xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: July 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

CPR for Your Worried Soul

July 9, 2013

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.
- Michel de Montaigne
A few months ago, the girls and I were watching Mythbusters, one of our favorite television shows.  In an episode called “Underwater Car,” the hosts tested several myths about how to escape a vehicle submerged in water.  They discovered that there are very few options for getting out. 

Due to external water pressure, one cannot open a car door until the interior is flooded.  It is impossible to use the manual or power mechanisms to open the windows, and it is pointless to try to break the glass using a set of keys, a cell phone, or even steel-toed boots. 

The only solution?  You have to use a special window-breaking hammer.  It is a simple device that concentrates force on a small point of impact, shattering the window with just the slightest tap, even when fully submerged. 

I looked at the girls as we watched the show.  “I should get one of those,” I said to them.  “Yeah, you should,” they nodded in agreement.  So, the next day, I went to the auto parts store here in town and shelled out $4.99 for a new window hammer, promptly tucked it in my glove compartment, and returned home feeling several notches more prepared for the future.

But then, I realized something. 

I live in Iowa.  In Cherokee, Iowa.  I am thousands of miles from either ocean.  The major body of water in this town is the Little Sioux River.  It even has Little in its name.  Yes, I suppose I could crash into the lake at the park, but let’s face it:  I have a better chance of plowing into a runaway cow than submerging my car in water. 

Yet, even in the most remote chance that I do, you can bet I’ll be ready.


We are wired to worry.  Our evolution as a species has depended on a constant awareness of surrounding dangers.  Any threat triggers an automatic flight-or-fight response that serves as a kind of internal smoke alarm.  It grabs our attention in the nick of time, and our survival depends on it. 

But what if that capacity to worry becomes a threat itself?

It’s not reasonable to expect that we’ll turn off our capacity to worry entirely, just as it is unwise to turn off the smoke alarms in our homes.  But we can surely learn to manage our worries before they manages us. 

I realized that I needed to learn this lesson a few days ago.  Last Thursday, on a national holiday designated for rest and the enjoyment of freedom, I was feeling submerged in an ocean of low-level anxieties.  Most of them were minor, just nagging, lingering, residual worries from weeks of daunting flood relief efforts, hours of musical theater practice, and myriad responsibilities at work and home.  A few of the concerns were larger in nature, about my future and my past, simultaneously pressing into the moment.

I have a hunch that many of you can relate. 


So, I encourage you to practice that which I am prescribing myself.  I invite you to consider make a more concerted effort to manage the low-level stresses that are in your life right now with three simple guidelines.  I didn’t plan it this way, but as these came to mind, they formed the acronym C.P.R.  Consider these as ways to resuscitate your soul and manage your worries:

Cultivate Contentment:  Have you ever had one of those nostalgic moments when you longed for a time in the past when your life was easier and more joyful?  Sure you have.  We all have.  We tend to crave certain aspects of those memories, wishing that we had today what we had back then.  Now, consider the possibility that down the road, when you look back in the rear-view mirror, these present days might be the “good old days” that you long for someday.  There might be aspects of your current situation that you may not fully cherish until they are gone.  In the final episode of NBC’s The Office, a character named Andy said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”  Well, there is.  Count your blessings.  Cultivate contentment.

Practice Mental Sabbaths:
 Take a page out of the Jewish playbook of keeping Sabbath, and designate a regular period of time to rest your mind and heart from anything that troubles you.  Select several hours – or better yet, a whole day - for your mental Sabbath, in which you will not allow yourself to worry about anything, great or small. The Israelites prepared for Sabbath by doing all of their perfunctory chores in advance so that they could refrain from physical labor during their time of rest.  How about doing the same for your mind? Try to cross as many stressful tasks off your to-do list before your Sabbath begins.  Gather the scriptures, prayers, and personal effects that you will use to channel your worries away during that time.  If you’d like a practical approach to centering prayer that you can use throughout your Sabbath, consider one that I described last December.  [1] 

Revive Your Relationships:  Do you know what is also wired into our species to ensure our survival?  Relationships.  There is no greater way to combat threats – even low-level ones – than to do so in community.  And there is no better resource in your life than the relationships you foster with family and friends.  It may seem odd to connect worry with relationships, but ponder this truth:  your ability to handle your worry is related to the strength of your relationships with others.  I suspect that at this moment you can come up with at least a handful of loved ones with whom you have lost touch, for various reasons. Invest in those relationships, and you’ll realize that you are not alone.  That sense of solidarity is a powerful antidote to worry.

I wish you well in the ways that you handle your worries, and will pray that you will always recognize the work of God’s peace in you.   Enjoy your life.  It’s the only one you get.

Grace and Peace,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA  51012
Ph:  712-225-3955
Email:  mdevega@sp-umc.org

[1]  http://mdevega.blogspot.com/2012/12/my-christmas-gift-to-you.html

Beat the heat this weekend with a church-wide picnic at Gillette Park followed by a pool party exclusively for St. Paul’s UMC!  Join us at the park at 6:30 for a cookout:  we’ll provide the grilled food and plastic ware, and we invite you to bring your own drinks and a side dish or dessert to share.  Then, from 8:00 to 9:30 we’ll have the Bacon Aquatic Center all to ourselves, with plenty of surprises to keep us busy throughout the night.  And admission to the pool will be free!

The girls and I are looking forward to spending about ten days in Florida to rest and reconnect with family and friends.  We will be gone from Sunday, July 21 to Friday, August 2.  In addition to time with family in St. Petersburg, we will spend two days in Orlando at the two Disney water parks, and then spend about five days on the beach.  Some dear friends from my former church are letting us stay in their amazing beach house, so we are excited to have some quiet days in the sun and sand.

I am pleased to let you know that Dave Orthman, a wonderful man and gifted lay preacher from Peterson, Iowa, will be preaching on July 21 and 28.  I had the opportunity to hear him preach not too long ago, and I am convinced you will be blessed by his wisdom and preaching style.  Finally, I will be taking a break from writing the Mid-Week Message for the next three weeks, and will resume it during the week of August 5. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Proclaiming Freedom

 July 2, 2013

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Amid the familiar observations of Independence Day involving picnics, watermelon, and fireworks, a growing number of communities across the country are encouraging people to return to the day’s original meaning.  Large cities like Houston and Chattanooga, and smaller towns like Twinsburg, OH, and Gadsden, AL, are inviting citizens to gather for a live reading of The Declaration of Independence. 

We often forget that the power of the Declaration was not automatically revealed at the moment it was signed by the fifty-six delegates.  After it was produced, it had to be proclaimed.  It had to be shared.  Without a concerted effort to distribute it to the masses, and disseminate it to the widest number of people, the document would have simply collected dust, becoming a mere footnote in the annals of history. 

So, late afternoon on Thursday, July 4, the Declaration was sent to John Dunlap, a local Philadelphia printer, and by the next morning copies were being hand delivered on horseback to each of the thirteen colonies.  It was not until Saturday, July 6, that the Declaration was printed in the first newspaper, the Philadelphia Evening Post

And then, on Monday, July 8, a full four days after the Declaration was signed, it was read aloud for the first time to a group gathered at the State House in Philadelphia.  After it was read, the crowds cheered, and bells throughout the city rang all day long.  Similar scenes were replayed all throughout the new country:  July 9 in New York City and Princeton, NJ; July 14 in Worcester, MA; July 18 in Boston, MA; July 20 in Newport, RI; July 29 in Baltimore, MD; August 5 in Richmond, VA; August 10 in Savannah, GA.  Each time, the people erupted with celebrations, firing muskets into the air and tearing down British emblems.  A feeling of jubilation steadily swept throughout the colonies.

In order for good news to mean anything, it must be proclaimed.  A singular event like the signing of the Declaration is momentous only to the degree that its power is shared with others.  Likewise, the good news of the gospel is transformative only when it is transmitted, through the faithful witness of disciples of Jesus who dare to proclaim it boldly through words and actions. 

In Luke 10, the Lectionary text for this Sunday, Jesus commissioned the disciples to go out in pairs to serve as messengers of the good news.  Like couriers on horseback in 1776, they were to travel the countryside, speaking to anyone who would listen, telling them about their newfound freedom.  And just like the colonial Americans responded with jubilation, listen to how the disciples returned from their missionary ventures:

The seventy-two returned joyously, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit themselves to us in your name.”

Notice that word joyously.  It’s one of Luke’s favorites.  He uses it ten times throughout his gospel, more than any Matthew, Mark, or John.  And notice the times when he uses it:  to describe the precise reaction one has in response to the good news of Jesus Christ:

  • The angel:  “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people.  (Luke 2:10)
  • The persecuted:  Rejoice when that happens! Leap for joy because you have a great reward in heaven.  (Luke 6:23)
  • The company of heaven:  “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives.  (Luke 15:7)
  • The men on the road to Emmaus:  They worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem overwhelmed with joy.  (Luke 25:52) 

Luke continues to revisit the theme of joyful jubilation every time another person experiences the good news of freedom.  It’s his way of clanging the bells, firing the muskets, and tearing down the emblems of sin and oppression at every turn.  But make no mistake:  Luke is very clear that good news must be proclaimed if it is to have any power.  And that’s why he marches the story of Jesus right into the story of the church in Acts. In order for the gospel to be transformative, it must be transmitted.

This Thursday, I hope you will have a festive, relaxing, and safe time with family and friends, celebrating all that makes this country so great.  And I hope you will join us this Sunday as we take a closer look at the the story of Luke 10:1-20, receiving again the call by Jesus to be messengers of freedom for all those crushed by the tyranny of sin. 

It is a joyous declaration, indeed.

Grace and Peace,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA  51012
Ph:  712-225-3955
Email:  mdevega@sp-umc.org

Join us once again for our annual church picnic at Gillette Park on Sunday, July 14, at 6:30pm, followed by an exclusive pool party at the Bacon Aquatic Center.  Meats, buns, and paper products will be provided, and admission to the pool will be covered by the church.  You are invited to bring your own drinks and a side dish or dessert to share. 

The one outstanding job related to flood recovery involves the installation of drywall at the home of Bob and Sandy Kirschner, whose home just north of town had to be stripped down to the studs since flood waters rose into their main floor.  The amazing duo of Greg and Marie Conklin with Neighbors Across the Land will be returning on July 5-6 to install new drywall, and they are looking for anyone to come help.  If you are interested, let me know.