Each week Pastor Jill posts a Mid-Week Encouragement. We hope it encourages your soul as you journey through your week. 
Mid-Week Encouragement
Let's Go for a Walk!
There is a wooden sign that sits on top of my bookcase in my home office. It was a gift from my daughter Ashley. Each day as I sit at my desk I find myself reading it, “I Go and I Walk and I Pray.” It’s a beautiful reminder that prayer is not just something we do, it is something we actively live out. It’s a wonderful depiction of having an active prayer life. Prayer allows us to tap into God’s power. When we realize this, we can know that concentrated prayer has the power to literally change the world around us.
 
When Jesus sent his disciples to go and spread the Good News to the nations, I’m pretty sure that while they were walking from home to home and town to town, they spent time praying. Not only for courage, assurance and peace for themselves but also for the people they were meeting along the way.
 
I have spent many walks praying to God for the needs of my own family, friends, work, or situations happening in our world. And I’ve spent time on my walks praying to God to help me with struggles or challenges, needing insight or direction, feeling afraid or seeking assurance.
 
Another great way to put our prayers into motions is through prayer-walking our communities and neighborhoods. Prayer-walking involves taking our prayers to the very places where we desire to see God’s presence manifested and our prayers answered. It is the powerful dynamic of prayer on-site with insight from God’s sight. As you pray, you will find that God opens your eyes and prepares your heart to see the situation from His perspective.
 
Last year at the beginning of the 2019/2020 school year, Pastor Barb (Trinity Lutheran Church), Pastor Edgar (New Hope Church), myself and members of each of the three churches, gathered in prayer as we walked through the school building and on the grounds. We prayed for the administrators, staff, teachers, students and over the cafeteria, auditorium, gymnasiums, classrooms and football field. It was such a wonderful experience for each person there.
 
I encourage you, to gather your family and friends to go for a prayer-walk together. Decide on a specific neighborhood, institution or area of your city that you would like to pray over. Because with eyes wide open to real needs and with ears open to the promptings of God’s Spirit, prayer walks can become an adventure. 
Posted By: Pastor Jill Clem9/16/2020 10:22:49 AM

Where were you?
Tomorrow marks the 19th anniversary of 9/11, a day that will live in our hearts and our minds as our country watched planes hit the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington DC and Flight 93 crash in a field in Pennsylvania. We watched police officers, fire fighters and heroic citizens run into burning buildings to rescue those trapped in offices and stairwells. We watched our T.V. screens as the tall, gigantic towers came crashing to the ground and dust, soot and debris covered people and objects. We witnessed papers flying through the air, crumpled steel, crushed vehicles and the carnage that remained. In the hours, days and weeks following we watched men, women and recover dogs, search through the rubble with the hope that some would be found alive, and recovering the bodies of those who had perished. We heard the names of those who were lost in the towers, the Pentagon and on the planes, all 2,977. I will never forget that day. I remember it as if it were yesterday. As I was driving my oldest to her school that morning, we heard over the radio that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. I remember saying to my daughter and son, that it was probably a small plane and how sad it was. After dropping my son off at his school, I made my way across town to start my work day at KTIV Channel 4. During my commute to work I normally didn’t listen to the radio, I usually spent those minutes praying to God for my family and for the day I had before me. On this particular day that is what I did, so when I walked into the lobby of the station, I was surprised to see employees standing around the reception desk watching the lobby TV. As I asked a co-worker what was going on, I turned to look at the TV and saw one of the World Trade Center towers in flames and within a few minutes we watched as a plane hit the second tower. As I made my way to my office my mind was trying to understand what I had just witnessed. And as the next few minutes and hours passed that day the horror that unfolded before us, was at times to much to handle as each one of us found ourselves asking “Why?” as tears fell from our eyes. I remember thinking,” I just want to go home and hug my husband and kids.” As each plane hit and as each tower fell, I prayed. I prayed for the families who were wondering if their loved one had survived. I prayed for those who lost their lives. I prayed for those who were waiting by their phones for any news. I prayed for the emergency personnel who were risking their lives to save the lives of others. I prayed for New York City, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. I prayed for our country. With each passing year the pain and horror of that fateful day still remains, maybe not as strong, but it will never fully go away. Our country came together at a time where so much was broken, stolen and ripped away from us. A time when we wondered if we would ever fully heal and be able to move forward because it felt as if time were standing still. Nineteen years have passed and tomorrow each of the 2,977 people who perished will be remembered by their families, friends and co-workers. Over the years as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, I hear the same question asked, “Where were you on 9/11?” and I pray that we never forget.
 
A prayer for 9/11 by Pastor Jimmy Orr
 
On the morning of September 11, 2001, 2,977 people from 93 nations lost their lives in New York City, at the Pentagon, and on Flight 93. Let us pause to remember that fateful day, the lives lost and those who remain.
 
We remember the first time we heard the news. We recall the first time we saw those images. We remember the way our thoughts and prayers were with those families who lost loved ones. Our thoughts and prayers are with them again today. O God of Comfort - though the years have passed, you are faithful still. Yesterday, today and forever; let your love and peace endure.
 
We remember those who survived. We recall their heart-breaking stories. We remember that their lives are forever scarred by those moments. Our thoughts and prayers are with them again today. O God of Healing - though the years have passed, you are faithful still. Yesterday, today and forever; let your love and peace endure.
 
We remember the pain we felt. We recall the bereavement and bitterness of the aftermath. We remember that you are a God of redemption and restoration. Help us forgive those who caused so much trauma, and that we may find release in that forgiveness. O God of forgiveness - though the years have passed, you are faithful still. Yesterday, today and forever; let your love and peace endure.
 
We remember that you love the world. We recall you sent your Son to bring reconciliation and salvation. We remember your Spirit inhabits your Church. Help us bring your comfort and peace to all. O God of hope - though the years have passed, you are faithful still. Yesterday, today and forever; let your love and peace endure. Amen.
Posted By: Pastor Jill Clem9/15/2020 10:36:38 AM

Autumn Glory
Turning the page of my calendar from August to September has always brought a smile to my face. I love Autumn. As I write this, the breeze through my window is cool and the squirrels are busy gathering nuts. Teachers and students are back in class and I can hear the sounds of football practice coming from Olsen Stadium on the campus of Morningside College. Even though Autumn doesn’t officially arrive until September 22nd, today, I hung my Autumn wreath on the door, welcome sign on my porch and garden flag in my front garden. These days, I’m trying to stay focused on the beauty and blessings of this time of year; the changing colors of the leaves, crisp morning air, colorful mums, pumpkins, apple crisp and football. Even in the midst of a pandemic, political turmoil, injustice of black lives and devastation of hurricanes on land and sea, we need to experience the blessings of this coming season and to witness the beauty of God’s creation. Because if we allow ourselves to get stuck in the darkness (anger, hate, divisiveness, global pandemic and political discord), we most likely will miss out on the glory of God that shines around us. So as Summer comes to an end and Autumn’s glory arrives, invite the light of Christ into your life; walk out of the darkness, step into His presence and be blessed by the bounty of His never-ending love, mercy and grace.
 
1 John 1:5, This is the message that we have heard from him and announce to you: “God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.”
 
A Prayer for Light
God, bring your light and restoring presence to the dark places in our lives. Bring your hope to hearts that feel defeated. Bring your love and compassion to those in pain. Amen.
Posted By: Pastor Jill Clem9/3/2020 5:54:52 PM

A Little Thing Called, Hope
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
 
Today is National Dog Day! But if you are or have ever been a dog owner, you know that every day is national dog day! I have been blessed to have a few dogs in my life. Currently my husband Dave and I have an adorable little Shih Tzu named Hope. We got her on December 17, 2017. We had previously had a black lab mix named Libby for almost 17 years. After Libby’s death I allowed myself to grieve because Libby had been one of the best dogs I had ever had in my life; loyal, loving, smart, funny and who literally thought she was a lapdog. After a 1 ½ years of not being a “dog mom”, I knew I needed another dog to be a part of my life. Dave wasn’t as enthusiastic about getting another dog, in fact after Libby passed away, he shared that we shouldn’t get anymore dogs. But I knew in my heart and I hoped, that one day a cuddly, cold nose, big eyed, melt your heart bundle of joy, would one day love me unconditionally and demand my attention on a daily basis.
 
The day I knew I was ready to have another dog, I told Dave that I was overruling his previous statement and that I was getting a dog. Knowing how serious I was, and how much I had missed having a dog, he agreed but on a couple of conditions; small and one that doesn’t shed. I quickly began my research and located a family in South Dakota who had a litter of Shih Tzu puppies ready to go to new families. I called the number, asked if they had any remaining and almost yelled out loud, “Thank you Jesus” when I was told they had one puppy left. I immediately said I would love to have her!! She shared with me what she was like, her age, weight and color and then we discussed the day I would pick her up. I was so excited for the following Sunday to arrive, when Dave and I would drive a few hours north to pick up our new “baby”.
 
She has been everything I knew she would be; a loyal companion, snuggle buddy, funny and sweet and who enthusiastically greets Dave and I at the door as if we have been gone for days, instead of just a couple of hours. She also has Dave wrapped around her little paw and almost jumps out of my arms when he gets home. If I have had a stressful or emotionally difficult day, she knows instantly and gives me all of her attention, kisses and snuggles, comfort and love I need. Through out this pandemic, she has been a gift. The burden, stress and worry that this pandemic has caused as I navigate my way through being a pastor and a hospital chaplain has been eased with Hope’s companionship and love. I named her Hope because I had “hoped” that one day, I would be a dog mom once again. That empty place in my life that had been missing was filled by Hope.
 
Having hope in our own lives, gives us the ability to get up each day and move forward. If we lose hope, life can feel more difficult and challenging. Hope helps to ease the anxiety we may be feeling. Hope sustains us when everything around us feels dark and distant. Hope washes away fear and brings light back into our life.
 
In these uncertain times, it may be hard to look beyond what you are facing in your life. It may be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But reaching out to God and leaning on him will help you to change your frame of mind, so that you are able to take a difficult challenge or situation you are facing and turn it into an opportunity for gratitude. You may not have a cute little puppy named Hope that brings you joy in your life, but you do have a Heavenly Father who will fill your life with his glorious blessings, unconditional love, grace, mercy and the light of hope to brighten your days and give you peace.
 
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5-6
 
A Prayer for Hope
Lord, help me to hear you saying, "I am your hope" over all the other voices. Lord, your word says, you are the hope for hopeless so I'm running to you with both hands stretched out and grabbing on to you. Fill me up with hope and give me a tangible reminder today that hope is an unbreakable spiritual lifeline. Amen.
Posted By: Pastor Jill Clem8/26/2020 2:33:14 PM

Change It's a Commin'!
“But now, says the LORD—the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel: Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched and flame won’t burn you. 3 I am the LORD your God, the holy one of Israel, your savior… 19 Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.” - Isaiah 43:1-3, 19
 
Life is filled with changes; the weather, seasons, birth, death, illness, jobs, home, weight, etc. Change can be good or change can be filled with anxiety and stress. During change we can either face it with courage or push back in fear or anger. These last few months have reminded each of us that change happens and sometimes it comes without much warning. In December of 2019 we began to hear about a virus that was making people sick in China and even causing a few deaths. For many of us we didn’t take much notice because bad things happen and it wasn’t happening here, so why worry? When 2020 arrived, the virus became a little to close, it had invaded our airspace when a United States citizen, after returning from a trip to Wuhan China, developed symptoms, and by the end of January, the Covid-19 virus, had become a global health emergency. For us in Iowa though, we were still going about our business; stores and restaurants were open, hair and nail salons were providing services, schools were filled with administrators, teachers and students with basketball, wrestling and other events taking place, and places of worship across our country were holding services in their sanctuaries. Everything was just as it should be, normal. But on the evening of March 14th, everything changed. Bishop Laurie Heller sent out an email to pastors advising all Iowa United Methodist churches to stop in-person worship services, small groups, events and activities, immediately. Over the next few days, schools closed and soon businesses and restaurants were closing as well. What had been normal, changed. To say that it has been difficult, is an understatement.
 
 It is now 5 months later and most of us know of one or more family members, friends, neighbors or people in our community who have been diagnosed with the virus and in some cases have died from it. And after 21 weeks of our sanctuary sitting empty, we are now worshipping together, but with a few changes. It hasn’t been easy. The decision to meet for worship and putting together safety requirements felt hard and challenging. How do we worship and keep everyone safe? How do we make it feel comfortable and welcoming while closing off half of each pew with tape and taking hymnals and Bibles out of the pew racks? How do we worship and praise God without singing, passing the offering plate or coming forward for communion? How do we mandate the wearing of masks when we know that not everyone will support it and come back to worship? Change isn’t easy.
 
Today, we are faced with the possibility of more change, as schools, colleges, universities are opening back up for the new school year. No one knows what will happen; will schools close again with teachers and students returning to remote learning? Will businesses doors shut and employees sent home? Will our sanctuary once again sit empty? Our community hospitals which have seen a decline in Covid-19 patients over the past few weeks, are once again going over protocol in preparation for the possibility of a surge of patients in the future. The atmosphere kind of feels like “change is a commin” once again.
 
In the beginning of this pandemic as daily changes took place, I heard people ask, “Is this the “new normal?” NO! It’s just, change and change is going to occur, sometimes like a burst of fireworks on the 4th of July or like the slow metamorphosis of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. It is how we react to change that can change the way we live our lives. If we face change with courage and strength, growth and new possibilities can occur, but if we face change with fear and anger, we may find ourselves stuck in the same place, not moving forward. I don’t know what the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021 is going to look like, but I hope and I pray that through it all I will be more inclined to embrace change knowing that God is by my side, giving me everything I need, to grow and experience the wonder and blessings of change in this life.
 
I hope and pray that this prayer will touch your heart and help you as you face change in your life.
 
 A Prayer for a Season of Change
By Rachel Wojo
Dear Heavenly Father,
Just when we settle into a pattern,
things change far too quickly.
One door opens; another door closes.
We rise, we eat, we sleep.
We smile, we laugh, we cry.
Even change itself is ever changing and
Lord, if I’m truthful, I don’t like change.
Because I desire the control.
Will you forgive my lack of understanding
that Your creation of seasons is exquisite?
Would you remind me that the ebb and flow of life
is rippled by the gifts of love and laughter?
And that life is measured by memories, not minutes?
May the season of change fuel me forward
towards another beautiful season of
the blessing of Your Almighty hand.
In Jesus, name, Amen.
Posted By: Pastor Jill Clem8/21/2020 5:58:39 PM

Reaching Out in Silence
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Luke 8:47-48
 
As a hospital chaplain I have the opportunity to visit patients who are going through a variety of health situations and challenges. Visits vary between a short visit before a patient’s surgery, a critical care visit with a patient and/or their family, or just stopping in a patient’s room to introduce myself and chat. At the end of each visit I always ask the patient if they would like me to share a prayer. Most patients will say yes but there are those who will decline.
 
Last week, after having a nice visit with a patient, I asked her if she would like a prayer? She looked at me and paused. I wasn’t sure why she was pausing, but soon she said, “That’s okay, I really don’t know what I believe.” She went on to tell me that she had grown up in church, was baptized, confirmed and when she became a mother, she made sure her children were baptized and confirmed as well. But it was at a time when she was praying for her grandson that her faith was shaken. She said it felt like God was silent, and so a journey of doubt and unbelief in God began. As I listened to her pour out her struggles, my heart went out to her.
 
Our faith journeys can be filled with mountain top experiences and dark valley chasms. The path before us can be smooth, rocky or blocked by a boulder and those boulders can be placed on our path by a situation, another person or ourselves. When we find a boulder blocking our path, we need to figure out what the boulder is and how we are going to get around it, go over it or move it.
 
In the Gospel of Luke, we meet a woman who has had a boulder blocking her path for many years. The boulder, a medical condition, had caused her to be ostracized from her community. Years of doctor visits with no cure insight and feelings of isolation had caused the boulder to slowly block her path. One morning she heard that a man named Jesus would be passing through her village. The stories that had been circulating about this man, were that he was a healer and so she knew exactly what she needed to do.
 
She left her home and set off for the center of the village. She stayed on the fringe of the crowd so that no one would notice her, until the time was right. As Jesus approached, she slowly made her way, carefully weaving in and out of those in front of her until she was walking directly behind him. This was the moment she had been praying for, she bent forward, reached out her arm and as her fingers gently traced the hem of his robe, she felt a bolt of electricity run through her body. After years of silence, she was healed.
 
When it feels as if God is silent and our prayers are not being answered, it might be that he is waiting for you to reach out to him. It wasn’t until the woman took action and reached out to Jesus, that she finally had healing. When you find the path in front of you blocked by a boulder, call out to God for help. He will either take your hand and walk you around it, put on his hiking boots and help you climb over it, or push it out of your way.
 
Gracious and loving God, When I feel alone, may your voice fill my soul. When the journey is rocky and the valley is dark, take my hand and lead me to safety. When the struggles of life overwhelm me, give me strength and courage to face another day. When worry and anxiety create fear and doubt, envelope me in a blanket of your peace. May your presence and love carry me through all the days of my life. Amen.
Posted By: Pastor Jill Clem8/21/2020 5:31:44 PM