Pastor Sally Devotional 6/16

Dear friends,

Some of you may know by now that my father is in the hospital in Kalamazoo having been taken by ambulance around 4:00 AM Wednesday morning.  When I heard what had happened my husband Mike and I immediately set out for Kalamazoo to see my dad and Battle Creek to check on my mother.  Both of them are in their 90s.  While we were enroute, Mike called his associate pastor, Pat, in Battle Creek where he serves to see what she knew about possible in-home help for my mother.  Pat, who is filling in for Mike at the end of the month when we fly out to visit our new grandson commented, “Wow, you really are poster children for the sandwich generation!”

 

I heard Pat’s comment and smiled a rather rye smile.  It’s really a bit overwhelming at times to be sandwiched between two generations that often have a lot of need.  I sometimes feel squeezed.  I sometimes feel squashed.  I sometimes feel like I’m about to crumble, particularly when the needs of one generation impinge on the other. 

 

But today I have decided to feel blessed.  What a privilege to be able to care for my parents in their 90s!  My husband’s parents died in their 60s and 70s.  I am so lucky to still have my parents.  I also feel incredibly blessed to be watching my two grandchildren grow and develop into delightful human beings, not to mention the joy of watching my children thrive.  It hasn’t always been so.  There have been moments when life has been hard because one or another of my family members has been struggling or in pain.  It is heartbreaking to watch a loved one suffer.  Still I feel blessed to be able to be with them at such times and to give away the ample love my Lord has poured into my soul to share.

 

Surely the writer of proverbs was correct when he wrote, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their parents.”  Proverbs 17:6.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 615

Dear friends,

My dog, Theo, has a new favorite place.  He likes to crawl under our bed and hide there among the “under the bed” boxes.  It’s his secret place.  It’s his hiding place. I came home for lunch from the office the other day and called to Theo.  He wasn’t in his favorite chair or lying in the family room.  He wasn’t on the landing outside the door to the garage.  I began to sweat a little.  Did I leave him outside?  Did he get out of the house somehow?  No.  He was upstairs, under the bed looking very sleepy and maybe a little pleased with himself.  I took his picture.

 

For me, God is my secret place… my hiding place.  When I am at a loss, I find a quiet place.  Any place will do as long as I am alone.  Then I close my eyes and take some deep breaths.  I find myself in the presence of God where I am strengthened and quieted.  Sometimes there is guidance there.  Sometimes not, and I will have to wait for direction.  But there is always the calming, quiet strength of the Lord.

 

I hope you find some time to hide in the Lord today.

 

You are my hiding place;

    you will protect me from trouble

    and surround me with songs of deliverance.  (Psalm 32:7)

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Blog 6/8

Dear friends, 

 

I am sitting under the portico this morning enjoying the beautiful day and our beautiful church grounds as a I work this morning.  It is Tuesday morning and this is the day for drop by visits at the church.  what a beautiful place to work!

 

While I was looking around the grounds, I decided to take a closer look at the painted heart at our front entrance.  Lots of businesses and gathering places in Elkhart have painted hearts adorning their grounds.  I really like ours.  I wonder if someone among you can share the history of how we obtained this heart and who painted it???

 

In case you haven’t looked closely at our heart… there is a large tree painted on it.  Because it is painted on both sides, each side being different, you have the impression you are looking at a complete tree.  The tree has small yellow flowers surrounding it.  This seems appropriate to me, given the great work our gardening crew does, that there are flowers around the tree.  The tree appears to be home to several children of different races.  Each child is relaxed, content and generous.  Several are reading which fits with our church’s love of learning.  One has befriended some butterflies which reminds me that we are a church of the resurrection and new life.  One seems to be offering a piece of fruit – maybe an apple or a tomato.  Another is sharing a book with a friend.  On the cover of the book is the title which reads, “My Life.”  She seems quite willing to offer the story of her life to her friend in the tree.  What an interesting heart on our lawn!

 

I don’t know what the original artist had in mind when painting this heart, but let me suggest what it means to me.  The tree, to me, is Christ.  It dominates the heart and is the center of everything.  The tree offers an abundance of life as evidence by the green branches everywhere and is a shelter and comfort for people of all races and ethnicities.  In the shelter of the tree live the children of God.  The child on the lowest branch seems to have just discovered the joy of faith found in the resurrection.  She is enamored with her butterflies.  Higher up in the tree, the children of God are being nurtured in the faith.  They learn and grow as they read and study their books, offer what gifts they have as seen in the offered fruit and share their lives with one another as evidenced in the child offering her book with the story of her live. 

 

I believe if we be this sort of church, depicted in all the lovely detail of this tree and its sheltered children, we will bring joy to our Lord and contribute to God’s work in our world.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 6/7

Dear friends,

 

Well I suppose it’s time for another grandbaby picture.  Sammy is two months old today.  I can hardly wait to see him in another 2 and ½ weeks! 

 

I share this picture with you because Sammy is learning to smile and my son, Stephen, Sammy’s dad is learning to entice that smile from him.  I’ve include the video below of Stephen’s success.  Every time I listen to Stephen working so hard to coax a smile from his son it makes me laugh.  The delight Stephen expresses when Sammy breaks into a grin is joyous.

 

I can’t help but wonder if God feels such delight when we, one of his beloved children, learn something new or get something right.  We have just enjoyed the celebration of Pentecost where we give thanks for the gift of God’s Spirit in our lives.  That Spirit nudges us and coaxes us into new ways of thinking, new learnings and new holy actions to be taken on God’s behalf in the world.  I wonder if God breaks into a joyous celebrative shout when we finally do the right thing or achieve some new milestone as we continue to grow up into Christ.  I like to think there’s a heavenly whoop over our new learning!

 

The Lord your God is with you;

    his power gives you victory.

The Lord will take delight in you,

    and in his love he will give you new life.

He will sing and be joyful over you.  (Zephaniah 3: 17)

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 6/1

Dear friends,

 

We opened the church office again today after more than a year of being closed.  I took a deep breath and walked inside knowing there were a piles of details needing my attention.  The phone messages all have to be changed.  The web site has to be changed… again!  There are groups to be contacted to invite back into the building and church groups that will be wrestling with whether it is better to come back in person or easier to meet online.  In the meantime, we are delighting to be worshipping in person outside, but I am already working toward the next change to in person inside the building.  And it occurred to me this morning that Jessica, who has been our administrative assistant now for a year, has never run the church from inside the building.  She has new things to learn while we are in the midst of yet another transition!  (I trust you all to be patient.)

 

For people who don’t like change, this year has been nothing short of traumatic.  I know our staff is weary of transitions.  We just get reoriented to a new way of doing things and wham!  We have to figure out a new pattern and a new plan.  I have always weathered transitions pretty well personally.  I like the adventure of things that are new, but I will admit, even I am tired of transitions.  I’m ready for stability!

 

I’m not sure, however, that seeking stability is possible.  Change seems to be essential to life and growth.  Many years ago I heard the Interim professor of Theology and Ethics give his retirement speech at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Dr. Winters had arrived at the seminary some 12 years prior to teach for 18 months – 2 years in the area of Theology and Ethics.  Now, 12 years later he was finally retiring and hoping the seminary would finally hire a permanent professor for his position.  I remember his retirement, however, because of something he said in his speech.  Laughing about how long his time of transition had been, he said, “You know… we are all interim.  We all are temporary in the place of life we hold.  We are growing from the people we have been into the people we will be.  None of us are permanent.”

 

The prophet Isaiah says something like this in one of the great prophecies of hope.  He writes:

6 A voice says, “Cry out!”

    And I said, “What shall I cry?”

All people are grass,

    their constancy is like the flower of the field.

7 The grass withers, the flower fades,

    when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;

    surely the people are grass.

8 The grass withers, the flower fades;

    but the word of our God will stand forever.  (Isaiah 40: 6-8)

 

Maybe that doesn’t seem entirely hopeful to you.  That’s because I haven’t included the larger context which reminds those of us who wither like grass that the Lord God comes with might.  He will come as a shepherd to feed the flock and gather the lambs in his arms.  In the midst of our temporary, brief lives, God is permanent and promises to gather and protect his children who are not so permanent.

 

In these days of more transition than we want, I try to remember that God carries us in his arms.  We take these changing days one at a time and watch for God’s leading as we step forward into the unknown… again.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 5/27

Dear Friends,

 

I moved back to the church office this afternoon.  After a year squeezed behind my sewing table with my computer at odd heights and my books and papers in piles on the guest beds in our spare bedroom, it was a delight to spread out in my office again.  My keyboard is at the right height again with my Bible and papers set up just so.  My books are quivering on the shelves to be back in their places, and I can find things again!

 

One of the things I “found” again in the move back to the church office was a stack of cards.  I have been receiving cards and notes throughout the pandemic from various members of the church.  I had them in a couple of piles, and when I pulled them together I was amazed at how many there were.  They are pictured here.  Some of them are birthday greetings which were a joy to receive in themselves, but more than half are notes of encouragement or thanks for my ministry.  I think I am most blest among pastors to have such an appreciative congregation.  Thank you to those of you who wrote notes and emails of appreciation during this strange and difficult year.  Thank you to those of you who have held me and our church staff in prayer.  You have sustained us with love.

 

The church office does officially open on Tuesday, June 1.  By Tuesday all of our regular office staff will have been fully vaccinated.  We have some very young staff who were not eligible for vaccination until after Easter, and it has taken some time getting appointments and through the 6 week regimen.  We do invite you to come to the office if you need to be in church the or need assistance with something that cannot be handled on the phone.  If you want to just chat, please come to my Tuesday Outdoor Office Hours, 9:30 to noon this coming week, where we can visit without masks if you like.

 

As we take yet another step into the new normal, I did want to pause to be appreciate of your support and encouragement during this “more than a year” of pandemic.  You are a great congregation!

 

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I Thess. 5:11

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 5/25

Dear friends,

 

Yesterday my husband and I took our lunch down to McNaughton park to eat by the river.  While we were there a family of geese came by.  I have never seen such an enormous family.  I counted 20 goslings for Mama goose and Papa goose.  I thought maybe they were baby sitting some extra goslings for some other goose parents who were taking a break, but these two parents were very protective any time another goose came near.  And besides, I don’t think geese parents loan out their goslings to other parents.  So it appears that all 20 goslings belonged to these two goose parents.  I didn’t even want to think about that poor mama goose sitting on 20 eggs!

 

Mike and I watched them for a long time as they walked down to where our car was parked and then moved on down the river edge.  Dad seemed to wander near the front leading the flock while mom took up the rear.  In some ways the parents hardly seemed to pay attention to their goslings.  The little ones wandered with their heads bobbing constantly toward the ground picking up stems and leaves and seeds and bugs.  They were hungry.  Occasionally one would run ahead or to the side flapping its wings joyfully, but they would always look up, find mom and dad and get back to the flock.  Mom and Dad seemed oblivious to their little dears as they wandered until I came a little two close.  Then they were hissing and raising their wings threateningly until I moved back… which I did.  They were clealry paying more attention than it appeared.

 

As I watched them I thought about the way God looks after us.  We often think about our relationship to God as sheep to a shepherd.  We particularly love the story when the good shepherd goes looking for the lost sheep and carries him home.  But that story is about the unusual event.  Most of the time it would seem that the sheep were supposed to follow the shepherd, to listen for his voice and to come when called.  As we remember with joy that God is gracious and seeks us when we are lost and protects us when we are in danger, we need to also remember that we have responsibilities in this relationship.  We are also supposed to listen, to follow and to respond to the call of our Lord.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 5/20

Dear friends,

 

I really am quite excited about gathering for worship with you on Sunday.  I feel like I’m planning for a party.  The staff and I have been back and forth this week talking about decorations, flowers and lots of “red” in celebration of Pentecost.  Anna added an upbeat video about our kids in worship this morning.  And Jess and I have revised the bulletin format three times now in order to fit in the words to songs so we can all sing along.     I think it’s going to be a fun day and looks like we will have wonderful weather!

 

It is somehow right that we should begin meeting anew on Pentecost.  Pentecost is a day of new beginnings.  Pentecost is sometimes referred to as the birthday of the church.  That makes good sense to me.  On Pentecost the disciples were drawn together by God’s Spirit, and together they were sent out into God’s world.  Their mission was communicate the grace and forgiveness of God which was available to all people because of Jesus Christ.  The Spirit gave them courage to speak about God and for God.  The Spirit filled them up so they could embody God’s love wherever they went.  1000s of people heard God’s voice in the words of these disciples and experienced God’s love in their presence on that first day of Pentecost. This is a lot to celebrate!

 

I hope you can join us on Sunday as we remember and give thanks for the faithfulness of the disciples of old and embrace the challenge to be God’s people anew in our time and place.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/18

Dear friends,  (I never got my devotion posted yesterday.  Here it is!)

 

My granddaughter released butterflies last weekend.  I was talking with her on Sunday night at our Sunday evening zoom bedtime reading time, and I asked her about her butterflies.  She has been raising Painted Lady butterflies after my husband and I gave her a Butterfly Garden kit as an Easter present.  The kit came with a butterfly house to build out of netting and colored cardboard.  Once the house is constructed, there’s a postcard you fill out and send to the distribution house for Painted Lady caterpillars. 

 

Charlotte received her caterpillars and spent the next several weeks feeding them sugar water and leaves and then watched as they climbed a branch she had set for them in the house.  They spun their cocoons and dangled from the branch for the appropriate time as the caterpillars slowly decomposed into caterpillar soup and then reassembled their cells into butterflies.  Four butterflies emerged about 10 days ago and Charlotte decided this weekend was the right time to release them.

 

She was surprised.  The butterflies didn’t want to leave the house she had built for them.  Eventually she got them to step on a flower which she pulled out of the house into the big bright world.  The butterflies looked around for a while and then took off.  Two of them, however, immediately returned and landed on her hand where they sat for a while until they found the courage to try their wings.

 

I couldn’t help but think that we humans are an awful lot like those butterflies.  We get used to doing things the way we’ve always done them and find change unsettling.  We may be reluctant to try new things – even good new things!  We’re not sure if we can trust the new world around us.  But God is with us.  When we feel unsure, we have a hand to fly to for rest and reassurance until we are ready to try again.  Fortunately for us, our Lord is patient and kind and goes with us into the newness. We are safe with him.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/12

Dear friends,

I am rejoicing today.  The CDC has just issued new guidance for vaccinated people – no need for masks or social distancing outside or inside.  Wow!  Happy Dance around my study!  I have already sent a request for a meeting of the reopening team for our church.  We had already met this week and were planning to make new recommendations to the session.  We may be able to do more than we had planned.  We will still need to consider safety for our children, youth and others who are not yet vaccinated, but I believe the new guidance can be received with great rejoicing.  Vaccinations are working and making our communities safer!

So here is a psalm for today:

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.  (Psalm 150)

Peace,

Pr. Sally



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