Grossnickle Church of the Brethren

Continuing the work of Jesus.  Peacefully.  Simply.  Together.

Pastoral Ponderings

  • 07 Jun 2014 7:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Life brings new experiences all the time.  This week we had a new one at our house.  Sam-I-Am is the beloved four legged critter who has graced our lives for 15 years. 


    Sam came to us as a 1 year old pup.  He is part beagle and the Good Lord knows the rest of his “mut” make up.  Sam loved our boys and helped to raise them.  He loved to run in the cemetery and down the hill to the Church.  If anyone was at Church in his younger days he wanted to go check them out. 

     In 15 years I never saw Sam snap at anyone, bite anyone, or even approach anyone with a growl.  He was an instant friend to anyone who came his way.

    Our favorite story is while he was visiting at friends, he stretched out on the floor and took a nap.  A little boy needed a nap too so he laid down on the floor and put his head on Sam’s side using him as a pillow.  Sam never moved to get him off.  He just laid there and served as a pillow for the little boy.  It was just his temperament to be a friend.

    Old age caught up to Sam.  His legs hurt him a lot.  He didn’t much like to be rubbed on his paws or his legs.  And his hips began to turn out in the back.  He panted a lot which is a sign of pain in a dog.  And in these last days and weeks we never saw his tail wag again.  It just hurt too much.  With the help of a gifted and kind vet this week we made the decision to “put Sam down.”

    I don’t write about this because of an overblown view of a dog as a full fledged family member.  As a culture we have too high a view of our pets.  The Pope recently said, we need to love our children more and our pets less.  I agree.

    I write these words about Sam because this week I have been reminded of the mystery and beauty of life.  Sam was a wonderful blessed presence in our lives for a long time.  Now the house is quiet.  After the vet did her gentle work, we lovingly carried Sam’s lifeless body to the woods where  we buried him.

     Life is a gift from God.  It is a mystery how even our four legged “ones,” live and breathe and run and play……… and then are gone - still, lifeless, absent.

     Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time to be born and a time to die.  We know that Sam’s time had come.  So it is with each of us.

     I have been lingering with the words, “We are here for a time.”  Only a time.  Just a time.  For a moment we live.

     May our choices, our decisions, the things we love, be only to the glory of God and our neighbor’s good.  For we have only a time.

     God bless you Sam-I-Am.  Thank you!  Thank you for all that you taught me.  Especially that we are here for a time!

  • 01 Oct 2013 8:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Summer officially turned to Fall recently.  Summer is time for a change of pace.  Fall is a time of returning to responsibilities like, jobs and school and a ton of other activities.  Summer is a time when we all take our turn at vacation and unwinding and rejuvenating.  Fall is a time for returning.

    As the pastor of a local Church, I am struck by what experts we have become at finding reasons to miss worship on Sunday morning.  Any of us can tick off a dozen reasons in an instant.

    So I decided to tick off a dozen reasons to be in worship on a Sunday morning.

    10.  There is always someone there glad to see me and someone I’m glad to see.

    9.  For seven days my whole world has challenged what Jesus teaches. Hearing Jesus’ teachings gets me back on track.

    8.  I’ve accomplished a lot of wonderful things.  I’m wonderful. I need the reminder that in God’s eyes, I’ve also fallen down and I’m still loved.

    7.  I love to see the kids at Church learning about Jesus.  It inspires me.

    6.  The week goes so fast.  Slowing down is good for my spirit.

    5.  All week it’s been about me and mine.  In worship I hear God’s call to live for others.

    4.  I feel loved when I’m with the people at my Church.  Once again I know God’s love is real.

    3.  When I’m not in worship I’m not practicing my faith – praying, giving, hearing, singing, loving.

    2.  In worship I can hear God’s call to serve in the world.

    And the number one reason to be in worship:

    1. To be in God’s presence with people I love and trust.

    So when we’re tempted to skip out, yet again, think of some reasons to be in worship and maybe other plans won’t seem so important.

    “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’”

  • 26 Apr 2012 9:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Some weeks ago the Washington Post carried a picture on the front page.  The picture is of a little boy who is identified simply as Ahmed.  The boy is not crying but weeping.  His face is totally distraught.  He is attending his father’s funeral.  Father was killed by a Syrian army sniper.  The person next to Ahmed has his arm around him.  Another person reaches over and placing his hand on Ahmed’s head to offer comfort.  I ache when I look at the picture.

    I asked my good friend to laminate the picture for me.  It now hangs on our office wall.  I placed it there for a number of reasons.

    I am tired of dwelling on the things that divide us.  We so easily act like we are so incredibly different.  And who wants to be with someone different.  “I want to be with people who are just like me.”  When I look at the picture of Ahmed, I am reminded that Ahmed and I have far more in common than the things that make us different.  Ahmed is grieving for his father.  I remember grieving for my father.  To grieve is to feel loss.  It is to hurt.  To grieve is to wonder about the future probably even to fear a future without a father.  I’m sure Ahmed loved his father very much.  I’m sure there are wonderful memories of his father.  Ahmed will have to make decisions about how he responds to his father’s death.

    I also put that picture there to remind me that when our government makes decisions to fire drones or drop bombs on those we have identified as our so called enemies, we are dropping them on the Ahmed’s of this world and on his family.  Ahmed is my brother in the human family.  How could I possibly bless someone firing a drone at Ahmed, my brother in the human family?  When will it stop?  How long oh Lord?

    A third reason for hanging that picture up is to remind me that my words and thoughts about the “love of Christ,” are not only for the neighbors whose names I know and whose faces I see regularly.  Our call to extend the love of Christ extends around the world.  I have much to learn about how to do that, and what that means for Ahmed and me.  Maybe we will learn together in some small way.

    Ahmed I pray for you.  I’m sure across these last weeks you and your family have been through more than I can begin to imagine.  I pray God will keep you in peace and in safety and in love.  And I will think of you whenever I look at the office wall.  And I will wonder how you are.  And I will pray again.

  • 16 Nov 2011 10:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Tonight I went to Love Feast.  Whenever I go to Love Feast I often wonder what part of the experience will linger over. What part will become the focus of my thinking and feeling and reflecting.  Many times I linger over feet washing.  Often I think about the person who washed my feet.  It is an opportunity for prayer, for fond thanksgiving for that person.

    Tonight was very different.  I’ve never thought about Love Feast in this way before.  As many of you may know I was involved in a fall from a ladder that resulted in a shattered bone requiring surgery and now considerable rehab.  Some, I’m sure are most weary of references to that fall.  But it shapes my life just now and it is the lens through which I see everything.

    Tonight at Love Feast as I sat in my wheel chair and as I went to the hand washing table, unable to get down and wash feet, a new part of Love Feast leaped out at me.  We came to the breaking of bread and the sharing of the cup, the communion.

    As Donna reflected on the meaning of this moment and as she read some of the words we say before sharing bread and cup, I was struck by Jesus body broken.  Body broken.  That shapes my whole context just now.  My body is broken. 

    But Jesus body was broken for others.  It was not of his own doing.  It was endured.  Inflicted by others.Endured for the sake of others.  I reflected on what it means to be broken.  The pain.  I have learned a lot about the pain of a broken body in the last month plus.  It is not pleasant.  It is to be endured.  And it requires everything one has.

    His body was broken - a gift to the world. 

    I would not wish the pain I have had on anyone.  I would not wish this reorienting of life on anyone.

    My, what a gift - to be broken for the sake of others.  To take it, absorb it, so someone else might be whole.  What a humbling thought.  What a large thought to ponder.  That the one we follow loved us so much he went through being broken for our sake, for the sake of all people of the world.

    I’m glad we break that little piece of bread.  It is a profound reminder, lest we forget, that our loving Lord was broken for the world.

    Yup!  I need to ponder that some more.

  • 30 Oct 2011 1:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Harvest Celebration Meditation

    Wednesday, October 5, I broke my left tibia in a fall off a step ladder.  I share that with any of our guests this afternoon, or anyone who has been living under a rock or in a cave.  I am amazed at who knows, that on October 5, I broke my tibia.  I went on facebook the other day and a friend now pastoring in Aurora, IL knew that I broke my leg.  He wished me a speedy recovery. 

    The other evening I picked up the phone.  It was a friend who was in seminary with us.  I haven’t talked with him in five years.  He knew I broke my leg.  His mother is a member of our previous church.  She tried to call their interim pastor Duly.  Well Duly was with us in Tennessee.  She got him in TN by mistake so guess what Duly shared with her.

    Everyone I know, knows that I broke my left tibia.  PAUSE  The 18 days since October 5 have been consumed by Hydrocodo and Perkazet, x-rays, drawings by the doctors of my leg bones, consults with orthopedic surgeons, learning to walk with crutches.  Surgery was a couple hours on another planet and staying in the hospital was a whole new experience for me.  Did you know that I am narcotically naïve?  I also learned that I am a “cheap date.”  It has been all consuming.  I sleep in a different place, take my meals in a different way, the bathroom, well I won’t bore you.  Life was thoroughly rearranged I assure you.  I have learned of the depth of the love of my good wife, and the love of the congregation I serve.  Since October 5, life has been about my leg. 

    But ever so briefly in the hospital I had this thought.  I wonder how this would go had it happened in Malawi or Zambia.  And my very next thought was had it happened on the Africa trip our friends there would have done their very best and together by God’s grace we would have found a way.

    And then I had this thought.  While I have focused only on my knee, my pain, my challenge, life all over the world moved on.

    This morning at 4:00 a.m.,  while I slept, sedated in my bed, Don Casto Mitha got up and began his visits to the villages, walking for 4 hours to care for the animals as a veterinarian.  And Senor Javier checked up with folks who help to run his program.  While I slept in my bed this morning, farmer Briska went to check on her crops in the field on her farm in Malawi.  And director George Ntamba encouraged one of his field workers in the Chingale program in Malawi.  In Zambia Sene met with farmers to talk about how the crops are doing and what could be improved, and program director Justin consulted with his field workers on how to improve the relationship with a village.  PAUSE  And God knows about it all.

    Ken Morse in the beautiful hymn text that Loyal read for us writes:

    People are they, men and women and

    Children, and each has a heart

    Keeping time with my own.

    People are they, persons made

    In God’s image, so what shall

    I offer them, bread or a stone?

    Each has a heart keeping time with my own.  While I have gone about focusing on my leg, Don Casto, Senor Javier, Briska, Sene, and Justin all have hearts keeping time with our hearts.

    Our world is set up so that we can ignore that reality.  We in North America can create a bubble, and many do, that only focuses on me and my family and my world.  My leg.

    I’m grateful, so very grateful that God calls us to a larger view, a larger world, a larger responsibility.  You see if you and I are truly the people of God, then we called by God to do justice, to love mercy and to walk with God, who walks always and forever with the poor.

    Field of Hope is an act of justice in a world of hunger.

    Field of Hope is an act of mercy in a world of “fend for yourself.”

    To involve ourselves with “Field of Hope” is to walk with God.  It is to be blessed to welcome Bolivian farmers.  It is to be blessed to welcome a dear soul who heard God calling him to climb on a tractor and ride for FRB.  It is to be blessed to travel to Malawi and Zambia and DesMoines where we realize once again, that we walk with sisters and brothers, created in God’s image.  And each has a heart keeping time with our own.

    Thanks be to God for this wonderful work.

    And thanks to all of you for joining in doing what God has called us to do.

  • 17 May 2011 8:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Please click here to listen to Tim reflect on Food Resource Bank (FRB) and the work they do.


  • 13 Jan 2011 12:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    You've got to be taught
    To hate and fear
    You've got to be taught
    From year to Year
    It's got to be drummed
    in your dear little ear
    You've got to be carefully taught

    You've got to be taught
    To be Afraid
    Of people whose eyes
    are oddly made
    And people whose skin
    Is a different shade
    You've got to be carefully taught

    You've got to be taught
    Before it's too late
    Before you are 6 or 7 or 8
    To hate all the people
    your relatives hate
    You've got to be carefully taught

    Many years ago Oscar Hammerstein II went to James Michner with the words to this song.  The musical South Pacific was written and ready for publication.  But Hammerstein wasn’t sure about the lyrics to this song.  His question to Michner was, “Should I take this song out of the musical.”  Michner reflected to his friend.  You absolutely must leave them in.   South Pacific became controversial in some ways because of this simple song placed well into the Second Act.  Yet it spoke of Hammerstein’s deepest beliefs.  Truly we are carefully taught to hate.

    Many have reflected on the events in Tucson during these last days.  They leave me speechless, heartbroken.  As a member of the clergy they leave me wondering about how mightily my colleagues and I have failed.

    I’m with the pundit who said this event was not so much about mental illness, though it is about that, not so much about guns, though it is about that.  It is about hate.

    And so I have spent these days wondering about these questions. 

    What words do I say about those I disagree with that may be

    perceived as hate?

    What groups of folks do I talk about negatively, derisively?

    Who do I pull down or demean?

    What have my children learned from me in these moments?

    How can I/we make a witness to Jesus Christ by the ways in which we disagree?  How can I be more Christ like toward those I disagree with?

    Jesus of Nazareth said, “Love your enemies.  Pray for those who persecute you.”  Surely these are among his most difficult teachings.  But we are called to follow, especially now.  In a world that seems so out of control, on the highways, in the stadium, at the shopping center, waiting in line, in the halls of congress, in the halls of our schools, on the athletic fields of our communities, how can we reach out to each other?  How can we let the Spirit of God guide us to the gift of self control, for the sake of the children, for the sake of our neighbors, for the sake of the world, for the sake of the congresswoman?

    We do have to be taught to hate.

    Lord, please teach us about love, especially now.

  • 09 Dec 2010 10:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I’ve been thinking a lot about waiting during this Advent season.  Advent is the season of preparation when we light candles as we prepare for Christmas.

    The other day while out shopping I was sitting at a red light.  It was one of those lights where each direction takes an individual turn at the green light.  So it takes a bit longer than the usual light.  On this day the wait seemed forever.  I was late for an appointment.  We waited, and waited, and waited . . . .

    Later in the day I was thinking and wondered why I am so impatient at the red light.  Why is waiting so difficult?  Why is “high speed” internet connection so critical to my well- being?  Why is the microwave an instrument of survival in our time?  Why does my blood boil when the repair folk don’t call me back within thirty minutes?  Because I gotta have it now!

    I remember when I would visit 95 year old Lola in our previous congregation.  Sometime during the visit she would always observe, “We live so fast.”

    Lola was right.  We do.  And somehow in all the ferociousness of this season, a few hours by the tree with the lights on, just pondering, will come as a blessing.  Just do it!

    Mary lived in a very different world, at a very different pace.  But the events that changed her life, must have hit her like a tornado - angels, and pregnancy, and Joseph, and family, and a journey to Bethlehem and back by another way.  Luke records near the end of the Christmas story, that Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

    So what might we ponder in our “slow down” moments?  What did God do that we are celebrating?  What does that have to do with me?  What do the love and grace shown in the gift of a baby, mean for our lives, here and now?  What is the wonder of love in my life?  What does it mean to receive a “Savior?”

    Yes, there’s plenty to ponder.  And not much time.  So take the time.  Take it!  And let the pondering begin, and continue, and go on and on and on……

    And may the God of hope, peace, joy and love fill us all in this time!

  • 19 Oct 2010 12:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I’ve been reading a book recently recommended to me by Marv Baldwin, the President and CEO of Foods Resource Bank.  That of course is the organization that we partner with to do our Growing Project.  Walking with folks as partners and not reaching out to them as superiors is the main thrust of the book.  I’ve learned a lot.

    I was shocked to learn that the average North American lives on $90 a day.  I knew the figure would be high but I never dreamt it would be that high.  800,000,000 folks live on a $1 a day in our world. 

    I think of that disparity often when I open my wallet.  The cost of a meal out is never, ever, ever $1.  When I check out at the box store, the bill is never, ever, ever $1.  When I order a new shirt on line, the cost is never, ever, ever, $1.  When I fill up with gas, the cost is never, ever, ever, $1.

    I don’t say all of that to be a guilt mongerer, though there is a place in our lives for appropriate guilt and we are moved to act at times by appropriate guilt.  But I do say all of that so that we will all ponder what it means to live as a person of faith in a world with such inequality.  

    If my calling as a person of faith is to love my neighbor, with heart, soul, mind and strength, and my neighbor is anyone in need, then I feel called to love even neighbors on the other side of the world, whose names I do not know but whose life is lived on $1 a day.  To this I think Jesus calls us.  Have we heard the call?

    I recently made a new commitment.  I guess some would say that it is silly.  That’s O.K.  I’m still going to do it.  I’m going to have a dollar bill in my wallet at all times.  It is a reminder to me of what 1/6th of our world lives on today.  I need that reminder.  It reminds me how important it is, to buy an acre in the growing project for $250.  It reminds me how important it is to walk in the CROP walk.  It reminds me how important it is to bring food on food pantry Sunday.  It reminds me how important it is keep an eye on my own lifestyle choices.  Lives are at stake.  It’s how we love our neighbors, for Jesus sake.  Will you join me in opening your wallet to see that dollar bill?  Will you join me in remembering, and then acting? 

  • 21 Sep 2010 3:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Disaster Response work is a wonderful opportunity for living out faith.  I am not skilled in building or rebuilding, so I give thanks for the many folks on our crew who have those skills.  They do the heavy lifting in terms of carpentry, dry wall, building.  I go along to cheer, to paint, to help out wherever I can and to meet people.  And every year we meet some wonderful folks!

    This year we met Tammy.  Tammy’s house was so damaged by flooding from the Tippecanoe River that it had to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch.   I was told that Tammy had a job but was laid off.  She had no idea what she would do.  For many weeks after the flood she would return to her ruined house, “and wait for the angels to come.” 

    Along the way Tammy developed cancer and now has a tracheotomy in her throat.  So when she talks it is labored.  She told me the day I met her that she was getting ready to begin 37 treatments of chemo.  Each day she would drive two hours to get the treatment, and two hours back home.

    Tammy’s only asset in this world is her home.  She lives in absolute terror that she will lose her home because of her medical bills.

    I don’t know that I think of myself as an angel, and I’ll leave it to others to decide if others on our crew are angels.  But I do know this.  Tammy is why I do Disaster Relief.  Because Brethren Disaster Ministries reached out to her, Tammy has a rebuilt beautiful new home that is probably ten feet up off the ground.  So the Tippecanoe can flood again and she will be O.K.

    To give to the “Tammy’s” of this world is a high calling.  And the joy it brings cannot be matched.  Surely such joy filled living is the abundant life Jesus taught about and calls us to.

    God bless you Tammy!  Thank you God for Brethren Disaster Ministries!  Thank you, God for willing hands and hearts, 16 of them this year, at Grossnickle Church of the Brethren and Middletown United Methodist Church.

    How about next year?  Would you come along?

    Tim Ritchey Martin


    Grossnickle Church of the Brethren

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