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 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!