Archives For Julie Pfister

Get Over Yourself

Jason Micheli —  April 8, 2013 — 2 Comments

r1-not-ashames* Title courtesy of Dennis Perry.

For the many of you who aren’t part of my church, this is a sermon from Julie Pfister, our Congregational Care Director, who leaves for Utah after this week. Prayers and best wishes to her. Take a few moments to read her sermon; it’s well worth it. 

Romans 1.1-7

Just so you know, I did not ask to preach today and I’m not here because I am special or different from any of you.  I was told that my story and my voice are important, because I’m a Christian

And that God uses broken people like me.

Although Bible study is my favorite part of the week, what I know about scripture could fit on the tip of a pin.

I guess if a Bible scholar is who they thought you should hear this weekend, they would not have asked me.

So, why did I agree to preach this weekend?  Believe me, I have asked myself that question a thousand times over the last few weeks.

Well, I just couldn’t help myself.

Scripture tells me that I am a servant of God – that I am His witness.

I have worshipped with many of you here over the years, but just in case you don’t know me, Im Julie Pfister.  I have been married for 27 years to my husband Steve and have raised three children here in Alexandria, just around the corner.  I have been blessed to work in the church as a teacher in the Day School…. with the babies.  And for the last year and a half, I have served as the Congregational Care Coordinator.

Many of you may know that I am moving in the not too distant future.

My husband must love me very much to have agreed to go to a no-stop light town in South Central Utah to take care of my ailing parents.   It will be a long awkward good-bye as our plans change often depending on the latest updates about my father’s health and treatment plan.  Although Utah is home for me, we have built a life here in this community.    I couldn’t leave Aldersgate for any other reason.

I begged Dennis and Jason:

please please please….just let me just go quietly into the good night.  Let me hitch up my covered wagon and leave at dawn and head west.”

I pleaded….”It’s going to be too difficult to leave and say good bye to everyone.   I will end up crying like a zillion times. “

Jason said he wanted you to hear my voice.

It’s not what I wanted.

Then, Dennis, in his infinite compassion and understanding, said

“Get over yourself.  

We are going to cry and pray for you at a great party.  Get ready!”  

So I said yes.

Get over yourself.”

At its very core, isn’t that what knowing Christ is all about? –

Getting over ourselves and becoming a new creation in Christ.

Casting all fears, burdens, doubts, insecurities, hopes and prayers on HIM.

“As God tells the prophet Isaiah, “You are MY witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.  Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. 

How could I say no, knowing that scripture tells me that I am to witness for Christ?

For the Apostle Paul, everything changed on the road to Damascus. Saul, as he is known before his conversion, encounters the Risen Lord in a flash of light. He is knocked from his horse and blinded.  Jesus asks him why he persecutes Him.  He is told where to find a man named Annanias through whom God would restore his sight.  Annanias tells him that God has chosen him to spread the good news of the Gospel to the Gentiles

He doesn’t shrug the whole thing off.

Sure, he was blind, and then he could see, but he doesn’t write it off and wonder “

What just happened here?”

That couldn’t have really been God?

There are plenty of people throughout scripture that tried to shrug off attention getters like that.

And we see it around us all the time – unwillingness to see the hand of God in our lives, even when His grace and mercy are as tangible as being knocked off a horse and blinded.


But there are also dozens of examples in scriptures of unsuspecting characters who accept God’s call, even when they were not seeking it.  God sought them.

Noah wasn’t looking for an excuse to build an ark.  Moses asked the LORD over and over to not make him go before Pharoah.  David wasn’t tending his sheep thinking….hum….I think I want to be King.

There are many who believe that if God had not chosen Paul to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, and if Paul had not obeyed, that there would have been no worldwide Christian faith.  Most importantly to remember it was not Paul by himself.  It was as he said repeatedly, “not I, but Christ in me.”

So Saul becomes Paul, a new creation in Christ and is horrified to think that his old name Saul of Tarsis would dishonor God and freak out those who would hear him preach about Christ.

Paul doesn’t ask for this to happen.  He isn’t praying for a testimony of the risen Christ.  He doesn’t choose this role.  He is busy persecuting those who are spreading the Good News of Christ.

But once God chooses him, He does not turn back.

Unlike Paul, I was already blind.

Blind from fear, mistrust, disillusionment.  Blind from bitterness that led to the realization that by striving every day to live a good life, to do the best I could, that my life was not going to be the perfect little picture I had painted for myself and my family.

For me, everything changed one morning.

It wasn’t a conversion in the sense that I did not know Christ as my Savior before that morning.  It was just that I was living on the fringes, powerless and afraid that my life would always fall short of being what and who God created me to be.

He just knocked me off my horse and told me that He would change my life.  That He is who He says He is.

It was a moment of pure grace and mercy that is at the heart of everything I have felt, and believed, and loved since.

It was an ordinary morning during a moment when I was sitting in a chair and was told to get up and change my life.   I did.

I have never looked back.  I have faltered and experienced doubt, frustration, fear, panic and all the other emotions that are in our range, but I have never, denied or diminished how God changed me and continues to work in me and through me.


So, what happens when everything changes for you?

You wake up in the morning and start the day as it is required and planned.

Get the kids off to school.  Get ready for work.  Start a load of laundry. Make a few calls.

What happens when all that just stops and GOD touches you in a way that brings you to your knees?

Do you just shrug it off?

How do you fit a new creation – a transformed life, into a life already in progress.

What happens when you pray and pray and pray that God will show his face?

And then HE does.

Once we claim Him.  He claims us.

Paul got over himself quickly, but it wasn’t without cost.

Can you imagine what courage it must have taken for him to seek out Peter and the other apostles to tell them that Christ had appeared to and spoken to him?

Returning to those whom he had persecuted-, even leading to the death of the beloved Apostle Stephen?

Asking to become one of them and to have their blessing to take the Gospel and bring it to the gentiles.

That kind of courage only comes with faith.  

The meat of today’s scripture is verses 5-6

“Through Him and for His namesake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.  And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ”  

It is about obedience through faith.

Not Paul’s obedience and faith – but ours.

Paul is following Jesus example of obedience through faith.

That’s why for Paul there is really no difference between faith and obedience because having faith means obeying God’s ways all the way to a cross.

Rebellion is much more fashionable than obedience these days.   

We think it brings freedom.

Freedom from rules.

Freedom from oppression.

Freedom from THE MAN.

rutledgeFleming Rutledge says:

“true freedom is not found in rebellion against God.  Rebellion against God leads to the death of the soul and the spirit.  Obedience to God may mean the death of the body, but it means life for the world.”  How do we carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus?”

This church, these pews have been my trenches.


Many times when the church was quiet, I stormed through the doors, determined to not see anyone along the way, marching straight to the bottom of this gigantic cross.

That was the size of the cross I needed some times.

A giant cross to heal me and calm me from my fears.

To put me back together again.

In these pews and at the foot of that cross I fought for my family, for my children, for my friends, my sanity.

If I could have, I would have gone to the caves where David hid from Saul and cried to the LORD – How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?

This is where I prayed my family together against great odds.

This is where I prayed that God would find a remnant in my heart “to take root below and bear fruit above.”  That my family would be a “band of survivors.” And that the “zeal of the Lord almighty would accomplish this.”

The sign in front of the church asks – Does your faith fit your life?

Over the years, some people have gone so far as to tell me that I spend too much time here – –I venture to say that there are many of you out there that are even more of a church rat than I am.

I have been told that I should just get a bed and live here….

That I should “get a life.  That I need to balance – yadda yadda.

This is where I got my life back.

This is where Christ became my savior and I became His.

This is where I serve the One who gave my life and my family back to me.

This is where I found my balance.

How could I NOT be here and spend myself for His church and His people?


My prayer has been each morning that God will show me the means to increase my faith, to know and believe that He is who He says He is.

I must listen for the answer to that prayer and recognize opportunities that arise each day to that end.

For the great majority of us, obedience through faith is lived day to day in the humdrum details – being prepared for the daily decisions that show us to be Christians as we claim.


The power in obedience – aligning ourselves with the power of God in obedience to the Spirit:  this is the power that overcomes the world.  The power that helps us “get over ourselves

Paul calls himself a servant of Christ.

Paul was a willing servant and slave for Christ.

He was so overwhelmed at how he had been transformed, that he spent himself to express that.

A bond slave of Christ in debt to all.

Paul is the one who told us later in Romans that …

”the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  

We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to God’s will.  

I have been on the floor at the foot of that very cross, face down, my arms spread – in the shape of the cross….with a prayer in the deepest corners of my heart that I could not give words to.  I confessed to God that I had NO IDEA how to pray.

I used Paul’s word’s that told me that the

Holy Spirit would intercede and moan to the Father on my behalf.

I didn’t just know this, I learned this with my Aldersgate sisters as we have worked our way through a dozen Bible studies over the years.  Relying on each other to help us through many storms.

I, like John Wesley, had my heart strangely warmed at Aldersgate.

My time spent here with you is sacred to me.  Whether you knew it or not, you have been my scaffolding.  As I prepare to leave, a part of Aldersgate, goes with me.  It was here that I found God, or more precisely that God found me.  It was here that a loving, caring congregation accepted me into your midst.  I shall be forever grateful.  And I know that you will do the same for anyone that walks through these doors in search of a place and a people to find and worship God.

I’ll use the words of Fleming Rutledge again to close.  “

The purpose and meaning of worship with fellow believers is to be a people prepared for daily decisions that make our faith fit our life.

As we share the Lord’s Supper together, we rejoice to remember whose spirit it is that bears us up and links us together in the power of the obedience of faith – the faith that overcomes the world.

I offer this in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen

Shudder – to tremble with a sudden convulsive movement, as from horror, fear, or cold. 

That moment when you want to find the nearest cave and just stay there awhile – or maybe longer….

counterfeit-gods-timothy-keller1Do you ever have those moments when realizations hit you like a brick and send a chill through your body?

Not a good kind of chill – a shudder.

That horror.  That fear.

That recognition that leaves you cold.

That moment when it feels like nothing will ever be ok again.

Oprah helped bring the watered down version into our vocabulary – the AHA moment.  But I’m talking about the shudder moment.

Isaiah talks about it:

 “The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of man humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear.  Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD…In that day men will throw away to the rodents and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship.  They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from dread of the LORD”

James talks about it:

“You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not recieve, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  You adulterous people, don’t you know that a friendship with the world is hatred toward God?”

It is spiritual adultery when we worship anything or anyone other than God.  James has a way of putting things doesn’t he?

Too often I have felt that shudder to my very core when the Holy Spirit helps me uncover some hidden agenda, fear, pattern or habit in my life that is totally missing the Christian mark.  I mean way off!

Then the realization hits me about just how much time I have wasted or how many people I have hurt in the meantime.

The wreckage that needs to be dealt with as well as the sin.

I have told myself what I have wanted to hear too many times so I could keep safe in my little life.  So I wouldn’t have to go through the agony of the shudder moment that has to change everything for me.  Too many things that I have served keep me from being the woman that God created me to be.

The thing is, that once I feel it, name it, deal with it, and ask for forgiveness I must give it over to the cross.

It isn’t easy to give up the regret or shame that those moments can bring.

I fee like if I don’t carry it around for months or years then I am somehow diminishing the suffering that I must feel because of it.

Christ suffered for that sin as well.

If His forgiveness is not for me – then it isn’t for you – and I know it is.



counterfeit-gods-timothy-keller1I feel a little bit like Esau – betrayed and with a score to settle.

I know she didn’t mean to do it, but my sister pulled a Jacob.

A very difficult family situation feels like a tragedy and a tragedy for me can become an idol.

I am in the middle of it right now, and I know how I need to act, but I don’t want to!

I want to act like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and stomp my feet and scream “I want it now daddy!  I want it now!”  

But I can’t.  I am a Christian.  That epic realization trumps it all.  It just does.

I have to do it; sooner rather than later, because it is impossible for me to live this way.   As Keller puts it, it is a bloodthirsty deity and hard to appease.  Unforgiveness is a vice-grip that changes how I see everything every day.   I’m still not there yet though.  I woke up with the vice grip around my heart.

She is my only sister.  There are hundreds of reasons and ways in which I can justify my anger and never forgive her.  The only one on the other side of the tally sheet is that I am called to forgive without her even asking; To forgive because I am forgiven.

I am naturally inclined to want justice instead – to make sure that it is fair before I can move to forgive.  Several years ago I recall hearing someone on television talking about how they had been able to forgive the drunk driver that killed their child.  All those around her and even I were shocked and amazed that she would even want to let alone find the path.  It seems like forgiveness on that scale is seen as weakness not strength from the Divine.

Then during my walk Max Lucado spoke to me this morning on the radio.  He reminded me

“relationships do not survive because the guilty are punished but because the innocent are merciful.” 

I’m not all high and mighty sitting up here on my throne of innocence, I’m still trying to figure my part out, but until I forgive and get past this, nothing else is possible.

I feel betrayed by her.  I feel like she destroyed a dream I have had for many, many years.  I believed that God was granting me one of the “desires or my heart.”  I believed that God was bringing the desire of my heart and his will for me together.

I remember when Dennis preached about that and how sweet it is when those two worlds collide.  By her actions she took it away from me.  I wanted it so much. 

Maybe that was the idol – the wanting?

I just know that I must forfeit this idol.

I know that I can do all things through Christ.  I know because God tells me and if it were not so, he would not have told me.  It is the Word of God.  I have faith that He will be there every step of the way with me as I work through this.  I know this because He has accompanied me on this journey before.

My Savior is not unfamiliar with betrayal.

  “Be kind and compassionate to one another. Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32. 

If I do not, I dishonor Him and I can’t bear to do that again.





I would rather die than go back to being the person that I was.

I taught my children to lie.

Of course I told them to tell the truth, but I taught them how to lie.

I had to.

I was protecting my way of life by lying to myself and everyone around me.

Keller says that money (and I submit a whole host of other idols) can be a spiritual addiction and like all addictions they hide their true proportions from their victims.  They do what they have to do to feed and perpetuate the addiction.

The heart always wants to justify itself

My precious paradigm cannot be intruded upon when I am living for something other than my God.

When I am not following the Holy Spirit, I tell myself what I have to in order to maintain my way of life.  Self -deception is key if I am to continue to stay comfortable doing what I’m doing.   And, let’s face it, everyone likes to be able to go to sleep at night.

Keller says we look to our idols for significance and security and because we HAVE to have them, we do what we have to do to protect our head from really seeing the desires of our heart – we deceive ourselves.  

That is why I can continue to go to church and bible study week after week, year after year and still be in the same spiritual pits and ruts.

The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things and expect different results.

 If I am tired of the same spiritual gerbil wheel, I need to jump off and do something different…”this time, I will praise the LORD.“

This time I will put my trust in God.  Find my honor in God.  Find mercy at His feet.  Everything short of that will leave me bankrupt once again.  This time…..

If Leah had continued to resist the simple act of letting go and praising God, still praying to God for answers to the wrong questions, she would never have had the beautiful breakthrough that allowed her heart to be changed – that allowed her to love God and be loved by him.  She could finally praise God.  Her circumstance hadn’t changed – her husband still didn’t love her.  She was still the same rejected and unloved woman she had always been.  But she finally broke the cycle.

“Anyone who listens to the word, but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it.  He will be blessed in what he does. James 1:23-24

This time I have to tell the truth to protect my way of life, my life with Christ.

I have to be responsible for my spiritual growth.  I have to want to be the person that God created me to be badly enough that I am willing to look at those spiritual worms inside me and call them what they are.


I would rather die than go back to being who I was.







I waited patiently for Jason to post his last sermon – the one with the glasses of water.  I immediately sent it to my son and his fiancé who are recently engaged.  While their relationship is amazing and beautiful and their commitment solid, I want to make sure they have the Great Bridegroom right in there with them.

Not unlike many of us, as they begin to plan the wedding, they start with the easy stuff.  Choosing flowers and a menu is so much more pleasant than dealing with the expectations and questions of where and by whom they should be married.

It seems they are both bringing some pretty complicated religious baggage and like many of us don’t fit neatly into a denominational box.

I was moved to tears by an email that I received from him recently asking me how I felt and if I had any advice about finding someone to marry them.  (Most priests and many ministers won’t marry couples unless they go through some sort of pre-marital counseling process, which makes complete sense to me.)

But, with all the demands of life, school, work and family, they are just as comfortable going to a Justice of the Peace.

Wow….where do I start on that one?  

You see he grew up as a Methodist….kind of….with a father who is Catholic and a mother who grew up Mormon.  I say kind of because it wasn’t until he was older that I decided that making the effort to go to church was worth it.  That helping him learn about a loving and merciful God might be important.  (The consequences of which is an entirely different post).  By then I had to compete with hockey practice, all sports, girls and any number of things I already had working against me in the get to church department.

I walk a fine line here not wanting him to regret asking. I want to look him in the eye and beg him to bring in Jesus NOW in any and every way possible. He is your Hope. He will hold you together as a couple and as a man.

If I tell him less than that I dishonor Christ.

I have to give him an answer that has some meat.

The Answerer.

None of us need one more thing in our lives to let us down, to disappoint.  If we come to Christ with less than all of our hearts, we will get less of Him.

And less just isn’t enough.

Less will always bring us to our knees.

I love it anytime Jesus offered truth so simply.

“If it were not so I would have told you”

“I tell you the truth”

As Keller put it so beautifully, “His are the only arms that will give you all your heart desires”.

Not your beautiful, wise and loving girl.

She will have her bridegroom Christ as well!

I know his beloved as a wise woman already:  She listens to her mother.


We’re continuing our Lenten Sermon Series, Counterfeit Gods, this weekend. Here’s another reflection from Julie Pfister on Tim Keller’s book by the same title.counterfeit-gods-timothy-keller

I’d like to pick up from where I left off last time, but unfortunately, until my family unsubscribes to Jason’s blog, I need to “cool it a bit”

Pick an idol – any idol.  That’s the way it seems to me sometimes.  Trying to exorcise all these false idols from my life can be difficult, but when we (and I mean I) are trying to protect a long held paradigm and comfortable way of life, identifying false idols and calling them what they really are can be the real tough part.

I remember being in a group study for The Hole in the Gospel and trying to find ways to live with myself after realizations that I am even more self-centered, self-absorbed and spoiled than I had thought.  I was seeking advice and honestly struggling with the concept that I could learn about the thousands that die every day from basic hunger as I lament the 15 pounds that I have gained. “How can I learn these things, without being CHANGED?”  I poured out to the group after a long sleepless night.  “Without needing to do more than check a box and donating a few dollars or serving at ROCK?”

“It was great” somebody offered in response, “the other day I got an email that the shelves were empty at UCM, so I cleaned out my pantry and took some food down – it  made me feel really good to do that.”

I asked “that’s great, but what if we need to do more than check that box and do something, that while responsive and generous, checks the box and makes us feel better?”  (I should have added a smiley face to the end of my question)

Somebody never came back to the group again.  I suppose I had offended her by diminishing what she had done, which was a generous act.  However, it was not my intention to diminish her.   I was deeply struggling with a concept that grips many of us in our comfortable lives.

How do we give enough money or time to others without upsetting that balance that we all like to think is more important than spending ourselves for Christ?

I want to be “exhausted for Christ” when I die on the one hand, but on the other hand, I want to just the food out of the pantry that we haven’t used and maybe throw in few other choice items.

People are so kind and effusive with their praise and thanks.  But, frankly, it makes me very uncomfortable.  I know myself well enough to know that it is only by the Grace of God and for His glory that I have time or energy for anything that I do.  Too often I have to fight the lazy bum I can be.

I am prone to wanna hang out on my porch and watch Netflix on my laptop and drink coffee and eat jalapeno chips all day….

I am prone to times of self-pity and self-doubt and subject to shame and regret at the time and opportunities I have squandered.

I am.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.

Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above”


It’s Ash Wednesday, the day the Lenten season begins. Lent is a time when we imitate Jesus’ own time of testing in the wilderness by confronting the sin and idols in our own lives.

We will observe Lent this year by preaching on the themes in Tim Keller‘s book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. Some of you have insinuated my blog could use  a ladies’ touch. Well, here to prove I’m responsive and always a good listener, to reflect on the book, I’ve asked Julie Pfister, one of the most authentic Christians I know, to blog her way through the book.

counterfeit-gods-timothy-kellerHere’s her first entry:

I have had them myself; stickers on my shiny new SUV (not new or shiny anymore) showing that my family was on its way.  A few of the right schools, waiting and hoping for that empty spot on the back window to have just the right University stickered to it showing the world just how smart and perfect the little family that I had made was.

Like most of us, I didn’t realize it as it was happening.  Pride, like any other idol can be insidious, and so difficult to spot.  But my children, my seemingly perfect little family was on its way.   I wanted room in my car to carry around the whole hockey team.  I wanted my kids to want to have their friends come to my home where I could serve up the milk and cookies.

They did for a while.   Then, things started to awry.  As Keller put it, its not that I loved my children too much, I just didn’t have any room left in my heart or time in my schedule (or theirs) for God.  I wanted my children to be happy, successful, loving and to love me!  Perhaps it is partly because of the culture I grew up in that the desire for the perfect little family was so important.  Having happy, successful, smart, athletic, caring, loving children would validate me as a person – especially since I had quit my job and “sacrificed” (oh please) my career to raise my kids.

Like any false idol, it didn’t take long for the cracks in my perfect little life to really start to show.   My children and family are a wonderful gift and precious blessing to me, but I learned a long time ago, what Keller reminded us, that until or unless we stop trying to map out perfect little lives for our children, and trust God to be their God in the inevitably bumpy and even tragic path that HE has for them, we will be brought to our knees.

Do we pray that they will be Humble, shunning the world and the trappings of success and searching for God? How do we view others children who go off the chosen accepted cultural track…high school, college, graduate degree, career, family, Do we think that there is something wrong if our children “choose” a different path?  Are we not quick to give a qualifying response when we tell someone that our son or daughter is not in college?  How honest can we be with each other when people ask how we are?  How is Sally….Can we really just honestly pray that they will know God?  Will we or they be ok if we pray that God will use them, that they will seek God and God will seek them…..if that means that they go against the cultural norms? How can we as parents hope that God will break our children’s hearts so they can be desperate for HIM.  Do we trust God enough to want that sort of brokenness for them?  What if we pray that our children KNOW God?  Do we trust him with the pieces of their broken hearts?  Do we trust Him to ????  It is so counter-intuitive for me as a mother for my children to want to feel the emptiness and desperation that I have felt.  Do I want my children in the pit of despair?

That same pit that Christ reached down and pulled me out of and set my feet on firm ground and put a new song in my heart!   I loved teaching at the Day School.  With each new class I always felt a twinge of envy along with the joy of meeting the bright and shiny precious, babies and the hopeful, loving parents that brought them. I wondered how they might feel if their child called them something horrible and told them they hated them.

I hoped and prayed that their child would never get beaten to within an inch of his life or disappear for days and weeks at a time.  I wanted to go all Isaiah on them and belt out….Get on your knees NOW and study and learn all that you can….not from Dr. Spock but from the Author of their Life….the Ultimate Educator….so that you are as ready and STEEPED in God and His Word that “when the rest of life unravels”  He and his Word will be such a part of your fabric that you will not.

Some people still tell me, hoping to not offend, that I used to remind them of Barbie….Unless I missed the happily broken, God fearing, Grace loving, sinner Barbie, there is no resemblance.