Category Archives: Spirtual Services

Greetings from Spiritual Services at Christian Opportunity Cente

Each year we invite congregations in the communities where COC serves to celebrate our brothers and sisters in Christ who live with disabilities by observing the second Sunday in October as Disability Awareness Sunday.
Disability Awareness Sunday encourages congregations to be places of belonging where everyone is given opportunity to discover their gifts and to engage in ministry, with a particular focus on people with disabilities.
Since many of the people COC supports are not currently attending church to protect their health, we’d like to approach Disability Awareness Sunday a bit differently this year. Instead of creating space in worship services for disability recognition, we are presenting the invitation for building a relationship through a pen pal system.
How It Works
Each church member who expresses interest will get paired with a person COC supports to exchange letters. Every 4 to 6 weeks is a good routine to follow for sending a letter. In the meantime, the church member can expect to receive a letter from a person supported by COC. Content of the letters can include discussions about hobbies, favorite Bible verses, food, places you’ve visited, movies you like to watch, games you like to play, or books you like to read. Cards are also a great way to keep in touch.
Who to Contact
Please reach out to me in Spiritual Services at COC. You may send me an e-mail message at: mdebruin@christianopportunity.org, or give me a call at 641-628-8087 x. 1101. After I’ve heard from you, I will pair you up with a person COC supports so that you may begin a friendship through letters.
All correspondence will go through the Spiritual Services office at COC in order to avoid sharing potentially confidential information. This means that the only mailing address you will need to use is the one for COC’s main offices in Pella. I will supply that information when you contact me.
Please consider accepting this invitation to reach out to a person in your community with disabilities. It is a wonderful way to bless someone and to receive a blessing in return.
Grace and peace,
Michelle De Bruin
Spiritual Services for Christian Opportunity Center
In healthy churches, everyone belongs, everyone serves.

Shelter and Shield

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge. His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, or the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him. I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:1-6; 14-16

I’ve been trying my best to avoid writing a devotional on the topic of the Coronavirus just because I’ve witnessed some overreaction to the threat and I didn’t want to risk adding to the fears. Neither did anything I was coming up with to say seem fitting. Scripture can start to sound trite in moments of crisis, and since I wanted to make sure and offer only helpful words in my weekly devotionals, I was intending to stay the course and focus only on Lent.

But the situation is changing quickly and affecting us right here at home with the cancellation of our church services, the closing of our schools, and the careful health screening of our COC community. The time has come to interrupt our meditation on Lent and focus on the situation facing us.

Psalm 91 makes bold promises. It says God will cover, deliver, protect, answer, rescue, honor, and show salvation. This is a pretty exhaustive list. It affirms and builds on what we learned about God in Psalm 103. He is a good Father, attentive to his children and always at work on their behalf.

One of the reasons I chose Psalm 91 as the Scripture for this crisis-themed devotional is because of the use of the word pestilence. This is what we are dealing with in the spread of destructive disease. Verse 3 says he will deliver from the deadly pestilence. It is mentioned again in verse 6. The psalm says we will not fear the terror of night or the arrows that fly by day or the pestilence that stalks in darkness or the plague that destroys at midday.

This seems a rather outrageous thing to say. Anyone can get sick. Anyone can get shot down by a flying arrow of destruction. When disease seems to be everywhere and spreading out of control, who are we to claim any degree of safety and protection from it?

Look at the psalm a little closer. It is written to a certain group of people. That group includes those who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, and who find refuge in God. These are the ones who are assured, as verse 15 states, that God will be with them in trouble.

If we look further, we discover that there is one more phrase on which all the deliverance and all the protection depends. It is in verse 4: His faithfulness is a shield and rampart. There it is. We can take refuge in God and trust in him because his faithfulness shields us. The verse uses the word rampart together with the word shield. A rampart is an elevated mound of land with a fortress built on it for the purpose of defense. God is our shield, and he is our defense. He is faithful. We can rest and be at peace behind these layers of protection.

If you are wondering today how to make sure you are living in the shelter of the Most High, and want to continue to remain in his shadow, here are some ways to enter in for the first time, or to stay in that place and not wander away from God’s care:

Spend time reading the psalms. If you are like me, this book of poetry has been bred into you from a young age through song and prayer. I find that the words that surface in times of anxiety are words from the psalms. If you are new to the psalms, it is never too late to learn to love them and find comfort in them. Here are some psalms to consider reading over the next weeks: Psalm 23, Psalm 45, Psalm 84, Psalm 91, and Psalm 103.

Practice generosity. Find ways to share, to support others, and to give away. Those who find refuge in God are rich in so many ways that a frightened, anxious world needs. We can be examples of strength and peace, the very things so many others are searching for.

Continue with the Lenten practices of confession and prayer. This opens up greater capacity in our lives to trust God more deeply.

His faithfulness shields you. It sustains you in times of trouble, and it gives you a safe place to rest.

Prayer

Eternal God, your Son is the healer of our sickness. We pray for those who are ill or who are passing through difficult times, that they know the love of friends to support them. May we all live in the power of Christ that sustains us. Amen.

Rainbow Chasers

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on earth. Genesis 9:17

Wednesday afternoon, I sat at the kitchen table with my son Mark, a senior in high school who is a young man ready to explore the world and chase down some big dreams. We talked of the future, his hopes and concerns as he prepares to go to college. Rain fell outside the windows from a gray sky filled with low clouds.

During a break in our conversation, he checked the weather radar and announced, “The sun will be shining in ten minutes.” He left his chair to gather his camera and other gear usually used for chasing storms and said on his way out the door, “I’m going to go chase a rainbow.”

Mark, the aspiring meteorologist, shifted out of our common world of questions and planning to move into the wistful world of adventure and dreaming. He’s on his way to chase a rainbow. I wonder if in that moment my teenage son heard the Lord’s voice more clearly than many of us do in our entire lifetimes. He heard a call to adventure and discovery, places to look for the misty colors in the air, and to journey to the beginning of some new endeavor. The beginning may appear so translucent he may not realize he stands in it until the clouds break and multi-colored sunlight shimmers over him.

Way back at the beginning, in Genesis 9, God extended the same invitation to Noah. “Be a rainbow chaser,” God said in his institution of this new sign. ‘I establish my covenant with you . . . this is the sign of the covenant . . . for all generations to come. I have set my rainbow in the clouds and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:11-13).

God calls the rainbow his. “I have set my rainbow in the clouds.” He knows its beginning and ending. He knows the span of its stretch, and he knows the meaning of its appearance. The rainbow is a sign of his promise. God promises to preserve our lives, to offer salvation, and to cover us with his protection.

The invitation he offered Noah goes out to us today. “Watch for my sign of the covenant I have made with you,” God says. “I promise to help you and watch over you. I grant you my favor and will spare you from destruction.”

Our journeys of faith are chases after rainbows. Those misty arches of promise fill us with hope and draw us to the place where ethereal vapors bend down to meet our world of question and struggle. Herein lies the adventure. Can we hear the call to live in covenant with a holy God? And when we do, are we ready to chase after him, believing in him as our only source of salvation?

When we find him, all the fullness of his rich promises become ours. Not only have we chased after a rainbow, but we’ve found and claimed it.

“Chase hope. Chase after life, chase my promises. Chase me,” God says.

A Disciple Reflects on the Events of Holy Week

This coming Sunday marks the beginning of the events leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Holy Week runs the gamut of emotions from high celebration on Palm Sunday, to loss and bewilderment on Good Friday, to amazement on the day of resurrection. If I were one of the disciples watching this drama unfold, I am sure I would have felt completely overwhelmed and utterly confused. Here is Jesus, friend and teacher, who everyone hoped would develop a strong military campaign for reclaiming the nation of Israel, in which he would overpower the Romans and take back the inheritance rightfully belonging to the twelve tribes.

But what happened to him instead? Jesus is captured, beaten, and killed. Pilate acknowledged him as the King of the Jews, but in a mocking, taunting sort of way. Not with the pomp and commanding magnificence usually associated with a king. No one wanted to claim as theirs the bloody mass on the cross anyway. A person convicted of blasphemy and hanging between two thieves did not qualify as trustworthy leader material.

It looks like God’s mission failed. He’d sent the Messiah, the one promised to the Jews for their rescue. But this Messiah had only managed to get in trouble with the Jewish Law and was now dying a criminal’s death.

Where was a disciple to look for fulfilled hopes of restoration? Following Jesus might have been a waste of time. Peter returns to fishing. John takes Mary home. Darkness falls.

The cross was actually the best place to look for those dreams of restoration. Friday afternoon with its agony and suffering ushered in a new order. Redemption came as a vulnerable gift, not as a royal decree imposed by force. Saturday’s silence filled with questions hung as mystifying as the torn curtain in the temple. God’s Son had died. The way was now clear to approach him. Maybe this is what those startling events of the past week were all about. Everyone could view the Holy of Holies now, not just a consecrated priest.

The images from Friday probably played through the minds of the disciples over and over again. The verse from the hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross captures what the disciples surely would have felt.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet. Sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did ever such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Sorrow and love. The two qualities of Christ’s crucifixion. It was the best of times for these disciples, knowing their Lord loved them enough to die for them. It was the worst of times, knowing the intense suffering sin caused, and then grieving the loss of him. No one would ever take Jesus’ place. The end had come.

But then Sunday morning arrives. Mary runs into town with the astonishing news of an empty grave. Angels had greeted her with the announcement, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples” (Mark 16:6-7).

Jesus is risen. He conquered death and the grave. Salvation is freely given. Men and women from every nation can receive the forgiveness of their sins. Jesus paid the price. The work is done.

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

Make a Wise Investment

On Wednesday evening, I attended a fantastic community event hosted by the Pella Youth Coalition (PYC). My husband and I are members of the initial team of people who got together this spring with the vision of addressing the trend of substance abuse among the teens in our community. Comprised of concerned parents, law officers, school principals, youth pastors, and non-profit leaders, the PYC is a compassionate group who cares deeply about our community.

 The mission of the PYC prompted my thoughts for our devotional this week. So, whether you live in Pella or not, I trust the truths you read here are things you can apply to your own daily lives and spheres of influence.

 Reach Out to the Community

 Five courageous people gave personal testimonies Wednesday night. One of them was a local mother who had been caught off guard by the drug activity in her neighborhood that eventually affected her son’s life. Her story was read by someone else. Another person, whose story was also read by a person in attendance, is still in jail because of the effect alcohol and drugs had on their life.

 The other three people were at the meeting and stood before everyone to tell their story. I commend them, but what I found so interesting was the fact that all those stories had a common theme of relationship. One of them said, “If I’d just had a relationship with a person I trusted and felt safe with, my life would have gone in a very different direction.” Another met God while in jail. Her sobriety is due to the redemption God worked in her life. She has since found safe relationships.

 We as staff at COC do this for people as part of our daily job. It made me proud to sit in that auditorium and know I worked for an organization who already serves and loves very well. My encouragement to you today is to take those skills of compassion, listening, and providing safe places, and use them to reach out to the youth in your neighborhoods and congregations.

 Our children are suffering a silent crisis. They don’t know how to articulate what it is they need, and they don’t always know where to go to find it. We can help them find what they need by being someone in their life who accepts them, brings out their best, listens, helps them grow in relationship with the Lord, and guides them in making good decisions. This is really what our kids are looking for, and we, as people who are on their side, can give it.

 Spend Time with Your Family

The second concern on my mind today is for our own families. We live in an era of history when many experiments are being performed in an attempt to redefine the foundations of what it means to be a family. I have one simple admonishment to make. Please make the time to sit down to a meal with your entire family as often as you can. The statistic was shared at Wednesday night’s meeting that children who sit down to an evening meal with their family five times per week have better chances at success in emotional stability, sense of identity, and a higher overall ability to function. This kind of investment in our children’s character is worth saying “no” to all the other pressures that compete for our energy and attention.

At the dinner table is where values can be shared. Heritage is passed on. A discussion takes place. Devotions are read. This is one of the best things we can do for our children, which is to promise them a place where they are nourished physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sunday dinner is still a thing at my house. My husband and I are both blessed with jobs that allow us Sundays free. But even if this isn’t the case in your home, designate a meal time as your stand-in Sunday dinner.

I encourage this because we as parents not only have the privilege of providing our families with nourishment, but also with Sabbath rest. Our homes must also be places where our children are given permission to leave the pressures of excelling and performing. Home should be a place of rest. If your home does not allow for this, please consider making changes so that peace rules. Kids catch on to strife and conflict. It affeccts them for a lifetime.

 Please join me in the call to influence our youth, and therefore the future of our communities, for good.

 Grace and peace,

Michelle De Bruin

COC Spirtiual Services

Our mission is to Integrate Christian values in empowering individuals with disabilities to realize their full potential.