Have you ever been curious as to how others see you? If R. H. ever wondered this, the kids in our youth group have helped him out by drawing pictures of him on the whiteboard in my office. I absolutely love these pictures. They are all a little different, but you can clearly tell who they are supposed to be. There is a picture of him smiling, one of him yelling “QUIET”, and even one of him in sunglasses. I love how each picture shows how the artist views him, whether it be the disciplinary, the cool guy, or the happy, go-lucky guy.
I know that for myself, I can often get caught up on how others may see me. This is something that I have had a hard time with since I was young. I remember talking to my parents about it throughout my teen years, I think that’s when it was the worst. They read me the story of David being anointed as king from 1 Samuel. There is a great verse in chapter 16 about God looking at the heart, while man looks at the outward appearance. As I continued to grow up, this verse stayed with me whenever I would get hung up on thinking too much about what others thought of me.
As I sit here at my desk and write this, I can take a glance at the whiteboard and see these great pictures of R. H. and be reminded that with all the different ways that others see us, God is the only one who truly KNOWS us! Let’s give thanks this week, for this wonderful truth.
Yesterday I was reminded that things don’t always go as planned.
As I was walking out of the house, I discovered that I had locked my keys in my car the night before. I was instantly frustrated! I called R. H. (because he has the second set of keys) so that he could come unlock my car. He had to leave his office and finish his workday from home, while I had to go inside and send Harvey’s sitter home because I wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon. It took me a while to calm myself down from my frustration, but once I did, I was reminded that in Christ we can find peace even in the midst of our frustration.
I want to encourage you this week to hold on to what Paul tells us in Philippians, to not worry about anything but give everything to Christ. When things don’t go the way you planned or when life seems to overwhelm you, give it to Christ and let His peace wash over you.
Today is the day that most of us spend reflecting on the previous year. We think about the highs and the lows. We think about the wonderful memories we made. We even think about the mistakes that we made, sometimes.
Tomorrow is the first day of a new year, and with the first day of a new year comes the chance to start afresh. We look at this first day as a blank page. The possibilities are endless with this new blank page: we can be the person that we wanted to be the previous year, we can accomplish goals that we set out to accomplish but maybe didn’t quite fulfill, or we can finally stop procrastinating and start that project. This blank page is full of endless possibilities. Sometimes, this blank page is a fresh start; a new beginning from a past that you might want to forget.
One of the things I love about this image of a blank page, and the idea of a fresh start, is that we can have a blank page and a fresh start every day, with Jesus. We’re promised that He wipes away our past and He makes us new whenever we ask Him to; we are made new in Christ.
So as we begin this new year, and we start filling in this new blank page, I encourage you to let Christ fill in this new blank page in your life. Ask him what he wants you to do this year and pursue that goal.
Happy New year!
Candle-light services on Christmas Eve are some of the most beautiful spectacles I’ve experienced in the church. Candle-lighting is something that I will always associate with church and I find it funny that I’ve written all of the youth digest write-ups for Advent so far without actually mentioning candle-lighting. This Sunday we lit the 4th candle of Advent, representing Joy, and tonight we will light the 5th candle of Advent, the Christ Candle, representing the coming Jesus Christ, our Lord and savior.
I grew up in our church in Illinois as an acolyte, not by choice, but through parental volunteerism. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wear any weird robes or get special training to light candles. I was a boy in elementary school, I knew how to light things on fire. I did have to learn how to work the candle-lighter with the taper and a candle-snuffer, but once that was finished, it was just a matter of walking down the aisle to light the candles at the beginning of the service and walking down the aisle to put all the candles out at the end of the service. I did the acolyte thing so often on Sunday mornings that the entire process was instinctual; I could do it in my sleep.
Christmas Eve services were very different. There were so many candles to light on the alter and some, the Advent candles, that I wasn’t supposed to light. Plus, I had to go around to get all the rows started on the congregation’s little individual candles. Christmas Eve services were hard work as an acolyte. I even had to stay up late for the midnight service. The one that ended, technically, on Christmas morning. So here I was, during one such fateful Christmas Eve midnight service. I had finished lighting all the rows and I had returned to my seat in the choir loft, behind the pulpit via one of those sneaky side doors so as not to walk right in front of the pastor. I took my seat, lit the last little candle, my candle, and I put out my candle-lighter.
I then fell asleep holding my little candle.
I nodded in and out of sleep in a jerky enough motion that I caught the attention of the entire congregation, but no one was impolite enough to laugh-out-loud, so the pastor never turned around to see what was going on behind him. I’m told that I both thoroughly embarrassed and thoroughly horrified my mother, the likes of which I’ve never been able to accomplish again. Apparently the highlight of that midnight Christmas Eve service was watching to see if a tired little boy would accidentally light himself on fire in his sleep.
Thankfully, hot wax dripping onto my pants was enough to wake me up, but my little power nap was enough to energize an equally sleepy congregation.
This is one of my favorite little Christmas stories and I hope that it brought you some joy on this wonderful Christmas Eve. As we celebrate Christ’s entry into our world this week, join me in soaking up all the joy that you can and sharing all the joy that you can. Christ, our savior is born. Indeed, this is good news of great joy. Share that joy and Christ’s message of love and salvation.
R. H. Karn
This year, more than any other year of my life has been a year of truly and deeply experiencing God’s love. I have always been amazed by the loving church family that exists at Liberty Presbyterian Church; it’s one of the reasons that I have been doing youth ministry at this church for almost 10 years. In 2019, I felt the floodgates open: Tanya, Harvey, and I were engulfed by prayers and support; we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from our church. To this day, we still are. From the volunteers who hold Harvey on youth group nights to every time we change a diaper (some of which still have your little messages written on them) we feel this amazing love.
This is the love of Advent, God’s love for us is overwhelming, undeserving, and all-encompassing. It’s a rock-your-world, change-your-life love that should not and cannot be contained. So uncontainable, in fact, that it broke into our world, enfleshed through the birth Jesus Christ, who is God’s Son, God in human form, and all love. Christ teaches us the way to live a life filled with love and exemplifies this love through dying on the cross. In result of our salvation, through Christ’s death and resurrection, our response is simple enough: our response is to love. We are called to love God and love everyone else in an overwhelming, undeserving, and all-encompassing way.
Friends, as we prepare for Christmas, do whatever it is that you need to do out of love. Everything and all things, do them out of love. Christ gives us a new commandment in John 13: 34-35 to
“Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
As we prepare for Christmas, act out of love, give out of love, and continue to pray for and support those in need out of love.
R. H. Karn
Peace might be one of the hardest aspects of the Advent season to grasp. For me, in my adult life, I’ve surrendered to the chaos and the flurry of activity that is the crescendo towards Christmas. During this busy season, I experience moments of peace when I find the perfect gift for someone or when I snuggle into bed after a long day of hard work. There is definitely a peace to be had when arriving at grandma and grandpa’s house after a long day of travel. The world outside seems so peaceful after the first snowfall of the season. These are all excellent examples of peace, but I believe Advent’s peace is meant to be so much more.
The moments of peace that we glorify during this season are, at best, fleeting. Only because I don’t think it’s the same peace that is mentioned in Luke 2:14 when the heavenly hosts reveal themselves to the shepherds. However, I do believe that we get close to this peace, catching glimpses of it because the true peace here is the peace that comes with the Kingdom of God. Thanks to Christ, and his ministry here on earth, we know that the Kingdom of God is at hand and we know that Christ, entering into this world and sacrificing himself on the cross, allows us to enter the Kingdom of God. There we will find the true peace that God intended for us from Revelation 21:4 which states that God will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. That is a peace that we so desperately need.
This week, join me as we challenge ourselves to share the amazing peace of God’s Kingdom with those around us. Pause and extend this peace to those who are suffering in sorrow and in pain. Don’t let the build-up of Christmas keep you from furthering God’s Kingdom here on earth.
R. H. Karn
For this first week of Advent, we are called to prepare for Christ’s birth with hope. I’ve been hopeful about a lot of things in my life, but my hope has always been curbed with realism and cynicism. The phrase, “Don’t get your hopes up.” has always come easy to me. Let’s be honest, my hopes still “get up” but it’s been a long time since they “got up” and got out of hand.
That changed this year though. Thanks to Harvey, I feel like I’m experiencing hope in a way that is new, exciting, and refreshing. Hope and holding my baby boy go hand-in-hand. It’s a newness that radiates hope. I have to believe that this feeling is a fraction of the feeling that Mary and Joseph felt as they were told about their son, God’s son, from the angels. Sure, they were also scared, but true, life-giving hope washes something like fear away so quickly and so easily, it’s like that fear never existed in the first place.
The hope that entered into this world with Christ’s birth is that powerful and the very definition of life-giving. God, the God of hope, gave His creation the greatest gift, the perfect sacrifice for all the sins and wickedness of this world.
As we begin this Advent season,
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) and join me in thanking God for all the hope in our lives.
The first candle of Advent is a light in the darkness, and just like that light, hope in Christ will never be overcome by any darkness.
R. H. Karn
As we prepare our tables, and our waistlines, for a day of feasting, let us remember to also prepare our hearts. Let us remember that this holiday is not just about the turkey and mashed potatoes, but about giving thanks to the Lord for all the blessings he has bestowed upon us. So as you preheat the oven and baste the turkey, open your heart up and thank God for all He has given you.
I pray you all have a wonderful day filled with family, love, and gratitude!
This past weekend, the confirmation class spent the weekend on a retreat. We were able to have a lot of fun as a group while learning more about the sacraments. The group spent some time doing prayer stations after studying about baptism and ended the evening with a great discussion about communion before we took communion together as a group. Along with studying the sacraments, we hiked through the woods, we played basketball, and we played group games together. We have a great group of kids again this year and I am so excited to see how this class continues to learn and grow together!
As we experienced our first snowfall of the season last night (that seems a little crazy to say), I wanted to remind you all of our church’s weather policy in regards to youth activities.
- If Olentangy schools are closed, the Church Office is closed, and all church and youth activities and meetings are cancelled for the day and evening.
- If Olentangy schools have a delayed opening, the Church Office is closed from 9:00 a.m. to noon, and all morning church activities and meetings are cancelled. Evening youth activities will still take place.
- At a level-1 snow emergency in Delaware County, all church and youth activities on Saturday and Sunday (other than Sunday school) are cancelled.
- At a level-2 snow emergency in Delaware County, worship services and church school are cancelled.
If you have any further questions about this, please let me know. You can find more information on the Liberty Youth Instagram and Facebook pages if there are cancellations.
It’s hard to believe that October is over and Christmas is just around the corner. It seems that as soon as Halloween is over, and sometimes even before it’s over, Christmas decorations are in the stores and Christmas music is playing in stores or on the radio. I do love a good Christmas song and can’t wait to put up my tree, but I always try to wait until after Thanksgiving. I have nothing but love for those of you who have already put up the tree and blast the Christmas music as loud as you can stand. I know that for myself, I need to set aside some intentional time of gratitude. This season of thankfulness is so important to me!
As Christians, we are called to Christmas at all times and in all circumstances, but I love that there is a specific time of year to remind us of the importance of being thankful. So, I want to encourage you this week to get your heart in the “Thanksgiving Spirit” and give thanks to the Lord!
2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that when we are in Christ we are a new creation the old is gone and the new has come. I think that the season we are in right now is a perfect representation of this. When we have a new life in Christ the very beginning of that new life is full of joy and beauty, but we also know that we are not on an easy road as a Christ-follower. This is reflective in the landscape when fall is over and the trees are bare and the old is completely gone. But the verse doesn’t stop there. The old has to go away so that the new can come. We often think of a butterfly when we think of our lives transforming in Christ, but I love the idea of a tree. The leaves start out green, change to beautiful yellows oranges and reds before they fall off, then the tree is bare and looks as if it may be dead.
Winter covers the ground with snow and covers the tree with ice, and it looks like it is over for the tree. After being frozen how could life come from that? But when the snow melts away and the sun shines on that tree, new life is born once again. In the same way, when we have new life in Christ, we are like that tree; the old will die away, and life can sometimes not be very pretty when that happens. But we are promised that new life will come and that new life is in Christ!
This week, spend some time marveling God’s beautiful creation; look around and be reminded of the new life that we have in Christ. Take some time to thank God for that new life that we have in Him.
Jesus gave us a great example of prayer in the gospel of Matthew. It is a prayer that we all know well, we say it together every Sunday morning. There have even been songs written with the words of this prayer. If you haven’t guessed which prayer I am talking about yet, let me fill you in: The Lord’s Prayer. In this prayer, Jesus not only teaches us a great prayer to recite, but He teaches us how to pray; he gives us a great tool in this prayer.
So, what would it look like if we tailored our prayer life around this great example? We recently posed this question to the high school youth and got some amazing answers, and a few really great prayers. I wanted to share one of those with you today:
You are my father in heaven, for you adopted me out of a sinful world. You love me and pull me towards you, even when I step back into this sinful world. Your name is a light and beacon among the darkness of the sinful world. Your name brings me back to you as I follow your light in the darkness.
Help me put aside my want, my needs, and myself to better follow you; to better hear your call in my life. Likewise, fill my life with your living water and bread of life so that I won’t chase after things like money and possessions for security, value, and purpose. Forgive me for my sins; my lusts, my covets, and my prides. Forgive me so that I can extend forgiveness to others. Especially help me do this when it is really hard.
Protect me from the fears and the doubts that invade my heart. Shield me and help me grow strong in You so that I can stand against the temptations that are always around the corner in my life.
Help me remember all the amazing things that you have done in my life, in the past, so that I can go forward knowing that you are there with me, working always.
Let us follow this great example that Jesus gives in Matthew 6:9-13 this week, and pray a similar prayer.
This past weekend we had our High School Fall Retreat at a great little camp in Bellefontaine. Our weekend was centered around prayer. We learned that there are many ways to pray, from formal prayers like the Lord’s prayer, to short little prayers in our head.
One of the activities we did to help us add prayer to our everyday life, was tie-dyeing t-shirts. We talked about six different virtues that we need in our lives so that we might live like Jesus. These virtues are: joy, patience, love, wisdom, self-control, and compassion. Each of these was assigned a color and we made our shirts based on what we were asking God to help us add more of in our lives. We had a lot of fun twisting and tying our shirts and dousing them in dye, but we also did this while praying. Now, every time we wear our colorful shirts, we will have a visual reminder of that prayer and be reminded to continue praying for God to fill our lives so we can be more like Jesus.
I’d love to hear the creative ways that you pray! I want to encourage you to spend some time in prayer this week, however that may look for you. Spend some time talking to our Heavenly Father and listening to what he might be saying back to you.
This past weekend we had our Middle School Fall Retreat at a great little camp in Bellefontaine. While there, we were dazzled with some beautiful sunsets over the lake. (The above picture is one of those sunsets) They reminded me of God’s amazing handiwork. I am just blown away sometimes at how beautiful the world around us can be! This week, I want to encourage you to take some time to marvel at God’s creation and give praise to Him.
When I was a teenager there was a yearly call for prayer in the schools called “See You at the Pole.” This was an event that was led by a local youth pastor, but it was something that was done nationally as well. We would get to school about 20 minutes early and all gather around the flagpole, join hands, and pray. The first year I did this I was a little nervous about who I would see at the flagpole and who might see me. It can be scary sometimes to stand up in your faith to show your belief in Christ, especially in the public school. But this is something I did for all four years of high school, and I’m so glad that I did! Each year, I got a little more excited about “See You at the Pole” day and for the chance to gather with my fellow Christian friends and pray for our school, our community, and our friends.
I do not know if “See You at the Pole” is something that still happens, but I have recently heard of a new movement that I’m very excited about. It is called: National Bring Your Bible to School day. National Bring Your Bible to School day is this Thursday, October 3rd. It is a day for students to bring their Bibles to school and have an opportunity to talk about the Bible with their friends and answer questions about their faith.
I know it can be very hard to share our faith with our friends, but this is what we are called to do as followers of Christ.
I feel like this day gives us an amazing opportunity to do just that, in a very natural way. I want to encourage all of our students to take their Bibles to school with them this Thursday, be ready to answer questions about your Bible (and maybe even share your favorite Bible verse) with those who ask about it. Also, be ready to share about your faith, both the struggles and doubts that you have, as well as the ways that Christ’s love for you has impacted your life. You might not have anyone ask or even notice, but just one little conversation can plant a seed that changes a life.
Over the past few weeks at youth group, one topic has seemed to keep coming up: God’s creation. It can sometimes be hard to fathom that He who made the heavens and moon and gathered the stars would be concerned with us, such small creatures in the grand scheme of things. But He really does care about even the smallest of things in our lives.
I want to encourage you all this week to hang on to this promise! We are created by the same God who created the universe, and yet he created us, even you, in His image to reflect His glory.
I wanted to take the opportunity today to share something with all of you that R. H. and I have been praying about for the past few months. About two months ago, just a few days before Harvey was able to come home from the NICU, we were told that he failed his hearing screening twice. Therefore, we were referred to an audiologist. Six weeks ago, Harvey was diagnosed with Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD) and we were told that he might not be able to hear. We didn’t share this news very publicly because we didn’t know what to share. We left the audiologist’s office with so many questions, but no answers. We were told that we would know more as Harvey grew and we would do some more tests.
This news rocked our world. When we got home from this appointment, we climbed in bed, held each other, and cried. We just wanted our baby to hear us tell him that we loved him, and we didn’t know if that would ever happen. The next six weeks were spent praying, crying, coming to peace with hearing aids, learning a little sign language, and even more praying.
We went for a follow-up appointment this past Friday to have the same test repeated. We were hoping that maybe there would be some improvement in Harvey’s hearing because we were seeing signs of hearing: sometimes he would flinch at loud noises and once he even woke up crying to R. H.’s alarm clock. So we went to this second test with cautious optimism, not wanting to get our hopes up.
Friends, let me tell you, our sweet baby boy is the proof of the power of prayer! Not only did his hearing improve, but it 100% improved!!! Our miracle baby no longer has the ANSD diagnosis but can hear normally!! This amazing news is still a bit of a shock to us and I don’t know if I have fully come to realize the miracle that this is. We are extremely grateful to all of you who have been and continue to pray for our family. Our little boy is here and thriving because of your prayers! I have learned throughout the years that God does not always answer prayers the way we might hope or expect Him to. In one way, He already answered our prayers when we had peace and started accepting this diagnosis. But God really blew us away with complete healing! We are still trying to glean the whole lesson that God is teaching us through this, but until then, we are just praising the Lord for healing our son!
If you are anything like me, the beginning of September is one of the busiest times of the year. I feel like every year, once Labor Day has come and gone, the calendar seems to flip by faster than I can keep up. Summer ends, school begins, fall starts, and before we know it the holiday season is upon us. This time of year often feels like a whirlwind to me. And I have the tendency to just jump on the whirlwind and hang on with all my strength. The last 4 months of the year always go by in a frenzy and I often forget to slow down and take time for myself, but more importantly take time to spend with God.
As this whirlwind season begins, I want to encourage you all to be intentional about caring for yourself and your relationship with God. Make it a priority to spend time in the Bible and to spend time praying regularly. Don’t let yourself get swept away in the whirlwind; be intentional about your time, enjoy every passing moment, live in the now, and don’t fret about what is happening next week or next month.
FROM THE DESK OF PASTOR BECKY:
It is the great privilege of our Youth Search Committee and staff to announce that Tanya Karn has been hired as our Director of Youth! After an extensive search of colleges, seminaries and more, it became clear that Tanya had just the qualifications we were seeking for our youth ministry:
A real & contagious faith
A deep commitment to our youth
A hunger to create engaging youth programs and mission opportunities
We are delighted to take the “interim” tag off of Tanya’s title and welcome her fully into the ministry of Liberty. Please share your excitement with her, and also take a moment to connect with our great youth team: R.H. Karn, Bekah Hiltz, Shelby Louge and Sandy Scherer.
Becky & John
Starting a new school year can be hard. Especially after a summer immersed in mission work, Bible studies, and hanging out with your church friends. I know that when I was a teenager, I came off my summer breaks with such a “Jesus High”. So going back to school and being surrounded by peers that were not feeling the same was pretty difficult. I learned that I needed to keep myself rooted in Christ throughout my life instead of just during the summer.
Jeremiah 17: 7-8 says,
“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”
I love the imagery in this verse. It gives us a clear picture of what a life rooted in Christ looks like. Even though the landscape around this tree might be dry and barren, the tree is green and flourishing. This tree is getting all that it needs from the river. I want to encourage you this week to work on planting yourself in God’s word and becoming like the tree Jeremiah mentions.
We had two absolutely wonderful interns this summer! This summer was probably one of the most unique summer internships there will ever be, as R. H. and myself were not around much and they were given more responsibilities and duties than we originally intended. These two were so willing and quick to pick up the task ahead of them and run with it. One particular intern caught the attention of a lot of parents and church leaders because of her sheer eagerness to build relationships with our youth, lead them in Bible studies, and help however possible. For all these reasons, we knew we needed to keep her around and let her use these amazing gifts in our youth ministries. Therefore, I am very pleased to share with you all that Shelby Louge will be joining our team as a youth assistant! Next time you see her, let her know how excited you are to have her on our team and keep her in your prayers as she starts her second year at OSU, today.
A word from Shelby:
“I have been a part of the youth group since sixth grade and I cannot explain how grateful I am for the friendships and experiences I have gained. In this group, I found my relationship with God and I was able to strengthen that relationship through Bible studies, mission work, and friendships rooted in faith. Through all of this, I relied on the love and guidance from the youth leaders. I found role models I could look up to and seek advice from. Because of this, I am so excited to be a youth assistant. I am so excited to continue to be a part of the youth group and I pray that I will be the role model and friend that so many youth leaders were to me.”
What is it about music that people love so much? A song is a powerful thing; it can bring tears to your eyes, a smile to your face, or movement to your feet. When your favorite song comes on the radio, you can’t help but crank up the volume. If you hear a familiar melody without the words, you can sing along from memory. Little children can’t help but bounce and shake to a great beat if they hear one. There is just something about music that speaks to each and every one of us. We are wired to love it.
Because of all of this, it comes to no surprise to me that the largest book in the Bible is a whole book of songs. Yes, I’m talking about the book of Psalms. This book is full of songs written by King David, and other authors, to God. There are songs of prayer, songs of thanksgiving, songs of anger, and songs of grief. Some of the most famous and familiar scripture quotes come from Psalms.
During the summer, the high school Digging Deeper Bible Study spent each Monday night looking at some of the youth group’s favorite worship songs and finding the scripture behind each song, sometimes even looking up the whole Bible story that was referenced in a song. The Bible study was so well received that we decided to keep the study going into this school year.
I want to encourage you this week to do something similar: go find your favorite worship song, crank it up and sing along. Then open up your Bible and find the scripture or story behind it (Google comes in very handy here!). Let that scripture sink in, let God speak to you through it. Finally, listen to your song one more time and let all the scripture wash over you and listen to the Lord!
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the Lord, the King.”
After a very unplanned time off, I am back in the office. I have been so grateful to all the people who have prayed for us, brought us meals, and stepped into the lives of our youth while I have been out. There have been so many people in our church family who have blessed R. H., Harvey, and myself, that the list would be too long for you all to read.
While we were starting our NICU journey, the verse Philippians 4:13 came to my heart, and I clung to it with all my strength. As I flipped my Bible open to that passage, I was reminded that these words from the apostle Paul were words of thankfulness. Being supported and loved by our amazing church family brought this passage a whole new significance to me; it came alive. As I have been trying to find words to share my gratitude, Paul’s words came back to me once again.
“How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.” ~ Philippians 4:10-14
From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!