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.

It’s about Confirmation

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

**Do you promise, according to the grace given to you, to keep God’s holy will and commandments and walk in the same all the days of your life as FAITHFUL MEMBERS of Christ’s Holy Church?** Recognize the question? It’s the one we are going to ask Lizzie Garber and Brandon Strohbehn when they come before the congregation on Confirmation Sunday. Their answer of *yes* means that they are ready to join the church and to *be confirmed in the faith that leads to life eternal.* They will then kneel and hands will be laid upon them as they do join the Christian church and leads to their membership in our Gladbrook United Methodist Church. Working with youth through Confirmation classes and preparing for their Sunday leaves me with thoughts and emotions that are hard to describe. It’s a joyful day because these youth have demonstrated commitment and a desire to grow in their personal faith. But I feel like I am only beginning to know them and their own special story. Brandon is so quiet in class, but he has a great sense of humor. And there is usually a message behind Lizzie’s dancing eyes that I am curious to discover. All of us have appreciated the other youth, mentors and sometimes parents who have been sitting in with the class too. I sometimes feel they are the best teachers and leaders. When Confirmation Class began in the fall we had a basic outline of topics, experiences and activities in which we would engage. We watched a few movies too. I hope the class can still remember a few parallels we found between THE LION KING and the life of Christ. Simba led an adventurous life. Although we gleaned a few lessons from worshiping at the Jewish Temple in Des Moines, my hope is that the youth will keep on gleaning lessons from the experience and not be afraid to draw their own conclusions. We worked with the Old and New Testaments a little. We revisited mission and service a few times. I would like to think their hearts are warmer toward people (and critters) who lead lives very different from our own. However we barely touched on the birth and development of the United Methodist Church. So much content. So little time. Just a few years ago a Confirmation student said something during a 12-hour retreat that made me think differently about how to approach Confirmation class. I do not remember the subject that we were discussing. But I said, “Why do you think your mentors and I were willing to organize this activity for you?” Without hesitation one of the girls replied back, ‘I know. It’s because you love all of us.” That quick response really touched my heart because it was true. And her response changed my planning of Confirmation. Because just like everything else that has to do with the church … and Jesus Christ… what is being offered is an invitation into a relationship. The most important thing is to spend time with the youth and to assure they know that they matter. Because Jesus is extending an invitation to them too. He wants all of us to know his love and to spend time together with him. During class last Sunday one of...

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Monday Morning Musing – March, 2017

Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in Pastor Comments | 0 comments

Have you heard a song from the 70’s entitled “What the World Needs Now”?  Over and over again the lyrics to that song have been playing in my mind.  “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.  That’s the only thing that there is just too little of….no not just for some, but for everyone…”  There, now it will be sounding in your mind too.  I hear that the scientists call those melodies and thoughts that replay in your mind an “ear worm”.  But, I don’t care for that phrase.  Instead, I call most of those replays “whispers from God”.  Wouldn’t you say there is quite a bit of difference in those phrases?  But, I really do pay attention to those long-lasting thoughts, lyrics and notions.  I pay attention because there have been plenty of times those whispers have been helpful in a way that can only be attributed to the guidance of God.  Perhaps Christ has provided a timely or beneficial whisper to you as well.  There is no doubt about it, we are living through a time of uncertainty right now.  I just left a Bible study group where people shared their worries and the list was lengthy.  We will spend this week praying for decision makers in government, concerns for loved ones, ourselves and all who are in harms way.  But when the study ended, there was that whisper from God playing in my mind again.  “What the world needs now is love sweet love, it’s the only thing….”   Scripture stays “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  They that love not know not God, for God is love.  Beloved, let us love one another.”  (1 John 4:7-8).  The love this scripture calls us to embody has the same heart that my elementary school teachers taught in the classroom and wanted us to model every day. There was Valentine’s day, for instance. If we chose to bring Valentine’s Day cards to school, we were expected to give one to all of our classmates.  We couldn’t give cards only to our friends.  It didn’t even matter if your classmate said crummy things about your art project. It didn’t matter if the card our classmate shared with us was plain next to the glitter and bright colors a more privileged child could offer. Our teachers taught us to rise above pettiness and to just be kind. The love of God is a gift that is shared abundantly and equally with all of God’s children.  We matter to Him.  This love is both simple enough for children to sing of it and strong enough to offer a beam light on the darkest day.  The world does need God’s  sweet love. No, it’s not just for some, but it is for every one..(There is that whisper from God again!)  God must be tellling me to tell you the world and all of its citizens need a full measure of God’s love and kindness today.  In spite of all that worries us and all the trouble we must face. God’s love is strong, hopeful and loving.  I think it’s time to sing that song aloud.  You’re invited to tap, hum, whisper or to sing along with...

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Be Thee Reconciled!

Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Scripture:  “All this from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”  (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) In an old issue of Alive Now! magazine George Graham writes ‘I serve as a volunteer with a local prison ministry named Reconciliation Ministries.  I enjoy calling the office especially on the chance the telephone answering machine will pick up my call.  I don’t usually like talking to answering machines, but when this one picks up, it proclaims, ‘You have reached reconciliation.’  I can’t help but smile every time that I hear this message.’  (Alive Now! May-June, 1993 pg. 10)    If only true reconciliation was possible by making such a call. Most Christian churches observe the season of Lent.  It’s a time when we work to get ourselves back into a right relationship with God and with each other.  We do so in order to celebrate Easter day in all of its glory.  For it is the day when Jesus,  rose from the dead and provided lasting reconciliation to all of the believers. Lent and Easter are starting points of a Christian understanding for reconciliation. I will attempt a rough definition.   Imagine two friends who have a big argument. The companionship they shared is lost.  Silence is in the spot that had been filled with conversation and laughter.  Time spent in each other’s presence is awkward.  As time passes one may look to the other for a signal to know if the other is willing to mend fences or wants to part ways.  Now at one time humanity had a great connection with God, but that relationship was broken.  Naturally, we are the guilty ones.  But instead of walking away, our God had an amazing response to all those disappointments and trespasses we dished up.  He provided a way to forgive and restore that great relationship we once shared.   The innocent Christ died on the cross and opened the gate so we could be redeemed along that way. There is a second part to the passage that informs us that we have been appointed as Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation.  Ask Governor Branstad and he will say that an ambassador serves as a respected representative of a greater entity.  So ambassadors of Christ embody his hands, feet and heart as we invite others to share our permanent residence in eternity.  This is not an easy task as we are called to swim up-stream while societal rapids are pushing in the opposite direction. Modern society is driving to divide people into groups called “us” and “them”.   Christians who embrace God’s ministry of reconciliation can help those who are caught up in these divisions listen, respond, clarify, and seek common ground.  That is an important aspect of  reconciliation ministry too. But keep listening because Paul goes on to say that by accepting his ambassadorship his life in faith changed.   He became more securely grounded in the mercies of the Lord.  He became reconciled to God.  Through his work as a Christian ambassador paths  to reconciliation widened for others.  Paul received deep peace. The season of Lent has just began.  I pray that all of us will come into a right relationship with God and hear our call to be a ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors of...

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by on Feb 2, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

My goodness, it’s February – almost. I’m writing this Musing while I am also planning to travel to Nash-ville, TN with my clergywomen friends Jan and Shirley. A lot of people who love music travel to Nashville to hear all the singers and songwriters. I hope we have an opportunity to hear some of them too. Not everyone realizes that Nashville is also a hub for the United Methodist Church. Many of the denomi-nation-wide offices are there. Scarritt College and Vanderbilt University have Methodist roots. And even Rieman Auditorium was once a downtown Methodist church. It’s just down the block from the United Methodist Publishing House and Upper Room Ministries. I am certain we’ll join others for daily worship in the Upper Room Chapel. We will also tour the archives that house various art and relics marking Method-ist history from colonial days. All of this will be pretty interesting for me. Many of us think of those little daily devotionals when thinking of the Upper Room, but there is a lot more to their ministry. All of it is meant to help local churches find footing along the path of faith formation and spirituality. It’s great to know we are not out there trying to do this by ourselves. And we’ll tap into some of their resources soon During the season of Lent (starting in March) I will offer a small group study. We will use a book entitled “Listen: Praying in a Noisy World.” by Bishop Rueben Job. We live in a world of noise. Everywhere we go we hear sounds that compete for our minds and hearts. Listening to God requires time and attention. The book will lead us through a 40-day experience. And it’s the kind of thing that just might prove it’s worth. We’ll announce the specific times and dates of this journey as the time draws nearer. Building-up life of prayer is always a good thing. In Christian Love – Rev Carol Kress...

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The Grace of Persistence

Posted by on Jan 18, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Scripture: Psalm 95:8-9 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion. As in the day of trial in the wilderness when your ancestors tested me. ” Lately I have been studying up on the National Parks. We are still within the anniversary of the 100th year for formation of the National Park Service and I want to make a point of visiting at least one of them with one of my buddies. We have discussed Voyager N.P. in Minnesota, Rocky Mountain N.P. in Colorado, but since we have been to those already it may be time to go some place else. Julie, who is my niece, is recommending Yosemite N.P. in California. It’s a favorite of hers. She says that it is beautiful at any time of the year with its many redwoods, waterfalls and mountains. I believe her. Julie even sent an article to me as an act of persuasion. It was about two rock climbers who scaled the face of the El Capitan. These men planned and trained for a whole seven years to take on this project. Can you believe that? Tommy Caldwell and Keven Jorgenson said it was their life-long dream to scale the sheer wall using nothing but their own strength and skill. They had ropes to catch if one were to fall, but that was it. All the experts in the field of rock climbing said their goal was insurmountable. (It is a 3,000 foot sheer rock face, after all). But after all that training, the two took three weeks to climb into the record-books by accomplishing their goal. When the reporters caught up with them Jorgenson said. “I hope people take the time to find their own El Capitan. I want them to use our accomplishment as an example of what can be achieved when you dream big and don’t give up.” Consider what Jorgenson said. Place his words beside the passage from Psalm 95 (found above). It can help you understand a scripture passage which at first glance sounds strange. In this passage the Psalmist is reflecting back to the time when the Hebrew people were led out of slavery in Egypt, through the Red Sea to their freedom by God acting through Moses. They spent time in the wilderness where God put them into training for entrance into the promised land. Moses and the Hebrew people were dreaming big. Yet as the travel became more daunting and the group neared the destination those people wavered. By the time they got to Massah they were worn out, hungry and thirsty. To make a sad story short, the Hebrews gave up on all those dreams and visions God gave to them. They voiced their complaints and plotted a rebellion so they could return to slavery in Egypt. Those big dreams appeared ready to collapse for lack of resolve. What wound up happening is that this journey which might have taken a matter of weeks is extended forty years. God needed to teach the Hebrew people a hard lesson. It takes perseverance to stay with God and achieve his big promises. It’s still January and I’m reminded of the big dreams many of us have for the new year. It’s common for people to create a list of resolutions at the beginning...

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by on Jan 1, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Happy New Year! We are closing out the final chapter of 2016 and preparing to start a brand new tale of faith entitled 2017. Will this one be filled with as much intrigue and surprise as the year past or will the story be quieter? I do not know, but I am comforted by the fact that God already has things in place. Have you made a list of New Years Resolutions? The day after Christmas I created a check list of things I should do this year to get my life ship shape. That list contained everything from reading more books, to organizing my closets, to getting some gym clothes. I must have been in a mood because early the next morning I re-read my list and I was amazed by its length. Before I got to the bottom I began to feel overwhelmed and considered crawling back into bed! Oh my. A new perspective was needed, and God provided one while I ate breakfast. While at the table I read an article about Pope Francis that made me see things in a new light. Just before Christmas Pope Francis surprised the locals at an Italian pharmacy late one night. He left his apartment and walked to the store because he was in need of a new pair of Dr. Scholl’s inserts and shoes. The Pope simply strolled down the sidewalk and walked into the pharmacy unannounced. He made that purchase just like any other resident of the neighborhood. The Pope even socialized with the shoppers and allowed them to take some snap shots before he returned to his apartment. This leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics has pictures from his night-time adventure plastered all over face book But this behavior is nothing new for the Pope. Earlier in the month he was spotted at another store where he bought reading glasses. Neighbors have even seen him traveling the streets of Rome in his Ford Fiesta. The article about Pope Francis inspired me because it reminded me that the purpose of making resolutions isn’t about the things I want to “do”. Resolution-making is about the kind of person I want to “be.” Pope Francis offers a witness to his faith by living so simply and mingling so freely with common people. He demonstrates his faith that God cares. What if our resolutions had a connection with our faith too? Can we resolve to spend less time with our things and more time with our family and in the community? Or what if we resolve to find the blessing in each day – even on the challenging ones?” It seems that Pope Francis doesn’t just talk the talk. He walks the walk too. Our world would be even better if all Christians resolved to do the same. In Christian Service – R. Carol Kress Gladbrook, UMC “We are people of prayer, and members of a house of prayer. We live in a place that longs for...

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Does the Star Still Shine?

Posted by on Dec 22, 2016 in Pastor Comments | 0 comments

Scripture:  “While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby.  She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  (Luke 2:6-7) For Christmas this year my girlfriends and I are doing something different.  We all like to thrift shop, so we are going to exchange only treasures found at one. ( I think they were inspired by the Kid’s Shopping Day in Gladbrook.  Now that is an amazing event. All of the organizers, helpers and those who donate deserve a star in the crown they will wear in eternity.)  As I rummaged through the pile of CD’s at a nearby thrift store,  I stumbled across one entitled ‘Merle Haggard’s Christmas Present.’  What a find.  As youngsters my friends and I rode a school bus and the driver always tuned the radio to the local country music station. Therefore, if were you name a country artist who recorded between 1960 and 1976 I can come up with a song. Mr. Williams deserves my thanks. Merle Haggard recorded a song we heard at this time of year but I didn’t associate with Christmas. Still the song struck a chord with me.  Its name was “If we make it through December.” Merle Haggard  surely knew a lot about tough times and wasn’t afraid to sing about them.  During his youth he dropped out of High School and lived a shiftless life.  He even spent time in prison.  So, when Haggard sang “If we make it through December, everything’s going to be alright I know, it’s the hardest time of winter, and I shiver when I see the falling snow…”  he was singing straight out of his own experience. His song spoke to something deep inside of us too  as we rode with Mr. Williams in that drafty, old, yellow  bus that took us back and forth to school. Standing in the thrift shop I flipped to the back of Merle Haggard’s Christmas Present CD.  It surprised me to see “If we make it through December” was listed there.  Christmas CD’s are ones filled with sacred, sweet and happy tunes.  We sing about joy and the wonder of the season. That kind of music is in harmony with our desires for the season because lot of us want to look forward to gathering with family and friends.   There are many special events such as a school concert or activities we are planning such as the Christmas worship services our churches host.  These songs tell us that this is the happiest time of the year. But is it?  Perhaps this is true for most of us on most days.  But during the December of 2016, there are corners of our community that are on the brink of hard times and some have fallen in.  There are families that did not have a great year. There were losses.  And on April 6th Merle Haggard died himself. If you’re still reading, you may be one of the precious souls who are coping with hard times too. Something occurred to me as I shopped at the thrift store and read the listing of songs on Merle Haggard’s Christmas CD. This man made a conscious decision to put “If we make it through December’ on the CD and he made another conscious decision to name it ‘A Christmas Present.’ ...

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by on Dec 6, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

If any time of year is dedicated to tradition, it must surely be the month of December. Families will adorn their homes with holiday trees, lights will brighten front yards, and traditional Carols will ring out with joy. The nativity set will carve out its own sacred space too. Some of us will add a few new candles and such to the garland, but there are a lot of precious memories tucked into those old holiday displays that’s just fine. So, the following question might sound disturbing, but you cannot say you were not warned… Could you start a new tradition? A few years ago my sister and I tried something new that has evolved into a true, blue tradition for her family and me. It started during a conversation we shared bemoaning how during the holidays every year we consistently hear about the importance of developing a spirit of gratitude. But we didn’t do much about it. Both of us have too many good intentions, but they don’t turn into a plan for action. Although we talked a good talk, we didn’t always walk a good walk. The result was a left-over and unsettled feeling – that is best defined as “guilt” residing where “happiness” might have presided. So Mary and I decided to take this bird in hand and act upon our good intentions. It was that old T-Mobile commercial which was our inspiration. The commercial asked a lingering question. “Who is in your 5?” (The company had ran a promotion where customers could select five personal con-tact and place a call to them for free.) Neither one of us were customers of T-Mobile, but the question kept trailing along behind us. “Who is in your five?” “Who is in my five?” In answering the question, Mary and I reflected on the year just past and identified five people who stood out in a special way over the year. They may have proven to be a good friend or they might have been a helpful neighbor. Then we made our lists. The one rule was that these people were someone other than a relative. As November rolled into December Mary and I contacted the five people on our lists to offer a word of thanks. We could do so by sending a card, making a phone call or having a face to face conversation. Mary and I are simple people, so we didn’t send special gifts or make cookies or do anything else over the top, because the point was to just tell the five people that we remembered and appreciated the friendship and support. On Christmas day we shared with each other “Who is in my five” and why. So, on the first Christmas we celebrated ten people. It was a neat moment. After the first year our new tradition started to spread. Mary’s children and grandchildren picked up on the idea. So, there are now ten people lifting up five people by name each Christmas around the table. That means 50 good friends are lifted up and celebrated. around the Christmas table. It makes for a great conversation and a true sense of appreciation fills our heart. The adults look forward to this time of sharing almost as much as opening presents. The grandchildren tolerate...

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by on Oct 27, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

As I write this musing I am in attendance at a continuing education event at Wesley Woods. It’s a great class addressing the maturity of most Christians. Our instructor proposes we become to set in our ways of prayer, worship, and doing things like evangelism and our own life in the spirit could be enriched by practicing new disciplines. That’s food for thought for future musings. My small group had planned to build a campfire last night. That was before the rain. Maybe we will have another opportunity. I had looked forward to sitting and talking as we warmed our feet next to it’s crackling flames. The thought of a campfire hasn’t left me. Because our class leader has been asking “What burns in you? Is there a fire in your faith?” Good question. As we watch the fire in the fireplace burn I am reminded centuries of people have gathered around fires. Our ancestors used fire to cook and to keep their home warm. How long did it take them to learn that fire could transform clay vessels into long-lasting pottery? Or that by heating sand it would turn into glass? Do you think the ones who learned how to make a fire by rubbing sticks together had any clue how the following generations would build upon their knowledge? There are so many little lessons to learn and tasks to accomplish that fill our days with activity. It is easy to forget all those little things build upon each other. They are either leading us along the road to a clear destination, or they take us in circles. My faith in God takes me to church so I can worship with you on Sunday. It’s a good mark on my weekly compass and points me to Jesus Christ who is my North Star. He is my guiding light and following this compass keeps me on the right course. It is easy to pause and reflect on the blessings of life right now as I am away from my normal routine while I am here at Wesley Woods. Even if your day is packed full of lessons or events, I encourage you to take just a few moments to yourself. Find a quiet place where your heart can beat slower. Perhaps you can walk a quiet road and simply be in God’s presence for a moment. Make sure the things that are driving you right now are the kinds of values and choices that line up with the compass and keep you pointed toward the north star, your guiding light whose name is Jesus Christ. In Christian Service – R. Carol Kress Gladbrook, UMC “We are people of prayer, and members of a house of prayer. We live in a place that longs for...

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by on Oct 2, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

My travels took me across the state just a few days before all of the rain fell. In late September Iowa has a special look and feel. The grain was golden and ripe for harvest. Combines, wagons and trucks were gleaming in the sun. There was something inexpressible, in the wind. Was it the fragrance of sweet anticipation? That trip was only a short time before hard rain fell. Now, residents in areas north and east of Gladbrook are anxious about the their flooded crops and livelihoods. The harvest has been delayed, and there may be no harvest at all. Only time will tell. As we watched their futures wash up along banks of the flooded creeks, I turned to Marcy and said, “There, but for the grace of God, goes Gladbrook.” She nodded in agreement. How well we know this truth. The familiar and oft-spoken phrase I used was first said by John Bradford, an English evangelical preacher and reformer. He uttered the phrase as he watched the convicted be led to the scaffolds to meet. He meant that if it had not been for the watchful eye of the Lord, he too would have been capable of crossing the Queen and meeting the same fate. Bradford knew no one merits God’s special provision. Still he was grateful to receive it. When I use the phrase, I echo his meaning. And I add something more. Yes, I am grateful the community was not directly affected by storm and flood this time; But I do not take our blessing lightly. So if there is a way to offer support, encouragement or help to my afflicted brothers and sisters, I want us to be willing to extend our hands. Perhaps, when the time comes that we need help, another community will offer theirs to us. Carolyn Moe and the Out-Reach Committee have happily offered to organize donations for UMCOR Flood Buckets. If other calls for assistance are issued, they will give them strong consideration too. There is more to tell about John Bradford. He didn’t have God’s special provision for long… Or, did he? Being a Christian Reformer, he was arrested as a heretic and imprisoned in the Tower of London by the Catholic Mary Tudor, Queen of the Scotts. She ordered that he burn at the stake. When Bradford heard his sentence, he was more joyous than scared. To a fellow prisoner who had been sentenced to the same fate he said; “We shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night.” No matter the hardship and struggle that we face while living our temporary lives on this tangible planet. Jesus says “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) In the end, the things we possess, the fame we achieve or the authority we weld will not hold importance. The key to God’s permanent life in his eternal, heavenly kingdom will be given to the ones who are faithful, helpful, and share (in word and by deed) the message of God’s grace-filled love. R. Carol Kress Gladbrook, UMC “Go where your best prayers take you.” Frederick...

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