O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great or too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time on and forevermore. (Psalm 131)

This is the portion of scripture that holds me most in these challenging days. There is a delicious letting go, a giving up for just a while, and resting in God — the image being of a child asleep in its mother’s arms, fully trusting that they are held and won’t fall. There is a giving to God all the stresses and strains of the issues that are too big and the questions that have no easy answer. Because God is God, and is holding onto us, we have hope. That’s perspective that works, in which we can rest. these days I have unintentionally memorized it, and say it before I drift off to sleep, pray it so that I can drift off to sleep.

There’s a hymn in The Covenant Hymnal that I’ll just bet you’ve never sung, and likely never even heard sung before. It’s one of the most special for me, because it evidences my grandfather Eric’s journey one holy night in a stressful season of Church life. He was pastor of the Austin Covenant Church in Chicago for ten years, from 1924 to 1934. One night he returned home from a contentious board meeting, and stepped into the bedroom of his two little boys to find them sleeping soundly while the moonlight lit up the room. Eric was so moved by this tranquil scene that he sat and wrote a prayer before retiring to bed. His musician friend, Frank Earnest asked if he could put set the prayer to music. In our hymnal it is 659. Understanding the story, both of the meeting and of the boys in the bedroom, here is the text:

Father, give a tranquil spirit as the day comes to its ending Let the peace of higher places still the woes of striving humankind Let the vastness of the heavens give our thoughts a nobler setting Let the fever of possession pass in nobler aspiration Like the passing whims of children end at night in sweet contentment.

Father, give a tranquil spirit as a seal of thy devotion Grant a fullness of the Spirit in the inward empty places Grant that wings of soul may guide us to a purer contemplation So that we in every burden may discern a heavenly purpose Adding worth to human story, ending with thy benediction.

Perspective. The chance to rest in the wonder of God’s Love and offer the burdens we carry. As these days come and go, join me in resting in the Holy, bigger picture! All is well, even in the midst of all that isn’t. God, our God, is with us.

Peter Hawkinson


This morning, as I was working on our Sunday School lesson for next week – all about fear – I went looking, as I often do, to the work of some people I trust.

One of those writers is Sarah Bessey, a Canadian author, speaker, podcaster, and more, who caught my eye recently with her post on “Personal Policies.”

In it, she unapologetically declared as one of her policies, “I don’t watch scary or traumatic or violent movies or shows.” And she explained why, that she knows her limits, that she has a tender heart, that this stuff just isn’t for her. It was the first time in a long time I’ve seen someone declare her boundaries so clearly, thoughtfully, and firmly.

I immediately showed it to my sister, to explain why I am not now and never will be watching Squid Games with her. And why, given the choice, I will almost always choose HGTV or a Food Network show to wind down on a weeknight.

It made us laugh, and (I want to think) helped her understand me, but that post was important for an even bigger reason.

In that post, Sarah also reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by the poet Mary Oliver: “Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

To this I would add: “and need what it needs, and feel what it feels.”

I think I’ve always had a hard time doing this, as someone who likes to please people, and as a woman (yes, this is something particularly insidious in what women are taught: your needs come last). As someone who always felt a little more serious and a little older than my age might warrant: let the soft animal of my body love what it loves?? But it loves being at home, and spending time with my dog, and baking. It really doesn’t love being out late, or fussing over my hair, or getting dressed up to go meet new people – and aren’t those things it should love, I should love? As a twenty-something, or a thirty-something?

But these days, it feels even harder to let my body love what it loves, and need what it needs, and feel what it feels.

These days, as someone who is vaccinated and not immuno-compromised, I feel even more than usual the pressure of the “shoulds.” I should be going out more and doing all of the things I couldn’t over the last year and a half of COVID. I should be glad things are opening up, and church is busy and full again, and my schedule is crammed. I should be grateful, I should be happy, I should, I should, I should.

As a wise person once told me, it’s easy to “should” all over yourself.

And I was, for the past few weeks.

I was paying attention to all of those “shoulds,” and packing my days full of meetings and gatherings and visits and groups and calls and errands. I was trying to make it all work, to say “yes” to all the things that were happening now that things were opening up again, to juggle everything I needed to do and thought I should do.

Which is a dangerous game to play, as I found out last Sunday, laying awake with panic in my chest late at night.

All those “shoulds” had got me only to a sleepless night, and high anxiety, and feeling stretched thin and frail.

So this weekend, I tried something else; I tried letting the soft animal of my body need what it needed, and feel what it felt.

I said “no” to several gatherings, and celebrations. It was hard. I hated it. But I knew my body needed rest, and quiet, and a day where I wasn’t clenched tight from driving places and running late and sitting in traffic. So I slept, and I baked, and I snuggled my dog. I watched a mystery show with my sister, and I bought craft supplies for Halloween costumes. I allowed myself to feel tired and weak, but also cared for and protected.

And, come Sunday morning, I felt like I could breathe again.

Like I could let my body need what it needed, and love what it loved, and still have the strength to do what needed to be done. To show up for my community, and show up well.

Upon reflection, what strikes me about all this is I would never teach someone else not to let their body love what it loves. That I would proclaim, over and over again, that God made you in God’s own image, and that includes what your body loves and what it doesn’t. That this is part of the unique stamp of the divine on you, something to be embraced and appreciated.

It’s easy to let myself forget this lesson. But I know now where that leads.

So this week, I encourage you to reflect on it, too. To ask your body: what do you love? What do you need? What do you feel? And to create space for all of those things. Sacred space.

-Pastor Jen


“Welcome, Lord, into your calm and peaceful kingdom those who, out of this present life, have departed to be with you; grant them rest and a place with the spirits of the just; and give them the life that knows not age, the reward that passes not away; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Ignatius Loyola, 1491-1556)

Bill Kelly, dear friend and inspiration for so many of us, died on Monday night. He came home from work, started to prepare dinner, and collapsed at the age of 58. There are no words. I waved at Bill after we worshipped God together on Sunday, and a day later he was gone.

Now I know all the wonderful promises of God we run towards in times of breathless tragedy. And I know all the words of hope we offer to one another so that hope remains. It’s all wonderful. good news. But today I’m not ready for such things, because this day and these days are much more like Good Friday than anything else, because Bill Kelly has died. He once gave me a Desert Storm Bible. Here are the scriptures from it that ring true just now:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? I have cried desperately for help, but still it does not come. During the day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer; I call at night, but get no rest.” (Psalm 22)

“We grow and wither as quickly as flowers; we disappear like shadows.” (Job 14)

These are the words of gospel truth for this dark day. And the poet’s words of comfort are only these:

Dreams by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow.

Bill Kelly has died — much too young, and much too suddenly. As people of faith, it’s alright, and downright necessary that we sit and stay in this dark time of grief and loss for awhile. To do so is NOT evidence that we have lost our faith, but that indeed we have faith enough in God to ask the unanswerable questions of why? And what for? And what good is there in this? And How Long, O Lord?

Bill was a good and faithful human being and Christian Pilgrim, the kind of person the world so needs. Once, in the midst of cleaning my clock on the golf course, and in the midst of ruminating on life, I asked Bill how he would summarize his life’s purpose, and he responded, in his usual self-effacing way, “To serve the needs of my fellow man.” And this he did, on Iraq and Bahrain desert roads, and at 26th and California on Chicago’s south side. This he did in his faithful love for Sue and all his children. This he did with faith in Almighty God and love for his neighbor wherever he happened to be.

And our faith’s resurrection hope will surely come. But for now, we grieve, we grieve. Sorrow owns this day.

O God of grace and glory, we remember before you today our brother Bill. We thank you for giving him to us to know nd to love as a companion of our pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us your help so we may see in death the gate to eternal life, that we may continue our course on earth in confidence until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before us; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Peter Hawkinson


This is the baseball I hold in my hands most days while I’m working. It came to me one day in the bleachers courtesy of Kris Bryant. Baseball, like so many games, mirrors life: swings and misses, hits and errors, home runs and strikeouts. Consider this, that a 70% failure rate at the plate over a lengthy career gets you a golden plaque in Cooperstown.

In 1982 one of my favorite sing/songwriters Bob Bennett wrote “A song about baseball”. It’s good primary theology:

Saturdays on the baseball field
And me afraid of the ball
Just another kid on Camera Day
When the Angels still played in L.A
I was smiling in living black and white

Baseball caps and bubble gum
I think there’s a hole in my glove
Three-and-two, life and death
I was swinging with eyes closed
Holding my breath
I was dying on my way to the bench

But none of it mattered after the game
When my father would find me
And call out my name
A soft drink, a snow cone, a candy bar
A limousine ride in the family car
He loved me no matter how I played
He loved me no matter how I played

But none of it mattered after the game
When my father would find me
And call out my name
Dreaming of glory the next time out
My father showed me what love is about
He loved me no matter how I played
He loved me no matter how I played

I have loved you with an everlasting love” God says to Israel through the prophet Jeremiah. Jesus says to his friends, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” This love of God for us, this unconditional love, is life’s greatest blessing.

Find the song on YouTube and celebrate!

Peter Hawkinson