Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Giving Tuesday from the Perspective of the Gifted

Friends of Faith:
Today is giving Tuesday. I thought it would be appropriate to share what giving looks like from the perspective of those who work for the agencies that benefit from your generosity. Hopefully we remember to give to those who truly need support this Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
As a tribute I am sharing a “guest” column from one of our favorite charities—Bridgehaven, pregnancy support center, in Cedar Rapids. This Christian organization serves mothers, babies, and families with women’s health, prenatal care, post birth and post abortion support. Some of their financial support comes from my favorite second hand store, Treasures, located in downtown Cedar Rapids. Our daughter, Kristy, is on the board of directors.
This column was written by Kylee Pusteoska, Director of Development and a Traer native. Please look them up at www.bridgehavencr.org
“For most of us, Thanksgiving is a time of family, food and football. We anticipate a favorite dish, whether it be Aunt Nancy’s mashed potatoes or Cousin Andi’s Asian salad. Some are concerned about the outcome of the Cowboys game. Still others worry about cleaning their bathrooms for the in-laws who will be spending the weekend. But what if you were the Development Director at a local non-profit? This would mean you were planning a wonderful Giving Tuesday campaign for your beloved charity.
Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday…November 29th this year. Traditionally, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate philanthropy. Around the globe, social media lights up with wonderful stories about the valuable work of of non-profits, along with a call to financially support these great organizations. We, at Bridgehaven, happen to be pretty proud of the work we do and I can’t wait to share that with the world.
My Marketing Coordinator and I came up with a fabulous plan, including photos and videos of our staff and volunteers talking about our work. I thought it was going to be an easy sell to the staff members…not so much. Apparently, being videotaped is a phobia-inducing experience for some. Others were worried about lipstick or hair. Others wanted to make sure they said exactly the right thing. There were several practice sessions and videos taped over and over. In the end, I think we are going to promote the joy and love that radiates from Bridgehaven but the experience got me thinking.
Doesn’t God ask us to shine our light into the dark world? Isn’t he asking us to show love to our neighbors and help care for the least of his people? The staff and volunteers at Bridgehaven do this every single day. They meet with young women who are often frightened and alone. They counsel young families facing difficult circumstances and teach classes to men and women who are trying to make their lives better. The staff is constantly making connections in the community so that we can offer our clients information about services we don’t provide. We work with several other non-profit organizations in Cedar Rapids to make sure our clients get the care needed by them and their families. Every day, these men and women at Bridgehaven work hard to do God’s work….to be the hands and feet. And they do it with a grace I am in awe of. So why was it so hard for them to share that?
I think everyone on our staff feels called to be here. There is a connection with each other and with our clients that could not exist outside of this non-profit ministry. The love that moves through this place is like nothing I have experienced. It is such an honor to be part of this team. I am pretty sure everyone feels that but there was a disconnect when it came to saying it out loud on a video. Was it modesty? Humility? Was it the ol’ Iowa nice kicking in? It could have been any number of these things…it could have been all of them. But I think I finally figured it out.

Bridgehaven is a place of acceptance and love. The people who work here see that as normal and merely answered God’s call to be here and to serve. They don’t understand that what they do every day is miraculous. The work that happens at Bridgehaven involves faith and a comfort in knowing we are changing the future for the better. But the men and women who work here don’t realize all the gifts and talents they bring to the table. They don’t understand that I see them all as rock stars in Jesus’ band. They simply show up every day and love. They love each other and they love the clients and families who walk through our doors. They solely live the mission of Bridgehaven “to empower choices for life through Christ-centered education and support.”
So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful I work with a team so involved in love they don’t know how to express that in a promotional video. They come and hold the hands of our clients and offer them information without judgement. They sort clothes at Treasures to help raise funds to support the ministry. They teach classes about parenting to create stronger families. They do ultrasounds and teach classes about positive life choices. Some of us get to watch all of this and be amazed by what happens here. So when I tell you that the staff and volunteers here are exceptional, believe me. Just don’t ask me to show you evidence on video.”

Kylee Pusteoska
Director of Development

Monday, November 14, 2016

Urgent Preparation

Friends of Faith:
The readings this weekend were about the end times – not because the Church or anyone else besides God knows when the end time will come, but rather because as we draw near to the end of the cyclical Church year it is important to be reminded that there should be an urgent sense of preparation for God in all that we are and all that we do.

God has given us a promise of eternal glory through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. And as His faithful believers we need to be reminded often that our lives here on earth not only have a purpose, but that the end of our life is imminent and unknown. So therefore “getting it done” is urgent so that we are not caught off guard, sleeping or waiting for someone else to do it, but rather that it is important that we take an active role in imitating Christ for ourselves so that others may come to know Him through us.

Brothers and sisters: You know how one must imitate us. For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you. Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us. In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. 

We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food. 2 Thes 3: 7-12

We are also reminded that it is the devil’s way to divide us, by making worldly truths, things and power seem more important than what Christ, His Church, and the Holy Spirit guide us to do. He reminds us that it won’t be easy to live in faith but that if we trust in Him He will give us what we need to suffer whatever challenges are placed in our lives.  We are challenged to live our faith through the works and sufferings he has gifted us to share for the purpose of spreading His urgent message to others.

"See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.

“Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Lk 21: 5-19

God has given us a promise, but we have been challenged that we have a responsibility of taking an active role as His servants. We cannot be fed by the Spirit if we don’t work in the Spirit.

I have been given by God the right to life and a duty to work. Every minute of every day I must do it with a sense of urgency and selfless servitude, not for me, but for Him; not for my success, but for His will; not to promote the worlds good but to achieve eternal good.

My challenge is to be hopeful, perseverant and watchful – remaining in Him, thru Him and for Him in everything I do. It is my challenge to each of you to act with a sense of urgency in spreading His message to all.