Pastor Sally Devotional 7/13

Dear friends,


Yesterday was a special day in the life of our church.  We honored Helen Free and trusted her to God’s grace in both a memorial service at our church for the family and a larger community event at the Wellfield gardens later in the afternoon.  If you didn’t know Helen, I want to tell you she was quite an amazing person and a faithful presbyterian of whom we can be very proud.


Helen was born and raised Presbyterian and went to the College of Wooster (a Presbyterian school) in 1941 the year the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  With so many young men going off to war, Helen was one of the many women who stepped up into a traditional man’s roles to assist in the war effort.  In Helen’s case that means she switched her major to chemistry from English and her career goals to becoming a research chemist instead of a school teacher.  Helen’s decision changed her life and changed the world. 


Helen came to Elkhart in 1945 to take a job with Miles Lab as a Quality Control Chemist but moved to the Biochemical Research Lab as soon as a position opened.  There she met her future husband and research partner, Alfred Free.  They would be an unstoppable team.  Their most notable invention was the development of Clinestixs which are the diabetic testing strips used to first diagnose diabetes and later used by diabetic patients the world over to monitor their sugar levels.  They later went on to develop other testing strips that identify problems in the liver and kidneys.  Just take a moment to think about all of the lives of people who have been helped by their innovation!  Helen and Al changed the field of medical testing and changed the world for many who suffer chemical anomalies in their bodies.


Helen held 7 patents, was given two honorary doctorates, received many prestigious awards, was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame and National Women’s Hall of Fame and in 2009 was given the Nation Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Obama in the White house.  It was such an honor to be part of the tribute to Helen’s life yesterday.  It was a special joy to me because Helen was a very faithful Presbyterian as well as amazing scientist.  She was a member at our church 67 years during which time she and her family of nine children attended worship every week as well as taking a turn to serve as an elder and trustee in our church. 


Paul says in I Corinthians that we are all the body of Christ and individually members of that body.  He goes on to say, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”  We often suffer together with a member who is suffering.  I am happy to rejoice with one of our members and her family as Helen Free is honored among us.



Pr. Sally

Pastor Sally Devotional 7/6

Dear friends,


I drove past this tree again this morning on the way to work and was reminded that you all had quite a storm in Elkhart while I was in California visiting my new grandson.  One only has to drive around the city a bit to see a variety of trees with missing branches or that were felled or had their tops taken off.  In fact, when Mike and arrived home the Sunday night after the storm, we saw the trees and the blinking clock lights on our appliances indicating a power outage and realized something big had gone through our city.  We went across the street and knocked on our neighbor’s door.  She smiled when she saw us and before we could ask, she said, “I’ll bet you’re wondering what happened here!”  We were, indeed.


I find myself wondering today if anyone ever looks at the people of the church and asks, “What happened to these people that makes them so kind, or so loving, or so giving?”  In the first century the people outside the Christian faith marveled at the love of Christian people.  The Christians were known for being so loving toward one another and toward their neighbors that people asked, “What happened to them?”   There were other things besides the love that marked the church as different and unusual as well.  They were a very inclusive lot.  People of different cultures and backgrounds came together to be God’s people.  People of different classes made up the church which was highly unusual in the classed society of the first century.  Men and women were both welcomed to be leaders in the church – unheard of!  These people were different and they stood out as such!


What happened to them to make them so willing to be accepting and welcoming and loving?  They had discovered that God loved them so much that God sent his only son to live among them, to teach them and to help them know God face to face.  That God loved them so much that he was willing to let them reject him and put him on a cross.  God let them try to kill him… and they succeeded.  But God also loved them so much, that he raised Jesus up again and gave him back to them so they would understand how much God is willing to forgive.  This God was willing to go to any length to reach us with his love.  So how could those early Christians not respond with the same kind of love for their brothers and sisters in Christ and for their neighbors?  And the people around them saw their love and asked, “What happened here?  What happened to these people?”  Those early Christians, by the way, were more than happy to explain.


I wonder if people look at we in the church these days and ask such questions.  “What happened to these people to make them so kind and loving and giving?” I hope they see something in us that invokes such questions.  And I hope we have the love and the courage to give words to the hope that is within us.



Pr. Sally

Pastor Sally Devotional 7/2

Dear friends,


I’ve always heard the phrase “when time stands still” but have never really used it until yesterday.  Yesterday my mother and I said good bye to my father as they wheeled him away for a decidedly dangerous heart procedure at the Cleveland Clinic.  In spite of the risk being estimated to be 20 times the usual risk with this procedure, my father was determined to give it a try believing it was his only chance or life.  My mother and I knew he might not survive the procedure as we kissed him good bye.


That’s when time began to stand still.  We checked into the waiting area and then found the hospital coffee shop.  Having stocked up on drinks and snacks we went back to the family area to wait… and wait… and wait.  We watched the update board, wandered the halls, and chatted about memories of days gone by.  Periodically we called or texted with family members to update them that nothing was happening.  The update board still said my father was prepped and ready but not yet in the procedure.  People began to crowd the space and then to disperse.  Still we waited.  Finally four and a half hours later, we learned that the previous procedure had gone long but that my father would be going in soon!  We went to find lunch.  And then we went back to the room to wait… and wait… and wait.  No doubt about it.  It felt like time was standing still.  I said the words out-loud and my mother agreed.


In the midst of the stopped clock, when for me, time was standing still, there was the presence of God.  I would whisper a prayer that I knew God had already heard.  I would be surprised by a text or email from someone on our church prayer chain with a reminder that people were praying for my dad.  Then there were the words of hope and faith from my family.  The presence of God was palpable as time was standing still. 


God is our refuge and strength, (says the psalmist)
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.  (Psalm 46: 1-3)


I was aware in that spirit soaked day that God’s presence was real no matter what the outcome.  God “had” my father and mother and my family and me.  I was buoyed by prayer and buoyed by my Lord.  I am grateful, however, that 8 1/2 hours after leaving my father we got good news.  My father had survived.  We wept tears of joy and gratitude.


I am  grateful for this day of faith when God was indeed a refuge and strength in a time of trouble.



Pr. Sally

Pastor Sally Devotional 6/29

Dear friends, 

As you can probably see by the picture, I had a wonderful time in California with my new grandson.  In spite of needing to wear a mask whenever I was near the baby Sammy, I was able to hold, care for, sing to and interact with him for the better part of 6 days – pure heaven!


I was also fascinated to watch him grow and develop in amazing ways in those short 6 six days!  When we arrived Sammy was smiling and cooing a bit, but by the time we left he was carrying on whole conversations with Mike and me and especially with his mom and dad.  I even got to hear him burst into a baby laugh on the last night we were there.  I also watched his neck strengthen so much that he could sit up straight in my lap with his head resting on my chest.  Finally I got to watch him begin to feel things with his hands.  Baby hands are all balled up in tight fists for the first several weeks of life, but the last day, I saw him feeling the hair on his dad’s arms with open hands.  It is amazing how much babies learn and so quickly!


We who are older learn a little more slowly in adulthood, but in many ways we learn in a similar fashion as babies learn.  For instance… Sammy’s language development is no accident.  His mom and dad are constantly talking to him in small bits of sounds, cooing and vocalizing single letters or vowels.  Sammy has been listening and practicing what he hears day after day.  I have always been amazed at how important repetition is for children when they are learning new things. 


It occurs to me that repetition is also important to adults as we learn.  How many times have shaken our heads in dismay as we learn something we knew at one time but had forgotten?  I think this is particularly true when it comes to the lessons of faith.  We know that God is infinitely gracious with us, but we forget frequently.  We know that God asks us to forgive others just as the Lord has forgiven us, but we forget, especially when we are angry.  We know we can trust God with our very lives, but we forget when we are afraid.  Thank God the Lord is patient with us and teaches us as a father patiently teaches his children.


Give thanks today for all the things the Lord has taught you in this day and will teach you yet again tomorrow.



Pr. Sally

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.



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)



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.



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)



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.



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



Pr. Sally