Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Year in Review

            Be at peace among yourselves… Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit.               -
- 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 16-19

            Think back over the headlines that have flashed before us this year.  The earthquake in Haiti, oil in the Gulf, trapped Chilean miners, foreclosures in a faltering economy…  Again and again we have read about struggles for survival in the midst of great difficulties.  Again and again, we have prayed for God’s healing to touch people’s lives in the midst of disaster.
            Going ahead into 2010 from last year, we had great concerns that our own congregation might be heading for disaster.  We were concerned about attendance in the midst of construction, fearful about income in an upside-down economy and troubled by differences in our own denomination.  Despite the anxieties, the local headlines from Atonement this year have told a very different story – a story of growth, perseverance, and God’s abounding blessing:

An early service from January through May becomes popular with regulars.

Atonement youth helped start a VBS, paint houses and clean up after a tornado.

Beyond the orange barrels lies a future with a whole new look.

Atonement gives space and support to a brand new scouting outfit.

Shut-ins and others can now receive copies of our weekly Sunday messages.

A whole week of fun, faith-filled activities rounds out youngsters’ Summer.

A new Hispanic congregation begins meeting Saturday evenings.

Five adults begin a two-year course in intensive discipleship.

As numbers swell, Bridgewater and Thrivent help pantry for holidays.

A visitor from faraway Finland attends and applauds evening program.

Families share God’s presence around dinner table by passing the Blessing Cup.

Yes, 2010 has been a year of labor pains.  It’s been a lot of work – requiring a lot of sweat and a lot of pushing, and we’ve generated enough friction and frustration to go around.  But by numbers alone, this could very well be the best year Atonement has had in the last 10 years.  As we keep coming back to the table there is the clear and confident sense that we are moving on towards better days. 
Just look at the numbers of people being served through our food mission.  Look at our growing partnerships in the community.  Look at the variety of ministries and activities we’ve experienced throughout the year (check out the pictures available on the web at:

Look through this annual report, and you will see page after page of good news --  from the ministry team reports to the finances, you will read the stories of the year some feared would be a disaster –  a year that has become a milestone.
           While we struggle with parking, aging facilities, lack of space, the need for more volunteers and other internal issues, it becomes easy to miss the huge blessings that God brings: we’ve made it!  This “little congregation that could” is doing it!  God has given us all we need to meet our challenges, and your faithful participation helps make the difference.
My special request to you for 2011 is a vitally important one as we move ahead: PRAY FOR EACH OTHER (1 Thessalonians 5:25)!  With all that’s going on in our congregation, your fellow members need your prayers more than ever.  Pray for volunteers, leaders, planners, teachers, children and youth, shut-ins, prospective members, working members, out-of-work members, musicians, snowbirds, deacon candidates, inactive members, new members, young parents, singles, retirees, and (oh, yeah) your pastor.  God has brought us all together to make us members of His family, our family, your family.  Through the power of the cross He brings new life from out of the jaws of disaster, turns our doubts into hope, our misgivings into love. 


Pastor Scott

            As you celebrate the birth of our Lord and the new year He brings, may the child of Bethlehem open your hands to share with others may He open your eyes to see the wonders of life.  May He open your heart to His mercy and grace may He open your soul to find the peace of that sacred, silent night. Merry Christmas!

We love you all –                     
Pastor Scott, Susan, George, Brian, Harold & Smudge


Pastor Scott greets Margirita Romo on her 74th birthday party at Resurrection House in Dade City.
They knocked at the door, hoping to find a room inside. They were cold and tired, their bodies ached, their stomachs growled for food, and the mother-to-be worried that that the baby might be coming any minute. “Sorry, no room,” they were told. No room for weary travelers, no room for a man returning to his hometown after many years, no room for a baby to be born…
When people come to our doors, we can always find room for them. When people show up with hearts that are tired, souls aching and lives hungry for love — we will make room for them. When the world has told them they have no place, we show them how Jesus makes a place for everybody.
God has come into our world and into our lives. He will be born in the humblest place, in the tiniest corner of our hearts. In the end, though, He wants it all — all your love and laughter, all your sorrow and anger, your pain and sin. He will take it all to make His kingdom, where, with all the children of our weary world, we find our place.

Peace, Pastor Scott


"The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully"
— 2 Corinthians 9:6
 The verse above from 2 Corinthians is often used to encourage people to be generous givers. In fact, that was why it was originally written. The apostle Paul wanted the Corinthians to send money to help out their poor, struggling fellow Christians in Jerusalem. “Don’t forget,” he’s saying to those in Corinth, “your gifts are like seeds — and God will use them to produce a wonderful crop that will ultimately benefit everyone.”
But no matter how generous we are in our giving, one thing’s for sure: we can’t outgive God! Ultimately, God is the one who sowed the seeds in our lives that have allowed us to do all we do and to be what we are. Our joy comes from seeing what God has done in our lives and realizing those were His seeds, not ours, that took root, His seeds that grew, His seeds that blossomed. If we had a hand in it at all, it’s because God put a few of His seeds into our hand and let us scatter them where we could.
So what seeds has God given you? That’s the big question as we approach the holiday of
Thanksgiving. And how many of those seeds will you be scattering in the coming year?
When’s the last time you’ve closed your eyes and from the bottom of your heart said the words “Thank God!” Maybe you were driving in heavy traffic, and a big truck missed you by inches. But God was there and kept you safe — Thank God! Maybe you heard your doctor tell you what you were longing to hear. Your tests are clear — Thank God! Maybe you recently laid a loved one to rest, someone you know was a strong, believing Christian who is now with the Lord — Thank God!
Our “every member response” program this year is called “Thank God!” When I think about my wonderful wife and children and their health, about my best friend who has come back safely from Iraq, about my congregation which is growing in so many ways, about friends and family far and wide, I can’t help but say, “Thank God!” Then I think about what my Savior Jesus has done for me and it’s almost embarrassing to realize how blessed we all are, and how many seeds God has put into our hands.
So it’s time to do some sowing. It’s time to “Thank God!” not just with words or token gestures but with those seeds God has put right in our hands. How will we use our time and talents, our income and assets to bless others and share God’s love with the world in 2011? He’s given to us generously so that we can be generous people — Thank God!
Peace, Pastor Scott


 Feeling stressed out? If not, you may be in the minority these days. With construction all around us, the economy as unsure as ever and a new report that lists the Tampa Bay area as the fourth most stressful place to live in the nation, we shouldn’t be surprised that muscles are tight and blood pressure is rising.
If you have stress in your life, you’re invited to take advantage of some special offerings we have this October. Wednesday nights at 7pm we will be holding “Nights of Reflection” with prayers, readings and reflective activities to help center us is Christ’s love. The 10am service on October 17 will focus on healing, with individual prayer and laying on of hands available.
Now is the time people really need to turn back to their faith to find a clear and comforting answer. Our gracious God never leaves our side. He constantly calls us back to a relationship with Him, one where we’re able to let go of concerns that overwhelm us, and find peace once again. Jesus reminds us how God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers. When we come back to God, He feeds our souls and clothes our hearts with much-needed calm and simplicity.
Peace, Pastor Scott


It feels like a whole new beginning. After holding our breath for 6 months hoping and praying that our congregation would be able to hold together financially, we’ve seen the Lord bless us with steadily growing income in 2010. I want to thank you for your faithful giving and thank our council for replacing the 5% of my salary that I declined for the first 6 months of the year. Not only that, they generously granted me a 1% cost of living increase. All this gives me the freedom to continue serving as your full-time pastor and to continue our partnership in God’s work.
Summer Day Camp was a big success. Thanks to all our donors who made this wonderful program financially feasible. Three wonderful counselors, Drew, Daniel and Emily, spent 5 full days praying and playing with 17 children at this, our first Day Camp. I can’t remember when I’ve seen so many big bright smiles on young faces.
You wouldn’t know it to look at the thermometer, but summer is over. School is up and running and we’re looking forward to a busy September. The weekend of the 12th I’ll be heading over to Orlando with the youth for the Rock the Universe weekend at Universal Studios theme park. My schedule makes it difficult to attend many events with the youth, so I am grateful to the council for granting me a Sunday to spend a full weekend of quality time with our young people.
Sunday school will be starting at the end of the month. Outreach is planning some great outings. Confirmation class will start meeting and of course, our Helping Hands food pantry will continue their outstanding work for those in need. It’s all happening at Atonement — can’t wait to see you there!
Peace, Pastor Scott


The evening was perfect for fishing. Martin Luther and his friends were pulling up trout, carp, pike, and a few other varieties from the little pond behind their house. When he turned and saw his wife Katherine with a broad smile on her face, Luther said, “Katy, you are more pleased over these few fish than a nobleman who fishes in the lake and catches thousands. Rich men sit around with all their luxury, but can’t enjoy what they have. God’s gifts are overwhelming, but it’s too bad people who don’t know God can’t even recognize them.”
I hope and pray that you are able to recognize and appreciate the blessings God gives you. Your home and family, daily food and shelter, friends and companions, health and well-being are all gifts that come to you because God loves you so much. Everything we do as members of God’s family the church, reminds us of this basic fact.
This month we will begin a new tradition at Atonement that will help us remember and celebrate those gifts. On August 29th, we will send out “The Blessing Cup.” This special chalice will travel from house to house among our members, to be shared by each family. While it’s in their possession, each family will place it on their table, say a special prayer and drink from it at a daily meal. The hope is that every Atonement family will eventually take a turn being a steward of the blessing cup.
We will start off with families of confirmation students, and then open it up to others. Singles, couples, families with or without children are all welcome to partake. Everyone gets blessed by God, so everyone gets a turn with the blessing cup!
Pastor Scott


The theme for our youth mission trip to Louisiana was: “More Jesus Less Us.” Maybe this should really be the theme for all of life for us Christians. The “me” stuff always gets in the way and never leaves us feeling total fulfillment. The “Jesus” stuff usually brings with it some joyful surprise, and the feeling that everything’s in God’s hands.
This newsletter is your invitation to the “Jesus” stuff. Here you will find opportunities to add worship, fun, serving others, finding God in the Word, and a whole host of other things to your summer. Come join us at Atonement and get into the Jesus stuff!

Pastor Scott