Pandemic Psalm

I share this beautiful Psalm by Sharon Seyfarth Garner. 


A few summers ago, Sharon and I met at a ministry retreat in the beautiful Estes Park, Colorado.  She introduced me to  her prayerful work with mandalas which inspired me to lead an Advent “Coloring with Mandalas” series based on her work.

Want to learn more about Sharon and the ministries she leads?

Visit —  Belly of the Whale Ministries

Want to learn more about Sharon’s work with praying, coloring and mandalas?

Visit — Praying with Mandalas

Peace be with you all this day,

Pastor Melinda

PS.  Join me for a yoga Thursday nights at 7pm via FB Live (@BendandBrew).  I will read this “Pandemic Psalm” as part of our practice together today (April 23).

>>> Seeking Connection >>>

What is it called when your computer or phone keeps searching and searching to connect to WiFi?  Whatever that is??

That is my inner life everyday in this pandemic.

My extrovert, verbal and physical communicator self is on OVERDRIVE seeking connection in the ways that I am hardwired to do so.

That means … my inner life looks like this:


.. while my outer life looks like this:

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 12.12.57 PM

And I’m just going to admit it.  Skype and Zoom and all virtual connectivity is tiring.  I know I’m not alone in this; it’s tiring for all of us in different ways — not just me.

While connecting through these tools are absolutely, no-doubt-about-it, incredibly helpful to continue to work, meet and connect right now, it is tiring, nonetheless.

Some days?  It’s even just utterly exhausting.  I explain it like this.

My body keeps reaching out – sending invisible, subtle signals to communicate with other people … but all the signals go unmet right now.  My signals won’t connect because they can’t.  Zoom can’t replicate our in-person connectivity.  Zoom can’t replicate the subtle nuance to our human communication methods, neither verbal nor non-verbal.

And all of that unmet effort is just plain ole’ exhausting.

So, per Brené Brown (my all-in-#1-gal right now), I am writing myself permission slips.  And I’m writing as many as I need today.  And you bet, I’m going to write as many as I need tomorrow, too.

  • I am granting myself permission to be tired of Zoom’ing.
  • I’m granting myself permission to go outside and run when I should be picking up the disaster that is my house after morning & afternoon online school & in-home play in between.
  • I’m granting myself permission to worry less about the well-planned and well-balanced meal that somehow gets onto the table tonight.
  • I’m granting myself permission to screw up.  Because THAT right there?  is a sure bet.  Today.  Tomorrow.  In the next five minutes …
  • And?  I’m granting myself permission to forget that I’ve granted myself permission.

I invite you to allow yourself the space to be tired.  To be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot “do,” and to embrace that your capacity right now might be  diminished.  If the above practice of granting yourself permission helps – DO IT.  I highly recommend it.  I use sticky notes!

And remember … whatever connection you seek, whatever you succeed or fail at, whatever nap you take or don’t take …

You remain loved by God, and you always have a family in the church of God here at Los Altos UMC.

And as Jesus spoke to his scared, “safer-at-home” disciples after his death (John 20:19-20) …

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked …, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20

Peace be with you.

Peace be with you,

~ Pastor Melinda











It is well. With my soul.

It is well with my soul.  I am saying that over and over again in my head and heart.

As I read and re-read Governor Gavin Newsom’s “six goals that must be met to lift California coronavirus order,” in the morning’s LA Times, I found myself breathing deeply.  Again and again.  I was encouraged by the the reporting that “[the state’s] strategy to slow the spread of the virus is working, pointing to relatively low growth in COVID-19 hospitalizations as evidence that staying home and social distancing are preventing a surge of infections.”  But as I kept reading, I found my own suspicions that our “new normal” path is needing to become a prolonged trek of all of us.  What we were forced to throw into place as emergency defense needs to grow into an ongoing strategy for offense against the novel Coronavirus.

Whoa.  Yep.  Long haul with significant and prolonged change lies ahead.  

As I read and breathed, as I took in and began to process what seem to be the inevitable steps ahead, this hymn bubbled up from I know not where.  It just sort of came up and through me, and I started to hum it to myself …

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.

As I hummed to myself, certain images also bubbled up:

Images of the Los Altos UM church gathering tonight in a variety of Brady-Bunch style discipleship small groups over Zoom.  Patterned after our Everyone’s Inn small groups (and prior to that … our Wesleyan heritage), age-based and stage of life and reading groups alike will convene and God will do God’s work amongst the church.

Images of the Los Altos UM expanded church who will gather tomorrow night joining in the practice of yoga poses as a discipline of body prayer via FB live from our sanctuary.

Images of the Los Altos UM in Sunday worship dialogue with Pastor Mark.

Images of our Los Altos UMchildren responding to the children’s Sunday YouTube message and writing their cards and notes to our homebound.


And how all of these spaces are offering places of discipleship, points of relational connection and formation and enhancement.  These spaces have been convened and led by both laity and clergy, and it is this work, these gatherings, this church that offers me great hope in this time.

I wonder what other spaces and people and images and relationships are yet to bubble forth?

You see, even as our civic life has shifted and will continue to emerge, I have no doubt that Jesus is at work amongst and through us.

And while there is deep uncertainty and many questions in my head, it is well with my soul.

Maundy Thursday Love & Video

YouTube Maundy Thursday Video

(Made for you by yours truly)

Whether we are ready or not, here we are.  I’m feeling pretty sure that the early disciples where just as unprepared and weary as I feel today.  But?  God doesn’t need me or you to be prepared.  God needs us to show up, remember, and love.


So here we are: the triuduum of Holy Days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  I invite you this day to join me to simply show up and remember.  And, I have collected a few things to help us on this particular Maundy Thursday journey.

(The Maundy Thursday YouTube video includes most of what is listed below.)


Let’s pray:

Holy God, source of all love,
on the night of his betrayal,
Jesus gave us a new commandment,
to love one another as he loves us.
Write this commandment in our hearts,
and give us the will to serve others
as he was servant of all,
your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 

Let’s read some:  (suggested readings)

  • Exodus 12:1-14  (Scriptural Roots of Passover (preview prior to reading with younger’s)
  • Psalm  116 (Psalm of Comfort in Time of Need)
  • Gospel: John 13:1-17, 31b-35 (Jesus’ foot washing; New Commandment)
  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26  (Eucharist Text)


Let’s listen: “Be Still My Soul” played by Derek Gordon


Let’s pray some more.  Light a candle if you have one.


Prayer of Intercession for All of Us

United with Christians around the globe on this Maundy Thursday, let us pray for the church, the earth, our troubled world, and all in need, responding to each petition with the words, Hear us, holy God. Your mercy is great.


Blessed are you, holy God, for the church.  Strengthen the body of your people even when we cannot assemble for worship. Grant our pastor and church leaders faithfulness and creativity for their ministry in this time. 


Hear us, holy God. Your mercy is great.

Blessed are you, holy God, for this good earth and for the flowering of springtime. Save dry lands from destructive droughts. Protect the waters from pollution. Allow in this time the planting of fields for food. Make us into caregivers of your plants and animals. 


Hear us, holy God. Your mercy is great. 

Blessed are you, holy God, for our nation. Inspire all people to live in peace. Grant wisdom and courage to heads of state and to legislators as they face the coronavirus. Lead our elected officials to champion the cause of the needy. 


Hear us, holy God. Your mercy is great. 

Blessed are you, holy God, for you accompany suffering humanity with love. Abide wherever the coronavirus has struck. Visit all who mourn their dead; all who have contracted the virus; those who are quarantined or stranded away from home; those who have lost their employment; those who fear the present and the future. Support physicians, nurses, and home health aides; medical researchers; and the World Health Organization. 


Hear us, holy God. Your mercy is great. 

Blessed are you, holy God, for you care for the needy. We beg you to feed the hungry, protect the refugee, embrace the distressed, house the homeless, nurse the sick, and comfort the dying. Especially we pray for those we name before you now. 


Hear us, holy God. Your mercy is great.

Receive, merciful God, our prayers, for the sake of Jesus Christ, the host of our meal of life, who died and rose that we might live with you, now and forever.

God doesn’t need me or you to be prepared.  God needs us to show up, remember, and love.


Pastor Melinda

Not to Easter Sunday. Not yet.

For years, I have been drawn to two particular “days” of our Holy Week calendar:

  • Maundy Thursday
  • Holy Saturday

Not surprisingly, this year, both days take on deeper, extremely different meanings for me than in other years.  And, I was considering that when our church staff meeting discussed Easter this year, and my lead pastor* asked if I would prepare a YouTube meal blessing for Maundy Thursday. (I’m still figuring that out; stay tuned?)

There are lots of conversations about how the Christian tradition will celebrate Holy Week and Easter this week — in the days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are lots of conversations about how the Jewish tradition will celebrate Passover this week — in the days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we enter into week four (you BET I’m counting) of our safer-at-home, safe distancing “new-normals,” the honest truth is that now more than ever …  I am grounded, planted, rooted in Holy Saturday.

I’m definitely not to Easter Sunday.  Not yet.

In my heart, I always am.  I’m a follower of the risen Christ.  I am a disciple of the Jesus who committed her life to the hope I find in the resurrected Jesus.  That is a part of me forever and ever — and with that in mind — when I’m able to regain a much larger perspective than what I currently hold —  I will be celebrating with you all in great fashion.

But here’s my truth this day: while I celebrate Easter, I’m not yet to Easter Sunday.

And, I may not be for awhile.

I’m not on the bandwagon of Easter MUST be celebrated on this Sunday, April 12 with fanfare and gusto — just like always!

Friends?  Um?  It’s not just like ALWAYS.

This is as different a life right now as anyone of us have gone through.  What I need now is not a huge celebration instructing me that EVERYTHING IS JUST LIKE NORMAL.  Because it’s not.  I DON’T NEED fanfare and egg hunts screaming at me everything is “JUST LIKE ALWAYS.”

Because, it’s not.  It’s just not.  My kids remain longer and longer in their pajamas on a daily basis.  They’ve eaten more sugar cereal and seen more Pokémon in the past three weeks than in their entire lives — combined.  We need to write down the day and date every day to keep track! of just those simple things.  We are now ALL doing KidsBop aerobic activities to just MOVE.  Who knew all of those Step-Aerobic classes would come back to HELP ME at any point?   (And allow me to simply say … no step aerobic class ever looked this good, this in sync, this colorful and perfect … let alone yours truly in said class.)


But, even though I’m not to the Easter Sunday that so many of us have come to expect, I am with you.  I am with you, and everyone else who is waiting in this wild space of Holy Saturday.

In the words of Rev. Allison Lanza (Associate Pastor at Ridglea Christian Church, Fort Worth), The very first Easter was not in a crowded worship space with singing and praising. On the very first Easter, the disciples were locked in their house…Alone in their homes, they dared to believe that hope was possible, that the long night was over and morning had broken.”

Holy Saturday is a time of waiting and unknown and waiting some more.  In our homes, at a distance.  A little or a lot afraid but knowing all the while that Easter Sunday will arrive while we wait as the Easter people we are.  And when that time comes, when it is time for us to come together, we will celebrate in old and new ways with different meaning and purpose and poignancy to our gatherings …. and yet still and always as followers of the risen Christ.

Blessings to you all.

PS.  Now?  Go — try some KidsBop just for fun!

* My lead pastor is the Rev. Mark Sturgess (check out his blog)!

Now more than ever …

“Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

~ Matthew 21: 9

animal cute donkey nature
Photo by Nilina on

We all make mistakes.

We all get scared.

We all experience loneliness.  And right now?  

Together, we are all undergoing an unprecedented time of mandated isolation; an unheard era of significant transition at lightning speed.

Overnight, our community gatherings have been closed and we have had to adjust.  Our daily routines have been smashed to shreds, and we have had to adjust.  For many, our very means of sustenance (income, food, shelter) have been utterly upended, and we have had to adjust.  

It’s a time of anxiety, loneliness, and fear.

It’s a time of hoarding and grasping to hold onto certainty. 

It’s a time of unknowns and seeking answers to questions that don’t have answers yet.  Or ever.

All of this fast shifting and upheaval has brought to mind conversations that I continue to have with some young people in my life.  There is this thing that I say to my own children when they are concerned that something they have done will “take my love away.”  Or something that they have done will make them somehow “less lovable.”  Or that someone will come into my life — or our lives — that will ”take some love away from them” in order to “give that love” to this new person.

When I first encountered these questions, I didn’t really know what to say except that I would love them no matter what.  Then, we talked some more, and these are the words that started forming in response:

“Love isn’t something that has an end to it.  Love only gets bigger and bigger.”

And this is what I am reminded of — in these times that we are all undergoing, together —- as we read once more the Palm Sunday verses —  love isn’t finite.  I am reminded of this all because right now?  there is a much more prevalent understanding of our love in our lives, in our communities, in our surrounding culture.

It is an understanding that love is something finite.

It is an understanding that there is an end to love, an end of love.

It is an understanding the love is a commodity.

It is an understanding that love can be earned or bought or sold or exchanged.

It is an understanding that love is a human construct that we can control and dole out or take away at will.

But, Jesus entry into Jerusalem teaches us — albeit — in a very large, jubilant way — that love isn’t ours.  We didn’t create love, and we don’t end love.  

God is love.  God brought each one of us into the world out of love.  God will end our human lives with the freedom of death to be resurrected into life eternal.

And on this Palm Sunday, we retell and reaffirm now more than ever that this is who we trust God to be and what we trust love to be.

Jesus doesn’t enter the city on a warhorse in a ticker-tape parade, and with a mighty army in tow.  Rather, he enters Jerusalem on a low-bred donkey, on a path of thrown-down cloaks and last-minute-grabbed-palms.  This is the path of love that Jesus walks.

A path of where the poor and the rich walk together.

A path where the community steps up, stays-at-home, and makes masks.

A path where within days, 1,000’s of schoolteachers learned new ways of teaching and parents learned new ways of working.

A path where children write cards to the homebound and folks step up to deliver groceries.

A path where the very sidewalks are chalked with artwork scribbles proclaiming that we are Stronger Together.

I have this image in my head that if Jesus were to come into Long Beach today, his donkey would walk over rainbow chalk art, and the path would be riddled with our most-prized commodity —  Toilet Paper.

This is love.

This is God at work.

And?  this is not a commodity.  

It’s not something to be bought or sold.

It’s not something finite to be hoarded up, withheld or rationed out.

There’s always enough love to share and there’s always room for our hearts to grow bigger.

To some extent?  Maybe that can be our greatest focus right now.  

(I don’t know about you but I’m truthfully overwhelmed with the options of how productive I could be – the things I could be doing with all of this enforced “free” time … which actually isn’t “free” at all.  I’m still working (in all sort of new ways), making meals, and guiding my children at home while living through global pandemic.  How about you?)

But maybe this is it.  Maybe we need this message more than ever.  Today.  In the midst of a global pandemic.

Because?  Maybe this Palm Sunday, we are called more than ever to speak out, in all the ways that we can, what love is and what love is not.  What love looks like in the midst of a global pandemic.  That Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the events of our ensuing Holy Week negates thoroughly the understanding of love as finite or love as a commodity.

Jesus us shows the very essence of love in today’s verses from Matthew, and the events of Holy Week.  

This past week, Pastor Mark and I learned once again (week two!) how to lead online small groups via Skype and Zoom.  There were definitely bumps, blunders and frustrations along the way.  It is not the same as meeting in person, no doubt!  But?  There was community forming and continuing to walk and grow together.  There was laughter and hope and persistence.  It was clearly evident once again… our very human need to convene and be together.

This is love.

This is God at work.

In the small groups that I lead, as we discussed the verses from Matthew and the ensuing ones describing Holy Week, what came up again and again? was that Jesus knew he was to be betrayed and he stayed.  Jesus knew that the very people closest to him, his “tribe” – the disciples – were going to betray him.  Judas, Peter, the whole lot of them?  They were going to betray and deny Jesus, and in fact, be the key perpetrators of his most brutal death on a cross.

And still?  Jesus stayed.

He walked the path with God that was set before him.

There will be times — right now, every day, maybe every hour when we will make mistakes; when we will express frustration and anger in maybe less than helpful ways; when we are fearful; when we doubt and ask why.  When we experience loneliness and deep, deep fear.

In those times, I would like to ask you to remember the following:

Jesus entered Jerusalem to the laudatory shouts of the crowd.  Jesus walked the path – celebrating the Seder with his close circle – and continued onward.  Together with the very people who would hurt him to the death.

God loves us in our fear.  God loves us in our loneliness.  God loves us in our betrayals and denials of God’s goodness in this world.

This is an unending love.  This is a love that only grows bigger and bigger.  A love that grows so big that it is well beyond our comprehension.

Jesus entered humbly, peacefully, into Jerusalem, knowing that he was entering into the final days of his life with us all.   

Jesus stayed.

He walked the path with God that was set before him.

He stuck with it until the very end, and showed us how this is done.

None of us — except a few of our elder most elders — have walked through a global pandemic before.  

God has.  And God will.

This is love.

This is God at work.

Now more than ever, this is our time to lean into and lift up — this exact message.  The message alone won’t provide the COVID-19 vaccine that we desperately need … but it will bring the human science to the forefront and invite the willingness, cooperation and collaboration of the science industry to the forefront to get the job done.  It will empower the child chalk art and the folks at their mask-making sewing machines and the front-line doctors, nurses, technicians, and their families.  It will offer messages of much needed gratitude to our community leaders and ”thinking of you” notes to those who might be a little lonely.

This is love.

This is God at work.


Post your Palms!

This Sunday, April 5 is Palm Sunday.  It is!  Whether we celebrate together in one place as Christian community, or whether we celebrate together all over and throughout our communities, it is Palm Sunday this Sunday.

This is an opportunity to lift up our living Savior in the midst of such deep unsettledness and uprooting.  This is a time to speak empathy, compassion, servanthood and thankfulness for our God and Savior, Jesus the Christ, and his message for us today of eternal love and freedom.

Even in times such as these.  

Especially in times such as these.

I wish I could gather with you.  I wish that I could see your faces and laugh with you and our guest donkeys (ok, ok, “MINI-HORSES”).  I wish that I could have a pancake with you and hear our choirs and see our children and elders celebrating Jesus’ peaceful journey into Jerusalem.  But that is not our path, not this year.

We have another path to walk.  But we will still walk it together.  We will be the Christian community together — in the “new normal” way.   Here’s how:


  1.  Get a palm of some kind.
    1. You can get a palm from your yard, street – wherever
    2. Or?  just cut one out from a piece of paper and write PALM on it!
  2. Attach your palm to your front door.
  3. Take a photo of your palm on the door, post it to your social media account and tag us!  
    1. Facebook:  @losaltosumc
    2. Instagram:  @laumc_lbc

I can hardly wait to see the palms of peace throughout our community this Sunday morning.   If you don’t have social media, send your photo to the us via email:

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

~ Matthew 21:6-11

Peace be upon you and yours this day,

Pastor Melinda

My Go-To prayer

For an extreme extrovert who is also a strong verbal thinker and communicator, the “safer-at-home” order takes on a whole new dimension.  And by whole new dimension, what I’m really saying is … being cooped up for hours on end with the same 3 other people … is … rough.

adorable blur breed close up
Photo by on

And it’s week three – with all indications – that we have more yet ahead.

As a whole, our collective, crisis-driven-high-adrenaline response is naturally slowing, and the reality of the long haul of this … is settling upon us all.

And with that in mind, I share with you my “go-to-prayer” for this time and every time –   because it’s not only the fear and unknown of the Coronavirus pandemic upheaval that drives us to prayer!  We are a praying people!

This particular prayer was shared with me by a dear disciple sister on the journey, Athena, many moons ago.  It is taken from Isaiah 43:1-4 & 49:15-16.  I share it now with you dear disciples and fellow sojourners.

(You simply insert your name where it reads my name.)

Thus says the Lord

… who created you, O Melinda

… who formed you, O Melinda

Do not fear,

for I have redeemed you.

I have called you by name, Melinda

you are mine.

When you shall pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

and through the rivers,

they shall not overwhelm you.

When you walk through the fire

you shall not get burned,

and the flame

shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord you God,

the Holy One of Israel,

your Savior, Melinda.

You are precious in my sight

and honored and I love you, Melinda.

Can a woman forget her nursing child

or show no compassion

for the child of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet, I will not forget you.

See, I have inscribed, Melinda,

on the palm of my hands.


If you are seeking connection and community, please do join an online Zoom group led by Pastor Mark, or the Facebook live yoga session.  Also subscribe to our YouTube channel for beautiful music offered by our church musicians, and more to come in the days ahead.  You will not want to miss this!

You can learn more about these and other ways we are responding as an entire church by visiting:

Church Website:

Facebook page:  @LosAltosUMC

Facebook (Bend and Brew):  @BendandBrew

Instagram page:  @laumc_lbc

YouTube:  Los Altos UMC YouTube

Peace be upon you this day.

I am praying on my knees next to you … at my safe, social distance.  😉

Pastor Melinda