January 14, 2022

Dear Prairie Avenue Family,

Midway through the first month of a "new" year, confronting another unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases, the holiday season over, and the grey grind of winter in Central Illinois is upon us (although snow has not arrived in substantial presence, yet). Our world is in the midst of CPR: Covid, Political Idolatry, and Racial hostility. It is all too easy to join in the two major forces at work within this broken world: fear and blame. These forces seem to be propelling our lives, shaping our identities, and relentless in consuming our emotions, behaviors, and responses to the world.

In Christ, we live not in fear, but in hope.
In Christ, we live not to blame, but to forgive.
Neither of these provides for the future, but reminds us of the past with guilt and shame, and steals the present by distraction, disinformation, and destruction.

The desire may be expressed to change. We may even apply ourselves with willpower alone to push it through. Or we have tried, and tried, and tried again, only to fail again and again. We resign to our systems, the familiar of our lives. And we fall back to these patterns, these habits that have become our identity.

A diet failure.
A spiritual hypocrite.
A struggling parent.
An unhealthy person.

We want the end result but struggle with the beginning. Often we imagine an extraordinary change to bring about the extraordinary outcome we claim to desire. Or we imagine that the slightest change will deliver immediate results.

I encourage you to invite others to join worship this weekend who are struggling to begin the new habit, the directional change, who have resigned to the habits that continue to deliver the same outcome. Our focus on the "how" often causes us to lose the focus on "who." The little, consistently done, will make the difference. You will never get to whom you want to become until you begin to shape your journey towards it. We cannot do things well until we are being well.

Worship This Sunday:
Habits! Starting...
All of us I suspect have a morning routine. For those who are working, a commute, following the same route day in and day out. It is amazing what a minor disruption in expectation and plan can do.

Speaking into spiritual life, I know several who keep a journal, have a nightly (or morning) prayer, read scripture.

At one time there were other things in the morning routine.
At another time, the work commute was new.
The journal was unfamiliar.
There was a first morning or evening prayer.

The transition happened when it became a part of who you are. A good sign that it is a part of your identity is that you cannot imagine not doing it when expected or needed.

This Sunday we encounter Daniel. He is described as one of the wise court officials of Judah when the Babylonians defeated the kingdom in 586 BC/BCE. The habit that gets Daniel into controversy with the later King of Persia that defeats the Babylonians is his regular habit of prayer. Daniel kneels, faces towards Jerusalem, and prays three times a day. Court envy, rather than religious discrimination, is a powerful motivator for Daniel's opponents. His handling of administrative affairs on behalf of the king and kingdom put him in the top three positions. Only politics could snare Daniel. Rivals get the King to sign an edict forbidding prayer to any god except, of course, the King, for thirty days. And when Daniel hears the edict, he continues to do his three-a-day prayer time anyway. The punishment for disobedience? Placed in a den of lions.

Does your faith have the power to stop lions? I suspect that Daniel's habit made it more possible. He still observed, even when he knew it was politically forbidden. And while we do not know when Daniel started, I think it is fair to imagine that it has been part of Daniel's routine to convene regular times with God since his youth.

Where I see others struggle in faith is in an unwillingness to resume, start, or grow deeper than where they last left their habits. How did Daniel begin to seek God? Likely by setting up a routine that was obvious and easy.

It is hard to start a regular scripture reading if your Bible is sitting on a shelf in a room you never go into. It is hard to start a prayer time if you do not set up a space for it. If you put your fruit and vegetables down in the crisper drawer, yet leave the junk food on the table, which do you think you will reach first?

A good way to start is to make it obvious and easy.
Set the candle to light your prayer space.
Put the Bible open and next to where you regularly sit.
Get a devotional delivered directly to your phone or email (we even have one of our own of these available Monday-Friday at prairieavenuechristianchurch.org).


How Will You Grow Your Faith in 2022?
Speaking a little more about developing good habits both easy and obvious, Iā€™d like to challenge you to make a resolution to grow spiritually. At Prairie Avenue, we center our life through five essential practices (worship, study, serving, giving, and sharing) that can change our lives in powerful ways and bring meaning and joy. Our website is filled with opportunities to help you to make these practices part of the rhythm of your life in 2022.

-- Worship every weekend (both in-person or online)
-- Join a small group and/or study, when announced.
-- Follow Prairie Avenue Christian Church on Facebook and Instagram and share with your friends.

RIP Dover Elevator 1994-2021
On Wednesday, December 29, 2021, the Dover Elevator, our faithful conveyance of passengers, equipment, and more, ended its useful service as the motherboard permanently failed. Efforts by Otis Elevator technicians the following Thursday were unsuccessful. It is at this point permanently out of order.

Dover is no longer in business, and we received an estimate for a new motherboard that is approximately $4800. This would be a temporary fix, as the obsolescent control cards are also failing. The Trustees of Prairie Avenue approved the modernization bid of Otis Elevator Company this past Spring, but delays in getting our building's electrical service upgraded to the required 3-phase service supply have continued this past year. We have provided the 1/2 downpayment of $96,000 to do the modernization project, but have yet to receive a bid/estimate for the necessary service upgrade.

Parts are no longer possible to replace, and a substantial service upgrade is necessary.

We have had Bodine Electric come and inspect our elevator situation and offer bids, estimates, and recommendations for how to proceed. Our current elevator has crossed beyond the limit of its serviceable life.
Invite someone to join you for worship this weekend, in person, online
In-person on Sunday mornings at 8 am or 9:30 am. Masks are encouraged regardless of vaccination status if social distancing cannot be kept.

Online at prairieavenuechristianchurch.org, and Facebook Sunday at 8 am or 9:30 am.

See you this weekend online or in person,

Blessings to you all,

As a church family, we care for and pray for one another.

As a matter of online privacy, we will only disclose public sympathy to a church friend or family member whose passing has also been publicly disclosed.

The Family of Maxine Van der Voort, who passed on December 14, 2021.
The Family of Terry Lee Ford, Former Associate Pastor, (1982-1986), who passed on December 27, 2021 (not 1921, as mistyped in the E-newsletter this week!)

If you would like prayer, please submit your prayer request online, and Pastor Jason and prayer team members will pray for you.
Prairie Avenue Christian Church | Website