Pastor Sally Devotional 9/23

Dear friends,

 

A clergy colleague and I were talking the other day.  She was feeling pretty worn out with trying to pastor during the pandemic that never seems to end.  She asked me what I do to spiritually renew.  She said she already knew about the typical answers of prayer, healthy eating, rest, and exercise.  They weren’t working for her anymore.  Did I have anything else to suggest? 

 

I thought about it for a few minutes and then gave her a rather unusual suggestion.  I recommended a TV show that I’ve recently discovered entitled, “Call the Midwife.”  This British television drama is about the lives of a group of midwives who care for expectant mothers in the East End of London during the late 1950s and 1960s.  The midwives work for a convent of Anglican sisters who are also trained in midwifery.  Together the sisters midwives and their secular midwife colleagues provide a number of nursing and medical services to a very impoverished part of London, but the majority of their work is in providing safe births to the roughly 100 babies born each month.  The show is based on Jennifer Worth’s best-selling memoirs about her midwifery years working for an actually convent in the east end of London during this same time period.

 

What inspires me about this show and what nurtures my soul is the selfless, tireless love all of these midwives offer the women, children and families in these poor neighborhoods.  Equally inspiring is the way neighbors look out for one another.  Then there are the sisters.  Each of them is wholly committed to the Lord but in very unique ways that fit their personalities.  They are each tenderhearted but human.  They make mistakes, repent, find forgiveness and try again to please God.  At the end of the day they gather to sing God’s praises and to remind one another that their lives belong to God.  “Call the Midwife” reminds me of what Christian community is meant to be and inspires me to be just a little kinder and just a little more attentive to God each day.  

 

I do recommend “Call the Midwife” with one caveat.  This is a show that centers around the birthing of babies.  If you are squeamish about childbirth this may not be the show for you.  On the other hand, after watching lots and lots of babies born, childbirth may take on a whole new wonder for you! You can watch the 11 seasons of “Call the Midwife” on Netflix, PBS, Amazon prime or itunes.  There is a fee for all of these services.  I think it’s worth it.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 9/21

Dear friends,

 

We had so much fun on the first day of Music and More yesterday!  I know some of you are wondering how it went.  Celia and I spent the morning putting the new TV tables together so each child could have their own table top to hold their instruments and still be distanced from one another.  We fitted the tables with foam pieces to protect the instruments.  Then we loaded two kitchen carts full of shakers, sticks, drums, hand chimes, glockenspiels, xylophones and more!  (It’s a job to do a music class outside, but I’m so glad we have great spaces in which to meet!)  We had ten wonderful children, three of whom were from outside the church.  We did a half hour of music – chanting, playing rhythms with wood sticks, learning how to play hand chimes, and creating musical notes out of playdough.  Then Anna took the kids for a snack and a Bible story.  They finished up with several recreational games.  I told the kids they were welcome to bring a friend next week, and we already have a new registration this morning.  Yay!

 

In the middle of the club yesterday, I was particularly delighted when one of the little girls looked at me and said, “I just love church!”  She threw her arms wide and spun herself in a circle in her exuberance.  I told her I love church too, and I do!  I especially love church when our children are thrilled to be part of God’s family and in God’s house.   

 

I think that little girl captured for me the joy of being able to gather again for worship and classes and music clubs!  I am grateful for the innovations of technology that allowed us to worship safely for a year online, but there is something unique about being physically together in God’s house as we worship, learn and love each other.  The psalmist wrote,

 

I was glad when they said to me,

    “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

                                Psalm 122: 1

 

I’m glad our congregation is being careful about Covid infections.  I’m glad we mask and social distance and take our socializing outside, so we can safely gather together.  I’m also glad we are live streaming so we can be “with” people from afar.  God draws us in joy to worship and love one another, and I am so very glad God does so!

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 9/15

Dear friends,

 

I was sitting at lunch outside today feeling a little blah.  I’m sorry to say that the Covid numbers in our county have me a little down these days.  And as I was sitting there, I happened to look up and see this glorious cloud.  I’m hoping you can catch something of its beauty in my picture.

 

I watched the cloud for a bit.  It was hanging low in the sky with a puffy magnificence.  I marveled at how large it was and wondered about how it hung there suspended above us.  Eventually I went back to my lunch and when I looked up again it was gone from its original place but had moved on to the east and reformed into a new shape.  I like clouds.  Can you tell?

 

Millenia ago God put a sign in the sky to assure a very primitive people that God would not curse the ground or destroy the living creatures of the earth… again. (Genesis 8:21)  The story I reference is the Flood of Noah’s time and the sign in the sky was the rainbow.  Now I know lots of people don’t quite know what to make of Noah’s story.  Was it myth or a real event?  Either way, the faithful of that day, who wrote down this story believed and affirmed that God had determined not to be “against” humanity and the creation, but merciful toward the human heart which has an inclination to evil. (Genesis 8:21)  The sign of this promise that God would be inclined to mercy, is that God put up his hunter bow in the sky and has colored it to be a thing of beauty.

 

Today I took hope in the cloud in the sky.  Maybe it wasn’t a sign from God, but it certainly caused me to remember that God has promised not to destroy the earth and the living things upon it, including humankind in all its foolishness.  God is not responsible for the pandemic… just in case you were wondering.  It’s not God’s way.  God’s way is to be full of mercy and grace toward us.  I’m think people are probably responsible for the pandemic in a whole variety of ways.  I wonder if that means it is within our power as people to end this pandemic as well?

 

In the meantime, I take hope in clouds that remind me the earth is still turning.  There is beauty to behold if we just lift our eyes a look about us.  God is still with us and is still full of compassion for us even in the mess we have made.  May God lead us in right paths to care for one another and all of God’s world.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 9/7

Dear friends,

 

I found myself thinking about the parable of the wise builder and the foolish builder today.  Jesus told this parable many years ago to illustrate the importance of putting his words into practice.  He said the disciples who put’s Jesus’ words into practice are like the wise builder who put the work in to dig down to rock before building the house.  Then when the floods come, the house will stand.  In contrast the disciple who does not put Jesus’ words into practice is like the foolish builder who doesn’t make the effort to dig down to rock and just builds on the sand.  Oh, is that one in trouble with the floods come!

 

I was thinking about this parable because Jesus knew that all of his listeners knew that it was only sensible to put in the work and prepare for the floods even if they never came.  Why would you leave your home to wishful thinking… “oh, it won’t rain here!”  I sometimes hear Christian people suggesting that we don’t need to take precautions or put in the work if we just have faith in God.  “oh, God will protect me.  I have faith.”  This reminds me of the devil tempting Jesus to throw himself off the pinnacle of the Temple to test God’s faithfulness.  “Go ahead and see if God really loves you.  He’ll send his angels to bear you up.”  Jesus wasn’t about to test God and I think we should not either.

 

I share some of this theological thinking with you today because I have renewed concerns about the Coronavirus in our county and the lackadaisical response I see to this threat when I am traveling about our community.  Today the cases reached 49.6 cases per 1,000,000.  That’s almost 100 cases a day in Elkhart County.  We are in the second highest surge since the big surge last winter, and we have not peaked yet.  I keep hearing this is a surge of the vaccinated, but I am concerned because everyone I know who currently has Covid (four people) is fully vaccinated.  Our ICU is at 87% full, and I believe it is going to get worse before it gets better.

 

So what shall we do about this unwanted interloper of a virus.  Shall we build our house on the sands of wishful thinking… “I won’t get the virus,  I’m safe because I’m vaccinated, If I get it, it won’t be very sick, God will protect me?”  Or will we use our God given common sense and make the effort to protect ourselves.

 

My family is careful.  We have homeowners’ insurance just in case a storm destroys our house.  We wear seat belts in the car in case we are in an accident.  And we wear masks whenever we go in stores or public places.  Mike and I don’t eat in a restaurant much these days.  We order out or dine in the outdoor settings.  We do this to take reasonable precautions.  We are only mildly concerned for ourselves but we especially want to protect the people with whom we share life.  We don’t want to pass the virus to anyone in our congregations.  We don’t want to inadvertently give it to my elderly parents with whom we visit frequently.  I will be working closely with the unvaccinated children in our church in just a couple of weeks.  I want to be careful for the sake of the children.

 

Friends, I urge you… please, please be careful right now for your own sake and for those with whom you share life.  Be wise, prudent, and compassionate for your neighbor.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 8/31

Dear friends,

 

As I was walking up to the church this morning my eye fell upon the flowers around the walkway.  These black-eyed susans, coneflowers and the wispy purple flowers have had my attention all summer long.  They have been simply glorious!  Today I notice the flowers are fading.  The coneflowers petals are droopy and dropping and the wispy purples are more lavender in color.  And yet they are still beautiful but in a different way.  I actually like the way the brown cones pop on the top of the coneflower stems and the wispy purples are all the more delicate.  The black-eyed susans are still vibrant but they soon will take on another kind of beauty as we move into the fall.  I remember one year I left some of my flowers into the winter and thought them quite striking with a skiff of snow to cover them.  “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the saying goes.  I wonder if sometimes we need to take a second look at the world around us to behold a new beauty when a previous beauty had faded.

 

The same can be said of our lives.  Some seasons of life are just gobsmacking spectacular!  The joy in our days is easy to embrace and we do so with great pleasure.  Some seasons are mundane, normal days.  We go about our business and do well to notice the moments of beauty and glory within the “every day.”  Other seasons of life are hard.  Life is full of challenge and we struggle to see any roses, let alone pause to smell them.  It is in these days that we might need to work harder to see a bit of beauty in the midst of our struggle. Beauty is still there, but we don’t see it through our muddy glasses of discomfort.  Perhaps a friend can help us to see.  Perhaps the friend is the bit of beauty before us.

 

In all the seasons of our lives, God invites us is to look for the beauty of God’s love around us.  I think we do this best with companions on the journey with us.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally

 



Pastor Sally Devotional 8/12

Dear friends,

I’m afraid I woke up tired again today.  I was a little disappointed and said so to my husband.  We have shifted into a new normal with my parent’s move to Hubbard Hill.  I am happily back to work and expected to wake with more energy by now.  My husband just laughed and reminded me that four days ago I was ending a two+ week of non-stop activity from early morning to late evening every day as we were helping my parents make the move to Elkhart.  Before that was the week of Bible School and before that we had two trips to the Cleveland Clinic and multiple trips north as we have tried to care for my parents in these past three months of health crises.  “Give yourself a little time to bounce back!” he said to me.  I’m not very patient with being in transition.

My father said something similar to me today.  He said he wasn’t sure my mother and he were settling in well to Hubbard Hill yet.  It was my turn to remind him that it’s not even been a week yet since they moved in!  Additionally, my son Terry is struggling with his own transition.  After two years of working in a job he loved in Minneapolis, a city he loved, Terry has moved to Dallas to begin law school.  He has a bug problem in his new apartment (uhg!) and his furnishings won’t arrive until next week.  Needless to say, he’s not a happy camper, and I hear about it every night.  I assure him things will get better in time.

Transitions are hard.  We generally find ourselves impatient to move through all the newness so we can get to the “new normal” or we are tempted to abandon the new plan and run back to the old familiar world we once knew.  The problem is, transitions are unavoidable.  We are all in transition most of our lives.  We learn and grow as young people.  We take new jobs, move to new locations, have children, watch them grow up and leave us (boo hoo), say good bye to friends and loved ones as the move away or die… we grow old with all the unavoidable aches and pains and reductions in our independence and we pass from this life into the next adventure with our Lord!  All of these changes are transitions, some of which we choose and some of which are thrust upon us.

What we do get to choose, however, is how we will live through these transitions.  Will we grumble and focus on the negative making ourselves and everyone else around us miserable?  Or will we look for the presence of God and small blessings to surprise us?  I want to choose the later; but sometimes I get impatient and forget.

The writer of Lamentations says:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.  (Lam 3: 22-23)

 

I think I will try to remember this verse today and tomorrow.

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 8/19

Dear friends, 

                Marilyn Horvath shared the poem below for the Deacon’s devotions the other night.  I asked if I could have a copy to share with all of you.  The poem is by Bell Mona Mengies.

 

Christ’s Hands and Ours

 

A pair of little hands I see,

Two chubby infant hands so are

Clutching sweet Mary’s face in glee.

 

Two boyish hands sturdy and brown,

Holding the plane in Nazareth town

In Joseph’s shop as the sun goes down.

 

Two hands of a youth older grown

Folded in prayer by a rugged stone

Out on the hilltop, all alone.

 

A young man’s hands, toil marked and strong

Seeking to aid in the restless throng,

The helpless victims of sin and wrong.

 

Two tired hands near the olive tree

In the garden of gray Gethsemane

Clasped for my sins in agony.

 

Two hands outstretched on a cross of wood,

From cruel nail wounds red with blood

Bringing a lost world back to God.

 

O hands of my crucified Christ divine

Take into thine own these hands of mine

And teach them to serve with a love like thine.

                                                                                                               

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 8/18

Dear friends,

 

Some of you may not be aware that Mike and I now have two dogs at our house.  (Yes, you should pray for me.)  With my parents entering Assisted Living, we have taken in their little dog, a Corgi/ Rat Terrier mix named Abby.  It may be possible with a lot of training that Abby may one day live with my parents at Hubbard Hill, but in the meantime we are now the Proud owners of two dogs and it’s a bit of challenge.

 

The truth is neither dog is used to having another dog around and there is some jealousy between them.  So if I happen to reach down to pet one of the dogs, the other rushes over to push the first dog aside.  Then some rough housing follow accompanied by pushing and mouthing and “play” biting that doesn’t always seem playful to me.  We’ve taken to separating them when it escalates in this way.

Unfortunately I have observed that neither my husband nor I are now petting, ear scratching or tummy rubbing the way we used to because we know that as soon as we start with one, the other will be coming around with green eyes.  This happened again last night as we were finishing supper, and I observed to my husband, “Everyone would sure be a lot happier and get a lot more attention if the two of them could just learn to share the affection!”

 

As soon as I said it, it occurred to me that there is a lot of truth in this statement for we humans as well.  We often see the evidence of jealousy in children who have not learned to hide their feelings as well as adults, but jealousy crops up in we adults as well.  It is particularly damaging when we are jealous for the affections, attention or blessings of God.  Sometimes we look at someone else’s blessings or talents or gifts and wish those blessings could have come to us.  Sometimes we observe a spirituality in another person and wish it was ours.  We may even wonder if the love of God is more limited for us while poured out lavishly on another. 

 

If there has even been a question in your mind of whether your heavenly Father loves you as much as one of your siblings in Christ, send that thought away.  God’s love is lavish and endless for each of us.  We are each beloved children, and it seems to me that …. the more we welcome God’s love for our siblings in the Lord, the more love we become aware of being showered on us!

 

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  (I John 3:1)

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 7/15

Dear friends,

 

I met with a small group this week to talk about starting a music club for children this fall.  Anna was there and began the meeting by asking what our vision was.  Why did we think we should create this new ministry?  She turned to me to answer.  I paused only long enough to take a breath.  I knew exactly why I thought this ministry was important.

 

First, I said, there are lots of kids and families in our world today who don’t have a church home and a church family.  In fact they are lots of families who have never been inside a church and know nothing about Jesus or God or the joys of belonging to a faith community.  It’s our job to tell them about Jesus and to invite them in.  Everyone around the table nodded.  Then I added that I thought music was a terrific gift to give a child.  Lots of families can’t afford music lessons, but we can offer them for free.  We can also offer a safe place for children to play and make friends and dare to do something new like standing up in front of people to sing.  More nods around the table.  We were on the same page.  We are planning a new kids program for the fall called Music and More Club.

 

It occurred to me later that the reasons we want to offer a children’s music ministry are a lot like the reasons we want to offer a summer Vacation Bible School.  What a great opportunity for children and families to get a taste of what it’s like to be part of caring church family!  What a great chance for kids to make new friends, try some new skills, and hear about our God who loves us all! 

 

Bible School is one of those golden summer opportunities that should not be missed.  I did not get to go to Bible School as a child, but I have been participating as an adult leaders every summer for over 30 years.  I still love it.  I love the music and the fun.  I love the chance to be with the children in a relaxed, happy environment.  I love sharing God with the children.

 

I hope you will hold our Vacation Bible School in your prayers this coming week, and if you haven’t invited a child to our Bible School next week (July 20 – 22) put your thinking caps on and take a chance.  Invite a child to have a wonderful week with our church.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 7/22

Dear friends,

 

My life has been all about Bible School this week.  Celia and Matt and I have been leading the music time portion of Bible School.  As you can see in this picture we were in the middle of singing the “Ordinary Kid” song.  Hannah was helping me lead through the motions for the song.  You may notice a basket of colored shakers near her foot.  The wood sticks are elsewhere, but rest assured, we have had a great time together.

 

The theme for this year’s Bible School was Compassion Camp.  We have spent the week thinking about how we might be compassionate people in God’s name and about God’s compassion for us which is often expressed through others.  In the midst of these important conversations with children we played games, made new friends, enjoyed lots of music, created works of art and did prayer time through yoga!  What fun!

 

I am grateful to Anna and our capable staff and all of our wonderful volunteers who have shared God’s love in this week with children of our church and children from our community.  I am grateful to all of you for prayers and the financial support which has made this ministry possible!

 

 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Matt 19:14.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



^