By God’s Side: September 23, 2020

Weekly Inspirational Reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles

September 23, 2020

The Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles“Jesus said to them, ‘Come away with Me. Let us go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while.’ “ (Matthew 6:31)

Not long ago I had the opportunity of bringing our dog, Bendix, along with me to the office. I do not do it very often, although I thoroughly enjoy having him with me. I am not sure if he finds it terribly exciting to sit in my office while I do my work, although he loves seeing the other church staff members and making the rounds to where they are working.

On this particular day, I had a number of things that I needed to do, but I did not have any meetings scheduled, which meant that I could work at my own pace.

I soon discovered that I was not working at my pace, but rather, I was working at Bendix’s pace. He seemed eager to have me close. So rather than being behind my desk, I was seated on the sofa. And rather than having a computer screen in front of me, I worked using my smart phone – something that I had become accustomed to doing during our COVID-19 precautions and restrictions, because it allowed me to work in a variety of locations around the house. There is something about being in a different place, even in the same space, that is refreshing. It gives you a new slant on things. Maybe you do things a slightly different way than you might have, if you were in the same old spot – even if it is not very far away. I certainly felt that the day was one in which I was able to get a lot done, and be creative, even though I had to stop and go for several walks in the course of the day because Bendix wanted it that way.

But mostly, Bendix wanted me to stay close, which, for me, was a joy, not a burden, and brought a sense of calm even in the midst of focused work. Give it a try. Sometimes shifting your chair, moving a few feet away from where you have been, allowing yourself to accomplish things in a slightly different way, will benefit you, and will benefit others.

The Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles
Interim Senior Pastor, Shadyside Presbyterian Church

About Dr. Dalles

Read more about Dr. Dalles.

Watch a brief video introducing a series of conversations with Dr. Dalles.

About By God’s Side

Shadyside Presbyterian Church publishes By God’s Side, a weekly series of inspirational reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles, to support you in your spiritual journey. These pastoral messages appear in the blog section of the church website each week. (Our weekly e-newsletter includes an excerpt to remind you to read along with us regularly; click here to subscribe to the e-newsletter if you do not already receive it.) We hope this regular feature will help you to draw closer to God’s side in your life of faith.

Read more reflections by Dr. Dalles from By God’s Side.

By God’s Side: September 16, 2020

Weekly Inspirational Reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles

September 16, 2020

The Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles“Are you strangers?”

We had just finished a picnic dinner in the park and were on our way back to our car. As we walked along, we passed one of those large playground equipment castles. There was one little boy having a great time playing on it. His father was sitting nearby on a bench watching him. As we walked by, he said, “Hi,” and so did we.

And then he asked, “Are you strangers?”

He was obviously processing something that his parents had taught him. He was putting it to use, correctly. From the bench, his dad smiled. And we smiled. Then, Judy responded, “Yes, you’re right. I guess we are. But we don’t have to be.” At which, the little boy smiled and went back to his playing.

That is a model for all who follow Jesus Christ. One of the real joys that comes to us nearly each day is this opportunity to go from being strangers to not having to be.

Take a moment today to think about the people that you consider your very best friends. Think about how you met them. Think about that God-given transition from being strangers to being friends. You deeply cherish that friendship.

There is probably an opportunity to befriend someone new, an opportunity that is waiting for you. Someone that God is bringing into your life. Right now. The joyful truth of the Christian life is that we are no longer strangers. May God help you live into this truth today.

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.”  (Ephesians 2:19)

The Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles
Interim Senior Pastor, Shadyside Presbyterian Church

About Dr. Dalles

Read more about Dr. Dalles.

Watch a brief video introducing a series of conversations with Dr. Dalles.

About By God’s Side

Shadyside Presbyterian Church publishes By God’s Side, a weekly series of inspirational reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles, to support you in your spiritual journey. These pastoral messages appear in the blog section of the church website each week. (Our weekly e-newsletter includes an excerpt to remind you to read along with us regularly; click here to subscribe to the e-newsletter if you do not already receive it.) We hope this regular feature will help you to draw closer to God’s side in your life of faith.

Read more reflections by Dr. Dalles from By God’s Side.

By God’s Side: September 9, 2020

Weekly Inspirational Reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles

September 9, 2020

The Reverend Dr. John A. DallesOne of the most fascinating episodes in Genesis is the account of Noah, and the ark, and the animals that he collected, and the flood. There is so much in that story. Sometimes we overlook the fact that God gave Noah very clear instructions about how to build that ark. For instance, we read this in Genesis 6:16: “Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle, and upper decks.”

God made sure there was a door in the side of the ark. A door that one could open and close. A door for going in. A door for coming out. It strikes me that, in life, we have doors opening and closing all the time. We may feel just now that the door has closed on what we have always been used to, ever since March. The pandemic has made what was normal obsolete. I hear people talk about a “new normal,” even though they are not quite sure what that is going to be. It is sort of emerging.

We have stepped out of one reality and into another. And as we do that, maybe it is important to ask the question, “Where was God?”, in the midst of what was going on with Noah and the ark. Was God with them before the flood? During the flood? After the flood? Catastrophic though it was, I believe the answer to all those questions is, “Yes.” And if God was with them, then, we can count on God to be with us now – when doors open and close; and the rains fall; when the floodwaters rise. But also, when it stops raining; the sun comes out; and we can emerge into what is new. Let us have that confidence that we are by God’s side – no matter what.

The Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles
Interim Senior Pastor, Shadyside Presbyterian Church

About Dr. Dalles

Read more about Dr. Dalles.

Watch a brief video introducing a series of conversations with Dr. Dalles.

About By God’s Side

Shadyside Presbyterian Church publishes By God’s Side, a weekly series of inspirational reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles, to support you in your spiritual journey. These pastoral messages appear in the blog section of the church website each week. (Our weekly e-newsletter includes an excerpt to remind you to read along with us regularly; click here to subscribe to the e-newsletter if you do not already receive it.) We hope this regular feature will help you to draw closer to God’s side in your life of faith.

Read more reflections by Dr. Dalles from By God’s Side.

By God’s Side: September 2, 2020

Weekly Inspirational Reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles

September 2, 2020

The Reverend Dr. John A. DallesWhen I received my first call, to the First Presbyterian Church of South Bend in Indiana, many of my Pennsylvania friends expressed surprise. Specifically, they found the location surprising. Indeed, they said, “You mean there really are Presbyterians in South Bend?” They asked that question because, of course, Notre Dame is in South Bend; so the assumption that the city itself is all Roman Catholic would not be unreasonable. Even so, there are actually five different Presbyterian congregations in South Bend. In addition to the one that I served, not too far away was another congregation called Sunnyside Presbyterian Church. The name fascinated me because, being a native Pittsburgh Presbyterian, I was well aware of our church, Shadyside Presbyterian Church. We all know the origins of its name – that it was named for Thomas Aiken’s farm, which led to the name of the railroad station stop, which was just at the foot of Amberson Avenue until the 1950s. That very same railroad station provided our congregation’s first home.

South Bend’s Sunnyside Presbyterian Church got its name because it was located east of First Presbyterian Church on the east side of the Saint Joseph River – on what was considered the sunny side of town, because it is on the side of town where the sun comes up. Like our own church, it is a warm and wonderful congregation, and, knowing about both churches through most of my ministry, I always found it a good reminder that, whether we are experiencing a day on the Shadyside or the Sunnyside, God is with us. Sometimes God calls us to come and rest in the shade, and experience the renewal God gives us there. And other times God asks us to step into the sunshine, to go as God directs. We need both in our lives, in order to thrive as Christians. Sunnyside or Shadyside, today stay close to God’s side.

The Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles
Interim Senior Pastor, Shadyside Presbyterian Church

About Dr. Dalles

Read more about Dr. Dalles.

Watch a brief video introducing a series of conversations with Dr. Dalles.

About By God’s Side

Shadyside Presbyterian Church publishes By God’s Side, a weekly series of inspirational reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles, to support you in your spiritual journey. These pastoral messages appear in the blog section of the church website each week. (Our weekly e-newsletter includes an excerpt to remind you to read along with us regularly; click here to subscribe to the e-newsletter if you do not already receive it.) We hope this regular feature will help you to draw closer to God’s side in your life of faith.

Read more reflections by Dr. Dalles from By God’s Side.

By God’s Side: August 26, 2020

Weekly Inspirational Reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles

August 26, 2020

The Reverend Dr. John A. DallesThroughout the Bible, there are many places where people find themselves in God’s presence, unexpectedly. So much so, that we might say it is part of God’s plan of interacting with people to come upon them when they least expect it. While it is good to place ourselves intentionally in God’s presence, through worship and in prayer, God certainly is not limited in any way from connecting with us in other times – what we might call ordinary times.

Let us say that we are going about our usual daily routine. God can and does meet us there. You will recall Brother Lawrence, who made a point of letting his fellow Christians know that he felt very close to God when doing the chores in the kitchen. Likewise, the author of the beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace,” similarly pointed out that God often comes close when we are going about the ordinary stuff of life. One of the best reminders of that truth might be Moses, when he was out in the wilderness, tending the sheep of his father-in-law, Jethro, as he had done day after day, week after week; a routine, work-a-day existence, into which God came, suddenly. There God was – in the midst of that bush that burned, yet was not consumed.

Scripture says that it can happen to anyone – and probably will happen to you. Today, make sure that, like Moses, you do what God intends you to do: turning aside to see the burning bush – turning to be by God’s side.

The Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles
Interim Senior Pastor, Shadyside Presbyterian Church

About Dr. Dalles

Read more about Dr. Dalles.

Watch a brief video introducing a series of conversations with Dr. Dalles.

About By God’s Side

Shadyside Presbyterian Church publishes By God’s Side, a weekly series of inspirational reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles, to support you in your spiritual journey. These pastoral messages appear in the blog section of the church website each week. (Our weekly e-newsletter includes an excerpt to remind you to read along with us regularly; click here to subscribe to the e-newsletter if you do not already receive it.) We hope this regular feature will help you to draw closer to God’s side in your life of faith.

Read more reflections by Dr. Dalles from By God’s Side.

By God’s Side: August 19, 2020

Weekly Inspirational Reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles

August 19, 2020

Pittsburgh is a community of neighborhoods – something in which we take great pleasure and pride, since each one has its own distinctive flavor. Our brilliantly talented area artist Ron Donoughe has painted all ninety of the city’s neighborhoods, bringing out what makes each one special. The richness of color and shape suggests the richness of blessings the community receives from the people who live in each one. In addition to saying we are a community of neighborhoods, I also have noticed that Pittsburgh is a city of ends and sides. East End and West End, North Side (yes, I know that the fancier term “North Shore” is now in vogue) and South Side. How two directions on the compass became ends, while the other two became sides, is a puzzle the historians might be able to solve. No matter, it makes me think of the fact that the Christian faith has both “Ends” and “Sides.”

Regarding our Presbyterian branch of world Christendom, we have what are called “The Great Ends of the Church” – not the East End or the West End. They are:

  1. the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind;
  2. the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God;
  3. the maintenance of divine worship;
  4. the preservation of the truth;
  5. the promotion of social righteousness; and
  6. the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.

If you think of specific things that we as Shadyside Presbyterian Church do, they will fit into those Great Ends. We are formed by our convictions, and we seek to fulfill these “Ends” in Jesus’ name. As far as “The Great Sides of the Church,” I have not heard that phrase used. So we can coin it by saying that, like a coin, there are two “Sides” to it: one is to be by God’s side (as is the focus of this weekly column); the other is to be by the side of God’s children. “The Great Sides of the Church” are not opposites. When we are by God’s side, that puts us immediately also alongside God’s own people, both to share in witness and to offer support. North Side and South Side meet and merge, at the center of who we are, when we pursue “The Great Sides of the Church.”

The Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles
Interim Senior Pastor, Shadyside Presbyterian Church

About Dr. Dalles

Read more about Dr. Dalles.

Watch a brief video introducing a series of conversations with Dr. Dalles.

About By God’s Side

Shadyside Presbyterian Church publishes By God’s Side, a weekly series of inspirational reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles, to support you in your spiritual journey. These pastoral messages appear in the blog section of the church website each week. (Our weekly e-newsletter includes an excerpt to remind you to read along with us regularly; click here to subscribe to the e-newsletter if you do not already receive it.) We hope this regular feature will help you to draw closer to God’s side in your life of faith.

Read more reflections by Dr. Dalles from By God’s Side.

By God’s Side: August 12, 2020

With this inaugural post, Shadyside Presbyterian Church introduces a weekly series of inspirational reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles to support you in your spiritual journey. These pastoral messages will be published in the blog section of the church website each week. We hope this regular feature will help you to draw closer to God’s side in your life of faith.

August 12, 2020

If there is an overarching theme for living the Christian faith, it is that we seek to be by God’s side. Certainly, that is what we seek to do when we pray. Likewise, that is what our worship life does, bringing us into the presence of God, to present to God all of our best. Our prayer time and worship time are the most obvious aspects of living a Christian life; yet, they are just the beginning. There is so much more.

Let’s say we take time to have devotions in the morning. We reflect upon Scripture and pray, placing ourselves in God’s presence, with the goal that, throughout the day, we will remain by God’s side. In many ways, it is like what those first disciples did, when they traveled all around the various towns and even out to wilderness places. They were by Jesus’ side. Their days were like our days. They made plans for the day, as we do. They even knew some of Jesus’ plans for the day, as we may. But as each day unfolded, things came their way that they had not anticipated. So it was for all of the time that they spent with Jesus. So it is for all of us, all our days.

You will recall that Abraham Lincoln made an observation in the midst of the Civil War, that he was not so much concerned whether God was on our side, but rather whether we were on God’s side. In times of peace or in times of stress, when we are by God’s side, we will care for others; we will listen to new information, making it our own; we will be open to a change of heart and mind; and we will take risks. God’s side is where we can find rest; it is also where we will find purpose for action. Nowadays, we may find ourselves in places we did not plan, dealing with situations we did not anticipate. The goal is still the same. Today, and every day, live by God’s side.

The Reverend Dr. John A. DallesThe Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles
Interim Senior Pastor, Shadyside Presbyterian Church

Read more reflections by Dr. Dalles from By God’s Side.

Get to Know Dr. Dalles

Read more about Dr. Dalles.

Watch a brief video introducing a series of conversations with Dr. Dalles.