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Cheryl Davis



Precious Jewels
2015.05.28 01:44:47

We finally hit it off. I’m not sure why it didn’t happen sooner, except, perhaps, that Horace bonded with her first. She chose him early on and would run right past me to be swooped up in his arms. They’d play games and drink tea together. She even wore a T-shirt that read, “Grandpa’s girl.” If I showed up without him, she’d want to know why and then walk away in disappointment. However, during my last stay with my son’s family, Thea and I finally became friends.

 

It happened like this. I leaned over to kiss her goodnight. As I brushed the hair out of her eyes, I said, “You’re a jewel.”

 

“What’s a jewel?”

 

“It’s something beautiful. It’s a treasure. It sparkles. It’s usually worth a lot like the diamonds in wedding rings. If you’re a jewel, you’re precious.”

 

“What’s precious?”

 

“Precious is something very dear. Something that’s loved a lot. Something that we hold close. If I tell you you’re precious, it means that I love you. It means you’re important to me, and you always will be.” I paused and then said, “You’re a jewel, Thea, and you’re precious.”

 

She smiled and was quiet for a few seconds. Then she said, “Guess what, Grandma? You’re a jewel. That means you’re precious.” I was surprised and warmed by her response. We grinned at each other and bonded for life.

 

It feels great to know you’re precious to someone. My conversation with Thea reminded me of God’s words to God’s people through the prophet Isaiah:

 

“For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you (Isaiah 43:3-4).


The Hebrew word that is translated as “precious” also means, “to be valued, rare, esteemed, honored.” Wow! Can you get your mind around that? Can you believe that God is saying it to you? It’s true! Allow it to permeate all the nooks and crannies of your heart. Maybe you’ll find yourself responding to God as Thea responded to me. When you do, you’ll realize that you are lovingly bonded to the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…..forever.

 

Savoring this truth,

Vicar Cheryl



Tags: Jewel | Isaiah 43:3-4. Thea

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The Mark of a Christian in a Broken World
2015.05.21 01:39:37

The Trestle Trail shootings have brought me back to one of the most important reasons I’m a Christian. It’s expressed clearly by Elton Trueblood: “For the Christian, there’s something deeper than the tears.”


That “something deeper” holds us steady when all of life is spinning out of control. It gives us hope when we have every reason to despair. It keeps its promise when every human promise has been broken. It lifts our head when we have no strength to lift it on our own. It looks tragedy and broken dreams in the face and says to them, “You are not the winner. Just wait. God will bring something good out of this yet.” (Romans 8:28)


Today is Pentecost Sunday. Today we remember that the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son to the believers in Jerusalem who could not imagine what would happen next. Jesus had recently returned to his Father. He’d said that they would not be orphans; he would send them another Counselor to be with them forever.


The Spirit-Counselor would go deeply into their beings and live with them there. It would light a fire in their hearts. It would hold them steady when life was not steady. It would give them hope when they could not hope on their own. The Spirit would give them direction, comfort them in grief, and give them holy joy in the darkest nights.


And so they waited…for something deeper than their sense of loss at Jesus’ departure, for something deeper than their fear and uncertainty. And the Spirit came—in a rush of wind and fire--and made them new. It gave them the power to live out Jesus’ commands and to spread his gospel to the ends of the earth. It gave them the power to live in unity with one another. It gave them power to remain strong in the faith.


That same Spirit empowers us today, no matter the circumstance, no matter the pain of life in a broken world. Even when our pain goes all the way to the depths of our being, the Holy Spirit goes deeper. The Spirit enables us to hope in God’s faithfulness even when the world expects us to despair.


This is the mark of a Christian in our world today. Thanks be to God.


Vicar Cheryl



Tags: Pentecost | Hope | Romans 8:28

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The Crow Revisited
2015.05.21 01:34:16

Last week I wrote to you about the crow that had taken over our backyard. I likened it to evil because it had scared away the wildlife that brought goodness and joy into our lives. If you remember, I told you that Horace had smacked a couple boards together and scared the crow away. At the time of my writing, the crow had not come back and our yard was once again teeming with songbirds, squirrels, and a rabbit or two.

 

Well, the crow came back. But since we’d evicted it once, we were determined to keep it away forever. So now, every time we see it floating over our yard or resting on the neighbor’s fence, we rush into the yard with boards and start beating them against each other. It flies away for a couple more days. We’ve realized that we have to be vigilant. Perhaps if we’re consistent, the crow will get the message and never come back.

 

This has been a powerful illustration to me of the Bible verse from 1 Peter 5:8: “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” How might victory over this kind of evil play out in our everyday lives?

 

Well, let’s say that you’ve got a habit that really brings you or others down. For instance, you judge others and want them to live up to your expectations. You decide to evict this “crow” from your life, and so you ask the Holy Spirit to give you the power to do so. You have a day of freedom….and then, you find yourself face to face with your own personal “crow” again. This is not the time to give up or give in. It’s time to call on the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to choose different behavior as often as is necessary.

 

Be disciplined. Be alert. Beat the boards together. They will sound the triumph to evil: “Jesus died and rose again so that we can be free from sin and death. Jesus gives us the freedom to be free. We live in step with the Spirit and not with evil. Hallelujah and Amen!”

 

Fighting the “crows” with you,

 

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: 1 Peter 5:8 | Evil | crow

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We Can Cling to This Truth
2015.05.07 04:58:46

The crow is gone. It wasn’t as hard to get rid of it as we’d thought it would be. Following the advice of a stranger, Horace took two cutting boards from the kitchen into the backyard. He smacked them together good and loud. The crow flew away and hasn’t come back.


But wait, let me explain. This spring a glistening crow decided to take over our yard. Each morning we’d look out the window to see the big, black bird dominating our lovely space that had been teeming with life before. Now, all of the songbirds and animals had disappeared—except for the squirrels. They remained, but only navigated along the fences so that they could make quick escapes. The crow’s presence had taken out what was good, leaving fear in its place.


The crow reminds me of evil. Evil never promotes life or wellbeing. It replaces joy and trust with fear. Habits and addictions form that are almost impossible to overcome. Misunderstandings occur and fester. Relationships fracture. Violence explodes. Hope slips away. Isolation results.


This week in the Fox Valley we have seen evil up close. We have experienced it in “full bloom,” and we are shocked and in grief. How could this have happened here in our beautiful backyard?


The more important question is how will we—as believers in Christ—continue to live as people of the resurrection when evil threatens to extinguish our hope?


First of all, we will stand firm in the knowledge that the crow does not have the last word, and neither does sin. Jesus triumphs. His death and resurrection pronounce the resounding clap of thunder against the devastation of evil.


In the midst of all that is wrong, Jesus gives us the power to hold to all that is right. In the midst of his crucifixion, Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them!” And in the quiet of Easter morning, Jesus spoke with love to the heartbroken Mary Magdalene. He was making everything new then, and he still is. He will make all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28). Life will flourish again.


We can cling to this truth.


Vicar Cheryl



Tags: Trust | crow | violence | Evil

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Faith Stepping
2015.04.30 00:24:57

Sometimes we have a pretty good idea where we’ll be a year from now, but sometimes, we have no idea at all. Right now, my husband and I are at the “no idea at all” place. We hope that I will have received and accepted a call to a parish, but we simply don’t know if that will happen and if it does, where it will be and how it will play out.


So the poem I wrote over a year ago is helpful to us now, and perhaps it can be helpful to you, too—as individuals and as a church body. As Christians, we are anchored in the trustworthy character of the One-who-Promises. We are on a sure path—even when uncertainty is all around us.


Stepping into nowhere

My foot over the edge of a cliff

 

“Do not fear”

“All is well”

“I will never leave you or forsake you”

“I know the future; it is good”

 

Well, then

 

There is no cliff

There is no step into nowhere

 

There is only

A step of strong assurance

A step into the Promise of God

 

This is good news! This is our assurance as we navigate every day of our lives within the care of our good and loving Father.

 

Faith-stepping with you,

 

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: faith | Trust | future

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Yours is the Kingdom of God
2015.04.30 00:22:15

Enough.


Have you ever thought about the stress we experience when we don’t have enough of something? Many people in the prime of life would say that they don’t have enough time or money.   When they get older, they may have enough time and money but not enough health or companionship to enjoy it.


Throughout our days we may long for rest, better communication with those we love, more patience and wisdom, more security, more self-confidence, enjoyable employment, time alone or not alone, stronger friendships, healing for emotional pain, the touch of God on our spirits. The list goes on. If we’re honest, we all have to admit that there’s something lacking in our lives, and it may be something that we deeply need.


That’s a good thing. As Luther said at his death, “We are beggars, every one.” We come to God in need. We need his forgiveness and grace. We need his abundance. We need to know that those who mourn will be comforted, and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled. We need God to remind us that his grace is sufficient for us; that he will meet all of our needs according to his riches in glory; that we can turn to him and he will heal our souls.


We need to be reminded that there is always enough in the risen Christ. There really is. So rejoice and be glad—at work, at home, at rest. Yours is the Kingdom of God!


Grateful for this,


Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Enough | sufficient | abundance

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Resurrection Power
2015.04.30 00:19:36

Our voices were barely audible as we started to slowly sing the first verse:

 

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus, my Savior.

Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.

 

Everything exploded when we hit the chorus. The pianist picked up the tempo and started to pound it out. We all stood taller, breathed from our diaphragms and sang with gusto:

 

Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er his foes!

He arose the victor from the dark domain,

and He lives forever with his saints to reign.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose!

 

The little church reverberated with joyous sound, and I suspect the rafters lifted an inch or two. It was Easter. It was the day to be loud in church.

 

I’ve always imagined that Jesus’ resurrection was a noisy affair—probably because of this song. But could it be that the resurrection was peaceful? Resurrection in nature is quiet. A seed dies in the ground before the new life begins to grow from it. Quietly, without fanfare, the tiny shoot makes its way to the light. New life. No noise.

 

What was it like for Jesus?   What happened when his broken, dead body was replaced with a resurrected, glorified one? Did he burst from his burial wrappings like a super hero, or did the new life awaken him slowly in the quiet morning as new energy coursed through his being? Were tears of sheer joy flowing down his cheeks? Did he reach for the sky and shout, “Hallelujah!” or did he sit for a moment in quiet communion with his Father so that they could rejoice together?

 

We don’t know. But this we know for sure: we have been given the power that raised Christ from the dead (Philippians 3:10). That power doesn’t turn us into frantic, noisy Energizer bunnies. It doesn’t make us supernatural. We don’t burst from despair and despondency into ecstatic joy in a millisecond or two. Instead, new life courses through our beings little by little. In the quiet of an early morning we receive the joy of Christ and strength for the day. We are given the patience and love to care for our families even when we’re dead tired. We read Scripture and understand it for the first time. We have the strength to admit we’re wrong and the grace to apologize and ask for forgiveness. We are being made new. This is the power of the resurrection at work in me and at work in you. Hallelujah, Christ arose!

 

Rejoicing with you,

 

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Resurrection | Easter

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That Nasty Five-Letter Word
2015.04.30 00:16:40

Guilt. Here, let me say it louder. GUILT! What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear that word?

 

My first reaction is visceral: my stomach churns. I want to get away from the nasty feeling, but since it’s inside of me, it’s pretty hard to escape.

 

I first remember feeling guilty when I was about six or seven years old. Mom had placed the newly-baked cherry crisp dessert on the cupboard to cool. It was my favorite, and since she wasn’t in the room, I started to nibble around its edges. All around its edges. Yup, company dessert. I touched every edge I could touch.

 

Well, I didn’t feel guilty at that point, just satisfied. That is, until Mom asked me if I knew who had done the evil deed. I blamed my younger brother and sister. She reminded me that they weren’t home. I was busted. Also punished--as in a spanking and then a serious prayer to God to ask for forgiveness.

 

I lied to her one or two more times. Busted again. And again. I stopped lying. I hated the punishments, but mostly, I hated the guilt.

 

No matter how hard I’ve tried since then, I can’t get used to feeling guilty. Its power pushes me to confess and ask for forgiveness. I try to live honestly so that I don’t have to go through the whole process very often. Even so, it’s a relief every Sunday to confess at the beginning of the worship service and hear the words, “Your sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ.”

 

It’s Lent right now. We’re moving toward the day when we commemorate Christ’s death for our sins. Have you ever wondered what he experienced when all of our guilt and its resulting shame got dumped on him? He couldn’t escape either. He was nailed to a cross.

 

With renewed gratitude to Jesus,

 

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: guilt

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This is "For YOU"
2015.04.29 22:30:30

“Do you ever get tired of saying that?” the acolyte asked me after we’d served communion. He was referring to the words, “The body of Christ given for you” and “The blood of Christ shed for you,” that I’d said to each person who’d received the bread and wine.

 

“No, I don’t,” I replied, shaking my head.

 

“You really have to say it a lot.”

 

“I know, but when I think about what those words mean…well, no, I never get tired of saying them.” And it’s true, I don’t.

 

But there’s more to the story. When I first started to attend a Lutheran church, the pastor explained the Lutheran understanding of Holy Communion to me. He said that the bread and wine are just ordinary physical elements, but when they are combined with the spoken promise of God, they become a means whereby Christ is present with us. Christ’s grace, strength, and forgiveness are freely given to us through the bread and wine, and in such a simple yet profound way, Christ gives us himself to be taken into ourselves.

 

This understanding brought deep peace and joy to my heart, and back then in the early 1980s, I felt the pull toward the ministry—partly because I wanted to share communion with others.

 

Now I serve communion every week, but it never gets tiring. That’s partly because of the words, “for you.”   People come forward for communion with a great deal going on in their hearts and minds. Some people are filled with joy and contentment, and others are struggling or in pain. Many are weary from the demands of their lives. Regardless of what’s happening in their lives, all come to the table just as they are—as both saints and sinners. And then…and then, Christ is present to them and for them. “The body of Christ given for you; the blood of Christ shed for you.”

 

Christ is making a covenant with you when you receive his body and blood. You are his, and he is yours. Truly, Christ is with you in real time, in real space, and in absolute truth. Thanks be to God!

 

We are so blessed,

 

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Communion | Sacrament

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What Would Happen?
2015.04.29 22:24:41

His 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 almost-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 | Trust | Love

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Longing for Fresh Starts
2015.04.29 22:21:42

“God is relentless for newness.” This short statement shouts at me from a commentary on Jeremiah. What does it mean and why has it captured my attention?


Right now I’m gazing out the back window. The lawn is white—dirty white, and everything that is exposed is brown—the bare branches, the dead foliage from perennials and the back fence. It’s not a pretty sight, and I’m tired of it. I need some color, some evidence of new life. Every day I look out there, remembering the vibrancy of green grass and leaves and the lush beauty of the flower beds. I understand what it means to be relentless for newness.


I wonder how God feels when he looks out his back window and views the world. In the time of Jeremiah, God’s view was pretty bleak. His people were either in exile or going into exile in Babylon. There was no immediate hope of restoration. God told them to settle into Babylon because they were going to be there for a long time. But even as God punished them for their obstinacy, disobedience, and arrogance, God was still envisioning a time when they would be allowed to return to Jerusalem. They would get to start over. They would be blessed with a new life.


This is a tremendous word of hope! No matter how colorless our lives have become or how impossible things may seem, God is planning a homecoming for us. There will be a second chance. There will be color again, freshness, springtime and joy.

  

So, wait with patience and hope with the firm belief that you can trust in God’s goodness. Learn from God during the waiting times. Believe in the resurrection when everything is brown and white and your world feels more like winter than spring. God is working, and God will do a new thing for you and those you love.


God is the God of fresh starts. God is relentless for newness.


Grateful for this,

Vicar Cheryl Davis




Tags: newness | regeneration | Spring

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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