notes from Pastor Jimmy

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Easter Hope and Basketball

Easter is upon us. This high and holy time is filled with celebration and splendor. As a pastor, I get really focused on Holy Week and Easter Sunday. It is, after all, the day we celebrate and remember again the resurrection of Jesus with Christians all over the world. Much prayer and preparation goes into Holy Week and into Easter Sunday service. And this year has been special.

This year, like much of life recently, has been different. More time and energy has been put into preparing for this celebration than I can ever remember before. I have been praying and planning. So many others, both staff and volunteers, have been working hard to make Holy Week and Easter Sunday meaningful for all. This work, of course, has been made harder by the pandemic. As a church, we have tried to create the safest environment we are able to create and to provide the best virtual worship we can provide. It has been stressful, but so important. Caring for one’s neighbor is primary in our life together and finding new and inventive ways to do that has been both challenging and rewarding. This has not been easy though. It seems to me that we are living in a time of great stress and great discord. I believe this is affecting us all. I am also keenly aware that my struggle is not unique and that others in our society have been asked to deal with much more, but I would like to share where I found hope.

As a pastor, I have discovered over this last year that I cannot please everyone. That seems logical, but it has been hard for me to handle. One day last month, I had been to two different meetings where we were making plans and trying think of all the little things we used to take for granted when planning worship. I had also been on the phone with a person who was very sick and alone trying to offer prayer and hope. In the midst of pastoral care and planning for worship, I also got to hear lots of people’s opinions about how things should be and how we were getting it all wrong. Needless to say, I was tired. I was spent. I was wrestling with my calling to pastoral ministry. I was wrestling with whether I am capable of continuing to answer this call when it feels like, no matter what I do, some good people will be unhappy. 

The day had grown late and nothing was pressing and so I made my way to the car dejected. As I cut across the lawn, I noticed a kid playing basketball all alone in the back of our parking lot. I felt the pull to go and meet this young man and welcome him, but I also felt the desire to hide away from the world. I am so glad I listened to the Spirit. I made my way to the back of the parking lot and keeping a distance to not alarm the young man I introduced myself and welcomed him. He told me he was new to town, having moved here with his family. I took a few shots with him and we laughed about how my jump shot lacked a jump. I got him to smile. I hope for that moment he felt less “new here.” I told him about our church and the youth group. Since that afternoon, I have seen him playing with new friends and his family several times on our make shift basketball court and I have waved, mimed my jump-less jump shot, and laughed with him. That day, and each time since, I have been reminded of the hope found in our Lord.

Even when things are hard and we do not have all the answers, God is still calling us to one simple thing. That one simple thing is love. When I am wrestling with what to do and struggling with the undercurrent of discord in our culture, I ask myself the following question: How can I love like Jesus? I do not have all the answers, but I know one thing. That one thing is that God’s love changes the world. When we stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about others, God’s love transforms us. I am far from perfect, and no matter how hard we work or how well we plan, Easter Sunday will not be perfect. However, if we all would stop and find a way to love others like Jesus does, it just might be the greatest Easter Sunday we have ever known. If we would stop and find ways to love others like Jesus does, every day would be different and we would be closer to living in the Kingdom of God that I think we all are seeking.

I want to challenge us this year to stop trying to make things the way we want them to be and instead start considering and truly loving others, because that is the way God commands it shall be. I have hope that the world, and indeed our lives, can change for the better, because when we love others like Jesus loves, all kinds of miracles happen. I went from an exhausted, defeated pastor to laughing like a child because I took a few minutes to try to make someone else’s day better. Imagine what could happen if we all dedicated our lives to truly living to love God by loving others. If Jesus can be resurrected, then nothing is impossible. If the love of forgiveness can overcome the hate of a cross, then nothing is impossible. If we will live as disciples of Jesus who seek to love God and our neighbor as ourselves, then hope shall abound! 

Easter is all about the hope found in God’s love.  May you remember hope this Easter season and share that love in Jesus name. Amen.

Working on my jump shot and my faith,

 Pastor Jimmy Hendricks, 

Let's Take a Walk

It’s March again! Time truly does seem to fly by. Speaking of flying by, there has been much concern for my safety after I revealed in last month’s article that I am learning to skateboard again. I thank you for your prayers and assure you that, after having hurt both wrists, I am now wearing a full set of pads and a helmet. Unfortunately, it has snowed so much lately that I have not been able to roll around and instead I have had to walk.

Toward the middle of the week during our ice/snow storm, we were running low on food. Please understand we had plenty, we just didn’t have what anyone wanted to eat. So I decided to walk to Dollar General. It felt like ten miles, but it is really just 2.2 miles round trip. I walked during the middle of the day, staying mostly in the snow to avoid the slick roads in the subdivision. I enjoyed seeing all of the people out sledding and playing. People were enjoying our strange weather. There were ATVs, sleds, and even go-karts sliding everywhere. One wonderful man was using a small tractor to clear some of the ice and snow from the roads. I enjoyed all of this on the way to Dollar General.  On the way back, I felt differently and I feel differently now.

I took a backpack with me so that I could carry things efficiently and I am sure I bought more than was appropriate for me to carry. So as I started my journey home my backpack was stuffed, and I had Dollar General bags tied to my front to keep my hands clear to catch myself in a fall. I must have looked like a pack mule. I was sweating and breathing hard too. As I made my way back, I thought maybe one of these cars will stop and offer me a ride. I thought maybe — just maybe — one of the people would see my struggle and see that I was carrying food and think, he must live here and I could do a good deed. You can probably tell by my bitterness that it never happened. One sweet family out playing with their toddler did stop and speak to me. I stopped when they spoke to me, and it was a nice break. Then I was back at it trudging bitterly through the snow. 

I started to get what some would call “high and mighty.” I started thinking that Jesus must have felt this way walking with that cross. In other words, I was way overdoing it in my moral superiority! As God often does, God corrected me. I stepped where I shouldn’t have and went down. It wasn’t a hard fall. It was just one of those that make you feel dumb. Honestly, I was being dumb. I walked the rest of the way home and when I could sit down without the load of groceries I came to a realization.

Sure, maybe someone should have offered me a ride, but I never asked either. In fact, there I was in my own neighborhood with so much opportunity to speak to people and I never did. Not only did I never ask for a ride, I did not even wish anyone a good day or laugh with them while they enjoyed their unexpected day off. I did nothing to show the love of God I long to know and claim to share. I wasn’t like Jesus on that walk at all! Jesus shared God’s love everywhere Jesus went. Even on that walk to Golgotha, Jesus was walking for others. Jesus was walking for you. Jesus was walking to Golgotha for all. I was walking for frozen Totino’s Pizzas, Honey Buns, canned soup, and some Coca-Cola. I realized, sitting there in my chair, that I had seen Jesus in my walk. Jesus had been there when a mom and dad playing with their toddler took the time to speak to me. I must have looked like a real mess, but they saw a person and said hello. I had failed to do that all the way there and back. Replacing that feeling of righteous, I felt the need to ask forgiveness. I also asked for a heart that thought less about me and more about those around me.

I want to ask you to join me in taking a walk this month. I am going to purposely take the time to walk around my neighborhood and say hello to those who are out and about. As I walk, I am going to pray that each and every home I pass knows that they are loved by God. If I strike up a conversation along the way, I am going to enjoy it and do my best to make sure whoever I am talking to feels appreciated. In short, I am going to take a few walks this month and see if I can be a better disciple of Jesus. I am inviting you to do the same in your neighborhood or if you live outside a neighborhood feel free to walk around the neighborhood around the church. Let’s spend some time, right here where we live, letting people know they are seen and loved.

Still finding the path,

Skating Toward Something Better...

I cannot believe that it is already February. That means Lent is coming. My amazing daughter (my son is amazing too) just celebrated her fifteenth birthday. She asked for a skateboard. I researched skateboards because I have not been on one since I was a kid. I found one I thought would be good and she was excited. A strange thing happened during my research. I started reminiscing about my time on a skateboard as a kid and how I never was able to master the Ollie (that is a little jump for those unfamiliar). I can vividly remember skating with the cool kids as they popped Ollies and I can vividly remember not being able to do it. I quit skateboarding pretty soon after not mastering that trick.

This wild time we are all currently experiencing has left me pondering life perhaps too much. When my daughter’s skateboard arrived and after she got to check it out, I decided to show her how it works. Let me tell you even on the carpet, I nearly fell from just trying to stand on it. I felt very old as we all laughed. It is not lost on me that February also means that I will get a year older. I will be 44 this year. For some, that seems like a child. For others, I seem pretty old. For me on that skateboard in our living room waving my hands like a madman, I felt very old. That night after dinner and a birthday cake I spent some time reflecting.

Lent is coming and will be here on Ash Wednesday, which falls on February 17 this year. In the Church, Lent is a time of reflection and preparation for Easter. We mark ourselves with ashes to remember our mortality and to begin reflecting and repenting in preparation for celebrating the resurrection at Easter. Let me tell you that I definitely felt my mortality on my daughter’s skateboard! I also thought about how I gave up so long ago. 

Lent does not receive the fanfare of Advent, Christmas, and Easter, but it is vitally important. If we never reflect and honestly admit our failures, we cannot grow. If we never confess our sin, we cannot be forgiven. If we never repent, we cannot really follow Jesus. Lent is not a time to beat ourselves up, but a time to admit we are mortal, fallible sinners in need of redemption. The joy of Lent is the realization that we are forgiven and capable of change because of the grace of God. We should do that every day, but Lent reminds us and allows us to focus our efforts. 

I have made two decisions for myself this year. First (just for fun), I have ordered a skateboard for my birthday. I am going to master my Ollie and redeem myself for quitting. Secondly and much more importantly, I am going to spend time thinking about how I have sinned. I am going to spend time thinking about who I need to forgive. I am going to spend time asking forgiveness from God and others. I am not quitting this journey of following Jesus and I want to make my faith the priority all the time. My hope and assurance is that in these practices of reflecting and repenting I will again encounter the living God who is beckoning us all toward the Kingdom of God.

I want to invite you to join together with Christians all over the world and across time in making Lent a meaningful time of growth. Let us face our mortality and our sin so that we can experience the forgiveness and grace of God as we grow in our Lord’s likeness. 

PS. If you see me around town on a skateboard, say a prayer and try not to laugh.

In the midst of a mini-midlife crisis and longing to grow in faith, 

A New Year, Again

I am excited about the prospect of a new year and the hope of overcoming this pandemic. As a kid, I was always so excited about New Year’s Eve. Staying up late, watching the ball drop, and eating junk food was an event I always anticipated with excitement. Now that I am older, it holds less appeal. I think, in some way, we all experience this decrease in excitement over a coming new year. It is not that we no longer see possibility, it is just that we have seen so many go by already. This letter is getting depressing fast. Let me explain:

Each year, time seems to move more quickly and we become more aware of how long term change in us and in the world is difficult to accomplish. We set goals around this time of year and we call them resolutions. We seem to think giving them a fancy name might help us accomplish something, but, if you are like me, our resolutions seldom see February. Change is hard. Even good change is hard. As we get older, time seems to go faster and change seems even more difficult. Perhaps this is why New Year celebrations do not hold the same joy for me as they once did.

I believe the problem is that the older we get, the more caught in our own will we become. We start to believe the culture’s message to us, that we are the center of the universe. We start to believe that we are responsible for and capable of making the changes needed in our lives and the world. We may even start believing that we understand the way things should be. In essence, we start believing that our power is the ultimate power. When we discover our powerlessness, we give into hopelessness. 

A friend of mine, Rev. Tommy Ward, once said to me that powerlessness does not have to equal hopelessness. I think he really nailed our problem. We have started to believe that the hope of a New Year hinges on our power to change things. This was never God’s plan. Let me repeat for you and for me so that this is clear: The universe does not depend upon, or revolve around us!

Instead, we have come to know the One for whom it does exist. We have come to know the One around whom it all revolves. The Good News is that this Being loves us. This Being wants us involved even when we are part of the problem. This Being will not leave the universe unperfected. This Being came and lived as we live. This Being experienced powerlessness and even death. This Being also said things will not remain this way. I hope you understand that this Being is Jesus. Jesus does have a plan. Jesus is at work. Jesus does want to change us and the world. However, this happens not through our power, but through His power. Our duty is to submit. Our duty is to set our will aside and seek His will. Our duty is to let go of the lie of our power and seek His power.

So what does this mean in practical terms? It means that instead of setting our resolutions we should be asking in prayer what it is that Jesus wants to change in us. It means instead of devising our plans to change the world around us we should be asking Jesus how we can be part of what He is already doing. Lastly it means that instead of trying to save ourselves we ought to let the Savior do the work He longs to do. This year when the ball drops my prayer will be, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” This year I pray for the strength to see my powerlessness not as a weakness but as an opportunity to see the power of God. 

In closing, I am excited again about this New Year. I am excited because, while I may feel powerless over war, hunger, disease, sin, and death, I know the One who is power. I have hope and I pray that when times are hard and we feel powerless in this coming year, we might remember Jesus and choose hope. Following is a prayer form The United Methodist Church’s Book of Worship for this time of year when we can renew our covenant with God. I hope you pray it in sincerity and find that God has been waiting all along.

O God, Searcher of all our hearts,
  You have formed us as a people and claimed us for Your own.
As we come to acknowledge Your sovereignty and grace,
  and to enter anew into covenant with You,
  reveal any reluctance or falsehood within us.
Let Your Spirit impress Your truth on our inmost being,
  and receive us in mercy, for the sake of our Mediator, Jesus Christ,
  who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
  one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Grace and Peace,

A Cozy Christmas

Advent is upon us and Christmas is coming. In years past, this has been a time of preparing and rushing about making sure we have everything ready for Christmas. In the church during this time, I am always calling on us to take the time to reflect upon the true meaning of this time of year. I try to remind us that we are to be preparing to receive Jesus again and celebrating the incarnation of our Lord. Also, like everyone else, I am running like crazy to make sure I have presents bought, cards mailed, and parties RSVP’d. This year is different.

With all of the anxiety of 2020, I cannot imagine adding the anxiety of Christmas to that. Nor do I think that that is God’s intent for Christmas. We have lots of wonderful traditions, but somewhere along the way I think we have lost touch with the meaning of those traditions. We will not be able to worship in our usual way this year on Christmas Eve. We are planning something different and you will hear about that in the weeks to come. Most of us will not be able to celebrate with families in the same way as we have in the past.  Preachers are keenly aware of when Christmas is coming. Most start long in advance thinking and praying about it. So I have had lots of time to pray and, I will admit, to lament Christmas 2020. Then something occurred to me. We spend so much time preparing and trying our best to make things perfect that we forget that things were far from perfect on that first Christmas. 

Mary and Joseph were forced to travel to Bethlehem so that Joseph could be counted in a required census. Mary was pregnant. Can you imagine having to tell your spouse, “I know we are having a baby and He is going to be the Messiah, but we have to travel for a census”? I wish I could have been there for that conversation. So here are Mary and Joseph, who already carry the hope of the world on their shoulders, living by faith, trusting each other and trusting God, and traveling while pregnant. I have always been amazed how God chose to bring the Savior into the world as a helpless infant just as we were. He was born to two unlikely parents. One was a young woman who became pregnant by the Holy Spirit before she was officially married and the other was a simple carpenter who chose to honor God and his wouldbe wife by accepting and protecting her from society’s scorn. Then after accepting on faith that what was happening was of God, they are nearing the time of birth, which was a danger in and of itself, and now they discover that there is no room for them to stay in town. So, basically, they bed down in the stables. Jesus is born there. He was laid in a manger, a feeding trough, as a crib. He was wrapped in scraps. Mom, dad, and baby are okay. A miracle has happened. The Savior has come. Shepherds come on the advice of an angel to be witnesses. I cannot help but assume that this was not what Mary and Joseph were planning or anticipating. And yet God was there. This had to have been the greatest night of their lives. All that pressure and anxiety released for a while with the fulfillment of the promise. Their faith has been rewarded and they must have just huddled there in grace together. 

When I think about that night I cannot help but think how unorganized by human hands it all was. I cannot help but think that of all the amazing Christmases I have experienced, none compare to that first one. Christmas is coming again and I think we are experiencing a little of what Mary and Joseph experienced. We are uncertain. We are stressed. We are unprepared. And yet we are offered faith. We are offered faith that again this year we can remember and celebrate the greatest gift ever given. We are offered faith that God, by the power of the Holy Spirit will show up again in our midst. We are offered faith that our Lord, the same person as that little infant, will return to establish God’s Kingdom on earth. 

When I picture Mary and Joseph cuddling beside a manger with the long awaited baby Jesus finally before them I imagine they were cozy and at peace. I love that word cozy. For me it describes those moments of real contentment and real peace together. We may not be able to be together in our usual way this year, but we can be cozy. We can be content and at peace not because I say so, but because God says so.  God is with us. God is with, for, and loves every human being who has ever walked this earth. We may not be able to control every aspect of Christmas this year, but instead God is calling us by faith to embrace the true meaning of Christmas and find hope, love, joy, and peace again. So I wish you and yours a cozy Christmas this year. I wish you and yours the best Christmas we have ever experienced, not because we got the planning right, but because the One with the real plan will make it right.

Wishing you an amazing Advent and a Merry Cozy Christmas, 

Pastor Jimmy Hendricks,

Suspension of In-Person Worship

In response to the recommendation of Bishop McAlilly, we will be suspending in-person worship until January, at which time we will reassess our local situation. We will continue virtual worship. This difficult decision was made with the intent of doing our part to lessen the burden on health care workers in our communities and to help lower the risk.

I have enjoyed our small in-person worship services and I am so grateful for those who have worked so hard to make them possible. I look forward to the day when we can all worship together in person again safely. For now we are going to continue to offer virtual worship, and concentrate on serving our community and growing in our faith (see below.)



Serving Our Community: Room In The Inn


You may have heard that we will be participating in Room In The Inn this year by Stuffing the Bus! We are about a week away from the big formal announcement, but Mary Beth had a great podcast conversation with Rachel Hester from Room In The Inn and Pastor wants us to start praying about it. If you have not listened to the podcast, visit

Growing in Our Faith: Church-Wide Advent Study


On Sunday, we are kicking off our church-wide Advent study of Adam Hamilton’s Faithful: Christmas Through the Eyes of Joseph. Small groups are forming; they will all meet by Zoom. Please contact the leaders for the Zoom links.

  • Sundays at 9:15am, starting November 29, led by Charlotte & Len Iseldyke
  • Sundays at 2pm, starting November 29, led by Susan Nichols
  • Sundays at 4pm, starting November 29, led by Mary Beth Hagan
  • Wednesdays at 6:30pm, starting December 2, led by Jeff Campbell
  • For youth (middle and high school), Sundays at 1pm, starting November 29 led by Tonia Bush
  • And for children, Ms. Christina will be emailing parents activity ideas so they can participate


What a year it has been. Things have been so strange and crazy this year that when people ask me how I am, I now just answer 2020. Some good things have come even from these difficult times for me. I have learned to be still. I have learned to listen and watch for the movement of God perhaps better than I ever have before. I have learned to better love people with whom I disagree. I have learned to be calmer. I hope I am learning endurance and the reality of God’s never ending gift of grace. All of these things have really come about because of the negative. I learned most of them by observing the negative and sinful nature of others and myself. Then I got tired. I got tired of complaining, arguing, worrying, and fretting over what will come next. I got so tired that I actually started practicing what I preach better.  I began letting go and letting God.

Recently I was in a meeting with other clergy and we had come to the end of our business. At that point in our meetings we are asked for prayer concerns. There are always several and this year there have been even more than usual. However on this day, no one said anything.  I felt that uneasiness we often feel when a question is asked and no answers from the group. I began racking my brain. I had lots on my prayer list in my journal so I grabbed it out of my bag, but as I read the Spirit seemed to be saying something else. I felt a sense of thanksgiving. I always try to list and give thanks for the things for which I am thankful and for the ways I have seen God moving, but in that moment that was all I could ponder. So I asked for a prayer of thanksgiving for all those who have been praying for each other, the church, the world, and even for their pastor.

That moment opened a flood gate in me. I just shared the one and closed my eyes as I was flooded with emotions. I just kept thinking of things for which I am thankful even during what for many of us has been the hardest season of our lives. I do not think I am ready to say I am thankful for 2020 just yet, but I am grateful for how I have experienced and witnessed God moving. I realized I am still tired, but God is not. As I gave thanks, I wondered how many others were feeling tired and thankful too. It seemed as if at least a few others in that meeting were. They too shared God sightings and prayers of thanksgiving. 

I think the Church, as in the Church universal, is tired too. I also hope we are ready to embrace a time of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day is this month, but we cannot wait that long to be thankful. I am asking God to open my heart more to help me see and experience how God is providing even now. I am asking God to turn my tired and broken heart from mourning to celebration. I am asking God to turn my soul from night to day. I am not going to quit praying for healing and transformation, but I am going to start giving thanks for where I have already seen and experienced the Kingdom of God at work.

There is a peace that indeed surpasses understating when we admit not only that we are in need, but that God is indeed at work. There is real purpose in not only asking God for help, but identifying where God is already providing and joining in that work. I do not have the answers for 2020, but I want to know the One who does even better. We cannot fix all the world’s problems, but through joining in the work of God we can be part of the solution. So as we move into the traditional season of Thanksgiving I want to invite you to move from mourning what we have lost, and embracing what can make us new. I want to invite you to look for ways in which God is at work and to share those God sighting with all who will listen. Lastly, I want to invite you to take the time to recognize the God who has not stopped providing hope and who will lead us to better days. I am still tired, but I think I am resting easier knowing that God is not done with me. I hope you too find that God has been here all along and will not leave us now. I hope you find rest and contagious hope.

Tired but leaning on the One who does not tire,

Pastor Jimmy Hendricks,

Adjusting Every Day

I like to be prepared. I like to be able to help. For instance if someone’s car battery dies, I like to have a flashlight and jumper cables ready.  It brings me some joy and makes me feel useful to be able to help, so I tend to keep things with me to be prepared. All the extra time at home during covid combined with my desire to be ready has caused a bit of an obsession. I have discovered online shopping like never before.

Early in covid, I set out to create the perfect set of tools I need every day or at least that I want to have ready every day. I bought two different leather pocket organizers and in each one I placed a flashlight, a pocket knife, and a pen. One set is larger than the other. This way I have choices based on what I think I will be doing that day. Then I got a new wallet because my pocket organizers were too big to fit with my other wallet. I bought a key organizer that keeps my keys from jangling or poking my leg when I sit. I got a new watch. This watch recharges a little every time I move, so, theoretically, I will never need a battery. For Father’s Day, I got a new multitool that has 21 different tools on it. It was heavier than I thought so I bought a waist pack (formally known as a fanny pack) to carry my multitool in. This waist pack has multiple pockets so I set out to fill them. I have a place for headache medicine, a few Band-Aids, my cloth mask, hand sanitizer, and screw driver bits for the multitool. The pack even has a padded space for my phone and kindle. Just when I thought I had run out of things to waste money on, I decided I need some rain boots. We went through several weeks of rain and I got tired of getting my shoes covered in grass walking the dog or short cutting through the grass to my office. So I bought a pair of rain boots. I also bought a new hat with a brim all the way around for sun or rain. 

One day, Jennifer and I were about to head to town to do some back to school shopping for the kids and it was raining. I emerged from the bedroom proclaiming I was ready. I had on my rubbery rain boots and my hat. Around my waist was my fanny pack and my pockets were full of my new stuff. I had my mask ready and I was excited to venture out into the world for a little bit.  Jennifer just burst out laughing and said she was not going anywhere with me dressed like that. I must admit I was perturbed. I thought I looked okay, but I also felt as though I was ready for a large number of mini-catastrophes. However, Jennifer is the reasonable one in our relationship, so I changed. I did, however, kept my pocket organizer thing, my wallet, and my new watch. We opted for an umbrella to share for the rain and the promise to dodge puddles while staying out of the grass.

When I think back on that day, I admit I must have looked ridiculous. I think I had become so overwhelmed by this year that I had gone a little overboard in my preparedness. I still love my stuff, but perhaps I do not need it all with me at all times. Maybe you have felt overwhelmed by this year. Life has changed significantly. We have less in-person social time and we have had to adjust our lives based doing only what is really necessary in order to help keep others safe. It can feel lonely, scary, tiring, and endless. If you are anything like me, all these feelings can kind of sneak up on you. I really thought I was just doing something I enjoyed as I tried to prepare for every situation, but really I think I was trying to alleviate those feelings.

If this year has taught me anything, it is that God is prepared. I can never be prepared for everything, but God is. God has opened new doors where I could only see a wall. Recording equipment and volunteer hours have allowed us to worship virtually. Our phones, our computers, and even good ol’ letters have allowed us to check on each other and maybe even say things we were afraid to say face to face. God has showed us how to worship in-person while distanced and in a mask. I have been able to see people from our church work together to make worship possible and as safe as we can — something we took for granted before. Vacation Bible School happened and people from our church became television stars for our kids. We had a Pentecost parade where we prayed not just for our church but for our community. All of this, and so much more, has happened because God is prepared. 

Just when we think we have it all figured out, the world throws something at us that we think is insurmountable. Then God shows us a way.  My hope is that this month we start really preparing ourselves by turning to the God who has a plan and who makes a way. I admit I do not know what the future holds, but I do know that whatever may come, God will lead us through it. I am grateful to be part of a community and church that takes seriously the call on us to protect each other and care for each other. I am grateful to all the people who have adjusted and helped me see a path when I felt hopeless. I am grateful to God who — no matter what comes — will not leave us and who continues to lead us through. Worship is still happening. Service is still happening. Love is still happening. Let us join together and let God continue to show us new ways and let us find peace in knowing that God is prepared.

Hopeful and willing to adjust,

Pastor Jimmy Hendricks, 

Time and the Things Left Undone

It is September already. I find that hard to believe. This year seems to be flying by in all its strangeness.  It seems like just yesterday that we were going along fine and then covid happened. Then at other times it seems like normal was a long time ago. I have always been fascinated by time. We are not great at relating to time. Things can feel longer or shorter than they really are. I have been sitting in my office for what feels like hours trying to think of something to write about this month. It has been twenty minutes.

As I glance around the room looking for inspiration, I am always struck by family pictures. There is one of my wife, Jennifer, and me at our wedding rehearsal dinner. I would really like to talk to that guy. He is afraid and excited all at the same time. Jennifer looks so happy in this photo. Every time I see the smile in this photo, I hope I can make her smile like that every day. When I look at this photo, I get sentimental. I think about all we have experienced together. It is a good feeling. Then I glance just a little bit to my left and there is a picture of our first child together, our beloved Boston Terrier, Riley. I remember all the stress he put us through training him. I remember how he slept in our bed because we could not handle his whining. I remember his great love for Jennifer and how he would wait for her to come home. I also remember losing him to old age and saying good bye for the last time. Just beside the dog picture is a picture of my human children, Abby and Wesley. The picture I have of them in my office is when they were in preschool/daycare together. Wesley is a baby and propped up against his big sister who is both posing nicely and keeping him from falling. This one makes me so nostalgic. They are so grown up now. A part of me will always remember them as they were in that photo and yet another part of me is so excited to see them growing.

Time is a strange thing. I can remember parts of my journey like they were yesterday and yet they seem so long ago. There is much in my life I look upon with gratitude and thanksgiving. There is also much I look upon with regret. This year has caused me to slow down and reassess things like I never have before. I am spending more quality time with my family and having to really think about my work and how to be effective in this time of social distancing. Perhaps, for me the hardest part has been the alone time. Before covid there was always something else that needed doing. I did not have much time for reflection, but now I do. Here is what I have learned and what I hope is helpful for you:

There is time right now. Your age does not matter. If you are reading this article, then there is time and that time is now. Now is the time to repent. Now is the time to ask forgiveness. Now is the time to forgive. Now is the time to love. Now is the time to do that thing that God has been calling you to do. Now is that time to read the Scriptures. Now is that time to really pray. Now is that time to accept that the one who knows you best also loves you most. Now is that time to really say “yes” to God. Now is the time to do what we have left undone. Now is the time.

Our God broke into time itself in the form of our Lord Jesus Christ interrupting what looked like the plan. The real plan is this, in God there is redemption, healing, hope, transformation, salvation, and eternal life. Let us not waste this moment, but instead embrace the grace of God available for all right now. 

Off to do some things left undone and grateful for the chance,

 Pastor Jimmy Hendricks,

Following Mom

I have struggled to come up with a newsletter article that felt appropriate for this time in our lives. We are experiencing – and indeed living – events that are new in our life time. A global pandemic, an election season that never seems to end, a powerful movement for justice and equality, a twenty-four-hour news cycle, and social media that makes everyone feel like they have to be an expert – all these combine to create today. I have thought a lot about what to write and trashed more versions than I care to remember. I decided to come to the office today to write. I was hoping that getting out of the house in a safe way would create an environment where appropriate words would come. On my way here, something happened.

I was running later than I had hoped. That cut into my time to write. I was one block from the church already thinking about how I still had nothing to say when a doe ran across the road. I was not speeding, but I did have to get on the breaks a bit. She was doing that awesome leaping thing deer do as they run. She reached tall grass on the other side and stopped. She turned to look back across the street. I had not moved because I suspected there would be more deer. Sure enough, two good sized deer were following her. Up from the grass they came, leaping and bounding across the street to the tall grass. They were too old to be called fawns, but they definitely seemed like her children.  She waited for them. She did not run off. She did not seem agitated. She showed them the way and they trusted her. I sat for a few more moments making sure there were no other critters coming before going on up the road to the church. I could not help but think of God in that moment. It was not so much the shock of deer in what is mostly a residential area. It was not even so much their natural beauty. I thought of God because of the way the doe led and the children followed.

In the midst of today, battling depression, anxiety, desire to help, and a sense of helplessness, I need someone to follow. So much of what we are encumbered by is others telling us how to follow and which way to go. We are also pressured to pretend or to actually convince ourselves that we know best which way to go and how to get there. As a follower of Jesus, I trust that only God knows the path I should follow. In this time of many questions and perhaps too many answers we should be more willing than ever to trust and follow. Like young deer following Mom sometimes we just have to follow with leaps and bounds trusting in Mom’s love. 

I believe it is clear that the overriding attribute of God is love. In the midst of a pandemic, let us love ourselves enough to take care of ourselves. Let us love others enough to take care of them considering their needs as important as ours. Let us answer God’s call to justice and equality. Let us not be blown around and stirred up by every comment of every politician or poster on social media. Instead let us follow God. Let us follow Jesus who went before us to prepare a way and who now looks back with encouragement and grace that we might follow. God even sent us the Holy Spirit that we would not have to follow alone but under the same power as Jesus. The way of love is dangerous. It is risky. Our Lord, who alone holds the keys of hell and death, knows that the real risk is not what might happen when we choose love, but what will happen if we do not.

I do not want to give the impression that I think this choice to follow God is easy. It is not. I know many of us are experiencing hardships like we have never known and I fully admit I am too. I hope that in reading this little article you might remember that God’s way may look risky, but that the yoke is easy and the burden is light. I can image Jesus out just ahead of the next daunting day, beckoning us forward in love. I can image the possibilities of love that abound today. How many people could we help? How much change could real love create in our society? I can also imagine – but I do not know – where crossing the road of fully following God will lead us. I am, however, wiling to trust that it will be a better place than were we are now. 

So let us join together this month in recommitting ourselves to following the way of love like young deer following Mom. Our God has shown time and time again that God is trustworthy, willing, and able to lead us to greener pastures and to transform this world with love. 

Let us follow leaping and bounding,

Pastor Jimmy Hendricks 

Summer Heat Again

Summer Heat Again

It is hot today as I write this article. It is so hot that I am running both the air conditioning and a fan. It is just too hot and we have not even seen the real heat of summer yet. It is coming though and you may begin to see its familiar signs. People are a little more likely to blow their horns. Lines at the store are less cordial. Summer heat has a funny way of bringing out our divisions and our willingness to argue about them. When we are tired and hot we are irritable. 

The climate of our culture seems to have been experiencing summer heat for several years. People seem more willing to disagree, argue, and insult then we are to understand and forgive. The Church is no different. This, too, is nothing new. From the very beginning, the Apostles had disagreements and debates. However, what we find particularly in the Book of Acts was a willingness to seek understanding and find common ground on which to continue to serve together. 

John Wesley, who is largely responsible for the Methodist movement, lived his whole life experiencing these disagreements. He faced physical threats of death for his views and was banned from many pulpits in the beginning of his “Methodist” ministry. In fact, the word “Methodist” was meant as an insult against those Christians who sought to live holy lives, because they were said to believe they had a method of salvation. Today, John Wesley is celebrated not only in Methodism but also in the Church of England as a reformer. While Wesley certainly disagreed with many, he always believed in what he called the “catholic spirit.” 

Wesley was well aware that loving, caring people were capable of disagreement, but he believed that we could agree on the fundamentals of our Christian faith. Wesley used the word catholic in its original sense. He meant it as a universal unity. For Wesley, it was love that allowed people with disagreements to not just tolerate each other but to grow in understanding and love of each other and to work together for the kingdom of God. When it gets really hot and my irritability is up, I try to remember how love demands I care for the heat and irritability of my neighbor. In this way, I remain part of Christ’s Church, which is not yet perfect, but is perfectly capable of living out the Kingdom of God in diverse ways by the grace of God.

I hope this month you will join me in being aware of our heat and being aware of Christ command to love. This month we will have the opportunity to read the Book of Acts together. I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to read, study, and pray. 

May the God of love open our minds, cool our Spirits, and lead us down new paths of understanding and love. 

Cooling down, 

Pastor Jimmy Hendricks,

Hurting But Not Hopeless

Recently, my family and I went camping. We went to get out of the house. Camping was to let us stay out of crowds but still have some time to be away and rest. We have not camped in our camper since last year, but theoretically the trip was going to be easy. We just needed to pack, pick up the camper with my truck, drive to the campground, and try to enjoy nature. So here is what really happened: We got a late start with packing and driving, but we made it to the campground by late afternoon. In setting up the camper, we discovered that there was a terrible smell in the camper. It was one of those rotten egg smells. After some accusations, we discovered it was the hot water heater. While investigating that problem, I also discovered the sink was leaking heavily. We were not too deterred yet. We just cut off the water. I mean, it is camping after all. We ate dinner late and went to bed.

In the middle of the night, the power went out, which is not the end of the world but it was also storming. Everyone else had power in the campground, so I began to worry it was due to water reaching electricity. That is a big deal, so when morning finally came, I set about trying to find what was wrong. I had to venture out to get parts. During the first full day of our two day trip I repaired leaks, fixed a hot water heater, and solved the electrical problem. My wife and kids enjoyed their time swimming and painting river rocks. That night when I was done, my wife said she was so sorry I had spent the whole the day repairing things. I have thought a lot about that since. I was not sorry.

I think I was not sorry because there was a problem I was able to fix. I can fix a camper, but I cannot fix covid-19. I cannot simply get the right tool to make things better. I cannot get people back to work or heal all those who have suffered or died. I cannot fix racism or hate. I cannot bring back George Floyd or any of the other countless victims of hate. If this time of isolation has taught me anything, it has taught me that I can feel helpless. 

My only answer is God. By the grace of God, I can do my part to keep others safe from covid-19. By the grace of God, I can help those who are out of work. By the grace of God, I can walk with those who suffer. By the grace of God, I can work against systems of racism and hate that still exist. By the grace of God, I can repent for all the ways I have failed to live into God’s call upon my life. By the grace of God, I can work for and anticipate the fullness of God’s Kingdom where sickness, sadness, and death will be no more. I can anticipate and work for the Kingdom where all will be welcomed, but sin and death will have no power. 

I am trying. I am praying. I am crying out for God’s presence. And I am not giving up. God is not done with us either. There is more to be done. As I write today, I pray for every person who will read this little newsletter article. I pray that, if you feel helpless, you will remember God. I pray that during these difficult times, instead of wallowing in hopelessness or ignoring the pain of others, you will instead remember Christ who showed us that love can transform. I hope you will remember that God turned the death of Jesus into eternal life. I hope you will remember resurrection. I hope you will remember that God called us to carry the message of love and hope into the world. I believe that God can fix this world and that we are the tools. 

Praying God will use me, 

Pastor Jimmy Hendricks