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Thursday, July 19, 2018

"Midweek and Still Practicing Heaven" Pastor Cindy's Devotion 07/19/2018


Good morning!  Last week I asked you to “practice heaven.”  How’s it going?
I believe heaven is a place where we are fully immersed in God’s love.  So that’s what I have been practicing.  I am assuming heaven is all around and I just have to open myself to it.  It has been interesting.

Some heaven is completely obvious.  Vacation Bible school is happening at the church this week and that’s heaven all around with 54 children filling our halls.  We have dozens of faithful helpers, among them teenagers who dote on the kids and are clearly rock stars in the children’s eyes.  VBS begins each night following Kathy’s lead with song and dance and dancing has been amazingly fun.  I am sure there is dancing in heaven.  Supper has been heavenly, too.

Some heaven is more subtle.  Since I am “practicing” that I am immersed in God’s love, I assume every person I encounter must be too.  And honestly, sometimes I have to squint to see heaven in others.  There is this age-old question about who we will meet in heaven.  I once belonged to a bible study where that topic came up for debate every so often.  Someone would offer the name of notorious villain—the Unabomber, Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and we would debate what their chances were of being welcomed into heaven.  One day it occurred to us that people who judge who gets into heaven are probably jeopardizing their own possibility of going to heaven.  We ended the debates.
So this week as I practice, I am assuming heaven citizenship in every one I meet. It has opened some doors.

And heaven is also demanding.  I think we tend to think of heaven as this perfect place that suits our taste and sensibility, the next room over only with better decorating.  The more I practice heaven the less I believe that.  Heaven is the fullness of God’s love, not our preferred eternal vacation destination.

God’s love means justice, and human dignity and compassion.  It means clean water and nourishing food and shelter.  It means respect for the least.  It means relinquishing the abundance that I have so that others can have enough.  It means sacrifice and sticking my neck out and speaking up for others.  Heaven beyond a place designed just for me.  Heaven beyond my narrow view of heaven. More than I could ever imagine.  Better. 

In the last week, God has shown me things that are not heavenly.  Things like hunger and poor housing and discrimination.  God has not only shown me these things, God has me wondering how these things might become more heaven-like and what I role I have in making that happen.
A pastor I once had said, “If you don’t see God in this life, you won’t see God in the next.”  Maybe that is true of heaven too.  If we don’t live heaven in this life, and offer it to others, we won’t arrive in heaven in the next. 

So I am practicing heaven.  I hope you are too.

Blessings,

Pastor Cindy

Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Ave
West Des Moines Iowa 50265
515-279-0826

We worship at 8:30 and 11 and we would love to worship with you!

This week at WDMUMC
Our sermon series, KidTalk, what children can teach us about God and faith and church, continues.  Our intern Rachel Hollingsworth will preach about what life is like for a 21-year-old disciple.  I will be there too and I am excited to hear what she has to say.

Vacation Bible School ends tonight.  Many thanks to all who have taught and lead.  You ROCK!
And if you haven’t signed up to serve at our food booth at the Iowa State Fair, please do!  Simply go to our website, wdmumc.org and sign up.  We need you at the fair!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

"Practice Heaven!" Pastor Cindy's Devotion 07/12/2018


Good morning friends,
This Sunday we will continue our sermon series, Kid Talk, what children can teach us about God, faith, and the church.  This Sunday the topic is heaven.  Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to children.  What do you think he meant?

So, to get ready for Sunday I have been thinking a lot about heaven.  I believe in heaven, but generally, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.  This week I have discovered a curious thing.  I am better off when I do think about heaven.  (Honestly, I have also discovered I spend too much time thinking about the stuff of hell—anxiousness, worrying, judging, not trusting God.)
 
So, I am giving you an assignment:  practice heaven.

For the next three days, I want you to practice living as though this is heaven.

What would the heaven around you look like?  Is it open and spacious?  Is it beautiful?

What happens there?  Is everyone accepted?  Is everything shared?  Are we reunited with everyone we ever loved?

What doesn’t happen there?  Are hatred and judgment prohibited?  Are we united with everyone we failed to love?

I want my heaven to be filled with friendly dogs and books and summer breezes.  I want to dance and sing in my heaven and act goofy from time to time for no reason at all.  I want evening campfires and early morning birdsong in my heaven.
 
There is a little problem with that.  It isn’t my heaven.  It can never be.  Heaven is completely and forever God’s domain.

Which means it is better than anything I might plan.

I think heaven is a place where we are immersed in love, so much so that love overflows from us to those around us and those beyond us.  Whatever keeps us from being fully loving now, falls away and we come fully into God’s presence and at the same time fully ourselves.

So for three days, practice heaven.  And I will practice too.  See you on Sunday.

Blessings,
Pastor Cindy
Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Ave
West Des Moines, Iowa 50265

Visit us at wdmumc.org, or like us on Facebook and Instagram.
We worship at 8:30 and 11 every Sunday and you are invited.

This week at WDMUMC…
Heartland Youth Choir Concert Friday at 7 pm.  The youth have been practicing all week and filling our halls with song.  Come and enjoy the concert!

Vacation Bible School!  Begins Sunday evening at 6 pm. There is still time to sign up.  Visit wdmumc.org to register.


And ice cream!  This Sunday between services we will have ice cream and lemonade outside on the lawn.  If you worship at 11, come early to enjoy the ice cream!  (Who knows?  Maybe there is ice cream in heaven.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

"Hope-filled Detroit" Pastor Cindy's Devotion 07/03/18


Hello friends!
I went to Detroit on a mission trip last week and I saw hope, lots and lots of hope. I came home sweaty and exhausted and much more happy than when I left.  Hope is infectious.

Generally, the purpose of a mission trip is to help people recover from a disaster, typically a hurricane or a flood or a fire.  The disaster Detroit experienced did not come in the form of rain or rising waters. Detroit’s disaster was created by humans.  It was an economic and racial disaster created by a complex history of racist policies and the failure of the auto industry.

When we drove through Detroit and we could see the prosperous, beautiful city it once was.  Beautiful neighborhoods, stately homes, wide welcoming tree-lined streets.  Then we looked closer and realized that most of the businesses were boarded up. There were abandoned homes on every block, boarded up, lawns are overgrown, roofs caved in.  One of Detroit’s biggest challenges is keeping lawns mowed and weeds pulled.  With the loss of jobs, people left.  Without revenue from property taxes from homes and businesses, the school system is in shambles.  One young woman told me that there is no economy in Detroit, none. Detroit has been labeled as the most dangerous city in America.

But there is hope, we saw lots and lots of hope.

Hope:  Mr. Williams, the patron saint of vegetables, is enthusiastically creating a community garden in a park.  That’s where we were sent on our first morning in Detroit.  The goal is to provide a place for people to gather and good food for people to eat.  His hope is in the form of kohlrabi and Brussel sprouts.  And he was so filled with hope, it overflowed into us and we spent the day pulling weeds and smiling.

Hope:  Mrs. Moore arrived at the community garden.  She grilled hot dogs for us for lunch.  She serves on the zoning commission for the city of Detroit.  All day she hauled us in her minivan back and forth to the nearest bathroom. On one trip she took us by her house.  She has a garden in the front yard and her house has a porch.  We asked if she sat on the porch in the evening.  “Not in this neighborhood,” she told us.  And yet she is committed to this neighborhood.  Hot dogs and transportation to a bathroom and her laughter all filled us with hope.

Hope:  Shirley is the president of her block club and one morning we met her on her front porch.  She was grimacing in pain, preparing to go to the hospital, and yet she waited for us.  Her neighborhood was made up of older two-story homes, evidence of past elegance, with scrollwork around the windows and balconies.  Beautiful homes, and again, an abandoned home or two on every block.  The alley behind her neighborhood was overgrown with weeds.  It gave the impression no one cared, and people didn’t like to walk near it.  We set to work pulling weeds and cleaning up the alley.  More than 70 bags of weeds later and a whole lot of sweat, there it was again hope.  (Shirley returned from the hospital later in the day.  The diagnosis was a gallbladder attack.  She will be having surgery soon.)

Hope: Stephanie was a volunteer for Cass Community Services.  Cass Community Services was started by Cass United Methodist Church.  She found us circling a neighborhood—we were a little bit lost.  Cass Community Services is establishing a tiny house neighborhood in a depressed neighborhood. They currently have seven houses in place. Another three are being built and eventually there will be 28. The homes are leased to people who have never owned a home. The rent is $1 per square foot.  One house was 350 square feet=$350 monthly rent.  If the renter maintains the house and the rent for seven years, the house is turned over to them.  Cass UMC also operates a small factory where they make doormats.  Detroit has lots of abandoned tires and the people of Cass drive around the city and pick them up.  The tires are cut into strips and people who had been regarded as unemployable due to disabilities are employed to make them into mats.  They employ 60 people.  Want to see one?  Stop by my house.  I bought one and put it on the front porch.  And when I step out on to it, I feel hope.

Hope:  Terrance was a part-time volunteer, part-time janitor at a small church.  The church ran a clothing closet and a used furniture depot.  The morning we arrived at the church, the police were there too.  Someone had rammed the door of the garage where the furniture was stored and stolen the lawn mowers and cases of diapers.  The volunteers who ran the clothing closet were discouraged.  “If they had waited until we were open, we would have given them the diapers.”  We went to work, mowing with a borrowed mower, pulling weeds, painting.  Terrance told me “I do what I can because God has given me more than I deserve.”  Hope marching on, even in a moment of discouragement.

Hope:  All of these people were African American.  Their skin is darker than mine.  Their history is a story that differs from mine. Their hearts were open to me.  Their hospitality blessed my life.
I have a pretty good radar for how money is used and as far as I could see, none of these enterprises had much, if any, money.  The tires were free if you didn’t mind scouring abandoned lots. The building where the factory was located had been abandoned.  Mr. Williams just needed seeds.  Stephanie loved her church.  Cass United Methodist Church mortgaged their church building to begin the tiny house neighborhood.  Shirley just looked out her window and saw what needed to be done.
Hope strengthens us. Hope opens our eyes. Look closely and hope is like the open hand of Christ offering blessing and resurrection.

And hope makes you hungry for more hope.  I want to be like Mr. Williams and be the patron saint of something.  I want to be like Mrs. Moore and commit myself to something beyond myself.  I want to be like Shirley and make the neighborhood around me a better place.  I want to do what I can, because, like Terrance, God has given me more than I deserve.

So I am looking around the church, searching for what is hungry for hope here, and dreaming about Detroit, and planning to return someday and see what hope has done.

Every blessing to you.

Pastor Cindy

Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Avenue, West Des Moines Iowa
515-279-0826

We worship at 8:30 and 11 and we would love to worship with you.

Visit us at wdmumc.org or like us on Facebook.
This week at WDMUMC:
Incredible storms swept through the Des Moines area last Saturday.  This week look around and see how you might lend a hand to those impacted by the flooding.  As you identify needs, feel free to text me (515-988-0636) and we will post those needs on our Facebook page.  Follow our Facebook feed to see how you can help.

Sunday we continue our worship series, Kidtalk, what children have to say about God, faith, and church.  Graham Jones, from Hillside school, will be sharing part of the message.  Hope to see you there!

VBS begins July 15!  Sign up on the website.

And we’ll be serving up food and hospitality at the Iowa State Fair.  Volunteers are needed!  Check our Facebook page for details.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

"My To-Do List?" Pastor Cindy's Devotion 06/19/18


In last week’s midweek, I presented God with my to-do list and I asked God to bless it.  Prayer is really a conversation.  We should listen at least as much as we talk.   Curious things happen when I pray AND listen.

Here’s today’s prayer.

Dear God,


Are you grinning at me?  I got your message.


It’s not about the list, is it?


It’s not about crossing off all my daily achievements.


It is not about placing a little check in front of “prep baptism” or “orientation plan for Morganne.” 
(And yes, I did add an item I had already completed just so I could cross it off.)


These things are important, and you have placed me here, and given me a job to do and gifts and abilities to do it.


But it, real authentic life, is not about a to-do list.
 

I hear you.


It is not about the tasks.  It’s about how I do the tasks, isn’t it?
 

Can I do the work before me in a loving manner?  Can I keep my eyes and heart open for your presence and your direction?


You expect me to love those around me.  Can I be a loving presence as I do my work?   That’s the big question.


Thank you for your patience with me.  Thank you for your early morning whispers that wake me up, body and soul.


Thank you for your grinning forgiveness as I stumble and find my way, again.


And, again.
Thank you for having “loving my children” on your to-do list.


Amen, Amen. 
Pastor Cindy
Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Ave
West Des Moines Iowa 50265
515-279-0826


We worship at 8:30 and 11 on Sunday and we would love to worship with you.


This week at WDMUMC!
Blessing the Habitat House!  Wednesday at 11:30 you are invited to 3018 York Street, Des Moines for a brief service of blessing as the house is turned over to the new homeowner.  We built the panels for this house in our parking lot last October.  Our fingerprints will forever be in this house!  Come and join in the celebration!


Pounding and Prayer!  6:30 Wednesday.  Get in shape and have some fun.  Bring a friend!


All Church Clean Up!  Saturday from 9-3!  Let’s make the church shine!  Drop in or stay all day!



Mission Team Off to Detroit!  Sunday morning our mission team will head to Detroit.  Keep this group in your prayers and follow their adventures on Facebook.  (Sorry, no midweek next week.  Pastor Cindy will be in Motown!) 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"What is Pastor Cindy Praying Today" Pastor Cindy's Devotion 06/13/18


Lord,

This morning, there are 16 items on my to-do list, things that need to be done.  Each item will help organize the church.  They will inform and connect and prepare. I wake up early, stress over this list, and arrange my life around it.  Important in my eyes.

But I stare at it this morning and I wonder how important these things are to you.

I wonder if they are my attempt to organize a world you have already exquisitely ordered.  I wonder if this list is my attempt to feel like I am making progress, that I have some importance in the world.  A false assurance born of a piece of paper and an ink pen. You are so much more.

I wonder if this list is born of your Holy Spirit or simply launched by my anxiety.

Will the list further your kingdom?  Will it demonstrate your grace?  Will the inventory of peace in the world increase?  If I complete each task and joyfully scratch it off my to-list, will the people around me feel loved?  You have asked me to love.

Wondering all that, today I want to pay attention.

To listen like Christ.

To watch closely.   To see who you send me.  To speak and act with kindness.  Kindness is not on my to-do list.  Has kindness been sacrificed for efficiency?

To wonder with awe and reverence about what fresh new thing you might be doing today.

Too often, I surrender my hours and my days, my moment-by-moment breath, to the list.  Today I am hoping for a different sort of surrender.

I want to surrender to the movement of grace.  To the way, the earth takes on a kaleidoscope of color and texture that is you in action in the world.   Is my list, you in action?  Can it be?

Bless my list, Lord.

Make my work, yours.  Make my work, an expression of you.

The day is before us. Lord.  Bless me.

Amen

Pastor Cindy

Pastor Cindy Hickman

West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Avenue
West Des Moines Iowa 50265
515-279-0826

This Week at WDMUMC:  
You’re Among Friends, our sermon series continues on Sunday.  God has given us this amazing planet and friends to share it with.  Come on Sunday and we’ll talk more about what it means to be a friend.

Need some exercise?  Want to exercise with a joyous bunch?  Tonight (Wednesday) at 6:30 Holly will lead Pounding and Prayer.  Drumsticks and a workout.  You can work at your own pace.  Fun guaranteed.


Visioning Update:  
We are thinking about our future and our visioning team is meeting each Thursday.  Last Thursday we talked about our building and its upkeep and maintenance. This week we will review the 120+ surveys we have received from members of our family.  Next week we will have a four-hour retreat and draw our conclusions.  We will keep informed as we move forward.  Please keep this work in your prayers.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"Why Are We Friends?" Pastor Cindy's Devotion 06/05/18


Good morning!
Here at West Des Moines United Methodist Church, we are right in the middle of a three-week sermon series about friendship.  I hope you are celebrating what an ingenious God-designed invention friendship is.
A few weeks ago I was with a friend and we were talking about what we had been doing and she said: “I don’t even know why I am friends with you.”
That sounds harsh, but I know why she said it.
I read a lot, (a lot) mostly historical novels, but sometimes nerdy books.  She reads mysteries.
I like movies about historical events.  She likes goofy comedies.

I like to visit presidential libraries.  She likes the state fair.
I am serious, an introvert actually.  She is more fun, an extrovert.
When she wondered why we are friends, I think I had just told her about a nerdy book I just read.  And because we are friends and we CAN say anything to each other, after she made that comment we went right on talking and doing whatever we had planned for the evening.
But I thought about her comment.  Why are we friends?
Friendship goes beyond common interests.  To walk side by side with someone is an amazing thing.  Having a good friend means living an expanded life and seeing the world through the eyes of someone else.  Friends lead us into places and ways of thinking, we wouldn’t have gone on our own.  Friends have taught me about cross-country skiing and Little Libraries and beauty and hot air balloons.  And hope and change and faith.
I called her the next day.  “I know why we are friends,” I said.  “Because we both believe the world can become a better place.”  And living in a better world is best shared with a friend. 
So, think about one of your friends.  Why are you friends?  Ponder and pray about it.  I think you will discover some really amazing treasures.
Blessings!  See you Sunday.
Pastor Cindy

Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Ave.
West Des Moines Iowa 50265
We worship at 8:30 and 11 on Sunday.  You are invited!
This week at WDMUMC:
Kid Talk!  Youth who have just completed fifth and sixth grade are invited to help Pastor Cindy plan our July Sermon series:  KidTalk, what kids have to say about God and faith and the church.  We are meeting tonight at 5:30.  Pizza and conversation.  Hope to see you there!
Pounding and Prayer!  Tonight at 7 pm!  Get into action and get some exercise!  Holly will get us moving!
Visioning Update.  Last week we talked about our spiritual practices.  Do we spend enough time in prayer and worship?  Are we growing as disciples?  How does the church promote spiritual growth?  Big questions as we move forward.  This week we will tour the building and look at the challenges and opportunities of our physical plant.  The visioning process will conclude on June 21 and we will be bringing plans and proposals to the church.
By the way—you may have heard talk of changing worship times.  We DO need to make more space for people to worship, but we will wait until we have a new music director on board before we make any changes.  No changes are planned at this time and we will keep you posted. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"More than the Barbie Doll" Pastor Cindy's Devotion 05/30/18

On Sunday we begin a new sermon series, “You’re among friends.”  We will be looking at friendship and the amazing way God connects us to one another.


My first friend was Laurel.  She had brown hair, was just getting her primary teeth, and she had a Barbie doll.  My mom babysat for her when we were in kindergarten.  At that time, we did not know that walking home together from Mrs. Elliot’s kindergarten was beginning of a 60 year friendship.  Laurel’s family invited me to join them on summer vacations to the Black Hills and Colorado.  We roomed together our first year of college.  When she married Steve I stood beside her, and when I married Dave she stood beside me.  Off we went to different states to live and raise our families.   Months would pass and we would not talk or see one another, and then she would come to Iowa on a visit or I would find my way to Kansas City, and our friendship would take up right where it left off, the conversation easy.
 

The practical need for childcare brought us together, but something far beyond that has kept us together.
 

God.
 

The presence of God that draws us to one another.  Acceptance, caring, commitment, encouragement.  God, in between you and me.  God always posing the question, “What does love look like now?”  Friendship is really the Research & Development Department of love.  We cannot choose our family, but friendship is a choice.  It is a deliberate act of caring, giving and receiving.
 

Through my friendship with Laurel, I have learned to love the journey of friendship, the changes, and challenges we all face. I have seen the evolution of our character, both Laurel’s and mine revealing who we really are and what is important to us.  And Laurel is strong.  I have been inspired by her strength.  (I wonder what she sees in me!)


So beginning this Sunday, we will celebrate friendship.  You have homework to prepare.  I would like you to think of your first friend.  Spend some time remembering and reflecting.   And then, spend time in prayer and thank God for your first friend and the gift of friendship.


See you Sunday. 
Every blessing to you,
Pastor Cindy
Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Avenue
West Des Moines, Iowa 50265
515-279-0826


We worship at 8:30 and 11 on Sunday mornings and you are invited!


This week at West Des Moines United Methodist Church: 

State Fair Plans continue!  The state fair kicks off on August 7 and we will be there staffing our food stand and meeting thousands of great people.  You are invited to help staff the stand.  Go to wdmumc.org to sign up.  See you at the fair!