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Cheryl Davis
All of the Rivers Have Bridges
2015.04.29 22:18:02

Some people like life transitions. “Woo-hoo!” they exclaim, “Something new is coming; I can’t wait to see what it is.”

 

I’m not one of those people. I like things to be predictable, and transitions are not predictable. They pull me out of my comfort zone, force me to test my long-held assumptions, and expect me to change right along with them. I have to start asking questions like, “Who am I if I’m not who I was? Who will I be in that new place?”

 

Now, I admit that endings and the resultant transitions initially frighten me, but I also admit that they bring me into new realms of possibility and joy. The time in between the fear and the joy is the time that tests my faith.

 

During one such time, I found the following devotional reading in God Calling, my favorite devotional book:

 

I am here to guide you and help you…Your petty fears are groundless. What of aperson walking through a glorious glade who fretted because ahead there lay a river and he might not be able to cross it when all the time, that river was spanned by a bridge? And what if that man had a friend who knew the way—had planned it—and assured him that at no part of the journey would any unforeseen contingency arise, and that all was well?

 

So leave your foolish fears, and follow Me, your Guide, and determinedly refuse to [worry about] the problems of tomorrow. My message to you is trust and wait.

 

This reading hit me like a lightning bolt. With Jesus, all of the rivers ahead have bridges. He promises to lead and guide us and to always be with us.   We can worry anyway, but we’ll miss the glorious glade that surrounds us. We’ll miss the joy of the journey. We’ll miss the chance to rest in God’s goodness. We’ll miss the joy that accompanies trust. We’ll miss the miracles.

 

Trusting God’s promises with you,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Trust | Worry

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Cheryl Davis
Worship and the Church Year
2015.02.20 02:01:00

If you were raised in a mainline denomination such as Lutheran or Catholic, you are accustomed to the Church Year: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and the Time after Pentecost. Throughout these times, the altar is adorned with different colors to represent the different liturgical seasons. The pastor wears stoles to correspond with those colors. Music and liturgy, scripture and sermons are chosen specifically to help us journey together as we wait for Christ’s birth and then as we celebrate his birth, life, death, and resurrection.  After his resurrection, Jesus returned to heaven and promised to send the Holy Spirit. So we remember Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came to live within believers.

 

Much of this liturgical calendar is new to me. I wasn’t raised in a denomination that followed the church year. We only observed Christmas and Easter. I had no clue what Advent was. I’d heard about Lent because my friends mentioned that they were giving up stuff for Lent, but I didn’t understand that it came before Easter or why self-sacrifice played a part in it. Even after I joined the Lutheran faith in adulthood, I never attended Advent or Lenten services because I was always teaching piano in the evenings. And here’s more evidence of my church-year illiteracy: I’d never attended an Ash Wednesday service until two years ago.

 

So, it has been a steep learning curve for me to understand the church year. Yesterday I had an “aha” moment. As we worship throughout the year, we experience all of the most important aspects of our Christian faith. We sing and pray, learn and live the Good News of Jesus Christ over and over. We go through the rhythm of life in our worship: the waiting, longing, rejoicing, confessing, forgiving and being forgiven, sacrificing, grieving, blessing and loving. We soak it up during worship services, and then incorporate it into our everyday lives. Hopefully, we will be willing to share it with others.

 

I’m writing this on Ash Wednesday. Today I remember that I am dust and to dust I will return. I’ll spend the next forty days of Lent in contemplation about Jesus and his ultimate sacrifice for me. When Easter arrives, it will be filled with joyful awe. After the darkness the dawn will break upon us in all of its glory. But for now we wait, and we remember that we are dust and to dust we will return.

 

Soberly, reflectively,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Ash Wednesday | Church Year | worship

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Cheryl Davis
The Love Walk
2015.02.20 01:56:21

It’s the love weekend, in case you haven’t noticed. The theme this weekend at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Neenah is “Walk in His Love.” I wonder what it means to walk in God’s love. I also wonder if we actually do it. Let’s think about it for a moment.


When we know someone loves us, we feel free, don’t we? We’re safe and secure. We don’t have to fight for our right to express our thoughts and feelings. We don’t have to struggle for control over the other person. We don’t have to be afraid of what will happen next because we know that the one who loves us wants the best for us and will put effort into making that happen.


What a gift it is when we experience this kind of love and dwell in its blessing! We live with joy and serve others. Our hearts are light; laughter comes easily; and we have the energy to invest deeply in the needs of others. That’s the bright side of walking in God’s love. Fortunately, most of us have many days like that.


But life can be dark and heavy, too. We all know that. Isn’t it great to know that God’s love still surrounds us at those times? We are still safe and secure. God still works for our good. We are still God’s beloved children. Even when the path is difficult and we survive by simply putting one foot in front of the other, even then—especially then—we are walking in the protection of God’s amazing love. We do not have to fear. God is with us.


This means a lot to me this morning, because this morning I’m tempted to fear, to worry that maybe, just maybe, God doesn’t have everything under control. Maybe God doesn’t know what’s best for me. Maybe I’m not as safe and secure as I’d like to be. But then I’m reminded that I am truly God’s child, and God is truly my Father who loves me. All is well. God is beside me, and we are taking this walk together.


And so are you,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Love walk | God the Father

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Cheryl Davis
The Light Shines Through
2015.02.20 01:43:01

“It still has dignity,” I said to Horace as we gazed at the formerly-magnificent maple tree in our backyard. It had been one of the most beautiful trees we’d ever seen before the high winds of two summers ago. Its strong branches had reached high into the sky, forming an almost-symmetrical arc that extended most of the way across the 80-foot-long backyard fence. The grandchildren climbed it, and their parents remembered climbing it. It provided us with privacy, cool shade, gentle breeze, squirrels, birds, and a sense of God’s presence.


Three summers ago some of it came down, but not enough to destroy its arc or beauty. But the next summer, the entire middle of the tree was torn apart, leaving the trunk and large branches twisted and ripped. Only the branches on the left side of the tree remained. A friend came with his chainsaw and evened the ends of the ripped branches. He said he couldn’t bear to take the whole tree down; there was still life in it, and it might continue to grow.


This winter, the tree has been covered with snow that has accentuated its brokenness but has also cloaked it in beauty. What is left of the tree still reaches to the sky. The squirrels still play in it and the wind blows through its remaining branches. This winter, more than ever, the tree seems to have dignity. It is no longer perfect, but because of its brokenness, the light is shining through.


This teaches me an important lesson. I’d prefer to be perfect, thinking that God’s light will shine through me better that way. But God thinks differently. He allows us to be broken and humbled because in our weakness, he is strong. When we can’t flaunt ourselves, he can shine through. When our branches are torn, he can cloak us with beauty and dignity.


But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9a NIV)

 

Holding on to this truth,

Vicar Cheryl Davis

 

 



Tags: Brokenness | light | Beauty | dignity

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Cheryl Davis
Hopeful Waiting
2015.02.20 01:35:14

It’s already light out. The sun will be rising soon. The landscape is white and brown, but—glory be!—the sun is coming up earlier each day. Spring is on the way.

 

I feel this way every February. Our house faces east, so sunrises matter. The dark months manage to squeak out a beautiful sunrise or two, but they are scarce and seldom compensate for the fact that sunset is only eight hours away.

 

But things change in February. The sky lightens earlier in the morning, and when the sun finally breaks above the horizon, it is bright and strong. It will hang around for at least ten hours, maybe more. It will bathe our living room in brightness before breakfast. It will warm the inside of our cars before we get into them. It will promise better days. We start to believe in all things colorful again, even though we won’t get to see new life for a couple more months. February is the month that tells me we have turned a corner.

 

My three preschoolers and I moved to Appleton on February 9, 1980. I was newly separated from my husband and had never felt so alone. It seemed as if I’d plummeted into a black hole.   There were no corners to turn. No ladder to climb out. No sun to rise or set. No hope. No laughter. No joy. I remember thinking, “This is as bad as it gets. Life will never be worse than this.”

 

And then, morning dawned.   I came down the steps from upstairs each morning, and the sun was shining brilliantly into the living room. I’d take a deep breath and feel the warmth of hope, the reassurance of God’s love, and the miracle of light that was finding its way into the darkened, damaged crannies of my soul.

 

Winter was on its way out. Spring was on its way in. February was here. It wasn’t April or May, but it wasn’t December or January, either. I could hold on. And so can you.

 

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’” (Lamentations 3:22-24 NIV)

 

With hope,

 Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Hope | February | Faithfulness

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Cheryl Davis
SOS - Pray for Us!
2015.01.29 07:48:09

Our whole family has the stomach flu! It started out with Liam throwing-up, then Thea started throwing-up, then I got the same thing, then mommy and Oliver got the same thing, then Tirza got the same thing, then I got it again!! It has been such a mess, luckily it's almost over. Whew! Please keep praying for us.
Love,
 Luke xoxoxo

 

This email from my ten-year-old grandson showed up in my inbox this week. It delighted me, even as I empathized with the mess and frustration of an entire family getting the stomach flu. I noticed that Daddy (my son) hadn’t come down with it, so I assume he did a lot of the clean-up work. Ah! The joy of family!

 

Luke’s request at the end, “Please keep praying for us,” warmed my heart. He asked this of me in a most natural way, assuming that I was already praying for them. Furthermore, he was convinced that prayer makes a difference in our everyday concerns—even stomach flu and the mess it brings.


What is it like for children to know that they are surrounded by parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, teachers and church friends who pray for them? What kind of security does it bring them to wake up in the morning and know that they can reach past the four walls of their home to request prayer from others who love them?


We might call this a faith ecosystem,* a realm in which a larger family of faith surrounds a smaller family of faith. Children thrive in the security of “many people care for me.” When I was single parenting, I knew this was essential to our wellbeing, but it is also essential to all families—whatever form they take. And yes, it’s even important to people living alone who need others around them to create a family of nurture for them.


We live in a demanding world. It’s tough on families. Fortunately, we are not on this daily faith journey alone. We can shoot out an SOS, admit things are a mess, ask for prayer, and wait for God to meet our needs. God put us in our faith communities so that we can strengthen and support one another. Thanks be to God!


Grateful for Luke’s SOS,

Vicar Cheryl Davis


*My gratitude to Pastor Roger McQuistion for this thought.



Tags: faith | Prayer | SOS | community support

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Cheryl Davis
The Power of Blessing
2015.01.22 00:55:26

Liam is my son’s son. He’s eight years old, built like a wrestler, smart as a whip in all things practical, and possessed with a strong sense of justice. He has a tender spirit and a great sense of humor, but when he perceives injustice—especially as it pertains to himself—he is a force with which to be reckoned. I’m pretty sure he’s going to change the world someday.

 

I was with his family last week when I was attending classes at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. One of my greatest privileges whenever I’m there is to kiss each child goodnight and pray with them. It was Liam’s turn.   We talked and prayed, and then I reached for his forehead. I wanted to draw the cross on his forehead and bless him.

 

He pulled back with suspicion, “What are you doing?”

 

“I want to bless you.”

 

“Well, how’re you going to do that?”

 

“Here, stay still. I’ll show you.” He relaxed as I drew the cross on his forehead and said, “You are a child of God. Jesus loves you, and so do I.” He smiled, and peacefulness settled on his face and in his eyes. I kissed him goodnight and moved on to the next child.

 

Each of the children experienced that same peace as they were blessed. The bond between us deepened. My own heart was full of love for them and for our dear Father who loves and claims his children from their earliest years.

 

I prayed with Luke last. Luke is ten years old and looks almost like his daddy did when he was ten years old: chocolate brown eyes and a wide grin. After I’d blessed him, Luke reached up to me without hesitation, drew the cross on my forehead and said, “You are a child of God, Grandma. Jesus loves you and so do I.”

 

We quietly smiled at one another. I felt the power of the blessing that my grandson had given me. It was one of those moments I never want to forget. Maybe that’s why I’m sharing it with you. I want to remember, and I want you to experience this, too, with your children, grandchildren and other family members. You’ll be glad that you did.

 

Blessed by God to bless and be blessed,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Blessing | Child of God | Grandchildren | Prayer

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Cheryl Davis
Who Is My Neighbor?
2015.01.10 07:26:02

I pulled into the driveway. The snow wasn’t shoveled yet, so I decided to grab a shovel and dig in. It would give me some “think time” and would take a burden off Horace’s shoulders.


“Hi! Hi! I’ve got a new shovel!” yelled the little boy next door. “Look, I’ve got a new shovel! It’s got a sharp blade on it. Do you like my new shovel? See? It’s new! I’m coming to help you.” I groaned inwardly. Any kid who was this friendly with an adult he’d never met was sure to be a chatter box. There went my “think time.”


“Why don’t you shovel your mom’s driveway instead?” I asked him.


 “No!” he replied. “I want to help you.”


“Well, if you’re going to help me, you’ll have to put on a hat, boots and mittens. It’s cold out here.”


“I’m not cold.”


“It’s cold. You have to put on some warmer clothes.” Silence. He jumped around on the snow bank for awhile and then plunged his shovel into the snow and took off for his own house. I breathed a sigh of relief. Ahhh! Think time! I was halfway down the sidewalk when he reappeared beside me. He spread his arms out wide and exclaimed, “See! I’m warm now.” And he was—snowsuit and all.


“Are you sure you don’t want to help your mom?” My words fell on deaf ears as he shoveled right next to me. He picked up ice chunks and tossed them onto the snow banks. He inserted his shiny new blade under packed snow and lifted sheets of it for me to chop up and shovel away. Horace was helping now, too, and the three of us became a mighty team. I softened. “You’re really a hard worker. What’s your name?”


“Dylan.”


“What grade are you in?”


“Second. I go to Jefferson.” He grinned at me. “I’m your neighbor. I’m your neighbor and you’re my neighbor. We live in this neighborhood together.”   I could feel shame running down my back. Here I was, a seminary student, steeped in God’s Word on a daily basis, but I was selfishly refusing to be a neighbor. It took a child to rattle my cage and teach me the truth.


We finished shoveling. The three of us surveyed our accomplishment, proud of our effort.

 

“If it snows again tomorrow, I’ll come back and help you some more,” Dylan said, and he carried his shiny new shovel back to his own front porch.


Grateful for Dylan,

Vicar Cheryl Davis

 

 

 



Tags: Dylan | neighbor | ashamed | shoveling

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Cheryl Davis
Stolen Chalk
2015.01.10 07:15:33

“Tell us about the time you stole the chalk from your teacher,” my three grandsons chorused last week as they snuggled under the blankets with their stuffed animals and each other. Obviously, the sins of my childhood had become their favorite bedtime stories, and so I told the story. Again.

 

“I loved school supplies when I was in first grade. We’d buy them before school started in the fall, and I’d lay them out on the table in interesting piles. Then I’d put them in my school bag and carry them around. When I got to school, I’d arrange them neatly in my desk.

 

Once during the school day, I saw a new box of colored chalk by the chalkboard in our classroom. Colored chalk! Wow! It was beautiful. I wanted it more than anything, so I took it when my teacher wasn’t looking, hid it in my desk, and then smuggled it into my school bag at the end of the day. I was so excited!

 

However, I had a dilemma when I got home. Where could I put it where Mom wouldn’t find it? I ran down into our dingy, scary, dungeon-like basement and hid it where she wouldn’t look.

 

But she found it one day and said to me, “Cheryl, where did this come from?” After making up a few stories, I had to tell her the truth. Within ten minutes, we were walking together back to school, back to my classroom, and back to my teacher.

 

I cried as I handed the chalk to Mrs. Emerson and apologized for stealing it. She said she forgave me. Mom and I walked home quietly. When we got there, we prayed that Jesus would forgive me, too.”

 

The boys were silent for a moment, and then they started to tell their own stories about stealing. As we talked, we realized that we’d each hidden the stolen object when we got home—even if we hadn’t felt guilty about taking it. And we’d lied when we got caught, too. This sounded familiar. Adam and Eve had gone into hiding after they sinned against God. And then they'd started the blame game when God asked them what they’d done.

 

Hmmm. It seems that sin always involves the need to conceal the sin and then to try to justify ourselves to others. On the other hand, honesty brings us into the glorious place of transparency, openness and increasing joy.

 

That's the kind of joyful living I wish for you in 2015.

 

Blessings on you and yours,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Sin | guilt | stolen chalk | lying | bedtime stories

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Cheryl Davis
Did God Make the Toy Soldier?
2014.12.31 20:48:14

“Let’s sing some songs,” I said to three-year old Levi and 20-month Hallie. They were banging on the piano, and I thought they might like to hear actual music, so I started to play “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” They stopped their banging to listen. We moved from there to “The ABC Song” and then easily transitioned into “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Next came “Happy Birthday to You,” but when we got to the part where we had to sing someone’s name, Levi was adamant that none of the people I chose actually had birthdays at that particular moment.

 

“Jesus,” he insisted. “It’s Jesus’ birthday.” Of course, he was right, so we sang to Jesus. After we got through the first verse, his clear voice started on the second: “How old are you? How old are you?” When he finished, I asked him, “How old do you think Jesus is?”


He ignored the question and said instead, “I know what Jesus’ name is.”


“Really?”


“Uh-huh,” he nodded, “Jesus’ name is God.”


“You’re right.” How easy it was for him to say that and how hard my theology class had been that brought us to the same conclusion!


“Did you know that God made everything?” I asked, moving into teacher mode.


He grabbed a toy soldier ornament off the Christmas tree, “Like this ornament?”


“Well no, actually people made that.”


“Like this ornament?” Another one came off the tree. And another.


“No, not ornaments. Things that are alive, like you and me.” We went over to the window and looked out at the trees, the river, the eagles flying in the blue sky, the sunshine. “God made all of this,” I said with a flourish. I was expecting him to experience a moment of awe, but he didn’t. He was done with the conversation and off to another thing, still believing that God had probably made the ornaments. I stood there, gazing out the window, grateful for all of it—and especially for grandchildren who bring us back to what really matters.


Happy New Year!  


Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Levi | toy soldier | creation | Christmas

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Cheryl Davis
Are You Ready to be a Shepherd?
2014.12.20 23:26:51

How many more days until Christmas? The kids know, and so do the adults. The kids are counting down the days in anticipation, and the parents are counting down their lists, checking off the things that are done and stressing over the things that aren’t. The excitement ramps up in the elementary classrooms, and the tension builds up in church offices where personnel are trying to keep all of the bulletins straight for the many Advent and Christmas services.

 

It’s truly a time of both expectation and preparation…and also exhaustion and frustration. So much is expected of us! We’re supposed to honor traditions and shop to find perfect gifts. We cook and bake, remember all of our friends with cards and letters, decorate the house and yard, go to parties, go to church, and at the same time, we try to express joy while cramming all of this into our already-crowded schedules.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to be a shepherd instead? Shut your eyes and imagine it. You’re outside at night in the quiet, watching over animals that you know by name. While they sleep, you listen to the sounds of the night and count the stars. It’s incredibly peaceful. You look into the sky, wondering what lies beyond it, wondering if you’ll ever know.

 

And then, everything explodes into brightness, and the sky becomes as light as day. A heavenly creature and the glory of God surround you. You are seized with fear right before you are seized with wonder. Then the entire sky is filled with heavenly angels. They are singing about glory and peace. You have never seen or heard anything so beautiful. You can’t move. You can’t believe it’s real. You can’t wait to follow their instructions and go into Bethlehem to visit the Christ child who has been born to save you from your sins.

 

You and the other shepherds go quickly. You find the new parents, and you find the baby Jesus. You fall on your knees and worship. You can’t think of anything else to say or do. The Savior, the long-awaited Messiah, has been born. And you’ve been invited to his birthplace by heaven itself. Nothing will ever be the same again.

 

Are you ready to be a shepherd? To hurry to the manger with awe and wonder? Are you ready to find the Christ Child? If you are, you’ll discover that everything else slips into its rightful place when you fall on your knees and worship him.

 

Kneeling beside you there,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: shepherd | worship | Christ child | Christmas

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Cheryl Davis
Little People
2014.12.20 23:20:45

Have you ever met the Fischer-Price Little People? They weren’t around when my kids were little, but they’re here now. They’re chubby, two-inch people and animals that fit nicely into hands that are two to three years old. They come in every form imaginable: barn animals, zoo animals, doctors, nurses, airline mechanics, clowns, children, Bible characters…well, you get the idea. They also come with an appropriate setting; for instance, a barn, a zoo, an ark, an airplane, a playground.


This week I was playing with the Little People. Oh, not alone! Levi, my grandson was playing, too. We were using the playground, the barn and the nativity stable. Levi was focused on the barn and I was focused on the stable. Here was my dilemma: Which Little People belonged with the nativity set?


Well, I quickly decided that we’d leave out the clown, the Hawaiian hula girl, the airplane mechanic, and the giraffe. I dug through the entire box of Little People just to find the right ones to visit the newborn and his proud parents. I decided I could allow Noah with the dove on his shoulder to be part of the scene, even though everyone knows he was dead and gone by the time Jesus arrived. I found the three wise men and their camel. I also found a donkey, several cows, a lamb and a chicken. They were probably there, but if they weren’t, it was okay: they weren’t the main characters. I couldn’t locate a shepherd in the pile, so I pretended that Noah was a shepherd since he had a shepherd’s staff, and who knows? Maybe he wasn’t Noah after all. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.


Meanwhile, Levi had loaded the barn with farm animals and our time with the Little People had pushed the limits of his two-year-old attention span. I noticed that he had a lot more figures in his barn than I had at the nativity. In fact, there were very few visiting the new baby.


And that was my “aha” moment. You see, every Little Person should have been included in my recreation of Christ’s birth: the clown and hula girl, the airplane mechanic and the doctor, Diego and Dora. Everyone. No one’s excluded from the worship of the Christ child. So come. There’s room for you, too.


Bowing with you at the manger,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Welcome | Levi | Manger | Christmas

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Cheryl Davis
God Prepares Us
2014.12.20 23:16:55

“Hi Rev,” my dad said to me on Thanksgiving. “How’s it going?”


“I’m not a Rev yet,” I grinned back, “but I sure am doing a lot of Rev things.”


My dad, a Rev(erend) himself, has never acknowledged so explicitly that I’m becoming a pastor, so I felt warmed by his comment. I also felt the truth of my reply: I’m not a pastor yet, but I sure am doing a lot of “pastor things,” and I couldn’t be happier about it!


It seems that all of my life has been leading to this; each of life’s experiences has been a stepping stone to prepare me for this calling. Now that I’m doing pastor things, I see clearly why I needed the preparation first, and I’m not just talking about seminary. I’m talking about life. God uses life to prepare us for whatever comes next in life.


Today is the second Sunday of Advent. The Gospel text focuses on John the Baptist and his role in the salvation story. He was sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah. But how did God prepare John to serve in such a pivotal way? How did John become a person who could fearlessly announce the coming of the Lord? Where did he get the courage to offer the baptism for the repentance of sins? How did he become so humble that he could recognize Jesus’ authority and honor it?

  

What went into John to prepare him to fulfill God’s call for him? And what goes into you and me to prepare us to answer God’s call for us? 

 

I suspect the answer is pretty simple. In our daily living we learn to trust God with all that comes our way. We learn to accept his answers to our prayers. We learn to apply his Word to our challenges. Our spiritual muscles are strengthened so that we are ready for the next thing God has for us.

This is an exciting way to live! We are always being prepared for God’s work by God’s loving hand. Let’s remember this with gratitude as we quiet our hearts this Advent and prepare for the coming of Jesus.


Being prepared and preparing,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Advent | John the Baptist | Preparation

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Cheryl Davis
Old Saints and the Goodness of God
2014.12.01 23:31:08

Old saints. Contrary to medieval art, they don’t have glowing halos hovering above their heads. They don’t wear long robes. They aren’t in a constant prayer posture; in fact, they’re often bent over a bit. They walk with canes and walkers and ride in wheelchairs. They struggle to see and hear. They often depend on other people to help them through each day.


You wouldn’t know they’re saints just to listen to them because they don’t spout religiosity. But when someone says to them, “We serve a good God, don’t we?” they light up and reply, “Oh, we sure do. We sure do.” As their physical abilities fail, their spiritual certainties kick into high gear. And so does their gratitude.


“We are so grateful for all God has given us,” they say, reflecting on the past and looking into their future in heaven with Jesus and the saints who’ve gone before. They wait with expectation for what lies ahead.


This mindset—“heart-set”—didn’t happen overnight. They were children once, and their faith was probably young and fragile. Their lives did not unfold perfectly. Many experienced extreme hardship and tremendous loss. But through it all they discovered that Jesus kept his promise: he never left them or forsook them, and now they rest in the knowledge that he never will.


Old saints show us how God works. God starts as small as a seed within the cold earth or a tiny baby within a woman. He grows that beginning into something beautiful. He uses the hardships of life to create strength and endurance. And as the end nears, he brings the beauty of faith to full-bloom.


Advent begins today: we wait anew for God to fulfill God’s plans. The old saints among us have learned to wait with confidence. They know that God is good.


Learning from them,

Vicar Cheryl Davis

 

 

 

 

 



Tags: Saints | Advent | Cheryl Davis | faith | Waiting

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Cheryl Davis
Our Weakness, God's Strength
2014.11.24 11:48:00

“I use my morning drive to the health club to talk to God,” she said. “The morning of the first snowfall, I prayed that I would have patience with the way everyone would be driving because of the snow. Well, my trip there was fine, but on the way back, my patience was tried to the limit.”


Isn’t that just like God? We pray for something, and then he gives us a chance to put his strength to work. We pray for patience, and we discover that we don’t have any on our own: we have to rely on him. We pray for more faith, and a situation occurs that brings doubt and questioning. We have to ask God for clarity and strength. When we look back, we realize that our faith grew amidst the difficulty.


Today is the last Sunday of the church year. We call it “Christ the King Sunday.” We are reminded that Christ is glorious and powerful. We are also reminded that Christ comes to us in the weakness of others: the naked, the hungry, the imprisoned and the unlovely.


Christ even comes to us in our own weakness and ugliness. When we have lost our temper with our loved ones, when we have behaved with childlike impudence, when we have doubted God’s provision and neglected the needs of others…well, Christ still comes to us and offers us himself.


“Here I am,” he says. “Take my body and my blood. Receive my forgiveness. Receive my strength, patience, faith, and compassion. And after you’ve received me, you’ll be able to give me to others.”


Receiving Christ with all of you,

Vicar Cheryl Davis

 



Tags: faith | patience | weakness

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Cheryl Davis
Sparrows and Still Points
2014.11.20 00:50:15

Encouragement came in an envelope this week: a thoughtfully written note tucked within a beautiful card. Sunflowers and a sparrow adorned the front of the card, and their images jettisoned me back to one of the “still points” in my life.


It was at least 25 years ago. My kids were teenagers, and I was on overload. The clothes dryer had died, so I’d lugged the wet clothes to the laundromat at 6:00 am to get the job done before the day crashed in on me.


I sat in my car while the clothes were drying, opened the windows to the early morning breeze and tried to have devotions. I couldn’t focus. When was life going to get easier? When would I be able to relax? When could I let go of the anxiety associated with each and every day?


Just then a sparrow landed on the fence in front of my car. It was so close that I could see the amazing detail in its feathers. It hopped around there long enough for the Holy Spirit to speak gentle thoughts to my heart:


“Do you see that sparrow, Cheryl? It’s one of the most common,  non-extraordinary birds I’ve created, but look at it. Just look at it! It’s amazing in its detail and capabilities. Not one feather is out of place. It’s perfectly suited to its environment. Truly, it’s an unsung wonder.


Now, my dear, if I can create something like this—and someone like you—don’t you think that I’m wise enough and strong enough to bring calm to your heart and get you through this day?”


I observed the bird a while longer. Peace settled in. The Creator of the sparrow had spoken to my deepest need. God was still in control of the big picture as well as the details. He still knew what was best for all creation, and that included what was best for me. I could enter my day trusting him…and so can you.


Confident of this,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Still points | Cheryl Davis | Anxiety | Trust | Sparrow | Psalm 84:3

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Cheryl Davis
Waiting
2014.11.08 02:33:34

I write these columns early in the morning. In the summer, the breeze wafts through the windows, the sun shines on my efforts, and the birds sing along. The beauty of nature soaks into my being as I sip my coffee.   The words flow easily.


It’s different today. This morning it’s pitch black outside. There are raindrops on the windows. The furnace is pumping out heat. I’ve got my warm slippers and sweatshirt on. Things have changed. We’re in a new season. It’s November.


I think of November as the “time before”—a waiting time that seems empty. Yes, Thanksgiving and deer hunting come at the end of the month, but before that we face increasing darkness, the leafless trees, the first snowfalls, and the realization that a winter of unknown proportions is right around the corner. We hunker down, change our mindset, start to complain, and try to predict the severity of what’s to come. We toughen up on the inside. And we wait.


Some say that waiting is the toughest of all spiritual disciplines. Waiting tries our souls: we wonder when and how God will answer our prayers. Perhaps we wonder if he has heard us at all. Sometimes we cry out, “O Lord, how long?” But within that “November” time, God’s Spirit draws near to remind us that God is good and has our best interests at heart.


And so, we can wait with expectation, hope and courage. We can expect God to act. God will make things clear. We will know what to do when the time is right. God will answer our prayers in the best ways possible. We will again be amazed by God’s marvelous goodness.

 

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Psalm 27:14.

 

Waiting, expecting, hoping,

 

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Courage | Emptiness | November | Answered prayers | Waiting | Expectation | Psalm 27:14

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Cheryl Davis
All Saints Day: Joy and Grief Combined
2014.11.08 02:25:57

For some reason, I remember that the sun was shining and the birds were singing that morning—a strange memory to hold onto for 53 years, except for the fact that it was my first experience with death.

 

I was seven years old and already a creature of habit: I awoke and looked for Mom. She was in the kitchen preparing breakfast. That was normal. But this morning she was crying. That was not normal. She stopped what she was doing to tell me that Melody’s mom had died.

 

Melody was one of my best friends. Her father was a pastor in our small town. Melody’s mom had been sick a long time with something they called cancer. No one talked much about cancer back then, so I don’t think I realized that her mom was going to die from it.

 

I went to one of my favorite spots in the house and thought about it. There was a translucent window in that room: the sunshine came in, but I couldn’t see out. Because of that, my hearing sharpened to what was outside, and that’s when I heard the birds singing. I remember thinking how strange it was that my mom could cry and the birds could sing at the same time. Even at my young age, it didn’t seem right that death and beauty were so closely entwined.

 

Today is All Saints Day, and we feel that same incongruity. With love and tears we remember those who have left this world to join the Church Triumphant in the next life. We miss them so much! At the same time, we know that now they are full of life and love and peace, and we can’t wish them back.

 

And so, we “see through the glass darkly,” as St. Paul said. And we wait. We wait for our grief to pass. We wait for our lives to feel normal again. We wait for the day when we, too, will enter the Church Triumphant, and we will once again see our loved ones face to face.

 

God’s peace to you,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Cancer | Church Triumphant | Ambiguity | Sadness | Beauty | Grief | Joy | All Saints Day | Waiting

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Cheryl Davis
What Would Happen?
2014.11.08 02:21:08

My grandson’s big, brown eyes sparkled at me as he said, “All of you guys love me.”


“Can you tell me the names of everyone who loves you?”


He could. His mom and dad, grandmas and grandpas, brothers, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors. All of us guys. And yes, he’s right. We all love him. A lot.


I left that conversation with three-year-old Levi with some deep thoughts running through my head. His open, childlike reception of our love and his bountiful joy exemplify a child who has not been hurt by life. There has always been love available and there has always been enough. He asks and receives, and he’s able to count on that. Jesus was talking about this kind of trust when he said in Matthew 18:3, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”


It’s harder for us adults to trust and to receive love like that, isn’t it? Most of us have been tossed around by life. We know what it’s like to have our trust betrayed. We’ve grown self-sufficient and competent as we’ve learned to function well within the systems of the world. That’s probably a good thing as far as our outward selves, but what about our spiritual selves? How do we get to the place where we look into the face of Jesus and those of our Christian brothers and sisters and say, “All of you guys love me”?


What would happen to us as individuals and as a Christian body if we all believed we were loved that dearly? I wonder if we’d add little skips of joy into our walking the way Levi does.


Walking, skipping, sometimes tripping,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Levi | Love | Assurance | Trust | Joy

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Cheryl Davis
"JeSUS!"
2014.11.08 02:16:29

 

The envelope came in the mail on Wednesday. I hastily ripped it open with grandma-style urgency and pulled out the pictures. There he was: two-year-old Henry, blonde and blue-eyed with a beautiful smile on his face. His hands were plunged into his little jean pockets, and he looked like a miniature teenager. My heart melted.

 

Henry and his parents—along with nine of his cousins, two aunts, two uncles and two grandparents—lived for a week this past summer as one family in a large house on a lake. On the second day of our stay, his mom threw a big party for his dad who had just completed his surgical residency in Boston.

 

The house and porch were filled with people. Henry must have felt lost in the forest of legs. He couldn’t find his mom, but he didn’t dissolve into tears. Instead, he called out “MaMA!” accenting the second syllable. His mother would run to him and pick him up, or another caring adult would rescue him from the leg forest and transfer him to his mother or father’s arms.

 

We laughed about Henry’s “French accent” and his repeated cries, but now I realize that he was smarter than a lot of us adults when we feel lost. We often scramble over several rocky paths in our own particular forests. We get frustrated and anxious, lose sleep, kick the dog, and crab at those we love the most. We furrow our brows, sigh deeply, eat or drink too much, and complain. Sometimes we shut down or move into despair.

 

But all we really need to do is call out, “Jesus!” Whether we use a French, Spanish, or Wisconsin accent, Jesus is tuned in to our cries. He responds at once. He picks us up and carries us out of our dark, confusing forests and into the safety of his light.

 

Praising God for this,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Safety | Lost | Jesus | Grandma | Grandson | Henry

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