Tag Archives: Armstrong

December 28, 2014

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“Young men and women alike, old and young together!”
Psalms 148:12 (NRSV)

(This meditation was first published on December 29, 2013. It is reprinted today in memory of our friend, Ronda.)

How can we keep the special joy of the Christmas season alive all year? An answer surfaces during reflection on Psalm 148.

The psalm begins and ends with “Praise the Lord!” In between the psalmist calls all heavenly beings, features of the world, i.e., sun, stars, trees, mountains, wind, and every creature and human, to praise the Lord.

From my view joy flows from consciously praising God for his gifts and grace. Praise and joy do not depend on age, gender, looks, ability, economic status, special interests, or the weather. No matter what we face – familiar routines, challenges, surprises, adversities – pausing to offer praise creates joy.

Praise and its resulting joy take countless forms: lifting hands upward, humming a tune, dancing down the hall, stopping for solitude in nature’s beauty, smiling at a newcomer, sending words of appreciation to another, saying “Praise the Lord!” for goodness discovered in all tasks or encounters.

Physician and clown Patch Adams believes being joyful is the most radical thing we can do. Want to join a joy revolution? Praise the Lord!

Prayer:
God of Ever-Present Joy, no matter what our stage of life or circumstances, we praise You, the source of all blessings. Amen

Question:
In what ways does joy fill my heart today?

Written by Ronda Armstrong

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
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November 2, 2014

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“Say thank you to the Lord for being so good, for always being so loving and kind.”
Psalm 107:1 (TLB)

Yesterday we flipped the calendar to November, the month when many gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving. Along with the foundation for celebration: gratefully praising our Creator for abundant blessings, the holiday features cherished traditions for food, fun, and fellowship.

Almost forty years ago, when I was new in Iowa, new at my job, away from family, and recovering after serious surgery, a couple I met graciously invited me to Thanksgiving dinner. Though I could eat little, that year I discovered gratefulness meant more than thanking the Lord.

God’s blessings also grace our lives through the loving and kind acts of others. Recognizing them, and saying thanks, further extends the circle of gratitude.

Inspiration from the ways others have blessed us leads to reflection about how we bless others. When we share the grace and goodness we have received, we bring the power of gratitude full circle.

Some have energy and skill to spearhead financial charity drives, repair houses, or beautify city parks. Others choose to brighten another’s day by sharing smiles, visiting a lonely neighbor, cooking meals for shut ins, giving a favorite book, or jotting caring notes to send.

Based on environments and abilities, all life stages offer creative opportunities to bless others. Responses change over time, as our needs and capabilities do, and we adapt to God’s ongoing plan for us.

Prayer:
God of Goodness, inspire us to be cheerful givers, following your example to share our blessings in loving and kind ways. Amen

Question:
How am I called to bless others today?

Written by Ronda Armstrong

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

September 14, 2014

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“So then, each of us will be accountable to God.”
Romans 14:12 (NRSV)

Varied media bombard me with choices: what to buy, what to do, where to go, ways to give money and time. Advertisers and promoters promise me I’ll look healthy, enjoy boundless energy, achieve success, and be a better person if I partake of these possibilities. The easy lure into false ways troubles me.

Quietly communing with God, recommitting to service, and spreading compassion and kindness, helps me choose wisely.

Even so, being accountable to God poses dilemmas. For example, should I devote my time to a project primarily of interest to me—sorting belongings and clearing out closets—or should I spend my limited energy helping with a community service project or visiting a lonely or hospitalized friend?

One day, after recent outings tired me, I stayed home and started clearing. I discovered forgotten clothing articles to reuse with my current wardrobe. I uncovered books appropriate for book drives to benefit several charities. I found useable household items to donate to those who need them, and treasures to give to young family members.

A personal project turned into one that served God and others as well.
Opening space gives me sharper clarity to visualize the Lord’s daily call for me.

Prayer:
God of Accountability, give us strength to withstand worldly distractions and the wisdom to actively seek your guidance when discerning our direction. Amen

Question:
How does being accountable to the Lord surprise me this week?

Written by Ronda Armstrong

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

August 17, 2014

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“For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”
Romans 11:29 (NRSV)

Life changes: a fact I can count on. This summer change turns somersaults at dizzying speed, although these days I prefer a slower pace, more like a gentle roll.

Neither my husband nor I feel at ease with technology and its rapid changes. We held off purchasing a new computer and printer until recently, garnering scant enthusiasm for adjusting to the necessary new equipment and its mind-boggling possibilities. That is, until we gained confidence by mastering small steps.

Then our brother-in-law’s death in early July left an irreplaceable gap in our small family’s circle and traditions. As we grow older, more friends and family die, move, or shift to new routines or interests. With each loss, we learn we can survive and heal by honoring the ways loved ones influence the shape of our lives.

Life looks different now than during earlier career years. Gone are days of to-do lists, goal setting, and five-year plans. Now retired and also addressing ongoing serious health issues, I focus on present moments, discerning ways to contribute for good of all. Just when I think the course runs smoothly, health status and treatment decisions turn it all topsy turvy yet again.

As days tumble with change, I am grateful for a God who doesn’t waver or revoke his gifts of grace and mercy. Accepting his never-expiring invitation into his kingdom gives me balance and perspective.

Prayer:
Ever-faithful God, whether changes throw us or thrill us, we seek your steady presence to center us. Amen

Question:
How does God’s unchanging nature help me gain peace with change?

Written by Ronda Armstrong

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

July 27, 2014

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“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God who are called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 (NRSV)

As an optimist, I look for good more than negatives. Spinning positive stories from suffering, loss, change, and the unexpected strengthen me.

However, noting “all things,” in today’s passage convinces me I limit possibilities when identifying good only in singular events, rather than spotting God’s presence and his pattern of handiwork.

For example, on a recent trip with my husband, an unscheduled detour delayed us. Slowing down surprised us with breathtaking scenery and charming picturesque towns on less-traveled roads. Is this a lovely isolated event? Or is God guiding me away from ruts of the familiar toward wonder and mystery?

How do I know?

By loving God, according to Paul. Spending time in God’s presence, I watch him weave threads of blessings from all situations into beautiful patterns, his precious plans for my life.

Presently I more fully appreciate how facing vulnerability from disorders, tumors, and surgeries in childhood and adulthood taught me skills – observation, listening, reflection, empathy – to shepherd others in my longtime social work career. God wove a tapestry of good then and he continues creating new ways for me to serve within changing circumstances.

Prayer:
Creator God, help us love you more deeply and sharpen our perception of your hand at work. Amen

Question:
What patterns of goodness is God weaving in my life?

Written by Ronda Armstrong

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 whichprovides 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 1, 2014

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“Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 (NRSV)

The verse’s familiarity tempted me to skim over it to “he cares for you,” a comforting part of the passage.

However, adrift during a month with many choices, daunting decisions, careful planning, and multiple preparations, a scriptural surprise in the first two words delighted me.

“Cast” calls us to take responsibility. The Lord does not zoom in and solve what’s on our minds, even though he knows our dilemmas. He wants us to spend time sharing specific concerns with him.

“All” makes me question if I dither too much when discerning what to pray about. Mounting issues about health and medical treatments and daily life matters can easily overwhelm me. Which medical treatments to try? Which gracious invitations to accept? How much practical help do we need? How do I help others, given my limited energy?

Human pride, along with desire to control, plan and assert independence, often delays surrendering the stuff of life for guidance. Whatever stymies us: anxiety, worry, concern, uneasiness, and its sources, is worthy of offering to the Lord.

“Cast all.” That’s a plan I can trust, and do so with joy and ease.

Prayer:
Loving and Caring Lord, give us the humility to cast to you all that weighs us down. Amen

Question:
Do I share worries with the Lord? Or do I try to tough it out alone?

Written by Ronda Armstrong

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 whichprovides 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

April 27, 2014

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“…In your presence there is fullness of joy…”
Psalm 16:11 (NRSV)

The light of the Risen Lord shines radiantly on this second Sunday of Easter. Celebrating Jesus’ resurrection also restores me to new life. As weeks ahead unfold, and tasks and trials compete for attention, will the Lord’s presence continue to fill me with exuberant joy?

Our eight-year-old black-striped gray tabby jumps into my lap. He  arranges his large stature into a circle, tucks his feet and tail beneath his camel-colored underbelly, then tilts his head back so his expressive green eyes gaze at mine. Unlike many cats, he seeks eye contact. In no hurry he waits for me to give him loving pats and talk to him. He keeps my face in sight and ramps up his purr to a rumbling roar.

During every-day moments do we pause and look at the Lord? Doing so adds serenity and contentment to our lives. Giving undivided attention and devotion invites loving presence – he with us and us with him. How can we not be brimming with joy?

Prayer:
Risen Lord, in our daily lives may we gaze upon you, as you look lovingly on us. In the abiding presence of each other, may joy overflow. Amen

Question:
How can I create space and time for savoring the joyful presence of the Lord?

Written by Ronda Armstrong

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 whichprovides 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