Onward & Upward

Transition can be difficult to navigate. The loss of a friend, a move to a new town, the realization that some goals won’t be met are all somewhat confusing at first. When we grieve a loss or face a large shift, it’s important not to lose sight of what God has in store for us if we rely on Him. Our pastors have worked on helping us along the journey of transition with several devotions geared to give us important building blocks needed for strength to press forward.

Healing, wholeness, wellness, and even salvation, are all interchangeable concepts in the New Testament. When the 10th leper realized that his healing truly came none other than Jesus, the Son of God, this Samaritan man professed his faith by coming back and giving deep thanks and showing GRATITUDE. Therefore, Jesus’ words healed his physical ailment, à and then the Samaritan man’s faith connected him to a deeper wellness, wholeness, and salvation through Jesus!

In short, to “have faith” is to live it … and we live it by giving thanks. It is in living a life of gratitude that we live a life of faith – this combination of GRATEFUL FAITH is what made the Samaritan man truly and deeply “well”. … One might almost say, that faith and gratitude are two sides of the same coin: to practice GRATITUDE is to practice FAITH. Faith is not something we have, but IS something we DO – Faith is something we LIVE!

Psalm 71:14 says: “As for me, I will always have HOPE; I will praise you, O God, more and more.” “Developing an ‘attitude of gratitude’ allows us to become the person God created us to be.”

Our HOPE EFFECT during this stewardship season is that it is out of this sense of GRATITUDE that you choose to give back to God through our great church. That everyday you remember the five things you are grateful for on your fingers and give thanks back to God for these Gifts! And everyday you remember how you are created in God’s very own image and give thanks for God’s love! And everyday you allow your faith to be lived out in your gratitude and your gratitude to be lived out in your faith!

And when it comes to our commitment to uphold our church through our gifts, both spiritual and our financial gifts, I pray that you look at your giving through these same lenses. From where does your motivation to give financially to God come? I’ve read a simple description of three types of giving. Clayton Davis in his Stewardship Moment actually spoke to more than one of these today.

They are Grudge Giving, Duty Giving and THANKS Giving. Grudge giving gives but doesn’t really want to. They possibly feel forced into it by guilt. Duty giving gives only out of a sense of duty with no love or faith attached. But THANKS GIVING … THANKS GIVING gives out of a spirit of love and GRATITUDE which grows out of faith and love in God.

As Clayton shared, sometimes we give out of a grudge or duty and that still shows a movement in your faith. And God certainly honors that as well. What I think Jesus is trying to share with the 10th leper today … is that in his coming back to give his deep gratitude, his whole life was made “well”. When we live out of a deep sense of GRATITUDE, our spirits are made “well”, even if our bodies are still broken. When we live out of a deep sense of GRATITUDE, our spirits are made “well”, even if our hearts are still grieving.

When we live out of a sense of GRATITUDE, then our giving flows naturally out of THANKS … and it becomes … DOUBLE HUGS and Exuberant JOY! “Developing an ‘attitude of gratitude’ allows us to become the person God created us to be.” May we all say together, like the Psalmist: “As for me, I will always have HOPE; I will praise you, O GOD, more and more.” And in the showing of our GRATITUDE in all parts of our lives, may we BE HOPE to those around us! May we be a blessing to everyone we meet this week! Amen! & Amen!

Hope & Peace,

Dr. Deborah C. Suddarth

How do we become a person of generosity? First, we claim the beauty of Genesis 1:27 that God created human kind in God’s own image! Yes, you and me! And if we are created in God’s image, then we have the capacity to love and be generous like God.

A good benchmark for these and other qualities of God is the set of the Fruit of the Spirit. This poem below unpacks the Fruit of the Spirit in a creative way.

“Love is the key.
Joy is love singing.
Peace is love resting.
Patience is love enduring.
Kindness is love’s touch.
Generosity is love’s character.
Faithfulness is love’s habit.
Gentleness is love’s self-forgetfulness.
Self-control is love holding the reins.”

Sited in a sermon by Billy D. Strayhorn

We grow in our generosity when we experience God’s love and forgiveness. Then it flows through us as gratitude and thanksgiving. These are the first steps of living a generous life: reaching out to others, helping others, giving to others, sharing yourself and your God-given abilities for God’s good and God’s world.

Today “Receive HOPE” because we are born in God’s image and have the innate capacity to be generous just like our God and our Jesus!

Receive and claim the HOPE that YOU are wonderfully created in God’s image and have the capacity to exemplify the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And your character?

Well … Generosity is LOVE’s Character! Our challenge is to live into God’s image and God’s Character!

Amen! & Amen!

Hope & Peace,

Rev. Dr. Deborah C. Suddarth

John 14:9-17
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me[e] for anything, I will do it.

The Promise of the Holy Spirit
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

This is the word of God for the people of God.

Thanks be to God.

—– —– —– —–

My heart is FULL! I said these words back on August 1 when Bob Vornbrock announced that I was to be your new Senior Pastor and NOTHING HAS CHANGED! I say again … I am honored and thankful to lead us into the next season of ministry together! My heart is FULL, as we are able to continue relationships and discipleship building that we have been doing for over 6 years now. My heart is FULL, as we continue to look to God’s future for us every day and every week. My heart is FULL, as we walk life together, sharing the joys and the challenges as the Body of Christ, … as the Family of God!

—– —– —– —–

Will you pray with me:

Loving God, fill our hearts, fill our spirits & fill our lives with your Holy presence & power in this place. In this hour . . .

Embrace us with your comforting arms.

Engage our spirits to know you in a new way this day.

Equip us for your ministry, build us up to be your faithful church, the body of Christ.

Empower us, O Lord, to deeply become your disciples & uniquely live as the hands and feet of Christ!

Accept our prayer, renew our spirits & transform our lives so that we may be a blessing to those with whom we meet this week. Amen!

Have you seen any funny church sign quotes lately? Sometimes you’ll run across them on social media or someone might bring a list to Sunday school. Here are some that will make you laugh. … First two about your health:

  • Exercise daily. Walk with the Lord.
  • God recycles. He made you from dust.

Of course these signs address the virtues of the Bible & Prayer:

  • Do you spend time with God’s book or Facebook?
  • Prayer. The original wireless connection.

These next two of my all time favorites:

  • Lord, help us be the people our dogs think we are!
  • If God had a refrigerator, YOUR picture would be on it!

This morning, I want to offer two quotes of a different kind. These quotes in part define my leadership and pastoral identity, and will be a foundation for all that we do!

The first quote is a question, actually, from John Wesley. This question was foundational to the early Methodist Movement and their Class Meetings. Each morning when John & his brother, Charles, then college students, would meet with their closest friends to pray and study, they would ask this question: “How is it with your soul?”

Now when I envision John, Charles, and their college buddies gathered around, I can see lots of ribbing, and lots of antics like: “did you see Sally in class yesterday?” But once they ask the question: “How is it with your soul?” I see the room becoming quiet. The air becoming still. I see young men, taking their faith seriously.

This quote tells us three vital things about relationships! First. “How is it with your soul?” If I ask this question, it means that “I care about you.” I am taking the time to sit in a room or be on the phone with you and I am giving you my whole attention. This isn’t the same as you ask the question “how are you doing?” as you walk down the street – without stopping to hear the answer.

Second, “How is it with your soul?” It also means that “I care about your WHOLE life.” Our soul is the core of who we are – therefore, everything about us is connected to our soul. When you ask me, this question, you are asking me about my whole life:

  • How is it with my relationships: marriage, children, parents?
  • How is it with my pain over my friends death or a mid-life crisis or depression or moving across the country or my failing health?
  • How am I feeling in my relationship and walk with God? This is what I hear when you ask me this question!

And third, when we ask the question, we are saying: “I am willing to take TIME … to listen to YOU.” A true answer to this question could literally take hours.

Today, I ask collectively, “Collierville UMC, how is it … with your soul?” As your new Senior Pastor, I desire to hear your answers. Over the last six years, many of our lives have been interwoven through committee and task team work, Disciple Bible Study Fast Track, Collierville Connected, confirmation, worship, and so many other opportunities. And now we have MORE opportunities before us to share our histories and stories together. I look forward to listening to your answers and to hearing the soul of this church as well! “How is it … with your soul?”

The second quote for today moves us from building relationships to connecting to God and living into our Christian discipleship. You heard me share the first half of this quote on August 1st. I offered it up as our spiritual mantra for moving forward together. “Expect Great Things FROM God!” It is our sermon title today. This quote is scriptural and in part comes from Ephesians 3:20: “[God] is able to accomplish abundantly far MORE than all we can ask or imagine.” So in other words: “Expect Great Things FROM God!”

This quote is actually the first of two parts: “Expect Great Things FROM God! Attempt Great Things FOR God!” It was first declared in a sermon in 1792 by William Carey. He was trying to convince his fellow Baptist clergy to enter into the mission field to truly “go make disciples” throughout all the earth. Later he served 41 years as a missionary in India. Carey threw the expectation out there … that all of us need to Expect Great Things FROM God and then we have got to put our feet into action to Attempt Great Things FOR God! He modeled this and lived it and is a great testimony for us today.

Since around 1848, Collierville Methodists’ have been EXPECTING Great Things FROM God! What should we be EXPECTING in 2021? First, I would share that we need to EXPECT Spiritual Growth! Spiritual Growth in our own personal lives and we should be able to FEEL the Spiritual Growth of our congregational life growing as well.

What does this look like? It means praying for our family, others, and our church every day. It looks like being involved in a Sunday school class, small group, Bible study, or a dinner group. It looks like coming to worship, online or in person, every Sunday. It means participating in our personal devotional times for our Stewardship “Hope Effect” series. It means participating in missions. It means finding YOUR SPOT in ministry to serve through our church once a month or weekly.

And then the second thing that we should EXPECT FROM God is powerful mission and ministries in and through US at Collierville UMC. The way we do this is through each of YOU terrific leaders and servants who have stepped up to help dream and discern where God might be desiring us to go … for example, the Gleaning ministry, Stephen Ministry, Journey Bible Study, The Princess Project, Knitting for Missions, and the list goes on … These ministries came from YOU! YOU being in tune with God’s leading in your lives and the fact that YOU EXPECT Great Things FROM God! AND you turned around and ATTEMPTED Great Things FOR God.

We are CALLED each and every week to ATTEMPT Great Things FOR God. It takes US stepping into the game! God wants US to be active participants in this holy relationship! This isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time that you hear me say: We are the only hands and feet that Christ has anymore! Therefore, we can do all the EXPECTING we want … but until we begin ATTEMPTING to do Great Things FOR God, the work of God will not be complete! They go hand in hand! We first put our TRUST in what God can do and then we begin DOING the work FOR God!

And that brings us to our Scripture for today. For I am even more convicted every year that Jesus truly desires us to live into his very words from John 14:12 ~ “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also DO the works that I do and, in fact, will do GREATER WORKS than these, …”

Greater works! How? Because we Christians have been at it now for close to 2,000 years. That’s HOW!! And Jesus knew that we would learn and grow and figure out HOW to reach more and more people for him, care for more and more people for him, love more and more people for him.

Jesus’ territory was the small area of current day Israel and a little beyond. Paul definitely took it to the next level and helped spread the word to Turkey and all the way to Rome! We at Collierville are currently active in helping folks in Rio Bravo, Mexico; Haiti; Costa Rica; and many of you might be reaching out to other far corners of the world!

WHY would Jesus say “Greater Works!???” I believe that Jesus knew we needed a GRAND vision and what better vision than to tell us we would DO even greater works than him! Now it is up to us to determine what those GREATER WORKS might be! The Sky is the Limit!

I have asked Blaine to change the final hymn today. For there is no better hymn to reply to God’s call on our lives individually and corporately than “Here I am, Lord!”

I first heard this hymn my freshmen year in college, with the United Methodist Student Fellowship. It was 1989 and the “new” hymnal had just come out. We were on a retreat singing it by the lake when I first sang these words:

I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.

All who dwell in dark and sin my hand will save.

I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright. And here is where the hymn got me …

WHO will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?

(And then the chorus)

Here I am, Lord. It is I, Lord!

I have heard you calling in the night.

I will go Lord, if you lead me.

I will hold your people in my heart.

Now … It wasn’t until after verse two when we began to sing the chorus again, that I realized I had sung the chorus wrong! It wasn’t a proclamation, it was a question! Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?

Yet, I was SO convicted in my call by God to “bear God’s light to all of God’s children” that when the song asked the question: whom shall I send? I was ready to answer with bold confidence: It is I, Lord!

And so I stand before you today, … and I invite YOU to join me to EXPECT Great Things FROM God! Let’s Expect Great Things from God as we “bear God’s light to all of God’s children”. Let us all say with bold confidence: It is I, Lord! And GOD I will ATTEMPT Great Things FOR YOU!

Will you repeat these words after me?

It is I, Lord! …

I will ATTEMPT …

Great Things …

FOR God! …

When we EXPECT Great Things FROM God and Attempt Great Things FOR GOD … then it follows that our lives and the world around us … will be transformed by God’s love! May it be made so … by each of us and this church!

Amen! & Amen!

Hope & Peace,

Rev. Dr. Deborah C. Suddarth

“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.” John 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb heartbroken and distraught. She didn’t see Jesus’ body to anoint him. Therefore, she became terrified to think his body may have been stolen or moved by the gardener. But Jesus appeared and calmed all of her fears. When she turned towards the voice that was speaking to her, her tears turned into joy. Her eyes brightened and she had an illuminating smile. Of course, these emotions aren’t written in scripture; however, they are implied by the exclamation of her gestures and word. For instance when Jesus said, “Mary.” She turned to face Jesus and cried out “Rabboni!” Then Jesus had to tell her to let him go. Mary delivered the breathtaking news that she had seen the Lord to the disciples. What a glorious moment to experience!!

When the disciples were alone, feeling abandoned and disoriented about the crucifixion of Jesus Mary comes flying joyously through the door to tell them the spectacular news – “ I have seen the Lord. Christ has Risen!!” I would have to imagine their emotions changed immediately. Their heart rate increased, eyes widen, body language turned upright, and the spirit of hope filled the room.

During the 40 days of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances, he appeared to the 11 disciples, who are known as apostles, and other followers. His presence gave all of his followers hope and strengthened their faith. Romans 12:12 tells us to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.”

You see even in our darkest moments; God is here with us. We’ve been tossed and turned like a ship at sea for over a year. But even though we’ve taken deep dives into the depths of the darkest oceans, God brought us back to the surface so that we can breathe normal again. Thus, let us not get discouraged. God is here with us! God’s faithfulness never changes. When the disciples were fearful and distraught, a message of hope arrived. Our messages of hope are just waiting to be told to others. How are you sharing your stories of hope? We tell Mary’s story to others. Yes, we’re supposed to share biblical
stories. But we also need to share real time stories of hope and faith as well. Again, How are you sharing your stories of hope?

May the Lord bless you and keep you!!

Rev. Tondala Hayward

It is a phrase that offers amazing encouragement. Interpreted through the life of Joshua, it delivers hope and grace. The power is palpable! The people of Israel have lost their iconic leader. Moses is dead. In essence, Joshua receives from God a magnificent declaration: “Never Alone.”

Here is how God’s word states the promise: “Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; so now arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot steps, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. No one will be able to oppose you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not desert you nor abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the Law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may achieve success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:1-9

A new leader emerges from within and Joshua is the bearer of hope. The promise of new fertile land will still be realized. The Jordan will be crossed and Jericho will be occupied. Joshua will achieve all God intends.

There is a promise to us as the family of faith at Collierville UMC. We will not be alone as we embrace all the future holds for us. The promise runs deep and it is wide. It is a promise good for every season of life, through all of our ups and downs, through temptations and triumphs, even through seasons of loss and death. We can take courage because we are people of a resurrection faith and we know indeed that God will never forsake us or fail us.

In Joshua chapter 9, there is a sense of revival among the Israelites that is recorded. The covenant is renewed. Joshua reads to the whole assembly every word of the law of Moses. God is saying through Joshua that now is the time to remember who we are and where we have been.

Never alone is the thought that again emerges.

I remind you as a family of faith that now is a good time to embrace the spirit of renewal and revival. Be faithful like never before. Remember who you are and await with joy to see where God is taking us. God’s blessings await!

Prayer: Thank you for never leaving me alone. You are the One constant in my life that is so full of change. Help me become more faithful in my commitments and relationships and to honor you in all that I do. My desire is to receive with thanksgiving the courage you offer me. Through Jesus I pray. Amen.

In Christ
Rev. Dr. Harry Durbin

“The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?’” Exodus 18:13-14

“Moses’ father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.'” Exodus 18:17-20

Just like raising a child takes a village, leading an organization or our church takes a TEAM; a rather large TEAM! Sunday we had a great group of new and returning persons come to our Serving Team “Jam”boree! They represent team members for answering the phones at the front desk to ushering in worship, teaching Sunday school to praying on the prayer team, making coffee to writing notes of encouragement! Our staff give thanks each and every day for all of you who so wonderfully and faithfully serve Christ in any number of different ways with your gifts and talents. Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God each time I remember you!”

Moses learned this lesson the hard way. One article I read said that he was the lone counsel when disputes would happen within the wandering Israelites, over 2 million of them! With that many people, he had to be “counseling” all day long from sun up to sundown! That is when his father-in-law, Jethro, stepped in and gave him even wiser counsel: “Teach them … and show them …” and then begin to appoint those to help you! All of a sudden, Moses was not in leadership alone! All of a sudden, Moses had a TEAM!

All good leaders have incredible TEAMS working side by side toward the same vision and mission. I give God thanks EVERYDAY for each of the great leaders and servants on all our almost 100 teams that make our ministries at Collierville UMC possible! As I step into the new position of Senior Pastor for this great church on September 1, I do so standing firmly with the relationships with each of you great leaders and servants! Together we will all continue the great work begun by Methodists in Collierville over 173 years ago!

Are you a part of one of our TEAMS yet? Where would you like to serve? Any of our staff would be more than happy to help you discern how best God might use you! Love making phone calls? We can use you! Enjoy tinkering around the house? God’s house (our church) always needs tinkering and we can use you! There are so many ways each of us can use our gifts to serve God. Call me today, and we can get you plugged in! And “Thank you” servants of Christ for being on the TEAM!

Hope & Peace,

Rev. Dr. Deborah C. Suddarth

“For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.” Esther 4:14-17

When I taught elementary school, I had a weekly helper chart. This chart taught students leadership skills. All of the students wanted to be the line leader. When it was time for the busiest students to lead the class, they led the line gracefully. He/she knew the importance of rising to the occasion. Do you remember your favorite classroom helper job in school?

Esther is one of my favorite books of the bible. Why? She had an opportunity to rise to the occasion by saving the Persian Jews, when Haman wanted to persecute them. Since Queen Esther didn’t tell the truth about her nationality to King Xerxes, Haman didn’t know she would be persecuted too. Instead of Esther continuing to keep her secret from Xerxes, she told him at a banquet. She understood her purpose after Mordecai told her “Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Thus, the Persian Jews were saved, and Haman is put to death.

Esther rose to the occasion! She was a committed, determined and faithful leader. She didn’t run from the opportunity to do the will of God instead she faced it head on. Sometimes, God calls us to lead in difficult times. Whenever God calls us, we have to believe God will equip us with the wisdom and skills to complete the tasks. We just need to say, “Yes!”

Merriam-Webster definition for rise to the occasion is “to make the special effort that is required to successfully deal with a difficult situation.” Sunday, we heard the announcement of Rev. Dr. Deborah Suddarth appointment as our senior pastor. She is rising to the occasion to continue to bring peace, comfort, love and hope to our church family. However, she can’t do it alone. As one body in Christ with many members, God has equipped us with many gifts to share in our church, its community and beyond. My busy students knew I needed their help to manage the line; therefore, they practiced self-control. If they can rise, we can too!!

How is God calling you to rise to the occasion?

May the Lord be with you,

Rev. Tondala

The Church and all of us who follow Jesus have been sent to extend God’s love to all. It is a vision that should capture our hearts every day. If we are indeed disciples, it becomes our charge to be God’s voice, hands and feet each day. The example of Jesus is ever before us. How do we live with joy and give away hope to those we meet?

Read it again in Matthew 28:16-20: But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

We are to live as disciples with outstretched hands. Nouwen says that it is prayer that connects us with our first love and confession and forgiveness help us discern where we are being led. As disciples we are in the amazing business of acting in the name of Jesus, the one who loves us unconditionally and offers the gift of life eternal. Every day this truth should guide us and give to us the heart of the story we are invited to tell. One writer captures the real spirit of our charge in fulfilling the Great Commission when he remembers the story of Noah and the Flood. The dove Noah sent out did not quickly return. The rain had subsided but what would the world be like that remained? Noah was desperately looking for a little hope. The Bible describes the amazing moment: “When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! (Genesis 8:11). It was more than a leaf because it meant promise of dry land ahead. Jesus offered olive leaves to all he met. He offered salvation and hope at every turn. Words of forgiveness were on his lips. Acts of healing were in his touch. The grief-stricken were comforted and the lost were loved. We can live out the Great Commission in many ways, but one way for sure to touch another is to witness to God’s love. Every chance you get, give away an olive leaf of hope to another person. It will bless them and you!

In Christ
Rev. Dr. Harry Durbin

“But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Acts 9:13-19

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of watching a monarch butterfly chrysalis. It was amazing!! My friend, Leesa, had a chrysalis kit in which she used to allow how grandchildren to observe this transforming life cycle. Since, I told her that I have only seen the life cycle of a butterfly on video, she decided to share this spectacular transforming experience with me. When she brought it to work, I was like a kid in a candy store with smiles, bright eyes, increased adrenaline and a joyful heart.

While the pupa was hanging on milkweed, she explained to me how she knew it was time for the monarch caterpillar to emerge as an adult butterfly and take flight. She leaned into the chrysalis kit, slowly pointed and said, “when you see their black, orange, and white wing patterns visible through the pupa covering, they are ready to turn into monarchs.” I smiled profusely. Then, I waited in a chair for an hour looking intently to witness the end of this life cycle in real time. However, it didn’t happen until three hours later and I was like the kid in the candy store again. I saw the pupa break open, the wings unstick and expand. Leesa told me their wings have to dry before she releases them. I will never forget that moment!!

When I reflect on the life cycle of butterflies, it reminds me of the beauty of transformation, which is a change in form or appearance. In speaking of change, John Wesley believes “the church changes the world not by making converts but by making disciples.” Saul was chosen by Jesus to make disciples even though that was far from his original purpose of persecuting followers of Jesus. After his Damascus Road experience in Acts 9, Saul embraced a new life, which sent him to the same places but with a different spirit. He was led by the spirit of the Lord instead of the flesh. Some people believed in his transformation and others didn’t. Whether people believed or not, Saul also known as Paul was obedient to Jesus. His faith didn’t waiver and he embraced change.

Change is constant. Sometimes we don’t like it because we might have to learn something new or accept something or someone different. But the beauty of change is that it can lead to transformation. The reality of change is that it’s constant. As disciples, God wants to see a change or transformation in us. When we see butterflies, we are in awe at their beauty. Like the butterflies God created, God wants us to take flight and share our beauty wherever we go. Are you ready?

May the Lord be with us,

Rev. Tondala Hayward

“And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.”

The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” Exodus 14:18-25

On stormy days when I was a child, my mother, Aunt Ollie and Uncle Bill would tell me “the Lord is doing His work.” I had to turn off the tv or stop playing. We sat quietly under a dim light and listened to the raindrops while the thunder and lightening roared. Often, I would fall asleep. The telephone didn’t ring because many of our friends and family were doing the same. When the storm was over, life in our house went back to normal. Sometimes normal for me was making mud pies after it rained with my friends.

My friends and I grabbed our plastic garden tool set and a couple of old pots that our parents gave us to cook with. We patted the mud into pies and pulled grass to cook greens. We knew we had to have green vegetables. Then, we turned the water hose on to get water to put in our teacups. Finally, away we went to our children’s table to sit with our dolls and have grown up conversations. Sometimes we would talk about how the lighting scared us and our conversation always ended with “the Lord is doing His work.” I can remember the times we saw trees and limbs in our yard and we said “the Lord had a lot of work to do.” I’m smiling now just writing this because of the precious memories.

When I reflect on Exodus 14, I still believe the Lord had a lot of work to do. Now, I understand the Lord didn’t send the storms to frighten us but to make us stronger in our faith. The Israelites were afraid when they saw the sea in front of them and the Egyptians behind them. Even though the Lord went before and after them in a pillar of cloud to protect them, the Israelites were afraid. But Moses said to them, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

And the Lord did fight for the Israelites through Moses, when he lifted his staff and stretched our his hands to divide the sea. When they crossed over on dry ground safely, The Lord told Moses to lift his staff again and stretch out his hands so that the waters would roll back over the Egyptians. Moses was obedient and the Israelite pursuers drowned.

During the chase, Moses had to tell the Israelites to “be still.” Psalm 46:10 tell us to “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” Sometimes, when we are frightened because of the fear of the unknown, we want to take flight or return to the familiar like the Israelites wanted to do. Instead of taking flight, the Lord wants us to “be still” and seek guidance from the Holy Spirit. When we are still, we can hear the Lord clearly through the silence.

May the Lord be with you,

Rev. Tondala Hayward

Genesis 8:1, 17-19; 9:12-13

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. … “Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”  So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives.  All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another. …

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds…

The story of Noah and the Ark must be one of the most very famous of all the Old Testament stories. The beautiful covenant that God made between Noah, his family, and “all generations to come” to never flood the earth again is confirmed every time we see a rainbow in the sky. No matter how old I get, seeing a rainbow still mesmerizes me and brings gratitude to my heart for God’s great love for us!

There are a couple of things that we might relate to from Noah’s experience in the ark and our continued journey as a church this past 16 months. First, just as the floods came upon Noah and his family with rain for 40 days and 40 nights while they were in the ark, we might be able to relate to being closed up in our homes with family yet for more than 40 days due to “Safer at Home”. Second, many of us have experienced our own “flood” of emotions this last year from the isolation of “Safer at Home,” the fear of Covid, frustration of wearing masks and social distancing, worrying about loved ones, grieving over the deaths of too many by Covid, financial burdens incurred, and so much more.

I can only imagine the exuberance that Noah and his family felt that first day they stepped back on dry land! They had no idea how long the rain would last or how long it would take to step on dry land again. We, too, had no idea how long it would be until a vaccine and slight steps toward getting back to normal would happen. And yet all along the way, Noah felt God’s presence. And all along the way, even in the midst of losing Rev. David Atkinson to Covid, we have felt God’s presence. May God’s covenant confirmed in the rainbow be a sign too for us, that God is always with us through the incredible hard journey’s of life and the joyful journey’s of life.

Alan Sweet painted a wonderful scene of a tree, mountains, the sun, and a rainbow on the Sunday after David’s death. This painting , titled “Cords That Cannot Be Broken”, has become a symbol of comfort and hope for our staff and church family. It will be in the Garden Lobby on display beginning this Sunday, July 11th. I pray that you claim God’s covenantal promise to ALWAYS be with us!

Hope & Peace,

Rev. Deborah

Cords That Cannot Be Broken – Alan Sweet (acrylic on canvas)

And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:28-38)

Oh Mary, did you have any idea of all the great things Jesus would do or of the gruesome death he would endure when the Angel Gabriel proclaimed your pregnancy with the Christ Child? Probably not! The Luke chapter 1 Scripture paints Jesus’ life with very broad strokes. It is A LOT of information to take in, … especially, if you are a young teenager and an angel tells you that you are going to have a baby! Think about it: 1. An Angel! 2. A young teenager. 3. A young un-married (so CAN’T be pregnant) teenager. 4. AND Pregnant!!! Mary must have been overwhelmed and shocked, to say the LEAST!

And yet … After the Angel Gabriel reminders her in verse 37 that “nothing is impossible with God”, Mary takes a deep breath, turns her eyes to heaven, and proclaims: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the Angel abruptly leaves and Mary is left all alone to figure out what she is going to do with this new information.

I believe that we can all agree that Mary was facing a life crisis. Life as she knew it was most definitely not EVER going to be the same. Would her fiancé break off the engagement? Would her parents disown her and throw her out to make her live on her own? Would her friends shun her or help her? Would she ever feel like life was normal again? How could she possibly raise a baby?

Thankfully, somehow Mary took the angel’s words “For nothing will be impossible with God” to heart and moved forward. It was probably through a lot of tears, much heart ache, and a lot of fear of rejection and ridicule. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” This must have become her mantra to get her out of bed every morning and to put one foot in front of the other.

“For nothing will be impossible with God!”

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord.”

Like Mary, we face trials and tribulations. In the moment, it feels like the end of the world! As a world we have faced the trial of the pandemic together for over 15 months now. As a church we have faced the trial and tribulation of losing our senior pastor. As individuals we have each faced a multitude of other trials from job losses, educational struggles, critical health diagnosis, addictions, loss of family members or spouses, divorce, and so much more.

We are reminded through Mary’s story, that the angel Gabriel proclaims to each and every one of US today that “nothing will be impossible with God!” May we, like Mary, be able to face our challenges and trials secure in Gabriel’s message – one day at a time. And may we, like Mary, with courage and conviction say: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.” May we lean into God’s presence and God’s possibilities! May we face all the unknowns of life with a certainty that we walk side by side and hand in hand with an All-Knowing, Caring, and Compassionate God.

Hope & Peace for each day’s journey!

Rev. Deborah

Daniel 3 tells a rather amazing story! Read the whole story, but here is the gist of it. Three men who refuse to worship a statue representing King Nebuchadnezzer are thrown into a fiery furnace. They refuse to worship it because their hearts and lives belong to the one true God. They knew the consequences of their actions. The story is intriguing in every way for the faith and loyalty to God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego has been offered as a witness throughout the ages. When they are in the fire, they are not alone. A fourth man is seen in the fire with them and it is said that their God “…has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him.” One huge learning for us as a people of faith is to be able to affirm that recent trials among us, including the pandemic, civil unrest, and the unexpected death of our senior pastor, do not separate us from God’s care.

No matter the circumstances that come our way, when we walk through the pain and trials of life—this truth remains: we still belong to God and love abounds all the time! If we suffer, God suffers with us. When the fires are raging, look for Jesus. When you see others who are facing fiery furnaces or huge trials, remember that these fires will not destroy us because God does not abandon us. With Jesus at our side, and other faithful members of the body of Christ rally around us, we will be saved. Hold these verses from Isaiah 43 deep inside your heart. “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1-2.

Never underestimate the power and witness of the living God. Our Lord is up to every challenge and the clarion call to us is to lean on those mighty and everlasting arms.

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:5-9

When the going gets tough, God gets going. Our loving God has promised never to forsake us. The hope in Joshua 1:9 is profound. It is a verse that is to be bookmarked, highlighted and shared.

“Have I not commanded you?Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God keeps saying this and will say it until we embrace it. His love can enable us to hang in there. Our church, community, nation and world have faced one huge challenge after another. You may need this very word from Joshua. It is a word of promise to see us through to new places and new horizons.

Hang in there if…

  • You are in a tough stretch of your marriage
  • You are in the high octane years of child-rearing
  • You just got laid off
  • You are fighting illness or disease
  • You are faced with a critical decision
  • You have lost someone you loved deeply
  • You need your hope restored
  • You just lost a friend or need to find one

Our church needs to be strong. We long for that strength individually. God is always ready to meet us at our point of need. We will prosper not because of who we are but because of who God is.

Wherever we go and whenever we need God our Lord will lead us to a new place of hope and promise.

The Psalmist reminds us that the Lord is our light and salvation. Because of that glorious truth we have nothing to fear. Will you speak aloud your trust in God so that it might bring comfort and joy to your heart? Do it even now. Strength is your gift from your Maker.

In Christ,
Rev. Dr. Harry Durbin

Walking by Faith – The Lord Will Provide

In Genesis 22, Abraham’s faith is tested, when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. Out of obedience, Abraham journeyed for three days to Moriah with two servants, wood, a saddled donkey and his promised child. When Abraham saw the place at a distance, he told his servants to stay with the donkey. Then he assured them that they would return by saying, “We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”

On the way, Isaac inquired about the whereabouts of the burnt offering. He asked his father, “We have the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son.”

When they arrived, Abraham built an altar. He tied and laid Isaac on the wood. Then, he lifted a knife to sacrifice his son. When God saw Abraham’s faithfulness, an angel of the Lord called his name from heaven.

Abraham replied, “Yes, Here I am!”

“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in a bush to sacrifice instead of Isaac. Because God provided an alternative sacrifice, Abraham called the place, “The Lord Will Provide.”

As we journey together as a faith community, we must believe God will provide another shepherd to lead us and walk alongside us. Like Abraham, we don’t know all of the details, but we have to keep walking by faith. Our journey my seem distant, lonely and unbelievable because of many unknowns. But we must continue to trust the unknown to an all-knowing God. In doing so, we’ll find security, comfort and peace as we seek a hopeful future.

May the Lord be with us,
Rev. Tondala Hayward

“The Lord is my shepherd, He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”

This Psalm of David is a reminder that GOD IS WITH US! When he wrote this Psalm, I’m sure he reflected on his youth. He probably remembered the times he led sheep to pastures to feed and still waters to drink. As a shepherd, he was in the presence of danger many times; but he faced it head on. In the 17th chapter of Samuel, when David was convincing Saul to let him slay Goliath, he tells Saul “…Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears;…The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” David’s faith in God gave him comfort, strength and courage.

The highlighted verse in this Psalm undergirds stage 5 of the grief process, which is Acceptance. In Acceptance we come to understand things aren’t going to go back to normal. Therefore, we begin to move on and embrace closure; however, it doesn’t mean the pain is over. But we understand there is a new normal.

Life in a new world after experiencing a loss is quite different and challenging. In the Acceptance stage, we begin to experience life in new ways. This new life helps us to see what God now has for us. We depend on the Lord to comfort us in our mourning and protects us in our darkest moments. Like David we depend on the Lord to shepherd us. David experienced the death of a newborn, betrayal of his son, Absalom, and envy from Saul. Yet in his sorrow, his faith didn’t waiver. He was a man after God’s own heart.

As we conclude the five stages of grief, I would like for you to take a look at David Kelser’s video: The Five Stages of Dying. He explains the five stages of grief; but he adds “meaning” as a sixth stage. Kelser believes it’s important to find meaningful ways to live on after accepting a loss. His book “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief” draws on the desperation he experienced from the loss of his son, David. He found essential ways to make life meaningful by supporting those who need to mourn like himself.

If you would like to meet with one of the pastors, please contact us.

May the Lord be with you,
Rev. Tondala Hayward

“Grief turns out to be not a state but a process. Grief is like a winding road where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” — C.S. Lewis

Maybe it helps to know that grief is an ever changing process not a state we are planted in forever. The pain we feel today can and will be different tomorrow, i.e., this depth of grief in the first months is probably not the depth we will feel in another month and in a year, etc. And hopefully it helps to hear that the “stages” will probably shift out of order and wind back around again to some of the same “stages,” rather than to think of grief as a prescribed path we walk. When we know this fact about the stages of grief, then hopefully it helps to normalize our “out of the blue” moments or days of anger or depression, or any of the other three identified “stages”: shock, denial, anger, depression, and bargaining.

The fifth of five stages of grief is bargaining. One of the ways we try to control the situation we have found ourselves in (losing a loved one) is to bargain. In times when we might feel vulnerable or helpless, it is normal to look for ways to regain control or figure out a way that we can affect a different outcome. Sometimes the bargaining looks like “what if” and “if only” statements. These are not uncommon during painful times of our lives. And sometimes we find we direct the questions to God: “God, what if or if only I would have (you fill in the blank with the action) ______ sooner, then this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes, “Action is the antidote to despair.” Often we find ourselves trying to find answers through busy work (action) when we feel like we have lost control in our lives. Keeping our mind busy can be a way of keeping the emotional pain at bay. Being aware of this stage helps us to claim the “what if/if only” statements, recognize them, possibly gain some life-insight from them, then remember to set it aside.

A wise spiritual leader was often heard saying, “Be at Peace!” When the “what if’s” and “if only’s” begin to engulf our thoughts and we begin to try to rethink and control an already determined situation, Rev. David would have us hear: “Be at Peace!”

We can grieve and also celebrate a life well lived for Christ. And we can be at peace knowing that it is normal to try to bargain and ask endless questions or think through different scenarios. Maybe in our knowing that this is a part of grief, we will remember to also set the controlling questions aside at times, to let the tears fall and possibly step into yet another stage of grief.

Thank God for Church Family when we walk through difficult situations like surgery, divorce, addiction, tragedy, and death. And thank God for Church Family when we walk through glorious times of life like new babies, graduations, birthdays, weddings, and so much more. Let us continue to love and support one another as God’s Family through all the ups and downs that our lives bring.

You are each in my thoughts and prayers!

Hope & Peace,
Rev. Deborah

“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. … Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning … You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.” (Ps. 30:4-5, 11-12)

The Psalmist makes grief sound “easy” in these verses. And yet, in real life, you and I both know that the distance between weeping at night and joy in the morning is NOT JUST 8-12 hours! Depending on who in your life you are grieving, it might be 8-12 weeks, 8-12 months, or even 8-12 years. And so as Christians, we hold ever more firmly to the promise that there IS “joy in the morning” and there WILL BE dancing rather than mourning … someday. The Psalmist reminds us that we can cry out to God in our deepest despair and we will find healing and joy again!

In Dr. Durbin’s last two articles he unpacked for us the first two “stages” of grief: shock and anger. Today we focus on the third stage which is depression, thus the desire for our mourning to turn into dancing. Depression is a normal part of walking through our grief. The hopelessness and deep sadness that accompany depression can be debilitating. Thus I encourage us to all check on our loved ones and help them remember the promises of our faith. Joy will come, … in time, … in the morning. And our mourning can turn into dancing. Our souls can find strength to sing praises to God once again. Loving one another well during these times is always a crucial and life giving part of the healing equation.

Staying connected to our faith, faith friends, Sunday school class, pastors, counselors, and other family is vital during this time. And like wise checking in on our friends and family who are grieving to make sure the depression does not become overwhelming or go on for too long, is vital. Rev. David’s death in some might be a deep grief. In others, it may tap into a past loss that makes all the pain fresh again.

Unfortunately, grief is not as simple and easy as step 1, 2, and 3. There are no definitive prescriptions for how we will or can or should walk through grief. Seth Troutt puts it this way:

No two people experience grief the same and there isn’t even necessarily a “right order” in which people must go through these stages. … However, the Five Stages do serve as a helpful description and, in my experience, give a vocabulary to much of what people deal with internally as they walk down the winding road that is grief. Ordinarily, the closer someone is to the deceased the longer it takes them to go through the five stages.

May you find strength and HOPE in knowing that depression, anger, and shock are normal parts of the grieving process and it is normal to move from one to another and then back again in no particular order. You might find yourself depressed for 2 days, then angry for a morning, and the next evening shocked all over again. May the words of the Psalmist above continue to give you HOPE, along with our deep faith that Jesus conquered death in his resurrection, giving us hope for today and eternal hope for all our tomorrows!

Each of you are in my prayers!

Hope & Peace,
Rev. Deborah

Since the Psalmist and likely from time immemorial, when individuals suffer great loss they experience what many identify as the second stage of grief. At first it is a season of shock and denial, then anger shows its face.

As some say, it is easier to be mad than sad. We may blame God or others for our loss. It has to be someone’s fault. C.S. Lewis has some informative words for us when we find ourselves in this second stage of grief. He penned how we may feel: “Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double-bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”

A word to remember is that even in the silence, God is there. Our Lord has promised to never forsake us. The Spirit will not leave us comfortless. It is the testimony of scripture that nothing will separate us from God’s love, not even our anger. Trust me God can take it. This is a season in which we pour out our hearts and lay bare our souls. The door which now seems shut to our Maker, will on other future days open again.

Being angry may help us eventually move forward in our grieving. Being angry is a way of releasing energy and in effect protesting a loss that seems unfair and makes no sense. Emotions are not logical, but they are always real. Such anger may be expressed in many ways and directed to any range of individuals or to God. But there are ways to help cope.

See what may be fueling the anger. Seek professional or pastoral help if needed. Find ways to release some of those feelings in appropriate ways. It might be through sports, exercise, or physical labor. It may be through creative means like music, art, reading or writing. Seek God through prayer and scripture. Reach out to a friend, neighbor or fellow church member. We have committed to love one another in and through it all.

In the end, hope is greater than anger. Let’s lean into it as a family of faith. Let us keep honoring David until the peace he wished for us returns.

In Christ
Rev. Dr. Harry Durbin

You have lost one of your pastors. The death came quickly, almost unannounced. We all had prayed that David would get better and recover from his bout with Covid-19, but it did not happen and we were devastated.

It seems like an unimaginable truth, yet its reality is now fully among us. In searching for ways to cope and looking at stages of grief, I found a word that was helpful. That word was an acknowledgment that we are called to be instruments of grace to one another. God uses us to help in the healing process that all need to experience. Remember again these powerful words that are written by St. Paul in II Corinthians 1:3-7. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are partners in our sufferings, so also you are in our comfort.”

Seize your opportunities to lean into the pain of others and then serve them.

In his article titled, “Two Things We Need to Believe To Help People Who are Grieving”, Dale Thackrah shares important points to remember:

1. Believe in the One Who Has the Power to Heal
2. Believe You Can be an Instrument of Grace

We, in the end, are simply called to be compassionate. It is a powerful word that literally means for us to “suffer with” another. It means more than just offering a sympathetic word or experiencing a moment of sadness.

Nouwen says it like this. “To live with compassion means to enter others’ dark moments. It is to walk into places of pain, not to flinch or look away when another agonizes.”

God can bring the comfort and we can offer our presence. We are called to be there and be available. He concludes that compassion is possible when we walk with Jesus.

Our Lord has commanded us to love one another as He has loved us. God is part of our mourning, and when joy returns He will be with us still. Even, in our darkest moments, grace abounds and we can be used to translate that grace to one another.

In Christ,
Rev. Dr. Harry Durbin

Rev. Renee Dillard, a counselor with Methodist Le BonHeur, thought it would be helpful to provide the following resources.

For Grief Support: