Daily Devotion – April 29, 2016

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. John 14:23

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

The time has come for Jesus to leave the disciples now. The disciples are not ready for him to go, however. They want their teacher to continue to be with them to teach them more. They are afraid and confused. Yet Jesus, in all his wisdom, uses the opportunity to teach and comfort his followers. He reminds them that even though he will be leaving soon to not be afraid because he will send the Holy Spirit to be with them and to guide them the rest of their days. Of course, this is all very confusing to the disciples who are about to lose their teacher and their friend. Jesus goes on, providing further support beyond the Holy Spirit, and tells them that through love they will experience his presence in them. Through love, Jesus says, he will take up residence within their lives. It will come through their love for him, for others and even for themselves.

I rely on this chapter of John a great deal when working with the families who are losing somebody they love very much. I trust what Christ teaches here in this verse by telling families we never really lose those we love. Their life and love will always remain with us. They will be with us wherever we find ourselves, especially when we think of the love with which they gave to us. When we trust in love, their life will take up residence in us and dwell with us all our days. Knowing this should bring peace and comfort to our grieving soul.

My words rarely ease the pain of those losing somebody that they care for very much. They do help though. They are reminder that no matter what happens, if we believe in love, then death will have no hold over us. They show us the way to finding comfort for our losses. Allowing ourselves to rest in love when we need to gives us the opportunity to join our spirit with the spirits of all those we have lost. It allows us to find the peace that doesn’t come from the world but from God. With love anything is possible. It is after all where we come from and where we shall all return. Christ knew that and showed us the way.


May we rest in the love of God. May we remember Christ’s message to us: that even though his physical body will no longer be with us he will dwell within us as long as we remember to love. May the message of love bring us peace that comes to us not in the form of the world but in the form of God. May we always find ourselves resting in the arms of God. Amen.


Song: Charleston (4/28/16)

Gun violence.  Columbine frightened me.  Sandy Hook bewildered me.  Charleston woke me up.

Wednesday Bible study.  Nine people killed, several of them ministers.  The setting of the Emmanuel AME church shooting June 17, 2015, brought the devastation of gun violence home to me.  When I read the news on my phone the morning of June 18th, I knew that simply scrolling past news articles about mass shootings was no longer an option for me–either as a pastor or as a person.

As I tried to make sense of what happened in Charleston and the catastrophic rise in death and injury due to gun violence, a song emerged.

The more I sang the song and listened to the final chorus–“We can make all this killing end by living out our humanity….”–I began to wonder what that might look like.  After the shooting in San Bernardino, that wondering led to planning a Prayer Vigil to End Gun Violence with other interfaith spiritual leaders in Cobb County.

I hope you will join us this Sunday, May 1, 2:30 p.m., on the Marietta Square.  Our time of prayer and song will begin with lament then will move toward hope, people across our community, across faith traditions working together to act our corner of the world into wellbeing.

Daily Devotion – April 27, 2016

Acts 11:18

When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’

Devotion by Julia Shiver

When was the last time someone said something profound or meaningful, and the response is … Silence.  No immediate outcry or argument, no sending a video or text.  Just silence.  A moment to reflect, even to meditate on what has been heard.  We are so programed to give an immediate response, to put our two cents worth in.  If we don’t say or do something, anything, right now, we might miss our chance to be heard.  Life moves so fast, and has so many distractions.  Take time to embrace the silence.



Dear God, I thank you for the times you have spoken to me through the words or actions of others.  Please help me still myself so I don’t miss the important things in life.  Amen.

Daily Devotion – April 26, 2016


Acts 11:15-17

15And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 17If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’

Devotion by Lynne Buell

What does it take for God to get through to you? For me, just a night of restful sleep if I am troubled, discouraged, or indecisive. I pray for the right path and answers when I go to bed and pray giving thanks when I wake up. I never thought about ‘being baptized with the Holy Spirit,’ and I love these words. When we renew our Baptismal vows at church, the overwhelming feeling I have afterwards is simply that my being has been cleansed and recharged. Now I will remember these words.


It is my joy to be open to the Holy Spirit, and my prayer is that more will seek contentment through faith.

Song: Who Built This House? (4/25/16)

Saturday’s clash between white supremacist and Black Lives Matter folks was a vivid reminder–again–of just how much work remains to be done in race relations.

I have come to recognize that part of my work in race relations is coming to terms with my own white privilege.  The work is not easy.  At all.

In this song, I wrestle with what it means to be descended from slave owners….

reallifepastor | April 25, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:

Daily Devotion – April 25, 2016

Acts 11:11-14 (NRSV)

At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were.  The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.  These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house.  He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying; ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’”


Devotion by David Burns

For a man who has been steeping in preaching, God-stories, and youth camp testimonials for over fifty years, it is stunning how seldom I entertain a holy hunch.  I know plenty of people who fairly regularly and unashamedly describe an occurrence in their life as a “God-thing.”  I have amazing friends who find guidance for daily living in their dreams.  I have people close to me who see “an intuitive” as frequently as I see my therapist, and I know many who season their daily narrative with reports that God spoke to them.

For many years I have been prisoner to the rational and explainable and provable.  While I have been steeped in holy imagination, it has always been in tension with and dominated by the scientific method. If I can’t duplicate a cause and effect to produce the same outcome – every time, it cannot be real or true.   I have also gone to great extremes to avoid the sin taught to me to be the greatest -to appear silly or gullible.  I can verify when you are speaking to me, but it takes a much larger leap to believe that God is speaking to me.

That is why this tiny slice of scripture is so important to me and maybe, to you.  The very gathering of this strange group of people in Caesarea is all the result of individuals hearing the voice of God in various ways…and acting on it!  In a vision, Cornelius saw and heard an angel speak to him.  While praying and fasting, Peter had a vision and heard the voice of God, and then later, the Spirit prompted him to go with the three men to Caesarea to share a message with Cornelius and his family.

The amazing and provocative thing to me is that these folks had a spiritual encounter – likely not recordable on my iPhone – that gave shape to the next minutes and hours and days of their lives.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live that way.  I want to live in the possibility of God’s clear and immediate prompt. I want to open to and trust all the mysterious and super-rational ways that God comes to us and speaks to us and beckons us and moves us.  I want to assume that the deepest and most wonderful nudges within me are born of God.

For it appears the Spirit of God is as active as ever, prompting and poking and guiding and changing minds.  Sometimes, she even breaks down the distinctions among us, making us all whole again.  Thanks be to God!



Our good and collaborative God, we ask that you continue to speak to and woo us, even when we fail to listen.  For maybe this is the day we listen; as it is our deep longing to hear you and to step with you into the future you are longing to create.  Amen.


Sermon: Longing for Inclusion (4/24/16)

Last week, we left Peter in Joppa. He’d gone there at the behest of distraught friends of a woman named Tabitha, who had died. Still in Joppa after raising Tabitha from the dead, Peter gets hungry. As the meal is being prepared, he goes up to the roof to pray. He falls into a trance and has a vision.
Before I tell you about the vision, it’ll help to know this. In the early days after Jesus’ death, many people assumed that the Jesus movement was a Jewish thing. Jesus had been a Jew, after all. He’d used language that was familiar to Jews, he taught in synagogues, all the disciples were Jewish… When he preached, it was the Jewish authorities he ticked off…
To that point, the Jesus movement had been a Jewish movement. And if you read much of the Jewish law (that’s the first five books of the Bible, the Torah), you’ll see that a key part of Judaism was setting clear boundaries around who was in the community and who wasn’t. No intermarrying, no intermingling. No eating certain foods…

In the verses just before Peter’s vision, we learn that a messenger appears to a man named Cornelius at his home in Caesarea. He’s a centurion. He and his family are all God-fearing, but they’re not Jewish. They’re Gentiles. So, the messenger tells Cornelius to send some people to Joppa to find Peter and bring him back to Caesarea. Cornelius appoints some folks and they begin their journey to Joppa.

As the entourage sets out, Peter has his vision. In it, the heavens open and a sheet containing “all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds” descends. A voice tells him: “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replies. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” Peter is referring to those Jewish laws about determining who’s in the community and who’s not. Observing the dietary laws proscribed in the Torah was a key way of demonstrating one’s Jewishness.
In response to Peter’s declaration, the voice says, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Then–of course….It’s Peter, after all–the vision happens two more times.

As he’s mulling over the meaning of the vision, the men from Caesarea arrive. The Spirit says to Peter: ‘Simon, three men are looking for you. Get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” Peter goes.

When they arrive at Cornelius’ house in Caesarea, they find a crowd has gathered. Here’s what Peter tells them. “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with Gentiles or visit them. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” Peter has experienced deep conversion.

Then he says, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts those from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” He goes on for a bit, then the Holy Spirit shows up. We’re told that “the circumcised believers–that is, the Jews–were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.

“Then Peter said, ‘Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” The new believers were baptized.
This was huge. Just before the risen Jesus left the scene for good, he commissioned his followers. He told them: “And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” How were they going to share the good news “to the ends of the earth” if they were only going to talk to Jews? Somebody’s mind was going to have to change if the movement was going to get off the ground. And Peter was the obvious choice. So what if it took him three times to get the message? Sometimes conversion takes a while.

We’re all about inclusion here at Pilgrimage. It’s on our sign out by the road– “Jesus didn’t reject people, neither do we.” It’s on all our literature. It’s on the website. It’s in our hymns. It’s on our lips constantly: “We welcome everyone.” I know we take our ministry of extravagant hospitality very seriously.


Just because we decide in our minds we want to and plan to welcome everyone doesn’t mean it’s always easy or comfortable.

A case in point: Roller girls. When Trudy Stoddert first started attending a couple of years ago, I asked her what had brought her to Pilgrimage. She said, “I’m a member of Roller Derby. There are many LGBTQ folks who play, good friends of mine. I don’t want to take my kids to a church where they’ll be told being gay is wrong.”
Then Trudy quietly began planting seeds about reaching out to the Roller Derby community. I confess the idea was new to me; I wasn’t sure how to go about it. But Trudy, with gentle persistence, kept mentioning the idea. (For me, it took many more times than 3!)
Then she came up with a plan–a detailed plan–about how to pull off a screening of “In the Turn” at Pilgrimage. The film tells the story of a 10 year old trans girl named Crystal, who is sponsored by an LGBTQ Roller Derby team to attend Junior Roller Derby camp. Council discussed it and approved it. From there, the project picked up steam. Trudy partnered with the ONA Team, which highlighted both raising awareness for Pilgrimage folks and reaching out to the LGBTQ community. She partnered with Missions in suggesting that all proceeds go to Lost n Found. She partnered with youth and their families in providing and selling concessions.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that every single moment of the film was comfortable for me. I think I might have learned a new word or two. :-) As I reflected on the event afterward, though, I realized that it felt like the truest kind of outreach we’ve done since the church’s decision to become ONA 19 years ago. I haven’t seen one article online about inviting Roller Derby into the church…and I certainly didn’t hear about it in seminary.
…and yet, last week felt holy. Very holy. And very much, I think, what the Jesus thing is all about–showing no partiality, welcoming into the community everyone who wants to follow Jesus. Period. Yes, we’ve grown up with certain assumptions about who’s in the community and who’s not. But Jesus always pushed those boundaries. Some boundaries are necessary, but it’s way to easy to use boundaries to exclude. That exclusion, Jesus and Peter would say, is not of God.

What I’ve told you to this point isn’t what happens into today’s Scripture story. Today’s story happens after Peter goes back to Jerusalem. The Jewish believers there have heard through the grapevine that Gentiles are receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. They’ve formed a committee, discussed it at length and, with great officiousness, they censure Peter: “You went into the house of the uncircumcised (the Gentiles) and ate with them.” If I’m not mistaken, Jesus heard those same words on several occasions.

In response to the criticism, Peter relates the story of what happened to him in Joppa and Caesarea. “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as it had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
Peter simply tells his critics the story of what has happened. We’re told that “when they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Peter’s conversion led to more people being welcomed into the community. His telling the story of the Holy Spirit’s gift to the Gentiles helped others change their minds about who was in and who was out, as well. Notice that Peter didn’t berate his critics, he simply told them the story and let the evidence speak for itself.

In our own community, the folks who were here when the ONA vote was taken thought through what that meant. Their getting the vision and sharing it with others has been pivotal in us living into our ONA identity.

Last week’s Roller Derby event pointed out to me that our work isn’t done…that my personal work isn’t done. So many people long for inclusion! Here at Pilgrimage, we faithfully try to live our mission of extravagantly welcoming every person. … But Peter’s vision reminds us that welcoming others isn’t just something we do on auto-pilot. True hospitality requires constant conversion.

So, if in the near future, you have a vision of a sheet descending from heaven and you hear a voice telling you that God’s love extends to the creatures or people on it, whatever or whoever they might be–donkeys, elephants, North Carolina legislators—remember Peter’s vision. Remember how his being open to changing his mind about who God loved opened the door for the Gospel to spread. And allow yourself to imagine who else we might welcome, how much farther the Gospel might go in our community if we also were a little more open to changing our minds.

We’ve gotten a good start last week with welcoming the Roller Girls and in February, our Muslim friends. Who else might we welcome? Who else has God declared “clean” for us? Who else will learn of God’s deep, deep love for them from us?

In the name of our God, who creates us redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness. Amen.

Kimberleigh Buchanan © 2016

Daily Devotion – April 24, 2016

Dysfunction with a View
Ron Buford

She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” – 1 Kings 17:1-24

Mae West once said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and rich is definitely better.”

Elijah has prophesied drought. The king wants to “shoot the messenger.”  Elijah is on the run. God directs him to the home of a poor widow who is about to prepare one final meal for her son and herself before dying. But because God has already spoken to her, when Elijah asks the unthinkable, that she give her last meal to him, she complies. God blesses her household with meal and oil that never run out.

But then the widow’s son, her sole hope of long-term survival, dies suddenly—even with a prophet living in her house. As the Saturday Night Live character Rosanne Rosannadanna  used to say, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another”—especially if you’re living in poverty. Frustrated, the widow blames her past sins, Elijah, and his God. Elijah, weary of living from hand to mouth and of being on the run, also takes this personally and complains to God. Amid such poverty, the cause of death could be most anything. But God hears Elijah’s prayer, restoring the boy’s life.

Recently, sitting with clergy friends discussing someone’s nervous prayer for a check to clear, some thought such prayers improper. Those against them may not know about or may have simply forgotten standing desperately in a grocery line, hoping a credit card will work or that money will be coming in, beating some food, phone, or utility expense.

But God has not forgotten.

God stands in the line with you—whether you are nervous or assured. And when things get so bad you can’t seem to pray, don’t give up, turn to your spiritual community.  Find someone who, in the words of my Mom, “can get a prayer through.” And as time goes by, never forget your time of trial and deliverance; strive to be Elijah for someone else—whether by the prayer of your lips, or pocket.

Gracious God, make us mindful, whether we stand in life’s lines wondering or not, that where we stand is not solely our own doing. Give us compassion without judgment; gratitude without guilt; benevolence without pity, and a restless urgency that continually calls upon your resurrecting power with the same intensity we have for our own children and selves. Amen.


Ron Buford is the Pastor of the Congregational Community Church of Sunnyvale, UCC,  Sunnyvale, California.


Daily Devotion – April 22, 2016
John 13:34-35
34. “A new command I give you: Love one another. 
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
35. By this all men (and women) will know that you are my disciples, 
if you love one another.”
Reflection by Darlene Wagner


When Christ repeats, “love one another”, it is clear that the virtue of love takes on paramount importance to any community of faith. Yet, the original Greek has three words for love, and it is not immediately clear whether Christ is referring to unconditional love (agape) or familial love (filios). According to an interlinear translation at, love in verse 34 appears as “you should love” (agapate) and in verse 35 as “love” (agapen). Agape love, or unconditional love, appears both times. I have heard “Agape Love” proclaimed from pulpits since my teen years, yet at that age, I saw few convincing actions to demonstrate it. Worse yet, the same mouths touting “Agape Love” have uttered hateful words against gay, lesbian, transgender, and other undesirable persons. My best understanding of Agape stems from my own participation in deeds of compassion and generosity alongside like-hearted friends. Yet Agape, in its unconditional goodwill, may only be the first step towards the other, more substantial loves, filios and eros. While I seek to honor scriptural teachings, I am aware that my own efforts will not inevitably bring wholeness. In yearning heart-starved pangs, I hope for my Divine Mother who embodies all three Loves.
From depths of concrete cells I cry
To you beneath stale, coal-fired light!
Crushed by despair, of you I pray
Dear Mistress, Queen of Sensuous Life!
Too long has human love grown cold,
where parent dispossesses child,
and faith moves mobs to icy rampage.
Love-Famine slays me, yet likewise
uncounted others waste away.
Forlorn I plead, Love, save this world
worn down, heart-starved! Come break these walls!

Sermon: “Longing for Comfort” (4/17/16)

Way back on Ash Wednesday, we began our exploration of spiritual longing, the yearnings within the human spirit that ache to be filled.  Sometimes, we choose things that actually sate our yearnings.  Other times, we choose things that only seem to sate them, but that, in fact, only leave us with deeper longings.  The invitation in exploring these achings of the human heart is to find true fulfillment for them…because, as Augustine wisely said, “Our spirits are restless until they find their rest in God.”

Thus far, we’ve considered our longings for safety, God, reconciliation, resurrection, certainty, and forgiveness.  The thing that seems to happen every time I plan a sermon series long in advance is that a topic that’s identified months before ends up being the perfect topic for its day on the schedule.  The topic chosen months ago for today?  Longing for comfort.

I suspect many of us here today are longing for comfort.  We prayed for Joshua Derby for a long time…from his diagnosis of leukemia through every hospital stay…  We rejoiced at every bit of good news, and grieved with every relapse.  Most of us didn’t know Joshua, but we know and love his mother Janet Derby….who teaches and loves our children so well.  It has seemed a natural thing for us to love and pray for HER child during this arduous journey.  And so we have.


We continued praying for Josh until the moment he welcomed death last Wednesday morning.  Josh fought so hard!  He loved life…and when it was time to release it, he did that, too, with great love….a love he learned from his mom, dad, and the rest of his family.

Death is hard.  The death of one so young–nearly unimaginable.  Even so, we are grateful Josh isn’t suffering any more.  We’re glad he never has to make another trip to the hospital or endure any more biopsies.  Josh is free.  And we are grateful.  We celebrate his life.

And we are heartbroken.  We did not want it to end this way.  When I first talked to Allen after I got the news, I told him, “I knew this was coming, but I didn’t expect it.”  I thought I was prepared, but when death comes, it always seems surprising, doesn’t it?

Now I, like many of you, am longing for comfort.  Some of you might be visiting for the first time today and don’t know what I’m talking about.  It’s true that you didn’t know Josh and that you don’t know Janet.  But if you’re a human being, you do know sorrow, you do know pain, you do know brokenness.  All of us at some point in our lives have found ourselves longing for comfort.

That’s where a group of women in the coastal city of Joppa find themselves.  Their good friend Tabitha becomes ill and dies.  We’re told that Tabitha’s “life overflowed with good works and compassionate acts on behalf of those in need.”  When Tabitha dies, her friends wash her body and lay her in an upstairs room.  Hearing that Peter is in nearby Lydda, two people go there and bring him back with them to Joppa.

When they arrive at Tabitha’s house, they take Peter to the upstairs room.  A group of widows meet him.  In a heart-wrenching scene, we’re told the women are crying and that they “show Peter the tunics and other clothing Tabitha made when she was alive.”

The story goes on after that.  Peter raises Tabitha from the dead.  I don’t know about you, but that part of the story just doesn’t interest me today.  Because everyone who gets sick and dies doesn’t get raised.  Worn out from fighting disease, longing for rest, the bodies of loved ones stop fighting and, finally, slip into the rest for which they have yearned.

But for those of us who are left…like those widows in Joppa, we are beside ourselves with grief.  The ache for our loved one is so intense…it’s like our insides are broken into a thousand pieces like this cross…Someone once described it as being like wearing the inside of your skin on the outside.  Everything hurts.

Today as we grieve the loss of Josh–and all the other losses we’ve known–I suspect Tabitha’s resurrection doesn’t resonate nearly so well as the grief of those widows, inconsolable, touching the things that Tabitha had touched, yearning for anything to bring them comfort.

From where might our comfort come today?  If not from physical resurrection, how might we find consolation for our disconsolate spirits?

For an answer to that question, I consulted an expert on the topic–Janet Derby.  I called Janet and told her where I thought the sermon was going this week and asked if it was okay to talk about Josh.  She thought about it and said it was okay, though she did want to read the sermon before today.  She has.

Then I sent her an email asking what has brought her comfort this week, that I might like to use her answer in today’s sermon.  She sent me six emails.  (I haven’t checked my email in the last couple of hours.  There could be even more waiting in my in-box.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Janet’s been longing to “help” me with my sermons for quite a while.  :-)

Everyone finds comfort in different ways.  Often, it takes us a while to figure it out.  Some of that, I think, is because grief is so unwieldy.  It’s unpredictable.  What brings us comfort one day may have little effect the next.  Even so, I share with you Janet’s responses to me–in the order in which they arrived in my in-box.  May you find within them something that resonates with your own longing for comfort.

The first email included the pictures on your bulletin of artwork created for Janet by the children and middle schoolers, along with this note written by a member of this community.

Somehow I believed that being a prayer warrior to someone I have never laid eyes on would have the special powers of Almighty God and those prayers would be mighty and endlessly powerful. But opening the email to the news of Josh’s passing has thrown me. I guess I was naïve. I never considered that he would die. How can someone die when so many people are so prayerful?  It will take some time for me to process the idea that there was another plan for Josh.  And now the Lord has another warrior by his side. Janet, I grieve with you. I can’t imagine your pain. I pray now for his soul to rest and for your family to feel the fellowship of all our love as you walk this path.

The next email from Janet included these things….


  • Hugging the teddy bear (or transitional object) that Josh gave me from Boston University.
  • I’ve been wearing the sweater we bought him in Ireland last year and it feels like he’s hugging me
  • I’ve also been using the prayer shawl from Pilgrimage, which we put on Joshua’s bed after he came home
  • He also gave me a necklace for Easter, which I keep touching
  • Mostly, Memories and Stories, both mine and hearing other people tell stories and memories of Josh


The third email contained a story from Janet’s sister-Sister Mary Pat.  The sister-in-law of one of Mary Pat’s fellow nuns, Marilou, was distraught.  She’d lost her engagement ring.  In the wake of her husband, Fred’s, death last Fall, the loss was traumatic.  So, Sr. Carolyn prayed to Josh and Fred, and Marilou immediately found the ring by the TV in the living room.  To quote sister-Sister Mary Pat:  “Josh’s first miracle!”  I think they’re in the process of submitting it the Vatican.  :-)

Email, The Fourth.  Here’s what Janet wrote in today’s Daily Devotion.


My husband, Ken, has always said that I and his children know the sound of his whistle. One of his favorite memories of our son, Josh, took place in front of the Venice train station. We were vacationing there and Josh was meeting us after being in London for a few days. We did not have cell phones at that time, we just knew the time he was supposed to arrive. As we stood on the steps, Ken whistled. The next thing we knew, Josh was walking up to us, having heard and recognized his dad’s call. So too, it is with God. I can think of little that is more reassuring than knowing that we are safe in the reach of God’s call and care.


Yesterday morning, I got this email:


As I lay awake last night I continued to think about your question. I realized that with the exception of memories, what I listed are mostly surface comforts. Going deeper, what gave me comfort this week was the presence of love. Having Matt and my sisters– who have cared for me through this journey from a distance– physically present to hug me the last couple of weeks was tremendous. Yet I know, as Ken said last night, they will not be here after a time. I don’t think I am as concerned for me when that happens. I think that is because I believe that when I need to get back to the normal ordinariness of life I will continue to be surrounded by people who have been on this journey with me and will understand that, for me, life will never be totally normal again.


We’ve heard that testimony so many times in this room—that the thing that got us through a rough time was being surrounded by the people in this community, to receive the hugs, to be embraced and sustained by the love of these people for us.  Grieving alone–if that’s even possible — is a much more treacherous journey than grieving in the midst of community.

It’s not easy to share our grief with others.  I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for Janet to share so deeply with us or even to be here today.  But her presence among us today is testimony to just how deeply she believes in community—in this community—and to just how much comfort she has experienced by being part of this community.  Janet, we love you.  And we are grateful that you have shared this entire journey with us.  You have blessed us with your vulnerability.

Here’s the last email (that I know of):


The one thing I failed to mention was music. “Oh Jesus, I Have Promised” has been running through my head even though I don’t know it very well. But having Josh sing it in the hospital when I asked him about favorite hymns allows me to feel him singing it with me. And sometimes at night when I can’t fall back asleep, I sing “Hymn of Promise” in my head.


As a tribute to Josh, we’re going to sing “O Jesus, I Have Promised” right now.  And instead of the last hymn that’s listed, we’re going to sing #433, “In the Bulb There Is a Flower,” which is the text for “Hymn of Promise.”  Now, y’all, don’t be looking at Janet to sing either of these hymns.  She’s already told me that today, that’s just not going to happen.

Let us sing together and celebrate the life of Joshua Derby.

(Sing #493, O Jesus, I Have Promised)

In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.

Kimberleigh Buchanan  © 2016