Thursday, October 1, 2015

(up the stairs, last door on the right)

Trailer at:

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Verle E. Helsel, R.I.P.

Verle Helsel (1932 – 2015)
Eulogy July 3, 2015
Permit me to paraphrase singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg:

The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through our instruments and his song is in our souls
Our lives have been some poor attempts to imitate the man
We’re just a living legacy to the leader of the band

They say that the most important lessons of discipleship are caught, not taught. In other words, we tend to infect those around us with our loves and passions by the way we speak and live our lives. As I thought about this eulogy over the last week or so, I have come to see afresh and anew how profoundly I have been affected by Dad’s passions, and how many of my present day loves were either modeled for me, or given to me by this exceptional man.
            Dad loved Jesus. He loved the stories about Jesus, the stories that Jesus used to tell and especially the way that Jesus had made known to him personally the love of God the Father. Dad had a life-long aversion to, and hard-fought battle with, cranky, tight-shoed legalism. And in the last few weeks of his life, Dad delighted to recount the story of the Shepherd who left the ninety-and-nine to rescue the one straying sheep, and Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. Dad loved stories of grace, and stories Jesus, the very embodiment of grace.
            Dad loved church and the gathering of God’s people. He was involved in Navigators Bible-studies and discipleship in college, ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church, and routinely opened our home for Bible-studies, prayer meetings and youth group gatherings. As a young child, I often went to sleep to the sound of the saints singing in our living room, or the muffled sounds of heartfelt prayers. We once hosted a record-breaking 130 junior-highers in our home for a youth-group gathering when Dad was serving as a volunteer staffer.
            Dad loved the Bible, and what the prophet Jeremiah called, “the old paths.” Dad was “sweet old school” before there even was such a thing. As a kid I loved leafing through the well-worn pages and many underlined verses of his Bible. He loved the poetic cadences of the King James Version, prayed faithfully through the Book of Common Prayer and treasured the reverent rhythms of liturgical worship.
Dad loved to teach. When I was in seventh grade Dad started a Bible study with a few of my friends and me. Bible study with seventh graders. Who wouldn’t want to do that? And what could possibly go wrong? Dad, as only Dad could do, convinced us squirrely pre-teens that it was possible for us, aided by the Holy Spirit, to read, study and apply the Bible ourselves. Dad’s patient directions and skillful explanations resulted in the conversion of one, and the launching of two of our number into full-time vocational Christian ministry. Thanks, Dad.
            Dad loved C.S. Lewis. Some of my earliest and most treasured childhood memories are of us kids either seated in Dad’s lap or leaning closely into him on the couch as he read to us (and I believe re-read to us) The Chronicles of Narnia. I often thought of Dad as I imitated him with my own children. Dad loved not only the content, but the clarity and artistry of Lewis’ style and I think he felt a kinship with certain elements of Lewis’ own life and spiritual journey.
            Dad loved two-wheeled vehicles (motorcycles) careening at high-speeds down dirt roads and up mountain trails. Before Dad bought me my first motorcycle, I would ride behind him with my hands jammed into the pockets of his corduroy jacket for warmth. I remember quite vividly how I would press my helmeted head into his back while chanting to myself, “I do trust my dad. I do trust my dad” as he would skillfully lean the bike full-throttle into sharp corners. It was Dad who showed me how to coax my motorcycle’s transmission into the small neutral zone between fifth and sixth gears enabling me to coast down Brown’s Canyon above Daroga Park faster than if the bike was running and in gear. Thanks, Dad.
            Dad loved books and learning. One look at Dad’s amazing library of books, Great Courses CDs and DVDs would amply demonstrate that Dad was indeed “a life-long learner.” He possessed a wonderful ability to integrate the books that he was reading into everyday conversations. And up until a few weeks ago he was still strategizing how best to sync up a desktop, laptop and tablet computer using cloud-based storage. As Mom put it so well, “Your dad is always thinking about something.”
            Dad loved words and plays on words. Computers weren’t computers, they were percutors. I can still picture Dad, in response to a question whose answer was quite obviously “no”, saying “Does a chicken have hips?” And his funny way of twisting words and phrases lives on in his children and grandchildren today. And I love to hear his sense of humor echoing and still entertaining in the conversations of our family gatherings. Thanks, Dad.
Two of my present day loves are the direct result of Dad’s generosity and wisdom. When I was a poor college student, Dad visited me at WSU. When he saw that my cheap little acoustic guitar was becoming unplayable, he drove me over to a music store in Moscow, ID and bought me one of the finest instruments I have ever owned. I still have the guitar today, and often when playing it, I remember not only Dad’s loving provision, but the strangely critical role that guitar music played in bringing me to my current vocation as pastor and teacher.
            And last, but certainly not least: In the spring of 1980 my wife, Ellen, reconnected with Mom and Dad in their Edmonds home. Ellen and I had been friends for several years, but she had some lingering questions about our suitability for a more serious relationship. Thirty-five years later I am still thanking God for using this wonderful man and his sage and timely wisdom to convince my sweet Ellen that we were indeed well-suited for one another.
            Jesus. Church. Bible. Grace. Teaching. Books. Two-wheeled vehicles on dirt tracks. Learning. Humor. Music and my beautiful wife. Thanks, Dad for infecting me with your loves, and for directing me with your love to Him who is love. Today, I am proud to be your son, your namesake, and to bear, albeit imperfectly, a family resemblance. And I pray that when my time comes, I will be able to say as you did a few days ago: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”

Verle Eugene (Gene) Helsel II

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers Day Exhortation

(Genesis 1:26–27) Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
The glory of God is so great that it requires the combined efforts and collective image bearing capacities of two genders: male and female. And although image-bearing is implicit in all that we do as men and women, certain offices and duties are uniquely weighted with revelations of God’s goodness and love. Take for instance those who bear the office of Mother.
-    Mothers bear the image of their Creator when they bring into existence something that bears resemblance to them and yet is completely unique and separate from them.

-    Mothers bear the image of their Creator when they bring children into existence knowing in advance that they will be difficult, selfish, ungrateful and who at times will be so busy with their own agendas that they will fail to adequately stay in touch.

-    Mothers bear the image of their Creator when they bring children into existence, not for what the children can do for them, but rather as objects of their intense love and unflagging devotion; little people upon whom to lavish affection, encouragement, provision and praise.

-    Mothers bear the image of their Creator when they lovingly perform a thousand selfless deeds for their children accompanied by a thousand gifts of service and are happily content to have one or two acknowledged and praised.

-    Mothers bear the image of their Creator when they willingly take responsibility to wipe their children clean from the filth that their children continually produce or glop on themselves from without and are quite helpless to do anything about. And this they do no matter how frequently or ceaselessly their children smudge, smear and soil themselves.

-    Mothers bear the image of their Creator when they teach, and then re-teach, and then re-re-teach the same lessons over and over again, patiently committed to teach the lessons as many times as it takes for the wisdom to take root in the hearts of their children.

-    Mothers bear the image of their Creator when they become fiercely angry and ferociously intimidating towards anyone or anything that would seek to do harm to their little ones.

-    Mothers bear the image of their Creator when they, just like the Lord God, are perfectly easy to please, and forever impossible to satisfy. Ever eager to acknowledge and praise the smallest of their children’s victories and accomplishments, and ever wanting for them more than they are able to ask or imagine.

And so, moms, we sons and daughters thank you from the very bottom of our hearts, not merely for your myriad acts of love and service. But for the countless ways that you displayed and revealed to us the big-hearted goodness and never-ending love of our Creator God. To Him be all glory and praise!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter 2015

Join us for our celebration of Jesus' victory over sin, condemnation and death. Easter egg hunt for the kids, and Resurrection Day feast to follow. All are welcome!

9:00 AM - Worship
10:30 - Easter Egg Hunt
11:00 - Brunch

Where: the corner of 5th and Western Aves in Wenatchee

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Quality Enemies

As Oscar Wilde observed, and many others have similarly noted, “You can judge a man by the quality of his enemies.” You heard that right, enemies. And the Bible, far from guaranteeing that everyone will love and admire us as we follow Jesus, actually assures us of just the opposite; it declares that we will have haters and persecutors, and that they will, well…hate and persecute us.

David begged for divine deliverance from the lion-like men who would tear him to pieces.
Paul described one particularly hurtful persecutor as a “thorn in the flesh.”
And even Jesus assured his disciples (including us modern disciples) that following him leads surely to the painful betrayal of some of those close to us.

May God grant us grace to be considered dangerous enough by the Enemy of our souls to warrant a few quality enemies to hound and harass us.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Guard Your Heart (Travis Koch)

TRA Graduation 2014, Faculty Address

Thank you Peter, and thank you again graduates for inviting me to give your commencement address today.  I’m especially honored that you asked me to do this after only one year teaching at the River Academy.  I’m sure future classes won’t make the same mistake.

We come now to that part of the ceremony where I, on behalf of the school, am expected to impart to you some final, sage advice that will guide and inspire you as you leave this place and commence the next chapter of your life.

And you, seniors, may be wondering: After all the topics we’ve already covered in class; after all the books we’ve read and discussed; after all our over-caffeinated conversations at CafĂ© Mela; after all the pearls of wisdom and knowledge our teachers have showered upon us over the years … what could Mr. Koch possibly say that we haven’t already heard?

Let’s face it: you’re right.  In our Humane Letters class alone we spent nearly 250 hours this year sitting around tables wrestling with the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything.  Those hours of instruction have been multiplied time and again in all the classes you’ve taken during your years at the River.

And I can’t help but think that if we teachers have taken advantage of all our time together, then certainly we must have already given you all the tools and advice we can think of.  We’ve already said all we can say to prepare you as you go from this place.  And now, sadly, the clock has run out.  And our time together is over.  So it goes.

But perhaps there’s something more to say.  One last bit of instruction.  A final exhortation.  And so, I’ve chosen to send you off with these words of ancient wisdom: This above all else, guard your heart.

Above all else, guard your heart, because your heart, says Solomon in Proverbs 4, is the wellspring of your life.  Whatever is in your heart – your desires, your goals, your fears, your affections – the orientation of your heart will determine the course of your life.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Seasons of the Family Audio Files (with notes)

Click here for a link to the audio files from KXC's recent "Seasons of the Family" conference. You should find four audio files and a PDF and/or Word file containing all five talks. Enjoy!