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A Message From Pastor Van Orden

3/14/20

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.
Center down.

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.

Daily Devotion

3/15/20

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!"

3/16/20

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

3/17/20

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

3/18/20

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!

Healing Waters

3/19/20

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


 

Wave Watching

3/21/20

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

3/22/20

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.

If the video does not play, please click the button below to redirect to the YouTube address.

Open our Eyes

3/24/20

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

eyes

Mid-week Message

3/25/20

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

3/26/20

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 willisard7@gmail.com). 

It may not be much, but it is something.  If you think of any resources or information about helpers, please email me at emilycheney85@gmail.com or post to our Facebook page!  Let's try to be the light in the dark! 

Surveying the Cross

3/27/20

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

3/28/20

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. 

Lazarus Rises

3/29/20

My Happy Home

3/30/20

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!

 

Something Silly

3/31/20

*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

4/1/20

Happy Wednesday, All!  Enjoy the wonderful sunshine today!

Jolly Holiday

4/3/20

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!"

Palm Sunday

4/5/20

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!”

The Palms

4/6/20

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

4/7/20

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

4/8/20

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?

Maundy Thursday

4/9/20

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?

4/10/20

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

4/11/20

"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. 

 

Easter Sunday

4/12/20

A blessed Easter to All!  Christ has risen!

Easter Monday aka "the day after"

4/13/20

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

4/15/20

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

4/16/20

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

4/17/20

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. 

Saturday Sillies

4/18/20

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."

1st Sunday After Easter

4/19/20

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!

Monday Monday

4/20/20

"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

4/21/20

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? 

Wacky Wednesday

4/22/20

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.

And finally:

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. 

An Announcement!

4/24/20

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

4/25/20

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

4/26/20

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!

Rainy Day Song

4/27/20

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. 

Blue Angels

4/28/20

"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.

Midweek Message

4/29/20

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...

4/30/20

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 emilycheney85@gmail.com.  

 

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

5/1/20

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

May Flowers

5/2/20

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

5/3/20

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. 

It's not fair

5/5/20

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

5/6/20

Hello and Happy Wednesday!  Please find this week's mid-week message below!  Hope you had a wonderful day!

Something Silly

5/7/20

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. 

 

"For Mother"

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."

 

And finally:

God couldn't be everywhere, so he created mothers. - taken from a Yiddish Proverb

And one more...

5/8/20

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!

Ordinary Miracles

5/9/20

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

5/10/20

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...

5/11/20

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!

5/13/20

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

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87829757458

OR

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!

 

Revelations 1-3

 

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.

4 John,

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 soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness, and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears,

let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

60 Days...

5/14/20

Hello and happy Thursday!  It's taken me most of the day to realize that today is May 14th, partially because every day is "Groundhog Day" and partially because this week is flying by.  While many of us didn't realize it at the time, our Quarantine unofficially started two months ago.  Friday, March 13th was the last day of school for many kids, as well as the last date with regular operating hours for many businesses. 

I don't consider myself overly sentimental about things like this, but I guess we all need a reason to celebrate while we're maintaining social distance.  So, yeah.  Happy Two Month Anniversary, everyone! 

Below, please find a poem by Brother Richard Hendrick, who is a Capuchin Franciscan living in Ireland.  It's entitled "Lockdown."  Pastor Van Orden read it, in part, at our Council Meeting the other night and this feels like the perfect opportunity to share it.  Personally, I plan to reread it after dinner with one of the porters I've been hiding in the fridge.  I might recommend you all do the same. 

 

"Lockdown"

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able 
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.

Happy Friday!

5/15/20

Pastor Jeff sent me this.  I love this song.  And thought it was a good way to start our journey into the weekend!  Silly, but totally worth a watch, even if it's just for the music!  I hope you all have a great day!

Hunting Treasures

5/16/20

One of my favorite ways to "pass the time" with Luke on particularly long days, is to take him on a "treasure hunt."  This activity normally entails a series of clues, tasks, and/or observations that, eventually, lead to some kind of "treasure" or reward.  Luke loves it and it, almost always, turns around a situation when we're headed for a meltdown and buys me a few moments to myself.  Plus, it's a wildly simple form of entertainment for my four-year-old (and myself to be honest!).

While I'd love to take credit for this idea, this is another activity I can attribute to my mother.  I can recall having Easter egg hunts in February and well into June, followed by epic scavenger hunts on the beach in Strathmere, and "counting Santas" once the decorating for the Cheney House Christmas spectacular was completed. 

In any case, "Pirate Lucas" and I were on a treasure hunt the other day (because, of course, our scavenger hunts have themes) and his task was to "find something with feathers."  He was having a tough time locating something with actual feathers in our playroom (which is ironic because we have everything in his playroom) and, after pulling a few things out and rejecting them, he sat down on the floor looking dejected.

"Um, Mama, this is hard."

He stared at the floor with his head down.  I've learned not to interrupt these little "thinking" moments, as they very often lead to some kind of inspiration, but it's really hard to not just give him the answer (I swear, God made kiddos really cute so that we don't leave them in other people's yards and make a run for it).  I sat quietly watching his little drooped shoulders, waiting for his next move, but he just sighed dramatically.  He was the portrait of a very sad looking pirate. 

 

Just as I was about to cave, Luke noticed something and his eyes lit up.  His mouth made an excited "o" shape and he perked up.  

 

"Oh!  I know!"

He leaped up and dove into a crate of small figurines on a shelf.  After careful consideration, he selected something and came running at me, half sitting on and half tackling me.  Proudly, he held something up that, of course, I couldn't see from behind his head.

In his best "pirate voice" he proudly proclaimed, "Look Pirate Mama!"

Maneuvering around his mop of hair, I saw that he had selected 2 rubber bath ducks.

"Good work, Pirate Lucas!" I said as I chuckled to myself. "But, do those ducks have real feathers?" 

Without missing a beat he said, "Yes, Pirate Mama!"

"They do?"

He grinned up at me.  "Yup!  See?  Use your imagination!"

This is something we talk about all the time.  It's an overarching theme in several of his favorite tv shows and we often talk about "pretending" and using our imagination.  Now my child was turning the table on me and directing my own instuctions to me.  Touche, little boy.  Touche.

Of course, I gave him the treasure after that.  After all, how can I argue with myself?   I was struck by his instruction, though.  As adults, we "see" things differently, don't we?  When I gave Luke that task to complete, I was so busy looking at the feathers on the hat sitting on the sofa, that I never looked at the other possible options in the room.  I was about to correct my own child when he was 100% right that ducks have feathers.  He was just interpreting the question, and answering, it differently than I did. 

I guess we tend to see things more in black and white as we get older.  I think people tend to answer a question or solve a problem and, whatever their first thought is immediately becomes "the answer."  And why not?  When solving a problem, it's really easy to go with the first solution available.  The question is answered, the problem solved, it's done.  In fact, I'd venture the only reason we "revisit" a problem or question is if the initial solution fails. 

 

Growing up, I can remember being encouraged to "brainstorm" ideas to solve riddles, questions, and problems.  It's a little scary how easily that skill is forgotten.  I think our world has become so much about "immediacy" that we aim to answer a question quickly and move on.  Compounding this is the strange notion of "being right."

 

If you listen or read any kind of social media, I'm always struck by how "right" everyone is.  There's a lot of "I'm not doing things that way" or "that person is wrong" or "I saw someone do/say/write this and it's terrible because..."  I'm constantly amazed by how everyone is always "correct."  It's practically ingrained in us. 

 

Inevitably, that creates the idea that, if everyone else is "right," and you don't agree, then you are wrong.  As the mother of a toddler, I feel like I'm wrong most of the time.  At least, according to the internet.  Unless I use this program, I'm not teaching my son the "right" things.  If I'm not feeding him this item, I'm not feeding him the "right" food.  If I don't do this activity, he's not going to become an astronaut (I actually went down this rabbit hole last night.  I don't recommend it). 


When did it become so important to be "right?"  I guess, more importantly, why can't we admit that we're all wrong sometimes?  The Bible states, very clearly, that there has only ever been one "perfect being" and that he died for our sins.  So, why is it so important for us to be right all the time when we weren't born to be "perfect?"

I don't know the answer, but I do know I'm going to try to hold off on my own snap-judgments and immediate decisions in the future.  I'm going to try to look at things from different angles and listen to other people's points of view.  See more of that "grey area" and "think outside the box."  In my life, there's no reason to rush any decisions and there's no gain to "always being right" at this moment.  And, if we're worrying less about being right all the time, then we'll have more time to do things we enjoy!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have another scavenger hunt to plan...

6th Sunday after Easter

5/17/20

Hello and happy Sunday!  Below, please find our church service for this week!  If you would like to join us for our Zoom "Brunch with Bethany" at 10:30 on Sunday morning, please click the white box at the top of this page.  Have a wonderful day!

To have a giving heart

5/18/20

Stewardship is always something that I find difficult to talk about (I am 100% the person who blocks solicitor's calls and ignores most emails asking for donations).  Of course, stewardship is such an important part of our very existence as a church, that it can't be ignored. 

So, I'll be brief.  I've grown up in our little church at Bethany.  I was christened, confirmed, and married there.  My son was baptized there.  Obviously, this little church is important to me, and here's a reason that may be a little outside the box. 

In times of great struggle or difficulty, I find it incredibly helpful to my mental health to be around people I love.  I think we all struggle, at some point in our lives, with a desire to feel accepted, understood, and supported.  Maybe we struggle with feelings of unworthiness or uncertainty.  Of wanting love, but not being sure how to find it.  This is where, psychologically, I find comfort in our church.  It's a place that's familiar, even if I'm not physically in the building.  With the people of our congregation, I have an extended family of parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, and even the occasional crazy uncle. 

Even though I missed this week's Zoom meeting due to blackouts and updates being run on the Zoom site, I have now "seen" some members of my church family more often, and more recently, than I have seen some of my actual family.  For me, it is so important for my mental health to feel loved and supported.  Honestly, I think that's important in everyone's life.  I'm incredibly lucky that I have that in my life AND that I have (relatively) easy access to it. 

Now, this is my personal experience.  That said, I'm sure I'm not alone.  Maybe you feel the same way I do.  Maybe not.  Maybe you're searching for that kind of reassurance, whether you'd like to connect with other people or a "higher calling," maybe you'd like to read back through this page and see if Bethany could be a second home to you, too. 

Now, the real talk.  I know this is a wildly inopportune time to ask for donations.  I know many of us (myself included) are unemployed.  You may be strapped for cash or struggling to get by, but anything you can contribute, be it financially or through gifts of time, skill, or labor, would be welcomed.  Please consider making that donation.  And if you're someone who needs help, also please reach out.  We can always be reached through email at bethanypalmyra@gmail.com. 

I hope you are all staying well, in every possible way.  Happy Monday.

More Silly Jokes

5/19/20

One Sunday after church, as they were walking out the doors, a mother asked her very young daughter what she had learned in Sunday school.  The daughter smiled and answered knowingly, "Don 't be scared, you're going to get your own quilt!"
Needless to say, the mother was perplexed. Later in the day, the pastor happened to stop by for tea, and, as the daughter played nearby, the mother asked him what that morning's Sunday school lesson was about.
He said, "Be not afraid, thy comforter is coming." 

From the next room, a small voice chirped, "See?  I told you!"

A minister waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump.      
"Reverend," said the young man, "I'm so sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip."
The minister chuckled, "I know what you mean. It's the same in my business."


One Sunday morning, a minister paced, deep in contemplation. Preoccupied with thoughts of how he was going to ask the congregation to come up with more money than they were expecting for repairs to the church building, he prepped himself for the service. He was so lost in the thought, that he didn't realize that there was a new face sitting at the organ.  The regular organist was sick and a substitute had been brought in at the last minute.  Moments before the service started, the substitute asked the startled minister if there was any special music he wanted for the service.  Deeply annoyed, the minister grabbed his own bulletin from the pulpit.       
"Here's a copy of the service," he said impatiently. "But, you'll have to think of something to play after I make the announcement about the finances."
When the time came during the service, the minister paused and said, "Brothers and Sisters, we have had a terrible setback. The roof repairs cost twice as much as we expected and we need $4,000 more. I know this is difficult, but if any of you can pledge $200 or more, please stand up."
There was a moment of silence, then the substitute organist played "The NATIONAL ANTHEM."
She has since been promoted to full time. 

"Somebody has said there are only two kinds of people in the world. There are those who wake up in the morning and say, "Good morning, Lord," and there are those who wake up in the morning and say, "Good Lord, it's morning."  Today, I hope you were the first kind!

Join Us Again Tonight!

5/20/20

Jesus replied, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me.” John 7:16

 

Tonight at 7pm, our Wednesday Bible Study with Pastor Van Orden on Zoom will continue.  Last week, the first chapter of Revelations was discussed.  This evening the session will continue with the second and third chapters.  If you'd like to read the chapters ahead of time, you will find them below.

Topic: Zoom Bible Study - Revelation

Time: Wednesday, May 20th at 7pm. 

 

The link to our Zoom meeting is here

OR

Join Zoom Meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87829757458

 

Meeting ID: 878 2975 7458

OR

Dial in: +1 646 558 8656 

Meeting ID: 878 2975 7458

 

Even if you don't read the verses ahead of time, feel free to join for the discussion and fellowship!

​​

Revelations 2 & 3

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 soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears,

let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

In Spite of Today

5/21/20

Today was an off day.  It's hard to determine a reason (other than the current state of the world), but I spent most of the day trying to keep to myself so I wouldn't take my frustrations out on an innocent bystander.  Since I'm only sharing my quarantine with two other people, things were bound to get dicey. 

Personally, I feel like the only thing worse than feeling bad is bringing down other people to feel bad, too.  While I managed not to eviscerate my husband or yell at my kiddo, I did spend the day stewing in negativity.  Every news article that pops up on my phone or computer feels like it's "shouting."  There seems to be an undercurrent of hostility on almost every post on social media and a lot of people are, understandably, on edge.  People have stopped making eye contact when we pass them on our walks and, as we passed people today that have started to relax their social distancing behavior, I caught their judgemental stares when I ushered Luke to the other side of the road to give them space. I find it really hard to shake some of these negative feelings when there's so much uncertainty, anger, and fear in the world at large.  And, still, so much death. 

Trying to distract myself, I started searching for uplifting music or literature online.  During that search, I came across this poem.  I'd never read it before, but it was written by a woman named Angela Morgan, who lived during both World Wars.  These words felt relevant to me.  Whether it's the raging of a war or a global pandemic, the world continues to turn.  In spite of rage, disagreements, struggle, and death, nature moves from season to season.  Time continues to pass.  

Today, I find that oddly reassuring.  And I can only operate based on what works for today, at this moment.  I'm including the poem below.  I hope all of you find some kind of reassurance in it as well.

In Spite of War by Angela Morgan

In spite of war, in spite of death,
In spite of all man's sufferings,
Something within me laughs and sings
And I must praise with all my breath.
In spite of war, in spite of hate
Lilacs are blooming at my gate,
Tulips are tripping down the path
In spite of war, in spite of wrath.
"Courage!" the morning-glory saith;
"Rejoice!" the daisy murmureth,
And just to live is so divine
When pansies lift their eyes to mine.

The clouds are romping with the sea,
And flashing waves call back to me
That naught is real but what is fair,
That everywhere and everywhere
A glory liveth through despair.
Though guns may roar and cannon boom,
Roses are born and gardens bloom;
My spirit still may light its flame
At that same torch whence poppies came.
Where morning's altar whitely burns
Lilies may lift their silver urns
In spite of war, in spite of shame.

And in my ear a whispering breath,
"Wake from the nightmare! Look and see
That life is naught but ecstasy
In spite of war, in spite of death!"


 

Tomorrow will be a good day.

5/22/20

I was online searching for more "good news" stories today.  After yesterday, I was still hoping to find that inspiration or joy, in spite of the state of the world.  Today, Google came through in a big way with the story of a well-deserved knighthood. 

You may remember Captain Thomas Moore (or Captain Tom as he likes to be called), the gentleman who made headlines about a month ago.  Captain Tom, then a ninety-nine-year-old WWII vet, had been recovering from several health ailments, including skin cancer and a hip replacement, at his home in Bedfordshire in England.  He was so grateful to the NHS (National Health Service) for their assistance, that he wanted to find a way to show his appreciation. 

His plan was simple.  He decided to walk laps around his garden and ask for donations to NHS Charities Together for front-line health workers (if you'd like to read about what NHS Charities Together does, click here!).  His goal was 100 laps before his 100th birthday on April 30th.  With the assistance of his daughter, they set up a fundraising website in hopes of raising £1,000. 

 

Captain Tom started his daily laps hoping some of the people from his town would donate.  Instead, his story got picked up by the national news.  A week later, his site had raised over 2 million pounds.  Then, his story became international news and now, about six weeks after posting his fundraiser, Thomas has raised over £32 million (about $40 million) for the NHS Charities Together. 

 

By April 30th, Captain Tom's 100th birthday, not only had he raised an incredible amount of money by completing his 100 laps, but he'd also set a new Guinness World Record (for money raised on behalf of the healthcare system) and was honored with a promotion from Captain to honorary Colonel.  He also received over 125,000 birthday cards, including ones from famous soccer players, the Prime Minister, and the Royal Family. 

In a BBC interview, on his birthday, Captain Tom said, “Reaching 100 is quite something. Reaching 100 with such interest in me and huge generosity from the public is very overwhelming.  People keep saying what I have done is remarkable, however, it’s actually what you have done for me which is remarkable.  Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day.”

That brings us to the article I found today.  As a result of Captain Tom's incredible donation, two days ago he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.  After the ceremony, Captain Tom responded with this on Twitter, "I am absolutely overwhelmed. Never for one moment could I have imagined I would be awarded with such a great honour...This started as something small and I’ve been overwhelmed by the gratitude and love from the British public and beyond.

We must take this opportunity to recognise our frontline heroes of the National Health Service who put their lives at risk every day to keep us safe."

At 100 years old, this gentleman has made such a remarkable contribution to an organization that was important to him.  Truly, this is a remarkable story about a remarkable person. 

"Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day."

 

Even though his fundraising page is closed now and he's (hopefully) taking a well-earned break from walking laps, I'll definitely take Captain Tom's words with me today and I hope they stay with you, too.  I think it was just what I needed to hear.

 

**If you'd like to read more about Captain Tom, I encourage you to give him a Google.  His whole life is quite a story.**

Saturday Sillies

5/23/20

These tickled me.  I hope they amuse you, too!  They're from a "simpler time" when church bulletins were typed on typewriters and no one double-checked their "phrasing."  These are also captions that appeared in "real church bulletins."  Regardless, of their authenticity, I think they're still pretty funny.  Also, I'm so glad that we've graduated to a computer here at Bethany and don't use a typewriter anymore.  I'm also glad we've got good proofreaders!  Thanks to Lynn (Pastor Van Orden's wife) for forwarding these!

 

Thank God for the church ladies with typewriters. These sentences actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced at church services:   

 

--------------------------

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
 
The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on the Water.' The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.' 
  
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.

 
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

Next Thursday there will be try-outs for the choir. They need all the help they can get.

 

Mr. Benson and Miss Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
  
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow. 
  
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.

  
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement   Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.


The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
  
Pot-luck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
  
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.  

(And my personal favorite):

The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday. 

 

7th Sunday after Easter

5/24/20

Happy Sunday!  I hope you're all having a wonderful weekend so far.  Please find our link below!  As always, if you would like to join our 10:30am Brunch with Bethany on Zoom, you can join by submitting your email at the top of this page. 

I hope you have a great day and have a safe, quiet Memorial Day. 

Memorial Day

5/25/20

The last time the Youth Group went to Washington DC, it was the record setting hottest week of the summer.  We knew that we wanted to take the kids to see the monuments, but that it would be crowded and hot during the day, so we decided to go at night. 

I, personally, thought this was a brilliant decision.  We grabbed a pizza dinner that night, then started to walk to the monuments, around 7:30pm.  My Google Maps said it would be a 25-minute walk.  What I didn't factor in was the exhaustion level of the kids and that Google Maps does NOT always have location accuracy.  

 

An hour later, we still weren't to the monuments (although we could see them just ahead), we'd walked through a tunnel that was NOT meant for pedestrians (thanks twice, Google Maps!), the leftover pizza was being carried vertically, and there was an excessive amount of "emotional disharmony" being voiced.  I was ready to snap, too. Even though the sun was almost completely down, it still felt like it was 90 degrees (in reality, it was only 82 degrees.  I checked) and we were all sweaty, stuffed from dinner, and tired.  It had been a, literal, trail of tears.

There was even talk of skipping the monuments altogether and just going back to the church where we were staying.  Still, I thought it was so important for the kids to see the monuments, and I was determined.  Plus, we still had an hour walk back to the hostel and I was pretty sure there would be a mutiny if we didn't break the walk up somehow. 

As we arrived at the National Mall, I got another dubious look from a child who will remain nameless.  "We walked all this way for that?  It looks like a giant pencil point."  While I can totally agree that the Washington Monument does look kind of like a pencil point, I was quick to point out the reflecting pool.  That held their attention for a good while, during which time I tried to corral them to the far side of the pool. 

From a previous trip to the Mall, I knew that the monuments would be lit up in the darkness and very few people would be out.  As we approached the World War II monument, the kids all stopped.  Against the night, the lights the brightened the arches looked golden.  All of our kids spread out and walked around, reading the inscriptions and taking pictures. 

Encouraged, we pressed on.  They marveled at the DC War Memorial.  They stood quietly as they tried to measure the length of the Vietnam War Memorial.  They fell silent when the first face of the Korean War Memorial appeared in the dark.  They were awed by the size and brilliance of the Lincoln Memorial and, despite being "so hot and tired" they all ran up the steps to the top so they could survey the entire mall.  Watching their reactions, I felt like the haul was worth it. 

It was not a perfect trip.  In fact, very much not a perfect trip.  One day, I'll either write a book or do a stand-up comedy routine about how "not perfect" that trip was.   But, that moment was nice.  And, despite all the other moments, it created a nice moment to talk about why those monuments existed. 

This Memorial Day, I think of those memorials and the lost lives they represent.  I think of the flowers and cards that are left at the base of those monuments every day.  I think of the people who travel great distances to witness the monuments or to trace a name or inscription.  They are great reminders of the past, as well as the sacrifices that have been made. 

I'm including some of the pictures from that trip below.  Please take a moment to look through them.  And, regardless of how you've spent your Memorial Day Weekend, please take a moment to offer up a prayer of thanks, and may it give us all perspective.  Right now, things are not easy.  We might not "like" or "agree" with what is asked of us or what recommendations are made, but remember that there are so many people that have sacrificed for our country throughout history, many who "paid" the ultimate sacrifice.  I think it makes wearing a mask or maintaining our distance seem a LOT easier, doesn't it?  Let's try our best not to forget their sacrifice and give thanks where it is due.

Bible Study Tonight!

5/27/20

Tonight, Pastor Jeff will be continuing his study of Revelations at 7pm. Even if you haven't joined for the last two Wednesdays, feel free to join tonight as there will be a review at the beginning of the meeting. 

Pastor Van Orden is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

 

Topic: Zoom Bible Study - Revelation

Time: 7pm, Wednesday May 27th

 

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87829757458

 

Dial in:

        1 646 558 8656 

Meeting ID: 878 2975 7458

My Life Flows On...

5/28/20

Pastor Jeff sent me this the other day.  On a typical day, this is one of my favorite hymns and I know the virtual choir in a new novelty, but this made me so happy today.  The arrangement and musicians do a wonderful job and, in light of recent trials, set-backs, and losses, this felt right for this week.  I hope it brings a smile!

Love Your Neighbor

5/29/20

Today, I am shaken.  I am heartbroken, infuriated, and hurt.  I ache for my son and the children who are growing up in the world of constant hate and heartbreak and destruction.  The news has been a 24-hour cycle of absolute horrors and I feel helpless to do anything other than shake with emotion.  The worst part is this is not new.  Videos, like the ones on constant repeat about the murders of George Floyd and others, the aftermath, and the riots, have been making news for decades and people become emotional and outraged and say "things need to change."

Yet, it doesn't.  It doesn't change. 

Why do we accept this?  Why do we, as Christians, accept that our fellow brothers and sisters are treated like this?  A former 3rd-grade teacher and educator by the name of Jane Elliott has been offering workshops and lectures about racism for years, having been inspired by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  The below selection is taken from a transcript of her "Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes" lecture. 

"I want every white person in this room, who would be happy to be treated as this society in general treats our citizens, our black citizens (sic), to stand.  If you as a white person would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society - please stand! - You didn't understand the directions. If you white folks want to be treated the way blacks are in this society - stand! - Nobody is standing here. That says very plainly that you know what's happening. You know you don't want it for you. I want to know why you are so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others."

 

This has struck me to my core.  I know I wouldn't stand in this circumstance.  So, I recognize the disparity in the treatment of people with different skin colors and I don't agree with it.  I know many people who agree with me.  So, why is this still going on?  I know everyone at Bethany rejects racism.  Why haven't things changed?  More importantly, what can we, as Christians, do to stop it? 

 

The definition of "Christianity," according to the online dictionary is "the religion based on the person and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, or its beliefs and practices."  I'm not going to get deep into the various teachings of Jesus (we can all review it in our Bibles), but I am going to repeat myself from a previous post on this page. 

In Mark 12: 30-31, Jesus offers his reply to the question "which commandment is the most important of all?" Below is the response. 

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ’There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 30-31 NIV

'Love your neighbor' is something that is often mentioned as "the most important commandment."  So much so, that if you look it up on Wikipedia, its referred to as "the Great Commandment."  Very often, the first part of this passage from Mark is overlooked.  However, if you "love the Lord your God" with your whole existence, then there's no room for hatred, spite, or violence.  So, essentially, I'd venture to say that "loving God with all your heart" would include "loving your neighbor."

Note, there are no restrictions on that statement.  Jesus does not say love only your nice neighbors or your friendly neighbors.  He does not say to love only your helpful neighbors or reputable neighbors.  He doesn't say love only other people like you or other Christians.  And Jesus does not say love only your white, straight, affluent neighbors.  There are no restrictions, limitations, or exclusions to that rule. 

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

I want to cry.  I want to scream.  I don't know how to "fix" the brokeness the people of this country are feeling.  The events of the past 24 hours, coupled with the pandemic, make it very easy to feel hopeless.  At least, this seems like a place to start.  We can love one another.  We can love one another and mean it. 

 

And here's the thing about that. 

 

If I love someone, I don't want them to be treated poorly.  If I love you, I don't want someone else to be mean or hateful or hurtful to you.  I don't want my fellow brothers and sisters to be judged, injured, or murdered.  I do want you to feel loved and safe.  I want you to be treated fairly.  I want you to be treated like I expect to be treated every day.  And if we all feel that way and want that equality, then change may be possible. 

As a Christian, I want to be one of the people who follow the greatest commandment and "love my neighbor as myself."  Will you help me?

 

 

Just a thought...

5/30/20

Pentecost Sunday

5/31/20

Happy Pentecost Sunday!  Below, please find our service for the seventh Sunday after Easter.  FYI, in the Lutheran tradition, Pentecost can be celebrated with a feast, so I hope all of you will bring your "feasts" in breakfast form when you join our Brunch with Bethany Zoom call today at 10:30!  I hope you are well and that I'll "see" you soon!

Seven Days

6/1/20

Once again, I find myself struggling to find words.  It seems the entire world is in revolt while still trying to combat a pandemic.  It's overwhelming.  This feels like the point in the movie where you raise an eyebrow at the plot twist, sit back, and say, "ok, now it's too much."  And yet, here we are. 

 

In the world of musical theatre, when you "have no words," you sing.  Well, I'm not ready to sing today.  Ironic, considering that a few days ago I posted the video "How Can I Keep From Singing."  Maybe another time.  So, in lieu of a song, here's the closest thing I can manage right now. 

Seven Days.

 

It doesn't seem like much at all, the way time hurries on,

but seven days can hold so much once that week has gone.

In seven days a little seed, once planted in the ground,

can peek, triumphant, from the earth its freedom finally found.

In seven days, the world was born and all existence, too,

for the rest of the creator, completed our brand new debut

In seven days, a son was welcomed to a joyful town

that turned on him in moments, with a hateful thorny crown;

they saw him hung then buried, while fear and panic spread

but on that seventh day, the Son resurrected from the dead.

Seven days ago, we honored the patriots we've lost. 

A day of solemn remembrance to commemorate peace' cost.

Seven days ago, with thankful hearts, we honored those who fall

for our nation's call for justice and liberty for all

And yet again, in seven days, what sorrow and rage churns

as stolen life turns into war and a wounded world burns

In seven days so many things can, accomplished, be

but weak with sickness, pain, and fear what hope can our land see?

In seven days or weeks or years, how can we fight to heal

the festering wound of hatred that so many people feel?

Who will free the imprisoned souls all captured in hate's midst?

It starts with you and me, so pray a loving path exists.

In seven days, the world was burned, a seething acrid hue

See it, feel it, and stand up.  The world waits for you.

~EC

The Joys of Modern Conveniences

6/5/20

Hello and happy Friday!  It's good to be back!  Our little town lost electricity and a cell phone tower in the storm a couple of days ago and we've been living the "simple life" for the last few days.  There were several big trees that fell and there was some pretty severe property damage, so living without the internet, electricity, running water (we have a well), and cell phones was actually preferable, by comparison.  However, it definitely made me realize just how dependent we are on modern conveniences, especially technology.  It also reminded me of how "immediate" our lives are in regards to information. 

I've talked about "disconnecting" on this page before and being unable to check the news, social media, or emails should have had a detox effect.  We were forced to focus our attention on little everyday things (I did a lot of dusting) instead of the so-called "greater picture."  Unfortunately, we live in a world where we have to stay connected for work and want to stay connected to family, especially in the time of COVID 19, so the "disconnect" wasn't particularly welcomed. 

 

A few hours after our power went out, we set out on a "family road trip" to find someplace to grab dinner that also had Wifi.  This was easier said than done as the storms had knocked out nearly all of Medford Lakes and Medford.  Compound that with the closure of many restaurants due to COVID 19 and you'll understand when I say our trip turned into quite an adventure.  While we drove around, we also took the opportunity to charge our phones. 

 

Eventually, we ended up at a McDonald's in Hammonton, nearly 30 minutes away.  Thankfully, the sun had come out and the drive was beautiful, but by the time I'd ordered, gotten our food, and pulled into a parking spot, our phones had connected to the McDonald's Wifi.  I know this because my phone started buzzing as it received messages.  When it stopped, I'd missed 47 text messages and had two voicemails in all.  I had been "offline" for about 6 hours. 

Now, some of the messages were from friends and family checking in and some were from my students and Luke's teachers.  They were all important messages, but it gave me pause.  We, as a society, really do utilize our technology in a way that has made it necessary for our everyday lives.  As recently as 15 years ago, cell phones weren't a common household item.  Today, they are so integrated into our lives that I can't go 6 hours without mine.  And, keep in mind, I'm not a full-time employee right now and most of my gig jobs are shut down due to the pandemic. 

My point in all of this is that, while the sentiment and romanticism of "going back to a simpler time" may seem appealing, it's not really feasible (or recommendable) in today's world.  The integration of technology into our lives is all-encompassing and it is, most definitely, a double-edged sword. 

 

Being without (usable) cell phone access made me realize how often I'm online just to occupy a few moments.  Of course, those "few moments" easily multiply as I click from story to story.  And, with all the accessibility to information, comes my natural, emotional responses to what I read or see.  Suddenly, those few moments to check an email, can turn into a journey down the rabbit hole of pain, suffering, and outrage.  This seems especially true of late.  Does anyone else have this experience? 

 

At the end of the day, I guess it's what we choose to do with our access to technology that determines its true value as a resource.  With the current state of upheaval and crisis, I think we need to stay connected to each other and the rest of the world.  The real trick is how do to maintain that connection without sacrificing our mental health and while, also, trying to be helpful and proactive. 

I'm trying to stay minded and to be a good listener, but I wish there were more I could do.  I'm hoping more answers and paths of action become apparent soon.  And any suggestions are more than welcome!  All I do know is that disconnecting doesn't make any of these problems go away.  I also know I'll be offering prayers for patience, wisdom, and compassion to all our leaders.  There are a lot of difficult questions that need to be answered. 

"An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge." Proverbs 8:15

 

The Eyes of the World are upon You

6-6-20

For this past year's Memorial Day post, I used the below picture.  It was taken seven years ago on a Youth Group Servant Trip to Washington DC.  It shows the north side of the World War II Monument on the National Mall.  The mirrored version of this picture was at my back when I took it, the only difference was that the arch behind me represented the "Pacific."  There are several inscriptions found on the walls, but the one that resonates with me today reads as follows:

D-DAY JUNE 6, 1944

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade toward which we have striven these many months.  The eyes of the world are upon you... 

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. 

General Dwight D. Eisenhower

I can remember standing in the dark on that hot July night and looking at the gold light that brightened the fountain, wreathes, and archways.  It was hard to not be awed by the sight.  I even remember stopping and reading the above inscription. 

The eyes of the world are upon you...

Of my three grandfathers, they all fought in World War II, but one was on the beach in Normandy on D-Day.  He never spoke to me about it.  In fact, none of them talked to me about their service.  From knowing other WWII Vets growing up (some of whom were members at Bethany), that wasn't unusual.  While D-Day would become known as the point in WWII when the fighting turned in favor of the Allied Forces, it was also one of the bloodiest single days in the war's history.  By the evening on June 6, 1944, there would be over 10,000 Allied soldiers wounded, lost, or killed. 

 

It must have been terrifying.  I can't begin to imagine the horrors those men and women witnessed that day.  Plus, the pressure must have been overwhelming, knowing that failure was not an option if they were to stop the Axis Powers. 

The eyes of the world are upon you...

There are many things I could say about the sacrifices that were made for our country that day.  Instead, I'll ask that we all take a moment to offer a grateful prayer to honor those who were there.  A prayer to honor the soldiers, their families, and the peace that, eventually, prevailed in that war. 

 

I'll end with another inscription, this one found on the west wall of the monument:

The heroism of our own troops...was matched by that of the armed forces of the nations that fought by our side...they absorbed the blows...and they shared to the full in the ultimate destruction of the enemy. 

Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid.  They have earned our undying gratitude.  America will never forget their sacrifices.

President Harry S Truman

 

 

Trinity Sunday

6/7/20

Good morning and happy Sunday!  Below, please find today's service.  Also, please find the Gospel reading for this week which was omitted from the video due to a tech glitch.  Please enjoy and have a great day!

Matthew 28: 16-20

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

A Walk in the Woods

6/8/20

As many of you may know from reading this page, I take my four-year-old on "daily adventures."  Sometimes we walk, ride scooters, or (attempt) to ride our bikes around our little town.  One of our favorite adventures takes us on a journey through the "magical woods."  These magical woods comprises of a walking trail through a wooded area behind our local elementary school. 

On Thursday (while our power was still out), we went on one such adventure and I felt like I had to share it.  The walkways are maintained by a handful of volunteers but are just dirt paths that wind through woods.  Over the years, someone planted Mountain Laurel that has grown into huge towering bushes and these bushes are in bloom right now, lining each side of the walkway.  Right now, they created the most beautiful, fragrant wonderland.

As Luke and I meandered down different paths, I couldn't help but think of "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.  I'm including that poem below.  On a personal level, I find that "getting lost in the woods" is an excellent way to clear my head and enjoy nature. If anyone feels so inclined, I highly recommend it!  I hope you all have some calm, grounding moments today!

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Willing to Learn

6/10/20

For those of you who may not know, my father is a retired History teacher.  In fact, he taught middle schoolers American History for 34 years at his childhood alma mater.  At one point, he was able to name every major officer and general in the Revolutionary War.  Even now, after being retired for 17 years, he is still a fount of random historical knowledge.  I actually joked for years that if I even went on a trivia show like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" or "Jeopardy," my Dad would be my lifeline and prep coach (for the record: he still would be today). 

So, it makes sense that I blame him for many of the details and people I can recall from history class.  One such person is Benjamin Franklin.  As a 2nd grader, I can recall "writing" what can only be described as an "epic biography" about the man, only to be outdone four years later by a "performance" I did, as himself Ben Franklin, for my 6th grade Reading class, complete with a bald cap and costume spectacles.  It, too, was epic. 

So, what brings this up?

On this day in 1752, Ben Franklin performed his famous "kite experiment," in which he flew a kite during a thunderstorm and "collected an ambient electrical charge in a Leyden jar."  Over the course of his lifetime, Franklin conducted many experiments and several major inventions, but the "kite experiment" may be one of the most famous.  It proved that lightning and electricity were undoubtedly connected and, eventually, led Franklin to the identification of what we know as lightning rods.  It also helped determine the difference between positive and negative electrical charges. 

Very cool stuff.  While I am the farthest thing from an electrician, I'm a big fan of electricity.  Trust me, as someone who spent several recent days without power, Ben Franklin has a newfound level of appreciation in my house.  Such an experiment is even more remarkable when you consider the time period. 

 

In the mid-1700s, America was a very different place.  In fact, "America" wasn't really a "place" at all.  It was 13 English colonies, that operated under the rule of King George II.  Any and all "science" or "discoveries" that were studied or performed had to be approved by the ruler at the time.  Since it was "unsanctioned," Franklin's experiment was seen as "insubordinate" by the King and the royal subsidiaries. 

 

Despite the King's rebuke, Franklin's desire for knowledge and willingness to test boundaries would only grow, leading to many well-known inventions and discoveries, many of which we still benefit from today.  In fact, I'd wager that persistence is what made him, perhaps, the most easily recognized of the Founding Fathers.  Even, when he was confronted, derided, or threatened, he wouldn't quiet his desire to know more. 

 

Something about Franklin's willingness to challenge information and rules spoke to me as a child.  Maybe that's because I grew up the total opposite of that.  As a life long "rule follower," I think that desire is fascinating, even inspirational on some levels.  I think it also creates an obvious pattern.  Think about it, how often is someone who 'thinks outside the box' called insubordinate or rebellious?  And how often were those words applied to someone we now study in history class?  Such adjectives might even be applied to people we admire today. 

In an ironic twist of fate, twenty years after the event itself, the "insubordination" of the kite experiment would become a metaphor for the rebellion of the colonies and the coming Revolutionary War, an event that, literally, created our country.  America would become the "greatest experiment."  An "experiment" that would see great victories and successes, as well as great failures and tragedies, but an experiment that was always gathering new knowledge and evolving. 

 

Always one to turn a phrase, Benjamin Franklin once said, "Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”  I hope I'm always willing to learn and I'm as persistent about it as Franklin was.  There are always ways to improve, even if it's just in small ways. 

A Thursday Giggle

6/11/20

Make today a Loving day

6/12/20

As some of you know from my post a few days ago, I like to learn about history.  There are several sites that I subscribe to, one of which is the "On This Day"  site.  As you may guess, each day, this website provides a detailed list of events that occurred on that particular date throughout history.  Very often, I like to look through the events to see if I can find something positive to share. 

Ironically, today is apparently not a really historically happy day.  The first event that popped up was the Peasant's Revolt, or "Great Uprising," against the Poll Tax in 1381 England (spoiler alert: it did not end well for the Peasants).  Another item I noticed was that today was the day Gregory Peck died (he was an actor who famously played Atticus Finch in the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird, for those of you who don't know).  Yet another item that popped up was the 1964 conviction and imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, who would serve 27 years of a life sentence before being released.  There are also countless other occurrences of arrests, "insurrections," "defeats," battles, and murders that come up. 

A little discouraged, I checked a second site and didn't fare much better.  In fact, the first few items to come up were actually, in my opinion, far worse.  In addition to the above items, was the 1963 assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evans by a white supremacist, the latter of whom wouldn't be convicted for his crime until the case was reopened in 1994.  The other item that caught my attention was the 2016 massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in which 49 people were murdered and many others were injured by a man claiming allegiance to ISIS.   

Believe it or not, there was more, but for the sake of our collective mental health, I won't get into the details of the rest.  It was starting to look like June 12 was just another morbid reminder of how troubled our world was and, unfortunately, still is.  Getting desperate now (and in an attempt to find anything redeeming about today), I googled the date outright.  I realize the necessity to recall the terrible and tragic occurrences of history, but there had to be some good stuff, too.  Right? 

After some digging, here's what I came up with on the positive spectrum:

-Ronald Reagan gave his famous "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" speech, appealing for German peace through the removal of the Berlin Wall (which would come down 2 years later) and believed to have led to renewed negotiations with the Soviets over nuclear arms. 

-Raiders of the Lost Ark premiered in 1981 (easily one of my father's favorite movies)

-Anne Frank was born on this date in 1929.  This is made more noteworthy by a gift she received on this date in 1942 (her 13th birthday), a gift that she would take with her just one month later when her family was forced into hiding and would posthumously make her famous: a new diary. 

Finally, I found a "scroll too quick and you miss it" footnote that mentioned a Supreme Court ruling in 1967 that unanimously abolished the laws against interracial marriage.  This rang familiar in my head and I looked up the event.  I immediately recognized the information that popped up and, I think, you might, too. 

 

The court case I mentioned above pertained to the Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Loving vs Virginia.  The case refers to Mildred and Richard Loving (a black woman and white man) who married in Washington DC in 1958, only to be arrested a few weeks later upon their return to their hometown near Richmond, VA.  According to Wikipedia, "they were jailed on charges of unlawful cohabitation and offered a choice: either continue to serve jail time or leave Virginia for 25 years." The Lovings chose to leave Virginia, moved to DC, and immediately started trying to find a way to change the law.  Those attempts resulted in the 1967 ruling. 

 

Also according to Wikipedia, June 12 is a "day of celebration" which "seeks both to commemorate and celebrate the Supreme Court's 1967 ruling, keeping its importance fresh in the minds of a generation which has grown up with interracial relationships being legal, as well as explore issues facing couples currently in interracial relationships."

Today, June 12th, is Loving Day. Loving Day, so named after the defendants in the case.  It's recognized as a holiday in Washington DC and parts of Virginia.  

How beautiful.  And how ironic, especially considering the above list of events!  With a title like, "Loving Day," it seems like one of the best ways to look beyond and help heal the past ugliness and tragedy of June 12th.  In my opinion, Loving Day should be one of the first things mentioned when speaking about today's historical events.  While its probably due to some kind of algorithm, I find it strange that it wasn't. 

 

In fact, the Lovings weren't even mentioned.  The footnote I read said "1967 US Supreme Court unanimously ends laws against interracial marriages" and that just happened to spark something in my under-caffeinated brain that made me google it separately.  Considering it is recognized as a holiday, you would think it would be given a higher priority, or even a mention by name, on the list of events. 

And yet, today IS Loving Day.  How easy would it be to assume that Loving Day was so named after the act of loving?  An act that triumphed adversity and biased laws.  A true, selfless, compassionate act that might not supersede the many horrors, hardships, and heartbreaks in history, but can certainly inspire a world that can move past them and start to heal. 

In honor of the Lovings, I think I'm going to start telling people, "I hope you have a 'loving' day."  The intention being, not just to remember the remarkable couple that successfully challenged marital bias and oppression, but that we should care for and love each other regardless of differences and adversity.  We should love each other as much as the creator who gave us "life." 

 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

Have a Loving Day, everyone.

6/13/20

3 Months Ago...

Well, my friends, it has been a few days since the Stay-at-Home Order has been lifted.  Welcome back to the world.  Does anyone else feel a little strange?  It's truly odd to pick up where we left off, as its been three months since this started. 

 

Three months.  That's wild. 

Three months ago, on Friday, March 13, I was preparing to start our tech week for my middle school production of The Lion King Jr.  Saturday, March 14 would have been our first day performing with lights and microphones.  Sunday, March 15 would have been our cue to cue tech rehearsal where we planned to run every scene slowly, stopping and starting to make sure everything was correctly set. 

Beginning Monday, March 16, we were going to start adding the actor's costumes to the show, followed by makeup on March 17, and our full dress rehearsal on March 18.  We were going to open Friday, March 20, perform a matinee and an evening show on March 21, and close on Sunday, March 22.  There was going to be a cast party after our final show and a little "farewell" for our 8th-grade students who will be going off to various high schools next year. 

That was supposed to happen.  Then it didn't. 

Emerging from our Quarantine 3 months later, there's no way to regain that time for these children.  Instead, we're trying to put together a farewell for our 8th graders so that they have the moment they didn't get after our show (that didn't happen) three months ago.  I'm trying my best to tell them not to worry, that there are so many wonderful things ahead for them, but I know many of them are still disappointed.  How can they not be?

Still, because all of the main work was done, I still feel like the show happened, in some ways.  Really, it feels like I lived in two parallel worlds, one where we got to perform our production and live our lives in a COVID-19-less world.  The other world, aka the real world, is where I was safely sequestered at home with my family.  But you know what?  I'm ok with the way things turned out.  I'm sorry the kids didn't get their moment to shine, but they're all safe.  I'm safe.  We're all safe. 

And that was the point. 

 

COVID-19 is not "over" even though the Stay-at-Home Order is lifted.  Still, I sincerely hope that we'll find a way to organize some kind of performance for my students as more restrictions begin to relax.  If we don't, that's ok, too.  It's ok because they're all ok.  If once all restrictions are removed and a vaccine is found, we're all still healthy and ok then, in my opinion, all of this is worth it. 

Welcome back to the world, Everyone!  Stay safe!

2nd Sunday After Pentecost

6/14/20

Good Sunday Morning!  Please find the video for our service below.  You are also welcomed to join us for our Sunday morning Brunch with Bethany at 10:30 this morning!  If you haven't already, please click the white button at the top of this page or check your provided email for the Zoom link!  Have a wonderful week!

There can be Miracles

6/15/20

When I was little, I thought it was strange that very few major movies at the time featured stories I learned in Sunday School, especially animated movies.  There were movies about talking animals, princesses, historical figures, but very few (if any) by a major animation studio. 

 

When The Prince of Egypt came out, I was in high school and I remember being blown away by the music.  Since then, Stephen Schwartz' (the composer & lyricist) songs have become some of my favorites.  A shortlist of his works, in addition to The Prince of Egypt, include the musical Godspell, Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame & Pocahontas, and a little musical called Wicked. 

Still, there's something about The Prince of Egypt that is very special to me.  Honestly, I just have to hear the opening notes of "When You Believe" and I start to get emotional.  By the time the key change happens, I'm bawling.  Not just once in a while.  Every time I hear it.  Every.  Time.   

 

The below recording is from earlier this year.  It was meant to promote the West End premiere of the new, musical version of The Prince of Egypt, which preimered in February 2020 to rave reviews.  Obviously, the run has been postponed, but this music needs to be heard.  If you have a moment today, give it a listen.  You won't be disappointed. 

Pomp and Circumstance

6/16/20

Its graduation season! Through the years, I've sat through many assorted graduations, not including my own.  From Daisy "Bridging" Ceremonies and Pre-School Promotions, to High School and College Graduations, other than waiting for the reading of the person's name that you came to see, the speeches are the most important part of a commencement ceremony.  Below, I've compiled a few random, but meaningful speeches.  Regardless if you last marched to Pomp and Circumstance a little while ago, more than "a little while ago," or if you just graduated this week, these are worth a listen. 

You may recognize some of the speakers below and you may not.  These speeches come from very different people, of different backgrounds, but they all provide motivation to the students and families who attended them.  I think we can draw inspiration from them, too.  I hope you are able to take the time to listen to these and enjoy them!

​​

"If you think it's hard to change the lives of 10 people, change their lives forever, you're wrong."  Admiral William H. McRaven, University of Texas May 17, 2014

"As you graduate, as you deal with your excitement and your doubts today, I urge you to try and create the world you want to live in."  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Wellesley College, 2015

"Life is an improvisation."  Stephen Cobert, Northwestern University June 17, 2011

A thought for today

6/19/20

"Dad" Jokes

6/20/20

With tomorrow being Father's Day, I thought a few Dad jokes would be in order.  For everyone who loves a good (bad?) Dad joke: you're welcome.  For everyone else:  you're welcome, too. 

 

Did you hear about the guy who created Lifesavers?

They say he made a mint!

A turkey sandwich walks into a bar and orders a cocktail.  The Bartender says:  we don't serve food here. 

How do you make holy water? 

You boil the hell out of it!

A conversation with Dad:

Little Timmy: Bye, Dad!  I'm going to choir practice!

Dad: Ok!  Don't forget your bucket!

Little Timmy:  My bucket?

Dad: To carry the tune!

Little Timmy: ...

How does a penguin build its house?

Igloos it together!

Imagine if FedEx and UPS were to merge together?

Then they'd be FED-UP, too!

And a favorite in my family: 

How do you make a tissue dance?

Put a little boogie in it!

To all the Dad's:  I hope you Father's Day is better than these jokes! 

3rd Sunday after Pentecost

6/21/20

Good morning and happy Father's Day!  Please find our Sunday service below.  If you would like to join our Brunch with Bethany Zoom call today at 10:30 and haven't joined before, please click the white button at the top of this page and submit your email.  I hope you enjoy our service and have a wonderful Sunday!

The best laid plans...

6/22/20

Some days, everything is planned perfectly.  We know how long we need for travel and what we need to bring with us.  We've estimated the outcome, we know what to expect, we think the plans are solidified.  And then, the dog tries to eat the groomer. 

For those of you that don't know, my eleven-year-old pup, Suki Monster, has anxiety.  You know, it's one of those things that I don't remember being an issue with my childhood dogs.  Not to mention the fact that weighing in at a whopping 16ibs, she's a shaggy, killer Shih Tzu.  Well, Suki Monster has anxiety and we had the audacity to take her to a new groomer which resulted in half a haircut. 

Ironically, the Pastor's message yesterday addresses this exact thing.  Stay positive and laugh.  As we heard in the reading about Abraham and Sarah, through God all things are possible. 

Even making this haircut look cute. 

Our next appointment is scheduled for July 7th, as of right now.  Stay tuned to see how things turn out. 

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT...

6/23/20

In case you missed it, there are exciting things in the works at Bethany!  As of right now, we are planning to REOPEN on Sunday, July 19, 2020!  The service will be at 9:30am, according to our summer schedule, and we will be taking every precaution to ensure a joyful, safe return to in-person worship.  Below, please find our official "Reopening Announcement!"

Dear Bethany Congregation,


I would guess many of you are wondering what is going on in and at our Church as I am sure you are anxiously waiting to hear of our reopening to start worship services following this Pandemic-forced break.


The interior of the Church, (Narthex, Sanctuary, and Chancel) have all been painted including the pews and all other furniture. The sound system is working and all of this is bright, shining, and beautiful.  The reopening committee has been working hard to assure that we are COVID 19 ready. Sanitation procedures are being put in place to make sure that you feel comfortable to attend if you choose.


Now the good news: the plan is to hold a Resurrection Sunday service at 9:30 on July 19. We will have everything in place by that time and another letter will be forthcoming before that date with procedures that will be needed in order for us to attend while remaining safe. There will be a restriction on attendance under the current guidelines from the Governor. We will only be able to accommodate 42 attendees. We hope that this changes before July 19, but in order to maintain a six-foot distance between individuals or families, some constraints will continue to apply.


We are working on streaming the service (ZOOM) or otherwise recording it as well so those that choose not to attend can participate from a distance.

Please save the date. We look forward to seeing you: July 19, 2020 at 9:30 AM.

Rick Dreby, Council President

Joan Kelly, Council Vice President

Pastor Jeff Van Orden

New hair, who dis?

6/24/20

For those of you keeping track at home, today was the day we got the call.  There was a cancellation and Suki was able to get "all of her hairs" cut.  As some of you saw a few days ago, our little Shih Tzu got 3/4 of her haircut because she wasn't comfortable with a new groomer (aka she terrorized the poor woman).  Now, with all the unrest and trauma in this world, it's absolutely silly to be concerned about something as benign as a dog's hair.  And, truly, we were very entertained by her half-shaved appearance, but in dealing with the resulting situation, it's also hard to argue with my dog's disgruntled nature. 

I'm not a huge fan of change either and, with the way this world is revolving, it feels like something changes every second.  I am constantly reminding myself to try and maintain the necessary social distance from those around me.  I hate that its summertime and most of my gigs and ALL of my summer camps are canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.  I do not enjoy wearing a mask everywhere I go.  I like, even less, trying to get my four-year-old son to wear one (which he did for the first time today, sort of) when he barely comprehends what a "virus" is, let alone what effect wearing a mask has on this particular virus.

Change is rough.

Unlike Suki, I haven't bitten anyone over the changes I dislike (yet), but I can understand wanting to snark or growl about them.  It'd be so easy to sit and complain about everything that's disappointing or inconvenient.  However, I think it's important to remember that these changes are necessary to create a safe environment, not just for myself, but for everyone around me.  And, personally, while I might be willing to take a risk myself, I don't want to risk someone else's safety.  I can deal with being mildly uncomfortable if it ensures the safety of others. 

So, today, Luke and I masked up and dropped Suki off at our usual groomer where she was "as sweet as pie."  Luke successfully wore his "superhero" mask for the first time (out of necessity) and Suki got an even haircut.  Now, if those two things hadn't occurred today, it wouldn't have changed much.  Today would still have happened, the world would continue to spin, and we'd still face a number of issues as a society.  Since those things did happen, I feel like I'm successfully trying to adjust to this "new normal."  At least. 

Who knows what information will be released tomorrow or what new precautions may emerge.  I just know that it's worth trying to create a safe environment.  Especially when it makes my "Super Kid" happy and my Shih Tzu look even. 

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

Knock, knock...

6/25/20

I enjoy a good joke.  There's something great about a sentence that can make people smile or laugh.  I find the science behind structuring sentences in order to make them optimally humorous fascinating.  Of course, some jokes are just plain dumb.  My four year old has recently learned about "how to tell a joke" from an episode of Sesame Street.  Now, I live with a little Johnny Carson.  Considering that we all need a "good laugh," here are a couple of jokes, brought to you by my Luke. 

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

Watermelon.

Watermelon who?

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

Watermelon.

Watermelon who?

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

Watermelon.

Watermelon who?

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

Orange.

Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn't say watermelon?

Why did the moon "cross" the sky?

To get to the other side!

What do you call a sleeping dinosaur?

A Dino-snore!

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

A little old lady.

A little old lady who?

Wow, I didn't know you could yodel!

Why did the cookie go to the doctor's?

Because it felt crummy!

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

Boo.

Boo who?

Don't cry!  It's only a joke!

Hope the image of my little goofball running through this "routine" made you smile!

Hymn Trivia

6/26/20

And now for something completely different, I'd like to try a little experiment!  I'd like to attempt a little "hymn trivia" with all of you.  Now, let me preface this by saying: no using Google!  That is absolutely cheating.  You may, however, use "the old fashioned Google," aka reaching out to friends or family to share or gain information through interaction with other people. 

Below, please find 5 clues about this week's "Mystery Hymn."  Again, if you think you know, but want more info, reach out to friends who may be knowledgable about hymns and see if they can help. 

-This hymn was a collaboration between two friends who attended the same church.

-Its lyrics were based on Philippians 1:21

-The music composer, who lived in NYC in the mid-1800s, had a pipe organ in her apartment

-The famous lyricist wrote over 8000 poems, hymns, and gospel songs in her lifetime. 

-The lyricist also happened to have been blind from childhood.

Again, Google is not allowed!  And for that matter, neither is any other actual search engine (aka Yahoo, Bing, etc). The answer will be posted tomorrow, so stay tuned!  When we have our "Brunch with Bethany" call on Sunday, we'll see how many people were able to guess the correct answer!

This is my song...

6/27/20

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for!  Who thinks they guessed correctly?  You get (purely imaginary) points if you did!

4th Sunday after Pentecost

6/28/20

Happy Sunday!  Below, you'll find our Sunday service!  I hope you enjoy it!  You're welcomed to join us for our 10:30 Brunch with Bethany gathering on Zoom.  If you'd like to join us, and haven't before, please click the white button at the top of this page and submit your email address.  

We are planning to resume in person worship on Sunday, July 19th, so please check back to this site to see any updates!  

Broken Shells

7/2/20

I got to spend a few days visiting the shore this week.  As I've mentioned before, something about being near the ocean makes me feel more spiritual and this visit was no exception.  Luke and I would wait and go down to the beach later in the day, in order to be sure it wasn't too crowded.  Both times we went, we had most of the beach to ourselves. 

 

It was a spectacularly beautiful day and I managed to get a few pictures while trying to keep up with Luke, who was the picture of pure joy.  He galloped across the sand and was completely enamored with the clouds and "finding" seashells.  

 

 

It was a wonderful, all too short day.  I found this little excerpt below while foraging the internet for "beach themed devotionals."  It's taken from My Beautiful Broken Shell by Carol Hamblet Adams.  I think it feels very relevant right now.

 

Broken shells are shells that have been tested...

and tried...

and hurt...

yet they don't quit. 

They continue to be.

Hymn Trivia

7/3/20

Today, I have a "4th of July"edition of Hymn Trivia.  Below you'll find 5 clues for a familiar hymn.  Without using Google, see if you can guess which hymn it is!  The answer will be revealed tomorrow!

-The lyrics for this famous song started off as a poem, written in 1895 by a woman named Katharine Bates

-An English Professor at Wellesley College, Ms. Bates created the poem after teaching a summer course that required her to travel through the midwest to Colorado.

-The poem was published to celebrate the 4th of July, 1895, and had become so popular by 1904 that over 70 different tunes were suggested to turn the poem into a song

-The tune we recognize today was written as a hymn by Samuel Ward after a trip to Coney Island in 1882.

-Mr. Ward died in 1903 without ever knowing how popular his tune would become. 

 

Check back tomorrow to see if you got the answer correct!  Remember: no Google!

God shed his grace on thee

7/4/20

Think you guessed correctly?  Below, you'll find one of my favorite versions of this song by one of my favorite performers.  The hymn has been combined with another song from a musical called Ragtime.  I hope you enjoy it and have a wonderful 4th of July!

5th Sunday After Pentecost

7/5/20

Good morning!  Please find our service for July 5th below!  If you'd like, please join us for our 10:30 Brunch with Bethany on Zoom!  If you're new to our "brunch," please click the white button at the top of this page and submit your email address.  Our secretary will then send you and email with all the necessary information.  

Enjoy our service and have a wonderful week!

An abundance of caution

7/9/20

There was a meeting of the "Reopening Committee" yesterday.  As I'm sure many of you now know, we will be pushing back Bethany's reopening until Sunday, August 2nd at 9:30.  It was not an easy decision to make, but with the updates and concerns in the news, we thought it was best to err on the side of caution. 

I know I speak for Bethany's Council & Reopening Committee when I say that, regardless of when we reopen, I hope you rejoin us when you feel safe to do so.  The goal of the Reopening Committee is to keep everyone safe and informed.  We hope that you all continue to join our Brunch with Bethany on Zoom and enjoy our online services until we are officially reopened.  Until then, be kind, stay safe, and may God hold you in the palm of his hand. 

Hymn Trivia

7/10/20

Hello all!  Today, we have another hymn to guess.  Our hymn this week is an old "favorite," that most of you will recognize.  Please read the clues carefully and do your best to refrain from using Google!

-This hymn was written in 1912 by a man named George Bennard.

-A Methodist evangelist, Mr. Bennard started writing the words after he was "shamed" at a revival meeting, as a reminder to himself to "cling" to the cross in challenging times.

-This song has been sung and recorded by artists that include: Andy Griffith, Ella Fitzgerald, Will Nelson, and Brad Paisley

-This song was featured in an episode of Dr. Who called "Gridiron."

 

-Mr. Bennard claimed that John 3:16 served as an inspiration for the words to this hymn

Alright, everyone!  Feel free to talk to friends and family for help, but please refrain from using Google!  Best of luck to everyone and check back here tomorrow for the answer!

Til my trophies, at last, I lay down

7/11/20

On a personal note, today's mystery hymn was my "Pop" Cheney's favorite hymn.  My Grandmother Cheney used to tell me that he was a singer, but I was only 12 when he passed and I don't have any memories of him singing.  That said, I do have a vague memory of sitting with them during a church service when this hymn was sung by the choir.  Pop mouthed all the words from memory.  It was also the closing hymn at his funeral. 

As I've mentioned before on this page, I think music can be connected to our subconscious, bringing up memories we associate with certain songs.  Obviously, that is true for me in this situation.  Maybe this hymn does that for you, too. 

I hope you enjoy it.

The 6th Sunday after Pentecost

7/12/20

Good morning!  I hope this finds you well!  Please find the video for our service below!  If you have not joined us for our Brunch with Bethany on Zoom, but would like to, please submit you email by clicking the white button at the top of this page.  Hope to see you there!

To be loved...

7/16/20

As Children of God, there are certain things we anticipate in our lives.  We anticipate forgiveness for our sins.  We anticipate trying to always "do the right thing," and live a life that follows Jesus' example.  In the Bible, we are told that "our Father's house has many rooms" with the unspoken promise that one of those rooms will be waiting for us after this life has ended.  We are offered unconditional love and we anticipate feeling safe in that love.

It sounds so easy.

Its sometimes hard to remember those promises, especially in our current world.  Every second, it seems, some new trauma or crisis arises and demands our immediate attention and concern.  I know I've talked about fear and concern on this page in the past, and I can only speak for myself, but it doesn't seem to be getting better, does it?  If anything, it feels like we're more separated from each other than ever before. 

And it can be such an awful feeling: being alone. 

When my son was a baby, he hated going into the crib.  I say "going into the crib" because I'm pretty sure he never slept in it.  Ever.  One of us would rock him to sleep, but the instant he touched the crib bedding, he would wail.  And wail.  And hyperventilate.  And turn blue until one of us picked him up, at which point he'd stop. 

 

Confident in a way that only first-time parents could be, we were determined to get him to "sleep properly."  Our child was going to sleep in his crib.  We tried every "method" and "program" available.  We bought "sleep soothers" and white noise machines to recreate the sound of a heartbeat from when he was "still cooking."  Then we tried complete silence.  We had light-up toys, nightlights, and projectors so he wouldn't be alone in the dark.  We also had blackout curtains so that it wouldn't be too bright. 

We tried a bunch of "Sleep Training" methods, too.  We tried the Express Sleep Training Program and the Ferber Method.  We tried letting him "self soothe" (haha).  We even tried the Chair Method.  That was fun.  That's where you sit next to the crib in a chair every night and move the chair farther and farther away each evening.  I never got out of reach.  Luke wouldn't let me.  In fact, I nearly gave myself a concussion one night by falling out of the said chair while leaning on the crib at 3am after I started to doze off.  That time, I was totally responsible for waking up the baby. 

It was pretty awful.  It got to the point where we all cried at bedtime.  After almost four months, with no progress, I made the executive decision and gave up.  I'd scoop Luke up and go sleep in the recliner downstairs where I could snuggle in, build a little cocoon, and he couldn't roll off of me.  I know its a major safety concern and its frowned upon by every child expert, but guess what?  We all slept.  Finally.  After four months

I remember later reading an article about co-sleeping and, while it wouldn't have been our first choice, it made some really good points.  For nine months, a fetus grows in the womb.  After birth, many OBGYNs recommend "skin on skin contact," to help soothe the transition from womb to world.  Then, for the first few months of their existence, babies are still "attached" to a parent or loved one by way of sling or backpack or just by being held.  They are constantly surrounded (literally) by love, until its time to go in the crib.

According to that article, its the feeling of "suddenly being alone" that can make a baby inconsolable.  In some studies, it is believed that this can create a sense of "otherness" in a child's psyche, otherwise known as a feeling of "not belonging." Suddenly isolating a baby from the warmth of their parent's arms when they don't want to be separated from those they love does sound traumatic, doesn't it?  My baby didn't want to feel isolated from the people who loved him.  I know it made an impression on me and it was something I'd never really considered with all the other "sleep methods and programs" we'd tried.  I guess its all about perspective.   

Its been three years since we tried sleep training and gave it up.  After all those months of sleep deprivation and feeling like I was torturing my family, Luke goes to sleep on his own in his "big boy" bed without any issues.  Despite our failure with sleep training, he still figured it out on his own as he got older.  He knows that sleeping apart from us doesn't mean we're abandoning him or he's being "sent away" or punished.  Its just bedtime.  On occasion, Luke will still crawl into bed with us in the middle of the night.  So far, we haven't discovered any major downfalls, other than the occasional little knee to an adult rib. 

 

Most importantly, I know Luke feels secure in the love we have for him.  I see it daily in his happy energy and confidence.  He trusts it so implicitly, that I still have to remind myself sometimes that he's really here and he's really mine.  Its such an incredible thing to witness and, oh, to have the confidence and joy of a four-year-old!

And you know what?  The dark can be scary.  Being alone can be scary.  The world right now is extremely scary.  But, it doesn't have to be.  We can choose how we want to address the issues and problems that plague our world. Even when it feels like we can't make a difference, if we all took small steps, imagine what a difference it would make.  And, if we can only do one thing to try and create a better world, I challenge all of you to love one another. 

Seriously.

Love one another and mean it.  Look beyond all the things that "society" has tried to teach us are concerns or problems and love each other like children love one another.  I have never witnessed a greater joy than that of a child playing.  A small child doesn't understand or know what makes someone "different."  They don't care about your religion or sexual orientation.  They don't want to know why someone has a different skin color or dresses in clothes they don't recognize or what political leanings someone has.

They care that you're "here."  That you've "come to play."  They care that you've come to spend time with them.  A child's whole world revolves around enjoying the immediate world around them.  And loving.  A child's love is one of the most beautiful, pure things in the world today.  I mean, no wonder they're so joyous!

As Children of God, think of what our lives could be if we loved each other like children.  If everyone was included equally.  If no one felt "separated" or "isolated" from one another.  How many problems would be solved?  How many new things would we learn about each other?  How many hearts would be mended?  If we lived our lives to love.  I'd venture that we all might get what we really want in the world. 

To be loved.

Hymn Trivia

7/17/20

Hello All!  Once again, we have another traditional favorite for you to guess this week!  Below, please find your clues!  As always, do your best to avoid Googling the answer! 

-This song began as a poem, written by Thomas O. Chisholm in 1923

-Mr. Chisholm sent his poem to Kansas where a man named William Runyan created the tune we know today

-Born in Kentucky, Mr. Chisholm moved often and eventually settled in Vineland, NJ in 1916 where he sold insurance until his retirement in 1953

-Inspired by The Book of Lamentations, 3:23, the lyrics of this song gained popularity after it was used for Billy Graham's international crusades

-It is also the official hymn of Cairn University in Langhorne, PA

Do you think you know what this hymn is?  Remember, its more fun if you don't use Google.  Plus, most of the clues really help!  Check back tomorrow to see if you guessed the song correctly!

7/18/20

Bright hope for tomorrow

I love the words of this hymn.  Personally, I think these lyrics are especially relevant in our current society. "Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow."  Certainly, a prayer for all of us.  Listen below and see if you guessed correctly!

7th Sunday after Penetcost

7/19/20

Good morning!  Below, please find the service for today.  If you would like to join us for our Sunday Brunch with Bethany Zoom call, please submit your email address by clicking the white button above.  Don't forget, we hope to return to an "in person service" on Sunday, August 2nd at 9:30 at Bethany.  We hope to "see" you soon!

Christmas in July!

7/22/20

Who needs something wonderful to happen right now?  I've decided that we all need a reason to celebrate, so my household is going to be enjoying a little "Christmas in July" celebration this week. 

We're going to try and do little helpful things for each other and celebrate on Friday, aka "Christmas Eve in July" with some socially distanced family time outside. 

My week will culminate with a little Christmas celebration on Saturday, July 25, complete with a BBQ Christmas dinner.  If you feel so inclined to "join me," please post pictures of your "Christmas in July" celebration to our Facebook page, by clicking                .  Even though we can't celebrate together, it'll be a nice way to share our day with each other and to remember the ultimate Christmas gift.

Hymn Trivia

7/24/20

Hello and happy Friday!  Coincidently, today also happens to be "Christmas in July Eve," so we have a special Christmas inspired hymn for you to guess.  This is an unusual hymn, in that its not one of the more "mainstream" Christmas songs.  That said, I think you will all recognize it when you hear it!

-First published in January 1872, this song was originally a poem entitled "A Christmas Carol."

-It was written by an English poet by the name of Christina Rosetti

-Envisioning what Jesus' birth in Bethlehem must have been like, Ms. Rosetti imagined the Christ child being worshipped by "angels and archangels" and by his mother "with a kiss."

-There are several iterations of the tune, but the most commonly known one is by a man named Gustav Holst and was published in 1906.

-Dame Julie Andrews recorded one of the most famous versions of this song.

Do you think you can guess?  Feel free to ask friends and family for help!  Remember no cheating and using the internet!  And wishing you all a merry "Christmas in July Eve!"

We Need a Little Christmas

7/25/20

As Auntie Mame famously said, " we need a little Christmas."  I think that sentiment is especially true this year.  I've never really "celebrated" Christmas in July before, but this may become a new tradition.  It seems like an excellent opportunity to keep the spirit and joy of the holiday season and sharing it today when it is so desperately needed. 

Today's mystery hymn is not one of the more upbeat or wildly popular Christmas songs, but the perspective is what attracts me.  It is written as an unnamed observer who is "seeing" the first Christmas day.  Of course, it feels extremely Victorian in the description of the "snow on snow" and the very first line that states, "in the bleak mid-winter." 

 

Obviously, we know that Bethlehem, being in the Middle East, doesn't get a lot of snow or much of a "winter" as we know it.  Despite that, the feeling of vicariously "observing" this scene is what is interesting to me.  The joy discovered in the last line is what made me choose this song.  The last verse is spent lamenting "what can I give" the Christ child, "poor as I am."  The realization in that very last line is what I walk away with. 

I hope we're all reminded that a simple "gift of love" is all it takes to have hope and joy in our lives, as well as to truly keep the "spirit of Christmas" all year long.  Enjoy.

8th Sunday after Pentecost

7/26/20

Good morning!  Below, please find our service for this Sunday.  Our Brunch with Bethany will happen at 10:30am and you're welcomed to join our Zoom call by clicking the white button on the left hand side at the top of this page and submitting your email address.  As of now, tomorrow will be our last Brunch with Bethany Zoom call for the immediate future.  

 

Next week, Sunday, August 2nd, we will have our first Sunday back at Bethany for an in-person service.  The service will begin at 9:30 and will follow all recommended social distancing guidelines.  Please check your mail and email this week for your official invitation with all the information about our return to Bethany.  Be sure to grab your mask and come early to see our "new" sanctuary!

 

On a side note, we will continue to have videos posted on this page each Sunday morning.  Whether you decide to join us in person or on this page, we hope to continue to spend Sundays with you!  Have a wonderful week and enjoy the below service.  

Perspective is important

7/29/20

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth."

Colossians 3:2

Hymn Trivia

7/31/20

This is the week!  This Sunday, August 2 at 9:30, we'll be attending our first in-person gathering since March.  Because our Easter service was online due to COVID 19 concerns, this Sunday will be our "Resurrection Sunday" celebration.  Please grab your mask and meet us there!

In honor of Resurrection Sunday, we have an Easter themed hymn for our trivia this week.  Good luck and remember: no cheating!

-This hymn dates back to the 1770s

-It was written for an Easter Sunday service by an Englishman named Samuel Medley

-Mr. Medley served in the Royal Navy and later became a Baptist minister

-There are various tunes that accompany Mr. Medley's words, but this version was composed by Lewis D. Edwards in the early 1900s. 

-The words are directly inspired by Job 19:25

Think you know it?  Check back tomorrow and see if you're right!

8/1/20

Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives

Do you think you guessed it?  This tune is one of several that can be applied to these lyrics, but I thought it was perfect for Resurrection Sunday. 

Check back here tomorrow afternoon for a post of our first in-person service at Bethany since March.  If you decide to join us at Bethany, please bring your mask and arrive early!  Continue checking this page for videos of our services at Bethany! 

I hope you enjoy!

Resurrection Sunday

8/2/20

Good afternoon and happy Resurrection Sunday!  Today was our first Sunday back at Bethany since March!  It was wonderful to finally reveal our newly painted sanctuary and all the work that has been done over the last few months. 

A big "thank you" to everyone who put time and effort into "refreshing" and "renewing" our little church, especially Bill Isard and his team for the countless hours of research and work.  Also, thank you to our wonderful Altar Guild who took every precaution to ensure a sterilized, safe environment for all of us, as well as our Council & Reopening Committee for their guidance.  Personally, I'd like to, also, say thank you to Pastor Jeff Van Orden, Jonathan Clifton, and our organist, Debbie Schoen, for the last 4 months of recordings they were kind enough to do from their homes. 

Moving forward, we will no longer be holding our Sunday morning "Brunch with Bethany" Zoom calls since services are "back in session."  For the duration of the summer, we will be operating on our "summertime schedule" with Sunday services being held at 9:30am.  You will be able to find a recording of the Sunday morning service posted to this site every Sunday afternoon. 

Thank you for sharing your Sundays with us for the last four months.  We hope to continue to see you "here!"  Have a blessed week. 

He is Risen.  He has Risen Indeed.

Hymn Trivia

8/7/20

Happy Friday!  We have another hymn for you to guess today!  This is a VERY familiar song and I think many of you will guess it, based on the clues! 

-Written in 1763, this hymn is regarded as one of the Four Great Anglican Hymns according to The History and Use of Hymns and Hymn-Tunes by Rev David Breed

-The lyrics were written by Rev Augustus Toplady and were inspired when, after a being caught in a sudden storm, Rev Toplady had to seek a shelter

-The English location that is believed to be Rev Toplady's shelter is a marked tourist attraction today

-There are several tunes that can be used for this song, but the one we are most familiar with in America was written by Thomas Hastings and is, appropriately, named "Toplady"

-This song has been used in several movies, usually in "funeral scenes," such as Silence of the Lambs, How the West Was Won, Paper Moon, and The Gunslinger. 

There you have it, Ladies and Gentlemen!  Best of luck and remember: no cheating!

Let me hide myself in thee

8/8/20

Good morning!  Who thinks they guessed correctly?  As I mentioned in the clues, the "refuge" in this song can be visited in England (in a non-COVID time) and is a treasured landmark by many Christians. My congratulations to those who guessed and I hope you enjoy!

10th Sunday After Pentecost

8/9/20

Good afternoon!  Below, please find this week's service!  This version is not edited due to a technical glitch, but it is the service in full.  

*Please note:  Next week, August 16th, our service will be entirely VIRTUAL.  Jonathan will be leading the online service as Pastor Jeff will be on vacation.*  

Enjoy and have a wonderful week!

What if...

8/12/20

Hymn Trivia

8/14/20

We have another hymn for you to guess this week!  This was inspired by Jonathan's sermon for this week and I know it's one many of you will recognize. 
 

-This hymn was written by Friar Peter Scholtes in the 1960s

-Living in Chicago, Friar Scholtes wrote this song to appeal to the youth choir he led at his church

-Friar Scholtes wanted to create a song that kept people from feeling "disillusioned" by the social unrest of the late '60s.

-The theme of "unity" features heavily in the lyrics, especially the idea that "we will work with each other" and "guard" the dignity and pride of one another.

-The lyrics to this song are based on John 13:35

Remember, no using the internet for help (although a Bible might be helpful)!  Best of luck and check back here tomorrow to see if you guessed correctly!

REMINDER: we will NOT be worshipping in person this week!  Our service will be posted on this page and on YouTube. 

We will walk with each other

8/15/20

Who thinks they guessed correctly?  As when this song was written, the current social unrest in our country makes this song feel especially relevant.  May we all take its message to heart and show our Christian love everyday.

11th Sunday After Pentecost

8/16/20

Good morning!  Below, please find our service for this week.  As mentioned before, there is no "in-person" service this week, but services in our sanctuary will resume next week, August 23rd at 9:30am.   

As always, thank you for joining us for worship, whenever you watch, and we hope you have a wonderful week!

A moment for prayer

8/20/20

Hymn Trivia

8/21/20

This week, we have a hymn that I’ll bet every one of you knows.  I’m pretty sure I learned it in Kindergarten and I’m pretty sure Luke will learn it when he reaches Kindergarten next year.  Read the clues carefully and feel free to use your Bible for help!

 

-This folk song was written and composed by a man named Harry Dixon Loes in the 1920s

-It has been recorded in various renditions by artists like Bettie Mae Fikes, Ray Charles, & The Everly Brothers

-It was heavily featured in the movie Corrina, Corrina  with Whoopi Goldberg and Ray Liotta and was memorably performed on the September 17, 2001 episode of The Tonight Show with David Letterman by the Harlem Boys Choir (the first show to be recorded after 9/11)

-This song has found its way through history, starting at the Moody Bible Institute, to the Civil Rights Movement, and from Gospel recordings from yesterday to elementary choir rooms of today. 

-The lyrics are inspired by Matthew 5: 14-16

 

I think this will be an easy one to guess, regardless it certainly "shines" as a well-known song.  Best of luck in your guessing and check back here tomorrow for the answer!

Let it shine!

8/22/20

I love this song.  Who guessed right?  I hope this spiritual makes you smile.  I know I can't hear it without wanting to bounce along. 

See you tomorrow when we resume our in-person service at Bethany and keep an eye out here for the service!

12th Sunday After Pentecost

8/23/20

Good afternoon!  Please find our service below!  Thank you for joining us for our Sunday service and we hope you have a wonderful week!

A Good Reminder

8/27/20

Hymn Trivia

8/28/20

Today's hymn is considered to be in the "top 25 most popular hymns of all time" according to the internet.  I know it's one that nearly all of you will recognize.

-The words to this hymn were written by Elvina Hall in 1865

-According to "legend," the words of this hymn were written while Ms. Hall daydreamed during a particularly "long" prayer in church one day, writing the lyrics in her hymnal during the service.

-Coincidentally, her church organist, John Grape, had submitted new music to the Pastor the same week Ms. Hall wrote her lyrics. 

-Also ironically, the tune selected from Mr. Grape's collection was separately titled "All to Christ I Owe."

-This hymn references Isaiah 1:18 and part of Romans 5

Best of luck with your guessing this week!  Remember, it should be "paid" forward and you "owe" it to yourself not to use Google!  Check back tomorrow for the answer!

He washed it white as snow

8/29/20

Growing up at Bethany, I don't have a lot of memories of this song until Jonathan Clifton joined the church.  We are so lucky to have several wonderful musicians at Bethany and I can see Jonathan, in my mind, singing and playing his guitar for an offering one Sunday, many moons ago.  I recall being struck by the lyrics.  I love their simplicity. 

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.  Doesn't get more clear than that. 

While my guitar skills are lacking, I found an accompaniment that I find reminiscent of Jonathan's version all those years ago.  I hope you enjoy it!

13th Sunday After Pentecost

8/30/20

Hello and happy Sunday!  Below, please view our service from today! Next week will be our last 9:30 Sunday service.  The following Sunday, September 13, will be our first service returning to our 10:15 time.  We will also have our Congregational Meeting immediately after the service with refreshments being served outside behind the Miller House.  Please join us, as we have several topics to discuss and items that have to be voted on. 

 

We hope to see you soon!  Thank you for joining us for our Sunday services and have a wonderful week!

Hymn Trivia

9/4/20

Happy Friday, everyone!  Today's hymn is "new" compared to most of the others I've done, but it is one that everyone at Bethany definitely knows!  See if any of these clues help you to guess!

-There was a lot of confusion about the authorship of this hymn as it was first published in 1986 by Integrity Music, literally, as "authorship unknown."

-Sometimes credited to the Christian musician, Don Moen, a man named Henry Smith actually wrote the song in 1978 after graduating from the seminary. 

-Mr. Smith wrote and composed this song after struggling with several obstacles after graduation, not the least of which included losing his eyesight due to a degenerative eye condition. 

-After listening to a reading of 2 Corinthians 8:9, Mr. Smith wrote the lyrics to the chorus

-In the 1980s, the song became very popular in Germany (thanks to a group of American Military men and their wives) and the simple, repetitive lyrics make it a perfect song for offertory collections (wink, wink). 

If that doesn't give it away, I'm not sure what will!  Check back tomorrow for the answer and we'll see you Sunday for the last 9:30 service of our summer schedule!

Give thanks with a grateful heart

9/5/20

We've used this hymn for our offertory song for as long as I can remember.  Its simple, repetitive lyrics make it easy to learn, and if you're my four-year-old, easy to remember (and sing all day on Sunday)!  I hope you enjoy!

14th Sunday After Pentecost

9/6/20

Good afternoon!  Thank you for joining us for our service today!  Please listen to the announcements at the beginning of the recording.  Also, if you plan to join us for lunch at our Congregation Meeting, please take a moment to RSVP to Lisa at the office (856-829-2373) so we know how much food to buy!

"See" you all soon!

"Back" to School

9/8/20

In a school year with so much transition and uncertainty, we send prayers of strength and light to all of you, whether you are a student, parent, teacher, or all three; whether you're an aide, bus driver, custodian, or anyone else working for a busy school district. 

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

1 Peter 5:7

Hymn Trivia

9/11/20

I wasn't sure what hymn to choose for today, 9/11.  On this difficult anniversary, I ended up picking a song that isn't considered a hymn by traditional standards.  That said, it's one that everyone will recognize. 

-This song was written in 1918 by a young Jewish immigrant who served as a soldier in the US Army

-The song was intended for an "all soldier revue," but it was "scrapped" and discarded in his Army issued trunk for years

-Later a prominent composer considered one of the "greatest songwriters in American History," that young immigrant revised his "discarded" song in 1938 and it became a "musical prayer" for American soldiers and service members. 

-This song has famously been recorded by many artists including LeAnn Rimes, Bing Crosby, and Daniel Rodriguez (the "Singing Cop").  It was also famously sung by Kate Smith and, more recently, by Celine Dion after 9/11 for a benefit concert for victims and families of those lost or hurt in the terrorist attacks. 

-This song has become a staple at sporting events, most commonly from the opening of a hockey game to baseball's seventh-inning stretch. 

I think you may all know it.  Check-in tomorrow for the answer and may we "raise our voices in a solemn prayer," to honor those lost on, or because of the events of, 9/11.  Never forget. 

As the storm clouds gather...

9/12/20

If you read yesterday's clues, the song for today probably won't surprise you.  The video below is from a tv special called "America: A Tribute to Heroes."  It aired 10 days after 9/11.  Nineteen years ago, I remember watching part of this very special.  I recall how raw the emotions were on the faces of the performers and presenters. 

 

The events of that day affected the emotions of the entire world.  The shocked disbelief, the rush of panic, and the paralyzing horror.  Then, that afternoon, the numbness that set in while we all tried to grapple with what we'd witnessed.  It was very easy to feel lost and hopeless in those days that followed and it was impossible to imagine how life would go on. 

But, it did.


Nearly 20 years later, I still instantly feel that pit in my stomach when 9/11 is mentioned.  Even after all this time.  But, there is always hope and I think that's what this performance demonstrates.  After all this time, our country still needs prayers, but I believe that healing is possible.  As we prayed then, may we all continue to ask for God's guidance, for ourselves and for our country. 

15th Sunday After Pentecost

9/13/20

Happy Sunday!  Thank you to all who attended our Congregational Meeting, earlier today!  We will have a summary of that meeting posted soon! 

Below you will find a "repost" of the live stream that aired this morning on Facebook Live.  If you have a Facebook account and would like to watch our service in "real-time" at 10:15 next Sunday, just come to this website next week and click the "Facebook Live Stream" link in the top left-hand corner!

 

Thank you for joining us today for worship and we hope to continue to "see" you, whether in person or online!

Hymn Trivia

9/18/20

Happy Friday, Friends!  Today's "hymn" has an interesting history.  Its undoubtedly a recognizeable tune and I think many of you will recognize the version you'll see tomorrow.  Let's see if you can guess based on these clues!

-Originally a poem, the lyrics of this song were penned in 1907 by a man named Henry van Dyke

-Mr. van Dyke got his inspiration from the Berkshire Mountains while visiting a collegue in Massasschusetts

-The tune of this hymn is known in the classical musical world as "Symphony 9."

-"Symphony 9" was the final composition of Ludwig van Beethoven

-This song had a resurrgence in the 1990s thanks to being featured in a Whoopi Goldberg movie sequel. 

Those are the clues, sports fans!  Feel free to "phone a friend" for help!  Check back tomorrow for the answers and, as always, please refrain from using Google!

We adore thee...

9/19/20

Below, please find this week's answer.  As promised yesterday, this is the scene from a movie I loved growing up: Sister Act 2.  To this day, this is one of my favorite musical theatre scenes of any movie musical.  It's impossible to listen to this version and not tap along.  I dare ya!

16th Sunday After Pentecost

9/20/20

Hello!  Below, please find the downloaded video from our Facebook Live stream this morning!  If you have a Facebook account, you can join us for the live stream by going to our Facebook page on Sunday mornings at 10:15 or you can click the yellow "Facebook Live Stream" link at the top of this page. 

Also, WELCA has begun their "Christmas Shoebox" campaign!  If you'd like to fill a Christmas Shoebox for a child in need, please pick up your shoebox(es) from the Narthex or contact Betty at (609) 238-9672 for more info!

As always, thank you for joining us for worship this week and we hope to continue "seeing" you around!

Mid-week pick-me-up

9/23/20

I don't know about any of you, but this week I needed a boost.  Its always tough for this August baby to say "good-bye" to the summer, but the weather over the last week definitely feels like Fall.  Also, the school year has started again, for better or worse, and its certainly different.  Between Luke's Pre-K class and Scott's high school classes, school hours are very specifically scheduled, yet somehow feel totally chaotic at the same time.  Personally, I feel like there are so many changes in our daily lives, I'm not sure how to keep up with everything.  Its pretty overwhelming. 

I hate feeling like I'm "in over my head," so I did what I always do when I need something:  I perused Google.  When this quote (attributed to the late Arthur Ashe) popped up, it seemed appropriate.  I don't know if any of you needed to hear this today, but I found it reassuring.  To me it says: I don't have to conquor the world today.  It'll still be here tomorrow in all of its imperfect glory.  Rather that being overwhelmed I can start small, from this moment, and start working forward.  Chip away at my problems, concerns, and fears one by one.  Maybe this is how we press on and "keep going" in the midst of all of the chaos and changes.  And maybe I'll be stressed out about something else in 15 minutes.  Who knows?

Either way, in the moment it was helpful and calming and gave me a moment to catch my breath.  In the midst of the chaos, a quiet moment to reboot is always appreciated and I consider that momentary pause a win.  We should all be so lucky as we find ways to manage our chaos!

Hymn Trivia

9/25/20

Hello and happy Friday, Everyone!  This week's hymn could be called "new" when compared to some of the other songs that have been used for our trivia answers, but I think it'll still be easily recognizable.

-This hymn was specifically written as a worship song in 1989. 

-Rick Founds composed this song on his guitar during a morning devotion one day.

-In the lyrics, Mr. Founds compared the science of the "water cycle" to the "cycle of redemption" describes in the Bible. 

-The idea of coming from heaven, to earth, then to crucifixtion, the grave and a return to heaven was translated into Mr. Founds' lyrics.

-Since 1989, this song has been translated into over 20 languages and has remained in the top 25 most popular Christian worship songs used in church. 

What do you think?  Any of this sounds a little familiar?  Check back tomorrow and see if you guessed correctly!

I'm so glad you came to save us

9/26/20

Raise your hand if you remember the "Time Life" Collections of music?  When I was little I can recall this song being the main song featured on the infomercials for the Time Life Collection of Christian music.  I played not once or twice, but three times during the commercial. 

Obviously well known, I think its incredible that this (relatively) new hymn is popular in so many different countries, across nearly all of the continents, especially when you consider how many different religions there are in the world.  Maybe its the repetition and simplicity of the lyrics.  Regardless, the message, like the lyrics, is simple.  In my opinion, the song can be summed up by this phrase: "I'm so glad you're in my life, I'm you came to save us."

17th Sunday after Pentecost

9/27/20

Good morning and happy Sunday!  The sanctuary is closed today, so our service will be entirely virtual this morning.  In-person services will resume next Sunday, October 4th. Below, please find this week's service.  

As always, thank you for joining us for worship!  We love to see you whether face to face or online!

Autumn!

10/3/20

Hello again!  This week, due to a busy week, I've skipped our Hymn Trivia in favor of something a little different.  With the exorbitant amount of negativity and fear in our world at large, my anxiety has been at an all time high.  I find myself constantly looking for ways to calm myself and relax. 

Boy, is that harder than it sounds.

I won't lie, its been really difficult to find true joy and calm in our world right now.  I've researched different methods of relaxation and calming techniques and I've tried to reflect on things that have been soothing or brought me joy in the past.  Perhaps not surprisingly, one thing that popped up that I immediately connected to, was music.  

When I was in high school, I accompanied the String Ensemble at our school  (shout out to Fabiene Hunter Brown who conducted an awesome String Ensemble!) and our little class played, mostly, classical music.  For many of the students, it was our first introduction to the world of classical composers and orchestrations. 

I discovered how music can tell a story.  I'm a visual person and I always imagine the scenes and worlds that a song can create in my mind.  Ironically, this songs popped up in my Facebook feed this morning while I was posting about today's birthdays.  My junior year, we played abbrevated versions of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, focusing mainly on Autumn and Spring.  

 

For me, there's something oddly comforting about this particular movement.  Maybe its because it actually IS autumn and these are images are actually starting to appear around us.  Maybe its because the music is joyous and a little melancholy at the same time.  Maybe it's the nostalgia of playing this song years ago and its familiar to me.  And maybe I just like the pictures that were chosen to accompany the video below.  

Regardless, I felt like this video was one of those "little nuggets of encourangement" that are sometimes sprinkled into our days at a moment when we need them.  I'm grateful that I happened to be paying attention today.  And, if you would humor me, listen to the music below twice, once without watching the video and once while watching it.  See if the images that came to you are the same as the ones in the video itself. 

 

I hope this brings you the same sense of calm that it brought me!

18th Sunday After Pentecost

10/4/20

Good afternoon!  Today, in addition to being the 18th Sunday After Pentecost, is World Communion Sunday.  There were also several announcements. 

The ladies of WELCA are still collecting donations for their Christmas Shoeboxes for Samaritan's Purse.  They are accepting the requested items or monetary donations.  Please contact Betty with any questions: 609-238-9672.

Also, the Youth Group will be having a pumpkin carving event on Sunday, October 11, right after church.  Come ready to be creative and eat some pizza!  Please RSVP to Emily at 267-266-3831 by Friday, October 9!

Thank you for joining us for another Sunday and we hope you have a blessed week!

Tuesday Spotlight

10/6/20

Hello and happy Tuesday!  In this time of great uncertainty when so many typical occurrences and events are canceled, I wanted to add some information about the groups that you CAN participate in here at Bethany!

This week's spotlight is on our WELCA group!  WELCA (Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) is an all-female and female-identifying group who typically organize projects and gather once a month for a fellowship Bible Study. 

While they are not meeting in person right now, they are still doing projects, including the Christmas Shoeboxes for Samaritans Purse!  These shoeboxes are filled and sent overseas to children at high risk or in need.  Below, please find a list of items that are requested for the assorted shoeboxes, as well as a coloring page that the little ones in your life may contribute as a greeting!  WELCA is also accepting monetary donations toward this project!

Please consider reaching out to Betty at 609-238-9672 for more information or to make a donation!

Hymn Trivia

10/9/20

Our hymn this week is considered contemporary when compared to many of the songs in our hymnal.  Still, I think its a lovely addition to our trivia songs and I think many of your will recognize it! 

-Written by Friar Michael Joncas, this song was first recorded in 1979.

-Written several years before that, Fr Joncas composed the song & lyrics to console a friend after the passing of the friend's father.

-Of his, now famous hymn, Fr Joncas was quoted as saying, "I just wanted to create something that would be both prayerful and then comforting." 

-The completed song would debute at a wake for the friend's father and would go on to be a staple of hope and comfort to "raise you up" at funerals and memorials.   

-The lyrics come from several passages in the Bible including Psalm 91, Matthew 13, and Exodus 19. 

Sounds familiar?  Check back tomorrow and see if you guessed correctly!

And He will raise you up

10/10/20

How did you do?  I know when my Mom can guess the hymn, I've given some really good hints (for the record, she DID guess correctly)!  Did you figure it out?

19th Sunday After Pentecost

10/11/20

Hello!  Please find our service for this week below!  A few reminders:

-WELCA is still accepting donations for the Samaritan's Purse Christmas Shoeboxes.  Please contact Betty at 609-238-9672 if you would like more information!

-The Bread of Life Food Pantry is accepting monetary donations toward turkeys for the holidays. There is a donation basket in the back of the sanctuary or contact Lois by clicking the blue button on the right.

Thank you for joining us for worship and we hope you have a wonderful week!

Bethany Spotlight

10/15/20

Our spotlight focuses on different groups that are currently meeting or organizing projects at Bethany during COVID-19. This week our spotlight is on our Panel on Anti-Racism and Education. 

Inspired by the ELCA's Racial Justice Ministry, this group gathers on the lawn at Bethany one Saturday a month to hold a discussion with members of Bethany and the community.  For the October event, the conversation will follow suggestions from the last gathering focusing on education.  The meeting will be on the church lawn this Saturday, 10/17, at 10 AM.  A panel of community members have been invited who are going to answer some questions and discuss their experiences and ideas. 

Come join the conversation. 

Happy Saturday!

10/17/20

No Hymn Trivia today, but I came across this and it felt very relevent and hopeful.  Check back tomorrow for our virtual church service!  Reminder: no in-person service tomorrow!  See you back in our sancutary on October 25th for Reformation Sunday!

20th Sunday After Pentecost

10/18/20

Happy Sunday! Please find our service below.  We will return to our sanctuary for an in-person service next Sunday, October 25th at 10:15.  Thank you for joining us this week and we hope to "see" you next week, too!

Bethany Spotlight

10/21/20

This week's spotlight is on our collaboration with the Bread of Life food pantry at Epworth Presbyterian.  Through 2021, food distributions will be every 1st and 3rd Saturdays from 10am-12pm out of the church at Epworth located at 501 Morgan Ave in Palmyra. 

 

Currently, Bethany is accepting food donations toward their Thanksgiving food drive.  Requested items include: stuffing, instant mashed potatoes, canned yams, fruit, and gravy.  Also through Thanksgiving, Bethany will be collecting cash donations to be used toward the purchase of turkeys for the Thanksgiving food drive.  To make a food donation please contact Sandy (856-630-5965) or Judy (609-670-4916) and to donate cash toward turkeys please contact Lois (loisgerkens2@gmail.com).

Hymn Trivia

10/23/20

This week's selection is actually not *technically* a hymn.  That said, it's been sung in many churches and I think more than one of you will recognize it.  See if you can guess!

-Written in in 1971, a man named John-Michael Tebelak used this song in a musical he was creating. 

-Mr. Tebelak wanted a song that mixed ideas of "scattering the good seed on the land" and the role God played in the seed's growth.

-This musical, inspired by the story of Jesus and his disciples, opened on Broadway in 1973 and would be revived in 2011.  It also was performed in a certain church basement with more than a few familiar faces just a few years ago... (or maybe more than a few)

-This Act 1 song actually uses the words from a poem written in 1782 by German poet Matthias Claudius.

-Mr. Claudius' poem also inspired a harvest themed Episcopal hymn that shares its title with the first line of this song. 

Think you have an idea?  Check back tomorrow and see if you were correct!

All Good Gifts Around Us

10/24/20

This song is from one of my favorite musicals, Godspell.  If you didn't guess it, this song is derived from the hymn "We Plough the Fields and Scatter."  Many moons ago, a group of young adults performed Godspell in the basement here at Bethany.  I was lucky enough to be a part of that group and the music has always spoken to me on a spiritual level.  If you didn't recognize this one, I hope you still enjoy it!

Reformation Sunday

10/25/20

Happy Reformation Sunday!  Please find our service for this week below.  Thank you for joining us for service today!  We hope you have a wonderful week and we hope to "see" you soon!

Bethany Spotlight

10/28/20

This week our focus is on our Council outreach.  Our Council organizes a few events and groups that meet periodically or yearly.  One such upcoming event is the Veteran's Breakfast on Saturday, November 7th.  This will be our second time holding this event and we are thrilled to offer breakfast to honor our veterans in the area.  Please come to the church lawn at 8:30am for breakfast and a brief ceremony.  

RSVP to Lisa at our office (856-829-2373) or message the office at bethanypalmyra@gmail.com!  Thank you and we look forward to seeing you!

Happy Friday!

10/30/20

Hi All!  Hymn Trivia will be back next week, but I thought I'd share something within the music realm.  This is a recording from Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan.  A few years ago I met the Associate Director of Music, Michael Hey, at a theatre event at the Kimmel Center.  He was lovely and fantastically talented. 

This week, I thought I'd share one of his pieces.  I love this work in general, but there's something special about hearing it performed in this beautiful cathedral.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

All Saints Sunday

11/1/20

Hello!  Please find our service for All Saints Sunday below!  Remember: our Boy Scout Troop will be Scouting for Food in the next couple weeks and anyone who would be interested in helping should reach out to Bill at willisard7@gmail.com.  Also, Bethany will be hosting a breakfast honoring Veterans on Saturday,  November 7 at 8am on our lawn.  Any Vets interested in attending should rsvp to Lisa in our office at bethanypalmyra@gmail.com or 856-829-2373.

Thank you for joining us for our service and have a wonderful week!

Hymn Trivia

11/6/20

Happy Friday, Everyone!  Today's hymn is a classic!  Let's if anyone can guess it!

-Our hymn this week was written by Joseph H Gilmore in 1862.

-A Pastor in Philadelphia at the time, Mr. Gilmore wrote the words as a rumination on the 23rd Psalm.

-As it was the middle of the Civil War, Mr. Gilmore wanted to reiterate the idea that "that it makes no dif­fer­ence how we are led, or whith­er we are led, so long as we are sure God is lead­ing us."

-The music was added by William B. Bradbury in 1864.  A life long musician, he was suffering from tuberculousis at the time and would die of the disease a few years later in 1868

-As the Civil War framed the creation of this hymn and the 23rd Psalm served as inspiration, the lyrics are particularly poignant when listening to them in retrospect

Check back tomorrow to see if you guessed correctly!

Oh blessed thought...

11/7/20

In doing research for the hymns I use for Hymn Trivia, I find myself learning a lot.  For example, I didn't realize today's hymn was written and composed in the early 1860s.  Having been created in the midst of the American Civil War, this song came about in a time when our nation was bitterly divided and, literally, at war with itself.

Today, over 160 years later, it still resonates in a way that made it seem very appropriate right now.  The second verse, which is not included in the recording below, felt especially relevant to me.

Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,

sometimes where Eden's flowers bloom,

by waters calm, o'er troubled sea,

still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me

 

Honestly, I wish these words didn't feel so timely.  I wish our country wasn't so divided.  Most of all, I wish peace for all of us.  We'll see in the coming days what decisions and choices will be made, by the leaders of our country and by each of us.  In the meantime, I've included some calm, joyful images from my last week.  I hope you find some calm, joyful moments today, too. 

 

 

23rd Sunday After Pentecost

11/8/20

Good Morning!  Below please find our recorded service for today! 

 

As far as announcements this week, yesterday we held a Veteran's Breakfast to honor former military members in our communities.  We gathered on our lawn for breakfast and a presentation by Senator Troy Singleton and members of Bethany's Council.  Pictures will be posted to our Bethany Facebook page today.  We thank everyone who volunteered their time to make this event happen and extend another big "thank you" to all who have served our country.  

A reminder that this upcoming Saturday, November 14, will begin the Boy Scout's "Scouting for Food" Drive for Bread of Life at Epworth.  Beginning at 9am, members of Troop 9 will be distributing plastic donation bags to homes in Palmyra and parts of Riverton and Cinnaminson.  If you would like to make a donation, fill and bring a bag to church or, if you receive a bag on your door, simply fill the bag and leave it out on November 21 to be picked up by the scouts.  If you wish to donate your time, please reach out to Bill at willisard7@gmail.com for more information.  

As always, thank you for visiting us today.  Have a blessed week.  

Bethany Spotlight

11/11/20

“May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please,

but as the opportunity to do what is right.”

Peter Marshall

Today we offer thanks to all the men and women who have served our country. Below, we have a few pictures from our Veteran’s Breakfast this past Saturday. It was attended by veterans from Palmyra, Riverton, and Pennsauken with a guest speaker, Senator Troy Singleton.  We thank Senator Singleton for his kind words for our vets.

 

The 3rd picture below is of the WWII plaque honoring the members of our congregation who served.  It hangs in our Narthex.  These are just two examples of people for whom we are grateful today.

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.  Ecclesiasties 3:8