Enter your email to receive updates in your inbox!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"May We Find Our Way Back to Beauty" - Pastor Cindy's Devotional - August 15, 2017


I have a young friend who is kind and compassionate.   She is a blessing to me.  A year ago she left family and friends and moved half way across the country to attend seminary.  As you can imagine, that was a stressful time.  To help ease the transition, we decided to look around each day, spot something beautiful, take a picture of it, and text the picture to each other.  We agreed to do this for 30 days.
 
So each day we sent pictures.  Cloud formations.  The cannas in my front yard.  Sunsets.  My mother’s hand.  The view out our windows.  We looked and saw beautiful things and sent them to each other.  It was fun and reassuring.  Even though this was a time of change, even though she was facing a big learning curve in a strange new place, there was still beauty in the world.  We only had to slow down and look.  (I recommend this!  Try it with someone you love!)

She texted a few weeks ago to see how I was doing in my new appointment serving as the pastor at West Des Moines United Methodist Church.  “Most challenging thing I have ever done,” I told her. 
And she suggested 30 days of beautiful things, this time for my transition. 

Game on.  This time our sense of beauty had changed a bit, more nuanced.  She sent me a picture of a backpack filled with things she was taking to a student who was in the hospital.  I sent her a picture of my windshield on one of the few days it has rained this summer, beautiful, precious raindrops. 
She sent a picture of the flower bed in front of the office where her boyfriend works.  I sent her a picture of the first page of a sermon I had been struggling to write.  She sent me a picture of stained glass window.  I sent her a picture from the Des Moines Register of a rattlesnake that was spotted in Madison County, which we noted was probably beautiful to another rattlesnake.  She sent me a picture of the mug she received when she worshiped with us.  I sent her a picture of an ear of sweet corn. 

And on Saturday I received this message:  “I’m having a hard time finding beauty today—I’m devastated by the events in Virginia.” 

Blinded by evil. 

I wonder about the cost of violence.  In Charlottesville, three people have died and many others were injured.  That alone is heartbreaking.  But I wonder how many people across the country felt like my friend, defeated.  How much does violence and hatred in our world chip away at our hearts?  In our church, we are daring to dream about our future.  Does violence and hatred diminish our ability to dream? 

I often hear people say that they don’t like to read the Old Testament because it is so violent.  There is a lot of violence in the Old Testament.  Almost all of the Old Testament was written during times of war and oppression.  The people are crying out to God for a world where they can live in peace.  In Psalm 137 the people have been captured and exiled to a foreign nation.  They hang their harps in the willows.  In their pain, they cannot bear to sing.  The violence has not only broken their hearts, it has broken their ability to care for others. The psalm ends with the writer calling for the brutal death of the children of their enemies.  The cost of violence and hatred: our own souls. 

I plan to send my friend a picture today.  I am looking around for some sort of beauty that will counter what she has seen and felt.  I am looking.  And praying. 

May peace be our goal.  May the love of others not just be our hope, but also our mission. May the gracious presence of God in our lives free us to give of ourselves freely and accept others.  May we live with justice.  And in living lives that reflect the love of Christ, may we find our way back to beauty.  

Pastor Cindy

Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Avenue
West Des Moines Iowa 50265

Like us on Facebook or visit us at wdmumc.org. 
We worship at 8:30 and 11 on Sunday morning and we would love to worship with you. 
This link will take you to Bishop Laurie Haller’s statement on the violence in Charlottesville.  http://www.iaumc.org/features/bishops-statement-on-charlottesville-9023957

This week at West Des Moines United Methodist Church: 
Next Sunday we continue our sermon series “In the Beginning…”  How does the disciple life begin?  If Paul’s life is any indication, the disciple life does not begin with a big celebration and a pat on the back.  Paul’s disciple life began in a completely different way.  And even though it had a rough beginning, Paul became a New Testament hero.  What might God be beginning in you?  Read Acts 9:1-19 to prepare.  See you next Sunday. 

Blessing of the Backpacks!  Time to head back to school and this Sunday during worship we will be blessing backpacks!  Bring yours and we will bless it.  Open for “children” of all ages.  We know some adults carry backpacks too! 

Dreaming… We are free to be the church and it is time to dream here at WDMUMC.  What should the church look like in the year ahead?  How can we strengthen our worship services and open them to more people?  How can we get to know one another better and grow as disciples together?   How can we make a difference in our community?  We are gathering dreams and dreamers.  Outside Pastor Cindy’s door, there are sticky notes.  If you have a dream, or if you are a dreamer, or if you want to nominate a dreamer, fill out a sticky note and put it on Pastor Cindy’s door.  It is time to dream!


Get ready!  Neighborhood Block Party August 27!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"No Limits" - Pastor Cindy's Devotional - August 9, 2017 - Mike Powers, Guest Writer

Hello, Friends!

Here's a question for you.  Does anyone dream anymore? Not just the sleeping sort of dreams but the kind of dreams that send us forward?  Do people dream about a better world?  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: "I have a dream that my four little children will someday live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."  A big dream.  Does anyone have those sorts of dreams anymore? That sort of dream is fueled by hope and faith and a vision that sounds a lot like the kind of kingdom Jesus described.  Do we still dream like that?

I do.  And I hope you do.  Call me a fool, but I don't think God is done with us.  This seems like an incredibly hopeful time to me.  I want to dream with the people of West Des Moines United Methodist Church.  We have sticky notes laying around at the church.  If you are a dreamer, write your name on a note and put it on my door.  If you know a dreamer, nominate them and write their name on a note and put it on my door.  If you have a dream, write it on a note and put it on my door.  We will gather up the dreams and the dreamers and see what sort of future is ahead.

Mike Powers is dreaming and he has written today's midweek.

“No Limits” by Mike Powers

 A few weeks ago I walked into my office and someone had written the following question on a large white board on a wall, “What one thing would you do if you knew you could not fail?” The question remained on that white board for several days and was finally erased. But it has lingered in my mind.

An opportunity to achieve without fail would be a rare and precious gift. Not one to be squandered on something that is not meaningful. The question forces one to identify and prioritize what is important to them. The question also prompts a person to expand their thinking as to what is possible if there were no insurmountable barriers to success. To dream without the constraints of limitations.

That is a sobering prospect. To some extent, by believing that there are limits to what is possible, we acclimate ourselves to the status quo and don’t spend the time to consider what could be achieved if change could occur. Perceived limitations can restrain change but they can also shield us from confronting what our priorities would be if anything were possible.

With the arrival of Pastor Cindy and the great field of energy and enthusiasm that surrounds her, this is an opportune time for each of us to consider what is our dream for West Des Moines United Methodist Church? If we knew that we could not fail, what do you want the church to achieve?

As I speak with members of the church, my sense is there is a renewed spirit of optimism and positivity about our future. It is a new day and we all need to think expansively about what we should be doing. How can our church make a meaningful difference? Everyone has a role here. What is your dream for the church?

In coming weeks, we will be having this conversation as a church family. Be bold in your thinking as the Holy Spirit will be our ally in this process. Jesus said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NRSV)
Mike Powers

I can’t wait to see what happens.
Wherever you are, whatever you are facing in life, I hope you are dreaming of a better world.  I am certain God delights in our dreams and is ready to help them come true.

Every blessing,


Pastor Cindy

Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Avenue
West Des Moines Iowa 50265
515-279-0826
Visit us at wdmumc.org or like us on Facebook

This week at West Des Moines United Methodist Church:
This Sunday we continue our sermon series, “In the Beginning?”.  David was called by God to lead the nation of Israel.  David did not look like the right person for the job.  What did God see that others didn’t see?  Read 1Samuel 16:1-13 to prepare and next Sunday we will talk about it!  Something new is always beginning.

West Des Moines UMC Disciples at the Fair!  Keep our disciple crew at our state fair stand in your prayers!  We are the church, even as we serve up biscuits and gravy!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Small Gifts" - Pastor Cindy's Devotional - August 2, 2017


Good morning friends, 

Sometimes life is simply a series of small gifts.
  
This week the Heartland Youth Choir Camp is being held at our church.  Sixty children and their leaders arrive each morning.  I don't know their schedule for the day, but part of the time they gather in the Friendship Room and sing.  The Friendship Room is just across the hall from my office.  I cannot see them but I can hear them.

They begin by warming up their voices.  One morning they made hooting sounds that reminded me of the sounds the mourning doves make when they sit on our arbor early in the morning.  I imagined the children looking at each other and almost giggling as they hooted at one another. 

After they warm up, they practice scales and then they begin to sing.  They have the high-pitched voices of children.  Like bells ringing in innocence.  Like an angel choir.  The sound drifts down the hall and into my office, a heavenly soundtrack for my day.  Beauty always offers healing.  A balm, even when we didn’t know we needed it. 

Listening, I am reminded again that I am not God.  I could never have designed anything so beautiful. 

Overhearing their voices is a small gift, an accident of being in the same space at the same time. 

I think small gifts come to us like that, small encounters that string together to form our days.  The kindness of a clerk at the FedEx store, an encouraging text from a friend, evening prayer, and a good night’s sleep. 

May we be open always to the small gifts. 

May we receive the small gifts with gratitude.
 
May we offer small gifts of ourselves to others. 

In the name of the Risen Christ, amen. 

Blessings, friends.  See you Sunday.

Pastor Cindy

Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Avenue
West Des Moines, Iowa 50265
515-279-0826
Visit us at wdmumc.org or like us on Facebook.

We worship at 8:30 and 11 on Sunday mornings and we would love to worship with you. 
This Sunday we continue our sermon series called In the Beginning….  How does God begin things?  Sometimes God simply says “Go.”  Where are you going these days?  Come Sunday and join in the conversation. 


If you would like to hear the Heartland Youth Choir, they will conclude their week with a concert on Friday evening at 7 pm at the church.  You will be blessed.  

Saturday, July 29, 2017

I Love Those Stairs - Pastor Cindy's Devotional - July 27, 2017


Hello friends,

Yesterday I arrived at the church in the morning, came in the lower level entrance, and walked up the steps to the second floor where my office is. 

Anyone who is familiar with the West Des Moines United Methodist Church would tell you that our entrances are not optimal.  The door to the sanctuary is far from the parking lot.  The door on Grand Avenue opens into what feels like a back hallway.  The door from the parking lot enters the basement.  In order to get to the main offices or the sanctuary from that door, you have to climb stairs or ride the elevator.  If we started all over and designed a new building, our entrances would look different, certainly more accessible.  These entrances are the result of a sloping lot and a history of building expansions.
 
Despite all that, yesterday when I was climbing the stairs, for some strange reason I thought “I love these stairs.”  Sort of an odd thought, but it felt true. 

First, a lot of people have climbed those stairs over the years.  People headed to worship services, children going to Sunday school, brides and grooms ready to say their vows, grieving persons facing a funeral and the loss of a loved one. Up and down the stairs we walk through the events of our lives shared together.  Looking for someone at church on Sunday morning?  Wait at the base of the stairs and there is a good chance they will come down those stairs at some point. 

Second, the stairs have a landing in the middle.  The wall of the landing is curved and a bulletin board follows the curve of the wall.  We have gifted bulletin board artists in the church.  They keep the bulletin board beautiful and informative.  Walk up the stairs today and round the landing and you will discover that the Missions Committee is collecting sanitary products and canned vegetables for Bidwell Riverside mission. The book club is reading A Man Called Ove, a good book.  And we are looking for volunteers to serve in our State Fair Stand.  The act of climbing the stairs reveals the activity of the church.    

Yesterday I was noticing all this but more than this, climbing those stairs felt a bit like rising up, climbing to a higher plane, a more hopeful place.  Come in those lower doors with whatever burdens you are carrying, whatever lowliness of spirit you might be feeling, and prepare to be lifted up. 
So our building isn’t perfect.  And if we could, we probably would make some changes. Not everyone is capable of climbing stairs and we want to be accessible.   But it is OUR building.  And there is a story in this building, a story that has played out on those stairs, about a people rising up, about hopefulness. 

As silly as it sounds, I love those stairs. 

See you Sunday. 

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

Like us on Facebook or visit us at wdmumc.org

We worship at 8:30 and 11 on Sunday mornings and we would love to worship with you. 
This Sunday we will start a new sermon series called In the Beginning.  Could God be starting something new in your life?  Looking for a fresh start?  See you Sunday!


Our youth are serving in Hazard, Kentucky this week.  They are repairing homes, making friends and growing as disciples. Important change-the-world work.  Keep them in your prayers!  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

We Are All Connected - Pastor Cindy's Devotional - July 18, 2017



I am surprised by how connected we are.  It is as though God knew all about Facebook long before Mark Zuckerberg invented it. 

Last Thursday I worshiped at Women at the Well, the United Methodist Church inside the women’s prison at Mitchellville.  (It was lovely by the way!  Lots of joy.  We danced.)  Before worship, a woman who lives within the prison happened to visit with me.  She told me about her life, and her family, and why she worships.  Yesterday I ran into someone at church.  She told me she knew someone who was in prison in Mitchellville.  She had attended her wedding years and years ago, and it was clear the couple were very much in love.  Sometime after that, newspaper headlines told of a horrible tragedy in their home and the woman was sent to prison.  The woman at church wondered how she was doing.  The woman she described was the woman I had met last Thursday.  She is in prison, but she is doing well, worshipping God, loving her family as she can from within the prison, looking forward to the day when she can be with them again.  The woman at church holds her in her heart.  We are connected. 

Yesterday I visited a couple from the church who are homebound.  At some point in the conversation, the man told me that he was in the Navy in WW2, stationed in the Pacific on an LST vessel.  My dad also served in the Navy in the Pacific on a similar ship.  My dad died three years ago, but yesterday as the man shared his experience, I thought a lot about my dad.  I could hear my dad’s stories in the conversation.  We are connected. 

A new couple came to church.  They moved to Iowa from Michigan.  I lived for a time in Michigan.  We are connected. 

At the 11 o’clock service we were creating an altar and we needed an altar cloth, so I went to the fabric store.  I picked three different fabrics, but I couldn’t decide which would look the best.  I am not good at that sort of thing.  The woman at the fabric store liked the green one with circles, so that is the one I bought.  And now when I see the altar, I think of her.  Does she worship somewhere?  Most people are not connected to a church and don’t worship, but when I see that cloth, I think of her.  We are connected. 

A man came to church yesterday asking for money.  On Sunday I preached about people coming to church asking for money.  The man yesterday was the sixth person since I have been here.  I don’t believe that our connection to one another is money.  It is something deeper than that.  And I don’t want to turn people into beggars.  But still, if God is present, we are connected somehow.  The man yesterday was from Iraq.  He had been in a refugee camp in Syria.  His life has been much different from mine.  I did not give him money.  His needs are beyond fixing with money.  Did I give him hope?  I tried.  Did I offer friendship?  I hope so.  According to the United Nations, there are 65 million refugees in the world.  Many were born in refugee camps and have no nation status.  This all worries me.  Jesus began his life as a refugee.   And we who follow him are called to respond to the needs of the poor.  I think the challenge in this is to discover how we are connected.  It may be as simple as this:  we are human beings living on the same planet.  It may be looking at the man sitting on the bench outside my office yesterday and treating him with respect.  It may be using my voice to advocate for those who have no voice.    

We are all connected.  Our roots go deep into the grace and mercy that is God.  I am grateful for that. 

Blessings,

Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Avenue
West Des Moines Iowa
Like us on Facebook or visit us at wdmumc.org

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

For the last two weeks, we have been exploring Jesus’ commandments to love God, love our neighbor.  This Sunday we will be looking at loving ourselves.  Are comfortable with you?  May seem like a silly question, but so many of us are so critical of ourselves.  Next Sunday we will talk about it.  Hope to see you there. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Good Soil by Mike Powers at Scottish Rite, July 16, 2017


The Good Soil
By Mike Powers
(Delivered at Scottish Rite, July 16, 2017)
Scriptures
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it.  Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the big stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus is telling a parable which also speaks of obstacles that lay in people’s paths that if removed would lead to the discovery of a great treasure.
The parable that Jesus tells is that of the sower.  This would seem to be a very identifiable story to be studying here in an agricultural state such as Iowa.  One notable difference between the sower that Jesus tells about and the Iowa farmer is that here in Iowa farmers are very selective how they sow their seed using GPS technology and other science to place the seed in the soil where the chances of it growing into a bountiful crop are good.  In the parable, the sower is spreading seeds somewhat indiscriminately and the seeds are falling on various types of soil. 
Jesus describes four different types of ground upon which the sower’s seed is falling.  We can see these four different kinds of soil symbolizing four different states of health for our souls.
The seed that falls on the hardened path never has a chance to sprout and more than likely just becomes bird seed.  The path poses an impenetrable barrier to the seed just as some people stand behind barriers which are impenetrable to God’s word.  How does this happen?
It could be a situation where a person refuses to admit even the possibility of God existing.  They believe that nothing exists outside of what can be explained in the physical universe.  We heard today Paul write in his letter to the Romans that   “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit[e] set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5-6 NRSV)
 The flesh refers to life as we know it now, the things that we can see, touch, taste, feel and smell.  Those things are real but pertain to a life with a limited shelf life.  They come with an expiration date.  The physical world, or the world of the flesh as Paul describes it, is but a prelude to a much greater reality which is the eternal, ever-lasting world of the kingdom of which Jesus has provided us an entryway.
Other people, with this hardened barrier between themselves and God, may have had a relationship with God at one time but then turned away.  Perhaps they felt either God had betrayed them or left prayers unanswered.  Perhaps they see tragedy in life, man’s inhumanity to man, and question how there could be a God if such things are allowed to occur.  We have all probably thought about things like that at one point or another.  I know I have.
But one of the really wonderful things about life is that God gave each of us a free will which can be exercised for good or for bad.  We each have the choice.  Unfortunately, when a bad choice is made, whether intentional or not, often-times another person is hurt.  I think this is why Jesus made such a big point in his ministry that we need to love each other and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. 
As far as prayers left unanswered, we need to trust that God has our best interest at heart. We are not privy to His overall plan.  God’s plan is beyond our ability to comprehend but with faith and God’s grace we know it will lead to everlasting salvation.
The seed that falls on the stony ground does sprout but because the ground is so hard, it never gets a chance to set down roots and the plant does not survive.  This symbolizes people who hear the Word of God, acknowledge the truth of it but do not incorporate it into their daily lives.  With true faith we are motivated by our love of God to act as servants to each other, helping each other as we can, using our talents to serve as God’s instruments.  Faith will lead us to the desire to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, care for the sick, comfort those in despair.  A deeply rooted faith leads to action and growth in a spiritual connectedness with God that is marked by love for both God and neighbor.
The seed that falls in the thorns, takes root but is soon choked by other competing weeds and thorny plants and also fails to thrive.  In this case, people hear the word of God but are distracted by competing priorities.  They may place an emphasis on accumulating material wealth or power. 
No matter how one keeps score in life, whether it be the amount of money one has, or power or fame, devoting one’s life to such temporal goals is a short-term play at best that does not extend beyond our earthly lives.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus summed it up well when he spoke of the consequences of prioritizing earthly things over a relationship with God by saying “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:19-20 NRSV)
The seed that falls into the good earth, the rich soil that is conducive to growing, represents people who are receptive to the word and who embrace the word and make it part of their lives.  Paul would say that these people are not governed by the law of the flesh but rather the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus which will free them from the law of sin and death.  These people will serve to spread new seeds and multiply those receiving the Word many times over.
So each of us should probably ask, “What kind of “soil” are we?”  Answering that question can only come from and honest and frank self-assessment. 
Just as we are all individuals, we all experience God in different ways.  To be clear, God is present always and everywhere.  He is our constant companion but we may not be tuned into Him.  However, there are those special times when we may have an acute sense that God is affecting our lives. 
Some people may sense God’s presence when they feel a sudden urge to help others through acts of human kindness with no expectation of repayment. 
Some people sense God’s presence when a feeling of inner peace sweeps through them at a time when confronted with making a difficult decision or facing a formidable challenge?
Some people sense God’s presence through a warming in their hearts when seeing a smile on the face of a child or the touch of a loved one.
Some people sense God’s presence moving them to seek forgiveness when wrong and to grant forgiveness when wronged.
Some people sense God’s presence in pulling, pushing, nudging or otherwise guiding them towards a role that God is calling them to fill? 
God has given us each a soul for which we are the caretakers.  The parable that Jesus is relating to us in today’s scriptures attributes the characteristics of soil to our own souls.  Just as soil holds the possibility of growth and the proliferation of abundant life, our souls are intrinsic to the everlasting life that is possible for all of us to enjoy.  Such life is available by learning and living the word that God is sharing with us. 
  Good farmers realize that the best chance of success for this abundant growth is for the soil to be properly prepared.  The boulders need to be rolled away, the rocks removed and the thorns and weeds cleared.  As the caretakers of our own souls, we need to make sure that we have prepared ourselves to the extent possible to receive and incorporate the word of God into our daily lives.
I had mentioned earlier that the sower in the parable acted differently than our Iowa farmers.  An Iowa farmer would certainly only seek to sow good seed in good earth.  The fact that good seed is in limited supply and expensive, the farmer will seek not to waste it by spreading it in places like a hardened path, rocky ground or ground overrun by thorny weeds.  The Iowa farmer will only sow this good seed on good ground.
The good news for us is that the good seed or word of God is not in limited supply.  And although it is very valuable, it is not expensive but freely provided to all.  This means that at times we are shutting ourselves off from God, his Word is still showering down upon us.  We just need to open our hearts and tune into that awareness that Paul describes to receive it.
Let each of us commit to clearing paths and making God’s word accessible to ourselves and others.  When we do encounter boulders in our path, let’s not act like the merchants and courtiers in our first story where they make no effort to clear the path but instead use that as an excuse to complain about the king.  Let’s be more like the peasant who although burdened by a heavy load, spent the time and effort to clear the path and in so doing uncovered a great treasure.
Clearing the obstacles that stand between us and God will enable us to learn more about ourselves and strengthen our faith in God.   Doing this will yield its own treasure—that of a purposeful and fulfilling life; and, blessed with God’s grace, the everlasting life thereafter.

Amen.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Rain at My Prison's Window - Pastor Cindy's Devotional - July 11, 2017

Good morning friends, 

I am writing this early Tuesday morning.  I woke up to an early morning thunderstorm.  It was a good way to wake up.  I love the roll of thunder and the crack of lightning.  I could hear the rain on the roof and listen to the water fall down the downspout at the corner of the house.   

An early morning rain like this reminds me that the earth renews itself.  The roll of thunder reminds me that there are powers greater than all of us.  Rain in the early morning feels fresh.  An early morning greeting from God. 

I will be preaching at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville on Thursday evening and I wondered if the women who live in the prison could hear the rain as they woke up this morning.  I have visited there a number of times, but I have only been in their worship space.  I don’t know what their cells look like.  Do they have windows?  Can they hear rain on the roof, or is the roof too industrial-thick to allow the people inside to hear the rain? 

Going to the prison always jars my soul. 

There are more than 600 women living in the prison, a good size town by Iowa standards.  They come from all walks of life.  They are all ages, sometimes surprisingly young, looking more like high school cheerleaders than criminals.  A very few are lifers; most will at some point be released and they will return to their children, their families, and their communities. 

The vast majority have been abused in all the forms abuse takes: verbal, physical, sexual.  The majority struggle with some form of mental illness.  Many fight addictions.  For many of the women, the prison is the safest and healthiest place they have ever lived. 

The Iowa Court System has found them guilty of a crime severe enough to send them to prison. 

I inevitably find myself wondering how did these women get here?  What were their lives like?  Many did not grow up in a family like I had, parents present, sober, and caring every day, the constant security of food, clothing, and shelter.  But some did.  Some came from homes similar to mine.  My logical head always wants to separate me from the women somehow.  My judgmental heart wants to feel superior.  I could never, would never end up in prison.  Surely not me. 

But.

I remember a boy I dated, who my father hated, who was trouble and troubled.  What if I had continued to date him? 

I remember parties in college.  What if a particular night had turned out differently?  What if I had faced abuse, in all its forms, how would I have coped? 

What if the road that is my life had taken a different turn?

On Thursday night at the prison, I am going to preach about the Greatest Commandment.  Jesus said the most important thing we can do is love God.  I preached this same message last Sunday in my church in a western suburb.  After service, we all went out to the parking lot and drove away to our comfortable homes.  I hope, and I pray that what I say about loving God is as true at the prison as it seemed in the western suburbs.   

I hope the women heard the rain this morning.  The renewing rain.  The roll of thunder, a power greater than us.  A fresh greeting from God. 

I pray that I see the face of Christ in the women.  And in some small way, they see the face of Christ in me. 

Blessings to you this week.  Please think of us all on Thursday evening. 

Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Avenue
West Des Moines, Iowa 50265
Visit us at www.wdmumc.org or like us on Facebook.  We worship at 8:30 and 11 and we would love to worship with you. 

This week at West Des Moines United Methodist Church:

Pastor Cindy’s sermon series, Our Grand Adventure, continues.  This week we will be talking about loving our neighbors.  Hi, neighbor!

Preparations are underway for Vacation Bible School!  Vacation Bible School begins Sunday evening at 6 pm.  Check out our website for details and round up the neighborhood kids for a week of fun!