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A Message From Pastor Van Orden
Dear Bethany friends:
As all of you have heard, yesterday the leadership of our congregation made the difficult decision to suspend worship for the next two weeks (three Sundays in all). We are hoping that the progress of the COVID-19 virus and the success of our efforts to limit its spread will allow us to resume our normal schedule beginning with Palm Sunday (April 5).
I’ve been struggling to find a way to be reassuring and serious at the same time in the face of this pandemic. Everyone has heard the sound advice from the CDC and other trusted sources: don’t panic, keep a safe distance between yourself and others and wash your hands frequently.
Beyond that, however, we need to approach the next few weeks with hope – with confidence that we will emerge from this time with our faith deepened and our love for one another stronger than ever.
I will try to communicate with all of you regularly, via email and our congregation’s website and Facebook page, while we are physically apart. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you would like to talk or message one on one.
Finally, my wife Lynn and I read a poem this morning that we found to be helpful. I hope it helps you as well. It is entitled “Pandemic” and the author is Lynn Unger
“What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.”
Blessings to you all.
With the recent release of "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," we can agree that the legacy of Mr. Fred Rogers is still alive and well. His life has been the subject of movies and documentaries, featured in news stories, and even found its way into several of Pastor Van Orden's recent sermons.
Nearly 17 years since his passing, stories are still coming to light about Mr. Roger's effect on people who needed the love of a "good neighbor." I think we can always use a good neighbor. In fact, I think we can all BE a good neighbor. With this being the season of Lent, what better time to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter than by looking inward and reflecting on what it means to give of our time, whatever that may mean in our current state.
While this particular article is from 2017, its message is still very relevant. To read about how a chance encounter with Mr. Rogers changed the course of a young man's life, click the button below.
A Monday "Punny!"
A newly married couple had their first argument over who should make the morning coffee. The wife, being determined and a Christian, went to the scriptures for her answer. With great confidence, she told her husband the Bible clearly stated the man should have to make the coffee.
The husband, certain she was mistaken, said "where did you find that? The book of Revelations?" Giving her husband a sideways look, the wife confidently opened up her Bible. She searched for a moment, then pointed triumphantly and said: “It’s right here!" Then she turned the Bible to her husband where he saw for himself - "HEBREWS!”
Happy Saint Patrick's Day
Today is a day, stereotypically, associated with attending parades, drinking Guinness, and eating corned beef and cabbage, all while sporting your best green attire. While there are lots of epic stories and legends surrounding March 17th (not the least of which is that its the day Elisa Schoen was born, HBD!), the history of Saint Patrick, and the day set aside to honor him, is pretty interesting. Did you know that he wasn't born in Ireland, but in Britain? Did you know the shamrock was considered a "sacred plant" and was used to explain the Holy Trinity? Do you know where the "traditional" meal of corned beef & cabbage originated?
Undoubtedly, this will be a mild year for the "celebrations" of Saint Patrick's Day. I hope all of you are staying healthy and entertained during these unusual and unnerving times. That said, if you're a fan of history and you'd like to know more about Saint Patrick & all things associated with March 17th (or if you'd just like a little distraction), click the button below to read more!
A Mid - Week Message from our Pastor
Here we are on another beautiful March morning. If you need a mid-week pick me up (I know I did!), please see below for a message from Pastor Van Orden!
I want to go to the beach. I'm not sure why, but today I want to see the ocean. Something about being near the ocean (or almost any body of water) makes me feel like I'm more spiritually connected. I know a lot of people who feel that way. Of course, there are many places people feel connected to God, but I think my connection to water came from my childhood growing up at the Jersey shore.
When I was little, my Nan (aka Ruth Welker for those of you who may remember) bought a little cross-stitched picture that was hung by the door of our shore house. It was the last thing you saw before you left our home and it read "Dear God, be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small." I remember wondering why, if you were already in a boat on the water, God needed to "be good." To me, there was nothing better than the sensation of "floating," whether in a boat, on a boogie board, or just drifting on your back with the tide.
The first time I heard those words in a new way was when I was going into my sophomore year at Rowan. More specifically, it was the morning my grandfather (George Welker, of the vast coupon collections) passed away. His health had been deteriorating for some time, so we'd all gathered at the shore house in anticipation of his passing. Out of the need to have a private moment to mourn, I'll never forget seeing that little prayer as I walked out of the house that bright July morning. The prayer reverberated in my head as I walked the path to the beach and found myself standing in front of the most perfect, crystal blue waves.
"The sea is so wide and my boat is so small."
I certainly felt "so small" in that moment, standing next to the vastness that was the Atlantic Ocean. Small and insignificant, heartbroken and alone, but there was something comforting in hearing those words in my head. It's funny how differently we interpret things as we get older. I know I sat on the beach for a long time that day, that little prayer repeating itself in my head while I contemplated so many things.
I don't remember all the things I thought about, but I had two major revelations. The first thing was that I was going to take more chances. My grandfather met my Nan on a double date. The only problem was that she supposed to be his buddy's date. Pop quickly readjusted the date alliances, Nan accepted the date change happily, and the rest was history.
In my life at that time, there was a certain "frat guy" that I'd had a crush on for months that I'd been afraid to ask out for a myriad of reasons. As I recalled Pop and Nan's first "meeting," I kept thinking of this guy and that I wanted, in that moment, to talk to him about losing Pop. I promised myself that I was going to go back to school in September and talk to this guy (fun fact, I DID talk to that guy and, seven years later, I married him).
My other major revelation was that the Lord WAS good, despite the loss our family had experienced. When we feel small, forgotten, scared, or lost, when we feel insignificant or bad things happen, the Lord is still good. That was a tough thing to accept that day. In many ways, it is still tough to accept. We listen to the news and read about things that we can't control. Despite that, the Lord is still good. God still loves us and gives us the ability to try to help and do God's work.
"The sea is so wide and my boat is so small."
Alone, we are small. We are separated and scared. Together, though, we are more. We're not alone in a boat on the sea. We are a fleet, lifting each other up. We are each other's life rafts. We're an armada, keeping each other safe. And, even though we're on different ships, we're still there for each other as children of God.
As Pastor Van Orden said in yesterday's post, "God is doing" things even in this time of chaos and uncertainty. Even if we can't physically gather together, we can still have a positive impact on our world. In the vastness, we just have to start small.
"With joy, you will draw water from the wells of salvation." Isaiah 12:3
I realized, after writing about the ocean, I should share my "beach access" with everyone. You can google "live feed beach" and come up with any number of beach views around the world. Of course, I'm including a link to the beach I mentioned in the above post.
If you click the button below, you will see the beach I grew up on in Strathmere, NJ. While Mother Nature hasn't always been gentle to the beach itself, the ocean view is pretty much the same. If I can't be there in person to put my feet in the water (especially since it is probably still pretty cold!), this is the next best thing!
Maybe, that's another reason why I associate the ocean with spirituality. In Biblical times, when travelers arrived at their destinations, the host would put out water to clean their feet (we've all heard the stories of Jesus' feet being washed in multiple places in the Bible). Since most people in that time had to walk as their main mode of transportation, I'll bet they REALLY needed a good soak.
Similarly, think about one of the first things someone does after arriving at the beach? You drop your supplies, set up your "camp," and walk, run, or (if you're my Luke) gallop down to the water to dip your feet in the ocean waves. After our journey, we get to cleanse our feet in the waters, both literally and figuratively. I'm not sure what could be better.
I hope you find some peace and joy today! Enjoy the waves!
Twas blind, but now I see
Today's Gospel reading is included below.
John 9: 1-41
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. 8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said. The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to
Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. Spiritual Blindness
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said,[a] “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
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Open our Eyes
Good Tuesday morning! I was so thankful to see and feel the sun today, I'm not sure I can put it into words. After the cold downpouring rain from yesterday, today's sunshine is especially appreciated.
You will find the words to the hymn Open Our Eyes Lord below. There is also a recording by our own Jonathan Clifton to accompany it. Today feels like a good day for singing, so please feel free to join in!
Open our eyes, Lord We want to see Jesus
To reach out and touch Him And say that we love Him
Open our ears, Lord And help us to listen
Open our eyes, Lord We want to see Jesus
Open our minds Lord, to follow His teaching,
To reach out to others, to show them compassion
Open our hearts Lord, to care for each other,
And through our love Lord, please let them see Jesus
Open our eyes Lord, forget our obsessions
Joy isn’t buildings, or wealth or possessions
Open our hearts Lord, to serve one another,
And through our love Lord, please let them see Jesus
Greetings All! I hope you're all staying warm on this wet, grey Wednesday. Below, please find this week's Mid-week Message. If you have any trouble getting the video to play in this window, please click the button below to redirect to YouTube!
Also, this week we are going to start a Sunday morning "Brunch with Bethany" on an app called Zoom. If your computer has a camera or if you have a smartphone, you are able to "chat face to face" on your computer screen! Our Sunday "Brunch" will be at 10:30 am beginning this Sunday, March 29th and will consist of a discussion of the sermon message and a general togetherness for all of us to stay connected. If you are interested, please click the button at the top of this page to add your email to our list. Then, just be on the lookout for an "invite" on your email address from Bethany! We hope to "see" you soon!
**Brunch is not required and is BYOB (bring your own brunch).
Making a Difference
Today, I needed to be productive. Every news update feels negative (even when it's not supposed to be) and I want to DO something. I want to help, somehow, and it feels like there's nothing I can do that will make any kind of difference. And I'm tired of feeling that way.
The more I sat and stewed about it, the more restless I found myself. There is so much need in the world right now, there has to do something to do. Then, a news article about the "homeless situation" in Queens during the COVID-19 crisis caught my eye.
Here at Bethany, we've been talking about taking a more active position in trying to help solve the homelessness crisis that exists in South Jersey. The global crisis has taken precedence in the last few weeks, but I'd like to start looking for people and places that are helping. I'm contacting some of the resources on our "For Friends in Need" page above. Obviously, all the office buildings and shelters are closed physically, but I'm looking for places that still offer services, whether they're offered remotely or in delivery form.
Bethany Family, this is where I need your help. We can stay in contact with each other (which, personally, makes me feel better in general) and share our knowledge with one another. Do you know of any place nearby that is still helping? I know that anyone who is in need of groceries can still access Seeds of Hope for local delivery (contact Bill Isard at ).
It may not be much, but it is something. If you think of any resources or information about helpers, please email me at or post to our Facebook page! Let's try to be the light in the dark!
Surveying the Cross
I came across this little joke on a random site and it got me thinking. This feels appropriate for the season of Lent, especially the unusual Lenten season we are having this year. It made me consider just what it means to "survey the cross." And, considering how much we are "giving up" this Lent, I think surveying the cross this Easter will be that much sweeter.
Call me Mrs. Clean
Hello from another rainy afternoon. I remember the old saying that "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." I wonder what happens if March "comes in like a lamb?" Hopefully, that doesn't mean that it has to "go out like a lion."
I also feel like these rainy days make "quarantining" much more difficult. In my house, today's weather resulted in a bit of "stir crazy" that led to an epic spring cleaning session. For those of you unfamiliar with my family's lifestyle, we are not "Danny Tanner-level cleaning people." While my vacuum cleaner is always out, that's because I use it as a part-time coat hanger and I may and may not periodically put Swiffer wipes on my bottom of my child's shoes, chase him around, and call my kitchen floor "clean." In other words, today's cleaning frenzy is uncharacteristic (and more than a little overdue).
While I prefer to be busy doing other things, there is, undeniably, a sense of pride in looking at a fully cleaned and organized room when I'm finished. This also makes the not so cleaned and organized rooms that much more noticeable, so the pride is short-lived. While our house is not that big, it feels like today's work was just a drop in the bucket. Despite all that we accomplished today, my husband and I are both overwhelmed by all that still needs to be done.
There are many reassurances in the Bible that are supposed to help with "overwhelming situations." Psalm 142:3 reads, "He tells us, “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path.” That's great. I know my current path, too, but it doesn't make me want to clean the rest of my house. Then, there is Matthew 11:28, “come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Realistically, I understand this. And while that's lovely, I also know I can complain about it all I want. That's not going to get the job done sooner.
Then, there is Matthew 19:26: “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Of course I know it is possible. At this point, it is even probable. I know that there's a really good chance we will get a lot of things accomplished during this "indeterminate quarantine period." And you know what? That's part of why we're feeling overwhelmed, too.
We can distract ourselves, but there's still this thing hanging over our heads. Literally, figuratively, and on so many levels. And while these verses are meaningful and meant to be reassuring, in this moment I can say I'm still feeling overwhelmed.
And that's ok.
It is ok to feel overwhelmed. It is ok to be scared, frustrated, heartbroken, panicked or even angry. All of this is ok. All of this is normal (and I don't like to use that word, but it is true). The entire world in trying to process all of this and make sense of it, and that's ok. I find it, oddly, reassuring that I'm not going through all of this "alone." The irony is not lost on me.
Just now, my four-year-old has handed me a costume headband and wants me to be "the Queen."
"With God all things are possible."
Its another distraction, but I'll take it. A little nudge that God will " give you rest," a break from your "burdens," and will guide us "on our path." So, I'm going to go be the "Queen Mom" with my son and put everything else aside for now. The magical cleaning fairy won't visit me tonight and grant me a wish, so I can wake up to a fully cleaned and organized home tomorrow, but that's ok. I wouldn't want to waste that wish right now, anyway.
We'll get back to chipping away at the cleaning and the organizing and the projects and the repairs. But we'll get back to it tomorrow.
"With God all things are possible."
Of course, Lysol, a little elbow grease, and taking "playtime breaks" won't hurt, either.
My Happy Home
I don't know about all of you, but I've learned a LOT about technology in the last three weeks. I was lucky enough to marry a tech guy and my brother works as an IT guy, so I never really had to figure anything out on my own. Computers were never my forte, either, so for some of you, this might be old news. That said, I think some of this stuff is pretty cool. I'm still figuring a lot of things out, so I'm going to ask you all to bear with me as I use you as my "virtual guinea pigs."
Before I go any farther, please know that we had to record these videos separately and all rules for social distancing were obeyed at all times. My sister is sequestered safely at the shore while I'm at home (with all my noisy creatures), so this wasn't as easy as I'd hoped it would be. However, for a first try, I think it turned out ok. Hoping to try this again in the next couple of weeks! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this video attempt!
*Web editor's note- This is the kind of "knowledge" I deal with every day. I'm starting to think they may be on to something!*
A Kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom as the children drew pictures.
The teacher would occasionally walk around and see each child’s artwork. As she approached one little girl who was working especially hard, she asked what the drawing was.
The little girl told her: “I’m drawing God!”
“But sweetie,” the teacher replied, “no one actually knows what God looks like.”
Automatically, the little girl continued drawing and said: “well, they certainly will in a minute!”
Mid Week Message
Happy Wednesday, All! Enjoy the wonderful sunshine today!
I've noticed that when we go on our daily walks, I'm paying closer attention to the world around me. Part of the reason for this is that I have my husband with me, so I don't have to watch my four-year-old quite as closely (of course, Luke recently started riding a scooter, so I may come to regret those words). I also think I find myself more appreciative of the world outside due to the recent Quarantine aspect of our everyday life.
Regardless, I spoke with a member of our Bethany Council the other day and she mentioned she'd noticed people around Riverton and Palmyra creating chalk drawings on the sidewalks for people to enjoy as they walked by. There were even some driveways that had inspirational messages written in them. She specifically mentioned a home that left chalk out for people to create their own drawings or messages, using the homeowner's driveway as their canvas. Accompanying the chalk was the now necessary vat of hand sanitizer.
After hearing this, I started noticing chalk drawings around my town, too. Some were obviously created by little ones, but some were very creative with one being done by someone who might have gone to school at an Art College. Nearly all the pictures and messages I saw were done from the perspective of the street, so they were designed to be viewed as one walked by. The variety of skill levels didn't change the fact that it made me feel happy. This little, not unusual act felt like something special. Special because whoever created it, specifically made it to be seen by people walking by. A small act of true kindness and love.
What a novel thought.
I love this. I'm not a particularly good artist, nor am I great at slinging inspirational advice, but I love seeing it. Plus, it made me think of the scene in Mary Poppins where the children, Burt, and Mary Poppins all "jump into" the sidewalk image and have a "jolly holiday" in the world of the picture (and wouldn't it be wonderful to do THAT?).
You know what? I think I'll spend today in that little imaginary world. Take a little "holiday" from all that's going on. We don't have chalk at present, but we will shortly (hurray for Amazon!). Maybe I'll sit with Luke and create a drawing we can "jump into" and play in for the afternoon. Afterward, I'll hang our picture in the window that faces the street so we can "share" our adventure with everyone else. Our "new" way of sharing time "together!"
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Yesterday, as you all know, was Palm Sunday. I started the morning with a cup of coffee on our back porch (it was a little chilly at 8am) and then I joined the Brunch with Bethany call at 10:30. It really has been nice to "see" members of our church family on Sunday mornings and yesterday, that was especially true.
Thinking back on my years at Bethany, I associate many of my major holidays with music (the curse of having been a Theatre Major). Certain songs are associated with specific holidays. For example, I can't think of our Christmas service without O Holy Night and Silent Night, nor can I think of a Mother's Day service without In The Garden. I can't think of Advent without O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and Easter is a combination of Up From The Grave He Arose and Hallelujah Chorus. I "blame" a lot of that on Debbie Schoen.
Deb has been the organist at Bethany since I was about 10 and a lot of the music I recall from these past holidays was played or chosen by her. One particular Palm Sunday, I might have been about 16, Deb asked me to sing the Palms. Now, I'm sure I heard the Palms before then. In fact, after the service that day, my Nan was quick to mention that Robert Schuller's Hour of Power Choir had performed that song on several cassette tapes (many of which we owned) and it was one of her favorites. However, this was the first time I became aware of it.
Every Palm Sunday since, whether I've performed it or not, I feel like the Palms are an integral part of my Holy Week experience. I know several people feel similarly, but I couldn't imagine a start to Holy Week without that piece of music. While we missed having Deb accompany us, I never would have had the idea without her. Please "blame" her accordingly and enjoy.
In Your Easter Bonnet
The first thing I remember about Easter morning growing up was "discovering" our Easter clothes. Like most households with small kids, we had a big gathering with family and friends on Sunday afternoon/evening with Easter baskets, dinner, and a massive egg hunt. Before any of that, we put on our "new" (or new to us) Easter clothes and we all went to church.
It might have been because I grew up living in a household with my parents & grandparents so there was a 4 on 4, "man to man" defense when it came to the child to adult ratio. Regardless, in my mind, getting ready for Easter service was relatively calm (even if my parents recall differently). At the very least, Easter morning was certainly the calmest part of our day. The pinnacle of this morning, right before we left the house, was the customary singing of In Your Easter Bonnet.
As many of you know, we always had the tv on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and American Movie Classics (AMC) in our house growing up. Easter Parade (a movie you may remember with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire) was on several times in the weeks leading up to Easter. The entire concept of that movie was created around the penultimate song In Your Easter Bonnet. I'm sure you know at least part of it.
In your Easter bonnet, with all the fringe upon it, you'll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.
My sister and I always had an Easter bonnet and the singing typically started with my Mom. She would sing to us as she fixed our hair before the bonnet went on as the finishing touch. Then, my grandfather serenaded us with the first line as we came to the breakfast table. In a jovial bellow, my father sang it as we all packed into the car (later, the van) on our way to the church. I can even recall a face or two from church singing it to us as we walked our flowers through the sanctuary to place in the cross at the front.
I can remember being in college and wondering why we wore those bonnets. As a child, I loved them. They were pretty and felt fancy when worn, but looking back as a young adult, they were totally impractical. They were either way too big or slightly too small. The brims weren't big enough to keep the sun out of our eyes and cast just enough of a shadow that we looked funny in pictures. One year, they were made of a straw type material and pieces of our hair kept getting stuck in them. Plus, they didn't stay on very well. If it was windy, forget it. I also, literally, forgot my bonnets after the service as we raced outside after church to run in the side yard.
So what was the point (other than as a fashion choice)? I got that answer from a lady at our church one Easter Sunday. Many of you remember Joanne Fields. She always sat near the front of the church so that she could read the Pastor's lips, as she was partially deaf. She came to church every Sunday in a matching outfit complete with a hat. As I recall, she had arrived that Sunday in an incredible bright Easter ensemble and I got her attention and told her I loved her "Easter Bonnet." She smiled and said, "Its Easter! Everything old is born anew!"
Everything old is born anew.
I think I spent half the service turning that idea over and over in my head. I'd never thought of my Easter bonnets that way. I'd never connected the idea of wearing something new and flowery with representing the resurrection of the Lord. The fact that, in the Christian calendar, we celebrate Easter on a spring day when nature is experiencing its own "rebirth" after a long winter seemed to reinforce this idea further. The green leaves and flowers emerge just as Jesus emerged from the tomb.
Joanne's words, coupled with the recollection of our "new" Easter clothes, have echoed in my memory each Easter. They've also created a sort of tradition in my house now. While I live in a much smaller household than the one I grew up in, we still wear our nice Easter outfits and each year, we still go to Bethany for the Easter service (and breakfast!).
This year, I'll definitely be on the 'Brunch with Bethany' call. I'm also planning to get the guys dressed and get a picture outside so we remember the year we had "Easter in Quarantine." Be ready. When this Quarantine is over and Bethany reopens, we're planning to celebrate Easter our first Sunday back regardless of when that occurs. In fact, my Luke will get the "boy version" of an Easter bonnet this year in the form of a straw fedora. I'm sure at some point on Easter, I'll FaceTime my parents so my Mom and/or Dad can sing "in your Easter bonnet" to Luke. No doubt, this hat will probably end up being used as a beach hat (hurray for practicality!), but I like the idea of the "bonnet" it represents.
In your Easter bonnet, everything old is born anew. Feels about right.
Now, I just have to figure out how to keep the straw from getting stuck in his hair...
Sunshine on a Cloudy Day
As many of you know, I have a very busy four-year-old. When the weather is nice, there is nothing better than turning him loose outside and watching him explore. Yesterday presented just such an opportunity. We took his scooter out on an hour-long ride, we blew bubbles in the yard, we climbed on all of the "play equipment" that is scattered in our yard. Then, around 4:30, the rain clouds came out.
I was attempting to work with one of my students at that time, so I missed the exact moment it started to rain. I quickly became aware, however, that it HAD been raining when my dripping kiddo stampeded into my living room with a huge grin (closely followed, with very similar energy, by my husband).
"Mama! I scooted on the rain!" he announced shivering, his hair plastered to his dirt smudged face. "My socks are wet!"
Needless to say, everyone went right in the hot shower while singing a quick refrain of "I'm scooooting in the raaaaaain! Just scoooooting in the rain!" Afterward, Luke came bounding downstairs to proclaim he was ready for dinner. Unfortunately, that was the end of my little buddy's happy mood because I told him we couldn't eat outside as our picnic table (and everything else for that matter) was wet. Plus, the temperature outside had dropped a good 10 degrees after the rain finished.
Deflated, Luke sat at the table and we begrudgingly ate dinner at the dining room table (so pedestrian). We did spot a rainbow later, but nothing really brought back his joy of being outside on a beautiful day. By the time bedtime occurred, he was ready and observed, "Mama, we had a lot of fun today with all our friends (his toys). I know! Let's play again TOMORROW!"
Kids are hilarious. An emotional roller coaster of unpredictable chaos. Totally energetic and wild, but impressively resilient. He was so heartbroken over not being able to go back outside, but he still held hope that the next day would be better. And he was right.
I won't lie, I love the sunshine after rain. We had a lot of rain last night and, after a cloudy start, it is shaping up to be a beautiful morning. Just like Luke hoped. I feel like, figuratively, that's just how Easter Sunday will be this year. After a wonderful day of warm sun, the cold rain will come and ruin our happiness, but then the sun will eventually emerge and we'll be able to bask in the sunshine again.
Then again, maybe I should say is "the SON will emerge and we'll be able to bask in the sunshine again."
The "son" after the rain. How can you not love that?
This is our shared Maundy Thursday service by Pastor Van Orden from Bethany, Pastor Allen from Central Baptist, and Pastor Soper from Epworth. We recommend watching this around 7:30 this evening so that, when you reach the end of the video, it will be dark outside. Pastor Soper does lead a celebration of Holy Communion during the video and, if you'd like to participate, you may with your own bread & wine.
Good Friday: Why have you forsaken me?
Below is our joint Good Friday service give by Pastors Jeff Van Orden of Bethany Lutheran, Charlie Soper of Epworth Methodist, and Wes Allen of Central Baptist. For today's "Service of Shadows," we recommend you watch our message around 2-2:30, as that is considered the hour in which Jesus died. If you are able, please take time for reflection and prayer today.
He descended to the Dead
"Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song." - Pope John Paul II
I often wonder what the Saturday before Easter was like for Jesus' disciples, especially considering that they had completely forgotten the predicted outcome. I say "forgotten," because we know from the Gospels that they were told repeatedly, by Jesus himself no less, that "the time was coming" when Jesus would "no longer walk among them." That something was going to happen, but that Jesus would be "saved," as would they all. Of course, it is easy to see how the trauma of the crucifixion could overshadow that knowledge.
It must have been horrifying. An event that rocked all of their lives and changed them forever. The shock and panic over Jesus' arrest. The fear and disbelief of his "trial" and condemnation. The horror and despair as they watched him carry the cross through streets of jeering, angry people. The pain and despair of watching him nailed on that cross, suffering for hours before finally dying. And the betrayal. The massive betrayal they must have felt.
We often read and talk about how Judas betrayed Jesus, but Judas also betrayed his fellow disciples. According to the Bible, they had all traveled and lived with Judas, too, so his betrayal of Jesus also shows his betrayal of his teacher AND his closest friends. Consider, too, that Palm Sunday was a mere five days before the crucifixion and all of the disciples (perhaps minus Judas) were certain that their triumphant arrival to Jerusalem would lead to Jesus' ascension to a position of "kingly" power and authority.
Those same people who cheered the arrival of Jesus and his disciples on Palm Sunday were the ones that demanded his death days later, that hurled hateful words and items as he walked the road that led to Golgatha, and the same people that watched him suffer and die on the cross. And the disciples bore witness to all of it. Ironically, though the disciples were completely correct in their certainty of Jesus' "ascension" on Palm Sunday, on the day after watching their teacher and friend tortured and murdered before their eyes, I'm sure they had no inkling of what the next day would bring.
On some level, I wonder if they even felt betrayed by Jesus himself. In the gospels, we read several accounts of assorted disciples "giving up everything" in their lives to follow Jesus. They studied, learned, and lived with him. In their eyes, they might have felt they were "promised" certain things by their teacher. So much so that on Maundy Thursday, according to the gospel of John, they questioned Jesus.
John 14 mentions several disciples, by name, pleading with Jesus, making various requests of him in the upper room. Thomas asks, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” followed by Philip asking, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Later, after Jesus tells them that he will be betrayed, it reads "so they were saying: “What does he mean... We do not know what he is talking about.”
Just moments before, Judas had left, and the disciples didn't realize the importance of what had transpired between Jesus and Judas. It seemed, as with any large gathering of people, that they were having side conversations and not really paying attention to all that was transpiring. Two days later, looking back on what would become "the last supper," I wonder if they agonized over what they had missed in those conversations?
Their world was turned upside down. They were hiding in fear of their lives and everything they had been told seemed to be a lie. Their teacher, leader, and friend was dead as were all of the plans and hopes they had for the future. There would be no more celebrations and the excitement and joy of Palm Sunday was a distant memory. It was an ultimate betrayal.
How dark and hopeless that day after must have been for them and all of Jesus' followers. And out of that despair, how much more joyful must Easter morning have been. To hear from the women that the tomb was opened and to see that it was empty. Then, to witness the resurrection of their Lord that night, it must have been incredible.
Even as the sun shines outside my window, I feel driven to remember the disciple's emotional journey. They were just people, not unlike any of us today, who lived their lives as best they could. People who thought they knew what their future held and, suddenly, were alone and afraid. Shut away and hiding, terrified that they could be the next person swept up in the horror.
I'd never wish for anyone to witness what Jesus' disciples experienced in those days, but I'm so thankful they did. They were the witnesses that gave us the Gospels. They were the ones that passed down the account, which kept the sacrifice real. That makes the story we read in a book come to life. Without them, there is no testimony.
As we celebrate tomorrow, may we all remember the people who lived and humanized Jesus journey to resurrection. The "resurrection people" of the past who gave us the privilege of being resurrection people today.
A blessed Easter to All! Christ has risen!
Please note the video previously found here has been moved!
Please click here to view the link you our Bethany YouTube page: EASTER 2020
Easter Monday aka "the day after"
The day after a holiday is always a bummer, isn't it? It's a return to "business as usual." The holiday we've prepped for is over and any leftovers are stored, the family and friends have gone home, the goodies are cleaned up, and the meal prep and clean up is (mostly) done. In some cases (like today as I type this) even the weather feels like "the day after a holiday:" dreary and kind of a letdown.
According to the Gospel of John, in the time after Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to his disciples:
"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
"The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep." John 21, 15-17
This year is so different from years past as the status of "business as usual" has drastically changed. Despite that, I've tried to think of a way to keep the Easter joy alive, even in this rainy, lonely, Quarantined reality. So, instead of getting caught up in the news cycle or staring at my phone aimlessly, I thought of a challenge and I'd like to present it to all of you.
Let's all do something for someone else today that can brighten this dreary day. It doesn't necessarily have to be anything monumental. Make a "happy Monday!" phone call to someone you haven't spoken to in a while. Send a silly joke to someone you think might need a laugh (and we ALL need a laugh). If you know someone struggling financially, and if you can swing it, call a restaurant near them and have lunch delivered. Reach out to the people in your life who are "essential personnel," like the nurses, doctors, garbagemen, Amazon workers, firefighters, police officers, food service workers, grocery store clerks, etc and check-in with them, make sure they're alright (be sure to thank them while you're at it!). Go through your closets and cabinets and put aside the clothes or household items you don't use anymore and bag them for donation. Look up organizations that are on the front lines of fighting this virus and see if there's anything you can do to help (ie making masks, etc).
A year from now, this Quarantine could be a distant memory. Let's make sure, when we look back, that we're the ones trying to do good deeds. That we're the ones helping. That we're the ones spreading love and joy. That, even on dreary, cold days, we are the same Resurrection People who celebrated Easter Sunday. After all, Jesus commanded it.
"Take care of my sheep." He HAS Risen. He has Risen indeed.
Wash me in your precious blood
Happy Wednesday! Or is it Thursday? It's "one of those days" where I'm just subconsciously trying to mix myself up. Honestly, it's not hard for me to be mixed up under normal circumstances, but today the current world situation has really thrown me for a loop and I feel like I can't adjust.
In any case, I woke up with a song in my head this morning and, once again, it was a song that Debbie Schoen sort of introduced to me. I say "sort of" because I know I heard it before she made it part of our church regular church services however she solidified it as a necessity for my personal Lenten/Easter journey.
With Easter already feeling like it was ages ago, this felt like an important reminder and rumination on Jesus' life. I hope you all enjoy it!
A "Coping" Thought
I saw my mom today. I delivered an order of produce to my parent's place and my mother came out of the house to meet me. Before anyone panics, we followed all CDC recommendations. She had her mask, I had mine. There were gloves. We were (at least) the required six feet apart. We followed all the rules. And it sucked.
As soon as I saw her I was almost overwhelmed with the need to give her a hug. You all know my mom. She's a "hugger" and she raised a hugger, but I didn't. She was six feet away, but it felt like we might as well have been Facetiming each other from our homes. I didn't hug my mom. Just writing that feels weird. But I can't. Just in case. Its so very important for all of us to remember that while we navigate the current situation.
It's a little, but that moment yesterday, seeing my mom for the first time in over a month and not being able to show affection to her, was difficult. Much more difficult than I thought it would be. The emotional response caught me a little off-guard.
I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling this way. I know many of our church family lives alone or separate from their family members. How do we all cope? Since physical contact can't be one of our methods of showing affection right now, how else can we spread love to people we care about? I guess we'll continue to adjust to contact that is limited to the technology we have available. And I guess it means we have to be more creative, finding new ways to show our family and friends that we love and care for them.
So, creatively speaking, how do we show affection for one another in this unprecedented time of isolation? Seriously. I'm legitimately asking. Post any ideas to our Facebook page by clicking below. Maybe we can share some coping methods.
The Amphibious Life
If only. Right? Wouldn't it be kind of great to eat "whatever bugs us?" Such a simple solution. Of course, a frog performing such an act is nature. I'm pretty sure a human doing it is a potential crime.
Anyway, the lake down the street from us is home to an assortment of animals. Whenever we go on walks, we try to spot as many of them as possible.
It has turned into a game we play with Luke. Today's walk produced a duck spotting, two turtles, what was either or cormorant or Swamp Thing with feathers, and one very big frog. Luke, in particular, loves the turtles and frogs. He recently received a stuffed turtle that he has named "Saurus the Turtle" (apparently no relation to Bronto- or Stega-) and whenever Saurus the Turtle "speaks" its in a low croaking ribbet sound.
While Saurus was monologuing this morning after our walk, I jokingly said Saurus must have frogs in her family tree (haha) since she "speaks frog so well." My four-year-old sighed, gave me a sassy look, and said, "I know, I know, Mama. Saurus and the frogs swim together and eat the same snacks together and have sleepovers together."
While I'm not sure about the "sleepover" part, most of what he said wasn't untrue. Frogs and turtles both spend a large percentage of their lives swimming but live on land and some things in their diets do overlap (although I thought it best not to mention that frogs are carnivores and some baby turtles). Thankfully, since most of these facts were learned on Sesame Street they conveniently left that information out.
So, I asked Luke if we were going to spend the day with "Saurus the Turtle who speaks fluent frog?" Luke jumped up and down enthusiastically and yelled, "Yeah! Yeah! She's my favorite!" Hoping to prompt a little bit more of an explanation, I followed up with a question.
"Do you think it would be cool to live like Saurus?"
Without missing a beat, Luke said, "Mama, I'm going to BE Saurus someday! She's happy because she can do EVERYTHING!"
Wow, I thought. "She's happy because she can do EVERYTHING." I'll bet Saurus is happy. Just imagine. Wouldn't that be wonderful? To be able to do "EVERYTHING?" At this point, I think I'd be happy to do ANYTHING as long as it's outside my home. That goes double if it involves a warm climate, a beach, and mild ocean water.
Its funny how the simplest things make children happy. Saurus the Turtle can do "EVERYTHING!" She can swim in the water AND live on land! She's fluent in frog! She gets snacks! What could possibly be better? To a four-year-old, apparently that is the pinnacle of "everything." That's "having it all."
How much that has changed as an adult, that idea of "having it all." I doubt any of Saurus' "achievements" would be on a list of goals for an adult (with the exception of snacks, snacks are ALWAYS good). The world we live in makes a lot of demands and, somewhere, the awe and joys of childhood disappear as we start working and receiving student loan bills and mortgages, and more and more is demanded of us.
Still, we were all children once. Do you remember a time when you felt like your world had "everything?" When you were completely happy and didn't need anything more than what you had at that moment? If you do, how does that childhood satisfaction compare with your goals, wishes, and ideals of today?
I'd be willing to bet there are a few differences.
There are some scary things going on in our world right now and, in response, the world has taken drastic measures. So much so, that we can't even be near each other. We're totally confined to our apartments, houses, or shelters. And the world has slowed down. It may even feel like it has stopped, but it hasn't. It's just slowed to a crawl. And it has redefined so many things.
For example, I'll bet your goals, wishes, and ideals two months ago were very different from what they are now. Almost as different as they were when we were children. I'll even bet your definition of "having everything" may have changed between then and now. Remember the goals you set for yourself at work? Or the daily commitments? The weekly schedules? The doctor's appointments? The school and work deadlines.? The weekend parties, date nights, and celebrations?
Remember all those things? None of those commitments exist anymore and all of the people still working all have the same goal: to keep the world turning. A lot of things change and our lives may be different for a long time, but this pandemic won't be the end of the human race. It may slow us down, it may scare us, it may hurt us, but it won't be the end of "us." And, with this new existence, I find myself playing the need vs want game. In this stripped-down, isolated new world, what do I need to get by? To be satisfied? To be happy?
A simple series of questions. Somehow, the answers used to be more complicated and detailed. Now, many of my answers are much more straightforward. What about you? Ask yourself, what do you need? If you take the time to answer, some of the responses might surprise you. I know some caught me off guard, but most were recognizing how lucky I am. Recognizing blessings that exist in my life regardless of a Global Pandemic. To the opposite, I also realized some of the things in my life that were unnecessary and superfluous or, at the risk of sounding like Marie Kondo, thing that didn't bring me joy.
And that makes this feel like a wake-up call to me.
A wake-up call to go back to a simpler time, maybe? A throwback to a time in our lives when we felt like we were enough and we had enough because we didn't know any different. And life was good.
The world is a dark, scary place right now. I can't begin to fathom the pain and hardships so many of us are going through, but if something good can come from all of this, I hope it's that we all appreciate our lives when this is all over. That we remember the "gifts" we've been given. The blessings in this world. And I hope we can share our blessings, especially with those who will need help, support, and love.
Maybe that's the secret to "having it all." The truest way to have everything.
Little Frankie had been misbehaving terribly. After an unfortunate deep-sea expedition in the bathroom, he was sent to his room. At first, he yelled and wailed in protest, but eventually, things got quiet. After some time, he calmly emerged and informed his mother that he had thought it over and that she shouldn't worry.
"I even prayed about it," he said earnestly.
"That's wonderful", his surprised mother said. "I'm so proud of you. If you ask God to help you not misbehave, He will help you."
"Oh, I didn't ask Him to help me not misbehave," said Frankie as he walked away. "I asked Him to help you put up with me."
2nd Sunday In Easter
Please enjoy our service for today! If you would like to be added to our Brunch with Bethany Zoom meeting, please click the white button at the top of this page and provide your preferred email!
Please note the video previously found here has been moved!
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"Monday Monday, so good to me." Today, this lyric rang true. It was a good day, although it had its moments of disaster.
It's funny. It seems like the function and productivity of my household revolves around the weather. Today was originally projected to be cloudy, but it turned into a sunny, nice day. Therefore we all got things accomplished, granted to varying degrees, but accomplishments just the same.
Today's most epic "accomplishment" goes to Luke, my four-year-old. Luke received a scooter as a gift from my cousin this past Christmas and we have spent most of the last month mastering it. For each of our walks (today there were 3), he likes to drag his scooter to our gate where he waits, bouncing with excitement. The second the gate opens, he's off like a little whirling dervish.
Today's "accomplishment" (see also: "moment of disaster") was that my Luke wiped out five (yes, FIVE) times on his scooter.
Before anyone tells my mother on me, Luke is actually frighteningly good on his scooter. Usually, as soon as he starts down the street, he'll yell, "Mama, check out my serious tricks!" as he rolls over a bumpy sewer lid or lifts up one leg behind him in a wobbly arabesque as he's gliding down the road. He has also figured out where the hills are and will race to the peak so that he can coast on the declining side, his little arms flung out a la Rose in Titanic laughing the entire time like a little maniac.
Ironically, he didn't fall while performing any of these "serious tricks." As it is spring-time (despite the chilly weather), the streets are suddenly covered with seed pods. Some of these pods, little spikey balls with a stem, are referred to by my husband as "monkey balls." As someone who is incapable of keeping plants alive, I couldn't guess what the technical term is, although Google tells me they tend to come from chestnut or "sweet gum" trees (who knew?) and that they're a seed pod.
In any case, these spiked seed pods are everywhere and, if you want to see a scooter fling its rider like a bucking bronco, they are the perfect little assassins. Unfortunately, I didn't realize what happened the first time he fell. He seemed to lose his balance and just kind of sat down a little harder than he'd have liked. I was two steps behind him and, before I could check him, he'd popped right back up and kept scooting.
We slid out on another little pod about 5 minutes later, which required a hug to make it right again. It was the third fall that really left a mark. Literally. We were going down a particularly beautiful trail where there are several big Kwanzan cherry trees in full bloom (my Mom told me the name of the blossom, she is my favorite 'google'). There is also a slight incline on this trail and as Luke was scooting uphill, his scooter pitched forward and he hurdled over the handlebars onto the street.
Being his mother's child, our number one rule of falling is to try to tuck to either side so you don't hit your face. We call this the "save the money maker" move. Luke performed it beautifully but got the wind momentarily knocked out of him from landing on the handlebars. I say the wind was "momentarily" knocked out of him because I heard the hard exhalation of breath as he hit the ground, followed by the sharp inhalation before a scream of pain.
It always feels like such a long pause. I'm sure all of you have been privy to that moment right before a child wails where he or she releases all the air from their lungs and there is that terrible moment of silence before the blood-curdling shrieks start. It's followed by that secondary moment of panic as you try to gauge the extremity of the injury and guess is that an 'I fell and I'm so embarrassed!' or an 'I just knocked my teeth out!' scream?
As it was, I saw him go rigid on the ground, which is Luke's go-to when he's scared or has hurt himself or has just seen Santa Claus, at the same time he started to wail. I reached him almost immediately. I scooped him up and hugged him as people walking nearby started toward us to check on him. The whole incident, from fall to hug, happened in about 5 seconds.
The good news was that he was ok, but as I retrieved his scooter, I saw the monkey ball wedged in the rear wheel well. Finally realizing what was going on, I figured we were going to end up walking the scooter home, but after removing the monkey ball and wiping his eyes, Luke hopped right back on the scooter again and took off as if nothing had happened. In fact, if it hadn't been for his red eyes and the leaves and dirt that covered his one side, you'd never know he'd just completely wiped out.
As we continued toward home, he was chattering about a tv show he loves when the exact same thing happened again. Once again, he wasn't badly hurt, but this time the betrayal was real and it required more than a hug to snap him out of it. We had to have a little discussion about cause and effect and I showed him the monkey ball that was stuck in his wheel well and pointed out all of the other pods that were scattered in the road. Now that his attention was on them, he wanted to know what the monkey balls were and we made plans to look them up when we got home.
After some snuggling and a quick distraction to look at some ducks, we were up and moving. Again, I thought he might not want to get back on his scooter, but he hopped right back on again, although he stayed a little closer to me after that fourth fall.
The fifth fall occurred about a block from our house and happened because he was desperately trying to avoid a group of monkey balls in the road. It was like watching him maneuver a field of landmines and he had been incredibly careful. Unfortunately, in a moment of excitement to ride over a sewer lid, he suddenly noticed his close proximity to a little cluster and tried to swerve and just skid out.
This time, his wail was frustration more than anything. Once I determined he was fine, I righted his scooter as he got to his feet. "Mama," he said between sniffles, "I fell again!"
"I know. It's ok."
He huffed a little indignantly. "Mama, I fell FIVE times today!"
"I know, I'm sorry, Baby."
Certain that he was going to be scarred for life and would never ride his scooter again, I started to pull it along with me. Luke let out a shriek that made my teeth rattle.
"Buddy! Don't scream! What's that matter?" He looked at me with big watery eyes.
"Mama, don't take my scooter away!"
Surprised, I immediately handed it back to him. "Bud, I was going to walk it home. You don't have to ride it if you don't want to."
Before I was finished speaking, he was already back on it and, as he scooted down the street, he called over his shoulder, "I want to ride it! I REALLY want to ride it! Come catch me, Mama!"
Sometimes, I am in awe of my child. In awe of his determination and resilience especially after some pretty gnarly falls. I'm in awe of the trust he has in the world, that things are always going to "be ok." I guess there's a certain level of faith involved, too. He trusted that, even when he fell, someone would help him up and hug him. Honestly, what more could someone hope for in that circumstance?
While it obviously doesn't fix everything, how many problems in this world could be solved if we were all to help our brothers and sisters "up" when they were "down?" What would happen if those that are in need were shown compassion and love when they truly needed it? How different would our society look if we were able to trust one another and have faith in our fellow man's actions and intentions?
I think my take away from today, and my potential "accomplishment" this week, will be to try and worry less. There are always obstacles in our lives, some obvious and some that seem to come out of nowhere. Rather than worry about those obstacles and what might "stop me in my tracks," I'm going to try and focus on being with my brave little monster and enjoying some of the silly things we all take for granted.
I think someone who is determined, resilient, and faithful can get a lot of things accomplished. I guess we'll find out.
Sing, sing a song
Good morning, everyone! Happy Tuesday. I'm about to finish my third cup of coffee and am getting ready to take all my small creatures for a quick walk. After our scooting escapades yesterday, I thought we might sleep in this morning. I was incorrect.
At around 5:45 this morning, a little voice announced, "Mama? Daddy? Are you awake?" After an emphatic "no," I snuggled him between Scott and I hoping he'd go back to sleep. After about 20 minutes of "waiting" to see if Luke would close his eyes, that same little voice chirped sweetly, "Daddy, the sun's awake, so I'm awake! So we have to play!"
For those of you that don't know, this is an exact quote from the movie Frozen and it usually signals the "I'm up, so move it!" start to our day. At this point, my husband snarfled something unintelligible, pulled the covers over his head, and rolled over. Ever one to take a hint, Luke and I headed downstairs to snuggle and watch some tv.
After pouring myself some coffee, I checked into Luke's Google Classroom and went through some emails before making breakfast. During this time, Luke "watched" the tv and "rearranged" the playroom (see also: pulled out all his toys). Then, we ate our breakfast and started "planning" our day. By the time we were finished breakfast, it was 7am. Its been a while since our house was awake and starting our day that early (this last month has really spoiled us). It was almost like a regular school day.
In any case, as I started my second cup of coffee, I was trying to figure out what we could do at 7am while waiting for the rest of the world to wake up. I can't take Luke out for a walk that early (he's a very noisy presence) and I hate to just put on the tv unless it's something I know he'll benefit from or enjoy.
Its times like this that I turn to YouTube for assistance. Sometimes I find some really great resources or songs and sometimes I strikeout. This morning, I hit the jackpot. An episode of Sesame Street popped up called "Elmo's Playdate Special" and, without hesitating, I put it on and asked Luke to start cleaning up the toys he wasn't using.
Elmo is pretty important in our house. Not as important as the PJ Masks (3 little superheroes) or the little troll named Tiny Diamond (from a kids movie called Trolls World Tour, look it up, its fun), but we have a whole collection of books, toys, and adventures that are specific to the "little red monster." Since Elmo is pretty "high up there," this YouTube selection was a total hit.
As I cleaned up the kitchen and attempted to clear off my dining room table, I only half-listened to what was happening in the show. It wasn't until I was pouring that third cup of coffee that I realized Elmo's playdate was taking place "virtually." Elmo was having a playdate "online" with "all his friends," because they "couldn't be together in person." In other words, the video was brand new and was about what was happening right now in the world.
I stopped what I was doing and started listening much closer. I've always had a soft spot for the Sesame Workshop, but this was truly brilliant. And so important and relevant. Throughout Elmo's playdate, they helped address what has become our" new normal" while dealing with all of the complicated emotions that go along with it. They talked about what kids can do to stay connected to loved ones and that it was all right to be silly and have fun. They even talked about how kids and their parents can "be helpers."
Most importantly, they talked about hope, ending the episode with a rendition of Sing a song that made me teary. Before the show was over, Luke bellowed, "I want to watch it again," so I forgot about my coffee and sat down to watch part of it with him. Undoubtedly, this was the highlight of our morning.
As I sit here with my reheated coffee, I'm going to offer you all this little tidbit. I know this is an educational children's show. I know the target audience for this video is between 18 months and 9 years old and I know all of the audience on the Bethany website are adults. I also know many of you are trying to work remotely from your homes. but if you get a chance today, do yourself a favor. Grab a cup of coffee (or tea or wine, whatever floats your boat) and google this little video (search "Elmo's Virtual Playdate"). It's not even 30 minutes and it absolutely made me feel better about the world after watching it.
It's reassuring and heartwarming. Plus, if it gains the approval of some of the world's toughest critics (aka toddlers), I'd say that's pretty impressive. Besides, who doesn't need a little hope first thing in the morning?
Just in case you could use a smile (or a good, stress releasing groan) today, I thought I'd post a couple of silly jokes. I hope you are all doing well and, if you haven't yet and would still like to join us on our Sunday morning "Brunch with Bethany," please click the white button at the top of this webpage!
For my Old Testament and WELCA people:
Q: What kind of person was Boaz before he got married?
A: He was RUTH - less!
Q: Why didn't anyone play cards on the Ark?
A: Noah always stood on the deck.
For my internet-savvy people:
Q: What did the pastor say to the man with the addiction to Twitter?
A: Sorry, I don't follow you.
Q: Who is the father of modern technology?
A: Moses. He was the first person to work with tablets and download instructions from the Cloud.
An amusing thought:
Life without Jesus is like a broken pencil. It has no point.
If Mary is the mother of Jesus and Jesus is the Lamb of God, does that mean that Mary had a little Lamb?
Thank you! I'll be here all Quarantine.
A quick announcement from our Vacation Bible School planning team! As you may know, our VBS was scheduled for the first full week in August (8/3-8/7). Due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, we have been brainstorming and discussing ways to create a creative and enjoyable VBS experience that also takes into consideration the added safety concerns.
Because of the amount of time that is required to plan and coordinate our usual VBS, we have decided that it is too unpredictable to project what August will bring in terms of the quarantine. Therefore, we have decided to switch gears and are excited to make the following announcement!
This year, we will be doing a Virtual VBS with readings and events that will be posted here on our website. Please stay tuned, as we will be sharing more information about our virtual VBS and how to participate!
For Anyone Struggling Today
On beautiful mornings like this one, I always want to go for a walk on the beach. If you've read my other posts on this site, you know how much I love the beach and being near the ocean. I imagine its a little cold down there right now, but it's my knee jerk reaction to seeing a sunny, nice morning. Even though the beaches are currently closed, I found this picture in my files from several years ago and thought I'd share it. For a fun challenge, if anyone can guess who the two surfers are (someone not in my immediate family, sorry Mom), I'll send them a surprise through Amazon!
I also can't walk on the beach without thinking about the poem below. Even though it's not found in the Bible itself, I feel like it could be and the words still feel reassuring and true to me. For anyone who needs to hear this today, I hope it helps.
Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed a dream.
I was walking on the beach with my Lord and as we walked together, along the water's edge, across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. I looked back and noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints. This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don't understand. Why, when I needed You the most, would You would abandon me?"
"My precious child," he whispered to me, "I love you. You are mine and I will never leave you. Never, ever, especially during your trials and testings. When you look behind you, at those challenging times, and only see one set of footprints in the sand,
My, dear child, it was then that I carried you."
The 3rd Sunday after Easter
Please see below for this week's church service. Please remember to join us for our Brunch with Bethany at 10:30 Sunday morning! If you haven't already signed up, please click the white button at the top of this page and send an email to our secretary, Lisa!
Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone!
Please note the video previously found here has been moved!
Please click here to view the link you our Bethany YouTube page:
Rainy Day Song
Today was another day of "April Showers." Another day of grey, drizzly, cold weather. It really does feel like we've had an exceptional amount of rainy days. Coincidentally, my sister recorded this song for our website on Saturday. I was hanging onto it for a day that felt suitable and it truly feels like the perfect song to go with today. I hope you enjoy.
Addendum: Last night, my sister sent us this from the shore. Ending a rainy day with hope and the perfect accompaniment for her song.
"Arise! Shine! Your light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you." Isaiah 60:1
Good morning! What a difference a day makes! For those of you that heard Ellen's song yesterday, it seems very true that "at the end of the storm is a golden sky." Today looks like a beauty and our plan is to get outside and play as many times as possible. In fact, I've already been told we're eating lunch outside, so that's on the docket (rule #16 of Quarantine: Don't argue with the toddler).
Also on today's docket: it is the day of the Blue Angels-Thunderbirds "fly over." Beginning at noon today in NYC, a formation of 12 planes (6 Angels and 6 Thunderbirds) will fly over the boroughs of NY before heading south to Fort Dix. Around 2pm, they will fly over the Trenton area and fly south along the Delaware River, eventually flying over the Philadelphia area. Utilyzed as a "training exercise," this flight is in honor of the health care workers and front line medical staff of the COVID-19 crisis.
For any friends and neighbors in the Palmyra, Delran, Cinnaminson, and Riverton areas, you should be in for quite a show. The current trajectory takes the 12 plane formation on a looping pattern around Center City, over the river, then (almost) directly over you. The formation will then fly over areas of Camden and Gloucester Counties before heading to Delaware. While I'm not sure we'll be able to see anything here in Medford, we're going to be outside listening and looking anyway.
Why is this such a big deal? Good question. Maybe it's because of the quarantine and we're bored and maybe it's because this flyover honors everyday heroes in a grand way that we aren't capable of doing on our own. Maybe it's because we, as human beings, have always had a preoccupation with the concept of flight. From the Angels of the Bible to Icarus in Greek Mythology to Ben Franklin with his kite and the "first in flight" Orville Brothers, all the way to the 12 fighter jets of today's flyover, there are countless examples. These planes are the literal manifestation of that obsession.
So, call it "a free show," "living vicariously," or "just something to do," but today, between 1:45 and 2:15, if you should look skyward and catch these planes in action, please take a moment to say thank you. Thank you to the "helpers," of every capacity. Say a prayer for those of us who are on the front lines, fighting for us and fighting against this epidemic. If you're one of these "helpers," take a well deserved moment of peace, and please accept our gratitude for your service.
Finally, when you cast your eyes heavenward today, take a moment to connect with God. Remember, through God, all things are possible. Even in our darkest, most difficult times, we are still given reasons to look up and give thanks.
Hello again! Our own Pastor Van Orden will be recording a mid-week message once a month for the foreseeable future. Today's message, based on the Good Shepard, is linked below! Please enjoy!
Man shall not live on bread alone...
This morning, we thought we'd try to get a quick walk in before the rain started. Despite the threat of rain, it was warm out and the radar said we had about an hour. The radar lied. Maybe 4 blocks away from the house, it started to drizzle and we started hustling for home. By the time we turned the corner that led to our house, it was full-on raining. In fact, it rained the entire five minutes it took us to get home then it stopped (naturally).
As we took off our wet shoes and sweatshirts, I started thinking about the shelters in and around Camden. The youth group used to volunteer once a month at Seeds of Hope and we helped serve breakfast one Saturday a month. After I had Luke, the idea of trying to be productive with a newborn seemed unrealistic, so I stopped going. Then, the idea of trying to be productive with a baby, then a small toddler, and, now a four-year-old, seemed even more unrealistic, so I haven't been back in over four years.
I often find myself thinking of the people we met while we were there, even more so of late. I remember a couple who "lived" under different overpasses. There was a young man who was couch surfing through a bunch of different acquaintances. When I first started volunteering, there was a group of young children who would come, the oldest was probably about 12, and they said they lived "with their aunts." They came with no adult, but the organizers would send them off with several boxes of leftovers. I often wondered if they really lived with their aunts or if they were afraid to say otherwise.
What are the people who have no permanent home doing right now? So many places have had to close their doors or, like some shelters in NYC, are becoming infection hot zones. I know many of the attendees at Seeds of Hope came from the tent village near the Pennsauken border. I don't even know if that's still there anymore. Where have all those people gone? And what are they doing for food every day?
"Man can not live on bread alone..."
...but man can not live WITHOUT bread, either. Of course, I don't mean that literally, but I think you understand.
I've been trying to find facilities and organizations that are still distributing food in our area and I've been adding them to the "Friends in Need" tab on this website. I'd like to make a request of all of you! If you think of any resources that aren't listed, please email them to me at .
Also, the Bread of Life Food Pantry here at Epworth is still distributing groceries on the 3rd Saturday of each month. The bags they give out are about two weeks' worth of food. They are in need of the following items: canned soup, vegetables, sauce, and pasta. If you are able to afford it right now, please consider adding a couple of these items to your next grocery order. These might be the only resource some people have, so any help you can offer would be amazing.
It's really hard to stay positive through this Quarantine. Counting blessings sometimes helps, but, as I mentioned before on this page, I think doing something to help someone else is really important. It broadens our scope, pulls us out of the tiny Quarantine bubble we're stuck in, and offers us a glimpse into the life of someone less fortunate. There's still a world out there, even if we're not "in" it right now. Plus, it's an excellent distraction from the endless drone of news "updates," statistics, and trauma.
If it's possible, do what you are able. Some people are making masks, some are volunteering online, and some are making donations, but I think it's so important that these resources are offered. How lucky we are that on this last day of April, as it rains for yet another afternoon, we are inside. Probably warm and dry, maybe watching tv or doing work or, in my case, working on writing the letter 'X' with my son. We don't have to worry about where we'll sleep tonight or where our next meal will come from.
Man can not live on bread alone... but it sure does help. We can try to change that.
Happy May Day
Happy May Day, Everyone! For those of you unfamiliar with the celebration of "May Day," it is the halfway point between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Originally, a Celtic tradition, this festival was a celebration of "new life" and entailed decorating with spring flowers, creating flowered crowns, a little contest and crowning ceremony for a "King and Queen," and revolved around singing and dancing while weaving ribbons onto the May Pole (pun fully intended).
The belief was that, in addition to celebrating the return of spring flowers and green trees, this celebration would ensure "new life" by way of hearty crops, expanding livestock, and fertility in families. It was also a sort of "dating game" situation where, if a courtship resulted from an introduction on May Day, the couple was married a few weeks later on the summer solstice, creating the traditional adage of a "June Wedding."
As children, and at my mother's encouragement, we used to go into the yard at our big old Cinnaminson Homestead, pick tons of flowers, and create bouquets to distribute to family and neighbors. I have vivid recollections of running around our cul-de-sac, while my mom watched from the sidewalk, and delivering little paper bouquets to surprised neighbors who, if they were "fortunate" enough to have me as a delivery person, got an entire explanation of the May Day flowers.
Afterward, we'd all pile into our family's big old utility van and deliver a bouquet (that was completely crushed and wilted by that point) to my Grandmother in Riverton. We'd spend the rest of the afternoon visiting, before heading back to the Homestead to clean up as we all ended up hopelessly dirty after being in the flowerbeds and sweaty from running from house to house. I also recall trying to live a life without shoes when I was a child, and being told to "scrub" my feet after running around the block shoeless.
Looking back, I'm sure it was an activity that my Mom organized to keep her three little kids occupied. It also gave her an opportunity to have a conversation with other adults while we ran around in a safe, mostly confined, environment. It was a sweet little tradition that I loved as a child (I got clover flower crown! I was a princess!!) and I feel like the neighbors we visited enjoyed it, too.
It was definitely a different world then.
Today, I barely know my neighbors, let alone deliver them flowers with the assistance of my child. I've met my neighbors, several times, but I don't think we've really ever spent any significant amount of time together. I mean, we're friendly, but in that 'wave at each other when you accidentally make eye contact' or 'I think her name is Ann?' kind of way. I've never had the same kind of relationship with any of my neighbors that my parents had with theirs when I was growing up.
Ironically, I've spent more time with my next-door neighbors in the last few weeks than I have in the entire six years I've lived here. We've had actual conversations over our fences and loaned each other yard equipment. We even had "dinner together" one night, albeit accidentally. They happened to be eating on their patio and we were on our back porch, but I'm going to count it.
It's kind of funny, really. We were always on different schedules or were "too busy" to arrange gatherings. Suddenly, now that we have an awful lot of time to fill and when the only "place to go" is to your backyard, we have started "running into each other" a lot. I don't think we're in a place that I could "deliver" them flowers for May Day, but it feels like the start of a real friendship, at least.
That's what I think a lot of us are "missing" in this world, even before the threat of COVID-19 placed us in separate Quarantines. We all want to "connect" with other people, to find our kindred spirits, our "packs," our tribes. And what a difference that connection makes in our lives. Even right now, as isolated as we are from one another, we're lucky enough to have ways to stay connected. Technology is truly incredible when used properly and, right now, we actually have that time.
Today, in honor of May Day, I'm going to take some time to reconnect with friends I haven't spoken to in a while. We're going to have a Zoom gathering later and it'll be the first time some of us have spoken in months. It'll be really nice to talk, even though I doubt any of us has any really exciting news to share, but it will fulfill that desire to "stay close" and "connected" to the people I love. Honestly, I think that desire to "connect with other people" is really what festivals like May Day were about, even when the celebration started.
Think about it. After a long winter, isolated from most of the town, everyone gathered for a festival to welcome the warm weather and a renewed fellowship with their neighbors. Hundreds of years later, I kind of think that's exactly how we'll be, whenever we're able to emerge from Quarantine.
While I don't know when that's going to be, I do know it's going to be one heck of a celebration!
"Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea resound, and all that is in it! Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy!" Psalm 96: 11-12
According to the weather report, this weekend is going to be a stunner! We'll (finally) have some consistently beautiful weather to enjoy this spring. As mentioned above, yesterday was May Day, a festival revolving around the new life that buds with the warmer weather. After our walk, this morning, Luke and I counted lots of different flowers, from wisteria and tulips to peonies and iris. I think it's safe to say that all those April showers did, indeed, bring May flowers.
I have a song for today that perfectly suits the May blossoms and blooms, in my opinion. This young lady has grown up in our church and was kind enough to record this. As you walk outside today or as you watch from your windows, I hope these words resonate in your heart. Please enjoy.
4th Sunday after Easter
Good morning! Please find our service for the 4th Sunday after Easter below. Once again, if you'd like to join our Brunch with Bethany Zoom call, please click the button at the top of this page and leave your email with our secretary.
Please note the video previously found here has been moved!
Please click here to view the link you our Bethany YouTube page:
It's not fair
You might have noticed there was no post for yesterday, May 4th. It was such a beautiful day, I spent it outside with the family. It was wonderful! We pulled everything out of our tiny shed, played with all of it, then tried to cram it all back in (it never goes back as easily as it comes out, does it?). It was sort of an epic game of Jenga, only with bikes, sports paraphernalia, and yard equipment. Despite my sunburn today and soreness from galloping and lifting, I hope to have many more days like that in the near future.
In other news, yesterday, we learned that school in the state of NJ is officially canceled for the rest of the year. I think we all knew it was coming, but it's still sad. Sad for my after school program which will not get to perform their spring musical this year. Sad for my eighth graders who won't get to have their send-off before they go to high school. Especially, sad for all the graduating seniors who are missing out on their literal "pomp and circumstance."
As one would expect, the announcement to officially cancel the school year yesterday was met with a myriad of responses on our local message boards and social media sites. Let's say many were extremely passionate. Here are some of the printable ones.
"How are we supposed to celebrate my child's graduation without a ceremony?!"
"Are we expected to continue teaching our own children? What are the schools actually doing?"
"Well, they can't stop me from having a graduation party."
"It's not fair."
These are all quotes from parents in our area and, I should mention, totally legitimate feelings and opinions. I think they're right in that it's not fair.
However, I spoke to a neighbor the other day and this was her take away. While she's disappointed, she preferred everything to be canceled if it protected her teachers and school staff. She explained the groundskeepers at her school and several of her favorite teachers were "at risk," and doubted they'd be able to attend any kind of ceremony, even with social distancing. "It doesn't feel like a real celebration, anyway, if all the people who helped me get to graduation are excluded or put at risk. It's not fair," she told me.
"It's not fair."
That's the opinion of a seventeen-year-old girl. One who lost her senior trip, prom, trip to Great Adventure, and all the other celebratory events that mark the end of a student's journey through high school. It's also the opinion of a seventeen-year-old girl who's best friend lost a grandparent to this disease and who's own parents are at risk due to preexisting health conditions.
Despite looking forward to all these events and fun activities, she's more concerned for her family, friends, and, teachers. She even specifically mentioned the groundskeepers at her school. And she's not alone. That opinion is shared by several young people in our area that say they want to keep their friends and families "safe" and would rather cancel their big end of the year events to ensure that safety than "risk it."
As I mourn the loss of the educational year for my own child, as well as the nation's young people, I'm trying to focus on listening with an open heart. I'm trying to listen to all sides, the children, the parents, the school staff, and even the government. This is truly an unprecedented event, and everyone is trying to do what they think is "best."
And it's not fair. Absolutely nothing about this situation is fair. This is a hateful, vicious, unbiased disease. We, as human beings, have been attacked by this virus and it has stolen so much from us. We've been robbed of time, of our livelihoods, our lifestyles, and of our family and friends. In some cases, permanently.
So, maybe, that means we have to work together. We have to be patient and kind to each other. Rather than further attack each other, why don't we offer to be supportive? I know I'm not going to agree with all the decisions or declarations. I'm sure none of us will. We still need to be considerate. This virus hasn't robbed us of basic human kindness unless we let it. We need to treat each other with care, respect, and love.
After all, didn't we just celebrate Easter a few weeks ago? A "perfect being," God's only son, gave up his life to die for our sins. The least we can do is consider his teachings, the most prominent of which is this: Love your neighbor.
"It's not fair," but I want to try and make certain that I am. Just think, what if we all did the same?
"O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" Psalm 34:8
Mid Week Message
Hello and Happy Wednesday! Please find this week's mid-week message below! Hope you had a wonderful day!
Happy Thursday! Thought we could all use a reason to smile. Here are some more jokes and riddles. As this Sunday is Mother's Day, consider these your ticket to making the Moms, Grandmas, Stepmoms, and Aunties in your life smile. And if you forgot that this Sunday is Mother's Day, then you're welcome!
Q: Why are computers "so smart?"
A: They "listen" to their mother-boards!
Q: What did the digital clock on the apple watch say to its mother?
A: "Look, Ma! No hands!"
Q: What’s the difference between Superman and Mothers?
A: Superman’s got an everyday alter ego. Moms are superheroes all the time.
Me: Mom, what’s it like to have the greatest daughter in the world?
Mom: I don’t know dear, you’d have to ask Grandma.
This year, on Mother's Day, help Mom out by sending her dinner or cleaning up her yard. After all, it's Mother's Day, not Labor Day. She's been there. Done that.
Q: Why do mother kangaroos hate cold, rainy days?
A: Because on rainy days, their little joey plays inside.
Q: What did mommy spider say to baby spider?
A: You spend too much time on the web!
Q: What did the momma say to the foal?
A: Its pasture your bedtime
"If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?” - Milton Berle
Nothing's ever really lost unless your mother can't find it.
Three sons left home, went out on their own, and prospered. On the eve of Mother's Day, they got back together & discussed the gifts they were able to send their elderly mother.
The first said, "I built a big house for our mother."
The second said," I sent her a Mercedes with a driver."
The third smiled and said, "I've got you, both beat. You know how Mom enjoys the Bible, and you know she can't see very well. I sent her a brown parrot that can recite the entire Bible. It took 20 monks in a monastery 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $100,000.00 a year for 10 years, but it was worth it. Mom just has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot will recite it."
Soon thereafter, Mom sent out her letters of thanks:
"Milton," she wrote the first son, "The house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house."
"Marvin," she wrote to another, "I am too old to travel. I stay home all the time, so I never use the Mercedes. And the driver is so rude!"
"Dearest Melvin," she wrote to her third son, "You were the only son to have the good sense to know what your mother likes. That chicken was delicious."
God couldn't be everywhere, so he created mothers. - taken from a Yiddish Proverb
And one more...
Don't give up hope! The day will come! In the meantime, "be like Mrs. Jones" and join us on Sunday for our Brunch with Bethany Zoom call!
This has been a busy week. Like a lot of people, I'm pretty much out of work right now as a result of this pandemic. That said, as someone who is (mostly) self-employed, the work doesn't fully stop. The contracts and payments do, but the work itself doesn't. Everything has to be regularly updated like resumes, lesson information, and social media. Plus, since I work as a performer AND teacher, there seems to be twice the work some weeks.
In addition to that, my husband (a public school teacher and coach) is working from home and Luke is going to his virtual preschool in the mornings. When the three of us take up the same space, it gets very tight and very loud very quickly. Throw in my little Shih Tzu begging for food and trying to escape from her "brother," and my every day is a mildly unhinged, three-ring circus performance.
So today, after a particularly long and busy week of trying to work (and function) from home, this song popped up on my YouTube account. Not going to lie, it felt like a sign. In spite of this pandemic, we are so lucky. My husband is still working, we have our own home in an area that gives us the opportunity to get out and walk around, and we all still (mostly) like each other. Even after nearly two months in closed quarters.
This was a gentle reminder that there are so many blessings in this world. Life, in and of itself, is a gift. Felt like I had to share it. I hope you enjoy!
5th Sunday after Easter
Good morning! Below, please find this week's Sunday service. I hope to "see" you at our 10:30 Brunch with Bethany! Have a wonderful week!
Whatsoever is true...
I'm going to confess something to all of you. I don't read my Bible regularly (gasp!). In fact, if I need a verse or want to look up a passage, I almost always look it up online. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, but it's kind of a shame. I have no less than 10 Bibles in my house that are somewhere, but it's so much easier to just Google it. I guess the computer is easier to find.
In any case, I was on another deep cleaning kick today and started working on a bookshelf project I've wanted to do for years. It involves a list of HGTV inspired styles and half a Pinterest board, but, before any of that can happen, I have to clean off the bookshelves. Actually, the first thing on the step by step list of instructions is to "declutter the space." It's like they know me.
So, I'm pulling books and glassware off the shelves and I (re)discovered my Grandmother Welker's "first" Bible. I'm terribly nostalgic and I love discoveries like this. Also, due to my natural inclination to be easily distracted, I stopped sorting, abandoned a pretty intense mess in the living room, and sat down to flip through my Nan's Bible.
It's, obviously, seen better days. The binding is worn and pieces of the cover have started getting brittle and have broken off. Upon turning to the second page, I found an inscription. The Bible was a gift for my Nan's birthday in 1933 from her mother (my great-grandmother). In 1933, Nan was nine years old. I can't imagine my Nan at nine. There aren't a lot of pictures from when she was a child (because photography wasn't something people had in their everyday households on a regular basis), but I know what I was like at nine. I'm not sure I'd have been excited about getting a Bible as a nine-year-old. Honestly, I don't think I ever sat still as a child long enough to even read a Bible, let alone have one of my own.
I remember getting my Bible at Confirmation and that we were encouraged to go through and mark any favorite verses or passages that we found meaningful. I also recall my mother and grandmother attending Bible Studies and doing the same thing. Hoping to reconnect with Nan through any notes she may have made, I (carefully) leafed through Nan's dusty old Bible.
There were none. The only thing I found was an old bookmark from one of my grandmother's cousins. I won't lie, I was a little disappointed. We have some really amazing family Bibles with notations, marks, and family history written in them. There was nothing like that in this one. Even the bookmark looked like it was from the 1990s.
Hoping maybe the bookmark was on that page for a reason, I started reading. It was the book of Philippians (raise your hand if you remembered that Philippians was a book in the Bible, cause I didn't), and the page started with the second chapter.
Right away, I noted that this Bible was a King James version (which makes sense for the time period) and, at risk of sounding like a geek, I love the language. There's something romantic and beautiful about it, in my opinion. Appropriately, it also reminds me of reading a William Shakespeare play. I know many people prefer the language of the New International Version, but I do love the KJV.
Anyway, nothing really jumped out at me as noteworthy for Philippians chapter 2 or chapter 3. Lots of standard Bible-y passages. Another observation was that I didn't realize that Philippians is such a short book (it's only 4 chapters). Then I got to chapter 4 and had to go back and re-read it.
"Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and my crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved... Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
"Dearly beloved and longed for." What a beautiful way to describe the love you hold for someone, let alone the love of our Father. After that, "let your moderation be known unto all men," which is another way to say, "don't panic or be afraid, stay calm or moderate."
"The Lord is at hand."
Ok, I'm going to geek-out for a moment. I think the use of italics in this old Bible is so interesting. In my opinion, it makes such an impact on what is being said. I can call someone "my dearly beloved," and I can comprehend what that means without any problem, but I can "hear" the difference in my head when I read "my dearly beloved." The same thing with "the Lord is at hand." Putting that word in italics suddenly makes that statement so much more emphatic and reassuring.
I did Google Philippians 4 after reading it in Nan's Bible and the italics aren't used in the New International Version. While I absolutely understand that many people find it easier to read the NIV, I do think it loses some of the tone without the italicized words. Of course, this is precisely why it was produced that way in the 1933 Bible. Personally, I think it's a brilliant editing choice.
Then I read further. The next couple verses really affected me deeply, and are as follows: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."
In other words, ignore all the negative things and hold on to the good things in this world. The "true" or real things. Don't be dragged down, say, by the angry posts on social media or the constant endless loop that is our news cycle. If there is anything wonderful or good that deserves praise in your life, hang on to that instead of the things that will weigh you down.
I mean, wow.
And, once again, the use of italics is so fascinating to me. In my opinion, this may be the most perfect Bible passage for the world at this moment in time, especially as we all try to decide what our collective "next steps" will be. Despite the "loudest" or most "forceful" voices, we have to stay "true," "honest," "just," "pure," "lovely," and "good" to ourselves. We have to "rediscover" the blessings in this world and live our lives according to the positive.
It's funny. I don't believe in fate or anything like that, but this felt a little "meant to be." I was so disappointed that Nan hadn't made any notes in her childhood Bible and that there were no "treasures" to be discovered. However, it was like that bookmark was meant to earmark that chapter so that it could be read right now, today.
"If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Sometimes, life surprises me. This was a wonderful surprise.
Join Us, tonight at 7pm!
Happy Wednesday! Tonight, beginning at 7pm, will be our first Bible Study with Pastor Van Orden. We will be holding these Bible Studies on the platform Zoom for the next four weeks, always on Wednesdays at 7pm. I'd like to encourage you to join us tonight! This month we will be looking at Revelations. Below I am including the first three chapters if you'd like to read them ahead of time (but if you choose not to read it, join us anyway), as well as the information to join our Zoom call.
The link to our Zoom meeting is here
OR you can cut and paste the below address into a new window
If you wish, you can also dial in.
The number is 1 646 558 8656
Meeting ID is 87829757458
We hope to "see" you tonight! In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine today!
1 The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
2 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’
26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
3 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not