Thursday, October 28, 2021

Wonderings--October 28

I want to tell you about my morning today because it has been a good day--a blessing of a day. 

But first, let's rewind to yesterday morning. . . On Wednesday I saw my orthopedic. His PA, Jamie, was going to inject, for the third and final time, a gel into my right knee. (I know that sounds gross... imagine sitting through it!) Each week for the past three, I have sat on the table while Jamie injects the gel. The hope is that as the amount of liquid builds up in my knee the pain will subside and my mobility will return. 

Each shot provided different results. 

The first injection hurt soooo bad. I could hardly bend my knee at all. I limped all the way back to the car. 

The second one was different. This time the pain was only in the inside of my knee, but I was able to walk better. The pain was getting less. I still could overdo it quite easily, but I noticed a difference. 

This third, and final, injection produced a different result. The injection site is still sore and tender to the touch, but I am able to walk smoothly--finally. It has been a long time since I could have a regular gate to my steps. This led to the first blessing of my day:

Blessing 1: I walked Luna without pain. Because Luna loves to walk, I resisted the urge to walk her. I just couldn't handle her pulling and tugging on my knee as I braced myself against her pulling. We talked 1.5 miles around the church, the prayer trail, and Plains Church Road. It was flat anI felt blessed--really, really blessed. 

There was no pain in my steps. As I listened to my audiobook, I praised God for the coolness of the morning and being able to move freely again. 

Blessing 2: After getting ready for the morning, I was thankful to find one lonely pumpkin bagel in the pantry. Emma loves these bagels and has eaten most of them already. But she saved the last one for dear old dad... Small blessing I know, but a blessing nonetheless. 

Blessing 3: I walked to the church with no pain and witnessed a beautiful view of the sun popping over the church. The God of creation painted a beautiful sky for me. 

Blessing 4: A new friend sent me the nicest response on Facebook. I knew that she was suffering through a time of grief and the short conversation that we had around that pain, spoke loudly to me. I was glad to have the care for someone else as they hurt. (This type of work is part of what it means to be a minister). 

Blessing 5: I have no idea. . . But I know that God is going to care and support me in a profound way as He will do for you as well. 

I hope that today you will make some time, find some space, and notice how God has cared and supported you. I wonder how that revelation might just change your life in a small incremental way?

Rev. Derek

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Wonderings--October 26

 Today I wonder about memory. . . let me explain. 

This afternoon I took Emma's car as I went out to visit some of my shut-ins for the final time before I leave Plains this weekend. 

Doing such visits have been a little difficult during covid-19. I have found the doors closed to visit my church family members by a number of institutions because of health concerns. I understand the necessity and reasoning behind such decisions, but like I said, those choices make visiting and bringing God's word to the church family a little harder. 

As I backed Emma's car out of the driveway I received four notifications on the screen. These notifications were why Emma asked me to take the car in the first place. All four of her tires were low on air and she was concerned and didn't know exactly what to do. 

As a loving dad I didn't chide her about how to put air into the tires. Instead I smiled and drove to GetGo for some air before my first visit of the afternoon. 

Placing the nozzle onto her tire the machine churned into life. Air steamed into her driver's front side tire. . . beeping when it was done. I stood and moved to the back tire. At that time, a gentle drizzle turned into a sprinkle. 

The rain wasn't going to stop me. She needed air and I had the time. I knew that it was going to take a minute or two, but didn't care. I just did what needed to be done. Yet, it was raining harder now, as I moved to the passenger's side. 

I flipped the hood of my Mickey sweatshirt up and continued to wait for the front tire to fill with air and then beep. About that time, the memory kicked in. . . I remembered the rain. 

I remembered how I used to dislike rain in the Boy Scouts until I learned that if I couldn't feel it hitting my skin then I was of no concern. Other boys would complain, but not me. I was focused on my jobs. Then my memory turned back to Nepal and the rainiest day of my life. 

I have talked about cutting bamboo, on a steep hillside, in a torrential, monsoon-like, rain before. We laughed and cut bamboo all morning together as a church family. Then we carried each stalk together as a team up a very, very steep hill, across a green tea field and deposited it down in the pile. All the while laughing while we did it and working hard. 

Sure we were chilled to the bone not long after we were done. But the day was transformational and I remembered it. 

Yet would I have thought about Nepal, and remembered the church camaraderie, and prayed for my friends in Nepal, without the rain today? If I hadn't needed to fill Emma's tires would I have slowed down enough in my hectic day to notice a memory that God was offering to my heart? 

I bet you know that answer. . . It might just be the same answer that you are offering up today when that moment comes in your life? 

I wonder what memory God might bring to your heart today if you gave God the chance? 

I got back in Emma's car and continued on to my next stop, but my heart was changed and I was blessed. Memory has the power. I hope you will find some time today to remember. . . 


Rev. Derek

Monday, October 25, 2021

Wonderings--October 25

 Today is a very busy day for me and I was looking forward to it all weekend. 

Besides all of the normal events of my Monday morning, like checking email and planning for All Saints Day,, this Monday is special. In a short while I will again read stories to the children of CNS. We began this practice during the covid-affected school year of 2020 and have continued it in 2021. Reading to the children is a blessing to my heart. 

Today I am reading about Father Abraham and Isaac--not the most child-friendly story, but I know how to shift it. It went well this morning and I assume that it will go well again as I read for the afternoon session. My iPad is ready and so am I! 

Yet as part of my busy day, I have already found myself feeling off. . . feeling like something is missing. 

Could it be my missing cup of coffee that accompanies me to the office (today I am enjoying some cranberry juice)? No coffee can be an issue for some people. . .

Maybe my office is too cluttered and messy to provide my needed focus (I do have a lot of totes scattered around the room)? 

Am I preoccupied with some visits that I am making this week or a dinner that I have planned tomorrow evening? (All worthy, yet all taken care of).

Or perhaps, as I read recently, I am just not bored enough yet to be creative . . . Let me explain. 

In a blog post, Maria Popova wrote:  

"When was the last time you were bored--truly bored--and didn't instantly spring to fill your psychic emptiness by checking Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? The last time you stood in line at the store or the boarding gate. . . and didn't reach for your smartphone seeking delivered from the dreary protest of forced idleness? A half century ago, Kierkegaard argued that this impulse to escape the present by keeping ourselves busy is our greatest source of unhappiness. . . And yet ours is a culture that equates boredom with the opposite of creativity."

Maybe I am struggling with a lack of creativity because I am not bored yet. . . As I thought about Maria's conclusion, and my first thoughts about it, I returned to my initial question: Why did something feel off today, like something was missing? 

Perhaps what we need most is not more tasks to fill our days beyond their capacity. Perhaps what we need is more time to get bored and allow our creative minds space to rest and eventually to work? This is definitely counter-intuitive but I wonder what its evangelistic value might become. 

As I thought about boredom, I remembered my children and how they engaged themselves when they were bored (or as they became bored). For children, boredom equates with the potential for discovery and creativity. When a child is bored they often begin drifting from one thing to another in an attempt to fill the space. While this can frustrate parents and teachers it is a natural part of our of development as people. 

Emma struggled with being bored. She needed us to fill her time for her. Emma only recently learned the lesson of boredom. It helped her learn to paint and play the guitar. She craves the space and looks for times when something new can be brought into her life. 

And so I wonder about you today. Are you so busy that you miss the chance and opportunity to use the boredom of every day life for the creative glory of God? 


Rev. Derek

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Wonderings--October 21

Most mornings when I am in the office, I hear the gentle, ever-present, din of the nursery school children. I find that I cannot function well without them. I hear their teachers leading the children in songs, preparing them to travel to the playground, and helping them enjoy their snacks. Craft instructions are given out and 'Days of the Week' is sung. 

We have a wonderful staff at the Cranberry Nursery School. Their love of God and of their children is apparent to anyone who walks into the building. I seldom close my door so that I can hear the children at CNS. 

Around 10:05 every morning, I hear the Half-Pints (our 2.5 year-old class) traveling down the restroom. I listen as the classroom aid and the teacher help the boys and girls through the entire process. Hands washed the children sit on color circles on the carpet waiting for their 'friends' to finish up. Then they will skip, dance, or walk down the hall back to their room. 

"Blake, sit on the yellow circle". . . "Abel can you sit on the blue circle." It is the normal rhythm of my morning and it warms my heart. 

But the children have changed me and brought me into their little habits. 

This morning I can't sit still. I grab my Disney coffee cup off my desk and head to the door. Opening it I see little, masked, faces staring back at me looking for me. I have been brought into their world. Early in the school year their teacher told me that the children ask if I am going to come say, 'hi' to them today. I cannot, not, come out and see them. It is my habit too. . . 

I am shown the new blue shoes that one boy has. "Captain America" sits in the back of the line and leans out to show me his shirt and his muscles. An out-going little girls leans forward and says something, but I am too far away to hear it. But I can see her smile over her mask and I know what she is thinking. It is a simple thing that I do to show up each day for them--and one that I cherish. 

An anxious child who cried so much early on in the year now looks up at me with her hair in two matching braids. She has come so far already and I know she will continue to grow and be blessed because of CNS and its staff. . . 

"Let's show Rev. Derek our sparkly hands. . . .  Sparkle. Sparkle. Sparkle." Eight sets of hands are held up high for me to see as fingers flex back and forth showing me that all the germs have been washed away. I respond, as I always do, "Wow those look great." Again, it is what we do together. 

William G. Jordan says:

"Life grows wondrously beautiful when we look at it as simple, when we brush aside trivial cares, sorrows, worries, and failures. . . Simplicity is a mental soil where selfishness, deceit, treachery and low ambition cannot grow."  

Today I know that he is correct. This morning was beautiful because I looked at what was happening in the hallway just simply and let the blessing of the Half Pints wash over me. I wonder what might happen for you, when you notice the simple things happening right before you eyes?


Rev. Derek 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Wonderings--October 19

October 18th is always an interesting day for me. . . It is the day where my father entered into Christ's resurrection eight years ago. And while we are often faced with mixed emotional responses to any death, I myself abnormally focused on dad this year. . . 

Normally on the 18th I am a bit quiet (I know that's hard to believe). I am a little more still and attentive to the movements of God around me as I remember dad and remember his influence on my children. For instance, I know that JonMark will be a great Physical Assistant because of how he learned to care for dad for so many years. JonMark and papa were inseparable. When I miss dad I look into Emma's eyes and heart and I can see his fiery presence and commitment raging in her eyes.  

As I waited for a meeting to begin last night, I found myself re-reading some of dad's favorite authors. I do this often when I remember him and how he shaped my life--both the good and the bad. As I read a section from Soren Kierkegaard, I was blessed by the wisdom that I was finding on those pages. This morning I would like to share some of that wisdom with you as I think about my dad. 

In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard writes: 

For my part I can well describe the movements of faith, but I cannot make them. When one would learn to make the motions of swimming one can let oneself be hung by a swimming-belt from the ceiling and go through the motions (describe them, so to speak, as we speak of describing a circle), but one is not swimming. 

In that way I can describe the movements of faith, but when I am thrown into the water, I swim it is true, but I make other movements, I make the movements of infinity, whereas faith does the opposite: after having made the movements of infinity, it makes those are finiteness.

I stopped as I finished this section and thought about what I just read. I remembered my dad who taught me a little about Kierkegaard when I was young. As I rocked in my chair, I wondered:

Do I go through the motions of faith more often than I adopt them? 

I say the right thing. I write the correct thing. I read the expected passages of God's word. I smile as I should in public and I offer the expected response to the suffering and struggles of my day. But am I being transformed by them or by God? 

Is the revelation of God at work in my life so that I find myself 'swimming' through my day totally immerse in both God's presence and the call to faithful living and faithful practices? Maybe today take a moment and consider Kierkegaard's illustration as you continue to live faithfully in your local community. 

Rev. Derek

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Wonderings.... October 14

This morning I again took Luna on a walk. 

It was a cool morning, a crisp morning to walk the dog. She loves to walk and I assume that she has missed the chance to walk with me around the neighborhood during the summer. When Governor Wolfe 'locked down' the state during 2020, we walked every single day together in the silence of our community. It was wonderful to be outside.

Truthfully the summer heat of 2021 makes it an act of cruelty to walk a dog on an 80+ degree day for three miles on the hot, black, street--at least it is from my perspective. I can't imagine it feels good to walk on hot pavement barefoot for over an hour. . . So I don't ask Luna to do it either.  

Now as the autumn season begins around our home, and the breeze blows more leaves from their trees, Luna and I return to our 'course.' I bet that I do not need to put a leash on her anymore. She knows the way and she tugs and tugs for the first mile or so as she always does. 

Around the parking lot twice we go. Luna is running and dancing around me. Down Plains Church Road toward the busyness of Franklin Road. Then we turn back around. Another trip around the parking lot and then down Plains Church toward the seclusion of Hope Road and into a new housing plan that is being built over there. The traffic is always light once we leave Plains Church Road and l love that part of the morning routine. 

She walks down the edge of the street mesmerized by the smells and sights of Hope Road. We see a few squirrels doing whatever squirrels do in the morning. Luna's ear go up and she decides that an introduction is warranted. The squirrels don't agree. . .  Big surprise right, they never agree. . . 

After the fourth squirrel scampers into the underbrush, I finally tell her, "I guess they don't like you, Lu. Go figure." 

Surprisingly she does not respond. . . The next tree needs to be smelled. 

Now about a mile or so into the walk, I notice that my hands are drifting out from my sides with my palms up. My head is bobbing and weaving up and down. I notice that I have lost my place in my Star Wars audiobook. Something is happening in my heart. When things like this happen it is best to switch 'the programming around' and notice.

I begin to listen to some Taize on my iPhone. God has shown up and the rest of the walk is a practice of prayer and contemplation. 

As we trudge back up Plains Church road I begin to wonder. . . What would happen if I wasn't receptive to the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit this morning? I wonder what God wanted to say to me today? 

If I was too locked into my schedule and my desires then I would have missed the movement of God. But I am not the only one of could fall victim to the pressure of schedules and plans. Maybe today God is asking you to find some time and wonder with Him. . .


Rev. Derek

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Pastoral Thought—October 13

 Well today was a good morning for me. It was a long a morning that I missed when the heat of the summer was great. Today I walked Luna again… we went for a longer walk. 

The coolness of the early autumn was a blessing for both me and Luna. 

During the walk, I could help but smile. This was something that I had to share as I continue to work towards being faithful to God—a call we all participate in. 

As the hill on Plains Church road started to slope downward, I anticipated that Luna would begin to pull very hard on her leash. This is normal for Lu. She loves walking. She loves the journey and knows the way well. Yet today she didn’t pull. Rather something else happened. 

Today she noticed…. 

At the top of the hill I casually kicked a small green pod that fell from the tree by the church. I don’t know what tree specifies it is and I don’t know what I kicked. But I casually kicked it. Honestly I was clearing the road because sometimes I slip on those pods and have fallen before. Not today! I thought. 

So I kicked it. And Luna saw that. It rolled and rolled down the street. Down the steep him and around some of the gentle bend in the street. It rolled at a consistent speed and Luna watched it with a cocked ear. Rolling and rolling… I smiled as I watched her. 

I’m sure she thought that it was something interesting or intriguing. But I knew that it wasn’t. It was ordinary and unremarkable. Yet if interested Luna… a lot. 

As she chased it I wondered: what has God gently placed before you that could catch your eye? 

This was nothing special to me. But to Luna it was an enigma wrapped in a mystery: one that had to be solved. Regardless of what I thought it was, for her it was a chance to play and learn. 

In my experience, God seems to put things before us that could invite us to display the same response. My question is: would be notice? And if we did, then what??


Rev. Derek

Monday, October 11, 2021

Pastoral Thought--October 11

 Quite a while ago I began working on a new writing project in the evenings. 

I would write for a few days then take a break. I’d take a month off. Sometimes I could only re-read what I had written before because the subject matter was too challenging for my heart. I was still grieving the loss that created the desire to write this book. Although I started thinking and considering how to formulate this project 8 years ago, I can see a thought-line emerging in the work as I have slowly crept up to it. 

Recently I began to write again. I have not shared this project with anyone outside of my immediate family because again, its a painful topic. . . I am working on a pastoral journal about my father, his life, his death, and how that death shaped me. Someday I will be done—just not yet (and not any time soon either I suspect). 

Yesterday afternoon I spent some more time while the house was silent to think and put my thoughts onto paper. The gentle blowing and hum of the ceiling fan was the only noise in the house as I typed away on this laptop. It was a beautiful day and I took advantage of the stillness that was presented to me as a gift from God.. 

As I read my words about my dad’s early life and began to consider the life-changing moments around his seizure, I could feel the emotions become heavy around me. Memories that I didn’t remember came flooding back to my mind as I remembered dad at Akron General in the emergency room. I could see the color of his room. The fear in his eyes. The sadness in my mother as she picked my sister and I up from our Christian school in Ashland, Ohio. 

I could only write for a short time before I needed a release from the emotion that changed my family in totality. I decided that I had to get something to drink. Rising from my chair I swung my bare feet out from under the table and crashed them into Luna’s side. 

I had no idea that she was there. 

A normally boisterous dog, who loves to bring me her favorite rope-toy constantly, snuck up on me in the dinning room. Leaving her toy in the other room, she nestled down next to me, in what I felt, was a sense of solidarity and companionship. She couldn’t possibly know the emotions that were buzzing around my mind at that moment. She didn’t know that I would receive her presence as a gift from God. But it didn’t matter. She was there. 

I reached down and rubbed her side as I got a fresh cup of coffee. I walked back over to the table with her following me and asked her how long she’d been laying there. Bobbing her head up and down and side to side she put her head in my lap for a quick ’scratch' and then trotted off. . . I knew where she was going. 

I was done writing, she thought, so it was time to play and throw that rope-toy into the next room for her. But it was her presence that caught my mind and has stayed with me all evening and all morning today.

Sometimes we don’t know who has snuck up next to us, nestled down beside us, in those moments of pain. We didn’t hear them coming and we didn’t ask for their support. But they gave it to us because they were being obedient to God. I wonder who could God be putting next to you today that you might be able to sit with? 

Rev. Derek 

I Wonder--November 29

I wonder if you would pray with me for someone you have not met?  Today I had my yearly physical with my doctor and it went very well. Heart...