Dinner and Auction to Support Mary Robey Koch

(Written by Mike Ansel)
Scripture says to mourn with those who mourn and to rejoice with those who rejoice. As people, and especially as a group of Christian (Called out ones) people, our hearts are drawn to this sister who has been through more than we can imagine or even phantom!
Mary Robey Koch entered the hospital with the hope of delivering her first child and the joy this would bring her and her husband.  After delivering her healthy son Cooper Mary contacted Sepsis and was thrown into a fight for her life!  Her extremities were under attack and within two days of delivery her feet and lower calf were amputated.  Muscle and infected dead skin were also removed as the doctors at the University of Michigan raced to save her hands!  Prayer warriors were called upon to stand in the gap for Mary.  It was not to be so as two days after loosing her feet Mary lost her hands! Unimaginable nightmare for this young first time mother, her mom and dad, and her inlaws!
Mary spent seven months in the trauma burn unit at the U. of M. hospital, and has been home for a month now.  Mary has a long road ahead of her with therapy, prosthetics, Dr. appointments, and caring for her now 8 month old son!  Of course Mary has had her “down” moments, but her faith remains strong as she puts her spiritual hands to the plow and moves forward with grace, strength, and dignity!  Mary has had a lot of support from her family and friends, and that’s where we come in at Redeemer Fellowship. We believe in the Church as the wider body of those who have been saved and sanctified by the sacrifice of Jesus. Mary is a fellow sojourner on this road leading to the Celestial City. It is our Christian honor to help her along the way!
Mary and her family have many needs, and one of the most pressing is monetary. We (at Redeemer) are planning a Dinner/Auction in order to raise funds toward those needs. I (we) want to partner with this sister and her family in a show of Christian unity and support.
Of course we welcome help from all people of good will and compassion toward this cause.
The time is fast approaching when we will collectively bring forth a sacrifice of praise as we fellowship around a meal and auction/fundraiser in support of Mary at Redeemer Fellowship Church in Monroe.
The date is May 13th. with auction viewing at 4:00 p.m. and dinner at 5:00 p.m. Live auction to start after dinner.  Silent auction bidding will start upon your arrival.  Two separate dinners will be served.  The wild game dinner is $15.00 dollars for adults 13 and up and $8.00 dollars for those 12 and under.  4 and under free!  The alternative dinner will be a simple hot dog, sloppy Joe, potato chips, dessert, and drink dinner for $6.00 for adults and $4.00 for children 12 and under.
In order to have a smooth operation it would be so helpful if we can have a “head” count as to who will be attending so the proper amount of food can be prepared. Auction items are still being accepted, as well as desserts, or a special “wild game” dish you would like to prepare!
Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated. Call Mike Ansel at 734-241-3329 home or 734-770-4660 for information.  Lets make this day before Mothers Day a time of rejoicing for Mary and her supporters!
Email Mike Ansel at – mikewansel@yahoo.com
Email John Piippo at  – johnpiippo@msn.com

IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME, NOT “THE HOLIDAYS”

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My back yard, on a snowy day

“Black Friday” and “Cyber-Monday” are over. The Thanksgiving days of feasting are now days of healthy, moderate eating. I’m about to sit down for a bowl of oat meal.

I turn on the TV. “Holiday” stuff is on. I see nothing about Christmas.

Because…

#1 – Christmas has nothing to do with shopping. I’m not against shopping. I like to go to the mall with Linda and look around. I like the crowds and the lights and the music and the candy. I like eating red and green M&Ms. Yet all these things have NOTHING to do with Christmas. What, then, is Christmas about? There’s a big clue in the word itself. Christmas has to do with “Christ.” The word “Christ” means “anointed King.” Jesus is “the Christ,” the anointed King. “Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew word “Messiah.” Christ – mass. The festival of the arrival of the anointed King.

“Christmas” = Messiah has come.

#2 – Christmas has nothing to do with gift-giving. But what about the wise men who brought gifts? They came after Jesus was born. Remove them from your manger scene and place them somewhere outside the house, perhaps down the road a ways. They did bring gifts to honor Jesus’ birth. They did not go shopping to buy gifts to give one another. Is it wrong to do that? I don’t think so. I love giving gifts to my family. I like opening gifts. But giving gifts to one another has NOTHING to do with Christmas. Except that, in Jesus, God gave a great Gift to all humanity. For that Gift, I remain eternally grateful. 

Christmas” = A Gift, from God, to us.

#3 – Christmas has nothing to do with tree-decorating. Is it wrong to have a Christmas tree? I don’t think so. I like decorating the tree every year. I like the lights, especially old-fashioned large multi-colored ones. I enjoy going to Bronner’s, just 75 miles north of us. But decorated trees have NOTHING to do with Christmas. Read the original Christmas story in both Matthew and Luke and see for yourself. There were no trees or lights or tinsel. And, it didn’t smell like fresh-cut pine.

“Christmas” = the birth of God’s Son, who would eventually be crucified on a tree.

#4 – Christmas has nothing to do with snow. I’m looking out my window and it is snowing lightly. I like this. For me, it would be nice to have snow on Christmas Day. But when first-century hoped for and had dreams and visions of a Messiah (a “Christ”), not one of them was dreaming of a white Christmas. Those ancient people were under great political oppression. They could care less if it snowed or not. “Snow” is neither an essential attribute nor a contingent attribute of “Christmas.”

“Christmas” = Messiah who comes to make us, righteously, “whiter than snow.” (Ps. 51:7)

#5 – Christmas has nothing to do with the economy. I have friends who are local retailers, and I hope they do well. I like a stable American economy. But Christmas has NOTHING to do with a consumer economy. The angels were not rejoicing because Christmas sales were up as a result of the Christ being born. Get this: God’s Son was born into radical poverty. Mary ended up singing about how God would now finally help the poor and the hungry and the marginalized and the oppressed.

“Christmas” = the beginning of the “Great Reversal,” where the proud, mighty, and rich are brought down and the poor, hungry, and lowly are exalted. (See Luke 1:46-55, e.g.)

I like the holidays, the holy days. They remind me of times with my parents and brother when I was growing up. And times Linda and I had with our sons. They remind Linda and I of a son of ours, David, who died, which made one holiday season not so jolly. They remind me of Linda’s father Del, who lived with us for 6 1/2 years, until he died on New year’s Eve 2012. (Deck the halls with melancholy…)

I like the holidays and I love Real Christmas Music (like “Trio Mediaeval,” which I’m listening to right now). But mostly, I love Jesus. When I became a follower of Jesus I left a life of drug and alcohol abuse forever. I doubt I’d be alive today if not for Jesus. Jesus fills my life, now more than ever as I grow older. He is my raison d’etre, my reason for being. This time of the year is another opportunity to experience and encounter and think about the Christ, my Savior, and your’s too.

“Christmas” = love, worship, and adoration of Christ the Lord, King, Savior, Redeemer, Rescuer, Bondage-Breaker, Lamb of God, Revolutionary, promised Messiah, my Lord and my God.

***

My new book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

THE LOTTERY IS THE MIGHTIEST FAIRY IN THE WORLD

I entered a convenience store in Joliet, Illinois. It was 1975. Some people in front of me were purchasing lottery tickets. When it was my turn to pay for my items the attendant asked, “Do you want to buy a lottery ticket, too?”

“No,” I replied.

“Aww, come on! You could win the big jackpot!”

No.

They pressed a little further. That’s when I said, “Only fools play the lottery.”

And a great silence came over the convenience store.

“Fool” here means: people who are ignorant of probability and statistics. “Fool” means someone who falls prey to the “Gambler’s Fallacy.”

I may be a fool, but not when it comes to the lottery. I have never played it, never bought one single ticket. Playing the lottery is throwing money away.

In 1842 Honoré de Balzac wrote:

“This mania, so generally condemned, has never been properly studied. No one has realized that it is the opium of the poor. Did not the lottery, the mightiest fairy in the world, work up magical hopes? The roll of the roulette wheel that made the gamblers glimpse masses of gold and delights did not last longer than a lightning flash; whereas the lottery spread the magnificent blaze of lightning over five whole days. Where is the social force today that, for forty sous, can make you happy for five days and bestow on you—at least in fancy—all the delights that civilization holds?” (La Rabouilleuse)

USA Today asked the question, “Is the lottery the new American Dream?” Probably. But by probability, it’s as likely to happen as fairies landing on your head.

3 NIGHTS OF MARRIAGE STRENGTHENING IN JANUARY WITH LINDA AND JOHN PIIPPO

Linda and I invite you to join us in January for 3 Nights of Marriage Strengthening!

WHEN: January 17, 24, 31

6 – 8 PM

WHERE: Redeemer Fellowship Church
5305 Evergreen
Monroe, Michigan

Sign up in the church lobby or by calling our office at 734-731-1709.

We’re working on hopefully providing babysitting. TBA.

We’ll be using the “I Love You More” video + workbook curriculum by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott.

Couples will need to purchase workbooks which accompany the videos: Here for men; here forwomen. ($8.99 apiece. If you cannot afford the workbooks please let me know.)

In I Love You More, a video-based study, Doctors Les and Leslie Parrott show you how the same forces that can chip away at a marriage can instead become the catalyst for new relational depth and richness–provided you make wise choices. Whether the problem is major or mild, you’ll learn how to transform nettlesome issues into loving opportunities.

We’ll do 2 17-minute sessions per evening. The topics are:

1. I Love You More, Session 1 “Love Is Not Enough”
In Session 1, “Love Is Not Enough,” you will discuss unrealistic expectations you brought into your marriage and discern how you can strengthen your marriage from conflicts.
2. I Love You More, Session 2 “Tackle This Problem First…and All Others Get Easier”
In Session 2, “Tackle this Problem First… and All Others Get Easier,” you will discuss attitudes that exist in your marriage and which ones need to be changed.
3. I Love You More, Session 3 “The Subtle Saboteurs of Every Marriage”
In Session 3, “The Subtle Saboteurs of Every Marriage,” you will discuss how busyness has crept into your marriage and learn how crabbiness can negatively impact your relationship.
4. I Love You More, Session 4 “How to Solve Any Problem in Five (not-so-easy) Steps”
In Session 4, “How to Solve Any Problem in Five (not-so-easy) Steps,” you will discover the five tools you can use to tackle problems of any kind and learn how to take responsibility in your relationship.
5. I Love You More, Session 5 “Joining Your Spirits Like Never Before”
In Session 5, “Joining Your Spirits Like Never Before,” you will discuss the difficulty in creating and maintaining spiritual connections and learn what you can do to bring more spiritual intimacy into your marriage.
6. I Love You More, Session 6 “The Good that Comes from a Problem-Solving Marriage”
In Session 6, “The Good that Comes from a Problem-Solving Marriage,” you will discern which blessing of marriage you most appreciate and what you appreciate about your marriage relationship and express how your marriage makes you happy.

REVOLT AGAINST THE MASSES

Photo of a plaque I saw in Columbus, Ohio

“In 1941 at the age of twenty-six, [Thomas] Merton sought refuge in the Trappist monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemane. Kentucky, “in revolt against the meaningless confusion of a life in which there was so much activity, so much movement, so much useless talk, so much superficial and needless stimulation,” that he could not remember who he was.” (“Introduction,” by James Finley. In Merton, A Book of Hours, 16)

I wonder what Merton might say were he alive today. The phenomenal explosion of media technology functions as a gigantic amplifier of ever-changing banality and stupidity. There’s really no more ignorance under the sun than when Merton lived. It’s just more known.

The result is that people no longer know who they are. This is why dictionary.com’s word of the year is “identity.”

Lacking knowledge of their identity the wandering herd creates personas in whatever images they happen to like, and imagine their social media friends admiring. Huddles of self-congratulatory selfies text to applaud their life wisdom, little of which has been thought out. Never before in history has the meaning of non sequitur found so many instantiations.

Thanks to the twin gods Google and Siri everyone is a Renaissance polymath, an unreflective mass of omniscient beings lacking knowledge in precisely nothing. And all this without being able to think critically about anything.

T.S. Eliot wrote:

  We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men

    Leaning together

    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats’ feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar
    
    Shape without form, shade without colour,
    Paralysed force, gesture without motion…

That was in 1925. By comparison Eliot’s hollow men would be viewed today as seers.

Both Merton and Eliot saw the total absence of identity coming. We’re not quite there yet. But I think I see the tipping point that will take American humanity over the abyss and into the unhuman. Welcome to the Book of Revelation.

That’s the point of the Zombie Apocalypse, right? Bodies without souls, with hopefully some remnant still alive to revolt against the masses.

5 THANKSGIVING CHOICES

Some of our Redeemer kids
Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day!
1. Take time to reflect on the blessings God has given you. I’ve made a gratitude list on my computer and printed it out. I’ve got the list in my pocket, and will pull it out and look at it several times today.
 

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

– Thornton Wilder

2. Think of the people God has brought to add value to your life.
 
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
– Albert Schweitzer
3. Focus on what you have gained, not what you have lost. In the worship song “Blessed Be Your Name” we sing “You give and take away, You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, blessed be your name.” I remember precious people I have lost. I think of what their lives have given to me.
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
– Epictetus
4. Say “thank you” to others, in your words, attitudes, and actions. Today, serve people. To serve is to love. Servanthood is the overflow of a thankful heart.
“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”

– William James
5. Let the words “Thank you, God” be your constant praise. 
 
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.”
– 1 Chronicles 16:4

THE MANY BENEFITS OF THANKFULNESS

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My back yard, on the River Raisin.

Gratitude is greater than bitterness. Thankfulness is better than resentment. 

Colossians 3:15 says:

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

A heart of thankfulness positively affects one’s entire being. Many scientific studies confirm this. Here are some of them.

From “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier” (Harvard Medical School)

  • “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
  • Dr. Martin Seligman (University of Pennsylvania) says most studies on showing gratitude to others support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.
  • Gratitude can improve relationships. “For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.”
  • Gratitude is associated with emotional maturity.
  • “Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.”

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.

  • Write a thank-you note.
  • Thank someone mentally. (“It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.”)
  • Keep a gratitude journal. I make lists of things I am thankful for and carry them with me.
  • Count your blessings.
  • Pray. “People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.”

From “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude that Will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round” (Forbes)

Research reveals that gratitude can have these benefits.

  • ·        Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
  • ·        Gratitude improves physical health. “Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences.”
  • ·        Gratitude improves psychological health. “Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.”
  • ·        Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. “Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kind, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.”
  • ·        Grateful people sleep better. “Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published inApplied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.”
  • ·        Gratitude improves self-esteem.(Acc. to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.)
  • ·        Gratitude increases mental strength. (Acc. to a 2006 study in Behavior Research and Therapy, and a 2003 study in the Journal of Personality and social Psychology.

From “Giving Thanks: The Benefits of Gratitude” (Psychology Today)

Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough “point out the benefits of expressing gratitude as ranging from better physical health to improved mental alertness. People who express gratitude also are more likely to offer emotional support to others.”

  • “Expressing gratitude in your daily life might even have a protective effect on staving off certain forms of psychological disorders. In a review article published this past March (see below), researchers found that habitually focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life is related to a generally higher level of psychological well-being and a lower risk of certain forms of psychopathology.”
  • Increase your gratitude-ability by looking for small things to be thankful for.

From “Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude” (University of Berkeley)

  • It’s easy to take gratitude for granted. “That might be why so many people have dismissed gratitude as simple, obvious, and unworthy of serious attention. But that’s starting to change. Recently scientists have begun to chart a course of research aimed at understanding gratitude and the circumstances in which it flourishes or diminishes.”
  • Recent studies on people who practice thankfulness consistently report a number of benefits:
  • Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
  • Higher levels of positive emotions;
  • More joy, optimism, and happiness;
  • Acting with more generosity and compassion;
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated.

From “Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and Mental Health” (Psychiatry Advisor)

Gratitude can have a positive effect on a person’s emotions in four significant ways.

  • First, gratitude magnifies positive emotions by helping us to appreciate the value in something; thus gaining more benefit from it.
  • Second, it blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, and regret – emotions that can destroy happiness.
  • Third, gratitude fosters resiliency.
  • And lastly, gratitude promotes self worth.

From “5 Proven Health Benefits of Gratitude” (Shape)

  • Gratitude is good for your heart. “According to a recent study at the University of California, San Diego, being mindful of the things you’re thankful for each day actually lowers inflammation in the heart and improves rhythm. Researchers looked at a group of adults with existing heart issues and had some keep a gratitude journal. After just two months, they found that the grateful group actually showed improved heart health.”
  • ·        You’ll smarten up. “Teens who actively practiced an attitude of gratitude had higher GPAs than their ungrateful counterparts, says research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.”
  • ·         It’s good for your relationships. “Expressing gratitude instead of frustration will do more than just smooth things over—it will actually help your emotional health. Expressing and attitude of gratitude raises levels of empathy and abolishes any desire to get even, found researchers at the University of Kentucky.”
  • ·        You’ll sleep more soundly. “ Writing in a gratitude journal before turning in will help you get a longer, deeper night’s sleep, says a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.”
  • ·        You’ll have better sex. “Couples who regularly say thank you to their partner feel more connected and more confident, according to a study published in the journal Personal Relationships.”

See also: