THE FRIENDLY WHITE CHURCH ON THE HILL



CHURCH MISSION STATEMENT

We are called to bring people into a personal relationship with God through his son, Jesus Christ.
We accomplish this by bringing others into the community of the church through genuine friendship and fellowship. In this loving fellowship we grow in faith through the Word, community, prayer and worship.


Dylan and Tyler Balazovic and Bob Blome lead the congregation in the Affirmation of Faith.
These three young men just completed their confirmation class.  Congratulations.
Cake in honor of the confirmation class

FANTASTIC VIDEO

Mary Did You Know





EAT FOR HEAT

The annual eat for heat dinner will be held at the Shrine on Sept. 30. 

Dinner-4:30-6:30

Silent Auction- 4:30-6:00
Our Church will provide the salads-call Lynn Balazovic to volunteer to make a salad



CHILI PARTY


A large turn-out attended the chili tasting party at Barb Bergin's home.  Six chili's were available for tasting and then eating.  Along with a bowl of your favorite chili, salad, rolls, corn bread and desert was also available.  Lynn Balasovic won the grand prize for best chili.
More photos in the photo gallery

BAPTISM
Four people were baptized in Mullet Lake by Pastor Mike.
SUMMER PICNIC
There was a large turnout for the annual Spring Picnic

Master Chef and long time Grill Master, Larry,
waiting for the brats to get done.


                                           Pastor Mike provides the blessing.
                           (more pictures in the photo gallery)


BIBLE STUDY

"The Way We Walk" an informal bible study that meets in homes over a cup of coffee.    Contact Karen Vance with questions (989-245-6080).





SERMONS

(WAIT FOR IT TO LOAD-CHECK THE SERMONS TAB FOR MORE SERMONS)





Sermon-Aug.14-"Having a Really Bad Day"                                                  
 



MUSIC



by Pastor Mike

This Morning
 In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”  Ecclesiastes 11.6 NRSV
 September 22 th, 2016
We rose this morning just as we have countless mornings in the past.
       We washed the sleep from our eyes, looked out the window and maybe we checked the weather on TV to determine our wardrobe.
       It seemed like other mornings we have known, but it wasn’t.
       We have never journeyed through September 22, 2016 before. It is new and full of possibilities for wonder and kindness.
       Let us ask for eyes to see and ears to hear and the capacity to rejoice in all the possibilities of today.
Prayer: Lord, looking forward to what You have today!

Myth Three
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18.3 NRSV
 September 21th, 2016
Years ago, a magazine asked me to write an article they called, “The Five Myths of the Modern Church”.  Sounded fun! Well, that and the nice check, so I took the assignment.
Here is a selection from Myth Three:
       “Churches sincerely believe they want to grow and will say they are open to new directions…the truth is that many churches want to achieve growth with little pain, little effort and no substantial change. And by growth, they mean, ‘Let there be more people just like us.’” And any new person will need to come with the good sense to find his or her own pew and parking spot.
       This is not so much new growth, but cloning.  Genuine grow requires change and that means change for all of us. Yikes! Perhaps that is why there is so little of it out there.
      
Prayer: Lord, if you are leading us into a new way, help us get over the shock.

The Wonder of a Nickel

A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.” Mark 12.42 NRSV

September 20th, 2016
       As a ten-year-old, I began a lifelong hobby of collecting old coins. I am not a committed numismatist. I don’t buy rare coins and I do not sell or trade them. I am not concerned that I have the ones in the best condition; I just like to find old coins.
       Recently, I realized that I hadn’t found a truly old coin in a very long time. The minor treasure hunts with which I had indulged myself over the decades had come to an end. And yes, there is something enjoyable about finding a nickel in the change that is really worth a dollar!
       As I was getting out of my truck last week, I saw a nickel left in the coin tray. It looked a little worn. A closer examination revealed that it was seventy years old. The old sensation of finding a hidden treasure, no matter how small, made me smile.
As I thought about it, I was reminded that not only are there coins to be found, but there are new friends to be made, delicious recipes to be tasted for the first time and a whole lot of world to explore.
The wonder awaits, good hunting!
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the adventure that is our life.


In the Stars?



“Prepare your work outside, get everything ready for you in the field; and after that build your house.” Proverbs 24.27 NRSV



September 14, 2016


In the cartoon Frank and Ernest, Frank says to Ernest, “Do you believe in fate?”
“Sure. I would hate to think I turned out this way because of something I had some control over!”
A very fine Christian college in California invited me to come and lead a workshop on how to be published in the Christian market. They wrote me that they would publicize the event, “…through our usual channels.”
Still, I followed my usual pattern of doing my own publicity campaign. I contacted the area radio station with a press release. I sent that press release to the newspapers in the surrounding communities. Then I did a computer search of the area churches and sent the information their way.
The room was almost full the day of the workshop. At the end, I handed out a very short questionnaire asking where the participants had heard about the workshop. Slightly over half said they received the information from my efforts and not the honest efforts of the college.
It is not fate, the stars, or someone else who is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of what we do. If I had assumed someone else would do the work, without doing everything I knew to do, I would have reduced the number of those who come to my workshop. And probably complained about the whole thing for months!

Prayer: Lord, help me do the best I can for myself and for the others I meet along the way.


The Selfish Do Not Inherit the World


 “Let whoever is of a generous heart bring the Lord's offering.” Exodus 35.5 NRSV



September 13th, 2016



I’ve known some stingy people in the church, people who submit to an apprehension of the future rather than trusting the One Who holds the future in His hands. But mostly, I’ve found generous folks in the church.



       So if our “General Fund” consistently runs behind our budget needs, I assume that those in leadership and myself have failed to cast a great enough vision to inspire the imagination and generosity of the people.  We have thought pettily and asked for pennies when it is a community and a world we wish to turn right side up.

       When the need is openly and boldly laid before them, people will respond. Not all of them, of course. There will always be those who are so fearful of making a mistake that they make the greatest of mistakes by doing nothing.

Know that when the vision calls for a great people, they’re already here.  And if we meet giants, look around! For standing near us is a youngster with a sling, putting five smooth stones in a pocket, who stands ready to rock our world!

Prayer: Lord, help us to dream Your great adventure.


After Baking
 “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God…”Romans 8.28a NRSV

 September 12, 2016

I am fond of cake. Really, really fond of cake.  Interestingly enough, the taste of baking soda does nothing for me and yet baking soda is an essential ingredient in that wonderful dessert. Once mixed with the other ingredients and then placed into the fire of the oven, baking soda becomes part of a delicious whole.

       As a writer, I’ve experienced many rejections of my manuscripts.
Each rejection steeled my determination to win through.
Each rejection sent me back to my manuscript to mend the flaws.

Each rejection was distasteful, but the whole process, of which rejection was a part, made me a better writer.

       For all of us, there are unpleasant and difficult things in life. By themselves, these difficulties seem to have no virtue or redeeming qualities. But mix them all together and turn up the heat, we discover that the outcome is that our life is more meaningful and our character is richer than it would be if those experiences were denied us.

Prayer: Lord, remind me that I cannot know the value of an experience until I have lived it and come through to the other side.



The Color of My New Car


 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?" Matthew 7.16NRSV



 September 7, 2016

After nine years and a quarter of a million miles, it was time to let go of my car.  So began a long search based on several criteria. Among the criteria, I wanted a car with some color.  There is a brown, slightly tinged with gold that I thought was great. But if I could not get that color, blue, green or red, I just wanted a car with color.



       I bought a black car.  I don’t dislike black cars, I just wanted some color. So why did I buy a black car?  It was a good deal on a great vehicle.  That trumped my taste in color. 



       The color of a car doesn’t help the mileage, keep the engine running for years or make the interior comfortable in all weather. The color is how the car looks, not how the car performs.


       And yet we vote for people who look like us, we hire folks because they look the part and judge a book by its cover.  Still working on it, aren’t we?

 rayer: Lord, help me see past the outward and learn the heart of a person.



The Universe Demands It
“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth.”  Genesis 1.1 NRSV
September 6, 2016
“The universe demands it!” said the character Richard Castle in one of our favorite TV shows. Why yes, they did cancel it as they often do to our favorites, but I guess it was time.  Bad story arc the last year.
More and more, I hear people talking about the universe as if it were a living being, somehow directing our lives.  Perhaps they use that word as a replacement for the now archaic term Providence, itself a reference toward fate and the like.
Is this a way of not offending any particular religion? Possibly. I think that the universe is a cool place, full of wonder and the unknown. I’m a huge fan of space exploration and speculative fiction has always been a favorite.
But the universe is an uncaring and unloving mechanism, with neither a plan nor a thought toward us. In this regard, the universe is a cold, dark place.  At the risk of being narrow-minded and not politically correct, I will stick with referencing God, the loving Father, as the architect of all that is and the One Who has a plan for me.
Prayer: Lord, early I will call unto thee.



Not Feeling It



“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want, like an armed warrior.” Proverbs 24.33,34 NRSV
September 1, 2016



On more than one occasion, I really had to push myself to go to the church on workdays or in the evening for a meeting. I've gone feeling less than a hundred percent or in pain from a transient injury. But I went. I went for two important reasons:



One: My people were going to be there working. People need to see their pastor or boss or supervisor working with them from time to time. It reminds the people that they are doing something important, important enough that the one in leadership thinks it worth her or his time and energy.  



Two: One of the great principles of life I’ve learned along the way is that people who really don't feel like it and would rather be someplace else will achieve much of what is accomplished on any given day.



Once I was there, the fellowship and working side by side with the people was a blessing. That blessing came from faithfulness, not strength or ability. There is faithfulness or something less.



 Prayer: Lord, I’m going to be faithful and “show up” today. I’ll trust You to take care of the rest.





What Am I Doing Here?



Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still; teach the righteous and they will gain in learning.” Proverbs 9.9 NRSV



 August 30, 2016



 I worked my way through college and part of seminary as a night janitor.



I remember the night I had to be on my knees in a stall to fix a problem. It put into sharp relief the thought that had been bouncing around my noggin that week. Why was I there?



I stood up and leaned against the wall. I had a college degree. I was a third of my way through my Master of Divinity. I had resigned from a wonderful church in Illinois to further my education and now I was cleaning toilets.  Don’t get me wrong, I consider all honest labor to be noble, but with that education and experience I was still cleaning toilets and pulling down about a hundred dollars a week.  Did I miss a memo?



“What am I doing here?” I lamented loudly. I thought I was talking to God, but had forgotten that Mike B. was working in the next stall.



“You’re cleaning toilets!” he shouted, “and the sooner we get done, the sooner we can go home!”



Good advice, but it did not answer my existential lament. On my way home, I reconsidered why I left that good church for seminary. It was simple: I didn’t know enough. I needed the wise words and leadership from those who knew more than I. So I had sought it out at one of the fine seminaries in my denomination. 



Since that need had not changed, I was in class the next day. A good journey begun that encounters a storm is still a good journey.



 Prayer: Lord, help me remember that even the best ideas come at a price.

Haven’t Passed This Way Before
 “Then you shall set out from your place. Follow the ark of the covenant so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before.” Joshua 3.3b,4 NRSV


 August 29, 2016


 There is a positive power found only in the act of going forward. We discover the wonder of that new place only when we are going someplace.


We will never make a new friend sitting at home watching TV.


We will never find a new restaurant ordering pizza delivered to the house.


We will never achieve anything of significance waiting until every contingency is covered and every possible challenge accounted for. In fact, that is probably impossible to do.   


Are we where we want to be when the trumpet of the Lord sounds or when the paramedics make that final call to our door?


 Prayer: Lord, there is often a comforting familiarity with where we are, but the wonders of tomorrow lie over the hill.

As the Summer Ends


 Be hospitable to one another without complaining.” 1 Peter 4.9 NRSV



 August 25, 2016



As August races to an end, we who live in the northern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan will soon wave good-bye to the thousands of tourists as they head back to their homes.



     It will grow much quieter after Labor Day. I like quiet. I like that I’m not dodging careless pedestrians crossing the highways as if they were in a mall parking lot. I like that in the grocery store, I won’t be bumped by dashing carts manned by people determined to cram as much “fun” into a vacation as possible. I like that the fireworks, speeding boats and loud parties will fade.



     But without the tourists, many of the businesses here would close. Jobs would be lost; people would have to move, causing other businesses to close, sending more people somewhere else looking for work, thus cutting the school enrollment. This would reduce the school aid and then...well, you get the picture.



     It seems to me that many of the things that we like to complain about are, in the long run, good for us.



I remember working my way through college as a night shift janitor. Some of the crew kept complaining about how messy and careless people were. I thought to myself, “But that’s why we have a job!” and kept on sweeping and mopping.



     So, come on up to Topinabee and Indian River for the fall color tours. And then return for sledding and skiing in our wondrous winters. Then, of course, visit the White Church on the Hill. We’ll hold the door open for you! 



 Prayer: Lord, so much of what I consider a nuisance or worse, is often the best that can happen to me. Open my eyes that I may see.



For A Good Harvest

Now there are varieties of gifts.” 1 Corinthians 12.4a NRSV



August 24, 2016

Billy spent many summers at his uncle’s farm in Illinois. His uncle grew awesome crops of corn and Billy soaked up that experience.



Years later, after putting twenty years into a career that was honorable, but not fulfilling, he had the chance to buy some farm land on the west side of Michigan.



That spring, he planted his first crop of corn.  The harvest was disappointing.  So Billy called and asked his uncle for advice. Over the phone, the uncle reminded Billy of all the necessary steps for preparing the soil, fertilizing and what variety of corn to buy.



The next year and then the next, the crop was still poor.



Hearing the pain in Billy’s voice, his uncle decided to take the long trip from the plains of central Illinois to the upper regions of the Michigan's lower peninsula.



They were in the field five minutes when the uncle turned to Billy and said, “Your problem is not your fertilizer or the seed. This is sandy ground. You will never get a great crop of corn. You need to plant what this soil wants, what this soil can produce in abundance.”



Billy was disappointed, having grown up a corn farmer, but soon his uncle’s simple wisdom soaked in. He traveled the area to see what other farmers were doing, and he studied their soil and crops. Several years later, he became a prosperous blueberry farmer, falling in love with that purple sweetness.



We each have our niche, the thing or things we do best. When we discover and embrace this simple truth, so much of our life falls into place. Besides, there is nothing much finer than blueberry pie with ice cream!



 Prayer: Lord, whatever You have designed me to be and do, thanks!


A Hard-Earned Blessing
Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1.12 NRSV
August 23, 2016
I advise young pastors that often they will triumph, not by force of intellect or by “winning” the many small battles, but by staying the course and standing firm.
This may not look very heroic and may not fit many of the leadership models out there, but it is nonetheless true.
The will to endure, the courage to stay a course when all around would give up, is far more powerful than cleverness or physical strength.
When we have endured, when we have come to the end of the trial and are still faithful to our purpose and kept the course, we are changed and so are those around us. That change is for the good and all are blessed. 
Prayer: Lord, You know I really don’t like the trials. But I’ve come to respect the person I am when I endure. Thanks.


Taking the Long View
“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance...” James 1.1-3 NRSV
August 22, 2016
James is calling us to change our perspective concerning the challenges we face. He wants us to consider the long view, not merely the immediate impact of a situation.
The last year I coached freshman basketball, I started the year by cutting three young men from the team.  There were simply not enough uniforms for all the boys that tried out.
I took each one of the three aside and told them the situation and then said, “If you want, you can stay on the practice team. There is a good chance that over the course of the season, some of these boys will drop off the team.”
All of them rejected my offer at first and left, but the next day one young man returned. Sure enough, through a combination of events and bad grades, he was soon on the team. By the end of the year, he had earned his way to a starting position and then finished the season with a fantastic performance against one of the perennial top teams in our conference.
He had at first responded the way many of us do to a challenge in life. But then he took the long view and gained the reward.
James says that when hard times come, we should make up our mind to consider it a joy that it will eventually work for our benefit.  
Prayer: Lord, whatever You have in mind for me is a good thing. Help me remember that You see the big picture.
They Seemed Normal

Doing wrong is like sport to a fool, but wise conduct is pleasure to a person of understanding.” Proverbs 10.23 NRSV
August 17, 2016
          
       We’ve all met them. Folks who seem normal enough much of the time and then wham! They say or do something that leaves us shaking our heads or nursing a wound. The next time we see them, it is as if nothing happened. Then wham! Upside the head they go again. Sometimes we’re the target, other times it’s the person next to us.
       We talk with them, reason with them and sure enough, they seem to straighten out. Then wham!
       I don’t know the technical term for this type of personality disorder so I just call them Crazy-Makers.  Despite my best efforts, I’ve failed to developed a system that really seems to help, but I have learned two important principles in dealing with Crazy-Makers:  
1.   The only thing that works for me is to keep my distance.
2.   The only person crazier than the Crazy-Maker is the person who keeps hanging around thinking things might change.  
Prayer: Lord, give me the wisdom to help when I can and walk away when I can’t.

A Safe Landing


 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15.1 NRSV





August 17, 2016




       “The key to a safe landing is the attitude of your aircraft,” said the flying instructor.


       The novice looked at the pilot and said, “Don’t you mean the altitude?”


       “No, it’s the attitude. The attitude is the position of the nose of your plane. If the nose is too high, you will come down too fast. You will suffer a very hard landing, causing you to bounce or worse. Too low and you might lose control and that’s never good.”


       He continued, “To do this right, you have to have the right attitude no matter how rough the atmospheric conditions are.”


       Translation: We should keep a good attitude no matter the atmosphere in which we find ourselves. We cannot always control the atmosphere where we work or in our interpersonal relationships, but we can control our response. And our positive and caring response may be the one thing that keeps us all from crashing that day.




Prayer: Lord, You know that sometimes we are tempted to return anger with anger and stubbornness with stubbornness. Help us find the better way.




The Power of Encouragement
 “But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him.” Deuteronomy. 3.28 NRSV

August 15, 2016
One brisk autumn night, I saw the power of encouragement played out by a mistake I made. The basketball game was at a turning point and my starting point guard had picked up a fourth foul. Needing him for the last few minutes, I turned to the bench and motioned to a player.
I put my arm around his shoulder, keeping my eyes on the play on the floor.
       “Your defense has steadily improved and you have quick hands. You can steal the ball from their guard. Now do it!”
As the guard from the other team crossed the center court, my substitute flashed out his hand and snaked the ball away. I looked at my player closer. When did he start wearing his hair like his brother?
I turned to the bench and saw his brother cheering him on. It was then I realized the wrong player was on the floor. They weren’t twins, but could have passed for twins. The boy now on the floor chewing up our opponent was the weaker of the brothers, often confused and hesitant. That is, until that night. 
To this day I don’t know if I motioned to the wrong boy or he simply thought I meant him. He stole the ball twice, knocked it out of bounds once and frustrated the other player to the point of a technical foul.
Kind words and encouragement give benefits far more reaching than most of us realize, accept, of course, when we receive them.
Prayer: Remind me Lord that greatness waits in all Your children if we will only call it forth.

Creating a Good Moment




“Peace to you. The friends send you greetings. Greet the friends there, each by name.” 3 John 1.15 NRSV




August 11, 2016




       Like many pastors, I like to greet my congregation as they exit the worship service or before. I’ve discovered that looking someone in the eye with a smile and welcome is a positive moment.


I was reminded of the universality of this experience in a grocery store. Standing in the checkout lane, I noticed that the cashier was being trained. Her supervisor stood to her right and whenever the trainee hesitated, he would softly give her instructions. As I was being checked out, he told her to push a button on the register and then he uttered softly, “And greet the customer.”


       She looked up, smiled, greeted me and we exchanged pleasantries.


       To acknowledge others and speak to them in a positive way might seem a trivial thing, but it isn’t. It may not change the world or make a house payment, but it often creates a moment of warmth for those of us on a cold day in a hard year. 


      


Prayer: Lord, let me be kind to those I meet today, for some are struggling with troubles I do not know.



Last Words
August 10, 2016

 “...But he who received one (talent) went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.”  Matthew 25.18 NKJV



A number of years ago, Kathy and I ended our one-year contract serving as the transitional pastor. The new pastor was on the way and I wrote these words as my last article in the newsletter:


As I was considering my last article for the Beacon, I remembered the words of a good friend of Kathy: It serves no one to play it small.


Do tour groups, architects and art aficionados travel to small, run down churches for inspiration?  Or do they thrill at the imagination and boldness of cathedrals? Yes, I do recognize the danger of egos and waste.


But should the dangers keep us from the attempting at greatness or excellence? Some timid souls will say “Yes”, but I am with those who say “No!” to small thinking, small dreaming and the inevitable small results.


Do we thrill to the biographies of the timid spirits or are our hearts caught up with those who dared to fly? Do we nod in agreement as those with small imaginations criticized those who flew? Or do our hearts soar with those who aim for the sky?


I once wrote, “Life is a great adventure or you have wasted His investment in you!” I’ll stick with that. 

Have faith. It all comes right. – Pastor Mike



Nobody Cares


“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’” Luke 14.18 NRSV


August 9, 2016


       In my life, those who simply rejected my excuses for underachieving and not staying on task have blessed me. 

There was the principal who said, “Nobody but your mama cares about your excuses. Work harder.” He was wrong about my mother. She didn’t buy my excuses either.

And there was my doctoral adviser who said, “When you are done with your excuses, I will tell you how to graduate in six months and not waste the last four years of study and research.” Why yes, that did get my attention. Funny how something can seem to be taking forever and then when you get a non-negotiable deadline (also known in some circles as a threat), the time and energy are suddenly there. Sort of like magic!

And along the way, I learned another secret to accomplishing those things that were giving me trouble. I learned to ask for help. As a child I really didn’t have much trouble asking for help, but as an adult it became harder. Still is sometimes.

One of the great truths of life is, “Ask and you shall receive.” Try it. It still works and certainly beats having to give yet one more excuse that no one really cares about and we don’t fully believe ourselves.


Prayers: Lord, You remember all the “reasons” I gave You as to why I wasn’t living the way You wanted? Scratch those.