Pastor Sally’s Devotional 1/16

Dear friends,

 

I have a new tool!  I haven’t done a lot of sewing in recent years, and I have discovered there have been some changes in my body since the last time I took on a serious project like a baby quilt!  In particular, I can no longer see to thread the needle on my sewing machine.  I used to thread the needle for my mother with great pride as a teenager.  Now to my dismay, I am the one who can’t see that little hole.  That has been compounded by the need to see exactly where my needle is dropping on my quilt project.  There is some very exact work required in quilting.  So I ordered the tool pictured here.  It’s marvelous!  It has a very bright LED light and a large magnifying glass.  I can place it in front of the stitching foot and see exactly what’s happening.  And needle threading is a snap again!

 

The right tool in the right time and place is very helpful.  So let’s think about the tools of the faith.  For me, the right tool is a good Bible.  I like to read and ponder scripture.  I appreciate a good translation – for me that’s an NRSV, a TNIV or the Good News translation.  I like good study footnotes.  Bible reading is one of the ways I know God and come into God’s presence.  When I read scripture, I feel like I’m reading God’s letters, or God’s history, notes from God’s leaders or sometimes even God’s diary.  Scripture reading is my favorite tool.

 

My husband likes to pray.  It’s his tool.  He has a particular chair he inhabits in the early morning often with Theo curled up next to him in the adjacent chair.  He sits there often for 20 or 30 minutes.  It’s not that he has a long prayer list, although he does pray for lots of people and about lots of things that concern him.  Mostly he just gets very quiet and sits in the presence of God, listening for God’s word to him.  Prayer is his tool for drawing close to God.

 

I have known lots of people for whom “doing for others” has been their tool.  I had a woman in my last church who said to me, “If I am not out working with Habitat or serving food at the soup kitchen or taking clothes in to the Goodwill I feel like I’m loosing my connection to God.  Nothing makes my faith thrive like being on a week long mission trip where everything I am doing is to help someone else.”  I actually went on a mission trip with her in my last church.  I don’t know that I have ever seen her so happy.  Serving others is her “Coming close to God” tool.

 

Some find that worship is their God tool.  There is something about the combination of music, prayers and scripture exposition that leaves them refreshed for the coming week.  Some find that fellowship is their God tool.  These people need to be in the company of others to be renewed, to hear God speaking, to find new focus for living.  Still others take to the great outdoors.  The beauty of the natural world helps them connect with God and remember their small place in the creation while rejoicing in their beloved place in the great heart of God.

 

It’s helpful is you know what your most useful tool is or maybe which tools (plural) work for you.  We are all different people.  God made us that way.  Not every tool works for every person.  What is your “come close to God” tool?

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 1/15

Dear Friends,

I added eyes to the elephants in my quilt panel today.  I almost forgot to add them.  I had finished piecing the top of my quilt panel for my grandson’s baby quilt and was putting it together with the backing and batting today in what quilters call a sandwich.  I was about to put the quilt top in place when I suddenly realized my elephants didn’t have eyes!

 

It’s actually not too surprising I forgot the eyes.  I’ve been putting this task off because I had decided to do what are called French knots for the eyes.  French knotting is an embroidery stitch that creates small dots on a piece of cloth.  I perfected French knots many years ago when I was in my embroidery craze as a teenager.  I used to embroider everything in sight in the 1970s.  The problem is that was 40-50 years ago and I just wasn’t sure if I would remember how to do it!

 

I summoned my courage, found some black embroidery floss and a needle and started to split the thread down to two strands.  As usual the thread started to snarl half way down and instinctively I caught the bottom of the thread between my teeth to hold it taught while I split the thread.  Maybe I did remember how to do this.  I threaded a needle, poked it through the cloth, wrapped the thread around the needle three times, poked the needle back through the cloth and pulled the floss through slowly creating a perfect knot like it was yesterday… 40 years ago.  The thought went through my brain, “it’s like riding a bike!”

 

It’s interesting to me how often we remember well the things we learned in our youth.  In fact we often remember the events of our youth better than we remember what happened yesterday! There is a comfort in being rooted in our past. 

 

The author of the book of Hebrews tell us  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 8:13).  Now obviously Jesus is not physically the same as he was when he walked along the shores of Galilee in the 1st century.  He’s not the same as he was on the cross or coming out of the empty tomb.  Our author is not talking about physical sameness.  Our author is talking about promises and power.  He reminds us that God has promised never to leave us or forsake us.  He urges us to have courage because the Lord is our helper.  God’s commitment to us in Jesus Christ is unshakable.  That commitment to humanity took shape at the beginning of creation and has never faltered and never will.

 

Some things from our childhood hover about us our whole lives long.  Certainly one of those things that has been with us from our birth is the love of God.  We can depend on that love to never slip away from us.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 1/14

Dear friends,

I can smell supper as I write tonight.  My husband put a pot roast in the crock pot early this morning and the aroma fills the whole house.  It should be wonderful. He used our favorite recipe that has onions, seasonings, chili sauce and a can of beer.  It is always delicious!

 

We often talk about hearing God or seeing God or feeling the embrace of the Lord.  On occasions we talk about tasting God.  “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” says the psalmist.  Rarely if ever do we talk about our sense of smell with relationship to faith.

 

Certainly the Bible suggests God smells things.  In particular God is described a smelling the fragrant offerings of the children of Israel.  Of course these offerings were usually burnt offers of meat or grain and so we might think that God was smelling the wonderful scent of cooking meat like I am smelling the pot roast in the crock pot downstairs.  I’m more inclined to think of the fragrant offering figuratively and that what God appreciated was the desire of the children of Israel to give a gift to God either out of contrition, or out of respect or out of gratitude. 

 

One of my favorite Bible verses that references our sense of smell speaks of the aroma we carry on our bodies as Christian people.  Paul writes, “Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”  (2 Cor 2: 14 – 15)

 

It is an interesting notion to me that we carry the aroma of Christ on our person.  I think Paul is suggesting that simply by being present with someone, we may communicate the presence of God to the other.  Other people should be able to tell that we belong to God and that presence of God with us may be perceived as a joy or possibly a threat.  Personally, I hope that I live my life in such a way that others will somehow see or hear or even smell the presence of God and find God’s presence a joyful thing.  I hope you do too.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 1/13

Dear friends,

I came downstairs early this morning looking for my husband so we could have breakfast together, and he was gone.  He wasn’t in the kitchen or out back with the dog.  He wasn’t in his prayer chair in the back room.  He wasn’t upstairs.  Where was he?  That’s when I noticed the beautiful sunrise over the river.  I opened the front door and looked down the sidewalk.  Sure enough.  There he was in his bathrobe and slippers down the street with his camera taking pictures of the sunrise over the river!

 

My husband spends a lot of miscellaneous moments taking pictures of that river across Lexington Ave.  It occurred to me this morning that we are blooming where we have been planted.  In almost every house we have lived in (and as pastors, there have been quite a few now…) In every house we have lived in there have been things about the house or property or location that we have liked and disliked but we have always grown to look past the shortcomings and to love our homes.

 

We loved our home in Sturgis.  It was a quaint colonial in a quiet neighborhood where people actually drove to so they could walk in it!  But ceilings were short, the basement flooded, and I didn’t like the proximity to the hospital and the ambulances and helicopters that woke us at night.  And I loved my 1940 colonial in La Porte with its large yard and big quiet street!  I did not, however, like all the snow, all the lawn and gardens that needed tending, and the wood siding that needed painting every summer!  And I love my smaller old home (1932) in Elkhart.  I love the wood floors, the fenced yard for Theo and the big kitchen.  But we don’t like the traffic on Lexington and the ambulances that pass by day and night with sirens blaring.  But in each home, we have discovered unexpected blessings.  Our blessing in Elkhart is this river just on the other side of Lexington and the surprisingly beautiful sunrises we are privileged to behold on so many mornings!  We are situated perfectly to catch their glorious colors reflected in the river.

 

It seems to me we get to choose what we will see and remember and think about.  We get to choose if we will bloom where we are planted or wither in grumpiness.  I want to bloom where planted!

 

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart

    be pleasing in your sight,

    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:14

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 1/11

Dear friends,

I love this picture.  It’s another one of Mike’s from the snowy day we had several days ago.  It’s the color that I find so beautiful.  The red berries pop amid the snow and you can almost taste the icicles mid drip.  When I looked at this picture today a bit of scripture came to mind from Psalm 8.

 

O Lord, our Sovereign,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

 

You have set your glory above the heavens.

     Out of the mouths of babes and infants

you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,

    to silence the enemy and the avenger.

 

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

    the moon and the stars that you have established;

what are human beings that you are mindful of them,

    mortals that you care for them?

 

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,

    and crowned them with glory and honor.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;

    you have put all things under their feet…   (Psalm 8: 1-6)

 

I am mindful today of the majesty of God who is so much greater than we. 

I am mindful of the immense artistic power of our Creator.

I am mindful that we are small,

But that God has honored us with responsibility and with an identity.

We are God’s beloved children.

 

O Lord, our Lord,

     How majestic is your name in all the earth!

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 1/9

ear friends,

 

Here is a prayer for Saturday:

 

O Christ you are a bright flame

   before me.

You are a guiding star

   above me.

You are the light and love

   I see in others’ eyes.

 

Keep me O Christ

   In a love that is tender.

Keep me O Christ

   In a love that is true.

Keep me O Christ

   In a love that is strong

      Tonight, tomorrow and always.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 1/8

Dear friends

 

I was looking around YouTube today for a song I was remembering and instead came across a different song that caught my attention.  It’s a version of Bobby McFerrin doing “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”  Here’s the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U35MBCjzmlw&feature=share.

 

I really hope you’ll watch this brief video.  It’s actually part of a larger piece in which Bobby does the entire Wizard of Oz in about seven minutes.  What captured me first about this video was what a tremendous musician Bobby McFerrin is, but then I was captivate by what he does with the audience listening to him.  He begins by singing the opening phrase of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” without words, simply on the syllable “do.” Then having established the song, he invites the audience to join him.  They do so willingly and Bobby begins to accompany them adding what sounds something like pizzicato (plucked) notes from a string quartet.  Only he’s doing the whole accompaniment with his voice and playing the imaginary instruments with his left hand.  When the song shifts, he give the audience just enough guidance to direct them into the bridge and goes backs to his accompanying strings and then finishes the coda ending together with the audience which has now broken out into beautiful harmonies.  Amazing! The camera meanwhile flits between bobby and the audience which is clearly mezmorized and moved by the experience.  Watching this video I was amazed first that everyone in the audience knew the song so well and secondly at Bobby’s ability to pull everyone together to make such beautiful music on the spot with no rehearsal!

 

There is something extraordinary when we come together and create something beautiful.  It feel more rare to me these days.  We have been lulled into believing that dividing up, choose sides or tribes in which to belong is somehow normal.  We have put a great focus on the value of the individual to think what we want to think, say what we want to say and do what we want to do.  And yet, when given the chance to be part of something bigger than ourselves, to join together in community to create something beautiful, we almost always find our spirits are lifted… sometimes into something that feels like heaven. 

 

I think there is something in us that longs to be part of something bigger than just ourselves and longs to create beauty out of chaos.  I think this is the Spirit of God in us.  Whenever I read the creation story in Genesis I find myself wondering why God created the humans in God’s image.  The only answer I can come up with is that God wanted company and someone to care for.  And notice, in the second creation story in chapter, God says it’s not good for the man to be alone and so creates the woman and brings her to him.  God seems to value family and community.  This need for us to be with others and to create things that are good and beautiful is written into our DNA. 

 

In this new year, I hope you will look for ways to express the Spirit of God within you.  Look for ways to build up love in our family, between your friends and within the circles in which you travel.  Look for ways to come together and create things that are beautiful and good.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 1/7

Dear Friends,

 

I have here another “Mike picture.”  Mike went out with his camera the other day when the snow and ice covered our world in a blanket of white.

 

I especially like this little guy Mike captured in the snow.  In fact he has a whole series of him as he posed peeking from behind a tree, scampering across the grass and here, looking so inquisitive.  I imagine him saying, “oh hello.  I’m just fine, thanks.  How are you?”  I fact he looks very fine and very well fed.  Mike found him over in McNaughton Park, so he probably gets scrapes from visitors to the park!

 

I share his picture with you today because I’ve been concerned today about the events yesterday and wondering what happens next.  I have an uneasiness about our nation today, and I suspect I am not alone in this feeling.  When I feel this way about large events in our world over which I have little control, I pray and try to leave them in God’s hands.  Then I look around the world and notice that the sky is still above me.  It’s not falling.  The ground is still beneath my feet and the trees are still standing.  The natural world around me seems to still be in good order.  It’s an attempt to find some perspective.

 

Jesus said something like this once.  He said, “26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”  (Matt 6: 26 – 30). 

 

I share this with you, not to suggest that the events of yesterday were not serious; only to remind myself and you too that God is still the author of creation and the source of our greatest hope.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 1/6

Dear friends,

 

I find I am shocked and deeply dismayed at what happened at our nation’s capital building today.  I am always hesitant to wade into the political life of our nation from my place as pastor of a church because I know politics can divide a congregation.  The Elkhart congregation seems quite purple to me politically.  We have both passionate Republicans and passionate Democrats in our family of faith.  But I believe we can agree that our calling to be God’s own is first in our lives.  We belong to Jesus Christ.

 

It is that identity as God’s children, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ that I cling to tonight.  I remember that we are called to live by certain values and to exhibit a specific character to the world because of the God to whom we belong.  In this light I want to quote from Paul’s letter to Galatians as he describes the character of Christ’s own: 

 

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.  (Gal 5: 13 – 15)

 

Paul then goes on to delineate the characteristics of those who do not live by God’s spirit.  These characteristics include among other things: idolatry, impurity, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissension, factions and envy.  Paul concludes by contrasting these negative qualities with the “fruits of the spirit:”

 

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  (Gal 5: 22-25)

 

Friends, we want to be people of the Spirit who exhibit the fruits of the Spirit of God.  What I am especially mindful of tonight is that our world desperately needs people who can exhibit the fruits of the Spirit.  Our world needs to see and experience people who are good.   If you are troubled by what you see happening in our culture today, I would urge you to draw near to the Lord and let God’s ways shape your life so that you can truly be God’s person where you are.  Our world needs Christian people who are guided by the Holy Spirit within.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 1/5

Dear friends,

 

Happy New Year!  It’s really nice to be back in my little “at home” study and at work in our church again.  I had a lovely vacation.  It was quiet – just my husband, me and Theo, the “better all the time” basset hound.  At two and a half Theo is almost well behaved… almost.  I spent most of my vacation either working on the quilt I’m making for my new grandson or helping Mike set up a serious “home office.”  Mike began his work as the Transitional pastor of First Presbyterian in Battle Creek today.

 

One of the other things I did during vacation was to download the TED talks app on my phone.  I have dabbled in TED talks from time to time and decided TED would be a good distraction while I’m exercising.  TED talks, if you don’t know, are short inspirational talks by people who are experts in their fields.  They cover a broad range of topics including: science, technology, sociology, psychology, education, entertainment, music and current events.  They are usually really well done.

 

One of the talks that caught my attention last week was called “The Happy Secret to Better Work” by Shawn Achor.  Here’s the link in case you want to listen.  https://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work?language=en#t-685367

Shawn is a psychologist and CEO of Good Think Inc.  His talk was about how to change one’s thinking from negative thoughts to positive thoughts.  This is particularly appealing to me as we enter January… brrr.  January and February are hard months for me and hard months for a lot of people.  The cold grey skies have a way of sucking the joy right out of a person.  Additionally there are no major holidays.  In the church we call this time, “ordinary time.”  How boring is that?  Very often I begin January by counting the days until Ash Wednesday when we can start a major season of our church life!  Only six and a half weeks this year.  We just have to hunker down and get through this winter.  ☹

 

Wow!  Did you notice how much negative talk there was in that previous paragraph.  Shawn Achor says we need to reframe our live stories with good words and positive images.  Instead of complaining we should think of three things we are thankful for each day.  We should try journaling about one good thing that happened each day so we can relive it as we write and relive it when we go back later to read our journal.  Shawn says by doing these simple things we teach our brains to look for positive things instead of negative things.  I think this idea actually works well with something Jesus said.  Jesus said he came that we might have life and life in abundance (John 10:10).  I remember this scripture often.  It’s important to me.  When I’m feeling low, I try to remember that Jesus came to bring us abundant life and so I look around and name the abundance around me.

 

So let’s try that upper paragraph about January and February again.  What wonderful months!  These two months are deliciously cold.  The cool air refreshes you when you venture outside and shakes the cobwebs from your brain.  Winter is the season of snuggling with good books by the fire, long phone calls to friends and hot chocolate.  The snowflakes brighten the trees and glisten in the sunlight.  In February we share our love liberally on Valentines day!  And in the church we enjoy a “Growing Season” sometimes called Ordinary Time, when we dive into the stories of the life of our Lord and grow in our discipleship!  Yay winter!!!

 

Well, I’m feeling better already.  How about you?

Peace,

Pr. Sally



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