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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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"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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Autumn Reflections
2014.11.08 02:12:29

Joyful thoughts have been on my mind this week as I’ve reveled in the burgeoning beauty everywhere—the bright blue skies, balmy air, brilliant trees, golden corn fields and country landscapes that take my breath away.


But there have been other thoughts, too. This fall is just like the fall when my mom died.   The air smells the same, and the sun feels the same on my skin. It transports me back to those days in September 1986 when Mom fought her last battle on earth and entered into the glorious, joyful presence of God.


Mom had brain cancer and was in a coma her last few days. We sat vigil by her bedside. Her favorite hymns were playing. They unlocked our tears and turned us toward God. They reminded us that God was with us in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.


For three days the wind howled. Thunder and lightning split the skies, and the rain pounded the roof. In the middle of the third night, Mom breathed her last breath and the rain stopped. The next morning the sun shone in all its brilliance. The air was clean and new. The sky was sapphire blue, and the leaves of the trees had somehow survived the storm and were resplendent in shades of gold and orange.


My three little children and I walked down to the lake. We talked about Grandma and heaven. When we sat down to eat lunch, my nine-year-old daughter said, “I wonder what Grandma’s having for lunch today.” We laughed and made some wild guesses and felt the comforting arms of God around us. Twenty-eight years later I am still warmed by this memory.


These are my thoughts this autumn. I wanted to share them with you.


Reflectively,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Heaven | Valley of the Shadow of Death | death | Autumn reflections

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It Had to be You
2014.11.08 02:07:13

I’m the crazy lady in the greeting card aisle. You know what I mean: the person who tries out every card that makes music or noise. I laugh as I reach for one card after another.   It may seem to onlookers that I have nothing better to do, but that’s absolutely untrue. I never have time to do this, but once I start, I can’t stop.

 

I had a great time in the card aisle in August right before our tenth wedding anniversary. The card I loved the most had a “pull me” ribbon on the right side. As I pulled the ribbon, the card stretched into an elongated tropical beach, and Frank Sinatra started to sing “It had to be you, it had to be you...”

 

I wanted to buy it for Horace but decided that it was too expensive; I’d tell him about it instead. But I didn’t need to tell him because the card he gave me had a “pull me” ribbon on the right side. It turned into an elongated tropical beach, and Frank Sinatra started to sing. We laughed about it for awhile and then put it on the fireplace mantel.

 

For days it sat there, a gentle reminder of our déjà vu. And then one morning at 7:01 when I was spending quiet time with the Lord, Frank Sinatra started up: It had to be you… He jolted me out of my reverie. I chuckled because I suspected it was God’s humorous way of reassuring me that he had chosen me to be his own.

 

Since then, the card sings to me almost every morning when I’m having my quiet time. It always surprises me. It always splashes the refreshing water of love over me. It always reminds me that God comes to each of us in the most unexpected ways at the most unexpected moments just to remind us that he has intentionally claimed us as his very own.

 

Joyfully,

Vicar Cheryl Davis

 

 




Tags: Love | Claimed by God | Chosen | Anniversary | Greeting Cards

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There's a Place at the Table for You
2014.11.08 01:36:58

Mephibosheth (Mi -fib’- o- sheth). I loved this word as a child.  I liked how it sounded.  I liked how it felt to say it.  And because of that, I've always remembered the story about the man named Mephibosheth.

 

Saul, the first king of Israel, had willfully sinned against God quite early in his reign as king, and God had chosen David to succeed him. Saul’s son, Jonathan, was David’s best friend.   They made a pact between them that David would always show compassion to Jonathan’s family after David became King of Israel. After that, Jonathan and Saul were both killed in battle.

 

Fast forward. David is now king. One of his first acts as king is to ask if anyone is left from the House of Saul. He wants to show them compassion as he’d promised Jonathan he would. Enter Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth is Jonathan’s son. He’s lame in both feet. He could use some goodness from the king.

 

Mephibosheth comes before the king in fear. He bows low to the ground. David says, “Get up. I promised your father that I will always care for you and your family, and I will. You shall have land, servants to care for the land, my protection, and a place to eat at my table for the rest of your life.”

 

Wow! Land, protection, servants—amazing! But a place at the king’s table? That’s more than Mephibosheth could have hoped for.

 

This is a wonderful picture of salvation, isn’t it? We are lame, crippled by sin in the depths of our human nature. We cannot come before a holy God on our own. We do not deserve special favor. And yet, there is a Promise, and this Promise’s name is Jesus Christ. We have been baptized into the crucified and risen Christ. We have been claimed by God. Because of this, the Promise is ours. This means there’s a place at God’s table for us. This is more than we could have hoped for.

 

Pull up a chair. Dig into the richest of God’s food. You are an heir of the Promise, and so am I.

 

Grinning at you from across the table,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: David | Promise | grace | Mephibosheth | 2 Samuel 4

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January 20, 2018

 

 

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