Christmas is NOT for Perfect People--It's for US

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Unwed teenage mother? Homeless? Manger of hay crib? Shepherds? Cows? Donkeys? NOT a perfect place for the Savior of the world to be born.

The King of the Universe left the throne room of Heaven to become a helpless baby sleeping in the rough, wooden feeding trough for animals called a “manger”.   That King, Jesus of Nazareth, was born to a young mother who was not married when Jesus was conceived in her.  Joseph, her fiancée, was poised to break off the engagement because he thought Mary had slept with another man.  When Herod the king heard that Jesus was born, he ordered the death of all infants in the town, so Jesus’ family fled to Egypt until it seemed safe to return.  When He grew up, Jesus never married. This was not a picture-perfect family! 

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Of course, the Bible is full of non-standard family situations.  Lazarus and Mary and Martha were three grown siblings living together.  In the Old Testament we read of Abraham’s sleeping with a servant girl because he and Sarah couldn’t wait on God to give them a child.  In the house of King David, we read of a son raping his half-sister, son killing son, son rebelling against father.  None of these families were picture-perfect by a long shot, which is precisely the point:  Jesus didn’t come to bring redemption to perfect people; He came to heal imperfect us.

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Christmas is not for picture-perfect families, because there are none.  Some of us this Christmas are homeless or with a broken family or with problems of health, unemployment or addiction. Jesus knows and cares and understands.  We sing each Christmas about the beginning of Jesus’ life:  “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed.”  And near the end of his life, when people said they wanted to follow him, Jesus would respond:  “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man [me, Jesus!] has no place to lay his head.”  In other words, Jesus was homeless.

Religious leaders criticized Jesus for eating with “sinners”, prostitutes and tax collectors – the people society shunned.  Jesus didn’t deny it, in fact he embraced that criticism, saying “I came not for those who are healthy but for those who acknowledge they need a doctor.”  The reality is that we are all “sin sick”: allergic to God, the only one who can actually cure us.  But the promise of Christmas is that Jesus came and died upon the cross, paid the penalty that we should have paid, so that God could begin to heal us of our allergy to Him and once again be in a relationship with Him, as we were in the Garden of Eden.  Jesus rose again after three days and lives today in Heaven and will one day return to this world in glory.  Do you know Him?  If not, why not open your heart to Him this Christmas and thereby celebrate the reason behind the holiday.  He awaits you with open arms.

author Wallace L Larson, Jr

Who Is Your Hero?

A hero is someone who has given themselves to something bigger than oneself. Joseph Campbell

Phoebe Peiffer helped the children at the Salvation Army Shelter learn about heroes beyond Batman and Superman. Daniel and the lions den story was shared explaining how we can all be heroes when we stand up for what is right because ‘real heroes don’t wear capes.’

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Duck, Duck, Goose game translated into Daniel, Daniel, LION.

Coloring their version of Daniel in the Lions’ Den

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Phoebe Peiffer encouraging the young aspiring artists

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Encouraged young artists yet still a little hesitant

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Hero afternoon event ended with frosting sugar cookies and sharing about our own personal heroes.

The Good Shepherd and The One Lost Sheep

  Veggie Tales video: God Made Me Special

Veggie Tales video: God Made Me Special

 Margaret Warden, Sharon Losey, Linda Westmoreland, Emily Hogatt volunteers and team leader Peggy Boyle.

Margaret Warden, Sharon Losey, Linda Westmoreland, Emily Hogatt volunteers and team leader Peggy Boyle.

The children enjoyed the fun coloring crafts of the lost sheep followed by the guiding maze puzzle.

No event is complete without frosting cookies and this event featured sheep cut out cookies.

The team from First Baptist Church in Glendale provided 2 tables of hygiene products, clothes and essentials the resident guests could chose as they left the event.

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Who are life's number one cheerleaders without uniforms?

MOTHERS

 35 guests streamed into the Flash Room [including about 12 adults] many of them fathers. Mother's Day celebration of "Life's #1 Cheerleaders" started with singing  Peter, James and John in a Sailboat  accompanied by an autoharp.

35 guests streamed into the Flash Room [including about 12 adults] many of them fathers. Mother's Day celebration of "Life's #1 Cheerleaders" started with singing Peter, James and John in a Sailboat accompanied by an autoharp.

 Families crafted a special family photo gift. Ryan Weitzel, Salvation Army Flash Director, snapped photos of families on his phone and printed them on his printer. Thanks, Ryan, for being the photographer who saved the day.

Families crafted a special family photo gift. Ryan Weitzel, Salvation Army Flash Director, snapped photos of families on his phone and printed them on his printer. Thanks, Ryan, for being the photographer who saved the day.

 MGF Volunteer Team leader, Juanita Peterson, [far right] led the wonderful volunteers, Marie, Gabby & Jessica Brown, Wendy Hines, Abby & Susie, Bert Gabel and Bobbie Stegall helping the residents celebrate their #1 cheerleader in life.   

MGF Volunteer Team leader, Juanita Peterson, [far right] led the wonderful volunteers, Marie, Gabby & Jessica Brown, Wendy Hines, Abby & Susie, Bert Gabel and Bobbie Stegall helping the residents celebrate their #1 cheerleader in life.

 

Loving the Least and Loving the Least the Most

 Abigail Allen, 7 year old volunteer, helped with the Valentine craft as she handed out the scissors, crayons, paste and red cut out hearts.

Abigail Allen, 7 year old volunteer, helped with the Valentine craft as she handed out the scissors, crayons, paste and red cut out hearts.

Thanks to Becki Allen, Nan Allen and Abigail Allen for all the Valentine supplies and June Morgan who led the introductions and 'who do you love?'  and 'why?' get acquainted time.

 Volunteers loving the least and loving the least the Most......

Volunteers loving the least and loving the least the Most......

 Caring Salvation staff, Karen and Ryan, enabled the volunteers to love the MOST!

Caring Salvation staff, Karen and Ryan, enabled the volunteers to love the MOST!

For it is in giving that we receive

... the North Phoenix Baptist women's team lived out 'giving' as they orchestrated a winter wonderland for the residents of the Phoenix Salvation Army Shelter in December.

Pat Cannon, Laura Floyd, Jeanie Houser, Nancy Hunt, Tammy Martyn, Annie Oertel, Jan Payne, Aida Payne, Serena Steenholt, Anna Tautimer and  Becky Waller assisted in the mornings activities.

Ring those Christmas Bells

Kudos to these Red Kettle Christmas bell ringers who left their Christmas baking, shopping lists and half decorated trees to ring the bells for The Salvation Army at the Safeway store at Glendale and 7th Street.

 Carol and Brad Routh orchestrated their grandchildren to play Christmas carols encouraging the busy shoppers to stop, listen and donate to the Salvation Army Red Kettle.

Carol and Brad Routh orchestrated their grandchildren to play Christmas carols encouraging the busy shoppers to stop, listen and donate to the Salvation Army Red Kettle.

Volunteer Bell Ringers-Steve Reeder; Jan Reed, Marilyn Roelse; Beki, Nan, Abigail Allen; Pat, Dan Scott; Dottie, Kevin Kendig; Margaret Larson.

Christmas @ Cleveland Salvation Army #FightforGood

 Marcia and Eric Peiffer led a team of 60 volunteers for the Cleveland Salvation Army Christmas 'fight for good' . The 'fight for good' included visits and photos with Santa and elf. beading bracelets tables, frosting cookies area, hair beauticians providing cuts, curls, and coloring, massage therapists offering stress release, Kenson choir singing songs and carol, along with delicious wraps and deserts.

Marcia and Eric Peiffer led a team of 60 volunteers for the Cleveland Salvation Army Christmas 'fight for good' . The 'fight for good' included visits and photos with Santa and elf. beading bracelets tables, frosting cookies area, hair beauticians providing cuts, curls, and coloring, massage therapists offering stress release, Kenson choir singing songs and carol, along with delicious wraps and deserts.

  While women weep, as they do now,   I'll fight.   While little children go hungry, as they do now, I'll fight.   While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight.   While there is a drunkard left,   While there is a poor lost girl upon the streets,   While there remains one dark soul without the light of God,  I'll fight-I'll fight to the very end!”                - William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army

While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight. While little children go hungry, as they do now, I'll fight. While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight. While there is a drunkard left, While there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, While there remains one dark soul without the light of God, 
I'll fight-I'll fight to the very end!”             
 - William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army

Thank you all so much for donating toys, delicious cookies, your time Sunday afternoon, dressing up as Santa, singing for the residents, manning the Porsche, playing basketball with the kids, offering your nail / massage / salon services to the shelter residents up until 8PM….you made Christmas so special for the shelter!

Thank you each and everyone for joining us in celebrating the miracle of Christmas, Jesus coming to earth for us, to redeem us from our sin.  May the Lord bless your Christmas and New Year as we consider the generosity of Jesus and consider how we might "do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God", 

Jonah and the Big Fish: God of Seconds Chances

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 June Pomeroy volunteering at the Salvation Army Shelter for a morning of Jonah learning how to ‘NOT’ run away when God calls us for an assignment. The families introduced themselves saying their names and personal experiences with fishing.

June Pomeroy volunteering at the Salvation Army Shelter for a morning of Jonah learning how to ‘NOT’ run away when God calls us for an assignment. The families introduced themselves saying their names and personal experiences with fishing.

 Margaret Larson shared the Biblical Jonah story which for some was the heard for the very time. Jonah, ignoring God’s call to Nineveh, headed in the opposite direction to the city Tarshish on a ship headed for disaster.

Margaret Larson shared the Biblical Jonah story which for some was the heard for the very time. Jonah, ignoring God’s call to Nineveh, headed in the opposite direction to the city Tarshish on a ship headed for disaster.

After listening to the story, everyone drew their perspective of Jonah’s predicament in the belly of a great fish

 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. Jonah 2:1

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. Jonah 2:1

June treated the 'Nineveh whale watchers' to cheese goldfish after finishing their drawings.

African Adventures

                                    “Clothe him with power from on high “ Luke 24:49

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You prayed the Lord would “clothe us with power on high” as we served on mission trips this summer – He answered. During the hot days at Boot Camp, out in the bush of Zambia, on the cliffs of Madagascar with our goat Shaniqua….we felt His presence, enjoyed His spiritual protection, and were flooded with opportunities to see the lost come to know our Lord and Savior.

Phoebe’s summer = speed. Her team rode motorcycles across Madagascar as a means to share the Gospel through soccer, puppets, and English lessons. Heading out from base camp in Mahajanga, the team spent time in the village of Ampozony encouraging the one Christian in that village whose life has been threatened for loving Jesus. Phoebe’s TMI team buoyed her efforts and assured her she is not alone in the struggle against powers of darkness.

     

 

 

Chloe’s summer = Romans 8:28. Chloe and her team lived in tents, drove out to the African Bush, and cleared 100 plus trees in order to build a soccer field in N’dola, Zambia. On weekends, they ministered to AIDS orphans via the Wan’gibisha Rescue Unit. Chloe also served as her team’s “Top Chef” cooking lunch for her entire team. One Sunday as the team shared testimonies at a local church, the teams’ backpacks were stolen off the bus. After praying for the return of the backpacks for days, the two robbers finally turned themselves in. They’d found a Bible in the local language in one of the stolen backpacks, read the Word, confessed their sin, returned the backpacks and came to Christ.

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Seb’s summer = gross. During his private devotional time each morning Seb read the “Grossology” section of his Bible - about how a dog returns to its vomit and a big knife got stuck in a man’s belly. The “Nehemiah’s Tresses” team built 14 tresses, ran a daily Obstacle Course including a Slough of Despond, and memorized the Roman Road. The above picture is not at Boot Camp – it’s in our kitchen. Because Seb took his own photos and they were all of turtles, frogs, and geckos : )

Thank you for praying for us. We didn’t go on Teen Missions to lay out soccer fields, teach English, or build tresses. We went to Teen Missions to share salvation by the blood of Jesus Christ, and we were able to use our gifts and skills as tentmakers.  As we return to school now - the day to day of homework, activities, and house chores, we pray all of us would be “clothed with power on high” for the mission.

Starbucks & the Gospel

With a population of more than 600 million people, an emerging middle class that is driving strong consumption, and a robust and resilient economy, Southeast Asia presents a compelling growth opportunity for Starbucks.” Howard Schultz

Though market potential for caffeine is clear, as Christians we see the 600 million people in Southeast Asia as more than potential Starbucks drinkers.  We see a field ripe for harvest, the Lord's harvest. This year, building on the 2016 project to Southeast Asia, the Larson family returned to work alongside a local Gospel-centered church plant and a local school to provide conversational English sessions, faith and work evenings, and encouragement to the Christian workers in this plentiful harvest. Here's a summary of the project, in pictures:

 Wally Jr. led a devotional at the International Justice Mission, an organization that works closely with local government and institutions to bring about justice. Wally shared from Philemon on how Paul did justly, loved mercy and walked humbly to minister practical, incremental justice in Philemon's relationship with the returning fugitive slave, Onesimus."

Wally Jr. led a devotional at the International Justice Mission, an organization that works closely with local government and institutions to bring about justice. Wally shared from Philemon on how Paul did justly, loved mercy and walked humbly to minister practical, incremental justice in Philemon's relationship with the returning fugitive slave, Onesimus."

   
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
 
     
 
  
  
 
  
  
  At a flower design session with women in sewing job-training program, Esther shared of God's love for them, more than the "lilies of the valley and the flowers of the field". Given these womens' parents refusal to allow them education, tis message especially resonated with them.

At a flower design session with women in sewing job-training program, Esther shared of God's love for them, more than the "lilies of the valley and the flowers of the field". Given these womens' parents refusal to allow them education, tis message especially resonated with them.

 At the church plant, Wally Jr. preached from John 4 on the Samaritan woman with Jesus at the well, on how we go wrong when we try to quench our spiritual thirst for Jesus with anything or anyone else. At a faith & Work event in the Pastor's home, Wally,jr shared about optimizing the value of one's career. He pulled from the life of Moses to illustrate how we can be our most effective when we feel the weakest (God used Moses not as a young, powerful prince but as a much older, weaker and fugitive from Egypt), the importance of avoiding worldly short-cuts (like killing the Egyptian and valuing intimacy with the Lord above all else.

At the church plant, Wally Jr. preached from John 4 on the Samaritan woman with Jesus at the well, on how we go wrong when we try to quench our spiritual thirst for Jesus with anything or anyone else. At a faith & Work event in the Pastor's home, Wally,jr shared about optimizing the value of one's career. He pulled from the life of Moses to illustrate how we can be our most effective when we feel the weakest (God used Moses not as a young, powerful prince but as a much older, weaker and fugitive from Egypt), the importance of avoiding worldly short-cuts (like killing the Egyptian and valuing intimacy with the Lord above all else.

 Wally,sr delivering the leadership address at the Investiture Ceremony.  He shared from Esther  “You are in this position for such a time as this. My hope and prayer is that your leadership makes you a better person and makes a difference in the lives of others."

Wally,sr delivering the leadership address at the Investiture Ceremony.  He shared from Esther  “You are in this position for such a time as this. My hope and prayer is that your leadership makes you a better person and makes a difference in the lives of others."

 Bringjng her educational and teaching background, Margaret led English conversation sessions with teachers from a local school. The school specialized in teaching children from local slums.

Bringjng her educational and teaching background, Margaret led English conversation sessions with teachers from a local school. The school specialized in teaching children from local slums.

I Love My Mother

Knowing that every Mother appreciates being celebrated, (even if it's just for one day!), for Mother's Day this year, we gathered with about 30 residents of the local Salvation Army Phoenix homeless shelter to celebrate the resident Moms.  Picture summary below:

                                                                                                  Mother's Day event at the Salvation Army Phoenix

                                                                                                 Mother's Day event at the Salvation Army Phoenix

                                                           Miriam, Moses's mother placed baby Moses in a basket in the Nile River to save her son's life.

                                                          Miriam, Moses's mother placed baby Moses in a basket in the Nile River to save her son's life.

                                                                  Hannah, Samuel's mother, placed Samuel in the Lord's house to serve him for his lifetime.

                                                                 Hannah, Samuel's mother, placed Samuel in the Lord's house to serve him for his lifetime.

                                                                         Mary, Jesus' mother, gave birth to Jesus in a stall and lay him in a manger of hay.

                                                                        Mary, Jesus' mother, gave birth to Jesus in a stall and lay him in a manger of hay.

                                                                           My mother's favorite food is: pizza and she is pretty when she puts on makeup and smiles.

                                                                          My mother's favorite food is: pizza and she is pretty when she puts on makeup and smiles.

                                                                                                        This child drew her work of art entitled "This is my mother"

                                                                                                       This child drew her work of art entitled "This is my mother"

Her children arise and call her blessed...many women do noble things. Honor he for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.  Proverbs 31: 28-31

What Is A Hero?

Who is your favorite cartoon character?   Do you have a real life hero?

                                   June Pomeroy leading the discussion of a Biblical hero-Daniel.

                                  June Pomeroy leading the discussion of a Biblical hero-Daniel.

 Daniel in the lions' den hero, who trusted God and continue to pray even when the king ordered subjects to pray to his idol rather than pray to the one true God.

Daniel in the lions' den hero, who trusted God and continue to pray even when the king ordered subjects to pray to his idol rather than pray to the one true God.

                                 Our adaptation of Duck, Duck - Goose to Lion, Lion - Daniel.

                                Our adaptation of Duck, Duck - Goose to Lion, Lion - Daniel.

 Hero of the day: June Pomeroy-thanks for being a hero to the kids at the Salvation Army Homeless Shelter this Saturday.

Hero of the day: June Pomeroy-thanks for being a hero to the kids at the Salvation Army Homeless Shelter this Saturday.

Today I Chose Joy

   
  
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   Wonderful women from 1st Baptist Church Glendale spread ‘Joy’ at the Salvation Army

Wonderful women from 1st Baptist Church Glendale spread ‘Joy’ at the Salvation Army

   
  
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   One lady cuddled a 5-week-old newborn giving the arms of the mother a few joyful moments of rest.

One lady cuddled a 5-week-old newborn giving the arms of the mother a few joyful moments of rest.