I’ve called Fort Wayne “home” for just over 4 years. We moved here Easter weekend of 2014, and it’s been a fun-filled ride ever since. One of the first things I was interested in (besides finding employment, of course) was to find a church. Our previous community had been nice to us, but the churches left much to be desired in one way or another. Friends of ours in Fort Wayne assured us that they knew “several” good churches for us to try out.
Knowing we were interested in a more liturgical experience, they took us to Trinity English for a Thursday evening service. We liked it and marveled at the beautiful architecture and stained glass. Through various connections, we even got a whole tour of the church including up to the steeple area - an interesting thing for first-time guests.
Then we didn’t come back for a while. Maybe a month or so. In the midst of unpacking and job hunting, it was lower on the ladder of importance. When we did find our way back to Trinity, though, it was the fourth week after Pentecost - the week in which we find ourselves currently! I still vividly recall Pastor Erdos’ sermon from that Thursday. The gospel centers on the parable of the mustard seed. Pastor Erdos spoke about how the kingdom of God is like this tiny, unassuming seed.
It doesn’t grow into the biggest plant in the world, but it becomes one of the largest plants in the garden (according to the parable).
He went on to explain that in this bush, this kingdom of heaven, does not fix all of the problems of the world or anything like that. This bush instead provides a place for a bird to rest.
[Jesus] told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” - Matthew 13:31-32 (Emphasis mine.)
So that birds come and perch in its branches. That’s it. It was so anticlimactic and not at all the sermon I was used to from more evangelical sermons of my college days. Seed. Bush. Bird. That’s what we’re after, he said. Cultivating a tiny seed so that it can grow and become a place for a bird to perch. There were even hand motions that went along with this, and I still know them, in case you’re interested.
Four years ago, those words struck me, and I knew I had found a church where my relationship with Jesus could flourish. A church that claimed to be trying to be a mustard seed for a bird to perch was my kind of church. My impression at the time was that Trinity knew its place in the city and that there were many, many neighboring birds around it that just needed a place to perch. And, by golly, I wanted to be part of that! I wanted to be just a branch of that mustard tree and have just one bird perch and take rest.
I don’t know what Pastor Erdos’ sermon will be this Sunday, but this is always one of my favorite parables to hear preached because it was the first sermon I encountered at Trinity English. It is now indelibly intertwined with my own story, my story that has led me to working at this church.
Trinity English has served as a mustard tree for me, and in my hard times I have perched here. I hope we continue growing to make room for more birds, and I pray that I’m lucky enough to be part of it.
Pslam 46:10 urges us to be still. “Be still and know…”
I cannot be the only one who struggles with this, right? I recently started attending a Yin Yoga class on Tuesday evenings. Yin Yoga is a practice that involves holding poses in semi-stillness for extended periods of time to deepen stretches. I went because I was having a lot of tension in my regular yoga and struggling with some postures we would do. It seemed like a good class to help with some of this. The first class knocked me out. We held poses for 3 to 5 minutes, and these were not difficult poses. I struggled with the stillness. The stillness of my body and my mind.
My mind is constantly going, and my body usually follows. I can usually be found doing something; I’m rarely still. Fiddling with a pen, tapping my toes, messing with my phone’s popsocket, etc. My coworkers and family will vouch for this. I struggle mightily with stillness. Even when I am actively still, my mind is churning and working on things.
So every once in a while, Psalm 46:10 comes up and knocks me down a bit. It is so hard to be still in this world that praises and encourages anything other than stillness. Think about it. From a young age, we are encouraged to keep going going going. Ballet, gymnastics, baseball, football, choir, school, family obligations. Even our “days off” are usually full of responding to work emails, running errands, and going one place to another.
We get so caught up in the race that we forget that we are told to be still. Why, though? Stillness feels so counterproductive. Nothing is happening when I’m still. I’m not getting any laundry done. The dishes are piling up while I’m still. So what’s the point of stillness? Why are we to be still and know?
Maybe because in the stillness we can more easily remember whose we are. We can more easily distinguish the small voice of God calling to us. Only when we quiet our own noises, the noises of our busy-ness can we remember our calling to God’s family. When I’m still, I can hear the groaning of my spirit and know what areas of my life need tending to. I can feel the areas I’m overgrowing that need pruned back. I can release the tension that builds up. I can drop the baggage and be truly known.
But it is so hard. It’s difficult to be still. That’s why I try to take time at least just once a week to be still. Because it helps me know myself better and know God better. And that’s what we’re commanded to do. I hope you can find space in your life for a few moments of stillness in the week ahead, and I urge you to, as you’re able, do it as a family. There’s so much good that can come out of intentional stillness. Set a timer and commit to being still for five minutes one day as a family. See what happens. Be still and know that God is here with us.
As the liturgical Easter season continues, we are moving quickly toward another busy season in the church. During the month of May, Trinity English will celebrate students’ first communion, confirmation, and baccalaureate. These are great stepping stones of a child’s faith and work to reinforce and provide additional depth to the promises of baptism.
During the Easter festivities, we had the opportunity to witness and be part of 4 baptisms on Saturday’s Easter vigil. I always love baptisms. It’s so uplifting to see families and friends committing to raise a child to know and walk with God. To see adults pledge to pour into young believers. To hear the congregation affirm, celebrate, and support this public act.
If you have been to a baptism here at Trinity recently, you will be aware of the baptism certificates our art director creates. We encourage all of those who attend the service to come to the reception afterward and sign the certificate as a sign of our promises.
We affirm, as the people of God, that we promise to support the newly baptized and pray for them in their new life in Christ. I would ask you to consider how you do this throughout your time here.
Are you encouraging students to participate in youth group? Do you indeed pray for those who have been baptized? If your child is involved in Sunday School or E3, are you inviting and encouraging others to get involved? Are you reaching out to our kids and youth and getting to know them outside of being so-and-so’s child? Are you volunteering to help with Sunday School, confirmation, acolytes, or youth group?
Parents are entrusted with the following during baptism:
to live with them among God’s faithful people,
bring them to the word of God and the holy supper,
teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments,
place in their hands the holy scriptures,
and nurture them in faith and prayer,
so that your children may learn to trust God,
proclaim Christ through word and deed,
care for others and the world God made,
and work for justice and peace.
Yes, this falls to parents, but we as a congregation, as a community of believers, have to make this accessible and welcoming to these families. Parents cannot do it alone. And they will not do it where they do not feel fully supported. How can we support and involve not only the newly baptized, but the parents, grandparents, and sponsors of the baptized? How can we come alongside them and share the struggles that raising a child to know Jesus Christ can bring?
I certainly do not have all the answers, but I would like to work toward some. Will you help me?
The arrival of spring always fills me with hope. Shocking, right? Who doesn’t feel hopeful about warmer weather, flowers, sunshine, fresh air, and all the other things that come with the change of seasons? (Despite the cold start, I’m determined to keep my optimism about this season!)
I was listening to a podcast recently that was a panel of women discussing hope. One of the panelists said that we are essentially living in the world that women of the past hoped for. By working, having the right to vote, wearing what we want, and so much more, we are the fulfillment of things hoped for by past generations. To go even farther back and expand out, we are living in a country that was viewed with hope. Hope for religious freedom without persecution. Hope of making a new life.
This got me thinking about the concept of hope, and how hope is so closely entwined in the Lenten and Easter season for me. I go through Lent, giving up things and prioritizing in the hope that it will lead me closer to God. So much of relationship with God is hope. Hoping that the things we are planting now, relationships and education, will yield a harvest.
I see hope when I interact with the children at Trinity in Sunday School, Wednesday evenings, and any other event. I am putting my hope in the next generation that they will continue to build upon the foundation of the history of hope. The 172 years of hope that Trinity English has built. In 1846, a group of people had hope that the community was changing and hope that they could do something that mattered for this changing community. We are the living proof of that hope. We worship because of their hope.
The Bible is full, so full, of hope. And I nearly missed it all.
Psalm 31:24 - Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
I was not a very hopeful person in the past. Life was challenging, and I merely muddled through it. This came to a head during my sophomore year of college. I was depressed, going to counseling weekly, and struggling to keep up with my classes. We were obligated to go to weekly chapel services, and I mainly did this to avoid any issues. We worshipped and heard a sermon or some sort of message. Some of those songs we heard have stuck with me and are still very meaningful to me now.
These songs brought me face-to-face with my lack of hope. I couldn’t sing “My hope is in You, Lord / All the day long I won't be shaken by drought or storm / A peace that passes understanding is my song / And I sing my hope is in You, Lord” and it certainly was not well with my soul. My soul was troubled, and I doubted if I would even graduate or if it even mattered.
I do not have a powerful, Pauline conversion story that drew me out of this period. It was a slow, steady slog through rough mental, spiritual, and emotional terrain. There was stripping away, knocking down, and rebuilding. And in the midst of this process, I started to hope. I, however, did not recognize it when it first showed up.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
As Emily Dickinson says, hope perched in my soul, unexpectedly. And it hasn’t stopped. Hope was always there. Always singing. Always perched in my soul. When I recognized it, I realized how hopeful I could be. I could hope for better. I could hope to influence and be part of people's’ lives. I’ve recognized and heard hope’s still, small voice, and now it cannot be silenced in my soul.
I’m so full of hope now. Hope for my future, for my marriage, for my community, for our church, and for our children. Our children are so strong, they are enduring so much, and they will make this world better. My biggest hope now is for them to know this and to know that I am backing them up, cheering them on, and willing to help them however I truly can.
If you know me at all, this next sentence will come as no surprise:
I’ve been online shopping a lot recently.
Sometimes for big things (like a new weight bench) and sometimes for small things (like books), but this has led to a plethora of cardboard boxes and packing paper being left around our house. You know the drill. The excitement of opening the new box that just magically appeared on the porch. The anticipation (even when you know what it is). And finally, the triumph that yes, this thing will be the best thing ever! But then there are the boxes to deal with. If you’re like us, we tend to leave the boxes sitting as long as we can until they start to become part of the room. Sometimes, if we’re really on it, we put the boxes in the basement, resigning them to their doom.
Well recently, we had various boxes and packing paper strewn about the living room, and our cats went nuts!
Like, up-all-night-making-a-ruckus-and-loving-it nuts. It was cute for a while… until it wasn’t anymore. After about two days of this, I said to my cats (because I’m a normal person who talks to their pets like they’re human), “I give you everything you need or want and all you care about is this paper!” Then I promptly picked the paper up and threw it away. This caused much grieving out of my cats, and you would have thought I had not fed them in days.
The longer their laments went on, the funnier my husband and I found it. And then I just looked at them and realized, this is just like us with God.
As I look back on my life, I’m sure there have been more than a few times that God has looked at me in exasperation and said some variation of “I give you everything you want or need you and you only care about __________.”
So what’s the paper in my life? At any given time it’s been things as mundane as shoes and as severe as my GPA. But that’s so like us. To get caught up in the feelings and emotions of something that sparkles to us rather than looking at all the diamonds we have been given. God literally provides all that we could ever need, but do we often live like that? No. I definitely don’t.
And the things that have served as my paper have been both good and bad. Boys, homework, grades, protests, cell phones, etc. The point isn’t whether it is good or bad. It’s the fact that we so easily get distracted from the beauty and grace that God has given to us. And then, when we’re so distracted by something and it gets taken away or lost, we throw a fit. We wail. We cry. We carry on. We proclaim “this isn’t fair!” But God never said things would be fair. God gives us what we need and promises to endure with us through it all - good and bad. And yes, sometimes our paper gets taken away, but we’ll adjust. My cats have adjusted - they’ve probably forgotten all about that paper. They’re now contentedly playing with their mice, unaware that more paper is about to come into their lives via my online shopping…
Lord, help us to focus on You and Your goodness. Keep our eyes and hearts trained on You. Help us to be aware of our “papers” that arise in our lives - both good and bad. You are the ultimate paper in our lives, our ultimate fixation and goal. I struggle to live into this. Gently prod me until I require dramatic pushing. May we all strive to be aware of things that get in Your way in our lives. Amen.
The last few days were so sunny, so full of light. I basked in it. I straight up laid on the floor in the beams of sun that were streaming in my front window. My husband joked I picked that up from our cats. I walked outside and felt the sunshine on my skin for what felt like the first time in years. I hummed happy songs and had good conversations and generally felt like I was in a really great place in my life.
Then today came. And it’s gloomy. And rainy. And grey. And there’s no sunshine to bask in. So I’m feeling restless. Edgy. Like I was abandoned by this really great thing. I find myself bargaining. “I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate the sunshine fully. If it comes back, I promise I’ll go for a walk outside and enjoy it more.”
Goodness, if that’s not a metaphor for my relationship with God, what in this world is? When I’m connected to God, my soul feels like my mood did on a sunny day. When I’m distant, it’s the gloom of my spirit. Anyone else recognize this feeling? Just me? Okay, well bear with me.
I’ve had the urge to say this to people when I express my feelings, thoughts, or opinions to them at times. I can be sad sometimes. Jesus was sad sometimes! I mean, there’s a few times that it is mentioned that Jesus wept. Jesus, the son of God, the man who was most closely in communion with our Lord, wept.
Weeping means “mourn for; shed tears over.” If Jesus wept, spent time weeping, it’s completely okay for me to do so. It’s okay for your kids to weep. It’s okay for you to weep. To mourn. To shed tears over.
Sometimes I weep out of sheer joy and sometimes it is from the depth of grief. And sometimes it’s from the feeling of oppressive “meh.”
So today I feel meh. I feel let down after the joy of the sunshine. And that’s okay. The sun will shine again. I’m just here to say that I know it’s hard sometimes. We’re here to walk with you through these meh times. The weeping times. I even promise to not tell you things that are true but not helpful.
Abba, Father, grant that we may understand the depths and breadths of our emotions. We are created in Your image, to feel Your feelings. Help us to know that you are good, no matter what we are feeling. That these feelings do not negate our worth to you, and that there is community to be found in being open about these feelings. Help us to be present with people as they experience life and to simply be with them, as You are with us. You do not offer platitudes. You are with us through it all, and we are grateful. Thank you for Your son, Jesus, who lived, died, rejoiced, and wept for us. May we endeavor to feel as deeply for ourselves and fellow people. Amen.
If I say the words “kids’ table,” I bet you can picture what I mean. Holidays at the family homestead with the adult table and the kids relegated to a card table that was sometimes set up in the dining room but usually in a different room altogether. Right? I mean, your experience may be different, but the term is ubiquitous and depending on your history with it, can fill you with dread, ambivalence, animosity, or excitement. Sometimes being at the kids table means that you can get away with whatever because the adults are otherwise engaged. For me, it was mostly annoyance at being separated. I once stood up and announced that at my next birthday, I would no longer sit at the kids table, and this was met with knowing laughter from the adults.
I did eventually “graduate” to the adult table, but as the youngest family member of my generation, it was too little too late. As I developed in my faith, I loved hearing stories about how Jesus welcomed the children.
Then the people brought their little children to Jesus so he could put his hands on them and pray for them. His followers told them to stop, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people who are like these children.”
I told my grandparents, “Jesus would have let me sit at the adult table.” My grandpa looked at me and shook his head in exasperation. As a kid, this explanation made sense to me. Jesus would have let me sit at the adult table. But now I see the error in that.
Jesus would not have separate tables.
When we celebrate with Jesus, we are all at one table. One table for all the believers. One table. One huge, glorious table. With adults, children, elders, neighbors, and all hosts of others. And think of the beauty in that. When we are at one table with people who are our spiritual mentors, we get the opportunity to learn from them. At a table with people who are just starting out in their faith journeys, we get the chance to mentor them and lead them along the path. At a big table there is room for everyone, regardless of where their faith has taken them or will take them.
I think of this sometimes when I see children in worship on Sundays. To me it is such a beautiful expression of the family of God. Children learn to worship by watching their parents worship. They see how other people interact with the gospel lesson, and it becomes part of their own story. They learn to have a personal faith by seeing others live out their personal faith.
Think about it, if your child does not have good table manners at meals, you don’t shoo them away and tell them to eat on the floor. (Unless you do, in which case this story will not connect with you.) Instead, you sit them at the table with you and insist they keep trying until they learn how to sit at the table. It’s the same way with worship. We cannot expect children to understand how to worship, how to approach their faith, or even how to “behave” in church, if we do not include them in the services, sacraments, and life of the church.
So maybe we should do away with the idea of a kids table at church. Worship with the children. Worship with the elderly. Worship with the new members. Worship with the strangers. We are all here for the same thing. We will all feast at the same table in the end, so why not start now?
Pastor Erdos’ writings on change stirred up some thoughts for me. I like routine and order in my life, probably to a fault. And it’s easy to stay where you are, doing what you’re doing, day after day because you know what to expect. That is one of my biggest things - expectation. When what I expected that thing to look like, sound like, feel like, taste like, be like isn’t met, oh Lord do I struggle. Jesus take the wheel when that happens because I will not be driving until I can reconcile my expectations to this new reality. I hope I’m not alone in this.
And yet, here I am in the midst of all my change. Because, like Pastor Erdos said, “Jesus promises to be with us no matter where we are, no matter what happens and no matter what goes on in the world. Jesus’s promise is that he makes and ever-changing world safe because he is there to go through the change with us.” I’d like to just stop here and deconstruct this a little bit.
"No matter where we are." When we’re children, it’s easy to understand this as where we are on Earth. Where we are geographically. But it’s deeper than that, and we have to help our children understand this and internalize this. That Jesus is with us no matter where we are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and yes, physically. When our children go to the depths of their emotions because of something that happened to them at school, something that was said to them, or something that they thought about a little too much, Jesus is there. And Jesus is more than just there, he is actively going through it with us, and has already gone through it. One of the best things about having a Savior who was truly God and truly human is that He understands the depth of humanity. He has suffered, cried, hurt, celebrated, and cheered.
So when we say that Jesus promises to be with us, let’s remember that it’s more than just, “Oh Jesus is with me while I grocery shop.” Let’s remember that Jesus is with us when we’re hurting. When we’re doubting. When we’re wondering what the point is. And he’s also with us when we’re overjoyed. When we’re excited about what’s to come. I think that’s one of the things I struggled with the most - understanding that Jesus is with me no matter where I am in my head. I went through the typical high school experiences and at times thought I was alone in them. How refreshing it would have been to hear that Jesus is with me and have it explained to be by someone who was also content to just be with me.
May we all strive to remember and reflect and extend the knowledge that Jesus is with all of us through all of our change, through all of our emotions, and no matter where we go.
Do you have a favorite hymn or piece of music that makes you feel close to God? I have so many, and they’re usually tied to specific memories that are touchstones along my personal faith journey. For example, when I was working on the Navajo Reservation, the pastor at the local church adored “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” so now whenever I hear that I can picture Pastor Davis and smell the Arizona air and see in vivid detail the intricacies of the church where I spent so much of my time.
Lately I’ve been singing and humming “It is Well with My Soul” as I settle into the new year. (That’s hymn number 785 in our red books, in case you’re curious.) This year is only a few weeks old, but it’s been full of changes for me. I started here at Trinity on the 2nd, which has meant a lot of change to the routine my husband and I have had since we were married. It’s meant changing my whole morning routine, not to mention my evening and weekend routine. And through it all, I’m reminding myself that it is well with my soul.
No matter my season, your season, Trinity English’s season, Fort Wayne’s season...It is well. It is well as we start a new year. It is well as kids go back to school. It is well as we consider what steps to take in the direction of a family ministry that truly supports children and families as they learn to be disciples of Jesus and live a life that exemplifies this. There will be times where it is peaceful like a river. And there will be times when sea billows roll. And how amazing to think that through it all we can look up and say "It is well."
My role here at Trinity is to find a way to support the kind of faith that enables our young people to celebrate the peace and weather the sea billows and still look up and say “it is well.” A faith that can be tested and remain. I’m here, as are all of Trinity’s staff, to enrich and support your faith journey as a family - children, youth, adults, and comprehensive family unit. I hope to open the door to some new things and maybe reinvent some old things. I’m not entirely sure what that will look like, but I pray you’ll take the chance and come through the door, come along for the ride and maybe sometimes remind me that it is well.