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NCF Board Minutes -- Aug. 9, 2020


BOARD MEMBERS ATTENDING: Dennis Brooks, Judi OMelia, Keith Henry, Bryan Poaches, Tom Brown. Absent: Charlene Rywant, illness. Spectators: Jeff DeYoung, Rev. Bill Dunlap, Wayne McLean.

President Dennis called the meeting to order in the conference room at 11:49 a.m. and offered an opening prayer. Attendees wore masks as a Covid-19 precaution.
Agenda: Keith moved acceptance as submitted; Bryan seconded. Accepted on voice vote.
July board Minutes: Keith moved acceptance as submitted; Judi seconded. Accepted on a voice vote.
President’s Report: Dennis briefly outlined efforts to keep the building sanitary.
Agenda Update: Keith moved that all Old Business be tabled; Tom seconded. Approved on voice vote.
Treasurer’s Report: Jeff distributed July and Jan.-July financial reports, noting that July income was affected by the cancellation of one service because of a hurricane warning. Jeff reported noted that our insurance agent Mel Himes quoted us $561 to provide a year of mandatory workers compensation insurance for four paid staff (pastor) bookkeeper, cleaner and landscaper. He said the quote was slightly lower than last year’s expense. Keith moved approval of the purchase; Bryan seconded. Approved on a voice vote. Jeff also reported that Volusia County has informed us that a developer plans to build an RV park on vacant land near our western property line. A county hearing was held and the project was approved. We are pursuing details.

(Detailed line-item financial reports are available at church for review.)

Building & Grounds Report: Keith is working on obtaining alarm system batteries. He is checking on a possible lift station problem after Char reported a sewage odor two weeks ago. He will contact the Daytona Beach Utilities Dept. to see if the station’s pump is malfunctioning. If so, the contractor who installed the pump will be contacted. Keith suggested a plexiglass version of our starburst logo be fastened to our entrance sign to make it more weatherproof. He also is checking on the cost of getting the ground lighting near the sign operating again. Regarding locks, he displayed four programmable door locks that can be rekeyed whenever the need arises, at no additional cost. He is updating a list of emergency church contacts for the Habitech alarm company.
Social director: Bryan reported he and Char are working on updating member contact information. Members will have the option of listing a next of kin and a doctor if they desire. Contact information is kept confidential. T-shirts are to be ordered soon, and should be available for the Sept. 6 Church Pride Sunday. Bryan noted the pastor has suggested a “Blessing of the Animals” event in early October. Tom reported two memorial plaques honoring Jeff Farance and Jerry Corlis have been ordered from Signs of the Times in New Smyrna Beach. A donation is covering the cost.

NEW BUSINESS – Finalizing of pastoral covenant. Rev. Bill said the proposed covenant was broadly acceptable to him. His main concern was whether a 20-hour work week is realistic for monitoring the church phone 24/7. Dennis responded that the board is trying to make the pastor’s schedule as flexible as possible. The pastor will have discretion to decide which calls are true emergencies – such as hospitalizations – and which are cases of loneliness. He said board members are willing to assist with visits to the extent that hospital rules allow them during the Covid-19 emergency. Dennis, who has been monitoring the phone since Rev. Donna’s resignation in February, said he has had to handle only a couple of church emergency calls over 5 months. Tom suggested we play it by ear – if the pastor becomes overloaded with chitchat calls, board members can help in responding to them. Rev. Bill said his focal point will be Sunday morning, when the congregation is all together, and he can touch base with many members. He added that he intends to hold office hours at the church for at least part of a weekday. He noted that sermon preparation usually takes 10 hours or more. Tom noted that 3 congregational surveys in recent years all underscored that members’ No. 1 desire from church is a powerful sermon. Keith noted that the board intends to take care of financial and property issues. They won’t be part of the pastor’s workload. Regarding benefits, Rev. Bill said he may want leeway to take an extra week of unpaid vacation this year if the pandemic allows him and Wayne to travel north. Board members said that would be no problem. The covenant will run until Jan 31, 2021, and then will be automatically renewed through Jan. 31, 2022, if the pastor and board agree. A further term as pastor will require congregational approval at the Annual Meeting in Feb. 2022. The covenant will be signed next Sunday, Aug. 16.
Next Board Meeting – The September monthly meeting was set for Sept 13 after service.
ADJOURNMENT – Judi moved for adjournment, at 1:30 p.m., Keith seconded. Approved on a voice vote. Rev. Bill led us in closing prayer.

Submitted by Tom Brown, secretary

NCF Hires Rev. Dunlap as Pastor

The board of New Church Family announced Sunday, Aug. 16, that it has hired the Rev. William K. Dunlap as its part-time pastor. Rev. Bill, 66, is an ordained minister of United Church of Christ with more than 35 years of experience at UCC (Congregational) churches in Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio and Indiana. NCF will continue its ministry as a nondenominational Christian church, welcoming people of all faith backgrounds as well as the unchurched.

A covenant between Rev. Bill and the board calls for the pastor to work a 20-hour week, with emphasis on Sunday worship. He also will be available for emergency needs, such as hospital and hospice visits.

Rev. Bill has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Westfield State College in Massachusetts and a divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological School. He and his partner Wayne McLean reside in Deltona. Until early 2019, he served as a supply pastor at Deltona UCC. He joined NCF as an interim pastor in May and was approved by the congregation for the pastor’s position in July.
Rev. Bill is the 10th clergy person to lead NCF since it was founded in 1986. He succeeds the Rev. Donna Choate, who retired in February after six years as lay leader and pastor. The church has been worshiping at 3520 W. International Speedway Blvd, near the I-4 intersection, since 2012 and has an active membership of about 40.

Special Congregation Meeting Minutes -- June 28, 2020

New Church Family Special Congregational Meeting -- June 28 2020
NCF Board President Dennis Brooks called the special congregational meeting to order at 11:35 a.m. in the church sanctuary. Following a show of hands and a ballot sign-in, Dennis certified that 15 of the church’s 28 voting members in good standing were present, more than satisifying the 20 percent quorum requirement.
Agenda: Keith Henry moved acceptance of the agenda prepared by the board and posted two weeks ago. Teresa Wright seconded. Tom Brown moved the agenda be expanded by adding Item 3A – That the congregation wishes to dedicate the church library in memory of Jeff Farance and the church conference room in memory of Jerry Corlis. Charlene Rywant seconded the amendment, accepted by a voice vote. The amended agenda was then accepted on a voice vote.
Dedications: Charlene Rywant moved approval of the two dedications proposed by Tom. Judi Omelia seconded. Approved on a voice vote.
Special Board Elections: Dennis noted three of the six board seats have become vacant since the Annual Meeting in February. Nominees were needed to fill out the terms of Jerry Corlis and Colette Bernard, both expiring February 2022; and the term of Bonnie Frazee, expiring February 2021. Charlene Rywant and Judi Omelia said they are willing to serve until Feb. 2022; Tom Brown said he would commit to serving until February 2021. There was brief discussion of the impact of a year-old bylaw that forbids board members from being compensated for performing board duties. Jeff De Young, NCF’s paid bookkeeper, noted the bylaw prevented him from seeking a board seat. He recommended the congregation reconsider the bylaw next year. Dennis noted that Judi’s cleaning stipend could continue since the bylaws do not make cleaning an official board duty.
Pastoral Search: Dennis, speaking on behalf of the Pastoral Search Committee, recommended the congregation issue a call to Rev. William Dunlap, currently serving as interim pastor. Dennis said the committee felt that Rev. Bill was the best qualified of the 3 candidates who formally applied for the position. (The other two were Chaplain David Jolly and lay minister Alice Lewis.) Dennis noted Rev. Bill has been active in planning worship – choosing Bible passages and recommending hymns and prayers – and Rev. Bill’s partner, Wayne McLean, has been helping with greeting and Communion. Dennis also noted a background check gave Rev. Bill a perfect report. Two other search committee members – Russ Van Allen and Bryan Poaches, said they had made telephone calls and received positive reports about Rev. Bill from churches where he formerly served. Teresa commended Rev. Bill’s sermons and Bible knowledge. Bonnie questioned whether members have had enough time to evaluate Rev. Bill and ask about his plans for the church. Others noted members have been conversing informally with Rev. Bill for several weeks. Dennis clarified that issuing a call did not mean Rev. Bill is hired immediately; the board will start negotiating with Rev. Bill on a two-year covenant spelling out his compensation and part-time duties.
VOTES: Dennis then asked members to fill out secret ballots for the board and pastor and deposit them in a jar. Jeff De Young and Jim Bradley served as voting tellers.
Jeff announced these results: Board seats: Judi Omelia – 12 yes; 2 no; 1 abstention; Charlene Rywant 12 yes; 2 no; 1 abstention; Tom Brown, 15 yes. All three were elected.
Pastor (75 percent majority required) – 14 for Rev. Bill Dunlap; 1 write-in for “Mickey Mouse.” Rev. Bill to be called.
Dennis gave a closing prayer. Don Brown moved for adjournment; Jim Bradley seconded. Meeting adjourned 12:20 p.m.

NCF Board Minutes -- July 12, 2020

New Church Family Board of Directors Meeting – July 12, 2020
Board Member Attendees: Dennis Brooks, Bryan Poaches, Keith Henry, Charlene Rywant, Tom Brown. Absent: Judi OMelia, ill. Others attending: Jeff DeYoung.
Dennis called the meeting to order in the boardroom at noon and gave an opening prayer.
A proposed agenda was amended by adding item 11E, Trash Expense. Tom moved acceptance, Bryan seconded. Accepted by voice vote. Previous minutes for the June monthly meeting, Special Congregational Meeting and Organizational Meeting – Bryan moved acceptance; Keith seconded; accepted on a voice vote. Tom asked board members to notify him if they notice any changes needed.
Pastor’s Report – None.
President’s Report – Dennis said he will ask the board at a later date to consider bylaw changes (see below.) Regarding worship segments, Dennis said Rev. Bill prefers not to prepare PowerPoint files, but supplies prayers, Scripture passages and music suggestions.
Vice President’s Report – Charlene said so far 15 t-shirts with the church’s starburst cross logo are on order. Delivery is expected in about a month. Char said she and Bryan are working on updating membership contact information. She noted our church is helping UCC New Smyrna with aspects of its ministry to the homeless, including donations of surplus clothing.
Treasurer’s Report – Jeff, as bookkeeper, handed out financial reports for June and the Jan-June period. He noted both income and expenses are under budget, but the church is running a surplus of about $1250 for the six-month period.
Building & Grounds – Keith will arrange for obtaining new lock tumblers and keys. We are updating our list of which people respond to the church’s alarm system.
Social Director’s Report – At Teresa Wright’s suggestion, the church is holding off on collecting back to school supplies. Other organizations are working on this project. In observance of Church Pride Month during September, members will be encouraged to wear church T-shirts and/or buttons on Sept. 4.
PLAQUES -- Tom offered to research cost of memorial plaques honoring Jeff Farance and Jerry Corlis. Board authorized him to make a purchase at reasonable cost.
MARQUEE -- Jeff will seek quotes for adding the new church logo to the entrance sign. It would be positioned approximately where the old logo previously was displayed.
WORKERS COMP – Jeff will check with the church’s insurance agent Mel Himes on whether workers comp insurance is required or recommended for the pastor, bookkeeper and landscaper.
FINANCIAL SIGS – Charlene will organize a date for board members to report to a SunTrust branch. The signers will be Dennis, Judi, Charlene, and Keith. Keith also will join Judi as a signer on the Morgan Stanley investment account. Bonnie Frazee, former board member, will no longer have signing authority.
WORD UP SURVEY – Tom distributed handouts summarizing responses from 11 people who took part in a newsletter survey. (Word Up has more than 600 subscribers.) He said the board can discuss the summary at a later point if it wishes.
VIDEOS – Tom said he and Slava, our video tech, would like to make two brief videos – one showing our sanctuary with spaced seating and other virus precautions, the other would introduce Rev. Bill as our pastor after his covenant is finalized and approved. Slava is volunteering his services. Members as usual will be given the option of not being photographed. Dennis moved approval, Charlene seconded. Accepted on a voice vote.
BYLAW AMENDMENTS – Dennis said he will ask the board at a later point to consider changing bylaws pertaining to notifications of special board meetings. Also, he would like to correct ambiguity on how absentee votes can be cast at congregational meetings. Jeff will ask the next Annual Meeting to reconsider the bylaw that forbids board members to receive compensation related to their duties.
TRASH – Jeff noted Republic Services’ monthly bill for weekly trash pick-up jumped from $72 in May to $94 in June. POST-MEETING UPDATE – Judi notified the board that she contacted Republic and reduced the pick-up schedule to every other week, which will reduce the monthly bill for $54.
COVENANT – The board informally discussed terms of a covenant draft prepared by Dennis that will be presented to Rev. Bill for further negotiation. The board amended the term of the covenant to synchronize it with the church’s Annual Meeting schedule. With the change, the initial phase of the covenant would run from Aug. 1, 2020, through Feb. 1, 2021. The board will then have authority to extend the covenant an additional year to Feb. 1, 2022. Any further extension of the covenant would require affirmation by board and congregation. Compensation figures for a 20-hour part-time work week were approved as submitted in the draft, but the board will let the pastor decide whether the compensation is reported as a salary, stipend and/or housing allowance. A provision concerning overtime was deleted. The board agreed to let the pastor set his own working hours and locations beyond the four hours required for Sunday
MEETING DATE – Aug 9 was set for the next board meeting.
Dennis gave a closing prayer and board adjourned at 1:51 p.m.

Buck-a-Book Benefit Sale

     KingChamp Books, an online used-book store operated by Tom Brown, is running a clearance sale to benefit New Church Family. Any book priced at $5 or less can be purchased for just $1 and all proceeds will benefit the church. Save shipping fees by taking delivery at church. Our inventory of 3,000 books is mostly non-fiction, but we also have mysteries, GLBTQ novels, religion, cookbooks, Hollywood biographies, self-help and much more. Browse and send your shopping list to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Payments: Cash, check, money order or Pay Pal (You can use a credit card with Pay Pal.). Questions, contact Tom at 386-576-6671.

NCF Board Meeting June 7, 2020 -- Minutes

NEW CHURCH FAMILY Board of Directors Meeting June 7, 2020 -- MINUTES
Attendees: Board Members -- Dennis Brooks, Bryan Poaches and Keith Henry. Absent: Bonnie Frazee. Two board seats are vacant.
Visitors: Judi Omelia, Charlene Rywant, Lois Klammer, Dave McBride, Jeff De Young, Russ Van Allen, Sharon Mitchell, Tom Brown.
Dennis Brooks, presiding, called the meeting to order in the NCF sanctuary at 12:10 p.m. and gave an opening prayer. Dennis asked Tom Brown to record minutes in the absence of a board secretary. Distanced seating was observed.
Keith moved approval of an agenda submitted by Dennis; Bryan seconded. Accepted on a voice vote.
Bryan moved approval of the minutes of the March 8 board meeting, the last formal board meeting held before the church suspended operations March 22 because of the Covid 19 pandemic. Keith seconded. Accepted by a voice vote. Dennis noted the March 8 meeting was recorded by Bonnie, and summarized as minutes by himself.
Pastor’s report – Tabled.
President’s Report – Dennis touched on several recent changes in the church: the death of board vice president and church co-founder Jerry Corlis, 83; Charlene Rywant has volunteered to take over many of Jerry’s duties, including maintaining membership and attendance records and the greeting-card ministry; special cleaning to sanitize the church; temporary limits on kitchen use during the pandemic; revival of Game Days, and Dennis’s request that Rev. Bill Dunlap, a pastoral applicant, fill in as interim pastor while the Pastoral Search Committee continues its work.
Vice President’s Report – Tabled
Treasurer’s Report – In the treasurer’s absence, Bookkeeper Jeff DeYoung distributed financial reports he compiled for March, April and May, and a Year to Date recap as of May 31. He noted that the church has achieved a surplus of $652 on tithes and income totaling $7180 for the January- to-May period. He said most of the tithes have come from the core group of about 25 regular attenders this year. The treasurer’s report was accepted as submitted.
Building and grounds – No items requiring board action.
Social Director – Nothing to report.
Cookbook project – Tabled
Marquee enhancement – Dennis noted that Bonnie had not yet submitted a quote for a marquee redesign (i.e. adding our starburst cross logo to the entrance sign.) Keith reported that Stan R. has donated a magnetic vinyl banner to cover the original sign, but metal plates are needed to anchor the banner. Jeff questioned whether the banner would be hurricane-proof. Dennis will confer with Stan on the next step needed for this project.
Parking lot painting -- Stan has completed some of the striping. Dave noted two handicapped spaces still have to be painted, and yellow paint applied to curbing and bump stops. Jeff noted paint is on hand and the project is close to completion.
Jeff Farance Library Plaque – No quote has been received from Bonnie yet on a plaque purchase. Bryan moved that the church also purchase a Jerry Corlis dedication plaque for the conference room in anticipation of the congregation approving both dedication proposals later this month. Keith seconded. Approved by voice vote.
Pastoral Search Committee Report: Dennis said the committee is getting close to making a recommendation to the board on calling a pastor. If the board agrees with the recommendation, the proposal would be presented to a Congregational Meeting, along with terms of a pastoral covenant (salary, benefits, hours, etc.)
A. Congregational Meeting: The board approved Dennis’ scheduling of a congregational meeting after the worship service June 28 to fill board vacancies and possibly to vote on calling a pastor. Dave reminded the board it will have to update its voting list prior to the meeting.
B. Cleaning: Keith moved the church continue paying Judi Omelia $50 a week for cleaning services. Bryan seconded. Dennis remarked that weekly cleaning is necessary because of ongoing pandemic concerns. Approved by a voice vote.
C. Memorials: Plans to hold memorial services for Jerry Corlis and Frank Olszewski were tabled. The church is waiting to hear from relatives of the two men on when they may feel safe to travel to Daytona.
D. Lawn service: Dennis reported Brion, our landscaping contractor, is willing to sign a waiver of liability (i.e. an agreement not to file a claim against the church if he is injured on the job). Dennis noted another lawn firm submitted a quote to the church, but Brion’s price remains lower.
E. Morgan Stanley Account – Jeff reported that with board turnover in recent months, we have Bonnie as the only board member who is a signer of the M-S investment account, currently worth about $45,000. Keith moved we withdraw Bonnie’s authority to sign pending further changes in the board’s make-up; seconded by Bryan, approved by a voice voice. Judi Omelia continues as a signer on the account from her previous service on the board.
F. Status of Treasurer – Dennis reported that Bonnie has failed to perform many of the duties of treasurer since February, leaving it to the bookkeeper and president to sign checks, count tithes, make deposits, prepare financial reports and oversee bills. Dennis said pastoral applicant Alice Lewis had emailed Bonnie about the church’s eligibility for Payroll Protection grants from the federal government, and Bonnie had failed to relay that information to the board. He said she also has failed to respond to other emails and telephone messages. There was lengthy discussion about whether Bonnie should be sent a warning letter or simply dismissed from the board. Dennis remarked he felt he no longer could work with Bonnie, and noted that several church members have complained about her attitude. Judi read a church bylaw that says the board has broad authority to discipline or dismiss any church leader who fails to perform duties. Keith moved that the board dismiss Bonnie from office. Bryan seconded, Approved on a 3-0 vote. Bryan moved that the board inform Bonnie of her dismissal by sending her a registered letter, signed by the three other board members. Keith seconded. Approved 3-0. Under church bylaws, the treasurer has the right to appeal the dismissal to a congregational meeting.


Jeff reminded the building manager to change air-conditioning filters as needed. He also urged that a roll of carpeting sitting in the library be moved elsewhere because people are tripping over it. He also noted there is uncertainty about who possesses keys to the church. Bryan moved that we review and update the key list, and change lock tumblers after board vacancies are filled. Keith seconded. Approved by a voice voice.

Next meeting: Dennis recommended July 12 noon for the board’s next monthly meeting. Accepted on a voice voice.

Dave McBride gave a closing prayer, and meeting adjourned at 1:50 p.m.

Submitted by Tom Brown, volunteer.

NCF's 2020 Memorial Roll

2020 MEMORIAL ROSTER—New Church Family
For our 2020 Memorial observance, we pause to remember these 91 departed members and friends who have supported our church since its founding in 1986.
Billie Abner, Bruce Austin, Jeff Allen.
Bill Ballon, Jim Bebee, Ron Bergeron, Billie Boots, Dennis Blyth, Sally Brayton, Carl A. Brown, Brunhilda, Rev. James Buchanan, Jim Burkhalter, Cecil Burnette.
John Cadzo, Alan Columbia, Barbara Cook, Jerry Corlis, Marty Cox, Helene Coyne, Rick Croley, Ruth Cronk.
Tom Damron, Matthew Dilworth, Donnie Dudenhoffer, Kirk Dudenhoffer
Jeff Farance. Bill Finn, Eve & Eric Gillin, Ed Grinsell, Mark Haseman. Hazel Holt, Robert Hunold.
Aris Johnson, Fay Kelley, Lowell Kelm, David Kennedy & Bonnie Kennedy, Scott Kline. Walter Konak. Gerald Legg, Gloria Lesko, Rev. Jean Levy.
Helen Martell, Gretchen Martin, Gayle Meade, Michael McCray, Rev. Beau McDaniels, Dennis Moreno, Rev. Ted Morgan. William L. Murphy. Donna "Mom" Morris.
Linda Nelson, Gil O'Donnell, Frank Olzewski. Mary Agnes Page. Roy Panella. Rocky Wayne Pickett, Rev. Larry Ponder, Rev. Carol Pyles.
Robert Quantino. Bill Rebola. Jack Reed. Tom Reynolds. Charles Rigoll. Rev. John Rogers. Tim Ryan.
Holly Ann Scott, Tony Silvestro. Gene Sims. Michael Smolen. Jack Snyder. Al Steady. Rev. Steve Steele. Mark Sverha.
Nicole Turner, Mary Ann Taylor
Will Verick, Clarence Vion, Larry Vion, Jeff Walker, Rev. Tim Ward, Jackson Weaver, Stan Wetherald, Douglas Whiton, Margaret Wickham, Edmond J. Wieckowski, Chuck Wilford, Steve Womack, Bill Zimmerman

NCF names interim pastor

          Rev. Bill Dunlap of Deltona has agreed to lead Sunday services at New Church Family while the Pastoral Search Committee continues evaluating applicants for the pastor's position.

          Rev. Bill hails from Massachusetts where he pastored Congregational churches (which now are known as the United Church of Christ). He also has pastored churches in other states. Come to worship and meet Rev. Bill and his partner Wayne McLean.

Jerry Corlis Obituary

JERRY CORLIS – In Memoriam
Gerald E. “Jerry” Corlis, 83, the longest-serving member of New Church Family, died April 11 from the Covid-19 virus after several days of treatment at AdventHealth-Daytona Beach Hospital.
Jerry helped to organize our church in 1986 when it was part of the Metropolitan Community Church. He continued serving the church as a board member when Hope MCC became independent and reorganized as New Church Family in 2008. For decades, he led our church’s congregation care ministry, making countless visits and telephone calls to hospitals, nursing homes and home-bound members. He also worked as a staff assistant to the late Rev. Beau McDaniels during her nine years as pastor.
Jerry also was well-known as an antiques dealer, operating Jerry’s Bargain Barn on Center Avenue in Holly Hill for many years. Later, he helped his partner, Terry Parnell, operate Terry’s Home Fashions at Nova & Sixth Street, Holly Hill. He was active in the Greater Daytona Beach Business Guild, helping it organize some of the area’s early Gay Pride Festivals.
Jerry made his home on Granada Avenue in Holly Hill for nearly 30 years, renting rooms to low-income people in need of temporary shelter.
Born in East Syracuse, N.Y. on March 28, 1937 he was the son of Ralph C. and Grace M. Corlis. He was a graduate of the old East Syracuse High School. Before relocating to Florida, he operated Jerry's Flower Shop in East Syracuse.
In addition to Terry, his partner of 18 years, Jerry is survived by his brothers, Ernest of Williamstown N.Y., Ralph of East Syracuse NY and Richard of Altmar NY; and several nieces, nephews and cousins.
Burial will be in Stockner Cemetery, Fancy Gap, VA. His family asks that donations be sent to Minoa Methodist Church, 246 East Ave., Minoa, NY 13116. New Church Family also has established a Memorial Fund in his honor. To leave a guest book tribute, please visit:

The Wired Word Lesson about 'Good News' in Virus Time

(Editor's Note: Thank you to Erika Henderson of the Port Orange United Church of Christ for sharing this uplifting lesson about "Good News" )


Our wired word lesson, which notes the launch of a new YouTube channel called Some Good News, or SGN. The topic seemed particularly appropriate for Resurrection Sunday, when the best news ever was delivered to frightened women in a graveyard.

The Some Good News program, created by actor John Krasinski of The Office and Jack Ryan fame, was an immediate hit, trending #1 on the internet. We take the opportunity to examine what the Bible says about the gospel and good news, how Jesus is God's ultimate good news, and how we can communicate that good news to others hungry for hope in these anxious times.

Here is the facebook mini lesson I posted on this:

Proverbs 15:30
"The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
and good news refreshes the body."

This Easter Sunday's Wired Word is on the need for good news. When so many news stories present bad news, whether they deal with the pandemic, natural disasters, war, the refugee crisis, political divisiveness, racial conflict, violence, etc., we may be tempted to despair. The biblical message of the gospel presents Jesus as God's ultimate good news. We consider how we can communicate good news to others hungry for hope in these anxious times.

Actor John Krasinski, of the TV shows The Office and Jack Ryan, wondered for years why he couldn't find a news show dedicated entirely to good news. Finally he asked himself, "All right. Enough is enough, world. Why not us? Why not now?"
So he invited his Twitter followers to share good news stories with him. When they began to pour in, Krasinski started a YouTube channel called SGN, which means Some Good News (currently, the show is known by both names). The show is trending #1 this week, an indicator, perhaps, of the hunger of people for good news in a time when bad news seems to be overwhelming the airwaves.

Questions for discussion: 1. What news would you consider good news today? 2. Who needs to hear some good news from you today? 3. How can you become part of a movement to spread good news rather than bad in your community and sphere of influence? Why does Easter and spring cheer people up so much?

During Anxious Times, People Crave Good News
The Wired Word for the Week of April 12, 2020

In the News

Actor John Krasinski, of the TV shows The Office and Jack Ryan, wondered for years why he couldn't find a news show dedicated entirely to good news. Finally he asked himself, "All right. Enough is enough, world. Why not us? Why not now?"

So he invited his Twitter followers to share good news stories with him. When they began to pour in, Krasinski started a YouTube channel called SGN, which means Some Good News (currently, the show is known by both names). The show is trending #1 this week, an indicator, perhaps, of the hunger of people for good news in a time when bad news seems to be overwhelming the airwaves.

So we decided to check out some of the websites that focus on good news recommended by Krasinski. Here's a sample of what we discovered:

A Detroit man spent $900 to fill the gas tanks of nurses' cars to thank them for their work during the outbreak.
The Roush family in Ohio started a "drive-thru chat" so people could have someone to talk to face to face while practicing safe social distancing. Corrine Roush said the family's initiative has been "such a light during what has felt like such a dark time."
Students at MIT have been working on developing an affordable alternative to scarce and expensive ventilators desperately needed by hospitals in this country and across the globe. Another student has been making face masks with windows so the hearing-impaired can read the lips of their health-care providers.
Everyone from celebrities, major companies, tattoo artists and professional athletes are donating money and supplies to hospitals to help in the fight to save lives.
People who have recovered from COVID-19 are donating their blood plasma to help those now sickened by the disease.
Teachers are driving by the homes of their students to drop off supplies, leave balloons in driveways, and stand outside windows with whiteboards to explain a math lesson to a child confined indoors.
Communities have mobilized to place stuffed animals in windows so children can "hunt" for bears while riding in cars or getting some exercise.
A Colorado woman sends her golden retriever dog Sundance, aka Sunny, to deliver groceries to a neighbor who has been advised not to leave her home because an underlying health condition makes her more at risk of infection.
Instead of writing a ticket to a motorist who had been speeding, a law enforcement officer donated some of his own N95 face masks to her after learning that she was a doctor.
Health-care professionals, firefighters and law-enforcement officers are coming out of retirement to relieve exhausted front-line workers.
Chefs whose restaurants are shuttered have taken to making sack lunches and hot meals for staff, students, the unemployed, the homeless, the hungry. A Sacramento eatery is donating all its March profits to help other struggling restaurants. Meanwhile, singer and philanthropist Bon Jovi is washing dishes at a restaurant, and the queen of Malaysia is preparing meals for hospital workers.
Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the United States, is giving employees bonus pay for working during the pandemic.
Brewers, glove makers and auto manufacturers retool their factories to produce hand sanitizer, PPE (personal protective equipment) and ventilators.
Hotels are providing rooms for use by health workers who are unable to go home, and average citizens are loaning RVs to medical personnel for the duration.
Texas Roadhouse announced that its CEO, W. Kent Taylor, will redirect about 10 months worth of his base salary and bonus to pay front-line workers.
While the pandemic and shutdown of major swaths of the global economy are causing undeniable pain, satellite images from space show a reduction of pollution in many areas, which scientists say should have at least small, if temporary, benefits to the environment and health.

Using the hashtags #FlowerBoostChallenge and #BuyFlowersNotToiletPaper, the Dutch Van der Ende manufacturing company spearheaded an initiative to encourage businesses to buy plants and flowers to give to hospitals, care centers, workers and ordinary citizens to cheer them up. More than 1,000 companies in the Netherlands answered the call, purchasing over 1 million flowers to support the nation's hard-hit floriculture sector.

From the "Clap for Carers" tribute in the UK to the belting of operatic arias in hard-hit Italy, people are applauding medics and cheering neighbors from balconies, lawns and rooftops. Though physically separated, they are joined in sentiments of patriotism, pride, lamentation, anxiety, gratitude and hope. From the silly to the sublime, artists, dancers, comedians and musicians cocooned in their own homes behind multiple computer screens are creating beauty, good humor, community, harmony and unison through the wonder of technology.

Canadians Mita Hans and Valentina Harper began a "caremongering" movement on social media to counter "scaremongering," connect volunteers with people who need help, and create camaraderie, hope and "a contagion of kindness." Paul Viennau said that the help he received through the Halifax caremongering group felt "like a hug." Another participant, Rhia Rave Fae, said the caremongering group was "a safe haven to restore my faith in humanity ... shows the good in people, and proves we can do amazing things when we come together."

In the few episodes Some Good News (SGN) has produced thus far, Krasinski concludes with some version of this statement: "Remember, no matter how tough things get, there's always good in the world."

More on this story can be found at these links:

Some Good News With John Krasinski, Episode 1 (Video 15:43). Some Good News
Good News Network Home Page. Good News Network
Good News Dashboard for COVID-19. InspireMore
Tank's Good News Home Page.
Coronavirus: The Good That Can Come Out of an Upside-down World - BBC News
Italians Find 'A Moment of Joy in This Moment of Anxiety.' The New York Times

Applying the News Story

When so many news stories present bad news, whether they deal with the pandemic, natural disasters, war, the refugee crisis, political divisiveness, racial conflict, violence, etc., we may be tempted to despair. The biblical message of the gospel presents Jesus as God's ultimate good news. We consider how we can communicate good news to others hungry for hope in these anxious times.

The Big Questions

1. What news would you consider good news today? What is the good news you think people are yearning to hear?

2. Where have you heard or seen good news since the outbreak of the coronavirus?

3. What is the good news or gospel described in the Bible?

4. How is the gospel like and unlike the common, everyday variety of good news?

5. Who needs to hear some good news from you today? How can you become part of a movement to spread good news rather than bad in your community and sphere of influence?

Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope
Here are some Bible verses to guide your discussion:

Proverbs 15:30
The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
and good news refreshes the body. (For context, read 15:30-33.)
Proverbs 25:25
Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country. (No context needed.)

When you haven't heard from a loved one for a long time, you may feel concern over their welfare. Such concern is likely to be heightened in a time of tension, stress, or danger. You may lose sleep or not eat properly because of your anxiety. Then you get a long-awaited phone call, text, email, or message on social media, telling you that all is well. Suddenly your appetite returns, and you can get a good night's sleep again.

In these verses, the writer of Proverbs speaks to the reality that good news has a positive impact on physical and emotional health. Even if you are unable to be together with your loved one at that moment in time, just receiving good news about that person is enough to brighten your mood.

Questions: Think of a time when good news refreshed your soul. What made it so special? How did the good news affect your thoughts and actions?

Isaiah 52:7-10
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the LORD to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the LORD has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God. (For context, read 52:3-10.)

The prophet reminds the people of their history as aliens in Egypt and of the oppression they suffered at the hands of the Assyrians (vv. 3-4). God announces his presence with his people (v. 6); he has not abandoned them.

In Luke 4:18-21, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 61:1-2, identifying himself as the one the Spirit of God has anointed "to bring good news to the poor." Combined with the Isaiah 52 text, we see Jesus as "the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns'" (v. 7).

That matches the description of his ministry as the proclamation of "the good news of the kingdom," which Matthew combines with his "curing every disease and every sickness among the people (Matthew 4:23-24). His consistent message of good news was that "the kingdom of God has come near" (Mark 1:1, 14-15).

But Jesus does more than convey a message from God; he is God's message. An angel of the Lord announced the birth of Christ the Savior, Messiah and Lord, as "good news of great joy for all the people" (Luke 2:8-14). John called Jesus "the word of God" in John 1:14, 18. That message is contained in another of his names, "Emmanuel, or God with us" (Matthew 1:23). He not only carries God's message to humanity, he is God's good news.

So when deacon Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza, "he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus" (Acts 8:35).

Questions: Why would the poor hear the announcement that God's kingdom had come near as good news? What does Isaiah say accompanies the inauguration of God's reign?

Who are the sentinels who lift up their voices, singing together for joy at the sight of the Lord's return to Zion (v. 8)?

Why is Jesus at the heart of God's good news? How is Jesus good news for us today?

Acts 13:30-33
But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, 'You are my Son; today I have begotten you.' (For context, read 13:13-39.)

In Antioch in Pisidia, Paul gave a lesson in the history of the Israelites, from the Exodus to the gift of a Savior, Jesus, as God had promised (vv. 13-23). Paul recounted how Jesus was unjustly condemned to death, executed, and buried (vv. 27-29).

Paul quoted from the psalms about how God would not let the body of his chosen one decay. Jesus' ancestor, King David, died and was laid to rest in a tomb, so he could not have been the one to whom the passage refers. But because God raised Jesus from the dead, his body did not decay as all mortal bodies do after death (v. 37). Therefore, he is the one who fulfilled God's promise. And it is through him, Paul said, that the good news of forgiveness and liberation from sins is proclaimed (vv. 38-39).

In 2 Timothy 2:8-9, Paul defined the gospel or good news, for which he suffered hardship and being shackled like a criminal, as the person of "Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David." The good news refers specifically to "Jesus and the resurrection" (Acts 17:18).

Paul proclaimed Christ's death for our sins, burial and resurrection, as good news "of first importance," citing multiple resurrection appearances as evidence that Jesus came back from death and lives again (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

From these verses, we conclude that the good news or gospel, as Paul defined it, is found in God's fulfillment of his promise, in the person and work of the risen Christ, and in the freedom from the power and consequences of sin experienced by those who believe and receive Jesus as God's message.

Questions: What makes God's promise keeping such good news for us? What makes Jesus' resurrection good news?

In what sense are God's people still witnesses of Jesus' resurrection? How do you bear witness to others that Jesus is alive today?

1 Thessalonians 3:6-10
But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us -- just as we long to see you. For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. (For context, read 3:1-13.)

In the previous chapter, Paul wrote that he and his coworkers had courageously declared the gospel (good news) of God to the Thessalonians in spite of great opposition (2:2). He said that though they could have made demands of the Thessalonians, they were "gentle" with them, "like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children," caring so deeply for them that they shared "not only the gospel (good news) of God but also [their] own selves," working "night and day" so as not to burden them (2:7-9).

Later in the chapter, Paul characterized the agony they felt at being separated from the Thessalonians as being "made orphans," though he said they were distanced from them "in person, not in heart" (2:17), blocked from reuniting with them by Satan (2:18). Finally, when Paul couldn't stand the separation any longer, he sent Timothy to Thessalonica to see how the believers were faring and to strengthen their faith and encourage them to persevere in the face of persecution (3:1-5).

There is something deeply moving about the language Paul uses to describe his relationship with the Thessalonians, especially when we consider the sacrifices being made every day by EMTs, nurses, doctors and others on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic. Many, if not most of the patients they attend are complete strangers, yet they treat the sick with gentleness and tenderness, as if they were their own family members. Some even give their own lives in the effort to save others.

Paul was greatly encouraged when Timothy brought back the good news of the Thessalonians' faith, love and faithfulness. Again and again Paul expresses his longing to see them face to face, gushing fairly rhapsodic in his affection for them.

In this period of social distancing, health-care workers may well feel like orphans, in many cases unable to be with their own family members, for fear of passing contagion to those they love. They are separated "in person, not in heart," blocked from rejoining their loved ones by a power that seems as overwhelming as evil itself. So when they receive messages of love and appreciation from members of their families and communities, they may feel, as Paul did, that their labor has not all been in vain.

While the "good news" of the faith and love of the Thessalonians doesn't rise to the level of significance of the gospel or good news of God in Jesus Christ, Paul still prizes that good news highly.

Questions: When have you been encouraged to persevere in your faith by good news that others are growing in their faith, love and faithfulness? How might you be motivated to keep following Christ when you realize that your endurance encourages others? How can you become "good news" to encourage others during this challenging time?

For Further Discussion

1. "In Ephesians [1:4], we are told that God chose us to be his children 'before the foundation of the world.' Do you realize that this refers to you, to me, to each one of us?" So wrote Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his book, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time.
"Before the foundation of the world, before we were conceived," Tutu continued, "God had already decided he wanted us. Long before we could have done anything to earn it, to deserve it, God freely, graciously chose you, chose me, chose each one of us to be his children. It could not depend on whether we were good. It could not depend on our ability to impress God, on our success.
"That is the Good News: that God loved us, that God loves us, and that God will love us forever unchangingly. You don't need to do anything at all because God loves you already long before you could do anything to impress him. ... in a sense, it actually doesn't matter what we do. For nothing we can do, no matter how bad, will change God's love for us. ... Just like a mother loves her child no matter what, so God loves you even if you don't succeed, even if you don't win."
"Your goodness can't win God's love. Nor can your badness lose it," echoed Max Lucado in his book, 3:16 - The Numbers of Hope. "Mark it down: God loves you with an unearthly love. You can't win it by being winsome. You can't lose it by being a loser. But you can be blind enough to resist it."
When, if ever, have you found it difficult to believe the Good News that God loves you unconditionally? What has hindered your belief in God's love? Why would anyone resist the love of God?
What has strengthened your belief that God loves you? How might the conviction that God loves you unconditionally help you face trials and endure hardship?

2. In her book, Catching Fireflies: Teaching Your Heart to See God's Light Everywhere, Patsy Clairmont describes an early-morning telephone call she received from an unknown woman who wanted to tell her about a dream she had in which she was conversing with Patsy on the phone.
When the caller woke up, she couldn't figure out what the dream meant. So she prayed for illumination. She felt God saying that she should tell Patsy Clairmont that God had not forgotten her. The problem? The woman had no idea who Patsy was.
Then one day, when the woman was doing a bit of spring cleaning, she pulled a book off her bookshelf. It had been given to her many years before, but she had never read it. It was an anthology of essays by a variety of authors, one of whom was Patsy Clairmont. Suddenly, the instruction she had received about giving Patsy a message came back to her.
So the dreamer tracked down Patsy's phone number and delivered the message to the author: "God has not forgotten you."
Patsy was deeply touched that God would send such an encouraging message to her through a stranger's dream. But she marveled even more at the wonder of God's love when she remembered that she had been asking God to clarify what message she should share with the women who would attend conferences where she was to speak that year. She realized that the message, "God has not forgotten you," delivered by a total stranger, was the answer to her prayer, and the message God had for Patsy's listeners.
"My friend, God has not forgotten you," Patsy wrote in Catching Fireflies. "He knows your sorrow, your troubles, your finances, your fears, and your dreams -- and he has not forgotten you. He promises to redeem our hardships for our good. Sometimes we think that if God doesn't fix or change our struggles, then he must have forgotten us. Nothing could be further from the truth."
Who do you know who may be feeling lonely and forgotten? How can you reach out to convey the good news that they are not forgotten, but that they are loved, appreciated, and remembered?

3. From a post on social media, author unknown:
"If they cancel the rest of the school year, students would miss 2.5 months of education. Many people are concerned about students falling behind because of this. Yes, they may fall behind when it comes to classroom education ...
"But what if ...
"What if instead of falling 'behind,' this group of kids are ADVANCED because of this?
"What if they have more empathy, they enjoy family connection, they can be more creative and entertain themselves, they love to read, they love to express themselves in writing?
"What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own backyard and sitting near a window in the quiet?
"What if they notice the birds and the dates the different flowers emerge, and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower?
"What if [they] learn to cook, organize their space, do their laundry, and keep a well-run home?
"What if they learn to stretch a dollar and to live with less?
"What if they learn to plan shopping trips and meals at home?
"What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good to share in the small delights of the everyday?
"What if they ... place great value on our teachers and educational professionals, librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential support workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, custodians, logistics, and health-care workers and their supporting staff, just to name a few of the millions taking care of us right now while we are sheltered in place?
"What if among these children, a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler life to truly learn what really matters in this life?"
What is the main point the author of this post is trying to make? What biblical principles might undergird the author's point?

4. Discuss this, from TWW team member Bill Tammeus: "It's good news when people have homes in which they're stuck; it's good news when they have running hot water and soap with which to wash their hands; it's good news when they have Internet service and electricity and phones to stay connected to the world outside; it's good news when they have a faith community and clergy who care about them in this difficult time."
How should we view our own challenges, given that many people around the world, including some in our own country, lack many of the basics that we often take for granted?

5. Author Max Lucado wrote in his book, 3:16 - The Numbers of Hope, "Life at times appears to fall to pieces, seem irreparable. But it's going to be okay. How can you know? Because God so loved the world. And, ... if God can make a billion galaxies, can't he make good out of our bad and sense out of our faltering lives? Of course he can. He is God."
Where do you see evidence of the love of God for the world today? Where do you see God making "good out of our bad and sense out of our faltering lives"?

6. A few years ago, former U.S. Army officer Michael Michalko suggested that creativity could be sharpened by what he called "assumption reversal," which amounts to a paradigm shift of accepted notions and norms.
When assumption reversal happens, new business models can carve out niche markets or even change an entire industry. For example, what if, instead of assuming that taxi companies have to own cars, you envision a taxi company without car ownership? Now you have Uber and Lyft.
New ways of thinking can also change social structures, how governments operate, and how people relate to one another, to their environment and to their culture.
Matthew Syed, author of Rebel Ideas: the Power of Diverse Thinking, suggests that while the pandemic is causing undeniable pain, we may find unexpected opportunities if we use the disruption to "reimagine the world and [our] place within it."
What if core ideas we presume to be true may not be? If we "disrupt conventional thought patterns," what new, creative ideas might emerge?
Try using assumption reversal to rethink just one sector of our society. Take education, for example. Now that brick and mortar schools are shut down, how will we educate our children? How will we even define education? How will the relationship between parents and educators change?
What subjects and skills will we emphasize after the pandemic (hopefully) subsides? Will we place more emphasis on nurturing qualities such as generosity, kindness, altruism and emotional and social intelligence, and teaching skills such as improvisation, collaboration, debating, or thinking on one's feet rather than just memorizing data?

7. In the book, Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life, M.J. Ryan wrote:

"Our attitudes determine everything, because they are the glasses through which we see the world. Is the world a wonderful place or a hellhole? ... the answer to that question depends on our attitude on any given day."
"Expectations are the killers of gratitude and joy. If you expect to live in the Taj Mahal, your cozy little cottage will feel pretty awful; if you expect your son to become a doctor, you can't appreciate him for the fine bodyworker that he is; if you focus on how you are going to be miserable without a BMW, your trusty, rusty Toyota that reliably gets you around will only bring you misery. Having hopes, dreams and visions for the future are one thing; it's important to have goals and schemes pulling us into the future. But we need to be careful that such envisioning doesn't get in the way of appreciating the things we have in the here and now. Let's not miss the beauty of our actual lives while we're lusting after a mythical perfect life."
"Practice No Matter What. Before you go into a situation, ask yourself, 'What is it that I can learn, accomplish, or experience here, no matter what happens?'"

Discuss how your attitudes and expectations have impacted the way you experience life.

Responding to the News

1. You may want to add links to good news websites (some are listed above) to your favorites or bookmarks on your computer or phone so you can find them easily when you need encouragement. Consider sharing these links or others like them on social media to brighten the day of others who need some good news.

2. Here are a few links to online resources that may help you deal with cabin fever while social movement is more restricted.

Discover the Museums.
Nightly Met Opera Streams.
The Good Road.
Art Camp from Home. The Bass Museum of Art
How to Turn Yourself Into a Potato (and Other Things) for Zoom Meetings, Teams Calls and More.

3. You might want to tie a piece of yarn or string around your finger to remind yourself that God has not forgotten you, nor will God forget you during this time of social isolation.


God our Father, who sent your Son as your message of good news to humankind, help us to hear your message clearly, to embrace it and share it with the world, in the hope of eternal life and power of your Spirit. Amen.

April 8 Lenten devotion by Rev. Diane Langworthy

 Thank you to Rev. Diane at UCC New Smyrna Beach for sharing this Lenten  devotion with us.

April 8, 2020

Wednesday night, before Maundy Thursday, I am still hoping to finish this devotion before midnight! Our Gospel reading today includes Jesus admonishing the disciples to be at the ready like servants, waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet. The servants need to be alert, “...even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.” It’s feeling a bit like that tonight. I’m really feeling ready to go to bed... but, I did feel called to write these little reflections after we all got locked in with coronavirus threats. (At least through Lent, which isn’t over yet.) I could list the responsibilities I waded through today... I didn’t start this late because I was not doing anything. Pastors are busy during Holy Week, even (maybe especially!) when they are housebound. So, as I wrestle with whether to finish this last task or call it a night. I look again at the Gospel. Jesus concludes, “You must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” What does it mean, at any point in time for us to “be ready” for Jesus’ return? Every day there are many choices... things to do... things to leave undone and day after day, even stuck in the house for yet another day, there are relentless choices. How we make them shapes our readiness.

I almost always recommend that folks be more gentle with themselves than they have been. This is not such a gentle passage, though. Jesus talks about a range of punishment for the non-ready servants, from being “cut to pieces” (really! See Luke 12:46), to being beaten with “many blows,” to being beaten with a “few blows”. There’s a range of consequences from becoming toast, to almost toast, to singed around the edges. In the context of Jesus’ “what if” parable, the guy who is total toast at the end is the one who is eating and drinking and beating his fellow servants, male and female. He is gluttonously consuming everything and inflicting pain on others. This is intolerable, says Jesus, to the point that death is the only fair wage for such “service”. Okay. Share and don’t inflict pain on others. That is a clear limit. What does it mean in the days of coronavirus when trips to the store are risky? How do we choose what we take and leave for others? How do we help one another? How do we reach out to folks who have lost their income? Given that we are all servants and everything we have comes from God, are we good sharers?

Is there a way our choices were harming others? I can’t help noticing that as we all step back and are forced to stop “business as usual” the environment is healing in startling ways. Dolphins swim in canals in Italy again. The Himalayan mountains have again become visible at a great distance. Smog is clearing. Animals are dancing in new places. It feels like nature is crying out with joy, “See, this is what I am called to be when you don’t abuse me!” Can we learn from this? Certainly, this is worse than the bad servant who was beating his fellow servants. We’ve been beating down future generations by trampling what was created to sustain all life. Do we care?

The servants who get beaten with many blows are ones who KNOW what they are supposed to do, know the master’s will, but refuse to follow through. Hmmm. Are we READY? Those things that are a call in our lives, those things that make our hearts sing and bring joy to others, are we following through with those things? God’s call, God’s will for us, matters. God starts with what we are good at and nudges us to share those gifts... to put them in service! Are we ready or asleep at the wheel?

The guys who get a consequence, but a light one, are the servants who really didn’t know any better. They just didn’t KNOW. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48b) That can sound like advice to avoid learning anything! Maybe we should quit this One Year Bible business if what we learn can work against us! Often, we fear to do deep listening to God because underneath we can fear that God will ask too much, that we just won’t be equal to it, that God will ask something we can’t stand... like be a missionary in a jungle when you are scared witless of snakes. But that is not how God works in our hearts. Jesus was crazy patient with His disciples. He told stories to try and wake them up, but when it came time to take a beating, when it came time to die... He was the one who stepped in and took our place.

That is a lot to take in, but I think it’s important to try. So, I stayed up to write this devotion, but now, I am sure I am called to sleep! Sometimes sleep IS the faithful thing to do.


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