Author Archives: smcalhoon

Lent Devotion: April 11th

April 11, 2019
By Michael Weaver

Psalm 113:
Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.

Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.

Read the full psalm

Is God always worthy?

How does this question strike you today? Is there no question in your mind and heart? Does it bother you that I would even pose such a question? Wherever you find yourself today, I invite you to linger with that question, or even just the word worthy for a little bit. Take five minutes or more (even 15–20 minutes) and sit in silence with that word. Breathing in, breathing out, and repeating the word as you do so. What happens within you as you do this?

Psalm 113 proclaims God’s worthiness. You could say it’s even a little excessive in doing so; in just the first three verses alone, we’re already admonished to praise the Lord four times. Today, we’ve just passed the six-week mark in the season of Lent. That’s 32 days of 40, starting with Ash Wednesday (Sundays are traditionally omitted as resurrection celebrations through the season). Yesterday, you spent some time in Psalm 109. I don’t know what verse, section, or part as I write this, but that psalm is an ardent cry to the God of our praise (109:1). David desperately cries out, “God, do not be silent! Vindicate and deliver me in your steadfast love.” David proclaims that, even in the midst of great difficulty, he will praise the Lord (109:30). And that’s exactly how we learn, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is always praiseworthy.

I love the paradox of the rest of Psalm 113 as it proclaims God as high and lofty, and yet personally and intimately involved in your life and the world in every way. Praise the Lord!

Prayer: God of our praise, blessed be your name and reign in our individual lives and the world from this time on and forevermore. In your grace today, raise us to your throne of grace. And as evening comes, may we find ourselves still singing your praise. Amen.
Michael WeaverRev. Michael Weaver is in his fourth year serving as a hospice chaplain with Hospice of Michigan on the lakeshore area from Holland to north of Muskegon. He resides in Holland, Michigan, with his wife and two kids, ages nine and seven.

Lent Devotion: April 10th

April 10, 2019
By Tom McCrossan

Psalm 109:
21 But you, O Lord my Lord,
act on my behalf for your name’s sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me.
22 For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is pierced within me. …

27 Let them know that this is your hand;
you, O Lord, have done it.
28 Let them curse, but you will bless.
Let my assailants be put to shame;

may your servant be glad.

Read the full psalm

We’re four days from Holy Week. Jesus clearly knew the psalms. Did this one come to mind in the next week and a half? Did he empathize with the psalmist? Jesus was human. Would he have felt this way?

The psalmist is facing false accusation and cries out to God for vindication. Leave out verses 6-20 and there’d be no problem. But if these verses are directed at his chief accuser, we shake our heads and think, “How un-Christ-like and unforgiving.”

Consider, though, forgiveness says that in spite of the wrong done me, I’ll not hold it against them. I will cancel the debt and not try to collect. I will leave debt collecting to God. He is the master I serve and the one to whom all debts against me are owed, since I am his.

But forgiveness does not involve letting the wrong behavior continue—either to me or to others. What is wrong must stop. Thus the same person can—even must—pray both prayers: forgive them, and turn them from their wicked ways.

That the psalmist is so specific in the ways he asks God to stop injustice seems over the top to us. But what are we asking God to do when we pray for the end to evil? End wars, and many will still die in the process. Bring down evil rulers, and nations will be in turmoil. The unjust rich will be sent away empty along with their dependents.

“O Lord, act on my behalf for your name’s sake. … Let them know that this is your hand; you, O Lord, have done it” (v. 21, 27). The Lord is the debt collector. Like the psalmist, even if we make suggestions, we leave it to God to save and judge in his perfect wisdom.

Prayer: Merciful Lord, who knows both our hearts and the hearts of all, even our enemies, we pray for your kingdom to come, your will be done. As we seek your will for ourselves, you will lead us to forgiveness, mercy, and love for others. Protect and deliver us from opposition. Help us be quick to forgive that we might be free from bitterness and hatred. For Jesus’s sake, amen.
Tom CrossmanTom McCrossan is currently assistant chaplain, guest advocate, and compliance coordinator at City Mission of Schenectady, New York. He has served as pastor of three RCA churches and continues to preach as pulpit supply. He also composes music for worship.

Lent Devotion: April 9th

April 9, 2019
By Alan T. “Blues” Baker

Psalm 107 (NIV):
26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits’ end.

Read the full psalm

Every seasoned sailor experiences storms at sea. In rolling darkness, their ship sways and shudders by the strength of the wave. As a Navy chaplain, I’ve been thrown from my rack to the deck by the force of the storm. I’ve served alongside sailors unable to sleep because we were overwhelmed by uncontrollable circumstances.

Throughout the past two centuries, the RCA has sent chaplains to sea. The chaplains bring comforting words of the Bible to fearful sailors. Beyond words, they bring the incarnational presence of Jesus among those in the storm. When the waves are strongest, chaplains remind sailors that Jesus is even stronger. They remind mariners who are scared and stressed that they aren’t the first to fight against the storm. Chaplains retell the story of a group of first-century fishermen, wet and wind-burned, caught in a terrifying squall on the Sea of Galilee. These seasoned sailors panic. They cry out to Jesus. Like the calm eye of a savage hurricane, Jesus brings stillness because, no matter the circumstance, he abides with his father.

You may not be at sea, but you may be reeling from waves beyond your control. Are you sinking in frustration, anxiety, fear, depression, or anger? Whatever your storm, call upon the comforter, the Holy Spirit, who will bring the presence and peace of Jesus to your anxious, fearful, and frantic circumstance. God promises to fill your cloudy sky with his bright moonbeams shining against the wave of your stormy sea.

Prayer: Lord, save us in the storms of life and remind us of your promise to never abandon ship: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Amen.
Alan "Blues" BakerAlan T. “Blues” Baker is RCA supervisor of Chaplain Ministries and has served as a military, campus, and corporate chaplain.Lent

Grill on the Hill: Saturday, April 13th at 5:30 pm.

CampFire

Campfire stories included

 

No, it’s not a new event.  It’s the same gathering with the same good people.  The grill will be lit at 5:30 pm.  Games will be in the yard.  As the sun sets, we’ll light the fire and roast some marshmallows.   Bring a dish to pass or something to cook up to the hill.

Lent Devotion: April 8th

April 8, 2019
By David Blauw

Psalm 103:
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Read the full psalm.  

Many of us recite these words in unison after every observance of the Lord’s Supper. They uplift and give a perspective on life according to the loving grace of God.

But really? All your diseases? Good things as long as we live? Like an eagle’s youth? Really? I sometimes feel like I’m in the pits, as are others around me. As a hospital chaplain, I see the progression of age and disease that challenge us to the core. I am witness to both forgiveness between people and folks who hold grudges to their last breath. I am present at death due to age, trauma, sudden cardiac or respiratory failure, genetic syndromes, and neurological explosions or withering.

I believe we are challenged by Psalm 103 to know that while there can’t always be “cure,” there can always be “care.” For instance, forgiveness by a God who does not hold grudges; steadfast love and mercy, even in the deepest valley. Good things are folded, sometimes secretly, within intrusions such as brain or spinal cord injury; sudden, devastating loss; or the fact that all will lose capacity and abilities with age and disease. Good things, even then. I’ve seen them.

Bless the Lord that there is care and love for us, even if there can’t be cure. This is shown in crisp and awful clarity, as our Lord suffers execution.

Prayer: We bless you, Lord, even in the pit, even in despair or change, even in our waywardness or weakness. Help us soar like eagles as we prepare for early morning, the first day of the week. Amen.
David BlauwChaplain David Blauw has been leading the department of Spiritual Care at Holland Hospital in Holland, Michigan, for almost 25 years. Before that, he served as pastor of Blawenburg Reformed Church in Blawenburg, New Jersey. He is board certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains.

Jazz Vespers: Sunday, April 7th at 5:30 pm

There are only a couple of Jazz Vespers events left until we take a break for the summer.  This Sunday we’ll celebrate Jazz and enjoy the music of Melvin Mathurin on saxophone.  Spread the work and invite a friend to join you this Sunday, April 7th at 5:30 pm.

Lent Devotion: April 6th

April 6, 2019
By Lindsay Bona

Psalm 91:
1 You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

Read the full psalm

I have walked with many people on their medical journeys. This psalm brought them comfort in the knowledge that God was with them even in the darkest hour. These dark hours come in the middle of the night or in the day as the sun shines in through the window. Light creates shadows. The length of your shadow is determined by the time of the day. The length of God’s shadow is determined by your situation and is always God’s comforting presence. Sometimes the longest shadow of comfort comes at 1:00 a.m. when the doctor delivered the news we all had feared.

I remember one patient who was in the hospital waiting to have her first child. She was also diagnosed with cancer that could possibly take her life. We discussed how God was present with them now and how God would be with them in the future. We cried over all the moments that she would miss—her child’s first words, first steps. She wondered how God would guide her child. She had faith that God would be with her child. She knew that no matter what, her child would never be alone.

We are all children of God. We are all sheltered by the shadow of the almighty. In our darkest moments, it is hard to see the shadow of God protecting us. We may forget that God never leaves us. On this day, no matter how high the sun is in the sky, may you remember that when you call upon the Lord, God will answer. When you are in trouble, God is there. May you abide in God’s love always.

Prayer: Almighty God, my refuge and my fortress, shelter me in your shadow. Help me to know your shadow is protecting me and that you never leave me nor forsake me. Help me to know your love and abide in it. Amen.
Lindsey BonaRev. Lindsay Bona is the vice president of Mission and Spiritual Care at Advocate Children’s Hospital. She is married to her wonderful husband, Mike, and a mom to her son, JJ. When Lindsay is not at the hospital, she loves running and knitting, which she does not do at the same time.

Lent Devotion: April 5th

April 5, 2019
By Richard Huls

Psalm 90:
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. …

12 So teach us to count our days
that we may gain a wise heart.

Read the full psalm

The writer of this psalm makes us aware of the brevity of life, something we are reminded of every time we pass a mortuary or cemetery. And yet, with our consumptive behavior, we often live as if there is no end to our days. Lent is a perfect time to reconsider our life style and belief systems. It is a call for not only penitence (abstaining), but also repentance (changing). Christ makes us aware of our pursuits and what is essential with these words: “What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?” (Matthew 16:26). The psalmist reminds us that our very life is from God (v. 1), and later in the Psalms, we are reminded of the reality of life’s brevity: “As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more” (Psalm 103:15).

As a chaplain who has served in many capacities, first in the military, then in law enforcement, in hospice, and presently in the retirement community, I am more aware than ever how fragile and transitory life is—impairment, sickness, frailty, and death are the realities of life. We might make it to age 70 or, if by reason of strength, 80, then it is over, says the author. The psalmist then gives us a word for our Lenten thought in this transitory life in verse 12, “So teach us to count our days that we might gain a wise heart.” In order to reach this place in our lives with conviction and success, it will take time in reflection, prayer, and perhaps even fasting, which is what the Lenten experience is all about. Jesus himself in his journey to the cross, prepared for death with wisdom.

Prayer: God of strength and grace, teach us to number our days that we might present to you a heart of wisdom. In Christ, we pray. Amen.
Dick HulsRichard Huls is a graduate of Hope College, Western Seminary, and Chapman University. He served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, then with Kaiser Hospice, the Escondido Police Department, and various retirement homes. He continues to provide services to each as needed. He currently is an RCA chaplain for retirees in the area of San Diego, California.

Lent Devotions: April 4th

April 4, 2019
By Jordan Helming

Psalm 77:
1 I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, that he may hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
I think of God, and I moan;
I meditate, and my spirit faints.

You keep my eyelids from closing;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

Read the full psalm

A mentor of mine once told me, “Soldiers will look you dead in the eye and tell you everything is fine as long as their nose is one inch above the water.” This has certainly been my experience in chaplaincy. I have found that soldiers will quietly endure the type of pain described in this psalm for weeks, months, or even years on end, until they finally plunge into the water. This often takes the form of a divorce, an arrest, or a suicide attempt.

What do we do during the “day of trouble?” We cry aloud to God to find comfort, but for some reason, “my soul refuses to be comforted.” We lose sleep, and we cannot even describe the anguish we are in. On top of all of this, we experience a theological crisis: God promised to never leave or forsake me, but now he has turned his back on me.

Every now and then, soldiers will reveal to me that they have reached out to God during those particularly dark seasons of life, but they have heard no response. They asked for relief, or, at the very least, sustainment, but it doesn’t seem to be working. They are praying like they’ve never prayed before, but still their pain overwhelms. “Has God forgotten to be gracious?” (v. 9).

I suspect maybe that is the whole point. The Bible reminds us over and over that God is merciful and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6-7), that God never changes (Hebrews 13:8), and that God desires an intimate relationship with his people (Isaiah 43:1; Jeremiah 31:33). I do not believe that God causes our suffering, but he can certainly use it that we might “cry aloud to God,” “think of God,” and “meditate and search my spirit.” The psalmist reminds us that even amid our suffering, it is out of God’s character to spurn or abandon, to be unloving or to withhold compassion. Even on our darkest days, God is inseparable from his goodness and mercy.

Prayer: Gracious and almighty God, we give you thanks during this season of Lent. Forgive us for those times we seek lesser comfort than that which only comes from your warm and loving presence. Continue to refine your people, Lord, that we may seek you alone, regardless of our circumstances. In good times and bad, may we be assured of your unchanging love and mercy toward your people. Thank you for your unending faithfulness. Through Christ, our Lord, amen.
Jordan HelmingFirst Lieutenant Jordan Helming is a chaplain candidate assigned to 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery Regiment, Iowa Army National Guard. He lives in Sioux Center, Iowa, with his wife, Luralyn, and three children: Josiah (6), Magdalena (2), and Matthias (8 months). 

Lent Devotion: April 3rd

April 3, 2019
By Keith Krebs

Psalm 74:
9 We do not see our emblems;
there is no longer any prophet,
and there is no one among us who knows how long.
10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
Is the enemy to revile your name forever?

11 Why do you hold back your hand;
why do you keep your hand in your bosom?

12 Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the earth.

Read the full psalm

I write this devotion for when the lights of faith have gone dim. Enough of the day has been experienced to know that it is now night. And you cry out, “How long, O God?”

For we can no longer find you in the familiar, routine places where we have always found you. We go to church and you are not there. It feels like someone has hacked into pieces (v. 5) all the memories and symbols of our faith. There is no longer a word spoken (v. 9), at least that we can now hear and understand. The church used to be filled with worship and Word and sacrament. Now it is filled with the inner emptiness of our hearts.

Yet, yours also is night. God is with us in this dark valley. The psalmist reminds us, “You have fixed all the bounds of the earth” (v. 17). You know how this spiritual darkness descended and how long it will endure. You promise, as in times of old, you will be working salvation into our situation (v. 12). So we pray:

Prayer: Lord God, in this Lenten season, we turn to you. Yours is the day; yours also is the night. When shadows cover our hearts, come alongside us. Increase your intervention and chase the shadows of doubt away. We ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen.
Keith KrebsKeith Krebs is the chaplain at the American Mission Hospital in Manama, the Kingdom of Bahrain.