Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/23

Dear friends, 

 

Sometimes I am quite astounded by how much I don’t know these days.  Before Coronavirus I felt like there was so much certainly.  My weekly and monthly schedule was mostly establish with some variation.  I knew how to approach my work at the church.  I had plans for when and how I would see my family. There were events to which I was looking forward.  There were familiar patterns and traditions around the holidays and vacations.  And I felt safe as I wondered around town and at work and among friends and family. Now, I am quite astounded by how much I don’t know.

 

I suspect the truth is we never know quite as much about what’s real in our lives and what’s possible in the future as we think we do.  Here’s an interesting poem by Thomas Merton.

 

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

 

Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following Your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please You.
And I hope that I have that desire
in all that I am doing.

 

And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road
although I may know nothing about it.

 

Therefore will I trust You always,
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death,
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and will never leave me
to face my perils alone.

 

In all the unknown in these days, I am trusting God to lead me and to lead us.  O Lord, help us to follow closely.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/22

Dear Friends,

We have a mother robin sitting on a nest in the corner of our front porch right now.  I was sort of surprised to see her there because the first attempt at a nest in that corner was a failure.  We came home one day about three weeks ago to find a mess of leaves, twigs and string strewn over the steps of the front porch.  We finally deduced that a bird had been trying to build a nest in one of the corners of had failed.  Then the other day a robin was in the porch flying back and forth, periodically resting in one of the upper corners.  And a couple of days ago the nest was in place.  Today, mother robin has taken her seat.  I hope we don’t scare her away.  Our front door is really the best way in and out of our house.

I love having a nest up close where I can watch the hatching of the eggs and the baby beaks poking above the nest looking for food.  I like the attention of the mama and daddy birds fliting back and forth with grubs and worms.  I like the stern look of the mother bird willing me to leave her alone.  The protective instinct is strong.

The instinct to protect and provide for the baby birds reminds me that God also wants to protect and provide for us.  In Psalm 91:4 we read of God, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.”  And in Matt 23: 37, Jesus, speaking about his desire to care for the children of Israel, compares himself to a mother hen saying, “how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. 

When I see mother robin caring for her babies in the next few weeks, I will be remembering the constant care of our loving God.  I hope you will be too.

Warmly,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/21

Dear Friends, 

One of my favorite discoveries in the city of Thessaloniki was a tiny, ancient chapel in the middle of the a rather poor hilltop neighborhood called Ano Poli.  The chapel is dedicated to St David of Thessaloniki, the Tree-Dweller,  a monk that lived his entire life in the branches of an almond tree  The church was destroyed in the 15th century and converted into a mosque when Turkey conquered Greece.  In the 1930’s, after Greece achieved independence from Turkey, the church was rebuilt by Asia Minor Greeks fleeing to Thessaloniki. 

In the middle of the small chapel is a most beautiful 5th century mosaic, pictured here. It’s hard to imagine it has even survived to this day as many Christian symbols and artwork were destroyed in the churches that were converted to mosques in the 15th century.  But the Christians in the neighborhood apparently covered the ancient mosaic with sheepskin and plastered over it before the church was taken.  The mosaic was rediscovered in the 1930s when it was rebuilt.

What makes this mosaic so special?  Certainly part of it is the youthful depiction of Jesus in the middle.  We know it’s Jesus, in part because he in surrounded by the four figures that symbolize the gospels – Matthew the man, Mark the lion, Luke the ox and John the eagle.  On either side of these figures are two prophets, Ezekiel and Habakkuk.  The prophet on the left is bowed with his head in his hands in awe.  The prophet to the right has one hand on a book (scroll) and the other thoughtfully on his head.  Together the two represent two ways we come to God, sometimes by a movement of emotion (the heart) and sometimes by logical deduction (the head).

I, however, am fascinated by the depiction of Jesus because he lacks a beard which would have been unheard of for a Jewish youth, let alone a Rabbi.  I don’t think this beardlessness can simply be attributed to youth.  I think it may be intentional.  While Mike and I were looking at the mosaic, a tour happened into the church, and we listened in with interest.  The guide speculated that in the fifth century the church was still wanting to curry the favor of the Roman empire.  So since the Romans prided themselves in being clean shaven, the artist decided to depicted Jesus as clean shaven like the Romans. 

I have thought for a long time that Christianity needs to strike a balance between holding fast to the articles of faith that are critical to our identity and letting go of things that are not so important in order to make the faith more accessible to the culture.  Was Jesus’ beard an essential article of faith in the fifth century or expendable for the sake of outreach?  Apparently someone thought Jesus would be ok without it.

I wonder what things we could do without to make Christian faith more accessible in our day?

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/20

Friends, 

This is a picture of Theo, my basset hound.  I took the picture a while ago, but I could probably take the same picture every evening. Every night I sit in this same chair and Theo comes and puts his head between my knees with this expression of longing in his eyes.   I have no idea what he wants!

I try to take him out and he follows me to the door but won’t go outside.  I invite him to sit in my lap, but he doesn’t want that these days.  I’m kind of ok with that.  At 50+ pounds, he’s a big dog!  So I reach down to pet him and he pulls away.  He wants something.  I know he does.  I just don’t know what it is.  He probably wants ice cream, but I’m not giving him that!  It’s not good for him.

I sometimes wonder if we appear this way to God.  We sigh.  We frown in frustration.  We stare off into space, but do we articulate what we need?  And are we willing to let God choose not to give us our hearts desire because it’s may do us more harm than good?

Years ago, when I worked in the Sturgis church, I had an elder I worked closely with who periodically would come into my office, plot down in a chair and say, “State your needs.  I can’t help you if I don’t know what you need.”  I learned over time that she was serious.  She wanted to know what I needed to make fruitful ministry happen and if she could help, she would.  And if she couldn’t help, she’d just say so.

So over the years, I’ve tried to do the same with God.  I try to state my needs rather than simply offering up a wish list of desire, or simply sighing in frustration.  Then I leave my needs in God’s hands to help me as makes sense to God. 

In Phil 4: 6-7, we read: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your 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.

The peace of God be with you,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/19

Dear Friends,

It’s been a weird week and it’s only Tuesday!  It’s been very busy with lots of good work to do for the people in our church.  I love that kind of work when I get to work closely with people and for people in our congregation.  It has also been a week of personal challenges.  I feel keenly that I need the Lord close to hold it all together.  So this bit of writing showed up in my devotions today. I found it helpful. I thought I’d share.

Go peaceful
in gentleness
through the violence of these days.
Give freely.
Show tenderness
in all your ways.

Through darkness,
in troubled times
let holiness be your aim.
Seek wisdom.
Let faithfulness
burn like a flame.

God speed you!
God lead you,
and keep you wrapped around His heart!
May you be known by love.

Be righteous.
Speak truthfully
in a world of greed and lies.
Show kindness.
See everyone
through heaven’s eyes.

God hold you,
enfold you,
and keep you wrapped around His heart.
May you be known by love.

                                                       May God keep you wrapped around his heart today,

                                                        Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/17

Dear friends,

One of my favorite bits of scripture comes from Colossians 3: 12 – 17.  It’s full of bits of advice about how we should treat each other and how we should live in God’s presence.  I share it with you tonight in hopes that you will find some tidbit to hang on to tonight into tomorrow.  The good life is lived in small moments of kindness, gratitude and reverence for God.  Here’s the passage:

Colossians 3:12-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Virtual Children’s Ministry – May 17

This week in Bridge worship, Anna teaches a type of prayer called breath prayer.  When you have a chance this week, here are some other resources for helping kid learn to pray in a way that works for them.
 
 Anna’s background this week features the prayer labyrinth we made and used this winter in the Children’s wing for Children’s Hour.  Had we known about this method, it would have saved a lot of time!  Here is a video showing how you can make a prayer labyrinth somewhere at home.  (Please note, he could have stopped with the spiral!)  You can use this method with a ball of yarn/twine/laundry line, or even sidewalk chalk.
 
If laying out a prayer labyrinth isn’t something you are up for today or this week, here is a handout created by First Presbyterian Church of Jesup for their kids.  You can use this as a finger labyrinth.
 
Drawing a labyrinth can be just as prayerful as walking one or following one on paper.  Here are some videos showing how to draw the most common types of labyrinths.
 
This video explains how to use your fingers as a way to think of what to pray about.
 
Those who like to pray in color may also be interested in trying a Christian mandala.  If your background leads you to be hesitant about borrowing practices from other religions, this brief introduction may be helpful for you (parents/grandparents/guardians) to watch first.    About Christian Mandalas
These videos demonstrate how to create a mandala.  For Christians it is a good idea choose a passage of scripture to read and meditate on.  For today, try using a verse from Psalm 23 (the worship passage from earlier this month), Psalm 150, or another familiar verse like Philippians 4:13.  Once you have chosen a bible verse, have your children draw a single image that comes to mind in the center of a circle.  Then fill in the rest of the circle as they continue to think about the verse.  Mandalas tend to be symmetrical, but that is the least important aspect for children to keep in mind as they color inside their own mandala.
 
 


Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/16

Dear Friends, 

Yesterday I had to go to the pharmacy.  Theo (my almost two year old Bassett Hound) had discovered and chewed up my last pair of reading glasses and I needed to purchase a new pair or two.  I got two pair because it’s only a matter of time before I inadvertently leave them in reach of my puppy and well… they aren’t much good after he has them in his mouth for a while.

So I went to the pharmacy to find reading glasses and printer paper.  There were few people in the store and none of them had masks on, even the guy at the register.  He was very helpful showing me where the paper was, but I was dismayed he wasn’t wearing a mask.  I was wearing mine.  I’ve had several people make masks for me now and have a variety of colorful, protective choices.  I almost asked him why he wasn’t wearing a mask, but decided I didn’t want to prolong a conversation with him.

Why wear a mask?  Is it to protect you the wearer?  Is it to protect those around you?  Is it to keep you nose warm?  Is it a new fashion statement? 

I would suggest that wearing a mask is a good way to love your neighbor.  You remember that Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12: 31).  The CDC began recommending wearing cloth face masks in early April, not because they provide sufficient protection for the wearer, but because they provide protection for the people the wearer comes in contact with.  The CDC found that there are too many of us running around with COVID 19 with no symptoms at all.  So when we go out in public we can easily infect those around us because we feel just fine.  Additionally if you or I are coming done with Covid 19 we may not have symptoms for several days, and the chance of transmission to someone else is terrific if you are not wearing a mask.  If you are wearing even a simple cloth mask, however, you prevent any infected droplets from being transmitted to someone you are near.  When we wear a mask, we love our neighbors – anyone we come in contact with as we move about Elkhart and beyond.

I know many people in the culture just don’t understand the purpose of wearing a mask.  When I wear one I suspect people just think I’m afraid I’ll get sick.  I try to not think about what others are thinking about me and remember I am called to love my neighbors, all of them, because Jesus asked me to love them.  So I wear a mask.

Masked but not dangerous, 😊

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/15

Dear Friends, 

I took a walk with my husband last night after the rain.  The grass was that beautiful shade of spring green with all the blades standing at attention having been soaked through the day.  The sun was beginning to sink into the west and was casting a golden light on everything.  The birds were singing up a storm.  I assume they were happy from a break from the rain as we were.  It was magical.  There is something compelling about the natural world.  It never ceases to calm me. 

I found the most delightful sounds on my computer the other day.  I was looking for some nature sounds for a recording I was making and discovered a YouTube video that pictures a stream running under a bridge in the woods.  The video is beautiful, but it’s the sounds that I like.  You can hear the water running and the birds chirping and singing.  I put it on in my study the other day while I was working and forgot about it.  (The video is eight hours long.)  At the end of my work day I went looking for the open window to close and when I couldn’t find it, I remembered the video was still playing!  I’ll grant you that I prefer to hear the sounds of nature outside my window, but I live near Lexington avenue near the hospital and so the sounds of the birds are often mixed with ambulance sirens and motorcycles gunning their engines.  I commend this video to you, especially if you need to leave your windows shut!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKFTSSKCzWA

I think our love of the creation is deep in the soul.  When God created the heavens and the earth, God paused at the end of each day, looked around, and said, “That’s good.”  God loved the natural world God was creating.  At the crown of creation, God created the human beings, two of them – a man and a woman.  God created the humans in God’s own image.  So it makes sense that there’s something in our make up that appreciates and finds a sense of peace in the natural world.  It’s one of the ways we are “like” God.

May God’s peace surround you in this day,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/14

Dear friends, 

Well I finally hit the wall today.  I was struggling with video taping the sermon and prayers and at the same time was also audio taping the same with a new app on my phone. Then I was trying to save the proper files and send them to the right people or upload them to the right places online and mostly getting confused.  At the height of my frustration my husband walked into my room and I exclaimed to him, “I don’t want to do this anymore.  I just want to go back to church!” 

Of course we can’t go back yet.  We’re waiting until it feels safer for everyone.  And of course, I eventually figured out the computer stuff and there will be worship services on Sunday.  You probably would never have known of my difficulties without this email.  Mostly, I wrote this today because I wanted to tell you, that I long to be together as a church again.  I know you long for us all to be together again as well. 

I was thinking today about the early church in Jerusalem.  They practically lived together they were so close and so much of one mind as they shared the love of God together.  Here’s how Luke describes them in Acts.

32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  Acts 4: 32-33

Sounds like a little bit of heaven to me.  I do feel God’s grace upon us particularly when we gather for worship on Sunday mornings, even in our own homes behind television and computer screens.  We all are getting tired of being cooped up and separated from our friends and family.  I think there is relief in sight down the road.  In the meantime, take a moment to prayer for each other in our church tonight that God’s presence will be close to each one in our church family.

Grace and peace to you,

Pr. Sally



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