• Second City Thoughts?

  • Second City Thoughts?

Lenten Meditation Week 4 - Cynthia VanderArk

When I first became a Christian, I was puzzled by how to repent. I would lay in bed at night praying and sincerely not seeing sin I had committed that day or even that week. Biblically and intuitively, I knew sight was needed and I knew I couldn’t repent or fully enjoy my newfound relationship with Jesus if I didn’t know my sin (Matt 4:17). When I came upon Psalm 139 in a bible study, these words leapt off the page and I copied them and put them on every refrigerator and in every room:
 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts![
 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

This was my daily prayer for years and boy did God show me my grievous ways, but mostly through deaths and resurrections. He still does.
In his book, The Ethics of Beauty, Timothy Pattisas states that in orthodoxy, death needs to be experienced before sin can be understood. He states we have to experience death to even know what our sin is and what we have been worshipping. Death is something most of us don’t like to explore or think about or dwell in. It’s painful. But Patissas says unless we ponder, invite, welcome and partake in Christ’s death with him, we don’t experience His freedom. We like to skip over Friday of Easter Weekend which was and is horrific: The torture, the loneliness, the death on the cross and the darkness that followed are painful and uncomfortable. And the silence of Saturday is an even worse experience for most of us: the not knowing, the loss, the waiting, the sadness without hope, the despair, the questioning: Was I a fool to believe in this Jesus? To follow and trust him? We’re uncomfortable sitting in the not-knowing and with a story whose end we cannot see. We miss so much by not sharing in the whole cross experience with Jesus and jumping too quickly to the resurrection, solutions, joy. I am convinced that unless we are trusting enough to invite and participate in death, we won’t experience deep joy and resurrection forgiveness to it’s fullest.
Pattissas resonates deeply with me because death, lament and freedom are what God has invited me to my entire life. Jesus has continually revealed and stripped away the things I have clung to for safety, for comfort, for hope, for meaning.  He shines a light on them and makes it abundantly clear that He wants me all to himself. He has continually ripped away life lines and reached out his hand, gently turning my face toward His gaze over and over again and saying: “I love you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jer.31:3
Through this cycle of death, grief, lament, repentance and submission, I am slowly coming to a place of rest in the fact that I don’t know much… in knowing I am truly insignificant and small…a sinner, tightly held and loved. My daughter said recently that although she has known and seen so much of my suffering deaths, what she experiences from me is a deep abiding, unshakeable joy. I can only give Jesus the credit b/c I know my stubborn and defiant heart wouldn’t have come to him on my own. Oh, Lord, thank you that I get to join you in your death and for showing me my sin and resurrecting me over and over again. Thank you for your pursuit of me, tackling me, humbling me, helping me to be still and wait for you as you wait for me. Amen
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.” Ps 68: 19-20

Cynthia has been attending Second City Church for about 20 years. She and her husband Wes live in Camp Hill and have been married for 28 years. Cynthia works as a licensed professional counselor and Wes is an Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat doctor).
Cynthia and Wes have traveled to Africa several times on medical mission trips with CURE International. CURE is a Christian nonprofit organization that provides medical and spiritual care to some of the poorest children in the world.
Cynthia’s passion is her work with Peace Promise, an organization that works to befriend and offer hope to those who have been forced into slavery through human trafficking. Human trafficking is the second largest, fastest growing criminal industry in the world. To learn more about their mission you can visit their website at peacepromise.org. Their Virtual Annual Benefit Event will be held on Friday, April 9th. They are collecting baskets filled with various items they can use for their virtual silent auction. You can either visit their website for more information of see Cynthia.
Cynthia also loves to hike with her husband, ride horses, tap dance, kayak and write children’s books.  
Cynthia is full of life even though she has had 8 cardiac arrests and wears a defibrillator. As a result, she has faced death several times and is thankful each day to God that she is alive and able to serve her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Lenten Meditation Week 3 - Dawn Pope

When I watch a TV show or movie with my kids, I know that part of the time, they will be watching me. They are watching to see if I’m going to cry. They expect it to happen, but they don’t understand it. They have said they want to be able to cry, but things just don’t sadden them the way they sadden me. Conflict between characters can make me cry. Acts of underserved kindness can make me cry. Triumph after struggle can make me cry. My kids want to understand, but they can’t. So, they do what they can do; they watch me.

Liberty dreams of being a published author. But, she said that she knows she will never be a great writer because she hasn’t experienced suffering. She’s not yet 14, but she knows that in order to experience life, she needs to suffer. She also said that she imagines traumatic backstories for herself because she wants her life to be more interesting.

Before I had kids, a friend shared that she sometimes prayed her children would suffer. I was horrified. How could a parent want her child to suffer? But, she explained that she knew her kids had a relatively easy and sheltered life. They didn’t need anything and had a lot of their wants. If one doesn’t have any unmet needs, it’s hard to learn to rely on God. I heard her, but I still didn’t understand.

Lately, I have found myself wanting to pray my kids will experience suffering, but I’m too afraid to say the words. I don’t want real suffering; I want controlled suffering. I just want them to suffer enough to realize that they can’t do anything apart from Christ. But I know that that kind of realization, that kind of dependency, can only come through real, heart wrenching suffering.

I have lived a life of suffering. I have lived a life of abuse, abandonment, and betrayal. I am the orphan. I am the stranger. I am the widow. I know pain. I know what it’s like to be completely alone and have to choose to either fight to survive or choose to lie down and die. I chose to survive, but I was not living. I will be 47 in about a month. I knew death for 40 of those years. I became a Christian at 20, but my life was still defined by trauma for 20 more years.

I am now in the land of the living, but it took a whole lot of wilderness to get here. In 1994, I asked God to prove to me He was real. He did. Over and over and over and over. Since then, every time I’ve wanted to deny He was real, He reminded me of all the ways He’s proved Himself to me before. I knew He was real, but I didn’t see how He could be good. It didn’t make sense how I (or any of the many others in this world like me) was being loved by God when so many people were abusing me. I still don’t have a reason for why my life had to have so many traumatic experiences, but I have learned to trust God even when things don’t make sense.

I don’t want my kids to experience abuse. I don’t want them to be abandoned. I don’t want them to be betrayed. But I do want them to know the Comforter. I want them to cry out to Him. I want them to know that He will answer. I know Him because He has comforted me. He heard me when I cried. He has redeemed me.

My life isn’t over. I know I will continue to experience suffering until my heart stops beating. I also know that He will not reject me nor forsake me and He will walk with me. My prayer is that my kids can also say that… even though this mama bear is torn between fierce protection and wanting them to cry out to God.

Part of lent is learning to let go. This season of lent, my thoughts have been focused on learning to trust God with my kids. I have to trust that He is good and what they go through will bring them closer to Him.

Dawn Pope has been an active member of Second City Church since 2000. She attends with her twin daughters, Liberty and Glory. Dawn worked for the Coalition for Christian Outreach with Tricia Tanis. Tricia and her husband Dave were members of City’s Gate (earlier name for SCC) and invited Dawn to church. Dawn visited the church and stayed. She has been a part of a number of community groups at Second City. One memory of the Prescott’s Bible study, was how the twins would sleep in a spare bedroom at the Prescott’s home while she attended the Bible Study. She also shared how members of the study would help her carry her sleeping children to her car at the end of the night. What a beautiful picture of covenant community!

Dawn says when COVID 19 isn’t preventing her from having fun, she can be found country line dancing, roller skating or riding the roller coasters at Hershey park. Her favorite coaster is Storm Runner. She also shares that she consistently sings off key but loves participating in musicals. She was blessed to participate in a musical two years ago with Liberty and Glory and really enjoyed it. She hopes to do more acting once the pandemic is over.

Dawn works for Paxton Ministries as a Support Coordinator and also lives on their campus with “the twins”, Liberty and Glory.

Lenten Meditation Week 2 - Jed Stalker

After the Lord’s period of fasting in the wilderness, he was tempted by Satan himself. Satan’s third temptation, the last, is this:
He brought him to Jerusalem, and he set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, “if thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: for it is written, ‘He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.’ ”
              I’ve only recently understood in which way this can be considered a temptation. It’s such an outrageous request; there’s nothing obviously desirable about what Satan is suggesting. The other temptations are straightforward, compared to this: bread, for physical hunger, and power, for emotional hunger. This temptation is far more subtle, and I realize now it’s one I’ve been feeling for a while myself.
              Satan is tempting the Lord in his humanity to show God the Father’s power via a miracle. He’s tempting him to satisfy his spiritual hunger by forcing God to act, rather than waiting for God to act in his own time. I also have this hunger. Satan is asking Jesus to put himself in a dangerous situation so that God can be shown in front of his people as a protector, a lover of his Son in a demonstrable way. The temptation is subtle because the results seem so obviously good— who then could doubt Jesus? And wouldn’t God the Father get the glory of the miracle? And the temptation is powerful because it gets to the heart of Jesus’s relationship with his Father. If you’re the Son of God, if there’s really something special in your relationship with God, well, let’s see it.
              Let’s see a miracle.
              And I’m in a place where Satan’s temptation feels awfully tempting. I feel like I’ve been putting in work, putting in prayers, stripping down all my earthly desires in order to match God’s more fully, and I’d like to see some results. I’d like some miracles.
              What I want is, I think, good. I think the Bible affirms my desires as good. I want to see conversions, lives changed, revival. But what I find instead, and continuously, is just the grind, the moral grind, with no discernable results. And the temptation is to think that, as I don’t see obviously Spirit-filled results, the Holy Spirit is not involved in the work. Anyone can be reasonably moral, anyone can be reasonably self-sacrificial, I find myself thinking, so what separates ordinary morality for the sake of a quiet and altruistic life from the type of Kingdom-furthering life I hope to live?
              The miracles don’t come. The family members stay stuck in their sin patterns or their theological error despite years of prayer. Conversions of neighbors, friends, coworkers, don’t happen. Evil seems to triumph. People I pour emotional resources into, invite into my home, cover with earnest prayer, choose sin instead of the savior.
              This is, simply, a lonely place to be. I want to see God and praise him for his acts rather than praise him despite his apparently not acting. I want to see miracles. The sky, as poet Wallace Stevens says, would seem “much friendlier then, not this dividing and indifferent blue.”
I feel tempted in Jesus’s temptation. When Satan says “if you are the Son of God,” he’s saying, all at once, maybe your ministry isn’t what you think it is, or maybe God isn’t who you think he is, or maybe God just isn’t there at all. Satan is asking if we are merely deluded in the object of our faith. If Jesus, if we, did jump off the pinnacle, wouldn’t we actually just hit the ground?
In short, if the story our faith tells us is true, why doesn’t it ever look and feel true? Isn’t the most reasonable explanation that it isn’t?
It was the “silence of these infinite spaces” that frightened Pascal. And one of the thoughts Pascal used to comfort himself was that his church was able to prove itself by miracles.
I feel very Lenten, this Lent season. I’m yearning more than ever for Easter. 

Jed Stalker and his family moved to the Harrisburg area from Milton, PA. Jed is a teacher at Covenant Christian Academy where he teaches English and History. He comes from a long line of teachers. His mother, grandfather, brother, and two brothers-in-law are all teachers. He’s always been interested in education and believes it is a good way to do meaningful work for the Kingdom.
Jed is married to Julianna and they have 3 biological daughters and are fostering two children. He loves children’s books and loves reading them to his children. He also loves poetry, running and talking about football. Jed’s other interests are running and talking about football. He is an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan. He also loves taking walks with his family and playing in the many parks Harrisburg has to offer. He and his wife love living in Harrisburg and are really looking forward to getting to know everyone at Second City Church.

Lenten Meditation Week 1 - Bruce Weatherly

“This is the great fast, when mortals see their poverty completely exposed, when the slightest vestige of their life in themselves is torn out by the roots.”     Francois Fenelon, 17th century archbishop of Cambrai, France. 
Philippians 3:10,11 – “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” 
The “great fast” is a giving up, a letting go of insistence on understanding, a letting go of insistence on feeling good, a supernaturally bestowed enduring of confusion, an ongoing God-orchestrated, God-caused letting go of control at ever deepening levels of our being.  It’s hard to go through, it’s painful, sometimes agonizing.  It’s dying on the cross, it’s inward, it’s letting go, it’s brokenness that results in life, it’s worth every moment. 
In Luke 4:1-15, Jesus spent 40 days fasting and then tempted by the devil.  Verses 14 and 15 say that after the time of temptation and trial, He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.  He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised Him. 
The church fathers teach us, “Where God finds space He enters.”  This inward space only is created by brokenness, by an inward letting go of control that only happens through suffering.  Allowing suffering and hardship in our lives is God’s loving way of causing us to deeply surrender at levels and in ways that we would never choose.  In fact, in the midst of suffering, rather than surrender to Him, we ignorantly fight against Him.  What we want in our spirit more than anything our flesh fights against just as hard.  God must do it in us and for us, and He does, in His perfect way, in His perfect timing.  Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered, and so must we.
But this brokenness of our will, this dying to self, this letting go, always results in being filled up.  The Holy Spirit who lives inside of us always fills in space created by brokenness with Himself.  By sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings and becoming like Him in His death, we somehow come to more and more, in this life, experience the resurrection from the dead.  By becoming like Him in His death…”Yet not what I will, but what You will”… the oneness we already have with Christ becomes more and more real in our experience. 
Oh Christian, these things are life.  These things explain all your experience, both outward and inward.  Oh that we would recognize this and thereby come to live more and more in reality.  Scripture interprets and explains all of your experience, both outward and inward. 
Oh that we would more and more recognize the fact that, both outwardly and inwardly, everything every moment, moment by moment, is God working in us to free us from ourselves and give us Himself.  We hereby begin to know the love that surpasses knowledge.   
By grace through faith, letting go of control, in whatever form it is taking, at ever deepening levels of our being…this is the great fast.    

Bruce and his wife Donna have been attending Second City Church for 8 years and have been members for 7 years. Before coming to the Harrisburg area Bruce served as a Pastor to Missionaries doing Pastoral Oversight in Asia. Bruce is a  licensed psychologist and has been counseling professionally for 35 years. He loves to fish and caught his largest bass, a 4 pounder, in Presque Isle Bay in Northern PA. Bruce and his wife Donna have been married for 39 years. They have 3 grown children and 5 grandchildren. Bruce also serves as an elder at Second City Church.

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