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 […]
by Michael Cisler – Pastor, North Kent Bible Church I have found recently that no matter how busy we find ourselves at our house we still have time for entertainment like watching television, playing Candy Crush, or spending time on social media. One of the results of being a follower of Jesus is an involvement in service. If Jesus is our example for life then we ought to strive to serve. Jesus said of himself in Matthew 20:28, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” That service looks different for each one of us as we each have different skill sets and different callings to ministry. Peter says in I Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” So our responsibility is not to serve or minister in the exact same way as someone else, but rather that we would serve in the areas in which God has gifted us and called us. This service should also be with our full effort and sacrifice. Paul says in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men”. We need to have proper boundaries within our lives as we consider keeping a margin of time, resources, and energy. The Bible is also very clear on our responsibility to serve and minister to our family first and foremost. I wonder though, how much more we actually have to give. How much time do we spend on entertainment or social media that could be spent instead on serving and ministering to others? I encourage you to consider how much of a blessing you could be to others by transitioning some of your time to purposeful service to others.
Unlikely Rescue by PASTOR RON AULBACH BridgeWay Community Imagine yourself lying on the beach, watching the waves lap against the shore. It’s another record breaking day of heat and humidity, with no relief in sight. You decide it’s time to take a dip and cool off, but as you wade into the water a huge fish swims towards you. Just before it beaches, its’ enormous jaws open and out comes an ear deafening belch. The deep bellowing ‘burrrrp,’ produces a large amount of seaweed, several half digested fish, a volleyball named Wilson, and to your great surprise, a man who is barely alive. The smell is overwhelming, but the man reaches out his slimy hand and says, “Hi my name is Jonah. Man, is it good to be out of there!” It’s one of the strangest verses in the bible, “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2:10). I’m sorry if you are reading this while sipping a cup of coffee or eating a cinnamon roll, but I will never forget hearing this story as a little 6 year old in my Sunday School class. These are the stories adult teachers relish, “Do what God says, or a giant fish will eat you.” It was a toss up whether I was more scared of Jonah’s fish or a ferocious shark named Jaws. God wants our obedience, that’s true. But the really good news for Jonah is that God cared enough to rescue him the moment he asked. Jonah went from fish food to rescued the moment he cried out to God. Sure, it looked like vomit, but it was better than death. What would rescue look like for you? Maybe you’re like Jonah and the problems of life have absolutely swallowed you. The boss is unbearable. The kids are a mess. Financial burdens are weighing you down. Maybe your life is swallowed up by sin and disobedience. It’s never to late to call out for rescue. Deep in the belly of whale, God heard Jonah’s prayer “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, O Lord. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:7-8). May that be your prayer today, […]