This summer we had the joy of spending a few days camping with our children and grandchildren near the sand dunes by Silver Lake. I remember visiting there as a child walking the dunes, visiting the lighthouse and swimming in Lake Michigan. Then later as our children grew we returned to do some of the same things, running the dunes and watching the dune buggies master those mountains of sand. For three generations we have returned to this fun-filled vacation spot. We had a great time! We often do a good job of passing these types of experiences on to our children and grandchildren. I often wonder how well we do at passing the spiritual experiences of life on to the next generation. It is common knowledge that the church in America is struggling. It is estimated that only about 18% of millennials (those born after 1981) identify themselves as Christian. In the USA, the church of Jesus Christ is in decline. Of the many things we pass on to our children and grandchildren we must not forget to pass on our faith as well. We can not only pray for our children, but pray with them. Teach your children your favorite Bible verses and help them to discover the wonderful truths of God’s word for themselves. Show them the importance of worshiping God by attending worship yourself every week. Engage your children in acts of kindness to others and help them discover the joy of ministry We parents are primarily responsible for the spiritual development of our children. Your church, pastor, children and youth volunteers are there to assist in this task and we thank God for their presence. With the education season about to begin again be sure to keep your child’s Christian education (faith development) a priority. In the present and in the future you will be glad you did. Grace & Peace, Pastor Ken Bremer Rockford UMC
A weekly inspirational message
by Rev. Laurie TenHave-Chapman I can’t see her face because the traffic sign with the word SLOW on it blocks it. What I can see is her torso and legs. This young woman has been hired for the mundane, interminable job of holding a traffic sign all day while construction workers labor around her. She has chosen to spice up the job by showing a little flesh. As she holds up the sign her white T-shirt is hiked up enough to expose about 4 inches of a trim belly, with a pierced navel evident. That torso is a conspicuous presence in an otherwise annoying traffic snare. It is clear to me that she is very aware of her midriff exposure and enjoying the extra attention it’s getting in her well-placed job. When I think of a professional wardrobe I don’t think of a bared midriff! It’s not indecent particularly—just present. Sometimes we are witnesses to a conspicuous presence—something that jumps out at us from an otherwise ordinary setting. Sometimes we are the ones who have created a conspicuous presence of some sort, trying to spice up the world around us. I wonder if we, as people of faith, consider what we need to do to be a conspicuous presence? So many of us just flow by each other, caught up in the daily demands that nothing jumps out at us to remind us of our divine origin. How can we flash a bit of our divinely shaped humanity to grab people’s attention and remind them that there’s more than meets the eye? Made in God’s image, we forgive. We affirm. We spread joy. We say “no” when others say, “Sure! Whatever.” We extend grace. We love unconditionally. We serve others. When we live each day in that radical way, we point beyond ourselves, beyond the traffic snarl, to a God who is hoping we will SLOW down and notice the sacred amidst the ordinary. Be a conspicuous presence that points beyond yourself to the One who shapes each day!
Rev. Paula Vander Hoven Interim Pastor, North Kent Presbyterian Church My grandmother, Cornelia Feringa, was born in Grand Rapids of brand new immigrant parents in 1894. Very early on her family moved north to a small community south of Cadillac and her father cleared land for a farm. She received some basic education in the local schools, but her most treasured education came from the church, where she learned songs and Psalms that she would sing and quote for the rest of her life. When she was about sixteen years old, she felt a call to be a nurse and took a nursing course by correspondence. In 1911 she became one of the very first nurses at “The Association for Mentally Ill and Nervous People,” much later to become Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services” in Cutlerville. It was a new concept in the care of mentally ill patients patterned after hospitals in the Netherlands. Rather than using chains, strait jackets, isolation or beatings to control unruly patients in the days before modern mediations, Cornelia talked with them calmly and read scripture and sang to them. She taught them to knit baby blankets and brought in guest musicians. One of the guest musicians was a young Dutch immigrant named John Vanderhoven and when he left for Northern Russia in the First World War she prayed for him and sent packages of warm hand-knit socks and sweaters. When he returned she married him. She prayed for him and their family when they tried their hand at farming in the poor soil of Northern Michigan and through the Great Depression. When there was very little work for Dutch musicians her sons had paper routes and she bought houses needing repairs. Her husband and sons repaired them and she sold them again – the first woman I know to “flip” houses. She prayed her family through serious illness and when one of her sons became a pastor in faraway places and one of her daughters went off with her missionary husband to what was then Ceylon, she prayed for them, too. In her later years Cornelia and John went around to nursing homes. He played the piano for hymn singing and she gave “messages” (which she never called […]
By Marcia Hufstader, Member of Third Church of Christ, Scientist Recently I heard a report on the origin of philanthropy. Spurred by this to learn more on the subject, I found that Webster’s 1828 Dictionary definition of philanthropy includes this: “The love of mankind; benevolence towards the whole human family; universal good will.” It struck me that this definition is not anchored in the sharing of monetary wealth. And I realized that everyone can be a philanthropists – including me! So, I asked myself, “Do I feel love for mankind?” I realized that it really is both important and natural for me to love all mankind. The Bible says (1 John 4:19), “And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” I have learned to love God more over the last few years by being more aware and grateful for every evidence of good I see during my day. And I reasoned that it’s natural, then, for me to extend this love to His creation. Following the Bible directive, more and more I earnestly and honestly feel love for my fellow man. And this love, being an expression of divine love which is universal, it naturally extends to the whole human family. Benevolence includes so much more than the giving of large sums of money. It can be a simple act of kindness. When I actively love my neighbor in everyday life – by recognizing a need and responding to it, for example – I’m being benevolent. This could involve giving them something they need or simply listening to something they need to share. It could be expressed by giving encouragement or praise. My benevolence is shared more broadly by including the whole human family in my prayers each day. Often, that daily prayer includes acknowledging God’s unconditional and complete love for all mankind and knowing that everyone can feel that love and be blessed by it. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Christian Science church, was known for her philanthropy and her love for mankind. In her book First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, she said, “… philanthropy is loving, ameliorative, revolutionary … Love for mankind is the elevator of the human race; it demonstrates Truth […]
by Robert Eckert, Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church Would it serve the world well if people were less concerned with being right and more concerned with being kind? I posted a comment recently on the Facebook page of something called WretchedTV to express my distaste for what I’d seen of their videos on YouTube. I inadvertently provoked a fan of WretchedTV who unleashed a diatribe against all things United Methodist (I had identified myself as a UM pastor) and proceeded to lecture me on his perception of the only correct answer if the question is “how does one get to heaven?” I chose the path of passive aggression, smugly quoting Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” American culture, if not world culture, is well into major changes in the rules of the game of self-expression thanks to the instant access and anonymity of various social media outlets. More than ever we say whatever we want whenever we want in language that presumes moral authority and communicates uncompromising, albeit unfounded, certainty on most every topic under the sun. What could be tools for informed, thoughtful, respectful, productive dialogue on any number of issues are too often used to deliver close-minded, arrogant, goading pronouncements that serve only to reveal our ignorance. The chances are good that I and my temporary pen pal share some important common ground, but we never made it that far. The chances are good we had something to offer each other, insights from which we could have mutually benefited, but we never made it that far. The chances are good that two of us, both people who desire to follow Jesus, could have experienced a moment of fulfilling Jesus’ command to his disciples to love one another, but we never made it that far. We both simply wanted to be right, and each of us was convinced he was. I can’t speak for him, but the unsettled spirit that was mine after our exchanges told me that our only contribution to the world in our exchanges was a little bit more dissension and a little bit less unity. That might be what makes the story known as The Parable of the Good Samaritan so compelling and […]