Blank Space

I just know that some of you saw the title and are reading now, hoping for lyrics to a Taylor Swift song. My apologies.

Yes, T. Swifty does have a song titled Blank Space, where she writes about her ex-lovers and the apparent vacancy for the next ex-boyfriend. But I have a different picture of what a blank space can offer.

Blank space offers a space for grace.

I have conversations with people all the time where the unspoken request is for grace. Deadlines weren’t met, relationships need to be restored, wrongs have been committed. While there is certainly an understanding of consequences in most people’s minds, it occurs to me that the blank space we can offer provides a way out.

This way out is not something people immediately consider. After all, what’s done is done and there’s no going back, right? But I see a blank space that says otherwise. New deadlines can be established. Relationships don’t need to remain broken. Wrongs can be made right.

The Church should always have a blank space.

Every school year is a blank space, giving us a new chance to be a student that tries.

Every new job is a blank space, giving us the opportunity to offer our best with a team. 

Every move is a blank space, offering a fresh slate to be who God made us to be. 

But some of us are way past school age. Perhaps a new job is not out there and a move is impractical. What hope is there for us?

Every new day is a blank space. Every new day we awake, we have 12 hours of decisions to make. What will we make of this day? What kind of person will we be?

Every Sunday is a celebration of these blank spaces. We come together, as people of grace. Some of us come feeling more broken than others. Some of us come attempting to fool ourselves and others about our brokenness. Nevertheless, we come. We need the blank space.

We need the healing. We need the restoration. We need the grace. We need to be reminded that there is a blank space. The blank space is not there for our next mistake, but for our name to be written next to Jesus. Since creation, Jesus has had a plan, carried out to perfection.

Next to His Name is a blank space.


*Like this? Find more at where Rick blogs a few times each week. 

Ranking Social Media Sites

Which Are Teens’ Favorites…and Why?

Dynamic ImageSome teens like to keep up with their friends on Facebook. Some like to shoot short clips for Vine. Others keep it short and simple on Twitter. And many like the idea of the (supposedly) short life cycle offered by Snapchat. But which is the best?

It might depend on who you ask….


A Kiddie Kollege Farewell

Dr. Seuss was quoted as saying, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” We remember those words as we said goodbye to 33 students at graduation and to four of our staff.  Ashley Robinson (Pre-K teacher) is planning to stay home with her girls; Sarah Kohl (Pre-K aide) has moved to Elkhart; and Karolyn and Ed Barrus (Pre-K aides) may finally enjoy retirement!  We appreciate the years of service that all of them gave to our ministry.  Please pray for them as God guides their paths.

June KK 1 June KK 2
The preschool will be on summer break until after Labor Day, but the child care is open during the summer, except June 29-July 3. The Staff is currently working on scheduling field trips and creative activities for the next few months.  If you visit the church during the week, don’t be surprised to see wet, messy fun happening on the playground.

Missions Update

Hello Winona Lake family,

June Missions 1
Our plate was very full this last week.  We participated in a first time ever stadium evangelism effort on Sat May 15.  Over 2,000 people showed up for a Thessaloniki-wide, united-Church event.  I was able to get several contacts to attend. It was positive, but not decisive.

The Friday night before, we held an all night prayer vigil.  We are currently hosting two YWAM teams and they helped sing and pray through the night.   Also our (hopeful) minister in training came from Albanian to join in his first ever prayer all-nighter and to lead worship in English for the first time.   Please pray for his visa for him and his family.  The current political crisis is causing problems.

On Wednesday, Maria and I enjoyed an incredible two hour chat with two Orthodox priests at a new organization called “Together.”  I meet the founder at a conference at the University about Religion and Violence.  He and I were speakers at the round table.  Tomorrow, Tuesday, I will meet him again after his radio show and meet an Egyptian Christian.  The following Tuesday on May 26, father Justine has invited me to be his guest on the radio show.  Pray for this exciting connection.  Who knows where it will lead?


New Sermon Series!

“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”

― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

So what is God preparing you for?

What does He see ahead ?

I agree with Corrie ten Boom, God is perfectly preparing each of us for something and be assured we need Him to be a part of the equation.

Over the next few weeks I am going to be preaching a sermon series on walking on water.  It is about an ordinary man (Peter) who did an extraordinary thing.

I believe every person has a call on their life to make a difference in this world and God is ready to give us exactly what we need to fulfill His call

Life experience has taught me there is no better place to be than in the center of God’s will.

So let’s get ready to grow in Christ as we attempt to discern together;

What is God calling us to do ?

How do we overcome fear?

What do I do if practicing faith feels like too great a risk ?

What if I fail ?

If you enjoy reading,  a good resource for this series is John Ortberg’s book  “If You want to walk on Water You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat”.

During the summer months If there are weeks you are unable to join us, be sure and check out the church web site at and listen to the sermons online.


Pastor Paul Parker

Before She Says “I Do”

by Dale Reeves 

Dynamic Image

Last June on Father’s Day, I stood at the brink of performing the marriage of our daughter. As the father of two daughters, I was so excited about welcoming another dude into our family. (Shout out to you, Adam!) At that moment I asked myself if I had done everything I needed to do to equip my daughter to be the best she could be as she began a new family.

Looking back at all my years as “Dad” living in a house of estrogen, trying my best to be the best possible father a girl could have, I can’t help but notice three key traits necessary for our little princesses to thrive in the grown-up world.


Easter Under the Overpass

Austin New Church holds its Easter celebration under an overpass. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Contreras)

Instead of a traditional Easter church service, Austin New Church took its Easter service to the streets under the Interstate 35 overpass near Seventh and Eighth streets.

“Every Easter, it’s our favorite time of the year. Instead of having a regular worship service, we close the doors, come down here, have a communion service,” Pastor Brandon Hatmaker told KXAN, the NBC television affiliate in Austin that was one of several news outlets covering the event.


Winona Lake Celebrates Past While Moving Forward

A choir of pastors sings during the Winona Lake Free Methodist Church's anniversary celebration. (Photo by Sarah Wadkins)

A choir of pastors sings during the Winona Lake Free Methodist Church’s anniversary celebration. (Photo by Sarah Wadkins)

Our recent celebration of 80 years as a Church was noticed and has been shared with the larger Free Methodist Family.  

Established first in the homes of Free Methodist Publishing House personnel during the 1930s, the Winona Lake (Indiana) Free Methodist Church has a long and significant history both within the Wabash Conference and the wider Free Methodist Church.

An iconic place within Free Methodism, Winona Lake conjures memories of the publishing house, the International Friendship House, the Billy Sunday Tabernacle, Homer Rodeheaver Auditorium and the local Free Methodist Church. Many denominational employees and visitors worshipped at the Winona Lake FMC when the community hosted the Free Methodist headquarters for many years.

The congregation celebrated 80 years of ministry during a celebration service on Sunday, April 26. Eleven current and former ministers shared in the event. After an extended meet-and-greet time, the congregation came together to worship through congregational singing, special music and testimonies of former pastors.


Tips for Parents

by Tony Akers

Youth ministry is fueled by friendship. Few organizations rely as heavily on the power of relationships to shape young people spiritually. Negotiating the relational world of youth ministry can be a bit daunting for youth, and the success or failure of that negotiation most directly effects the strength of motivation a young person has to continue engaging in the ministry. Knowing the reasons behind this motivation can help you as a parent as you travel together with your son or daughter through transition into youth ministry.

Typically, most youth ministries see three types of kids entering the youth program. It is instructive to identify which “type” your child is in order to be aware of how they are connecting socially. The first type, “active,” was involved in the children’s ministry, the second has been waiting “in the wings,” and the third will be the “newcomer.” Each type of kid brings certain expectations and challenges and has some trouble transitioning into the youth ministry for one reason or another. Here is what we have encountered:


A Daily Pursuit of Obedience

Sometimes I wonder which of the following two primary pursuits would more significantly impact the world- if we all had big plans and worked daily toward the realization of those big plans; or, if we all made a commitment to find a way, each day, to live a life of radical, moment by moment obedience to God.  If I read and understand the Scriptures well, I think the answer is clear- daily obedience.  If I read and understand and agree with culture and contemporary Christian leadership literature, I think the answer is clear- working a compelling vision.  A case could be made from Scripture for working a vision, but not a comprehensive case.  Of course, the unique role and example of Jesus would be one.  But, a better case in the New Testament would certainly be of the other option- a life pursuing daily obedience to God.