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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!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

"Warm Your Heart Good News" Pastor Cindy's Devotion 05/23/18

Good morning--
Such good news to share today.
On Monday the church received a call from someone who lives in our neighborhood.  This winter, when they needed food, they used our Little Pantry, that little cupboard on Grand Avenue that is stocked with food for anyone who is hungry.  They appreciated the help.  Now they are in a position to give back.  So they asked: could they contribute food for the Little Pantry?
The miracle of that just takes my breath away.
  
The Little Food Pantry has blessed us.
It has given us the blessing of generosity, this strange kind of love that gives without expectation of receiving anything in return.  God loves generously and loves works.
It has blessed us with partners in generosity like the Filling Station who simply want to make things better for others.
And now it has blessed us with a neighbor who wants to share in the mission.  Bring neighbors together and pretty soon you have a community, the sort of community we want for our children.
Think God is smiling? 
May God bless you on this good news day.  
Pastor Cindy
Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
We worship at 8:30 and 11 and we would love to worship with you. 
This week at WDMUMC:
All Church Potluck tonight!  Come to Raccoon River Park and celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of a great summer.  Bring a dish to share!  The fun starts at 5:30.  
The State Fair!  West Des Moines United Methodist Church is THE church at the State Fair. Our food stand is the United Methodist presence at the fair and the only church there.  From August 7-19 we will be dishing up walking tacos, biscuits and gravy and grace.  You want to be part of this and you can sign up at wdmumc.org.  Invite friends and neighbors to join in the fun! 
Visioning Update  Our faithful visioning team is in their 8th week. They meet every Thursday evening from 6-8 pm.  Last week the team presented their reports from interviews with community and business leaders.  Every one of the leaders described how much the world has changed and as a result, they have to change their way of doing business.  Is that true of the church too? This week the visioning team will be reviewing the history of the church and the events that formed our church.
And the visioning team wants to hear from you!   The visioning team has prepared a survey and they would like your response.  The surveys are printed on a yellow paper and are available on the table outside Pastor Cindy’s door or you can go to our website wdmumc.org.  The survey is posted there.  Please return the surveys to the box outside Pastor Cindy’s office or email them to her. And BONUS! every time you return a survey, Pastor Cindy will contribute a can of fruit to the food pantry.  Check out the wall of fruit outside her office!  

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"Midweek and the World is Buzzing" Pastor Cindy's Devotion 05/16/18


Buzz.


That’s how the world feels today.  So much seems to be happening.


A dear friend is going through a health crisis.


Today is the last week for our preschoolers.  The 4-year-olds graduated last night with a fun ceremony in the sanctuary.  It is going to be quiet around here.
  

We will be interviewing a candidate for the Director of Discipleship and Christian Education this week.
When we were in Israel in January, we had dinner with a Palestinian family.  They told us about their life and life for Palestinians in Israel is very difficult.  We took our picture together and that photo has hung on my wall since January.  Today when I came into my office this morning, I found the picture on the floor.  It made me wonder how they are doing in these violent times in Israel.


I am looking forward to the summer and preparing a sermon series on Friendship for June.


The State Fair Team is gearing up and getting ready to schedule volunteers.


And the grass!  With all our recent rain, the grass is green and growing.  It seems like everyone needs to mow their lawn.


Buzz.  Some good things.  Some sad things.  Some frustrating things.  Some exciting things.
 

This Sunday is Pentecost, the beginnings of the church.  (Acts 2, if you want to read for yourself.)  It began with the rush of a mighty wind—the presence of the Holy Spirit moving through the people.  The people could feel God doing what God does, sorting and healing and encouraging and equipping and enabling and drawing together.  I believe that God is always about this work.
 

I think of the current buzz in my life.  I do not feel the rush of a mighty wind. I don’t have the certainty of the people on Pentecost.   But still, I trust that God is at work as God always is.


Supporting my friend.  Cheering for those preschoolers.  Guiding candidates and church in the interview process.  Weeping in Israel for the hurting.  Pointing me in the right direction as I plan and prepare.  Making a way for our State Fair ministry.  And even in the grass, renewing the earth.


And you?  What’s buzzing with you?  Can you trust God with all of it?
 

Blessings to you and see you Sunday,
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 mornings and we would love to worship with you!


This week at WDMUMC:
Last night for Wednesday Night Live programming!  We will have dinner and one last opportunity together.  Next Wednesday evening we will party in the park with a potluck at Raccoon River Park.


Pentecost Sunday This Sunday we will celebrate the beginning of the church.  Traditionally people wear red— symbolizing the color of the flame of the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Sunday—you’ll be seeing red!


Visioning Update!
Our visioning team is now in Week 7.  We have been interviewing community leaders about trends in our community.  On Thursday evening we will be reporting our findings.  We are also collecting information from church members through interviews and questionnaires.  Here’s my challenge:  I will contribute one can of food (fruit packed in juice—trying to be healthy here!)  for every interview and every questionnaire that is completed.  They will be lining the hallway outside my door.  Stop by and check out our progress!



Together, we are the church!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

"I Believe, Help My Unbelief" Mike Powers 05/06/18

Message delivered to Edgewater Vespers Service, May 6, 2018

Scriptures: Isaiah 40:27-31 and Mark 9:14-29
     
I Believe, Help My Unbelief
By Mike Powers

What is faith?  Hebrews 11:1 describes it as “…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

In our Christian faith, we believe that God exists and that He loves us. We also have faith that Jesus absolved us of our sins through His death and resurrection and that if we believe in God and with God’s grace we can enjoy eternal salvation after our lives here on earth are completed.

Even if we see plenty of evidence of this to be the case and deeply believe it in our hearts to be true, still God has left an opening for uncertainty to sneak in and disturb our faith.  How can this happen?
We may be moving assuredly forward in our respective faith journeys but then we are tempted by attractions along the roadside that beckon us away from the path and uncertainty about what to do enters our mind.

We may be confidently on the path that we believe that God has called us to be on and then we encounter a huge boulder in our way in the form of a tragedy, a betrayal or another crisis and we wonder why this happened.

We may come to a fork in the path and be unsure as to which direction God is calling us to follow.
We may have wandered away from the path and are lost in the woods and have no idea how we can ever find our way back or whether God will allow us back.

It is easy to see how this can happen.

I was wondering why God designed our journeys in this way.  Wouldn’t it have been better that instead of a path we had a tunnel with Heaven being the bright light that is clearly visible to all at the end?  The tunnel would not let us see any distractions to the side of us and there would only be one direction that we could move—towards Heaven--because there would be so many people behind us going in the same direction that it would be impossible to turn around.

But then if we were in a tunnel, how would we ever see the other people on the outside that need our help?  How would we know how strong our faith is if it is never tested?  If life is without choices, are we really in control of our own souls?  What value would we place on everlasting salvation if nothing was ever asked of us to do?

As we know, God did not place us in a tunnel.  He gave us a free will with plenty of temptations on the side and boulders to overcome in front of us all the while surrounded by people going in all different directions.  Sounds like chaos, doesn’t it?

Finding the path and trusting where it leads for ourselves and others amid our uncertainty is God’s challenge for us.

We are in good company with our uncertainties though.  From scripture, we know that many biblical figures including Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Gideon, Zechariah, John the Baptist, Thomas, and Paul have had doubts about God or how God was directing them.

In later years, Martin Luther feared so much that his sinfulness would separate him from God that it cast him into a deep bout of depression. Mother Theresa frequently wrote about feeling separated from God and doubts about her faith.

Consistent with this notion, Pope Francis proposed that uncertainty is an integral part of everyone’s faith journey—even his.

The Pope told a crowd, “Who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts on their journey of faith?  Everyone! We’ve all experienced this, me too. It is part of the journey of faith, it is part of our lives. This should not surprise us, because we are human beings, marked by fragility and limitations. We are all weak, we all have limits: do not panic. We all have them.”

Experiencing doubt about our faith should not make us feel guilty or ashamed.  Feeling uncertain about aspects of our faith is not a failing any more than feeling thirsty, hungry, cold or tired are failings.  Feeling thirsty, hungry, cold or tired motivates us to obtain water, food, shelter or rest.  Feeling uncertainty about our faith or God’s expectations of us should motivate us to reach out to God through prayer or scripture to learn more.

Today’s Gospel reading from Mark is a story about a man who expressed directly to Jesus that he both believed and had unbelief.

This man brought his sick child to be healed by some of Jesus’ disciples but they were unable to do so and they then began arguing with the crowd that had gathered.  When Jesus arrived on the scene and determined what happened, He rebuked the disciples saying, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” (Mark 9:19) The father of the child cried out to Jesus,” If you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus responded pointedly,  “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out,[h] “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24 NSRV)

Jesus then proceeded to cure the child.  Later, the disciples asked Jesus why they were not able to cure the child and Jesus told them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”  (Mark 9:28 NSRV)

There are several interesting aspects to this story but the one that really stands out is the father’s statement, “I believe; help my unbelief!”  You might wonder how someone can in one sentence say that they both believe and have unbelief.

What was Jesus’ reaction to this odd statement?

There was no reaction.  He proceeded to cure the child.  Jesus lack of objection or criticism of the father’s statement stands in contrast to the sharp response that Jesus gave the disciples who initially tried and failed to cure the child.  So what was different?  Perhaps a couple of things.

First, the father of the child stated that while he believed he acknowledged that he did have some level of unbelief and asked for Jesus’ help with that unbelief.  The disciples on the other hand, were arguing with the crowd that had assembled and did not think to call upon God’s strength to deal with the situation at hand.  They did not acknowledge that the true power came from God or seek His help through prayer.

Jesus does not fault us for having some level of unbelief about our faith.  He did not criticize the father of the child for saying so.  Jesus probably appreciated the fact that the man expressed that he believed in Jesus but needed Jesus’ help with the uncertainty that he had expressed which in this case was whether Jesus had the power to cure his sick child.

We should also acknowledge and seek help from God with the uncertainties that we are experiencing.  Seeking God’s help with uncertainty is itself an act of faith.

With respect to the disciples, their fault was that they had not been attentive to what Jesus had been attempting to teach them.  They did not reach out to draw strength from God through prayer.  This reminds us of our responsibility to maintain a heightened sense of awareness to what God is attempting to tell us.

God is very generous in extending grace to us but there is also an obligation for us to listen for God to speak to us through the Holy Spirit and to try to comprehend how we are being guided.  Prayer is a give and take process.  We cannot be passive participants in our spiritual life but instead actively involved in ascertaining what God wants us to do and then doing it.  Sometimes when we have doubts, God may be trying to help us and we just are not recognizing it.

There is the old story of which you have probably heard some variation.  A religious man is sitting on top of a roof during a great flood. A person comes by in a boat and says, "Get in, get in!" The religious man replies, " No I have faith in God, he will grant me a miracle."  Later the water is up to his waist and another boat comes by and the guy tells him to get in again. He responds that he has faith in God and God will give him a miracle. With the water at about chest high, another boat comes to rescue him, but he turns down the offer again because "God will grant him a miracle."  With the water at chin high, a helicopter throws down a ladder and they tell him to get in, mumbling with the water in his mouth, he again turns down the request for help for the faith of God. He arrives at the gates of heaven with broken faith and says to Peter, I thought God would grant me a miracle and I have been let down." St. Peter chuckles and responds, "I don't know what you're complaining about, we sent you three boats and a helicopter."

The Holy Spirit can appear to us in many forms.  The Holy Spirit can make its presence known in an unmistakable fashion like the burning bush that appeared to Moses or in much subtler ways that tell us that God is with us.  We can sense God’s presence in our lives in countless ways--being struck by the beauty of a sunrise, listening to a poignant song, feeling the comforting presence of a loved one, seeing the innocent joy of a young child or witnessing the kindness of a stranger.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, spoke of his heart feeling “strangely warmed” when he received his call from the Holy Spirit.  If you don’t understand what that message is exactly, do what you think God wants you to do that will itself be pleasing to God.

Jesus did not give up on the disciples although they had disappointed Him in this case.  We should know that God is generous in granting second, third or more chances and we should never feel lost to God no matter what we may have done in our past.  God will stick with us.

While the disciples, as shown in this story, didn’t always do everything right while they were following along with Jesus, there was a dramatic change later.  After they witnessed His Resurrection their faith was so emboldened that they traveled the known world spreading the word of God to such an extent that the Christian religion is the largest religion in the world today, almost 2000 years later.  Their faith became so strong that all but one of them died as martyrs for their faith, choosing painful deaths instead of renouncing their belief in Jesus.  I think that is very telling evidence of the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection.

Many things can create doubt in our minds but perhaps one of the toughest to overcome are those boulders in our pathway.  The times when bad things happen to us or someone else and it causes us to wonder why a just God would allow something like that to occur.

The passage that we read earlier from Isaiah was written to the Jews who had been enslaved and taken from their homeland in captivity by the Babylonians.  They were living in dreadful conditions and one would think that a good many of them were questioning whether God had abandoned them.
However, the writer of Isaiah reminded them that God is timeless and all-powerful and that we cannot begin to understand what He has in store for us as Isaiah says,” …his understanding is unsearchable.” (Isaiah 40:28 NSRV).  But the writer in Isaiah went on to assure the enslaved Jews that God is everlasting and that “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31 NSRV) In fact, the Jews were later freed and allowed to return to their homeland.

Indeed, we cannot know God’s plan for us for it is not knowable.  While in the Gospel story Jesus did answer the father’s plea to cure his child, that is not always the case.  Sometimes the things that we ask for in prayer are not granted to us in the ways that we ask for.  We may never know why but we should continue to trust that God loves us and has a greater plan.

While it may be impossible to know, one may surmise that God’s top priority for us is not to live a comfortable care-free existence here on earth.  Jesus, after all, suffered an excruciating and humiliating death.  God must have something much more important in mind for us than our comfort.  He is preparing us for something much bigger and more enduring.

God extends grace to us but along with the freedom of choosing how to act there also comes responsibility.  God will test how we use that freedom in various ways.
  • When He places misfortune before us, do we draw nearer to Him for strength or do we push Him away?
  • When He gives us a blessing are we generous and chose to share it with others or do we hoard it for our own benefit?
  • When He leaves room for doubt to enter our thinking, do we seek greater understanding or do we let such doubts consume our faith?
The noted 18th-century American preacher Jonathan Edwards said, “Grace is but glory begun, glory is but grace perfected.”

Our faith journey is challenging but it is one indeed sheltered by God’s grace.  It is not a tunnel but an open road and we have an obligation to trust where God is pointing us.  Will we follow His direction?
 We will never attain the perfect level of faith devoid of all uncertainty and doubt until we reach that destination.  The path is often uncertain but if we trust that God is always alongside us, no matter how difficult at times that may be to believe, then we indeed will see His grace perfected in the ultimate and everlasting Glory.
Amen.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

"Sad News" Pastor Cindy's Devotion 05/02/18

Good morning,
I want to tell you what has happened in my life this week.  My mom, Lucille Cottrell, died on Monday.  My mom was 90 years old.  My father died four years ago and since that time my mom has been living in assisted living and, most recently, in a nursing home.  She had dementia.  Despite that, she was alert and engaged with the world around her to the end of her life.  She was a very good mom, a homemaker in the literal sense of the word.  When I was growing up she made our house clean.  She made our clothes clean.  She washed our sheets, hung them on the line and made them smell like fresh spring air.  She made cookies.  She made our home a good place to live.


Whenever there is a death, it takes time for our hearts and minds to comprehend what has happened.  The world shifts. There is an empty place that grace, given time, will fill.  Until that happens, we bumble along, searching our minds for memories that have become all the more important.  Our "to do" lists become less important.  I find myself sighing more.  I have a lot of knowledge about grief, but that doesn’t keep me from feeling it.  I can’t avoid the journey.  I am working as I can and, when I need to, I go home.  I am incredibly blessed with a strong family.


So I am bumbling along, preparing for the funeral.  People have asked me what they can do for me.  I don’t have an answer other than asking you to make a little space in your heart for my mom in these disorienting days.  When I was a little girl learning about God I came across a passage from 1 John that says that "God is love."  And my little girl mind reasoned, "Oh, ok.  That’s why Mom loves me, because of God."  
See how blessed I am? 
Thank you for being the church.  
Blessings, 
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 mornings and we would love to worship with you.  
This week at WDMUMC:
Tonight!  Wednesday Night Live!  Tonight we will be celebrating our Generosity Adventure.  For the last six months, we have stopped charging for supper and simply allowed dinner guests to be generous.  As a result, of all that generosity, we will be able to provide meals for neighborhood children this summer.  Tonight we will be celebrating what God is doing in our church.  Come for supper (5:30).  Come for the party!  
National Day of Prayer  Tomorrow at 6:30 am11:30 (with a light lunch following!) and 5:30, we will join with churches across the nation in a time of prayer.  Stop by and join in for a time of prayer.  
Family Science Night Friday night from 5:30-7 pm our preschool is hosting Family Science Night and you are invited.  Dinner (hot dogs and mac&cheese and fruit cups) is included.  Join in for an evening of experiments, games and sensory fun!  Sponsored by the Early Childhood Educational Committee. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

"All Faithed Up and No Where to Go" Pastor Cindy's Devotion 04/26/18


Good morning—
“I give you a commandment:  Love each other.”  That was our scripture for last Sunday.  It’s from John 13.  Jesus spoke these words.  My reaction:  sign me up.  I am in.  Loving each other seems like the best way to spend our time on this planet.  Yes, this is exactly what I want to do.  I want to follow the Prince of Peace, love others, and change the world.  Thy kingdom come.  Hooray!


And then I step outside my house or my church and my enthusiasm deflates.  What are we supposed to do?  What does loving each other look like in the real world?


Does this happen to you?  I look around my neighborhood.  The neighbor’s house needs painting—but I can’t just go over there with a gallon of paint and a brush.  I see an old man with whose t-shirt is worn and stained, but I can’t run to Target, buy a shirt, and hold it out to the man, “here, I think you should have this.”   I see things in the world that I think are wrong.  I can voice my opinion, but voicing an opinion feels like just more words blowing about in the air.  To quote a friend I admire:  “I want to do something.”  Too often, I just don’t know what to do.
  

And often it seems what I am doing is tending to the church, as an institution, but not really tending to the business of being a disciple, of loving as Jesus commands.


I am blessed to be part of this church and right now, I am so proud of my church.  They are doing something—actually lots of things.


Volunteer Reading Buddies go each week to the school next door to teach children how to read.  That’s an act of love.


Last night lots of adults gathered here to teach and encourage children in our Wednesday Night Live Programming.  That’s an act of love.


The Wednesday Night Dinner teams have raised money to feed children this summer in the local park.  That’s an act of love.


A member of our church has taught English As a Second Language for many years.  Now that program is coming to an end.  Teaching ESL is an act of love.  Watching it end is disappointing and that is part of loving too.


Being a disciple, loving others in our complicated world takes planning and coordination.  It is seldom as simple as it sounds.  Sometimes seeing the outcome is delayed and sometimes we never see the outcome.  We “cast our bread upon the waters” Ecclesiastes 11.  We can never know completely the impact of our loving.  And that is a power of love.  Its reach extends beyond our influence.  The child learning to read at Hillside will one day teach someone else to read.
 

At the end of the midweek, I want to invite you to three events at our church.  All are a response to Jesus’ commandment to love one another.  You are warmly invited to attend any of them.  Some of you who receive the midweek devotion live far away.  I encourage you to look around in your community and see how you might “love one another.”


One last thing.  The loving acts in the world around me are too numerous to list.  Part of my challenge always is to see them.  But each time I do, each time I recognize love in action, I am filled with hope.
 

Blessings,
Pastor Cindy
Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church, West Des Moines Iowa


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


Three Invitations:
Embracing Diversity, Sunday, April 29, 6:30.  This summer we are sending a mission team off to Detroit for a week.  They will encounter a different culture.  In order to prepare for that different culture, on Sunday evening we will spend some time talking about our experiences and implicit bias and privilege.  You are warmly invited to join in the conversation.  How do we understand our own hearts and perceptions of a diverse culture?


Mental Health First AidSaturday, June 2.  How do we respond to friends and loved ones facing mental health issues?  Loving one another, we are all in the mental health business.  This is an 8-hour course and costs $35.  We need to register by May 1.  ( You can register by replying to this email and simply letting me know that you would like to participate.)


National Day of Prayer, Thursday, May 3. We will have three special opportunities to pray at 6:30 am11:30, and 5:30.  A light lunch will be served following the 11:30 prayer service. 
Three ways to love one another as Jesus has loved us.


Update on the Visioning
West Des Moines United Methodist Church has entered into 12 weeks of visioning.  Sarai Rice, the Executive Director of the Des Moines Area Religious Council and an experienced church consultant, is leading us.  We are committed to keeping the church informed about our progress.


At our week three meeting Sarai shared national church trends with us.  Between 2007 and 2014, the Christian share of the US population fell from 78.4% to 70.65, a decline of about 1% a year.  In every age category, more and more people are disaffiliating with churches.  Those involved in churches are less attached to church buildings, to Sunday morning worship, and to church committee structure.  Communication has become more important and it happens via the building itself, what members say about the church, social media and print media.  Most congregations across the country are small and shrinking.  Churches need to be able to change rapidly to engage with people in our changing culture.


This was an eye-opening presentation for the visioning committee.  We are processing what this means for our church.



We will keep you updated as we go forward.  Please keep this effort in your prayers.