Summer Flowers

A dear friend came to find me with flowers from her garden yesterday. I am touched by her thoughtfulness, and taking time now to look at them in front of me. What amazing and intricate creations of God’s they are! Bursting with color and fragrance, I could find in the vase hundreds of different textures and shapes. This is, of course, the wonder of creation, always pointing us to the benevolent Creator.

The beauty of creation is everywhere and in every moment of time. For me, though, in summer I am constantly bombarded by the wonder of it all. Today as I sit and contemplate this small vase and all it contains I become aware of how deficient I am in stopping and staying still long enough to really see what is before me.

In this case, and in this vase as in the vast creation all around me, it comes as a gift of love which is equally beautiful.

I’m taken back to the ancient Swedish folk tune “Blomstertid”, “Flower-time”, which dates back to 1697, and through time was sung by children on the last day of school when summer, after a long, cold and dark winter, had come. The words in our hymnal and translated by by late uncle, Zenos Hawkinson:

Now comes the time for flowers, for joy, for beauty great. Come near, you summer hours, earth’s grasses recreate. Sun’s kind and lovely charming of dead things winter slew, comes intimately warming and all is born anew.

Our lovely flowered meadows, the tilled fields’ noble seed, rich herbs laid out in windows, green groves sedately treed: these wonderful reminders of God’s good Kingdom strong; that we his grace remember, it spans the whole year long.

The word today is a pithy one…. “stop and smell the roses!”. Take time in this time of life, even today, to look around you, and focus in on the wonder of what you see, and so rejoice, give thanks, and sing!

Peter Hawkinson

Even The Sparrow

“Even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.” (Psalm 84:3-4, NRSV)

In the earliest weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown, my Mom and I stepped into the backyard with our dog Silas one early spring morning and discovered that a birds’ nest had been built overnight on top of a high pipe near the gutter – not an ideal spot. The nest was balanced so precariously, so delicately, that it didn’t look like it would take much to topple it. A slight breeze, or the whizzing of a climbing squirrel, or even a light rainfall, would probably be more than enough. A couple leafy bushes grew about four feet below the nest, the only shield cushioning it from total destruction on the stone patio.

As the rest of the family woke up and joined us, we all kept a close eye on the nest as we went about our pandemic-lulled morning. Before long, we learned that the nest was built by two cardinals. The first, a delightfully round, bright red male, swooped in from a nearby tree and kept a watchful eye on the nest from the top of the nearby gutter – we called him Steve. And the mother, who we called Thelma, followed a few minutes later, flying in with building materials to her perch on the nest. Steve, of course, didn’t offer any help in this construction and seemed perfectly content to watch, which made us laugh. But Steve and Thelma were always together, always a pair, as cardinals often are. Wherever one was, we could rest assured that the other was not far behind.

Day after day, we watched Thelma and Steve as they built their nest. We worried when a thunderstorm rolled through and nearly knocked it over, and we watched in awe as they worked together to reinforce the nest afterwards; we laughed when we saw Steve munching on some crumbs left over from our dinner on the patio; we listened for Thelma’s distinctive song.

In those difficult and unsure early days of the pandemic when the ground under our feet felt shakier than ever, Steve and Thelma taught me and my family how to find home. Their nest was balanced precariously atop a decades-old pipe; they were a stone’s throw from the rumblings of a major interstate highway; the tumultuous Chicago springtime brought with it sunshine and rain and snow and thunder and floods and wind and heat waves and cold fronts. But in the midst of all these things, Steve and Thelma still found their home not because of their own merit or skill or exceptional ethical decisions, but simply because they were, simply because they were together.

In the midst of all these things, Steve and Thelma still found their home in one another; they still built their nest; they still fortified and reinforced and supported; they still rested and ate and worked and sang.

“Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.”

Steve and Thelma remind us, dear friends, that from beginning to end, God is our home, not because we’ve earned it or deserve it, but simply because God has made God’s home with us. Even when our nests aren’t built in the best places or under the best circumstances, God is our home. Even when we’re reeling from a storm, God is our home. Even when we’re rebuilding and refortifying, doing our very best to get back on our feet and stumbling all the way, God is our home. Even when we can’t get out of bed, God is our home. Even when we are anxious, God is our home. Even when we are stumbling around in the dark, unsure of where to turn or what to do next, God is our home. Even when we make mistakes, God is our home. Even when we’re grieving, God is our home. Even when we can’t bring ourselves to pray, God is our home. God is our home in all times and in all places, dear friends, because God has made God’s home, God’s dwelling place, with us, with each and every one of us – young and old, Republican and Democrat, rich and poor, faithful and unfaithful, sinners and saints. No boundaries. No exceptions. God has made God’s home with each and every one of us. And that means that we belong to one another, that we find our home in God in one another.

It is said that Saint Martin of Tours once encountered a homeless, naked man shivering on the side of the road on a chilly evening. Moved by the man’s plight, Martin removed his own cloak, cut it in half with his sword, and used it to cover the man. “Lord, if your people need me, I will not refuse the work,” Martin famously said. “Your will be done.” Martin understood that day what it meant to find his home in God. He saw the face of God in his neighbor; his very soul, his very being, was bound to his neighbor’s, so much so that he shared his neighbor’s plight in his very body, dividing his cloak evenly between them, making himself a little chillier so that his neighbor could be a little warmer. Martin didn’t ask if the man believed the right things, or if he could recite the Lord’s Prayer perfectly, or if he could provide proof of his poverty or worthiness of his gift. He simply saw his neighbor, saw the face of God, and found his home, made his home with him.

How might we follow Martin’s example? How might we be a little more like Steve and Thelma, a little more like the sparrows and swallows? How might we find our home in God and in one another – and how might we be a better home for our neighbors? How might we rest in our God who is our home? And how might we be a home, a place of rest, for our neighbors?

God is our home in all times and in all places, dear friends, because God has made God’s home with us. “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,” in our God – and that means that each and every one of us, our whole human family, finds a home there too. Thanks be to God!

Hannah Hawkinson


Hannah Hawkinson is our guest blogger today. She is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and a child of Winnetka Covenant Church.

Please consider joining her as a guest blogger! Contact Pastors Peter or Jen and we will gladly help you through this simple process. Writers, get busy!


Two weeks ago, I shared with you my reflections on a book about wintering. And it has been a joy to hear from many of you who are now looking into the book I mentioned (by Katherine May; find it here), or reflecting on the principles of wintering, or simply giving yourselves permission to be in a winter season – despite what the thermostat may say.

Today, I find myself thinking about the opposite – about summering.

About the seasons when life is good, if very busy and full, and what we might learn from those times.

I’d love to hear your ideas, too! Here are a few that I am toying with now:

Summering is a time for being out – often that means outdoors, but it can also mean reaching out, as opposed to the reaching in of wintertime. It means opening your doors and windows, getting fresh breezes in, spending as many hours as possible (or tolerable) on your porch or patio or in your yard. It means seeking out connections and gathering opportunities, whether it’s a simple cookout with neighbors, or a big parade for Juneteenth or July Fourth.

Summering means abundance and freshness; piles of strawberries at the farmer’s market, and fresh herbs from window boxes. It means obvious, welcoming beauty: flowers blooming everywhere, magnificent sunsets, fireworks, chalk drawings on the sidewalk.

Summer is a time to soak things in: the sunlight, the cool water of the lake, the long twilight hours before a late sunset. To relish in abundance, whether that’s too many zucchinis from your garden or endless cries for more time in the sprinkler.

It is a time to store up those excess tomatoes and fresh fruits – freezing, canning, whatever you like – for a time when everything is a little scarcer. But also to store up memories and experiences for when the season draws us inward, saps our energy, moves us toward less.

It is a time to let some of our careful routines and rhythms lapse, when it feels right, in favor of spontaneity and delight.

Sometimes, if we are lucky, the summertimes of our soul will line up with those of our hemisphere. I hope that is the case for you.

But if you’re in a winter season, rest assured that it has lessons of its own, and practices that will help you through.

And always, always, be assured of two things: that these seasons will pass in time, but that God will be with you – with all of us – in each and every season. Thanks be to God! Amen.

-Pastor Jen

Politics and the Pulpit

Politics — from Greek “politics”, literally “The things of the cities” — is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status.

“The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairers of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.” (Isaiah 58:11-12)

Ok, here I go. Yikes!

In these years of a robustly developed Christian Nationalism and increased American political polarization I hear it more than ever I have before: “There’s no place for politics in the pulpit!” And while I vehemently disagree as a pastor and as a preacher, I receive and absorb it out of pastoral care, trying to understand the anger or frustration coming my way. It depends, of course, on what you mean by “politics”. I recall a lot of these comments and conversations this week as I read and reflect on these words from my colleague Rev. William Barber:

“Preachers don’t get to stay out of politics. We are either chaplains of empire or prophets of God.”

I’ve been enjoying evening backyard conversations with my daughter Hannah, and the other night we were talking about this, and Hannah helped me remember that the word “POLITIC” literally means “The things of the city.” And in this sense, of course, of course politics belong in the pulpit. We as people of faith, as ones formed by covenant relationship with God — we who are as Christians called to be “ambassadors of reconciliation” — we who from our faith more than anything else find our morals and ethics — we must be deeply concerned about “The things of the city”, the goings on in our world, in our time and place, because our God is all about what is just and right (and what isn’t!). When Jesus sums up the law, he talks about love of God and love of neighbor. This love of neighbor has everything to do with the “things of the city.”

What I think is that this is not the “politics” that we have in mind when we say politics have no place in the pulpit or in the church. What we are thinking about is political parties and senators and representatives and bitter mockeries and endless commentary spiked with hatred leading to violence. We are commenting on what our culture is doing with “The things of the city”, how politics become a means to an end of personal gain and power and status. Hopefully as people who are trying to follow Jesus, we are calling this out rather than preaching it’s goodness!

My critique would be that we need, as Jesus bids us, to “seek first the Kingdom of God and it’s righteousness…” and herein has been our deep failing leading to our current demise — that we have not rooted and formed our “Politic” from the Kingdom of God, which calls us to opposite concerns and ethics — not seeking personal gain as much as what’s best for my neighbor or the whole group — giving up power so that others may be empowered and lifted up instead — and advocating for those who have little or no status, who have suffered unjustly, rather than building up our own power. These are the politics of the Kingdom of God, and the politics (hopefully) in the pulpit that form our ethics, our understanding of what is right, and our actions in the realm of the world we live in.

I’m taken to that seminal moment when Jesus was ack home and ready to begin his ministry. He was handed the scroll and “found” a certain part of Isaiah’s prophetic and political words:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4) When he was done reading, he sat down (that’s what preachers did back then) and preached a nine word sermon: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

It is with these basic realities of the Kingdom of God that we should come to our citizen duties, and not the other way around. We must understand how we, especially in the last decade of soundbites and twenty-four hour news, have failed to root ourselves first and most in the Kingdom of God. So often it seems that our Jesus must fit into our worldly politics, and when that doesn’t happen, we cry foul. I INCLUDE MYSELF IN THIS, 100%!

We have bible studies and book groups that are very sparsely attended, where we talk about these tensions. If we are lucky, six of us are there. What would it look like to turn off your favorite news channel and tune in to the Bible study instead? Or how about we give our primary time and energy not to commentary on politics that suits our point of view, but instead take up and read the scripture, especially the gospels of Jesus together, and seek first the Kingdom of God as the basis for how we view “The things of the city” and how these things might improve, become more right and just as we think, speak, and act from a Kingdom of God perspective?

The issues remain — immigration, guns, abortion, capital punishment, the economy, racism, foreign policy, on and on, you name it — and we must care deeply about all these things of the city. How can we come to them first and mostly from our discipleship in the Kingdom of God? The Australian theologian Michael Bird says this:

Jesus cannot be mapped onto, let alone owned, by the American political divide. For people who are serious about following Jesus and how to live out their faith in him, it is not a question as to whether Jesus believes in our politics; rather, the real question has to be whether we believe in Jesus and in his kingdom as a challenge to our politics. In other words, for Christians, the point of contention should not be whether Jesus is more conducive to Republican or Democratic parties, but whether we are prepared to break from the polarization of our politics to engage in a more authentic mode of discipleship. To follow Jesus will inevitably require us to walk away from long-held political loyalties to reorder our lives around a new constellation of values shaped by Jesus’ teaching, his example, his death and resurrection and his lordship over all things. Politics informed by religion is a means to a common good, but politics with Jesus haphazardly tacked on at the end does not make for a good religion. Instead, we heed Jesus’ call for his church to be “the light of the world” and “a city on a hill” (Matthew 5:14) by setting forth a vision of human vocation and value that honors the God who made us and redeemed us in Christ.” (The New Testament in Its World).

Let’s stop trying to make our nation more Christian, and focus instead on ourselves as the church. Let’s get rooted and focused and energized by and empowered by the Kingdom of God.

Just my thoughts today. It’s ok if you disagree! But let’s talk about it with love and respect.

Peter Hawkinson

Blessing in the End

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (Paul, at the end of each of his 13 letters)

It’s Thursday again. Time to blog. How fast the weeks roll around!

I sit still and wait for something I’m thinking or wondering about to inspire me to write. Nothing comes, and when and as that often happens I return to my membership list and begin to pray for you.

I am learning to approach this not as a “fill in the time activity” — I have a few minutes before my next phone call, or next meeting — but as a primary, and most important work of mine, as I remember you, and pray for your joy and peace in the midst of life’s stresses and strains.

I’m reminded of the power of that moment at the end of every worship service when we turn toward each other and connect our eyes and sing and bless each other. It’s quite a moment, often evidenced by our tears. We bless each other in the end.

This follows the pattern of Paul, who ends each of his thirteen letters in the New Testament with some version of blessing. GRACE is the word that appears in each blessing, and that grace is connected to Jesus Christ in eleven blessings, and the Holy Spirit in the other two.

And the nature of this blessing is inclusive of everybody, it seems. “With all of you” he writes again and again. What makes this so powerful is that history teaches us that each of these church communities had harsh disagreements, strained relationships, and ongoing debates about their understanding of Christ, and the scripture, and ministry decisions, especially regarding the inclusion of Gentiles (everyone outside of ethnic Judaism).

Our church reality is very much the same, no? And this is what makes our unity in the grace of Jesus so powerful, that the end of the day, or the letter, or the sabbath worship, we bless each other. We wish each other an experience of the grace of Jesus, nothing but the best. Joy and peace, blessings of God’s comfort and keeping. We yield to love and goodwill, and so even though we can continue on because of grace, even in all our disagreements and differences.

So there it is. I have nothing to share today, nothing comes to mind. I have no inspiring nugget or profound adjective. Just this — “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Wherever you are, however you are, whatever you are facing — “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

I hope this summer will find us able to connect somehow. A walk, a meal, a coffee, a face-time or zoom, at a back yard potluck or at the communion table. Be in touch! And in the meantime, know that you are on my prayer list, and so in my heart, from one day to the next.

Wherever it is that our relationship might be strained, our our differences real, in the midst of it all I wish you every blessing of grace, and of the particular grace of Jesus Christ.

Love from Here!

Peter Hawkinson


Let me be the first to admit that it’s strange to write a blog about this, on the cusp of summer.

But there are some books and some conversations that beg to be shared, and here is one.

This past weekend, I packed up my dog Zoe, some snacks, lots of sweatpants and my hammock, and decamped to Michigan for a couple of days of R&R. I intentionally packed light (or light for me!): no iPad, no computer, and only two books. Plus puzzles and the latest edition of Midwest Living magazine. I knew that I needed a break: from stuff, from chores, from the relentless concerns of our time that the news cycle presents to me in bright flashing type every hour, every minute.

I needed time to simply BE. To taste my food, to stare at the sky. To take a walk without rushing to get back for something else.

One book I brought was a novel. The other was a recommendation from a friend: Wintering, by Katherine May.

It’s a slim little book, nonfiction, and published in 2020 so we can all be forgiven if we haven’t heard of it, like I hadn’t. But it is important, and continues the thought I had from my last blog: that we’re all still navigating trauma, and healing from it.

This book talks about winter as a season that we experience in life – emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually. Not just a time when the thermometer dips and we go reaching for wool socks – but those same things played out in our hearts and minds and bodies.

Sometimes, you can see these winters coming a mile off – the death of a loved one after a long illness, perhaps – and sometimes they startle you with their suddenness: the loss of a job, or a health crisis.

What I found helpful about this book wasn’t just naming the winter for what it is, but the way that Katherine leans on different traditions to help teach us how we can prepare for winters and how we can navigate them when they do come.

She goes to the Arctic Circle and sees the northern lights; she starts cold-water swimming in the freezing waters off the English coast; she visits Stonehenge at the winter solstice and even attends a Santa Lucia service at a local church. She interacts with cultures and traditions that have a particular experience of winter, and she learns from them.

I encourage you to find the book and read it in its entirety, but for now, here are a few thoughts from it that I will carry with me in this season and in my next winter:

Winter invites us to draw inward. To tend to our homes, to care for what has been neglected or overlooked during a busy summer season – to repair what is broken, to dust off old treasures, to linger over ideas or meals or conversations.

Winter allows, even encourages, us to rest more. Longer evenings, colder temperatures, draw us to earlier bedtimes and slower days.

Winter shows us, with its sparseness and harshness, how to look for and find light and hope in the smallest of ways. The beauty of a fresh snowfall. The warmth of a mug of cocoa. The hope of a robin’s song.

These are all physical and practical ideas, but they speak to inner realities. When I’m going through a spiritual winter, I do need less activity and more contemplation. Less busyness and more rest. Less striving and more simplicity.

I hope you’ll look this up, and read it too. And I hope it will help in your next wintering.


Pastor Jen


Dedicated to singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn and his song, “Lord of the Starfields”, the words of which appear here in italics.

wondering what to write

is it possible to find words for glory seen

smelled, sniffled allergies and all

life growing everywhere, sultry wind

soothing, bringing to life in me

gratitude, awe, wonder —

wings of the storm cloud

beginning and end

You make my heart leap

Like a banner in the wind.

all creation gives thanks, me too.

taking time to lay down and watch new life

blowing around blue skies

seems impossible after winter past

and all its sorrows and calamities.

smell now of barbecues and lilacs

whetting appetites for backyard gatherings

food and loved ones.

Lord of the star fields

Sower of life

Heaven and Earth are

Full of your light

all creation gives thanks, me too.

light is here before my morning eyes open

light stays late, sets slow,

star-shine takes over, wooing me

into conversation with the

Lord of the star fields,

Ancient of Days

Universe Maker,

here’s a song in your praise…

all creation gives thanks, me too.

critter cries, a pentecost symphony

clattering chirps and barks and howls

speaking from where they are

that life has come back again

together they sing

Sower of life

heaven and earth are

full of your light.

all creation gives thanks, me too.

want to stay here, right here

forever in this glowing life

with creation and its creatures

growing, full of life

Oh, Love that fires the sun,

keep me burning.

Summer, stay!

all creation gives thanks, me too.

Peter Hawkinson