Loretta Bushlack

loving life.

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Abide in Me

We had all 6 of our kids home for Christmas. At first it was a frankly difficult adjustment getting used to all those people (and their stuff) back under one roof. But then when it was time to say goodbye, it was equally difficult watching them go.

I found myself wanting to live the last few hours in slow motion, taking advantage of those final meals and memories. Paying extra attention and relishing every last little bit of their company so that once they are far, far away I can relive those precious moments in my heart.

That’s what I imagine John 13-17 was like for the disciples. How often did they mentally replay those final, sweet memories with Jesus? How much they must’ve cherished the beloved words he shared with them mere hours before his execution.

One of the final instructions Jesus gave was, “Abide in me.” Abide. Remain. Dwell. Continue. Tarry. Endure. The idea is staying. Strong’s concordance definition says: “Staying in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy.” Take off your coat and stay awhile. Our world doesn’t like to slow down and tarry. But we need to. And Jesus told us to.

This year we are hosting a weekend event to give you the opportunity to do just that. To take off your coat and stay awhile with Jesus. For once to abide and continue and remain in your time with Him. To seek His presence for longer than a 30 minute quiet time before rushing off to the next thing.

This event is called AbideCR. It will take place on February 11-12, 2022, hosted at New Covenant. Friday evening and all day on Saturday, you will have extended time to pray, journal, learn, sing, reflect, discuss, and bask in the presence of Almighty God.  It’s going to be amazing.

We are creating a unique and special space for you to drink deeply of the goodness of God. Additionally, we have partnered with local businesses Feedwell Kitchen & Bakery, The Hip-Stir and Crumbl Cookies to make sure you feed your body as well as your soul. Think of it as a spiritual retreat and a night out and a staycation all in one.

We are linking arms with great leaders from many area churches who will bring solid biblical teaching, passionate worship, and a heart to experience the glory of God in the unified Body of Christ as we all abide in Him.

We also welcome special guest Aaron Williams and the Worship Initiative Band all the way from Dallas, Texas. They will be leading us in some extended times of worship as well.

Tickets are on sale at an early-bird rate of $69. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but you can also get an additional $10 off by using the promo code ABIDESAVE10.  Bring your family and friends and come cherish some precious time with our great God. Get your tickets today.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4).

So excited to see you there!

Recommendations

When was the last time someone shared with you a “100 %, would recommend”, word-of-mouth endorsement? Whether it was Crumbl Cookies or MODE boutique, or Feedwell Kitchen & Bakery, I bet once you heard the recommendation you made a mental note to try it out for yourself.

I have a couple of those to share with you.

Firstly I want to recommend to you some great advice that my husband and I received when our kids were young: 

If you’re married, keep dating your spouse.

I know that once the babies come along, those helpless, adorable, needy, charming, tiny little darlings do everything they can to become the center of your family universe. Don’t let them. Does that strike you as odd coming from your Children’s Ministry Director? Maybe. Especially when Hollywood and Disney and the mommy blogs all tell you to “put the kids first.” Instead, I strongly suggest “put the marriage first” and let the kids come in at a strong second.

There’s a ton of reasons I endorse this. One is that I believe kids feel most loved and secure when the adults in their lives are loved and secure. Another is the reality that the universe doesn’t revolve around your kids. They might as well learn that as soon as possible. Lastly, before you know it, your kids are going to be gone. Gonzo. Vamoose. And you’re going to be left at home staring at this other adult with 30 more years of life ahead of you. That’s way more time to be married after the kids are grown and gone than before. That’s a pretty big chunk of time. You’ll be wise to invest where you’ll get the best long-term returns.

Date each other. Go out to dinner. Go for walks. Sometimes Jeremy and I would just go grab a stack of books at Barnes & Noble or the library and leaf through them while drinking a coffee. Dates don’t have to break the budget. Put the munchkins to bed and turn off the TV. Read a book together. Talk about something besides work and the kids (this may take some planning ahead-that’s okay).

And once in a while-go away together. Stay in a hotel. Winky winky. Sometimes we simply go to Hotel Kirkwood for a night, not even leaving town. Just to focus on each other and keep the romance alive. 100% would recommend.

My second word of mouth recommendation is for an event coming up next month: AbideCR. Trust me, it is going to be incredible and worth the investment.

AbideCR will take place on February 11-12, 2022, hosted at New Covenant. We will join together with other area churches Friday evening and all day on Saturday. You will have extended time together or individually to pray, journal, learn, sing, reflect, discuss, and bask in the presence of Jesus. 

We are creating a unique and special space for you to drink deeply of the goodness of God. Additionally, we have partnered with cool local businesses Feedwell Kitchen & Bakery, The Hip-Stir and Crumbl Cookies to make sure you feed your body as well as your soul. Think of it as a spiritual retreat and a date night and a staycation all in one. 

And we’ll welcome special guest Aaron Williams and the Worship Initiative Band all the way from Dallas, Texas. They will be leading us in some extended times of worship as well.

Tickets are on sale now at an early-bird rate of $69. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but you can also get an additional $10 off by using the promo code ABIDENCBC. The catered meals alone are worth the price of admission. 

And just in case your ears perked up at the idea of a night out at a hotel-we have negotiated a super discounted rate at the Marriott for conference attendees. Get a babysitter and really enjoy each other. Winky winky.

There’s a couple quick word of mouth recommendations I hope you’ll consider! Make 2022 the year where you invest in your most important relationships. 

See you there!

Big News

At a moment’s notice everything can change.

You’ve probably received a phone call that rocked your world. News you were not expecting. A death. A diagnosis. A divorce. An accident. The kind of news that changes everything.

Big news like that brings incredible clarity: plans change dramatically according to what is needed to bring immediate care to an urgent situation.

But have you ever received good news that changed everything and shifted your perspective? The day I found out I was expecting our first baby was one of those days for me. Finding out four years later that I was carrying twins was another. It’s the kind of news that says life will never be the same——in a good way.

Imagine being these people who received the ultimate good news that changed everything:

  • Mary: Do not be afraid…for you have found favor with God.
  • Elizabeth: Behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
  • Joseph: Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
  • Shepherds: Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, which is Christ the Lord.
  • Magi: We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship Him.
  • Simeon: My eyes have seen your salvation…a light for revelation to Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

When we get sudden bad news, we become aware of the distractions and foolish nonsense that seeps into our daily lives and robs us of precious time. We clutch to our hearts the ones we hold dearest. We recite prayers and scriptures and hymns that declare the promises we most cherish. And we vow to never forget, to never ever again take for granted the blessedness of life.

The best news of all——the news about Jesus——should have an even more profound effect on our hearts and minds and priorities. May you ponder the good news that changes everything this Christmas and may it propel you with joy into the New Year.

With love,

P.S. I can’t believe they talked me into being in this Christmas Spectacular video. But if you’re in the mood for some old fashioned Christmas Fun, check it out!

Little Lord Jesus

This Sunday, December 19, 2021, The Little Angels (NCBC Kids, ages 2-3) will be singing in our Main Services. Well, let’s be honest: Some of them will sing and some of them will freeze up and stare at the crowd and some of them will pick their noses. Still, it’s going to be adorable.

I was humming one of their songs this morning: “Away in a Manger.” And suddenly, a line jumped out at me.

“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed…”

Which reminded me of something else many years later in our Savior’s life: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58).

That precious head, containing the wisdom that created both fox and bird, was still scrounging for a place to rest. That sacred head, with a face set like flint toward Jerusalem where it would receive blows, spit, and a crown of thorns. Son of God and Son of Man. Not just homeless. Bed-less.

It’s easy to feel sad, confused, or indignant at what seems like injustice toward Jesus. I want to cry, “No fair!” and pity Him. It’s easy to project my own ideals onto the story and miss the radical point.

Jesus didn’t come to value the things we do: Wealth or health or prestige or comfort. He didn’t pursue security or self-actualization. He abandoned all those worthless trinkets in favor of something better, something completely opposed to our world and to our personal hierarchy of needs.

The Baby with no crib for a bed and the Son of Man without a place to lay His head, this Jesus, he came to go low. As low as possible. As low as an impoverished child. As low as a slave. As low as a homeless person. As low as a condemned criminal.

His lowliness wasn’t tragic. It wasn’t accidental. It wasn’t forced upon him.

He chose to go low. On purpose. He chose to reject the path of billions of self-serving sinners and instead He lived according to God’s will alone. A path full of poverty, discomfort, infamy, rejection, betrayal, danger, violence and murder. He came to receive honor and glory in the most countercultural way. No crib for his head was just the beginning.

I don’t know how your Christmas season is going. Maybe perfectly merry and bright. Or maybe tinged with the bleakness of poverty, discomfort, fear, betrayal, or grief. One thing is certain: you are either coming out of a dark season, in the midst of one, or heading toward one soon. It’s not personal. It’s just the way it is on this broken planet.  All of creation is groaning with a need for the light of Christ who showed us how to go low, how to suffer, with endurance and hope.

As you hear the old, familiar Christmas carols, may you be filled anew with adoration for our gentle and lowly King. He is so good.

Holiday Grrrrr…atitude

Holidays are tough.  I mean they are also potentially fabulous and fun and meaningful. But let’s be mega-honest for a minute. There is so much pressure. There’s the added expenses. There’s the extended family time (enough said). There’s the travel. Hours in a confined space with small children. Or if you stay home and host, there’s the prep and clean up and little time left to actually “holiday.” There’s other, internal pressures too. Pressure to be a perfect family having a perfect holiday in our perfect matching holiday outfits. Pressure to make it Instagram-worthy. Pressure to prove (to ourselves, our parents, our friends) that we are good enough.

I understand. I’ve been there. Right down to the matching clothes. We end up losing the whole point of holidays: Meaningful days we cherish with the ones we love.

When our kids were small, Jeremy and I received a piece of counsel from a wise and godly man we admired. His simple advice:

Make more good memories than bad.

Easier said than done! Holidays may have rich potential to make good memories. But all these pressures can turn us into grown-up grinches and scroogettes and turn these days into times of regret filled with angry outbursts, slamming doors, hurt feelings, silent drives, and miserable memories.

Is it possible to go from horrific holidays to happy holidays? Can we leverage the potential into actual good memories? When stress and negativity are winning, Is there a giant magical switch we can flip or a pressure-valve we can relieve?

No. Not exactly. But there is a practice that is helpful.  It is not only trendy, it’s biblical.

Gratitude.

There are medical studies that indicate that practicing gratitude is good for your mental and bodily health. That’s why it’s trendy.  There’s also 165 times in scripture where practicing gratitude is either mentioned or commanded. That’s why it’s biblical.

I know the long car ride to Grandma’s is going to be miserable. But can you thank God in that situation? Maybe be thankful that your mom is still able to live independently and still has the health to host the family. Thankful for portable video players. Thankful for Ziploc bags and Goldfish crackers. Thankful for noise-canceling headphones?

I know cooking for a crowd is expensive and tons of work. But can we thank God for a functional kitchen, warm home, full fridge, and source of income? Or thank God we live in a state that doesn’t have a turkey shortage this year?

I know there’s a craving to show the world (or ourselves) that our family is awesome. We want the perfect #blessed social media post with affirmations about how adorable your kids are or comments from high school friends saying how great you still look. But can we instead thank God for the thousands of precious, private, personal moments the world will never see: moments with sweatpants, sleepy eyes, warm cuddles and pure love?

There’s a blessing somewhere even in those hard, disappointing moments. Count it.

I encourage you to start a gratitude journal with your family this Thanksgiving. See how long it takes you to get to 100 things. Or 500. Or 1000.

As you create your list, go beyond “my family” and “my house.”  Be specific. “The coffee my wife makes every morning.” “My husband’s patience.” “Healthy kids.” I truly believe that if you really put thought and heart into it you will notice your attitude turn to gratitude, giving you happier memories—even when your quart of homemade gravy spills all over the back of your minivan on the way to Thanksgiving dinner and your vehicle smells faintly like turkey for the next two years (true story).

Maybe this sounds too simplistic. Sometimes life is excruciating. I know. But practicing gratitude teaches the truth that no matter how hard today is, we can still be thankful to God. Mine for those blessings like bitcoin. They are the currency of good memories and even happy holidays.

“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name” (1 Chronicles 29:10-13).

Just for dads…

Hi Guys:

I realize I don’t usually write just for the fellas but I had a couple of things I wanted to share.

First of all, thank you. Thank you for being the man. There’s so much pressure to provide and support and care and manage. There are deadlines at work and complex schedules at home. Everyone wants a piece of you 24/7. And at the end of a long workday, you still need to be emotionally present for your family. That’s a lot. For doing those things and still trying to look and live like Jesus, I’m impressed. And so, thank you.

Secondly, I came across this unbelievable podcast recently that I just had to share with you guys. It’s wise. It’s funny. It’s challenging and inspiring. It’s a great resource for you to kind of sort through what it means to be a great husband and a father. I know that’s what you want. This podcast can help.

Listen to: The Intentional Family on Spotify. By Jon Tyson and Jefferson Bethke.

Here’s just one little snippet:

According to Richard Rohr’s work, Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation

There’s five universal rules of manhood.

  1. Life is hard.
  2. You are not important.
  3. Your life is not about you.
  4. You are not in control.
  5. You are going to die.

Sounds super uplifting, right? But imagine deluding your child with the opposite. Life will be easy.  You are the center of the world. Your life is all about you and you’re in complete control. And you’re going to live forever.  As Jon Tyson says in the podcast, “That’s Peter Pan.”

There’s this whole wonderful episode of the podcast where Jon Tyson describes how he turned those 5 rules into 5 shifts every boy needs to make on his journey to authentic manhood. 

For example, number 1 “Life is hard.”  The shift in becoming a man is, “…from ease to difficulty. Boys want things to be easy, men embrace hardship.”

I love the way he puts language around a concept that we all want to teach our kids. Life is hard. It’s not going to serve you well if you’re lazy and easily daunted. As you grow toward adulthood, what are some difficulties that we can face and embrace together?

  • Train for a 5K.
  • Memorize bible verses.
  • Do yard work.
  • Do household chores.
  • Complete a challenging _________  (jigsaw puzzle, domino maze…whatever)
  • Build something with your own hands.
  • DIY a household project.
  • Change the oil.
  • Face a fear.

I’m praying for you dads. You are doing the Lord’s work. I hope you find this podcast to be not only encouraging to you as you lead your family, but also a source of great ideas and motivation for you to persist in doing good.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58).

Unfading hope.

How are you feeling about autumn? The weather and the colors this year have been terrific, you must admit. But now, the flowers are spoiling, the colors are fading, and the long, warm days are perishing…and that can only mean one thing: Winter is coming.

Winter is coming. Stuffing kids into snowpants, boots, mittens, scarves, and coats. Scraping windshields, shoveling walkways, and plowing driveways. Leaving for work and coming home in the pitch dark. Winter can get old.

And some of you are facing a double-whammy of sorts. In addition to the coming cold, you may be worrying about: unemployment or job security, surgery, chemotherapy or other medical care, separation or divorce, upcoming bills or eviction.

If you are dreading life’s next season, the falling leaves outside may cause distress. But what if all the perishing and spoiling and fading we see around us could actually serve as a bright and hopeful reminder of the promises of God?

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you…” (1 Peter 1:3-4).

An inheritance that doesn’t perish, spoil, or fade? That’s unthinkable. Those three words describe the destiny of everything in this life—even the best things: gardens full of fruits and veggies, youthful beauty, and young love. Healthy bodies and rewarding work. And one day even our most precious of things—our relationships—will end. All things degenerate and die.

Talk about distressing! Our hearts yearn for something more. Something that won’t perish, spoil, or fade. If in this life only we have hope, we are most to be pitied! Be encouraged! We have a hope beyond this life! A hope that answers every sadness, every pain, every bleak tomorrow. We have an inheritance. It is eternal. It is glorious. It is secure. 

“This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:4-6).

We don’t have the answer to when or where or why we must endure various griefs. But we can be infinitely comforted that God is working it all for our ultimate good. And we can hold firm to the knowledge that one day, we will look into the face of our Maker and He will give us a secure, glorious, unfading, unspoiling, unperishing inheritance beyond our wildest dreams.

Winter may be coming, but so is spring.

Dawn is near.

I saw the sunrise today. It was absolutely glorious. One of those sky-on-fire spectacles from which you cannot pull your gaze.

The way the sun and moon and stars and galaxies perfectly run like clockwork has always reminded me of God’s perfect faithfulness. The earth spins on its axis, consistently bringing the spring after winter, and autumn’s beauty after summer. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose (Ecclesiastes 1:5), without fail. And God is like that. Consistent. Unfailing. Perpetual.

But this morning, as the sun burst through the black sky and painted in shades of violet and magenta and tangerine and gold, I was reminded of something else.

Light overcomes darkness. Every day. Every time.

It might not feel like it. As you look at the world, or maybe as you look at your own circumstances, it might seem as if things are on an unending decline toward greater uncertainty, pain, loss, despair, fear, sickness, corruption and evil. It can feel some days, maybe most days, like darkness is winning. 

But it’s not. Jesus, the Light of the World, has come and utterly defeated the powers of darkness through His death and resurrection. And now He has called His chosen people to continue, even in difficult circumstances, to be His source of light in this dark world. No matter how bleak it looks, God’s children must courageously continue to shine bright as we live with faith, hope, and love.

Dawn is near. Jesus, the Light of the World will come again. Because of Him, we are assured that goodness will ultimately prevail. We need to remind ourselves and convince ourselves that’s true. Light overcomes darkness. Every day. Every time. Just peek out your window tomorrow morning at about 7:45, you’ll see.

“All of you are children of the light. You are children of the day. We don’t belong to the night. We don’t belong to the darkness.  So let us not be like the others. They are asleep. Instead, let us be wide awake and in full control of ourselves” (1 Thess 5:5-6 NIRV).

Graveyard Edition

As I write this, our team is busily setting up for Fall Fest, our largest church event of the year…reaching over 1500 people in our church family, neighboring community, schools, and workplaces! This super fun event is Saturday from 10AM-1PM. Bring your costumes, your friends and family, and join us for a completely free, totally fun time for all.

I love the way Fall Fest serves as little bright spot in a typically dark season. Now if you love Halloween, with all its ghosts and goblins, you’ll maybe want to skip this post. I have a hard time understanding a celebration of the pretend monstrous and frightening in a world that can be both monstrous and frightening. I’ve wondered maybe the homes that fill their front yards with gravestones maybe just haven’t yet had a lot of experience seeing a beloved’s name carved on one.

But I had an experience recently on vacation that had me studying and contemplating a lot of gravestones.

We toured The Freedom Trail in Boston this month (10/10 stars. Would recommend). This self-guided walk took us past tons of famous historical locations of the U.S. Revolutionary War. A couple of the stops were old “burying grounds” where we saw the graves of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and others.

But the thing that was most intriguing was the wording on most of the headstones:

“Here lies buried the body of…”

Not here lies Uncle Jimmy. Or Grandma Caroline. Or Dad.

Thanks be to Jesus Christ, the Mighty Victor over the grave, here lies buried only the body. The shell. A shadow.

The real person—their soul, and spirit, and personality, that is not here. That is not bury-able. That part has met its Maker as they say. And He in His merciful justice has decided what to do with each one.

As you drive through the neighborhoods covered in cobwebs and bones and blood on this holiday determined to make you afraid; don’t let it. Because you are in Christ, there is literally nothing to fear. No ghosts, or goblins, or zombie apocalypse or supply chain shortage.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Hope to see you at Fall Fest! 10/10 stars! Would recommend!

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