November 15, 2015

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“I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.”
Psalm 16:7 (NRSV)

God doesn’t go off duty at sundown. The psalmist understands from experience that praise and gratitude are present-moment activities regardless of time of day or circumstances. Counsel and change of heart appear. Something astonishing happens when I take this seriously.

The “nowness” at the center of this verse grabs my attention. I know counting blessings is a better sleep aid than counting sheep, but wakefulness isn’t my real concern when I am frightened or stuck on a problem large or small. I crave reassurance and counsel now.

For example, early in my career I was at odds with a coworker over a project we were assigned. I don’t remember the details of the disagreement, but a confrontation loomed the next day. I wanted to be ready for it and began rehearsing what I wanted to say. I still couldn’t get to sleep and began remembering other middle-of-the night conversations with God that transformed something I was stewing about into a blessing.

On this particular night God reminded me that my coworker and I were on the same side and I should start the conversation next day with that piece of information.

Why was I sure this came from God? The unexpectedness of it. Such a notion hadn’t been on my radar. In light of previous unpleasantness it would take a bit of courage. But I did it.

What happened? Letting my coworker know at once that I valued her abilities completely defused the confrontation and set the tone for getting the best work out of each other. There were a few bumps and disagreements along the way but we were delighted and proud of the results.

I call that one more blessing to count next time. And I have.

Prayer:
God of the present moment, we give thanks for your counsel and instruction of our hearts whatever the hour, but especially on a sleepless night. Amen

Question:
What current worry awaits God’s transformation?

Written by Nancy Alice Morton

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located at The Cathedral Church of St. Paul (815 High Street) and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

September 20, 2015

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The Meeting Place

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
James 4:8a (NRSV)

I’m drawn
to love so great
with thanks and humble heart,
renewed in God’s healing presence
with joy.

I’m drawn
where silence reigns.
A welcoming place for me
to listen, let go, be changed and
to change.

I’m drawn
to tell folks how
meeting God draws us in
community to love, to share,
to serve.

Writer’s note: This is a Cinquain, an American form of poetry in which each verse contains five lines of counted syllables, 2,4,6,8,2. The meditation is meant to be read aloud.

Written by Nancy Alice Morton

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located at The Cathedral Church of St. Paul (815 High Street) and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

September 6, 2015

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September 6, 2015

“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever.”
Psalm 146:5-6 (NSRV)

Happy is the perfect word to describe my mood and state of mind when Jeff and I recently vacationed in a restored late 1800s log cabin north of Decorah. We hoped to “do nothing,” or rather we to do nothing, in the interests of a much-needed rest.

Taking with us enough groceries for several days, we settled in with ease, noting the four plates, four sets of silver, two coffee cups, and a stack of board games and books. Our cell phones went dead and the place lacked any media—television, radio, Internet. No bombardment from advertising, e-mails or phones. Just what we had in mind.

The front porch featured two bentwood rockers with a clear view of the sunset and the sunrise, the gentle sloping hills, and hummingbird feeders that attracted regular visitors. In the ensuing days, I rocked and relaxed on that porch, sipping coffee as the sun rose and wine as it set.

I rested in what God laid before me, the heaven and earth and all that inhabited it.

Prayer:
In the midst of daily life, remind us, Creator, to seek our help and hope in you. Amen

Question:
How can I relax in God’s arms by taking in the beauty of the natural world?

Written by Diane Glass

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located at The Cathedral Church of St. Paul (815 High Street) and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

August 9, 2015

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“O taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Psalms 34:8 (NRSV)

Tasting God? I need to get out of my head and into my senses to take that in.

God as food is a powerful and pointed metaphor. Here in the psalms is this command to taste, and throughout the Bible are found a multitude of suggestions of edible God. Edible goodness. Necessary nourishment. Life-sustaining meals in manna, magnificent feasts and more. Not to mention Jesus’ eternal offering of flesh and blood as bread and wine.

In her recent book Wearing God, writer, professor and priest Lauren Winner suggests that the Lord tastes like what I crave—what my body, spirit, soul need—at any given moment:

Cool, clean tap water quenching my thirst after a long walk.
Intimate soul sharing with my dear friend over coffee.
Buttered toast, satisfying in its crunchy, golden goodness.
Sweet, still silence as I sit steeping in centering prayer.
Many foods-on-a-stick for once-a-year indulgence at the Iowa State Fair.

My mouth is watering. I reflect on all that’s provided me, sustaining my health, well-being, and satisfied appetite. And I must conclude that the Lord is good.

Prayer:
Generous Provider, let me be grateful for the food on the table, the air I breathe, the abundance supporting my existence. Amen

Question:
What does the Lord taste like to me today?

Written by Robin Kline

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located at The Cathedral Church of St. Paul (815 High Street) and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

July 19, 2015

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A Touch of Healing

The big news is that the healing Jesus is coming. The people line up along the roadways and fill the marketplace. Everyone wants to get near enough to touch the edge of his cloak.*

Often when I reread a Bible passage I put myself back in that time and place, expecting to see something I overlooked previously in the story or the telling. This time it is easy to spot the regulars who have heard Jesus preach about God’s Kingdom and witnessed astonishing healings. Since printed handouts are centuries away, they personally invite friends, neighbors, and anyone who will listen. The crowd gathers seeking healing for themselves or someone they love.

The brevity of Mark’s report surprises me. He doesn’t waste words listing the ailments of body, mind, and spirit in the crowd. He has faith in Jesus to sort out exactly what is needed. I wonder? Do my prayers get bogged down with symptoms and scary diagnoses in instead of recalling God’s healing power at work? My thoughts fill with action words—cure, knit, mend, treat, create, recreate, restore, forgiveness, change, renewal, transformation, and wholeness.

The big news is the still the same in the 21st century. Geographical access far exceeds a roadside near the Sea of Galilee. The gospels writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John appear on the internet as well as in print. Jesus’ cloak now enfolds a community of believers who gather weekly in churches to meet him and share their experiences of God’s healing love. Touchable edges of the garment abound in towns, cities and rural areas of all sizes, everywhere two or three gather in Christ’s name.

*“And wherever he went into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.” Mark 6:56 NRSV

Prayer:
Healing Jesus, Help us wear the cloak of faith boldly so that the sick in body, troubled in mind, or discouraged in spirit are drawn to your presence. Amen

Question:
How will I be healed this week?

Written by Nancy Alice Morton

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located at The Cathedral Church of St. Paul (815 High Street) and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

July 5, 2015

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Who owns the water?

God must smile as we quibble about who owns the streams and wetlands and who is responsible for keeping them clean for human consumption. Yet that is what is happening. Agricultural interests advocate for less governmental oversight and environmentalists push for more. Doesn’t the water belong to everyone? Or, more accurately, isn’t water on loan from a Creator who commands us to take care of it?

river by keencariene“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. For he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.” (Psalm 24:1-2)

We do all agree on the importance of keeping our rivers and other bodies of water clean. The disputes come as we discuss how to do that. What is the goal, exactly? What role does each of us play—governmental officials, farmers, urban residents, activists—in reaching that goal? How can we develop and implement a plan?

While it may appear trite to say, “Let’s all get along,” encouraging communication to reach common ground and mutual understanding is a good place to start. That would require less acrimony and partisanship and more listening and openness. The responsibility of caring for the earth rests with each of us.

Questions for Reflection:
How in tune am I with the wellbeing of the earth?
How does my faith inform my responsibility for addressing its need for protection?
How can I encourage honest and respectful conversation with people who believe differently from me?

Written by Diane Glass

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

June 21, 2015

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What Does Unity Look Like?

“We’re celebrating! Woo-hoo!” Peyton squeals. His younger brother Cohen runs and runs. Both boys skip and fling straw into the air. Peyton plops down, stretches his arms open wide and catches the straw as it falls. Cohen dumps it on his brother’s head. They roll and “bury” each other, then rise up and shout, “Pop goes the weasel!” Their giggles echo through the neighborhood.

Today’s verse says, “Look how good and pleasant it is when brothers [and sisters] live together in unity.” (Psalms 133:1, ISV.) These two little boys, my grandsons, paint a picture today of what wholesome unity looks like. Children as young as they are—age two and three years old—haven’t learned to hide their inner selves and their joy. What you see is truly what you get.

Of course, these brothers don’t always get along!! But when they do, I wonder if being true to who they are from the inside out contributes to their celebration of being alive together.

Unfortunately, adults do learn to hide their inner selves in public. We say the right things to the right people to get what we need or want. We bury our dark thoughts rather than confess them to God and another person we trust. The outer husks of our beings grow, and we bring dry, divided selves to our communities. We disintegrate individually and together. When that happens, our bond as brothers and sisters becomes rooted in peace-faking rather than peace-making.

Ultimately, peace-faking leads to forgetting who we are and who others are. Mother Teresa says, “Today, if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Question:
How have I hidden myself from others today? How have I forgotten my brother or sister?

Prayer:
Open my heart, Father of all, to truly live with others in life-giving unity. Amen

Written by Deborah Jansen

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com