Side by Side
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July 29, 2015, 11:01 AM

Side by Side -- Pastor John and Blanche Heidengren -- July / August 2015

Side by Side – Pastor John and Blanche Heidengren

What does the Bible say about “rest”?  Its summer and a good time to ask this question. The word “rest” means “peace” or “ease” or “refreshment”. The Bible speaks quite highly of “rest”. God rested after 6 days of creation. The 10 Commandments made resting on the Sabbath part of the Law. One day of rest in every seven days. God is very serious about rest.  God wants us to rest because it doesn’t come naturally to us. To rest, we have to trust that God will take care of things for us. From the beginning (Genesis 3), when we decided that we would start making all the decisions, mankind has become more tense and less able to relax.


For the Christian, the ultimate rest is found in Christ.  He invites all who are “weary and burdened” to come to Him and cast our cares on Him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) It is only in Him that we find our complete rest—from the cares of the world, from the sorrows that plague us, and from the need to work to make ourselves acceptable to Him.  This summer, don’t just take a vacation – build some “rest” into your weekly routine.

- Pastor John


Have you ever struggled with worry?  I have battled this and thankfully, I have learned from the Word of God that I don’t have to answer the door “when worry knocks,” but can resist it in the name of Jesus.  Yes, God give us a wonderful alternative, verbally handing it to Him in prayer and letting HIM “answer the door.”  The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let you requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   There’s something amazing about the peace that comes after I start declaring that I am not going to worry about an issue, but am going to put it in the Hands of the One Who can and will work it all out for my best and for His Glory.  After I’ve prayed and thanked God for giving me the assurance that He will work it out, I like to picture two armed guards on either side of my head making sure that nothing returns to try and steal my peace that God has given me about the issue at hand.

A few other encouraging verses come to mind as well:  “Cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5:7)  Yes, HE CARES!  And even more than that, He cares for YOU and ME!  Another favorite: “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your need from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”  Phil. 4:19 NLT.  So when worry knocks at the door, let’s let Jesus answer it for us!     - Blanche


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April 25, 2015, 9:54 PM

Things to Do to Start the New Year Off Right

(I’m continuing a multi-month series on “Things to Do to Start the New Year Off Right”)

2015 is here. Need to add to your New Year’s Resolution? Here’s a fourth idea to consider that can help us in our personal growth.

4. Go on a retreat – For many years, I have taken a retreat just after Thanksgiving to pray for the parish and to prepare for the busy Advent and Christmas seasons. Anytime is good to step back and reflect, readjust, refocus, and move forward in a new direction. Other pastors go on similar retreats, sometimes with their church staff and/or Vestry. 

Taking a retreat doesn’t need to be long or expensive or far away. Even just one day, somewhere in the local area, can be beneficial. There are dozens of retreat centers in Western Pennsylvania where, for a nominal fee, you can get away from the normal routines of life. Take time to pray, dream, create, plan, play and evaluate the direction of your life.

When I go away, I take my Bible and Prayer Book, a parish directory, a good book just for fun, my walking shoes, and a journal. I ask God to help me see how to be more faithful in my life – spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, financially and in my ministry.

In some ways, after you take time to go on a retreat – the “next day” is the beginning of your “new year”!!

Pastor John

[Editor’s Note – Blanche’s column will return next month.]

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April 15, 2015, 1:00 PM

Side by Side – Pastor John and Blanche Heidengren -- April 2015

Side by Side – Pastor John and Blanche Heidengren

(I’m continuing a multi-month series on “Things to Do to Start the New Year Off Right”)

2015 is here.  Need to add to your New Year’s Resolution?  Here’s a third idea to consider that can help us in our personal growth.

3. Read a different kind of book – “Leaders are readers.”  To start the New Year off right, I want to encourage you to read something completely different and out of your comfort zone.  Some pastors say they only read non-fiction and say they have no time for fiction.  Guess what?  Truth and beauty can be found in fiction.  Have you ever read or watched the movie “The Lord of the Rings?”  I think we would all agree that Tolkien was a genius and God had His hand on His writing.  God can use eye-opening movies like that to open our minds to reading books out of our usual pattern.

Maybe you only read “Christian” or “ministry” books and need to read a “business” book.  Maybe you need to read an historical book or biography.   Whatever may be your case, branch out this year and read something totally different.  You’ll be better for it.

I’ll have yet another something new for you next month that you can add to your New Year’s Resolution.                                                                                             –Pastor John


I love Easter time even more than Christmas!  Why? I am excited about it because we take the time to meditate on and celebrate all that Christ did for us in His sacrifice on the cross and in His glorious resurrection.  I have a new favorite song that I want to share with you that celebrates Jesus and all He did for us through His life, death and resurrection.  It’s called, “Because He Lives (Amen)” by Matt Maher.


Here’s a link to a music video of it with the lyrics so you can sing along like we do. 


“I believe in the Son, I believe in the risen One,
I believe I overcome, by the power of His blood.

Chorus: Amen, Amen, I’m alive, I’m alive, Because He lives, Amen, Amen
Let my song join the one that never ends, Because He lives.

I was dead in the grave, I was covered in sin and shame,
I heard mercy call my name, He rolled the stone away / Chorus

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, Because He lives,
Every fear is gone I know He holds my life my future in His hands.

Because He lives, Because He lives” Yes, because He lives
we who put our trust in Him are overcomers!


Have a blessed Easter celebration,

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March 12, 2015, 11:10 PM

Side by Side -- March 2015

Side by Side – Pastor John and Blanche Heidengren

 (I’m continuing a multi-month series on “Things to Do to Start the New Year off Right”)


2015 is here. Have you made a New Year’s Resolution yet? Perhaps you chose “joining a gym”, or “going on a diet”. Here’s a second idea to consider that can help us get the New Year off to a great start.

#2 – Get a watch – I read about a busy person who practiced what I wrote in January’s Peace Notes about fasting from social media. He found one thing happening over and over: his smartphone was constantly in his hand. He was attached to it. He realized that he always had it out, in his hand and would look at it during meetings, mealtime and other rude and inappropriate times. He jokingly told his wife, “I just need to get a watch. Then I could keep my phone in my pocket.”

Sure enough, while out of town speaking at a conference, he stopped in a shopping mall and bought a watch. Now his lunches, dinners, coffees and meetings are different because he’s not constantly checking his phone and appearing rude to whoever he’s eating or meeting with. Everything is going mobile and we need a healthy boundary and perspective for this technology.

Now if you don’t have a smartphone, that’s ok. You probably are already using a watch. I’ll have something for you next month that you can add to your New Year’s Resolution.

* * * *

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matt. 5:4


These encouraging words of Jesus that He spoke during the “Sermon on the Mount” are filled with hope and compassion. As followers of His, we can be assured that He will comfort us when we mourn over a loss.

I’ll never forget the day after our first miscarriage, I turned over our Daily Scripture Calendar and there was this verse. I couldn’t believe the timing! I sat down and cried as I was so moved and comforted that God saw me and my sadness and said, “I’m right here.” He also gave me a vision, when we were in prayer with a pastor friend who came over to comfort us that day, of me handing our baby up to Jesus who lovingly took him in His arms and carried Him to Heaven.

Nor will I forget the day after Alex went Home to Heaven, when I went out of the cottage where we were staying at the camp where he drowned, and I smelled the most heavenly flowers with an aroma of magnolia and camellia mixed with roses. I went around the cottage looking for the flowerbed which wasn’t there, and then the Lord spoke to me and comforted me with these words, “It’s Me! I’m right here with you and I will be with you on this journey of life with Alex in Heaven.”                                                           

Yes, God comforts us when we mourn, by speaking to us personal words through Scripture, by giving us visions and dreams, by the precious words and actions of beloved church friends, family and neighbors who bring meals and pray for us, and through beautiful music like “I Can Only Imagine.”

How has God comforted you in your time of mourning?

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January 25, 2015, 8:22 PM

Side by Side

Side by Side – Pastor John and Blanche Heidengren

I’ve gone through almost half my firewood pile already – which means it’s been cold for quite some time.

Winter is here, and as I sit in front of my fireplace trying to stay warm, most people I talk to can’t wait for winter to end. What is it about winter that we don’t like?

One blogger wrote: “Well the Groundhog saw his shadow, 6 more weeks of winter.  Interpretation:  more dry skin, chapped lips, endless days of grey skies and cold dreary weather.  The only good thing about winter, and I think we all agree, is a Snow Day!”

C.S. Lewis describes his fictitious world of Narnia before Aslan comes as “always winter and never Christmas”.

Winter can be a metaphor for death – nothing is growing in winter, it’s darker, it’s cold, and can be downright depressing.

But there’s hope – winter doesn’t last forever! Soon it will be Spring with new plants bursting forth, longer and warmer days, and brighter spirits.  It’s like a resurrection! It’s like life after death.

I pray for all us as we endure winter, that we will remember it won’t last forever. There will be joy when Spring arrives.  I also pray for all of us as we endure the challenges and hardships of life on this earth, that we remember these won’t last forever.  There will be joy when we arrive in heaven.

May our hope in what’s to come be contagious and strengthen others to keep their focus on the Lord.

~ Pastor John


February is the month we think about love as we celebrate Valentine's Day. Knowing we are loved by God who knows us inside and out is everything! May we take some time to thank Him and bask in His Presence, and then share His love with our biological families, our church family here at Prince of Peace, and to those He calls us to reach out to in our communities and in mission around the world. Here are a few of my favorite Bible verses that tell us about His great love:

 John 3:16 - "For God so loved 'the world (put your name in)' that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life."

Zephaniah 3:17 - "The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you, (your name), with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."

1 John3:1a - "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!"

Romans 8:37-39 - "...we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

1 John 4:19 - "We love because He first loved us.”

Psalm 86:15 - "But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness."

What are some of your favorite Bible verses on God’s love?


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