The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. Zephaniah 3:17-18a
I remember when our firstborn Logan was starting to smile. We would hold him and just smile so incredibly big to try and get him to do it. We would say with such joy, “hi darlin’, momma loves you, daddy loves you, you are our precious child, you gonna smile?” We were literally rejoicing over Logan with gladness. We wanted him to know as much as his newborn self could possibly know, you are so loved!!!! I believe God does the same for each of us. Every time we experience joy- when we smile, laugh, delight- God is renewing in us God’s love.
Prayer - Gracious and loving God, may all the joy I find in life today remind me that you love me without condition. Amen.
Written by Emily Wright, Senior Pastor at WHPC
You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy… Psalm 30:11
My family loves to cut a rug. At a wedding last fall, the party wasn’t over until the Berry cousins had cleared the dancefloor. This year, though, there have not been many opportunities to dance. A few times during the pandemic, I’ve put on Prince or Talking Heads and boogied around our place, perhaps while simultaneously cooking or cleaning, but you couldn’t call it a party.
Moments of joy are like that lately—small and short-lived—woven into the mundane circumstances of our lives. Mourning is not yet over. We are still waiting for the promised “turn” to come, for a transformation to take place. We might need to borrow some confidence today from the psalmist, for whom the change has already occurred. Trust that this is the way God’s story goes—from sorrow to joy.
Prayer - Faithful God, comfort us in our times of sadness, and hear our cries for transformation. Strengthen our faith in the face of adversity and help us to find joy amidst it all. AMEN.
Written by Claire Berry, Associate Pastor at WHPC
For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12
Everyone walked to their cars, and the widow and I had a moment alone at her beloved’s grave. She took a deep breath, and I put my arm around her. We stood there in the beauty and the solemnity of that place. “Stacy, it’s odd – almost embarrassing. But I have to say – I feel joy right now, real joy!” I told her I understood. Her beautiful family had gathered to support her and to express appreciation and love. Her church family had showered her with care during the long illness of her husband, and during the tender time after his death. The weight of caregiving and watching her beloved suffer was lifted. And the good news of the gospel and the promise of the resurrection proclaimed in the grave-side service hung like sweet perfume in the air. Grief and joy can co-exist because joy springs forth when God is present. What a precious and holy gift.
Prayer - Loving God, come close to us and bring us joy. Amen
Written by Stacy Ikard, Senior Associate Pastor at WHPC
“Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.” Isaiah 57:19
I’ve been surprised many times in my life by how near God’s peace is, whether I personally feel near to it or not. I’ll never forget when our daughter had some significant health scares. Every quick trip to the ER, every scan, and every test result only led to more questions and more tests. My wife and I would be frantic and worried, yet when we would force ourselves to slow down and be still in God’s presence, peace would come. Eventually, she was healed and healthy, but then the medical bills were piling up. Stress, anxiety, worry would take the lead again. Eventually, we would remember God and force ourselves to be still in His presence. A few days after one such experience, we found a check on our front porch from a group of friends who wanted to help. It was almost exactly the amount of the outstanding bills. Peace. Healing.
Or the time that I was avoiding God and a certain situation in my life for months because I didn’t want to deal with it. However, there was no peace in my avoidance. Finally, I gave in, drove home from work and decided to sit in my dark living room and wait for God’s guidance. I waited and waited and waited…eventually it came. Peace washed over me in that moment. The path before was difficult, there was good reason I avoided it, but I had peace that eventually lead to healing as I walked that road. Peace. Healing.
Prayer - God of surprises, come close to us and bring us peace! Amen
Written by Kyle Bender, Director of Family Ministry at WHPC
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 55:11
My extended family and I were huddled outside the church entrance on a cold Christmas Eve night. We were joined by lots of other families trying to find seats for midnight mass. I was 4 years old, it was past my bedtime and I was full of restless energy, After what felt like forever, my Abuela leaned down and whispered that I needed to behave and because Jesus was in the church. At that moment, the excitement in me lit up. I had always pictured Jesus as the larger than life figure clad in a white robe looking down at me from heaven. But if what my Abuela said was true, then that meant he might be just like us and I could finally meet him! I immediately squat down and tried looking through the legs of all the people in front of us. My eyes were peeled for a tall man in a white robe and sandals with a heavenly glow around him. My family finally made it inside and as we sat in our pew, I excitedly spent the entire service looking for my idea of Jesus. While I don’t remember individual faces, what I do remember is that everyone was happy. They were smiling, singing familiar hymns and reciting prayers I did not know how to read but could recite by memory. I never did “see” Jesus that night, but my 4-year-old mind figured out that He came, made all those people around us happy and then left to the next church before I could say hello. 40 years have passed, I still believe that Jesus is here spreading joy to all of us, even if we don’t always see him.
Prayer - Loving God, come close to us and bring us joy. Amen
Written by Sherrie Fox, Office Manager at WHPC