God Is With Us 3.26.2020

I wrote this post four years ago while struggling through an unplanned unemployment (remember that when reading it!).
 
I share in hope you find meaning (and joy!) in it today.

 

Finding Joy In Music

By Jane Weiers

 

My post earlier mentioned that I am a natural “sinker.” Yesterday, in the stress, anxiety, and turmoil of unplanned unemployment, I was headed for the bottom. Again. A feeling of sinking throughout much of the day. Finding out the cost of health insurance once mine runs out January 31 certainly did nothing to buoy my mood, nor did having to ask my mother for financial assistance starting in February. So, being the stubborn person I was genetically disposed to be (have you ever met my parents?!?), today I got out of bed fighting mad. At life. At the world. At having lost my job in a financial crisis that I had nothing to do with (funny how innocent people end up being collateral damage so often in life). So, I pushed myself into the shower (basic self care is a common struggle with those in clinical depression), put on some makeup, dressed up in a skirt and even put on a necklace, and forced myself to what has become my job application site: STARBUCKS. Ordered a drink. Plugged in my computer and my earbuds, and went to listen to a piece of music by a conductor that has become a favorite of mine: Joseph Curiale. I discovered he has composed a piece titled “JOY.” JUST WHAT I NEED TODAY! Music makes such a difference in the world, and I share this piece for others to listen to. I dare you to feel like you are sinking while listening to this.
 

https://youtu.be/cvxfJ43EdNU


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Running with Mark 89

 

Day 89 – March 26, 2020

 

Watch: Here is a short introduction to PSALMS from The Bible Project.

The Bible Project – Introduction to the Psalms

 

Read:

Psalm 116:12-19 New Revised Standard Version

 

Questions to ponder:

  • Why is the psalmist so devoted to God?
  • What troubles may have emerged in the psalmist’s life?
  • What is the Cup of Salvation?
  • Is your devotion based primarily on what God has done for you? If so, what happens when something bad happens to you?

 

Music:

Do you remember this old song from church camp or Sunday school?

I Will Call Upon the Lord

 

 

 

Prayer Focus:

In the midst of these trying days, for what do you give thanks?  Talk to God about those things.

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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God Is With Us 3.25.2020

I wrote this devotion four years ago when I was struggling through unplanned unemployment. I post it today hoping some reading it may see themselves in it and know they are not alone, and also hoping that some reading it may learn a bit about the physical human condition called “clinical depression.” There is much research going on about clinical depression and its root physical causes. Doctors and nutritionists are now focusing on the health of the gut/digestive system – the gut-brain connection – and how our modern diets, chemicals, and processed foods are affecting/increasing many diseases including clinical depression and anxiety.

 

I hope you find meaning in this writing.

 

A Sinker

By Jane Weiers

 

I am a sinker. Yes, you read that correctly, I am a sinker. I learned this while taking a swimming class my freshman year in college. As I recall the experience, while in the pool on the first day of class we were told to exhale our breath, put our heads down and see what happened. It was a test to see if we were “floaters” or “sinkers.” I headed for the bottom. A sinker. What did that mean for me as a swimmer? The instructor told us that in addition to pulling ourselves forward in a stroke, sinkers also have to work to keep ourselves afloat. Simply put, swimming is harder for a “sinker” than for a “floater.” Dang. I really like swimming.

 

This came to me in a restless night last night. I started pondering if this physical anomaly could possibly translate to other areas of my physical being. When life brings me lemons, when I exhale my breath and put my head down, what happens? My natural tendency is to sink. Into self-doubt. Into negative self-talk. Into emotional darkness. Into depression. Into CLINICAL depression. When I experienced my deepest clinical depression 25 years ago, the onset of that depression was a powerful physical sensation of falling. Yes, you read that correctly—a PHYSICAL sense of falling. My body felt out of control—on the inside. My body felt like I was falling—on the inside. And it was scary. Really scary. So scary that I eventually called a mental health hotline. I can vividly recall standing in the mudroom of our house talking to a crisis counselor. It was a Saturday. I was nine months pregnant with my first child. I was so scared. What I was feeling was SO overwhelming. The physical sensation was so strong that I wanted nothing more than to not feel that powerful inner turmoil anymore. I wanted out.

 

I am so thankful that I had already been diagnosed with clinical depression earlier in my life, so I had an educated sense of what I was experiencing—body chemicals becoming so out of balance that I needed medical/chemical/professional intervention. My body was experiencing a physical disease/imbalance, and that body, with that chemical inefficiency, needed physical help. Having already experienced both the darkness of being out of chemical balance and returning to the lightness of balance, I knew that it was not a personal “weakness,” but rather a physical anomaly of my physical body. I knew that with time and with chemical intervention, I would get out of that dark hole. Don’t get me wrong, when you are in that depth of depression every minute you are in it you can’t seem to see the forest for the trees. But, education is so important. And, once you are educated, it absolutely helps the rest of your life (isn’t that true about ALL education?!). Education is what this post is all about.

 

So, I guess I must accept the fact that I am a natural sinker. In more ways than one. Swimming takes more energy for me than others, and inner balance takes more energy and/or chemical help for me than for others. This in no way translates to me being a “Debbie Downer,” because on the “outside,” I am the person you want in a crisis, I am the consensus-builder, the one to find the positive in any situation, the one trying to keep everyone else positive (not that I am always smiling :/). If you ever wonder why I am SO FOND of positive quotes, it is very much self-help driven. In becoming professionally educated about my propensity for negative self-talk, I have learned I absolutely have control over my thoughts, if not my body chemicals. So when I find myself returning to my negative self-talk pattern, I work to break the pattern by changing my thoughts to the positive. And start re-reading books like, “Healing Is A Choice,” “Happiness Is A Choice,” and I highly recommend the book “Paths Are Made By Walking,” about how to reprogram the neuropathways in our brain (our thinking habits).
 
I find joy writing about finding joy, and write about joy as a means to an end.
 
Take that, you sinker…

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Running with Mark 88

 

Day 88 – March 25, 2020

Read:

Psalm 121

Please enjoy this video reflection of Psalm 121.  Psalm 121 – The Work of the People

 Psalm 121:7 says, “The Lord will keep you from all harm–“
What do you make of that verse when Covid19 is spreading?
As you wrestle with that question, it may be helpful for you to look at a classic piece called “Understanding the Will of God” by Leslie Weatherhead.  Weatherhead posits that there are three types of God’s will; the intentional will of God, the circumstantial will of God, and the ultimate will of God.
  1. The intentional will of God – is God’s ideal plan for humanity. This is God’s plan for wholeness, for Shalom.
  2. The circumstantial will of God – is God’s plan within certain circumstances.  I like to use the example of physics.  God created objects in motion to stay in motion, that is God’s will.  But what happens when two cars try to occupy the same intersection at the same time?  The cars crash.  It is not that God willed the crash to happen, but God did will the laws of physics.  The car accident took place not because of God’s intentional will, but because of circumstances.
  3. The ultimate will of God – is the glorious and final realization of all God’s purposes.  
 
Here’s a quote from Weatherhead: (he uses very old language that is gendered “he” for humanity)
“When a dear one dies, we call it “the will of God,” though the measures we used to prevent death could
hardly be called fighting against the will of God, and if they had been successful we should have thanked
God with deep feeling that in the recovery of that dear one his will had been done. Similarly, when
sadness, disease, and calamity overtake men they sometimes say with resignation, “God’s will be done,”
when the opposite of his will has been done. When Jesus healed men’s bodies and gladdened men’s
lives in Palestine, he was doing the will of God, not undoing or defeating it.”
 
Covid19 was not God’s intentional will.  It was caused by circumstances of this world, by the power of genes and viruses to change and mutate.  God’s ultimate will in this awful situation may be seen when humanity acts in the best ways of God.
 
Beware of bad theology!  There will be people arguing that COVID19 is God’s will, and this is not so.
 
 

Music:

I Will Lift My Eyes by Bebo Norman

Prayer Focus:

An Affirmation of Faith for Lent

We are not alone; we live in God’s world. We believe in God who has created and is creating; who has come to us in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new; who works in us and others by the Spirit. We trust in God. We are called to be the Church, to celebrate God’s presence; to live with respect in creation; to love and serve others; to seek justice and resist evil; to proclaim Jesus’ message of hope, inclusion and grace. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

—Adapted from the United Church of Canada.

 

 

 

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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God is with Us – 3.24.2020

Today I took a little field trip to the Joyce Uptown Foodshelf.
Did you know that demand is up at the food shelf?  Last week on a day when typically 30 families would be served, the Joyce Uptown Food Shelf served 62 families!
 
Check out this video to see what was happening today at Joyce.
 
 
 
Please be generous in your support of organizations that are serving those in need.
www.joyceuptownfoodshelf.org 
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins
 
 

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Running with Mark 87

 

Day 87 – March 24, 2020

 

Read:

Psalm 102:12-17

Yet You, O Comforter, are ever near,

your kindness is made known to all generations;

You answer the prayers of those who cry to You.

Come! Melt every heart;

the appointed time is nigh.

Those who trust in You find solace for their souls;

tears soon turn to joy.

All who reverence and honor the Beloved,

are nourished and held by Love.

For You, O Healer, invite us to wholeness,

to be co-creators along Love’s way.

You hear the cries of the afflicted, and answer their prayer.

Yet beware! Our thoughts are also our prayers,

May they be for the well-being of all!

Music:

Compassion Hymn

 

Prayer Focus:

A Prayer of Compassion by Mother Teresa

Lord, open our eyes
that we may see you in our brothers and sisters.
Lord, open our ears
that we may hear the cries of the hungry,
the cold, the frightened, the oppressed.
Lord, open our hearts
that we may love each other as you love us.
Renew in us your spirit.
Lord, free us and make us one.
Amen 

 

 

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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God is with Us 3.23.2020

 

Hello Beloved,

It’s Monday night.  By now you have survived another day of working at home.  Children have probably had some homework; books to read or maybe e-learning lessons from school. 
 
Some of you have worked at hospitals, clinics, grocery stores, as letter carriers or truck drivers.  I am SO thankful for your service during this Covid19 crisis.

 

When you were little were you afraid of the dark?  My dad has some land up north, way outside of any town.  On the nights that the skies are clear, you can see beautiful stars.  But on the nights where there is cloud cover, it is so very, very dark there.  I admit that those very dark nights can be scary because you are out in the woods and don’t know exactly what’s there.

 

Tonight we are going to take a walk around my yard.  Click on the link the link and let’s walk and talk.

 

 

Let’s pray,

Holy God, my day is drawing to an end, and I’m ready to turn in. But before I do, I have to thank you for your faithfulness today. It’s always a good day, even when things may not go the way I plan, or when the world seems in chaos, because you are in control.  For all the times when I was aware of your help today, all the times when your unseen presence seemed so near, thank you, God. But for all the ways you worked behind the scenes, unknown to me, moments when heaven-sent angels moved on my behalf in ways I’ll never know, thank you for those also, Lord. Amen. 

 

~ Rebecca Barlow Jordan

 

 


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Running with Mark 86

 

Day 86 – March 23, 2020

 

Read: Psalm

Psalm 89:1-4 New Revised Standard Version

This week five of the readings from the Narrative Lectionary come from the Psalms.  Why were they chosen?  Psalms were a primary form of prayer for the Jewish community.  They continue to speak to the hopes, fears, struggles and worries of all people today.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian known for his opposition to National Socialism. His ties to the July 20, 1944, conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi regime led to his execution in 1945. His theological writings are regarded as classics throughout the Christian world.

Bonhoeffer penned these words on the Psalms:

“The Psalter is the prayer book of Jesus Christ in the truest sense of the word. He prayed the Psalter and now it has become his prayer for all time…we understand how the Psalter can be prayer to God and yet God’s own Word, precisely because here we encounter the praying Christ…because those who pray the psalms are joining in with the prayer of Jesus Christ, their prayer reaches the ears of God. Christ has become their intercessor…”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

 

As you read Psalm 89 from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying – An Invitation to Wholeness, may this be your prayer:

I will sing of your steadfast Love

            forever, my Beloved:

with forthright voice I will proclaim

your goodness to all generations.

For your abiding Love rules to the universe,

your faithfulness extends throughout the firmament.

Your Covenant from the beginning of time

encompasses all who choose to walk

the path of Love;

And to all generations that honor

your Way and your Truth

will Love make Itself known.

 

 

 

Music:

Sanctuary by Carrie Newcomer

Every Praise by Hezekiah Walker

 

Prayer Focus:

In this time of anxiety, ask God to be your Rock, your faithful One.

 

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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God is with Us – 3.22.2020

Hello Friends,

Many of you are at home with small children.  You are trying to parent well, work well, stay safe and sane!  You are not alone.  We see you and we honor the important things you are doing!

 

Here’s a video note from Pastor Karen:  Click on the link to see this video: 

Kids and Scripture

 

For tonight, take delight in the faith of this preschooler who is learning to recite the 23rd Psalm.  Share it with your children and encourage them to memorize Scripture, maybe not quite as long as this Scripture.  You’ll be surprised what sticks!  I can still remember attending a neighborhood VBS when I was in elementary school.  Every day there was a new Bible verse to memorize, and today, many (many, many) years later, I can still recite those verses.  They come to my mind and my heart in times of trouble.

 

Here are a few you can work on with your children this week:

Philippians 4:4 — Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Psalm 150:6 — Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Ephesians 4:32 — Be kind to one another.

Psalm 56:3 — What time I am afraid, I will trust in You.

Psalm 119:105 — Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Matthew 22:39 — You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Psalm 46:10 — Be still, and know that I am God.

 

Hang in there parents!  You are doing great!!!

Grace and peace,

 

Pastor Karen Bruins

 

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Running with Mark – 85

 

Day 85 – March 22, 2020  

Today’s blog comes from guest blogger Rev. Chris Carr. Chris is the preacher for Sunday, March 22, 2020.

  

 

Read:

Mark 12: 28-34 (inclusive Version)

28 One of the religious scholars who had listened to them debating and had observed how well Jesus had answered them, now came up and put a question to him: “Which is the foremost of all the commandments?” 29 Jesus replied, “This is the foremost: ‘Hear, O Israel, God, our God, is one. 30 You must love the Most High God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 32 The scholar said to Jesus, “Well spoken, Teacher! What you have said is true: the Most High is one and there is no other. 33 To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself—this is far more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.” 34 Jesus, seeing how wisely this scholar had spoken, said, “You are not far from the kindom of God.” And after that no one dared to question Jesus any more.

 

This seems as important a time to understand to heed Jesus’ call to Love God and Love our neighbor.    

 

Right now, it feels hard to see God, let alone love God.  In this season of a pandemic, there are a lot of questions, and the answers are unclear.  We are spending a lot of time looking out of windows, to keep separation and keep people safe.  People are either stuck inside, away from family and friends, out of school.  We had to make the tough decision to reschedule REYOUNITE youth event, where we had JJ Warren, Jennifer Knapp, and others coming for an amazing weekend.  It was a really hard decision.  We had a great Youth Group time online on Wednesday and the questions raised were mostly about this sense of the length of time this will continue.  How long will we be out of school?  How does God let this happen?  It feels like there is a lot obstructing our view of the Holy.  Fear does that.  We get tunnel vision and close off.  We are trying to look through a window to see God, but the curtains of Covid-19 are blocking our view.     

 

We don’t know when things that have ceased or been cancelled will be able to happen.  But we do know that when we commit into relationship with that which connects us beyond physical contact, we are able to throw back the curtains that obstruct our view and see with greater clarity, and when we do, our actions, whether they are in our home, or in the world of live-streams, can tell our neighbor they are loved.                     

 

Please read 1 Corinthians 13 to see what Paul, the apostle whose writings make up a lot of the New Testament, had to say about love.                                                                                                                               

 

CHECK OUT THIS MUSIC VIDEO FOR “NEW DAY” FROM JENNIFER KNAPP. 

 

https://jenniferknapp.com/videos/new-day/

 

Music:

“Feeling Low”

 

Lyrics:

When i’m feeling low

and my heart is weak

i know you have the strength

 to carry me

When i’m broken down

and i’m filled with grief

 i know you’re far beyond

what my mind conceives

 

As I look beyond the cares of life

I can feel your heart

Through the pain and strife

 As I look beyond the cares of life

I can feel your heart

feel you wash my sight

i can feel your heart

feel you offer life

 

you lead me to the water, sweet water

the water of life

when i am sinking,

you lift me up out of the night

 

how can it be hallelujah

i feel this love overtake me 

 

 

Prayer:

God, we bring our cries, we bring our questions, we bring our fears.  In this uncertain time, help us seek clearing our vision out the window, to push back the blinds and feel your love, and be in relationships that magnify Your love into the world.

 AMEN 

 

 

Peace and Love in Faith,

Chris

 

 

 

 

Read:

Music:

 

Prayer Focus:

 

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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