealed to us through Jesus Christ. He is the source of spiritual light. This truth forms the basis of the scriptural message from Isaiah pro-claiming, “Arise and shine, for thy light has come. The glory of the Lord has risen.” (Isaiah 60) Allow me to invite you to watch with me for the sunset and then stars to appear. Our physical life is dependent upon the sun, and our salvation is dependent upon Jesus Christ. God gave him to this world as a sign of his everlasting love. No matter the thickness of the clouds nor the length of the night, he has promised to shine forth on our behalf. It is a promise upon which we can count. So praise God with me for the precious gift of his son and we will encourage each other to trust in his promises. Have you noticed that it is only during times of darkness that we can see the twinkling planets? Oh my, I feel another musing coming on….Well, for the time-being, I pray for you and your loved ones to have a safe, healthy and blessed holiday season. “I consider the whole world as my parish.” John Wesley Rev....

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by on Oct 27, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Not long ago a friend of mine sent an email of a cartoon strip. In it there was a sheep walking on two legs. The sheep addressed a wolf who blocked the pearly-gated entrance to a green pasture. Standing by the sheep was a familiar looking bearded man who wore a robe and carried a staff. He had an unstated look of authority. The sheep spoke to the wolf while pointing to the man and said, “I’m with Him.” The sheep’s trust is in his Shepherd who gave him protection and led him to green pastures beside still waters. On the day Jesus died, three crosses rose in Golgotha. And Jesus was crucified between two criminals. One of them mocked Jesus. But the other one had a repentant heart of a believer. He asked Jesus “Will you remember me when you come into your kingdom?” Jesus replied, “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” Can you imagine how much those words of assurance helped that man? He knew for sure that in his hour of great need, Jesus would pay the price of his sin and lead him to pastures eternally green. He was now a child of God.. Perhaps he acted just like the sheep did when it approached the pearly gate by gesturing to Jesus and saying that wolf, “I’m with him.” This is the November newsletter and Thanksgiving will be observed on the 23rd. (That day would have been my mother’s 88th birthday.) As with all citizens who gather around Thanksgiving dinner tables, we will have a lot of reasons to offer our thanks. Along with them, many of us will mention our families, or our friends, or our health, or our community. But, as Christians we are most thankful for the precious gift of Jesus Christ. Scripture states “God gave his only begotten Son that who so ever believed in him would have life ever lasting. For God gave his son to the world not to condemn it, but that the world would be saved through Him.” (John 3:16 & 17) Just like the thief on the cross, we do not deserve what God planned and Jesus did for us. These things are a precious gift from God’s hand and we have been changed forever. So, I hope that along with the blessings you will count, there will be a time when you point to heaven and say with a clear, loud voice. “I’m with Him!” Have a safe and blessed holiday R. Carol Kress Gladbrook,...

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Monarch Butterflies, Francis of Assisi, and You

Posted by on Oct 4, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Monarch Butterflies are Migrating Haven’t all of the Monarch’s already passed through Gladbrook? Apparently not, I saw one solitary dash of orange and black winging down my street today. He was bobbing up and down, but headed in the right direction. As with all the Monarchs that I see, I offered a simple prayer for him. “May God help you to fly safe and free, old boy.” Our beloved Monarchs are not as populous as they once were. But, it does not lessen the beauty and wonder I feel when I see one. My friend of today may have been traveling from as far away as south Canada. He will go to the mountains of Mexico for winter. If you have enough time and money, guides can take you to his home there, where blizzards of orange and black Monarchs are clustered together until it is time to wing back home. Somewhere along the RAGBRAI route in July there was a group determined to help maintain Monarch populations. They passed to the riders a mud ball. Tucked inside was a milk weed seedling. (The preferred home of Monarch caterpillars). RAGBRAI riders were asked to toss the mud ball into a ditch or pasture in hopes the seedling would establish itself and grow strong enough to welcome the Monarchs home in the spring. Perhaps to lay their eggs. It is a tradition for Christians to have a high regard for nature. Francis of Assisi believed nature can be used as a window through which the religious will gaze upon the majesty of God. In legend it is said that once, while Francis was traveling with his companions, they came to a place in the woods where birds filled trees on either side of the path. Francis told his companions to wait while he took time to preach to his brothers and sisters, the birds. The legend continues by stating not one of the birds flew away. This is why statues of Francis commonly show him with a bird in his hand. I won’t say the legend is factual. But there is some truth in it. Francis noticed things in the natural world and cared about those things. Likewise, God calls us to notice and to care about the natural world too. Perhaps one day someone will hand a mud ball that is home to a sprouting milk weed to you too. If someone does, then I hope that you will plant it. In what other simple ways can you offer a helping hand to Mother Nature? Prayer: “Dearest Lord, our tender shepherd and wise counsel. Help us to do our part to keep the air, water, and earth clean and fresh. We want to do this not only for our own purposes, but for the use of all creation and over many generations. Thank you for allowing us to be stewards of yours. Amen.” Scripture: O Lord, by your wisdom you created so many things; the whole earth is covered with your living creatures. (Psalm...

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