Prayers of the People (written by Daniel Falkovic, Sarah Falkovic, and Betsy Kelly)

Friends, let us pray.

We pray for the world, for those in distress, for those in authority- that peace and justice might prevail.
We pray for the nation, the state, local communities, and those who govern them- that they may know and have the strength to do what is right.
We pray for the world- that we may use our resources responsibly and sustainably.
We pray for those that struggle with their faith- that they may know God’s love and boldly share that love with others,
We pray for those in the midst of transitions in life- that they may be guided by God’s word.
We pray for those who are sick, grieving, lonely, and anxious- that they may be comforted and healed.
We pray for those in our midst…
Above all, we pray that everyone in this congregation, in our communities, and in the world know and share God’s perfect love.
We pray these things together in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ who taught us to pray saying…Our Father…

Daniel Falkovic (Text: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Delivered August 2017)

In two weeks I will begin my senior year of high school, the year I have to make some of the most important decisions in my life. Where will I go to college, what do I want to study, and what does my future hold for me? In our Scripture reading for today, we learn that Joseph has a dream, a prophecy, that people will one day bow down to him. I have been asking myself, how does Joseph’s story relate to my life? Will God help guide me and help me find my calling? Will I allow my vision for the future to be woven with what God has planned for me? Sometimes, I wish that a prophecy would come to me in a dream, so that way I would know what God has planned for me, and I wouldn’t have to do the planning part myself.

In our Scripture reading, Joseph, like me, is seventeen years of age at the time. Joseph’s dream is a seed that God plants in his mind, and his dream eventually becomes his future. If Joseph could allow the presence of God into his life, then how could other people, such as myself, do the same?

A few weeks ago, I was with the youth group at the Montreat Youth Conference. One of the topics for our worship service was the notion of disruption in life and how can we turn to God for answers. I understood what he meant, but it wasn’t something I had ever experienced. Then, at the end of the

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week at Montreat, I came face to face with disruption. It started with mild chest pains and shortness of breath, which progressively got worse as the hours went by. It eventually got to the point of excruciating pain that made it impossible for me to sit or lay down. An ambulance was called and I ended up at Mission hospital in Asheville, and was diagnosed with pericarditis, which is inflammation of tissue that surrounds the heart. (Note: If you are worried, don’t be, I’m fine. I took some drugs and it went away. Here I would like to give a special thanks to Taylor, Geoff Vaughn, Fritz Simonson, Ms. Feiler, Don, Helen, and all of the other youth advisors for making sure I was ok during that frightening experience). However, during that disruption, I remember that I wasn’t worried, I felt nothing but comfort. When I think back about what happened, I wonder why I wasn’t as anxious, worried, or upset as I would’ve expected. I can only attribute what I felt to the fact that God was there comforting me. It seemed ironic that this would happen the day after the worship service about disruption, especially such a rare and unexpected medical condition.  It seems more than a coincidence that the theme for the week at Montreat was A Missing Peace; because through my medical crisis I learned that I can turn to God when peace is missing.

I know that God will also guide me through my future. Deciding where I will go to college, what I will study, and what my job will be. For years now, I always thought I wanted my future career to be related to math and science. I wanted to become a software engineer. However, I feel that my passion has been changing over the past couple of weeks. I have become more and more interested in economics. Whether my interests completely change, remain the same, or if I can somehow blend them together, I know that God has a plan for me. A prophecy that maybe I’ll one day see in a dream, just as Joseph did.

From the time I was very young here at Westminster, being cared for in the nursery, attending sunday school, taking naps during worship service, and even now, planning to serve as co-moderator for youth group, my journey of faith has been expanding. I remember sunday school, learning bible stories, songs with the guitar man, the christmas pageant, and serving in the love feast. During confirmation I developed a deeper and more personal relationship with God. I am very grateful to be a part of this church family, which has equipped me to deal with the life challenges that lay ahead.

It’s still hard to believe that I only have one more year left with my time here at youth group. All of the various sunday afternoons, mission trips, and retreats have gone by all too quickly. As I look forward to my future I will keep many past youth group memories in mind. For now though, I will embrace, and hopefully enjoy being a co moderator for youth group this year. I cannot wait to finish my final year of high school strong, and look forward to my college experience.

 

Connor Garcia (Text: 1 John 4:7-21; Delivered April 2018)

Verse 12, no one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let’s start with “No one has ever seen God.” This one line sticks out to me because of the directness of it. The whole passage is talking about love. Love one another, God loves us, love you brothers and sisters. Then right there in the middle, no one has ever see God. I think that it is very symbolic of how much we have to love to actually love and believe in God. We are given this unconditional, unwavering love by God and so many times we don’t return that love most likely because in everyday life we do not see God. On a Thursday morning when we are trying to get to school and work, do we think of how much God has given us and how much he must love us to be a constant in our lives? We don’t thank him nearly enough. I will be the first to admit I do this. When i hit a clutch double on a big friday night game, I think “Yes! My hard work paid off.” not “Thanks God for putting me in a place to succeed and allowing me to be here today.” It is backwards thinking; why thank this mysterious source of power when I put in the work and performed the action? I have never seen God so it is hard for me to put him first. But that is what is crazy about God – he wants us to see him in others and when we display that love to others, that is when he feels best. That is his big performance. When someone is put in a difficult situation and instead of being mad at someone they decide to forgive and love, that is when God goes, “Yes! That’s what I’m talking about.”

I am sorry I’m going to use a sports story because that is about the only thing I know. Chris Singleton was an outfielder for Charleston Southern University. His mother was one of the nine people killed in the Charleston shooting in June 2015 at Mother Emanuel AME church. He gave a speech and in it he said “My mom was a God-fearing woman and loved everyone with all her heart.” He goes on and says that Love is bigger than hate and that with love things will get better. This is that perfect love at work. Chris had every reason to hate and become a bitter person but he had experienced perfect love through his mother so he was able to demonstrate that love in even the most painful of times.

Perfect love is like one of those hidden pictures, once you see it, you can’t unsee it. Seeing someone go out of their way to help another you might miss but once you experience it you don’t miss it. My family is very hectic and it is was very easy to assume that we did not always step up and show perfect love to each other. But as I have gone on my faith journey and have been able to see more acts of love more clearly it is in those little moments when mom is getting home late and I’m doing homework and she knocks on my door and asks how my day was and tell me that she loves me or when dad as I’m rushing out the door at 8:40 on a gameday and says, “Hey good luck tonight. Do your best.” Those are the moments I have been able to see that perfect love.

But really those moments are just practice. Practice for those four or five crucial moments when love is needed. In sports you practice plays for hours upon hours, or musicals where your read lines over and over to memorize them, or just practicing how to be a good person to get a promotion. Why? For those

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couple of moments when you need everything you practiced to help you succeed. It’s the same with love. God’s love is perfect, but, we aren’t so we have to practice how to love and then show God’s perfect love so that when those four or five moments come we are ready to make God go, “Yes! That’s what I’m talking about.”

 

Betsy Kelly (Text: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Delivered August 2017)

Let’s talk about Joseph a bit. Joseph has 11 brothers. He isn’t the oldest, isn’t the roughest, isn’t the toughest, but he is his father’s favorite son. Joseph’s father, Jacob, isn’t exactly discreet about his favoritism either. Jacob quite obviously loves Joseph more. Jacob even goes so far as to put Joseph against his other brothers, using him as a tattle tale against them. Jacob’s highest display of favoritism, though, is a coat of many colors that he gives Joseph. This coat is a visual representation of the fact that Joseph is better than his brothers, and they are not happy about it.

After Joseph received the coat from his father, he receives two prophetic dreams from God.  In one, he dreams that he is out in the field with his brothers, binding sheaves of wheat. The brothers’ sheaves come over  to Joseph’s and bow down to his. In the other dream, his mother, father, and brothers are all represented by the sun, moon, and stars. Once again, his brothers’ stars bow down to Joseph’s star. The important thing about these dreams is that Joseph is given their interpretation by God. Joseph isn’t making these things up- he’s not trying to scheme here.

Fast forward and here we are: Genesis 37, verse 12 when Jacob sends Joseph to check on his brothers while they’re pasturing the sheep. His father sends Joseph to Shechem, but when he gets there, he doesn’t find his brothers. A man sees Joseph searching for his brothers and tells him that they are in Dothan, a completely different city. (12-18)

Now some random guy, just “happens” to see Joseph, “happens to” ask what he’s looking for,  and just “happens to” overhear the brothers saying they’re at Dothan. This is important. Remember this.

Another important thing to point out is that while Joseph’s brothers hate him, Joseph doesn’t hate his brothers. In fact, he’s willing to travel 20 more miles just to check on them in Dothan. Joseph’s diligent search for his brothers acts almost as a foil to the harsh crime that the brothers will eventually commit against Joseph.

We pick up in verse 18 with Joseph finding his brothers, who are all lovingly planning how they will kill him. They make plans to kill him, throw him in a pit, and tell everyone else that he was eaten by a wild animal. But then his brother Reuben, the oldest of the bunch, convinces the other brothers that killing

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Joseph may be a bit much. Simply ripping Joseph’s robe off, and throwing him into the pit alive would be a much more rational way to seek revenge. (18-24)

For those of you that may not be as familiar with this story: Joseph is eventually sold into slavery by his brothers, and he ends up in Egypt. God then elevates Joseph to a place where he is able to interpret a dream for the Pharaoh and saves the entire world from famine. THE ENTIRE WORLD.

So much in this story seems to be coincidental and meaningless.

  • Joseph is sent to Shechem by Jacob to check on his brothers.
  • The brothers change their mind and decide to go to Dothan.
  • A random stranger hears brothers say they’re going to Dothan.
  • That same stranger sees Joseph wandering down the road and asks what he’s looking for.
  • Ruben happens to be there when the other brothers want to kill Joseph to make sure he doesn’t die.
  • Ruben happens to not be there when the brothers decide to sell him into slavery instead, unable to stop them from doing this.
  • The slave traders happen to be on their way to Egypt.

Friends, if even one of these seemingly random things didn’t line up, the entire world would have died.  Stories like this in the Bible are meant to show us that there are no coincidences with our God. Nothing happens by chance. Nothing is random. God is intentionally weaving the details of Joseph’s life together. God’s dream for us is involved in every single one of these details.

Now this is something that’s pretty easy to understand when we can see the glory of God’s dream at the end. We can see God’s glory in the end result of Joseph’s situation – he’s able to interpret the dream for the Pharaoh. But what about Joseph in the moment? He’s having a pretty awful time. He had his new fancy favoritism robe ripped off of him. He was thrown into a dark pit. His brothers wanted to kill him, but instead, they decided to be kind and only sell him into slavery. His life stinks.

I have absolutely no way of knowing what baggage you came into this room with this morning. But what I do know is that God has not abandoned our struggles in life. The tough things happened in Joseph’s life, just like they happen in ours. Ultimately, had Joseph not dealt with these though things, the entire world would have died. God has a mission – a dream – through these things. He’s saving an entire people. God uses Joseph’s situation to point towards His glory.

I am 100% sure, though, that as Joseph is sitting in the pit, he doesn’t see that yet. I don’t know where you are, but like Joseph, you may not be able to see God’s dream from your pit.

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But friends remember this: God’s dream is woven into every detail of our lives- even the hard parts.  He has not abandoned you right now. He is doing something in this world. He is moving us as a people. God has dreams for us and nothing will stop that.

 

Holly Lockhead (Text: 1 John 4:7-21; Delivered April 2018)

18 There is no fear in love, But perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.

To understand what perfect love is, we must look at what keeps us from it; Fear. As people, this is an emotion that we are all too familiar with. In our faith, we see this fear as doubt that God really exists, doubting if this love is really for us, doubting if we are worth it.

Life on earth is filled with fear.

I have been taught that to receive the things i desire, I must earn it, and if I fail I am not worthy.

This fall I will be attending the University of North Carolina at chapel hill. To achieve this goal there were several things I had to do to earn my admission.

I put in countless hours of work, effort and participation to make good grades. My transcript soon reflected this accumulation of rewards.

However, My transcript would not be enough of a display of my worthiness to unc, so i began to fill my resume. Every hour was strategically filled with clubs, community service, homework, theatre productions, babysitting, you name it, as long as it would help me earn some larger goal. While I did find joy in this well designed rap sheet of activities and classes and they some of my best highschool experiences, it was all for the larger purpose of getting into college.

This give and take is not unique to the process of applying to college. As children you may have completed chores to get dessert.  As a partner in a relationship you may compromise to stay together, and as employees you may work longer hours to impress your boss for a raise.

In this conditional system, beneficiaries feel they have received a reward as a result of their actions, theses same beneficiaries were motivated by the fear of failure.

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BUT , Hear the GOOD news , God’s love does NOT come with conditions. There are no extra hours, no price tag, no tests, no chores, no practices or rehearsals, NO CONDITIONS that will make God love you more.

God proved this to us: While we were sinners by the grace and love and forgiveness of God he sent his perfect son to die for us. He chose us before we could choose to follow  him, she wrapped us in love during creation, he sacrificed his perfect child so what we may be granted a grace that WE DID NOT EARN.

But as humans we continue to doubt and fear  this FREE love.

To feel this Love we must enter into a relationship with God. If there are two directions we can turn to, God is on one end and doubt is on another.

To feel the love of God, we must first stop running from the conditions we assume comes with God’s love, and turn in acceptance towards God, then run into the promises and love she gives.

Too often we choose fear, because fear is familiar to us, while God’s unconditional love feels foreign.

A disciple, named Thomas, dealt with doubt also. Even having known and loved the God on earth, Thomas wanted proof for the resurrection of Jesus. He demanded to see Jesus’ hands and side, a week later jesus appeared and reached out his hands, and let Thomas touch his side so that he may believe. God was NOT MAD that Thomas wanted a little more proof, God was in the relationship with Thomas, called him by name and showed him grace.

So how do we, the doubting thomas’s, feel the love of God? To feel God’s love you have to get to know him. You must spend time chasing the love that we are so quick to give conditions. we have to show up. Entering into this relationship, rediscovering it, or diving deeper can help us to understand this unwavering and consuming love.

Go today remembering it is ok to be afraid, Because God isn’t.

 

Hannah Messick (Text: 1 John 4:7-21; Delivered April 2018)

21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

In my nineteen years, I’ve already learned that sometimes, the best lessons come from the toughest circumstances. Difficulty and obstacles often lead to wisdom and spiritual growth. For me, those tests and lessons came in the form of a mountain climb.

For the past few years I have been going to Montreat with the senior high. At first, my attitude towards the beautiful place was really negative. I thought that Montreat was going to be terrible, and in all honesty, I really didn’t want to be without my phone for a week. I fought to get out of the car the morning of our departure, but I still went, kicking and screaming. When we pulled up to the church parking lot my dad looked at me and said, “Alright, Han, are you ready?” I looked at him with probably the meanest look I could ever give someone, and we all know that I can give a nasty look when I want to, and said, “nope”. When we arrived at Montreat, my attitude was still pretty bad and actually managed to get worse when I found out that the house we were staying in for the week had no air conditioning. I remember telling my mom as soon as we got there that I wanted to go back home because this place was not for me. Well, I spoke way too soon, because as soon as I stepped into worship that night, I quickly began to fall in love with the magical place.

About mid-week we all got up at the crack of dawn to climb the ever-so-famous Lookout Mountain. The night before, I remember talking to Taylor about if it would even be possible for me to climb the mountain. We later agreed that I could do it, but only if I had someone to help me up. Lookout Mountain features uneven ground, spiky roots and rickety stairs — pretty much my own personal nightmare. Once you’ve climbed up the many stairs that seem to never end, the path stops, and in front of you is a series of boulders that stand up at about 90 degrees that we would have to scale to get to the top in order to see the sunrise. By the time I got to the boulders, I was ready to give up. I looked up at the rocks and remember thinking there was no way I would be able to do this. On top of my negative thoughts I was exhausted, and the main thing I really wanted to do was to take a shower and go back to bed.

As soon as I told Allie Ruffing and Mrs. Helen, who helped me up the mountain, that they could go on and that I was happy not finishing, Jack High and Jack Mountain came down and were determined to help me up. They refused to let me miss the opportunity to finish the climb. They created a chain, each person on either side of me, with their arms linked around mine to guide me up the rocks so I could be balanced enough to take the next step. You would think that the rocks would have some sort of slits in them to put your feet in, but no, you had to be insanely careful with your footing and where you placed your feet, as some parts had bigger ledges than others. As you can imagine this would be hard for anyone to climb, not to mention someone with a prosthetic leg. I remember feeling doubtful their strategy would work, but I couldn’t see any way to tell them no, so I went ahead with their plan.

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As we finally made it to the top, I remember looking at everyone, including Mrs. Helen, my preschool teacher from back in the day, with these big tears in her eyes as she watched me make my way up to the top. I felt really proud of myself that I had accomplished something so incredible that I never thought I would ever be able to do. I had made it to the top! I had climbed a mountain! I am so proud that I was a part of this amazing group where they are always willing to help me out. I knew I would never have attempted it by myself, let alone made it to the top.

While on the mountain, we met other youth groups who were also climbing, and even though they didn’t know me personally, there was not a dry eye on that mountain. We took pictures and made the same human chain to get down again. Later that day, around lunch time, Taylor came up to me with tears in her eyes and looked at me and said, “You have made me cry so much today.” I didn’t know if that was a good or a bad thing, but I gave her a big hug and said that I was sorry.

The love that I receive from this group of kids is no other love I have ever felt before. I know this love deeply, but I know it deeply because of my brothers and sisters here, but I wouldn’t have known it if I hadn’t showed up. This is a special youth group where love is so evident and if you don’t participate in youth group, worship, mission trips, and the many other things that this space provides, then it can be really difficult to feel a part of our family that we have formed over the years. I know that it can be challenging to show up with sports and school work over the weekend, but the great thing about this church is that we are all willing to meet everyone halfway. Taylor taught us in our early middle school years to be really inclusive and inviting to other people who are new to youth group or the church. I felt that love and inclusion not just on Lookout Mountain, but at every other event I attended with this group.

I see God work through the youth everyday. Whether that is saying hey in the hallways at school, going to lunch, or agreeing to get ice cream with me at the middle of the night, He is very present in the way these kids portray themselves to the world. I am incredibly proud to see that in them, and I’m grateful for the lessons they’ve taught me along the way.

 

Anna Meyer (Text: 1 John 4:7-21; Delivered April 2018)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

In a world of hate, it can sometimes be difficult to love. God calls us to love one another, yet we fall short. Loving others who are different from us, or who we think are bad people, is challenging. But it is our job as followers of Christ to put our differences aside, and to love and nourish one another.

Look around you. It is easy to love one another. We are all similar. We look alike, we are all Christians, and we live similar lives. But we all come into contact with thousands of other people outside these church walls, and if we love them, we are showing them the love that come from God.

I go to Durham School of the Arts and am lucky enough to learn with a diverse student body. DSA is a place where students can be themselves. At DSA, I’ve made a lot of friends who identify as gay, lesbian, and bisexual. I’ve cheered them on during the Durham Pride Parade, I’ve gone to parties with them at the LGBTQ Center, and have proudly worn a t shirt with the word “equality” on it. As I got closer to one of my gay friends, Jack, I started to reveal more about myself to him, including my strong faith in Jesus and my involvement in church. He was stunned. He couldn’t believe that I was so loving and accepting of him, and also was a Christian. The negative encounters he had with Christians outweighed the positive. He had encountered numerous Christian protesters at the Durham Pride Parade. Having been there myself, I can say that I was extremely saddened by the acts our Christian brothers and sisters were committing. They held up signs that said things like “you’re going to hell” or “God doesn’t love gay people”. It can be confusing for LGBTQ teens to know where their place is in the church. Among the protesters, there were also Christian supporters. Local churches passed out water bottles, and First Pres even marched in the parade. Christians do not have a unified opinion on LGBTQ rights. Experiences LGBTQ teens have at church can vary depending on where they are. One of my friends attended a local baptist church and was a strong believer before he came out to his congregation. His church family rejected him and he lost friends he’d had since he was young. Most importantly, he lost his faith in God, and honestly I can’t blame him for that. Like me, his faith was cultivated in church. Sunday school, worship, and youth group helped grow him into a believer, and when he came out as gay, all of that growth and nourishment vanished, all because his congregation was unwilling to love and accept him. It doesn’t have to be this way. Sometimes teens feel loved and supported when coming out to their church, and it allows them to continue building a strong relationship with their church and God. The hope I have for this church is that we can be a place where LGBTQ people feel comfortable and safe being themselves. Creating this type of safe environment involves more than just saying that we are an accepting church. It means showing love to everyone we meet, even those who we may not agree with.

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When I read this weeks gospel reading, I knew that God was calling me to talk about this. I wish that I had known this reading when I saw Christian protesters at Pride. I wish I could’ve told them that “everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God”. I wish I could’ve told them that our LGBTQ friends love, and even though it’s a different kind of love, it is still a godly love. One that proves that they’re God’s children, and that they know him. I can’t go back in time, but I can give you all the message.

I call you to be the Christian that proves someone like my friend Jack wrong. I call you to be the Christian who spreads Christ’s love to everyone, no matter who they love. I call you to make this church a safe enviroment for LGBTQ people. I call you to continue loving like I know you already do. The love I have seen in this congregation is massive and inspiring, and I call you to use that love to show others in the world the power and beauty of Christ. If we can take our love out of these walls, and show it to those unlike us, we will be living up to 1 John 4:7. Thank you.

Madeleine Yancy (Text: 1 John 4:7-21; Delivered April 2018)

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

Sometimes it is hard to see love every day. We turn on the TV to news of another military attack, another death, another unfortunate event that makes it impossible for us to see the love in daily life. The older we grow, the easier it is to simply see the hate others hold. When a plane falls apart in the middle of the sky, when seventeen students and faculty die merely because they went to school that day, when our government refuses to work together, it becomes hard to find love.

However, love can be found with us every day. Love is in the little things. I see love everyday–when my friend jumps to hug me as a form of greeting, when my dad smiles as my mom comes downstairs dressed up for a date, when my cousin sings her heart out on stage. Most of the time, love doesn’t even look remarkable or amazing. It comes dressed in ordinary clothes, in the form of our daily lives and experiences with those we care about. However, we have to remember that love is extraordinary–something to be grateful for.

“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them,” says verse 16. When I read this verse, it speaks to me of God’s existence in everyday life. If we see love everyday, then we see God everyday, for God is love. Though we have never actually seen God’s true form, he lives within us every day through the love we give and receive. This is important, because God does not just live within the walls of the church–wherever there is love, there is God.

I see love in my friends. When we have something to celebrate, like a college acceptance, or are in need of a therapy session, Hannah and I drive to Harris Teeter. We buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Dough is objectively the best) and eat it in my car using the plastic

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spoons I keep in the glove compartment expressly for that reason. A Harris Teeter parking lot may not sound like the place where you see God’s love, but laughing and talking with one of my best friends, I feel love and his spirit.

Junior and senior year at Jordan, we are allowed to go off campus for lunch. Rather than spend money on fast food every day, my friends and I go to Holly’s house. We steal her food, pet her dog, and talk about our day. On our drive back (where, I swear, we are never late), we sing along to the radio together. These may just be simple lunches, but in them I feel the love for my friends, and I see God.

In middle school, Abby and I would walk our dogs, and more often, bake together–cookies and brownies and cupcakes for our families to share. Though not all of our creations were delicious–whole wheat flour does not make the best cupcakes–during our baking sessions, we never stopped talking or laughing. Though high school has made it harder for us to find hours in which to bake again, Abby and I never stop talking when we’re together, though this sometimes means we spend too much time in the car in front of her house or lying on my driveway. Everytime we come together and talk and laugh, I can feel God’s love.

A couple of years ago, some other youth and I went to the Christmas Carols program here at Westminster. We sat together up in the chorus room, eating cookies and singing along to Christmas songs. A little girl that I babysit, there with her family, left her mom to come sit on my lap and sing the carols with my friends and me. That she felt comfortable enough to move across the room to sing with us, that her mother felt safe in letting her do so–God’s love was in that room. God’s love is in every single room of this place, in every single beautiful relationship we create. We just have to pay attention to it.

Love can be as simple as eating together. Every Sunday, we, the youth, gather together in the fellowship hall. We eat Bojangles biscuits, Domino’s pizza, or a hodgepodge of a potluck. The food itself doesn’t matter; the time set aside worshipping God with some of my best friends in the world does. We have so much going on during the week between school, sports, extracurriculars, work, and some semblance of a social life, that that time set aside to love God and love each other becomes very important, and very valuable. God’s love is always present in the fellowship hall.

We don’t always see love–maybe we’re stuck looking at a fight with our parents, or with our friends, or a tragedy is holding us back. We throw away the word sometimes, calling a quick “love you” as we leave home, saying “bye, love you” as we hang up the phone as if it’s nothing special. But recognizing all the love around us each day is special. Telling those we care about that we love them is especially important.

“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” God’s love lives in us–it dwells within us. God is always everywhere, but everytime we open our hearts to love, to notice all the emotion around us, we open our hearts to him also. So pay attention–recognize love, take note of it, see love. Because it’s everywhere around us. God’s love abides in each of you, in each of us.