Do you find yourself getting stuck in emotions like boredom, frustration, weariness, anxiety, anger? Are there days that you sigh deeply far more often than you smile? If you do – join the quarantined rest of us. It is all a normal reaction to extended quarantine. I find myself wondering, how can I experience these feelings when I’m not doing much of anything? How can I feel tired and listless when there are fewer demands on my time and energy? These are difficult days people. Our days blur together. We lose track of what day it is, what happened last week. Sometimes we just feel like crying.
This morning I recalled the wisdom of St. Augustine. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” During this quarantine I am more aware of how restless my heart is. Reading, watching television, talking on the phone, eating a good homemade meal all help, but I need more to be restored. God gave us restless hearts so that we will not be satisfied with anything less than God. Good people, Our Shepherding God will take the burden of anxiety from our restless souls if we give him time to do that. The promise of Psalm 23 is strong and true:
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.
Take time to rest beside still waters – every day. Unburden yourself (even out loud.) Let God hear every grievance, every complaint, every frustration. Vent as needed. Sigh and moan. Then allow yourself to be still. To rest. To breathe deeply. To be restored. Our Shepherd is right there with us.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.
I have told you before just how much rest, peace, and encouragement I receive from the daily meditations on the website www.pray-as-you-go.org. Today’s meditation was especially helpful. As I listened, I was wishing that all of you could have been there with me. It’s a little over twelve minutes long. Perhaps you can check it out.
I hope you are able to enjoy and give thanks for another very lovely day that the Lord has sent our way, free of charge, pure grace. As we give thanks, also remember those whose day and way is much more difficult – not only pray for them, but help them as we are able.
Some of you know that Heather recently started her own spiritual blog; (www.alampuntomyfeet.net) When I read what she wrote earlier today, I wanted to pass it on. So, with Heather’s permission:
“…they (the Pharisees) were looking for some heavenly sign from him as a test.” Mark 8:11
I was in Montreal once, a city I did not know well, for a Taize weekend. (Taize is a meditative style of worship.) We arrived just in time for the Friday evening prayer session with only a few minutes to call the place where we would be staying to get directions to drive there later. A kind voice gave me some very spare directions: left on Cote des Neiges, right on St. Catherine, left on Stewart, etc. Our journey there late that night had us in a strange city, in the dark, looking for signs. We missed one or two turns, but with the kindness of strangers and a bit of going-around-the-block, we found our way to a warm welcome, a midnight snack, and a snug bed at journey’s end.
It was a wonderful metaphor for our faith journey. The signs are all there, but sometimes it’s dark or the way is unfamiliar, so we must remain vigilant, ask for help when we need it, and occasionally go around the block to reach our warm welcome at journey’s end.
Grace and peace to all,
Pastor Michael and Heather
Good morning…here is a from the heart, down to earth reflection about living through these challenging times. Hope you like it as much as I did..
I know what it is to have little and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.
— Philippians 4:12 (NRSV)
When I was a track athlete in high school, Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13 were a mantra I would use to give me confidence before a race. I would try to calm my nerves by telling myself that I could do all things because I believed in Christ. I had only read verse thirteen and didn’t read the surrounding verses until I was older.
Until yesterday, I was working two jobs: as a teacher’s assistant and as a hotel valet. So, I was frightened when I found out that I was laid off from one job and put on leave from the other because of the coronavirus pandemic. I saw my busy schedule as a blessing and a way that God had answered my prayers to help us with our precarious finances. So what now?
Jesus tells us that our world is impermanent and to store our treasure in heaven and not on Earth, but sometimes it’s hard for me to see how. Maybe that means when things inevitably change in our world, I need to find God and be fearless in my faith in the good and in God’s love. God is always here around us, and it is where we look that determines what we see. It is a scary time and our financial uncertainty is going to pale in comparison to the loss and suffering that this pandemic is going to cause. Now I see Paul’s text differently. I see that through need and through plenty, God is there. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," no longer suggests that I will succeed because God is on my side. Instead, this passage tells me that through all things, the love of Jesus Christ is what gives me strength to live on God’s side.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to be an instrument of your peace. Help me to see the your hands at work in my life when it is hard and when it is easy, when I feel joy and when I feel sorrow. Oh Lord, be my strength when I am weak and through all things teach me to serve you in love. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Rachel Brown (Oklahoma, USA)
Thirty two years ago today, Paul Ohori and Karen Schoedel stood before family, friends, and God. They made some promises to one another that day. Thirty two years later – those promises hold strong and true. Congratulations Karen and Paul on your 32nd anniversary! Have a wonderful evening. Peace be with you, Ohori family.
Good morning everyone,
We are immersed in God’s creation-glory every day of our lives. Yesterday, Earth Day, we thanked God for the very good world entrusted to our care. Creation has a beautiful voice; today, let’s listen to her:
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky shows His handiwork.
Day to day they speak,
night to night they reveal knowledge.
There is no speech, no words,
where their voice goes unheard.
Their voice has gone out to all the earth
and their words to the end of the world.
from Psalm 19
People who listen closely to creation’s song have a message for us: the voice of nature is ringing with more clarity and strength these days. Rivers, lakes, and oceans are cleaner. The atmosphere is less polluted. Nature is taking a long-overdue breath of fresh air.
Why? We have taken our foot off her chest.
The corona virus has caused pain, death, fear, and havoc. No question. Still, our ears are open to a song that comes from the depths of creation. A song so lovely and subtle; sung clearly than we have heard for a long time. Let us pray not only for our own healing…but the healing of creation. “…creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”(Romans 8:21) Let us not enslave the powerful word from the natural world as we re-open for business. Let us not return to business as usual.
Stay in touch with one another, stay safe…God bless.
The session met via Zoom this past Tuesday, a request from session to members of FPCE. Please prayerfully consider. Thank you.
Begin forwarded message:
From: Florence Raisig <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: April 22, 2020 at 9:25:53 AM EDT
To: Michael Rucker <email@example.com>
Subject: The search begins
In the past few weeks Session has been discussing the qualities we are looking for in our next pastor. Last night (at their zoom meeting) Session voted to form a formal search committee. Tom Ochs, Paul Ohori, and Jim Segedy are the Session members on this committee. We would like 2 members of the congregation to complete the committee. If you are interested in serving on this committee, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to hear from you soon.
Clerk of Session
Good morning bright sun. Good morning blue sky. Good morning green grass…budding trees…sprouting flowers…singing birds… Good morning good earth. As the Creator said when the work was complete:
God looked over everything he had made;
it was so good, so very good! (Genesis 1:31)
Mother Earth has been through a lot. She has taken our worst abuse and grossest neglect; she has always bounced back to feed us, quench our thirst, and delight our senses. She sees the pain the world is in. She has a solution somewhere in her mysterious and wondrous being. Mother Earth has an answer to the viral riddle that confounds us. We can count on that…because we know the Creator. The Creator is good…so, so, so very good. Let us rejoice and be glad – it is Earth Day.
Stay safe sisters and brothers, pray for the ones who are working for our health and safety.
Good afternoon everyone,
I bet you know the parable. A shepherd stands before the flock and separates the sheep from the goats. We want to be counted among the sheep, it the sheep who hear the words of Jesus: Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food… Matthew 25:34-35.
There are two ways you can help feed others even from the confines of your home. I urge all of you to support the work that Jesus calls his sheep to do…
Good morning people,
Are we able to say, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”? It is true - every day - it is true. But honestly, some days I wake up, go downstairs, remember the struggle our nation and world is enduring and am weary of it. I feel trapped. I can even start my little own pity party. At times like this I try to remember those who are able to get out of the house…and go to work in a hospital or nursing home. Please know, we have people in our membership and in our circle of friends who, in this time of pandemic, are committed to serving the sick and vulnerable . They have watched people die from the corona virus; they watch others fight for their lives.
Here are a few thoughts from a nurse that were sent to me by a friend. This nurse is a no nonsense lady. She is a straight-talking, truth-teller:
“Staying home is not the worst thing in the world. Your rights have not been taken away. If you really think that it is ok to just go out and have a good time with friends and family, come to the fricking hospital and see what is really going on. Come see how sick these patients are and how tired us nurses are. Come see what we have to do to go in a room and see a patient. You staying home with your family is a gift! Patients in the hospital have no one there but the nurses and other staff. Be thankful all you have to do is stay home. I cannot even spend time with my family because of being afraid of giving them Covid 19. Everyone needs to sit down and shut up and enjoy family time. Not going to Target is not the end of the world. Get over yourself. You will survive.” Hard words…true words. Let us pray for the health-care warriors on the front lines:
Compassionate God of healing,
we ask your blessing on those who emulate you
as they provide the ministry of healing to all those in need.
Guide, bless, and encourage your faithful health care servants
who willingly jeopardize their own, and their family’s,
health and safety to confront sickness and disease.
Enable them to relieve suffering and assist in the healing process.
Lord, you loved us enough to walk in our midst on a disease-filled Earth.
Even now, abide in with us and surround all engaged in the healing sciences and arts.
Bless them as they labor for you in stressful, anxious, and sometimes threatening settings.
Keep them close in your loving embrace. Amen.
And God bless you, brothers and sisters,
I am pretty good at getting out to walk every day. During my walk this past Monday, I passed a home a few blocks away just as a young woman was coming outside, heading toward her car parked in the driveway. We happened to glance toward one another at the same time, I smiled and said, “Hi! How are you doing?” She returned a perfectly rueful smile, “Well….we’re doin’ this, aren’t we?” And so we are. We’re doing the right thing. Staying put. (Do you ever feel that you want to watch the 1990 movie Home Alonefor some laughs? We can pretend the hapless home invaders are corona virus cells…)
There is an important spiritual lesson to learn as we make our way through these slow-paced, stay-at-home days. This is what healthy, mature faith feels like. Most days are not jump up and down exciting. Most days are not times of trial or testing. Most days are not filled with deep grief or overwhelming joy. Most days pass by without a lot happening. But still, we keep the faith. We read the Bible and/or spiritually uplifting reflections. We say our prayers. Sit in quiet meditation. Offer words of encouragement to others. Pray for others. We even take time to do nothing except relax; because this, too, feeds our souls. (I listen to music as I sit on the back porch…how about you?)
We live in hope. The hope of Easter. “For Christ was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God…examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith…do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” (from II Corinthians 13: 4-5)
So…we’re doing this, right? Keep it up. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.
E-mail announcements and updates will be posted here in place of the devotions and messages from the pastor during our transition and search process.