ISSUE 14 | June-September 2015
From Pastor Jesse
am sure that when most people hear the word “fun” they don’t immediately have an image of “church” pop into their minds. But for me church is fun.
It’s fun because of relationships I have with staff and members. It’s fun because my family enjoys being involved here. It’s fun because I get to see people fall in love with Jesus here and grow into more fully devoted
EXECUTIVE EDITOR Mark Shetler EDITOR Melissa Shetler EXECUTIVE DESIGN Jessica Ripley PHOTOGRAPHY Christina Harrison CONTRIBUTORS Jennifer Briggs, Jane Daly, Heidi Gilbert, Jamie Gomez, Fred Hammer, Bryan Krenzin, Jennifer Raynes, Mark Shetler, Robin Waldron
followers of Christ. I’m glad you’ve picked up “The Fun Issue” of our COMPASS magazine. While as a church family we take our faith very seriously, we believe that following Jesus should include a significant element of fun. We have discovered that the God of the universe loves each of us and that He has offered us freedom from all our sin and guilt through the amazing act of Jesus sacrificing Himself for us on the cross. The message of Jesus is Good
THE COMPASS IS A PUBLICATION OF First Covenant Church of Sacramento P.O. Box 276450 Sacramento, CA 95827 916.861.2240 • www.firstcov.org
News and it gives us a new life. That new life includes a deeper, more powerful fun than anything the world has to offer. Enjoy the stories on these pages and allow the truths included in them to be a blessing in your life. As always, I want you to know that if you need to talk about something, or know more about what the Bible says, please feel free to contact the church office so one of our pastors can connect with you. I hope you have some fun with this issue.
Jesse Smith Senior Pastor
ABOUT THE COMPASS COMPASS Magazine is First Cov's quarterly publication. In a church our size, it can be an overwhelming task to meet everyone and know everything that is happening. The COMPASS serves as a platform to bring our church family closer together. Within its pages, you will find true stories about the people and ministries of First Cov. And, most importantly, it will help guide you farther along The Path to becoming a fullydevoted follower of Jesus Christ.
CONTENTS 04 • Joy in Worship 06 • Too Happy? 07 • iPrayer Encouragement 08 • I’m Having Fun. How Could That Be? 09 • Christian Girls Just Want to Have Fun 10 • A Theology of Fun 12 • A Funny Thing Happened in Church 16 • You’re Off to Great Places 18 • Fun Over the Border
Classic Worship Service Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
Modern Worship Service Sundays at 10:00 and 11:30 a.m.
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Weekly opportunities to connect:
Sunday: worship | kids first | On Eagles Wings (special Needs) Tuesday: mom’s connection | mosaic (senior adults) | renovate (high school) | 18.25 (college ministry) | young professionals (25-35) wednesday: identity (middle school) | men’s ministries | women’s ministries thursday: women’s ministries | celebrate recovery | choir
Coming Soon Dance Studio Summer Session | Begins June 29
Fun instruction available in a variety of styles for children, youth and adults. Contact Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Renovate in the Park | June 30, July 7, July 14 and July 21
Our high school ministries meet at Stone Creek Community Park, 6:30-8:30 p.m., for games, free food and fun. Contact Patricia at email@example.com
Identity and the River Cats | July 8
Middle school students are invited to enjoy the game at Raley Field. Contact Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Renovate and the River Cats | July 9
Perspectives | Begins August 17
Perspectives is “Advanced Discipleship Training for Serious Christians.” See ad on page 18.
Choir Rehearsal | Begins August 20
If you love to sing, why not join our choir which helps lead our 8:30 a.m. classic worship service? There is no need to audition, just join us in the Worship Center at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday evenings. Contact Carolyn at email@example.com
“We Are Sacramento” | August 23
This is the day that First Cov becomes River City Christian. See ad on back cover.
Renovate Drive in Movie Night | August 28
High school students are invited to watch the ballgame with their friends. Contact Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Camping chairs, food and friends make for a great movie night when we project a movie on a huge wall outside. All high school students welcome, 7:30-11:00 p.m.
Summer Equipping Classes | July 12–August 9
Young Professionals BBQ | August 29
Don’t miss this pastor-led summer class. See ad on page 7.
Renovate Folsom Lake Fun Day | July 13
High school students, let’s go spend a day at the lake, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Bring a towel, your friends and $5 to cover lunch and transportation. Contact Patricia at email@example.com
MOSAIC Line Dancing | July 14, July 28, August 11, August 25
Our special summer schedule features line dancing for all levels of experience. Join us at 9:30 a.m. in Room 200. Contact Suzanne at firstname.lastname@example.org
All Church Campout | July 17-19 See ad on page 17.
Identity (Middle School) Summer Camp | July 23-26
Students will have the opportunity to build friendships while exploring relevant faith issues in a fun camp environment. Contact Patricia at email@example.com
Club 45 Overnighter | July 24-25
A full night of fun for kids in grades 4 and 5. Contact Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Women’s Create & Connect | July 25, August 8, September 5
Nothing says summertime like a backyard BBQ. Bring your favorite dish to share, something to grill and relax with friends. Contact Jessica at email@example.com
Bridges | August 30-October 18
Help legal refugees resettle in the Sacramento area by assisting in language learning, job search, children’s programs and building friendships each Sunday afternoon. Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org
MOSAIC Kick off Brunch | September 1
All seniors are encouraged to attend the start of our fall season with a delicious brunch and inspiring program at 9:30 a.m. in Room 200.
MOMS CONNECTION | September 1
Receive encouragement through Bible study, fun activities and mentoring. For moms with children infant through grade 5. Contact Jennie at email@example.com
Children’s Baptism Class | September 6, 13, and 20
Children in grades 3-5 who are interested in being baptized should attend this threesession class to help them explore the meaning of this commitment. Meet in Room 210 at 11:30 a.m. Contact Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Student Ministries Baptism Class | September 6
Bring your current project and supplies and hang out with fellow crafters. Come and go as you like, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Please bring a snack to share. Meet in the Chapel. Contact Jennie at email@example.com
Middle school and high school students who want to be baptized are invited to this one-hour class which will focus on the biblical guidelines for baptism. Meet at 10:00 a.m. in Room 211. Contact Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Eagle’s Wings Respite Night | July 25, August 15, September 19
Men’s Conference | September 11-13
Caring, trained workers provide a respite night for children with special needs and their siblings, 4:00-6:30 p.m. Contact email@example.com
Renovate (High School) Summer Camp | July 26-August 1
Everyone loves summer camp! White water rafting, beach day and BBQ at Lake Tahoe, hiking, games, friends and fun. Contact Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org
See ad on page 9.
Young Professionals Sac Republic Night | September 19
Gooooooaaaaal! Come cheer on Sacramento’s soccer team and get to know others in the Young Professionals group. Contact Jessica at email@example.com
New Members Class | September 20 and October 4
Young Professionals Kickball Game | July 31
Ready to increase your commitment to helping us reach our city for Christ? Join us for this informative two-part class. Contact Suzanne at firstname.lastname@example.org
Renovate Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk | August 8
Jump in the church bus and head to the boardwalk for a fantastic day trip. Cost is $25 (includes lunch and transportation). Contact Patricia at email@example.com
These short-term classes are designed to help you gain tools to follow Jesus more closely in your everyday life. Classes are offered on Sundays as well as throughout the week. Class schedule available soon.
Young Professionals Trivia Night | August 13
Young Professionals Mini Golf | September 25
Chosen Ones | August 16, September 20
If you would like to publicly express your faith in Christ through baptism, contact Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lace up your shoes and get ready for some kickball at a local park. Contact jripley@ firstcov.org
Do you know what our third president named his dogs? Or how many moons Saturn has? Put that random knowledge to use while you enjoy some tasty sushi at Tokyo Fro’s Trivia Night. Contact Jessica at email@example.com
Join other families who have fostered or adopted—or who are interested in fostering or adopting—for conversation, information and encouragement with a light lunch. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Fall Equipping Classes | Begins September 20
You’re never too old for a game of mini golf! Test your skills and try for a hole in one (and don’t let that pinwheel stop you)! Contact Jessica at email@example.com
Baptism Sunday | September 27
By Robin Waldron
It’s Monday morning. You’re wherever you usually are on a Monday morning and someone asks you, “Did you do anything fun this weekend?” “Not really,” you reply. “We cleaned house, watched some sports, went to church. Just a normal weekend.” Or maybe you describe the fabulous time you had skiing, attending a birthday party, or seeing an exciting new movie and don’t even think to mention the time you spent in worship. Sound about right? I know it does to me. I may often mention church in my list of weekend activities if asked what I did, but rarely, if ever, have I associated it with the word fun. I would venture to guess that not many of you have either. Should we? How that question is answered depends mainly on two things: our view of worship and how we define fun.
JOY IN WORSHIP
If we define fun as a lighthearted activity intended purely for amusement or entertainment, then, no, we ought not use it to describe our worship— and our worship ought not be practiced in that way. There are many passages in Scripture that teach us that worship is serious business. We come before a holy God deserving of our reverence and awe (e.g. Isaiah 6, Hebrews 12:28-29). At times our worship may move us to tears of repentance or gratitude as we consider what has been done for us. God desires worshippers who have a proper attitude regarding who He is and who they are (John 4:23-24). As John MacArthur puts it, “Worship is all that we are, reacting rightly to all that He is” (The Ultimate Priority, p. 147). However, does reacting rightly to God mean our worship should only be serious? Or is there
a place for fun in worship? If we define fun as enjoyment, I think the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” While the focus of worship ought to be God, it is clear in Scripture that we are to receive something out of it as well. “Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him!” (Psalm 147:1, NIV). As we pour out our praises to Him for who He is and what He has done for us, how can we not experience enjoyment?
How that enjoyment is expressed will look different for different people, but if you’re looking across a sea of dour faces Sunday after Sunday, it may be a sign that something is missing. This was how I felt years ago during a service at an Orthodox church I visited while on a mission trip in Romania. On one hand, I was struck by their apparent reverence for God, which in my experience is often lacking in modern American churches.
On the other hand, I had to wonder if anyone was actually connecting with God or if they were just going through the motions. Their lack of emotion seemed to indicate there was little connection with a God who delighted them. So how do we find a balance between reverence and fun? Here are a few thoughts and ideas that may help us get it right.
1. Prepare for corporate worship. Take some time in the morning, even if it’s on your way in the car, to place your focus on the Lord. Consider all He has done for you. Meditate on His amazing qualities. Put on a worship CD or Christian radio station. Do your best to arrive at church on time and ready to worship. It can be difficult to settle into worship when we are rushed, distracted or simply just focused on ourselves.
2. Change your perspective. Rather than viewing yourself as part of the
“audience” for the worship team to entertain, view the entire congregation as the worship team and God as the audience. (Given that I am on stage as part of the worship team once in a while, I really like this one!) Yes, the worship leaders are on a stage, but the intent is never to put on a performance for you. Our time in church is not meant to be a mere distraction from our woes or a source of entertainment. As the body of Christ we are there to collectively lift up the name of Jesus and give Him the praise and glory He deserves.
Engage in worship. An array of distractions can keep you from truly worshipping— current struggles, events of the upcoming week, a song you’re not crazy about and, “Oh, look, she’s wearing the same shirt as me!” Hopefully if you are practicing #1 and #2 it will help guard you against these obstacles. You also can’t rely completely on the worship leaders and music to move you into the presence of God; you have to choose to participate. Think about ways that you can more actively participate that you aren’t practicing already: stand, clap, focus in on the words of the song, close your eyes, lift your hands.
“While the focus of worship ought to be God, it is clear in Scripture that we are to receive something out of it as well.”
We all have our own style of worship and what we are comfortable with, but maybe a small step outside your comfort zone would help you connect with God in ways you haven’t experienced before. Who knows, you might even enjoy it! Robin has been attending First Cov since college and has enjoyed serving in a variety of areas over the years. Besides hanging out with her husband, Scott and son, Spencer, her favorite pastimes are mixed media art and photography.
Too Happy? by Jennifer Raynes
I just got engaged!!!!!!! Did you see all those exclamation points? That’s how elated I feel right now. I just want to tell everyone everywhere I go that I’m getting married! To the grocery store checkout lady: “I just got engaged to this wonderful man (insert lots of romantic gushing about fiancé here).” To the flight attendant, “Isn’t the ring so beautiful? He picked it out!” To the coffee barista at Starbucks, “I’m getting married!” If you couldn’t tell, I’m really, really excited! Here’s the funny thing though; I wrestled with it a bit—this thought that I might actually be “too happy.” Should there be some sort of quota on girly giggles or jubilant grins so big they make your face hurt? “Maybe I should tone down this whole excitement thing,” I thought to myself, “You know, play it cool.” Weird, huh? I mean if anyone has a reason to be overjoyed, it’s a bride-to-be. Yet, I really considered that my happiness was somehow unspiritual. I’ve been told my whole life the (very true) statement: “God cares more about your holiness than your happiness.” Jesus promised us trouble in this life—storms, He said, are a certainty we can’t avoid. Standing at the threshold of marriage, I try to realistically assess the journey ahead. I am certain there will be frustration, disappointments, hurts and struggles of all shapes and sizes throughout our years together. The overwhelming consensus? Marriage is hard! Yet, at the very same time, marriage was designed by God...and it is good. With any good thing in life, there is certainly work to be done, trials to face and potential holiness that can result from obediently persevering through, but because it is good, there is enjoyment to be had. Romance, companionship, FUN...some of the wonderful things that we can experience in marriage...are not antiChristian words. They are beautiful emotions and experiences that God designed with our delight in mind. “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11, NLT). What a wonderful word from Jesus—affirming that our Heavenly Dad loves to bless His children with good gifts! Sure, we can take this to the extreme and seek only His blessings, but the fact is, this is truth right here in Scripture: God does want to bless us. There are so many commands in Scripture that start with the words “Delight” or “Rejoice”
or “Be joyful”. Enjoying life is not a sin. God is not somehow offended or annoyed by my overwhelming happiness right now. In fact, I’m sure it’s quite the opposite—that as His daughter, He loves watching my reaction to His gift to me! Don’t you love seeing your children’s faces when they open that awesome present you got them (that they’ve been wanting “forever”)? We are created in the image of God and because God likes to delight in what He’s made and the work He has done, what an act of worship it is for us to enjoy those things, too! Elation. Excitement. Joy. Happiness. Those are holy emotions. They are holy because they were created by God. A God who loves us and desires us to have abundant life. If we are following Jesus and committed to obediently living our lives to honor Him, we should never have to worry about “overdoing it” on happiness. As a wise friend said to me “Jen, embrace this season. Don’t let the Enemy rob you of the joy God intended you to experience!” And no matter what season of life you are in, I hope you won’t let yourself be robbed either. If God is doing something good, what better way to thank Him for it than to fully enjoy it. Imagine how happy your Heavenly Father will feel when He watches you delight in the gifts He gives. So, don’t worry...be happy.
In the time between writing this article and going to print, Jen has tied the knot! Jen and her now husband, Marcus, married on June 14.
iPrayer Encouragement by bryan krenzin
When we come to the Lord with our requests, petitions and prayers, the “state” in which we approach God is important. As followers of Jesus, we are forgiven of our sins when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. That said, God has given us guidelines to follow that take our prayers beyond simple requests and into receiving from God. This does not mean that we will always receive if we do certain things, or conversely, not receive if we don’t do certain things; but we must always be cognizant of God’s requirements when coming to Him.
“When we tell others the things we have done wrong, it frees us from unforgiveness and removes the blockages to hearing from God.”
This month’s scripture is James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working,” (ESV). This verse speaks of a two-part process. Notice before we get to the “power” part (God answering our prayers), there is an action of “confessing to one another.” When we tell others the things we have done wrong, it frees us from unforgiveness and removes the blockages to hearing from God. Psalm 66:18 states, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened,” (ESV). It is an important principle to forgive others if we want to have unbroken communication with God. If you are holding unforgiveness in your heart today, confess your sins to God (and man) and move into a place of power to receive from God. Bryan is an elder at First Covenant Church, whose passion is getting the church to pray! He is a graduate of Bethany University with a degree in Church Leadership and has served as an associate pastor in previous ministries. Bryan has been attending First Covenant for seven years, along with his wife Tami and his daughter Kate.
I’m Having Fun. How Could That Be?
By Jane Daly
A lightning bolt hit me just then. I was having fun. Without alcohol.Without the atmosphere of a bar. How could that be?
“You’re a party girl, that’s what you are.” My grandma patted my arm fondly as I sat with the family at dinner. It was Friday night, and I was prepared to go out later that evening. My folks thought I was going to a party. It was easier and safer than telling them I was going bar-hopping with friends.
As the party wound down, the pastor asked everyone to take a seat. He wanted to impart some wisdom before the clock struck midnight. He talked about taking the opportunity to review our lives in these last few moments of 1976. Were we happy with the choices we’d made? Would we like to start the new year with a relationship with Jesus Christ?
After the let-down, I decided to quit partying, cold turkey. Friday and Saturday nights I stayed in my apartment watching television or reading. Let me tell you I was bored stiff. I had nothing to replace my active social life, such as it was.
His message was compelling. I wasn’t happy with my life. I wanted to do things differently. I liked this new kind of fun. The kind that wouldn’t give me a raging headache the next day.
I started going to church.
I went home to my apartment and prayed a simple prayer. “Jesus, I’ve made a mess out of my life. If you want it, my life is Yours.”
I was torn. I wanted to please my roommate. She didn’t want to go by herself with some guys she didn’t know very well. But I really didn’t want to go. Getting wasted? I’d left that behind.
The church party involved food, skits, square dancing and some crazy active games. I was drawn into all the fun, and had a blast laughing and goofing around with my parents. I glanced at my watch at 10:00 p.m. Uh oh. I would miss the cut off time for meeting my roommate.
I was nineteen years old, and carried a fake ID to get me into bars. Fridays, Saturdays, Wednesdays, it didn’t matter, our group of girls and guys went out to drink and dance. Some hooked up, but I wasn’t into that. I just wanted to have fun. And I did. Until it wasn’t fun anymore. The night before I turned twenty-one, I partied until the bars closed at 2:00 a.m. I was so hung over I didn’t enjoy my birthday party with my parents and grandparents. They were excited that I could finally go to a bar and order a drink. They knew my friends and I were going out that night to celebrate my new status as an adult. I hid my disappointment in myself from them. Turning twenty-one wasn’t special. It was just another night at the bar.
New Year’s Eve approached. My roommate invited me to go to Nevada City with her. “There will be a huge street party. Everybody gets wasted, people sleep wherever they find a place. It’s super fun!”
“If you aren’t there by ten, I’m leaving without you,” she warned. I agreed.
My mom and dad invited me to a New Year’s Eve party at their new church. “Why not?” I thought. It can’t be worse than staying home alone. My roommate made me promise I’d leave the church party and meet her at the apartment at 10:00 p.m.
A lightning bolt hit me just then. I was having fun. Without alcohol. Without the atmosphere of a bar. How could that be?
Everything changed after that simple prayer. And what’s cool is, the last 40 years have been more fun than I could have ever imagined. Jane released her book From Grief to Grace early this year. When not at her computer writing, she’s either catching up on scrapbooking her grandchildren’s photos or riding her bike on the bike trail.
Christian Girls Just Want To Have Fun By Jen Briggs
Cliché title? Definitely, but it is true. There is a certain stigma about the ability of Christians to have fun, whether male or female. I am not sure how it started, but it might date back to when Charlton Heston threw a couple tablets at a crowd of people on set when they were not listening to his monologue. All joking aside, I think it has more to do with the fact that Christians have to follow a bunch of rules that seemingly prevents them from having any fun. There’s no lying, cheating, coveting, adultery and so on allowed. Although that is true, and I try to live up to that standard to the best of my ability (like 5% of the time) I miss the mark even on a good day. Are there such things as good days anyway? I would rather focus on things I like to do. Like many others, I like to have fun. Fun can be a relative term since we all have different hobbies and interests. Mine include reading, writing, watching movies, cooking, baking and hanging out with friends. Even in hanging out with friends, there’s a wide variety of activities I like to do. That time is usually filled with laughter, crying (which is not always fun and sorry for bringing up this downer) and sometimes laughing so hard we cry (see, it is not
“The ability to have fun without guilt or burdens allows me to experience freedom and take another step toward being the woman God created me to be.” always a downer to cry.) With the summertime here, pedicures are on the agenda, trips to the beach, possibly waking up early to go hiking (heavy emphasis on possibly as I like to sleep in), BBQs, time spent at the pool and camping. My list of things I can do, and enjoy doing, is actually much easier to think about than the things I cannot do. I do not mean to say that I do not ever do the things I should not do… I definitely do, hence the questioning of the 5% earlier but, to be honest, even on those downer days when I know I have messed up beyond the last biggest mess up from the hour before, I am still able to have fun. Whether a conversation with a friend turns serious or it is an afternoon full of laughs, fun can happen anywhere. Do you ever notice that when you focus on the things you cannot do, like eating that third or fourth brownie, you really want to do it that much more? Or when you focus on the negative, it is all you want to think about? Maybe it is just me. Flipping the switch is not always easy. Sometimes it takes a few minutes while other times it takes days or even weeks, but as soon as I let go of the things (a little bit more significant than the brownie craving), I am able to see the list of don’ts as protection. The world can be tempting at times. And sometimes it may seem like there are things I am missing out on, but the ability to have fun without guilt or burdens allows me to experience freedom and take another step toward being the woman God created me to be. Moral of this story? Christian girls just want to have fun. And we can and do! Yes, there are things we cannot and should not do, but there’s a beautiful summer ready to be enjoyed! Jen Briggs has been going to First Cov since high school. She enjoys reading, writing and baking. Jennifer is involved in the As You Are (AYA) ministry and Young Professionals.
of Fun y g o Theol
By Mark shetler
I have been told more than once that I have a very distinctive laugh. Co-workers have teased me that they always know when I’m in the office, even if their doors are closed. Evidently my “chuckles” are uninhibited by walls. Friends have said they like my laugh, but strangers have given me an evil eye when my boisterousness has disturbed their dining ambience in a fine restaurant. The bottom line is that sometimes I just can’t help myself. I laugh. And in that laughter, I often experience God. I think followers of Jesus should possess a proper theology of fun. I believe with all my heart that laughter should be a regular behavior of Bible-believers—that giggles should frequently be heard in the pews and that disciples should be known as the life of the party. Remember that at the beginning of creation, God saw all that He made and declared it “very
good” (Genesis 1:31). I imagine that when the Deity imagined the long neck of a giraffe and the swinging trunk of an elephant and the waddling behind of a duck that He more than smiled. I have an inkling that Jehovah truly enjoyed designing trees that bloomed and trees that bore fruit and trees that underwent colorful transformation in the fall and trees that remained green despite the weather forecast. And when the Creator started creating humans, I think He had a blast designing a nose and earlobes and pinky toes, along with all the other body parts! God enjoys His creativity and placed us in a world where we could also have the thrill of being creative. God prescribed certain boundaries for our own good but blessed us with incredible freedom. He wanted us to have some fun! Then Satan lied to us and told us that we would have more fun if we disobeyed the rules.
A full life includes laughter. God gave us that ability and created us with voices to express how much fun we were having. Our disobedience changed the course of history and we all suffer from the negative impact of poor choices. But part of the redemptive story of Jesus is God’s work at restoring good, healthy fun into our lives. While Jesus’ ultimate mission was to be executed in our place, to set us free from the consequences of our sin, I honestly believe He was at the very core a fun guy. Think about His first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding reception (John 2). He produced more than 120 gallons of cabernet (or some other varietal) of the highest quality to the delight of the caterer, the bridegroom and certainly the guests. Is it any wonder that Jesus got invited to so many other parties? And Jesus welcomed little children into His arms and let them play on His lap. The Messiah did not chase them away but enjoyed having the little ones treat Him like a jungle gym. Kids will be kids and I’m sure one of those munchkins said something or did something that really tickled the Savior. Admittedly, the demands of being the Christ were difficult. Ministry was exhausting. But if you read in between the lines of the Gospels, it seems that Jesus still made time to play with His disciples. He shocked them by making a few sardines and a couple of leftover dinner rolls fill the tummies of a huge crowd of hungry admirers. He scared them half to death when He paraded on the surface of the water without any dive gear, right past their boat, in the middle of the night—they thought they were seeing a ghost! He surprised Peter by causing a trout to cough up the money they needed to pay the IRS.
The enemy of our souls has always been seeking to steal our joy. The Savior has always been trying to restore our joy, even to help us laugh in the midst of the seriousness of life. Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (NIV). A full life includes laughter. God gave us that ability and created us with voices to express how much fun we were having. When stories are told around the dinner table or when jokes are shared between friends, I often laugh loud and long. In those times, often with tears rolling down my cheeks and my belly aching from the happy workout, I am glad to be alive. I am thankful for the blessing of loving and being loved. I am grateful for the opportunities in life to take a break from work and stress and difficulties in order to relish in the fun of playing a game or trying a new food or hiking to the top of a mountain… just for fun. And because of the grace I have received in Jesus Christ, I praise God for the joy that He gives me, a joy that is inexpressible and glorious (1 Peter 1:8). We all know that not everything in life is fun. But we need to remind ourselves that not everything in life is supposed to be not fun. The God who smiled at creation still smiles today. And I believe when we take steps to enjoy the life He has given us, to take some time out of our demanding agendas to have some fun, the heavens echo with the laughter of the Almighty. For fun, Mark likes to try out a new recipe on friends, go to the gym early in the morning, and lay by a pool in Cabo with a good book.
I am not trying to diminish the spiritual significance of any of these events. But I honestly can’t believe that Jesus wasn’t smiling, even laughing, when He performed these miracles.
A Funny Thing Happened in Church
By Jamie Gomez
Following Jesus is serious business. But sometimes there are some humorous bumps on the journey to becoming a more fully devoted follower of Christ. When I was 18, my life consisted of school, church and wearing baggy ripped jeans and a T-shirt…every day. Although I was concerned about finding a husband immediately (ha!), I was also into the whole “I kissed dating goodbye” trend and was not into dressing to impress. I was taking Algebra II for the second or third time, and I happened to sit next to a girl who I had known from a church event that I had recently attended. I was going along wearing my sweet jeans and T-shirt, feeling cool, and the girl leans over to me and says, “Jamie, you know that verse in Luke where Jesus says, ‘Think of the flowers of the field, they do not worry about what they wear?’ Every time I see you, I think of that verse!” I said “Thank you?” In my head I was thinking, “I know she meant that as a compliment, but it was totally an accidental backhanded compliment.” I then proceeded to call my friends and laugh hysterically about how I was Bible dissed! I
...you know that verse in Luke where Jesus says, ‘Think of the flowers of the field, they do not worry about what they wear?’ Every time I see you, I think of that verse!” 12
can’t say her “compliment” changed my fashion choices, but to this day I often think of that verse while getting dressed. This same acquaintance would always invite me to come to her church; a house church that met at different homes every week. I always had some excuse to not go, but finally one day, I had run out of excuses and gave in, so I dragged my best friend with me who was always down for new and interesting experiences. At that time, I had been planning to move to Peru for a few months. The church had some special guest speaker there who was going to be anointing people. I thought, “Ok, hopefully they don’t call me up since I’m going to do the Lord’s work in a foreign country. I don’t know this guy, I don’t know this church and I’m just not feeling like getting oil poured on my head right now.” Also, I had never seen people be
...the guy poured oil on my head and then proceeded to push my forehead, so I pushed back thinking, “No way, I refuse to fall!”
“slain in the Spirit,” falling down around the speaker as others caught them and laid them on the floor, and I was terrified that would happen to me. That experience might be real and meaningful for someone else, but I didn’t want to experience it at that moment. No sooner had I thought this than I heard my name called and I had to go stand up in front of the speaker. The whole time in my head I was fervently praying, “God, please don’t let me fall, please don’t let me fall!” Well the guy poured oil on my head and then proceeded to push my forehead, so I pushed back thinking, “No way, I refuse to fall!” After what felt like forever, he finally gave up, and I just walked back to my seat. It was one of those experiences where you and your friend get back in the car to go home and are silent until finally one of you uncontrollably bursts into laughter, and you just can’t stop. I share these stories because I sometimes think we Christians can over-spiritualize our spirituality. We take ourselves too seriously. Funny things happen in life, even to Christians, even in church. We don’t need to make fun of anyone, but when funny things happen, it’s ok to chuckle at your experience. Jamie lives with her husband, Peter and son, Javier in Rancho Cordova. They recently celebrated their baby boy’s first birthday! You can find Jamie enjoying herself in the sunshine with a Chick-fil-A milkshake in hand!
Identity (Middle School) Wednesdays: 6:30 p.m. in Room 213 Sundays: 10:00 a.m. in Room 213
------------Renovate (High School) Tuesdays: 6:00 p.m. in Room 214 Sundays: 10:00 a.m. in Room 214
------------18.25 (College age) Tuesdays: 7:00 p.m. in the cafÉ 13
Sundays : 11:30 a.m. in room 203
Kids Should Have FUN!
Kids First: Our Sunday morning program for nursery through grade 3. firstcov.org/kidsfirst
On Eagles Wings: A ministry designed for special needs children and their families. firstcov.org/oew
Whoâ€™s who: 1. Jesse Smith (left) with Dan Palmer
7. Tim Layfield
2. Jesse Smith
8. Dan DeMuri
3. Glenda Harr
9. Mark Shetler
4. Matt Newton
10. Fred Hammer
5. Ted Smith
11. Dan Wade
6. Jeff Koons
Club 45: An exciting, adventurous group of students grades 4 and 5. firstcov.org/club45
8 7 9
from the 1O
past! Curious what your church leaders looked like “back when”? Well here’s your chance to find out! First Cov’s staff is living proof that hairsytles and fashion definitely change over time...(and often times it’s a change for the better!)
You’re Off to Great Places First Cov’s 2015 Campout By Fred Hammer
“You’re off to great places. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” — Dr. Seuss Nothing says summertime like camping. There’s something special about getting away from the city and the “honey-do-list” to just chill in nature. The All Church Campout is an opportunity to do just that. Everyone is invited to join us at the Lake Francis Resort located in Dobbins, CA (just over an hour drive from Sacramento). Opportunities for fun include the swimming pool, bingo parlor, 3-on-3 basketball tournament, 5-on-5 soccer “world” cup, organized water relays, the lake with paddle boats, canoes and a rope swing. And let’s not forget the Pastor Jeff vs. Pastor Matt softball game! It is one of those unique times as a church where everyone can come together. We have seniors, children, college and high school students, young marrieds, and singles of all ages having fun together. Some attendees tent camp and others prefer to rent a cabin or bring their RV or camp trailer. Food helps bring us together, too. We provide s’mores Friday night, breakfast each morning, as well as dinner on Saturday night. For lunch you can pack your own goodies or order a pizza from the onsite restaurant and then grab an ice cream at The Creamery. Fred Hammer is our Pastor of Community Outreach and Camp Director for the All Church Campout. He has been on staff here 14 years and just celebrated 20 years of marriage with his wife, Stacey. When not at church he loves watching, playing and coaching soccer with his son Brendan (16) and daughter Ashlee (14).
“I love meeting people from the other worship services.” —Ed Netzel
If you are new to First Cov or are really looking for a way to get connected with others in our church family, sign up for the All Church Campout. See what others say about this super fun summer event!
“It’s a lot of fun to be able to spend time
on the shore of the lake. There is lots of
room for the younger kids to play at the shoreline and for the older ones to swim.” —Amanda Bloom “Swimming in the lake and drinking hot chocolate.” —Josh Jr., 7 years old
“I like playing volleyball and ultimate frisbee, as well as swimming.” —Matthew, 10 years old
“Sunday mornings can be chaotic trying to rush kids to their classes and help with the Kids First ministry. The best part of the campout is getting to catch up with everyone and not being rushed. Oh, and beating Montana at bingo.” —Holly Smith “I liked making s’mores.” —Blaire, 5 years old
“We got to jump off the dock!” —Evan, 6 years old “I liked going on hikes and spending time with my church friends.” —Styer, 9 years old “I liked playing with my friends” —Kegan, 7 years old
“Wake up to some sweet fellowship at breakfast. Then spend the day at the lake kayaking, jumping off the floating dock, jumping off the rope swing (over and over again), snacking, chatting with old and new friends, eating dinner on the lawn,
worshiping with great music, playing
soccer with all the kids, eating an enormous scoop of ice cream and s’mores, putting lasers in the kids hands once it is dark, and having some adult fun time once the kids are laid down! What a memorable day!” —The Baum family `
“We got a chance to roast
marshmallows, they made us breakfast, and we got to make ice cream with Mrs. Koons from Sunday school.” —Abigail, 9 years old
“I had fun watching the water balloon and candle being held over Pastor Jesse’s head.” —Ed Sutter “My favorite part of camp is gathering around
a campfire with friends after my kids
are all snoring peacefully and indulging in the rich, gooey, chocolatey, decadence of a banana roasted over the coals and stuffed with chocolate, caramel and marshmallows. Oh. My. Goodness......so yummy!” —Alanda Newton ‘Breakfast time in the mornings and getting to know and
reconnecting with others from the
church.’ —DJ Jernigan
“The best part was
swimming across the lake to the island
to use the rope swings.” —Lindsey Edwards
Fun Over the Border By Heidi Gilbert
When I was asked to write about how fun Mexicali is, I paused. Fun? How odd that it had never occurred to me to describe our annual Mexicali trip as fun. Is global outreach supposed to be fun? The question, “Don’t you have fun in Mexicali?” almost made me feel guilty. Is it okay to enjoy working for God? I appreciate the opportunity to write this article because it opened my mind to the simple pleasure, the fun of working together with fellow siblings in Christ. Fun and funny are two different things. Fun is pure enjoyment in the moment. Funny, on the other hand, will make you laugh, but it could be while pulling your hair out in frustration. Global outreach trips are both. Allow me to share some of my past experiences and observations. Mexicali is great because of First Covenant’s long-term relationship with local churches in the city. We meet with local pastors at their favorite taquerias. Everyone squeezes onto familystyle benches and we share food from communal bowls. We let the pastor’s grandson interpret, even though we speak Spanish. They laugh over our reaction to spicy salsa. We fight over the bill at the end of the meal. It’s family.
Traveling with our Christian family is a bit like a dysfunctional road trip. We get bored and come up with new Spanish names for one another: Carmelita, Esperanza, Gracia, Javier, Zoro and Garcia. Pastor Dan Wade was Armando. Why you ask? I couldn’t tell you for sure, but it made us laugh. We made nametags and refused to answer to anything but our Spanish names. By the way, I was Xela.
Is it okay to enjoy working for God?
have turned into parents. We get invited to see their homes, to see the new room addition, or the shed out back (none of which would pass inspection here). We get to write blessings on plaster walls before the paint seals it forever. It is fun to be part of their family legacy.
It’s fun to see critters we don’t see in Sacramento. A roadrunner was spotted near basecamp, but I missed it. All week people came and told me about their roadrunner sightings. I began to accuse them of lying because I still had not spotted one. Apparently two roadrunners even ran through basecamp right under the tables… while I was scrubbing floors somewhere. Tell me if that seems fair! Finally, on the last day, as we waved goodbye, a roadrunner ran in front of the van. It looked like a horizontal stick on two vertical stick legs. On one trip, after touring our Mexicali work site (an “orphanage” for the elderly), we came up with a plan of attack for improvements to the site and headed off to Home Depot (which was fun in and of itself) to buy what we needed. We went back and worked with vigor. Four days later we noticed a large closet at the site. And inside it? All the items we’d purchased. As odd as that may sound, we thought it was hilarious. I’m a physical therapist and the first year at the “orphanage” I bought some small dumbbells and taught the patients some simple exercises. There was one shy man I connected with. He was wheelchair bound because of a severe stroke. He loved the workout. The next year when we returned he shyly waited for me to notice him. I went straight to him and gave him a hug. About 20 minutes later my husband Joe came inside and said, “Heidi, you’ve got to come see this.” I followed him outside to find my shy friend doing the exercises I’d taught him the year before, but with a cinderblock. Apparently the dumbbells had been stolen soon after we left. It was a fun moment. Sometimes we shop for an impromptu baby shower at Wal-Mart and surprise a pastor’s wife with baby gifts. Photos are taken to capture these fleeting moments. The next year we bounce the baby on our knees. Every year we return to babies who now walk, children who have become teenagers, and teenagers who
This year, my friend Terri and I went to a women’s shelter to cut hair. The shelter housed women and their children, many of whom were teenagers. All the teens wanted haircuts. Specifically, the boys wanted mohawks. As soon as I finished giving a muchacho a cut, he would rush off to style it. Half an hour later he would strut through the kitchen with a pound of hair gel shellacked into a work of art! On our final day there, the ladies had a surprise for Terri and me. They had everything set up to give us pedicures. Well, I’m ticklish and don’t do pedicures…except that day. I prayed quietly to not yank my feet away when they touched them. They were perceptive enough to figure out my dilemma and were gentle with me. When we left we had toenails covered with flower designs and hearts full of tender, fun memories. Each year a group of men visit the prison. You might think, there’s no way that can be fun! Think again. Pastor Jeff Koons loads up a group of guys equipped with basketballs and Bibles. The competition on the court is a major icebreaker for the inmates and the church guys. Sitting around sweating and laughing over their amateur attempts at basketball is fun, but the adrenaline rush of inmates asking to receive Christ as their personal Savior far exceeds the hype of the game. Another time Joe and I were surrounded by a group of new Mexican friends. They asked how many children we had. “None”, we replied. At the look on their faces we explained that I can’t have children. This was met with a split second of silent sympathy, followed by a torrent of promises to pray for me to get pregnant. It took ten minutes to explain to them that at fifty years
of age I did not want to be pregnant. I told them I would burst into tears if I got pregnant now. Oh, how they laughed! I’m still suspicious that they may have prayed for us anyway, but I counterprayed! One of the most enjoyable events for me is the fiesta at basecamp. The churches we’ve worked with over the decades gather at our basecamp and the enormous auditorium is filled to capacity with both American and Mexican believers. Along the walls are tables laden with home cooked tamales, tacos and pozole. Children are racing everywhere. Cross-cultural clusters of teens are heard laughing in unison. Church leaders discuss their community in a once-a-year casual meeting. Finally, pastors from both sides of the borders are summoned to the stage and we honor them with roof shaking applause. Prayer for the food comes next and then music, food, dancing and more laughter, along with some tears. The final fun is sitting in the van waiting to cross the border back into the US. This is capitalism at its finest. Hundreds of vendors walk past the rolled up windows, looking in hopefully. They swing their necklaces, wave window-washing rags in front of the windshield, carry menus for the mocha shop up ahead, hold unidentifiable food items up for inspection, and display twofoot tall statues of eagles and Mickey Mouse. It’s fun. A unique kind of fun I look forward to every year.
Heidi and her husband, Joe, have been attending First Cov dating back to when Pastor Ted preached Saturday night services from a stool to keep it casual. She is a physical therapist, writer of three blogs, and is waiting the release of her second novel in January 2016.
issue 14 Compass Magazine