Author Archives: smcalhoon

Easter Schedule


blooming of the cross

Easter Sunrise Service @  7:00am

Easter Brunch @  8:00am

Resurrection Worship @ 9:30am

Easter Egg Hunt @ 10:45am

Lent Devotion: April 20th

April 20, 2019
By Kate Meyer

Psalm 147
Praise for God’s Care for Jerusalem
1 Praise the Lord!
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted,
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
he casts the wicked to the ground.

7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre.
8 He covers the heavens with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;[a]
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.

12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
14 He grants peace[b] within your borders;
he fills you with the finest of wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down hail like crumbs—
who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his ordinances.
Praise the Lord!

The tattoo on my wrist is a dumbbell with the word abide written on the bar. The word, written in Greek, is also the only part of the tattoo comprised of color: purple and green.

There is no shortage of scriptural images for finding our strength in God, so I won’t take space here to elaborate on the layers of that part of the tattoo. The word abide is also commonplace in the New Testament, but, for the purposes of my tattoo, the full meaning of it cannot be understood without also looking at the color choice.

In the liturgical calendar, purple occurs during Advent and Lent. The color is tied to words such as mourning, waiting, and reflecting. Green, alternatively, is liturgically used to represent ordinary time, as well as renewal and new life.

So, when I look at my wrist, I am reminded to abide with God in times of mourning and in ordinary times. When things are great, neutral, or terrible. But, it is also a reminder that the ordinary times will come again; though the times of mourning and waiting appear to far outweigh the rest, we have strength to endure if we but abide.

Abide with God always. Even on this Holy Saturday, this in-between time, trust in God’s steadfast love that does not end in mourning. Rather, God’s steadfast love always, yes always, carries us through to new life. Abide with God and see.
Prayer: In all of my in-between times, God, I pray you strengthen me to but abide in trust of your steadfast love. May I honor you by holding fast and resting in the assured hope of redemption. Amen.

Kate Meyer is the counseling services manager of Hospice of Holland in Holland, Michigan. She is writer, speaker, and minister. You can read more about her work at

Lent Devotion: April 19th

April 19, 2019
By Melody Meeter

Psalm 130 (NKJV):
1 Out of the depths I have cried to you, O Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications. …
6 My soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning—
yes, more than those who watch for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord;
for with the Lord there is mercy,
and with him is abundant redemption.

Read the full psalm.

When I think of this psalm, I hear the organ playing in a minor key. It’s a hymn by Martin Luther from 1524. Luther’s lyrics are a paraphrase of Psalm 130. Aus tiefer Noth is the name of that hymn tune—out of the depths. You can Google Aus tiefer Noth if you want to hear it. The first note is high C, the second note dips down to F, getting down there with the speaker, calling out to God from the pit. The tune climbs and falls again, up and down, hoping and then losing hope, returning at last to that F, the lowest note in the hymn. It’s not a happy clappy hymn or a happy clappy psalm. Rather, it’s slow and solemn; it’s a “waiting for redemption” song.

Down there in the pit, the psalmist is in despair, not only about her own iniquities, her weaknesses, her sins of omission and commission, but also about the iniquities of her people Israel. The individual sins are entwined with the sins of the nation. But it is also down there in the pit the psalmist remembers something else: “ … there is forgiveness with you,” and “with the Lord there is steadfast love,” and “with him is great power to redeem.” There is hope in the waiting for God’s redemption. Twice the psalmist repeats the phrase “my soul waits” and twice repeats the image of the soul waiting for the Lord “more than those who watch for the morning.”

As a chaplain, I get to wait for a little while with souls that are waiting for God to show up. It’s really dark down there. But in the very act of crying out, sometimes a light surprises—a healing, a surrender, a peace, a hope. The song rises.
Prayer: Dear God, grant us to see your light though we may be in the depths. Grant us to feel your steadfast love though we may feel unlovable. And grant us companions to wait for you in hope. Amen.

Melody MeeterRev. Melody Meeter is the director of the spiritual care department at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn. She is a member of Brooklyn Classis and belongs to the congregation of Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where her husband, Rev. Dr. Daniel Meeter, is the pastor. With that congregation, she waits in hope for God’s redemption.

Lent Devotion: April 18th

April 18, 2019
By Cindi Veldheer DeYoung

Psalm 123:
To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 As the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
until he has mercy upon us.

3 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
4 Our soul has had more than its fill
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.

It’s Maundy Thursday: watch the hands of Jesus. We see Jesus’s hands holding and cleaning dirty feet, then breaking bread and lifting up the cup, sharing food and his very heart.

We lift our eyes to the heavens, for mercy. Our appeal to the cosmic reign of God becomes manifest in the gestures Jesus makes to care for the disciples. Jesus’s intimate gestures extend throughout the cosmos—far beyond that table.

Asking for mercy is easy, until we realize how much we’ve enthroned ourselves with contempt. We don’t so much fear the contempt of others as we cringe at the way our own contempt indicts us of being so graceless. Who are we to ask for mercy?

We swim in contempt these days—so many people do not see the world the way we do! Might our contempt get arrested in the awareness that God in Christ cares for those whom we’ve held in contempt. Then, Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer. And may we not only see your gestures of grace, but do them, as you command. May we have mercy, Lord, we pray, so that those whose eyes watch us see your mercy.

Prayer: May your mercy work through me so completely that my soul pours out ever more freely to all. Amen.
Cindy Veldheer DeYoungRev. Cindi Veldheer DeYoung is a hospital chaplain, serving primarily oncology and intensive care unit patients, at Spectrum Health Medical Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Lent Devotion: April 17th

April 17, 2019
By Lisa Hansen-Tice

Psalm 140:

1 Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers;
protect me from those who are violent,
2 who plan evil things in their minds
and stir up wars continually.
3 They make their tongue sharp as a snake’s,
and under their lips is the venom of vipers.

4 Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
protect me from the violent
who have planned my downfall.
5 The arrogant have hidden a trap for me,
and with cords they have spread a net,
along the road they have set snares for me.

6 I say to the Lord, “You are my God;
give ear, O Lord, to the voice of my supplications.”
7 O Lord, my Lord, my strong deliverer,
you have covered my head in the day of battle.
8 Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;
do not further their evil plot.

9 Those who surround me lift up their heads;
let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!
10 Let burning coals fall on them!
Let them be flung into pits, no more to rise!
11 Do not let the slanderer be established in the land;
let evil speedily hunt down the violent!

12 I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy,
and executes justice for the poor.
13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
the upright shall live in your presence.

As children, we used the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As we said this, we hoped that the hateful words tossed at us would bounce away without causing any harm. Unfortunately, the reality is that words do hurt us. Slander and name-calling can hurt us deeply. They wound our psyche to such a level that it can take years to overcome the wounding. That is why bullies use the tactics of words as well as violence against people—they know how wounding they can be.

David, God’s anointed, was not immune to slander nor to the pain that words produce. So painful were they to him, that he equated them with the venom of the most poisonous of snakes: vipers. Without legal recourse, without position or authority, David turned to the only one who could help him in his deepest distress, God. Out of his deepest pain, David raised a prayer to God for protection. His confidence in God—the deep understanding that God takes up the cause of the needy—led him to seek God’s protection not just from the weapons of war, but from the weapons of words.

When people say things that are hurtful, we can have confidence like David that God will hear our cries and will bring justice, a justice that might not be present in this world, but a justice that will allow us to stand before God with praise upon our lips. Trust that God will deliver us from the slings and arrows of hurtful words and provide a balm that will heal all our wounds.
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for hearing our plea. Keep evil words from hurting and wounding our hearts and minds. Provide protection from the pain of words used as weapons. Help us, Lord, to mind our tongues that we may only provide words of hope and encouragement to the people who surround us. Thank you for listening to the cause of the needy and providing justice for your people. Amen.

Lisa TiceLisa Hansen-Tice is a chaplain in the United States Air Force currently working at the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center in San Antonio, Texas. She serves as the center chaplain and provides oversight of Chaplain Corps personnel, budget, and readiness at Air Force bases throughout the world.

Blooming of the cross

Please remember to bring some flowers for you and a friend to help bloom the cross at the 9:30 am Easter service.

Lent Devotion: April 16th

April 16, 2019
By Susan Dorward

Psalm 139 (NIV):
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Read the full psalm

David wanted to analyze his motives and behavior, asking God to guide him and help him see what thoughts or actions may not align with God’s thoughts. Why would David ask God to do this? Because David knew that his way of thinking might cause a chasm separating him from God, and that was the last thing David wanted.

Many of us are motivated in Lent to ask God to forgive us for doing anything that has offended God. Sometimes, though, don’t our attempts at doing this feel more like empty rituals or dutiful prayers? We say a quick prayer and soon end with “amen.” Then, after the amen, how long do we usually sit around waiting for God to point out anything God found in his search? Do we do this because we are busy or because we fear what God will do after he completes his search?

David knew that he had nothing to fear in allowing God to search his heart. Not because he felt there was nothing offending there, but because he knew that our God is a loving, merciful, and gracious God.

Don’t be afraid to allow God to explore your heart, mind, and spirit. God loves you and longs for a closer walk with you.

Pause. Ask God to search you. Then, sit and wait long enough for God to point out what you need to see and work on. God will lovingly help you transform and will lead you along the right pathway, bringing hope and joy to your journey through life.

Prayer: Lord, you know me better than I know myself. Search the deepest parts of my heart for anything that is displeasing to you. Examine my attitudes and actions. Show me what needs to be transformed and help me to change it so that I will not only be closer to you, but will also be able to go where you lead me and do what you are calling me to do. Amen.
Susan DorwardSusan Dorward has been a chaplain at ECCR for 11 years. ECCR is a non-profit organization located in Wyckoff, New Jersey, that provides residential programs and services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Lent Devotion: April 15th

April 15, 2019
By Kathy Jo Blaske

Psalm 150:
1 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Praise the LORD! Where?

“ … in his sanctuary.” Not in a bounded place, but wherever we experience God in life—as we gaze from our own yards into the heavens; as we walk barefoot along the shore of a lake; as we listen to a choir from pews or concert hall seats; as we pray in the solitude of our homes or sing in a congregation of worshipers. We praise God whenever and wherever our hearts are inspired to do so.

Praise the LORD! Why?

“ … for his mighty deeds, according to his surpassing greatness!” Praise the Lord for the rain, which nourishes the earth; for the wonder of a sunrise; for the cry of a newborn child; for the inquisitiveness of young children; for healing bodies through the medical community; for comforting hearts as the Lord works through ministers, priests, counselors, and friends.

Praise the LORD! How?

With a diversity of instruments! I’ve employed most of them: a trumpet graced my ordination service. And though 40 years have passed since then, I can still hear the melody of the oboe during productions of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” by the first church I served. Now, at the assisted living residences where I conduct worship, we are blessed regularly with harp and piano accompaniment, and frequently we welcome a cellist when he is home from college. I distribute tambourines on occasion to enliven our singing. Liturgical dancers have engaged worshipers. And, I, myself, have clashed cymbals during the singing of “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today!” (Praising God with a lute, however, remains on my bucket list!)

Praise the LORD! Who?

Everything that breathes is to praise God! Breath is a sign of spirit, of life. Let’s all take note of the goodness of God in our lives today. Let’s be instruments, ourselves, and praise the LORD!

Prayer: Give us pause, today, O God, to breathe in and out, to look, to listen, and so to notice and celebrate your goodness. Move us to applause, to song, to prayer, to smiles, to words and acts of gratitude, which praise you with our whole selves. Amen.
Kathy Jo BlaskeKathy Jo Blaske serves as a long-term care chaplain at the Christian Health Care Center in Wyckoff, New Jersey. Previously, she served as a minister of Christian education in Holland, Michigan; as minister for Leadership Development in the Synod of Albany; and as a specialized interim minister in several churches in upstate New York and New Jersey.

Lent Devotion: April 13th


April 13, 2019
By Caryn Baham

Psalm 121 (NKJV):
1I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
from whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

Read the full psalm.

Psalm 121:1 is the very first verse I memorized in my childhood. Memorization was easy because that verse was etched on a window at the front of our church, which, in fact, did look up to the glorious “hills” west of Denver (the direction that our sanctuary faced). As a young girl, I would look for opportunities to be up near those windows, and I would trace each letter with my finger as I overlooked the front range of the Rocky Mountains.

Many childhood days were spent hiking those mountains, and many spiritual lessons were learned while exploring the forests. I learned the value of looking at the terrain ahead and being prepared. I learned that seeing light ahead meant that I had reached a new plane but not necessarily the summit, which always seemed over the next horizon. I learned that the journey is almost always longer than I thought it would be, and, most importantly, I learned that I must always keep track of where the campsite and safety were located.

Though this psalm is not referenced or alluded to in the New Testament, it remains a popular psalm and has even been set to the glorious music of Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Leonard Bernstein’s “A Simple Song.” I think this popularity stems from the fact that we are all, in our own way, making a pilgrimage in this life. We all wonder what will come next, how we will deal with it, and when we will at long last reach that final summit that God has planned for our lives. The psalmist aptly points out that “my help” comes from the Lord, who is not only mighty enough to make the heavens and earth, but also intimate enough to be called “mine.” Though I know not what the light or darkness I see ahead will bring, I can rest knowing that God will continue to watch over my life through eternity. This will lead me to continue to look upward, to acknowledge the source of hope and strength in my life, both now and forevermore.
Prayer: Lord, may I ever look upward to the source of my greatest strength and help as I journey through this life. Thank you for the promise that you watch over my life, for the path you set before me, and for the guiding hand you offer every step of the way. Amen.

Caryn BahamCaryn Baham is a chaplain at Friendship Village of Schaumburg, a senior facility in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. She makes annual trips to national parks as a source of renewal and strength for her ministry.

Lent Devotion: April 12th

April 12, 2019
By Darcy Lovgren Pavich

Psalm 116:
1 I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.

Read the full psalm.

This is a song of gratitude and absolute awe and wonder. The desperation and brokenness experienced by the singer is a lonely and hopeless place. The exact causes of the suffering are unknown, but the anguish is very apparent. Something that is not so clear is that this is a request for mercy, not a simple request for help. Mercy, pardon, and grace are gifts offered to those who have found “sorrow and trouble,” usually by their own actions and choices. Self-defeat keeps them from feeling worthy, and so they continue to follow the pathway into deeper misery and darkness. The way out becomes obscured.

By grace, the word of a friend, the memory of another time, and a glimmer of light appears. A small crack opens in the walls we create, revealing an avenue to venture and a voice of prayer is found. The psalmist remembers a promise and prays: “I implore you. … I beg you to save me.” The prayer is not conditional. It is not “If you save me, I will follow you.” The prayer embraces the assurance that God will deliver salvation. The response to the deliverance is gratitude, a promise to continue to call upon the Lord, a promise to remember, and a wondrous understanding of humility.

The psalmist extols the grace and mercy and is suddenly impacted by just how big this is. God is righteous and merciful. How is this possible? Righteousness is often synonymous with justice. Justice is more often associated with consequences and punishment and rarely associated with mercy, grace, and pardon. How great is God who unconditionally forgives, accepts, and restores one who is not righteous or just!

In our deepest, desperate moments of life, the Lord “inclines his ear” to our prayer, reaches toward us, and sets us free.

Prayer: Lord, may I be humbled by your mercy and set free to rejoice in your grace. Direct this day in gratitude, for the blessings I have received are that I may be a blessing to others and a faithful servant in your kingdom. Amen.
Darcy PavichDarcy Lovgren Pavich is the chaplain a Veterans Village of San Diego, ministering among homeless and at-risk veterans and their families.