December 26

                This is one of the important times of the Christian year, the time when we celebrate the first part of the act of Ultimate Love: Jesus coming into the world. Poets and hymn writers have tried to convey what that must have been like, but I think English poet Christina Rossetti said it the simplest way, and the best way: “Love came down at Christmas.” Simple, honest, no further explanation needed.
            Other hymns are more complicated. For example, when Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” the nation was at the peak of the Civil War, a time that spawned much violence and hatred. Longfellow despaired that the message of love could break through the strong hatred gripping the nation. Though it starts out on a depressing note, it ends on a ray of hope: Even though hatred is strong, God is still in control, and there will still be peace on earth, goodwill to men.

            As we head toward an uncertain future, we would all do well to remember this saying: “There are two wolves that are constantly fighting. One is darkness and despair; the other is light and hope. The question is, Which one will win? The one you feed.” We cannot deny that there is darkness out there, but as long as we keep feeding the light and hope we have in Jesus, we may be assured that we will get through the darkness.

December 14

When we light the Advent candles, it reminds us of the four virtues that Jesus brings us: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. A few years ago during the Advent season, I watched a movie, “Silent
Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce”.  It was based on the true story of the cease fire initiated by British, French, and German soldiers on the front on Christmas Eve in 1914. Over 100,000 soldiers are reported to have participated in this legendary truce. It began with Christmas carol singing. The British would sing one of their carols, then the French, and then the Germans would sing one of theirs. In a letter found, one of the soldiers wrote about singing “O Come All Ye Faithful” together. Other soldiers wrote about how they mingled and traded cigarettes and small trinkets. What an amazing sight that must have been! I believe all four virtues Jesus brings must have been felt by those soldiers for a brief time on that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1914. Christ’s presence was there on the battlefield during the Christmas Truce. May we all feel Jesus’ presence with us not only during this Advent season but every day!


December 5

            “Now the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, took place in this way….” (Matthew 1:18)  S0 begins the biblical narrative of the birth of Jesus in the first book of the New Testament. It is a narrative on two levels. First of all, for those immediately concerned, it is a time of incredible stress.  Joseph and Mary are not married but Mary is pregnant; Joseph is anguished about what to do, about what people will think and say, about what is the honorable thing to do for Mary whom he loves and for himself.  Mary is very young, not ready for this, and she takes a trip to seek succor from her relative, Elizabeth. By the time the pregnancy is far advanced, Joseph and Mary must take a long, arduous donkey ride to Bethlehem merely to register for a census.  Talk about mounting pressure, things happening at the least opportune times, the uncertainty of the future being terrifying---all this is just that. This first level is about human suffering.

            But the second level is about God and God’s purposes.  In it is the news that God cares for Joseph and Mary and reassures them; about God caring for the whole human family, about God having purposes transcending our daily ups and downs.

            And Joseph and Mary, being persons of faith, found in God’s promises and assurances, the strength to make decisions and go on.

            This is about the time in the Christmas season when most of us get to feeling overwhelmed---making plans for the holidays, doing chores that seem to have to be done to prepare for it, addressing cards, wrapping gifts, baking, and maybe being confronted by the unexpected such as illness, bad weather, un-forseen demands. 

            That level of things can get to us; it has been known to overwhelm in some cases. And it’s not particularly because we take them too seriously, but because they are all things in which our love for family and friends and others is involved, and doing them means so much to us. But if our hearts and minds are set on God, we can keep our perspective.  The heart of Christmas isn’t that God will keep us from overwhelming pressure, but that God loves us through that pressure and in the end, God sent the Son to save us.  That can keep us steady, even as it did Joseph and Mary.   


November 27

Advent has begun; another way in which the church is counter cultural. We anticipate the coming of Christmas for four weeks. We prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. Then, we celebrate Christmas until epiphany (Jan. 6th), or at least that is the ideal. Very often, we give into the culture and celebrate Christmas before Christmas and leap over the season. There are benefits and drawbacks to both holding the traditional line and also to going with the cultural flow.

Maintaining the traditional Christmas season is a way to witness to the world that Christ is the important part of Christmas. All the preparation is for his coming, not for Santa or for gifts.

Celebrating in a more culturally relevant way, such as singing Christmas songs before Christmas or putting the baby in the manger before Christmas eve, may reach more people. The message that Christmas is about God born as a child may reach hearts and ears that are not in church for the traditional Christmas services.

Whatever way that your church chooses to celebrate the coming of Christ, we know that Advent is a time to examine our hearts once again. It is a time to be humble before God. It is a time to acknowledge that God is in control and chooses to come to us, to reach out in love. It is a time to turn our lives once more over into the hands of God.


November 21

            We’ve just come through a very trying ordeal as a nation, and we’re unsure about what the future holds with new leaders taking the reins of government next January. As Banquo said in Macbeth, “If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow, and which will not, speak then to me.” Some people see the imminent change of power as a good thing; others, not so much. Those who think this is not a good thing might very well end up lamenting that “God is nowhere.”
            I am not here to debate the fitness of one candidate over the others, however, because there is another way to look at this. If you add something to the last word of the sentence “God is nowhere,” you completely change the meaning of the sentence. All you have to add is a space between the W and the H, which changes “nowhere” to “now here.” A completely different meaning, and one which permits us to have hope for the future.

            We can place our faith and hope in a God who believes in love and justice and wisdom. As the Bible reminds us, “I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living” (Amos 5:24); “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8); “She [Wisdom] calls to the crowds along the main street… ‘Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise’” (Proverbs 1:21a, 23). As long as we – kings and commoners alike – remember that God is now here, we will be able to do great things.

November 14

We don't see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:
Trust steadily in God
Hope unswervingly
Love extravagantly
And the best of the three is Love
1 Corinthians 13: 12-13 (The Message Translation)

We have all read and heard 1 Corinthians 13 many times. Sometimes, I like to look at the way Eugene Peterson translates scripture in "The Message".  It can make me "hear" it in a different way.  That is what happened when I read this passage prompted by "The Upper Room" last month. The daily devotion was entitled "The Gift of Love". I think in the past, I have thought of romantic love in this passage because it is heard at many weddings. But I now realize it refers to God's love, which is a very different type of love. God's love encompasses all the types of love we think of, as well as some we don't. We certainly understand how to love our spouse or our children or our dear friends, but what does it mean to love our neighbor as ourselves or even our enemies? I think we all struggle with that. I am not sure as flawed humans we are capable of loving our neighbor, but I do know from personal experience, with God's help, we can even love our enemies. We all have people in our lives we struggle with. I urge all of us to pray for our hearts to be changed and for the strength to see those we struggle with through the eyes of God. Amen.


November 6

My husband and I attended a dinner for the health care system he works for this past        
weekend. Being somewhat of an introvert, I was not anxious to attend the dinner since I
did not know anybody. At the beginning of the evening, a physician in his late forties sat
down next to us. We exchanged information about where we lived and discovered that
this gentleman had graduated from John Hopkins University and that his wife grew up in

Timonium. He told us that he now lived in a small town in central Pennsylvania. We talked about our families, and he then shared that he had a severe heart attack five years ago that changed his life. During this time, he had undergone a profound and sudden revelation of God, which he described as “earth-shaking”.  He proceeded to tell us that he felt called to serve God after this happened. He grew up Catholic but was somewhat skeptical that God was actually present in his life. As he said, he just went through the motions of being a Christian and didn’t really think much about God. After the heart attack, he became very passionate about serving God. One of those ways of serving included prison ministry. He shared that he learned more from ministering to the prisoners then they learned from him. At the present he is in a five year training program to become a deacon in his church. I must admit I did not expect to feel God’s presence at the dinner table that night, but I did. It was a reminder of how God uses people, if only we open our hearts.


October 24

            When I was a child, one of my favorite pastimes was putting jigsaw puzzles together with my grandfather. Once I got started helping put it together, it was hard for me to stop and do other necessary things, such as eating. I still am that way when I put puzzles together.
When you buy a jigsaw puzzle, the box top always shows the picture of what the puzzle eventually will look like. But with a thousand pieces or more, it’s hard to imagine that the puzzle will look like the picture when it’s completed. Yet it does. Each piece has its own designated place. By itself, it doesn’t look like much; but in its proper place, it becomes part of a beautiful design.

Life itself is like a jigsaw puzzle; the only difference is that there’s no box top picture to show us what it’s supposed to look like. But not just individual lives are like that. Life as God created it is like a puzzle. Each of us has his or her own spot in the grand picture. We may not think we amount to much individually, but once we realize that we are all members of the body of Christ – each person with his or her own talents and gifts to bring to the mix – Life can be a thing of exquisite beauty. May God grant us all the ability to contribute willingly to His creation.

October 17

There are numerous times hope is mentioned throughout the Bible. Hope is an important part of our faith. Here are some of my favorite “Hope” scriptures:

Hebrews 6:19
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. 
“The Message” translation: We who have run…to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It is an unbreakable spiritual lifeline…right to the very presence of God.
How powerful is it to think we are anchored to that spiritual lifeline, to the very presence of God? 

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “The Message” translation: I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out - plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
We can all find comfort in knowing that God has an unique plan for each one of us.

Isaiah 40:31
…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. “The Message” translation: But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
When we feel weak, we can turn to God for strength. Have you ever felt that “fresh” strength? 

Hope is very powerful and we need to never lose sight of it, even during our darkest times. 

Dear Lord,
Help us to turn to You when we are feeling weary or hopeless. In You we truly can find strength to carry on and do Your will. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

October 10

A few weeks ago, a special woman died unexpectedly. She was a wonderful Sunday School teacher for many years. She touched many lives both as a teacher and as a volunteer at church. The children she taught were blessed to have had her as their teacher. Those people who were in the hospital or in rehab center, were blessed by her notes of encouragement. She shared God’s love in her interactions with both children and adults. May we follow her example of living as a Christian in our daily life.

October 3

            There is a window I look out through from time to time. During those hot sticky days of summer, the view did not impress me. It is a view with plenty of foliage, some flowers, a baseball diamond in the distance.  But all of this looked strangely muted and uninviting in the heavy air of those 100 degree days.  I had no compulsion to go out there.

            Then, one day in September, when a front had passed through and all the stale, polluted, over-heated air was gone, I happened to look out there from that window! The leaves were so green. All images within my sight stood out in clear contrast. Nothing looked hazy or dull, but sharp and crisp.  It all looked inviting and I was full of compulsion to go out there and be in the midst of it all.

            In this world of strife, suspicion, name calling, political nastiness, terrorism, suffering—there is so much haze of a different, but no less off-putting sort filling the scenes of life. It all seems so uninviting. I confess my mental mood during some of those hot summer days matched my physical mood in response to the heavy polluted air enveloping that scene beyond my window.

            But when the fresh air of God’s love got to me it changed what I saw in the world. When the dust and fall-out of our human struggles are blown away so that we can clearly see the love of God at work, what a remarkable difference it makes! I remember one particular Sunday morning---9/11 Sunday, in fact---that happened to me.  The service focused on ways God’s saving love worked in human lives to lift and clear the dust, tears, agonies and struggles of that day.  And I gave thanks for a world at the heart of which are not the explosions and hatreds of war, but the redeeming power of God’s love at work.

            I share with you the prayer the writer of the letter to the Ephesians offers for us all: “I pray that you may have power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19) 


September 26

            A popular children’s television host once said, “Play is seen as a respite from serious learning, but for children, play is serious learning.” Indeed, children learn many vital skills when they are playing, such as how to interact with others. As we grow older, though, play often gets pushed behind work, and we forget how to have fun, let alone have fun in the first place. Yet I believe that as adults, we can still learn things through play – how to form strategies, how to think logically, how to win (and lose) graciously. Games not only provide a way to have fun; they also allow us to exercise our mental muscles.
            Play is a characteristic of not just humans, but mammals in general. Play is essential for our mental health. So why do we feel that it is necessary either to suppress it or to turn play into something that’s not much fun at all? The psychology of such questions is beyond me, but I do know this: There is truth in the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

            I can imagine the creation as a perfect balance between work and play. Yes, God rested after the six days of creation, so it had to have been work on some level, but all you have to do is look around the natural world to see what fun God must have had during the creation. As the saying goes, if you think God doesn’t have a sense of humor, look at the platypus. And after the creation, the Bible reminds us that God saw that it was very good. May we ever be mindful to strive for a good balance between work and play, so that at the end of the day, we can say that the day was very good, too.


September 19

At the end of last year, my friend had to put her older dog down and she commented to me that she learned a lot from her dog Winnie - patience, forgiveness, and unconditional love to name a few. I agree, we have lessons to learn from our dogs and other animals. My dog Rudy likes to stop on the path in the woods when we walk and every few feet he will be still, listen, smell and look. I think we can learn lessons from the many creatures that God created, to stop, be still and use all of our senses to take in all of God's creation.

Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God

Gracious Father,

Help us to be still and just listen. We can hear Your voice in the gentle breeze blowing the leaves in the trees, the cicadas buzzing during the heat of the day, the crickets' song at night, and the birds singing their songs all day long. They all remind us that You are always with us if we just take the time to look and listen! Amen.

September 12

There are times in most people’s lives when they become discouraged. In today’s world, for many of us, our lives are very busy. When one of “life’s interruptions”, such as an illness, a difficult situation in our family, or possibly a work related problem occurs, we may become overwhelmed and discouraged. The stress builds up, and we wonder how we are going to be able to handle this new problem that we had not anticipated. I know that God wants us to turn to him during these difficult times. Sometimes we tend to wait to ask for God’s help, instead of going to him in prayer first. When we turn to God in prayer, he will always give us the guidance and strength to persevere.

When I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me the strength I need.

                                                                                                         Psalm 138:3


August 23

"When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." Genesis 9:16

August 9

     Do you pray before you make decisions? I have discovered when I
do pray before deciding, I make better decisions. A few weeks ago,
I had a choice to make concerning something I was planning on attending.
This event was something I had on my calendar for over 6 months, so I was
very disappointed when I was given information that might interfere with my
participation. I had a difficult decision to make. Should I do what was best for
others or do what I would enjoy doing? I prayed about this situation for days, and
I finally made the decision to do what was best for others. This was not an easy
decision, but I did feel at peace with my decision. As I look back, I can see
how the changes I had to make led me to experiences I would not have had.
Also I interacted with people that influenced me in a positive way. On my own, I
am not sure I would have made that decision.

Dear God, Thank you for answering our prayers for guidance. Amen

Don’t worry about anything: instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need,
and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace,
which is far more wonderful than the human can understand. His peace will guard
your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.   Philippians 4:6-7


August 3

            My wife and I have some friends who live about one and a half hours drive from us.  We see them with some regularity but certainly not with a casual regularity.  They are busy and so are we so we have to be sure that the time commitment to drive to one home or the other is convenient for all concerned if we want to spend some quality time together.  We had not seen one another for a while and I’d been thinking I must call and see if we could get together.  I’d end up saying to myself, “Tomorrow, I must do that.”  And then tomorrow’s schedule would get hectic, and the call didn’t get made.

            On top of that, my life had been complicated by the necessity of buying a new car.  I hate trading cars, and it always throws me off my stride when I make that costly move. Getting rid of an old car and used to a new one is like losing a favorite pet and getting acquainted with a new one.  I was kind of down about the whole prospect.

            I came home one day to find a call from our friends.  They wanted to come and suggested a time that was just right. I was so excited! It turned out they had been dealing with complications in their lives too, and the petty pace of tomorrow kept creeping in on them as well.  When we met, we both had a most refreshing day.  I not only felt more able to make a clear decision about my car; there were other nagging problems that were easier to face after our visit with one another.  And their experience was the same.  Life turned out to be amazingly brighter just by our being together again.

            When it was all over, I had to thank God for intervening and connecting us with each other at this particular time.  Because, you see, I’m sure that’s what happened. I’d been hard pressed by all those personal issues and just went from one day’s decisions to the next without connecting with our friends.  And for them, it had been the same. God somehow moved us to stop dilly-dallying and to get on with life and friendship.

            How wonderful that God knows us, understands us, loves us, and moves us! I love the paraphrase of Lamentations  3:23 found in an old hymn: “Great is thy faithfulness…morning by morning new mercies I see.” Pray to be open to God.

July 27

In the past few weeks the nation has been troubled by the outrage and violence occurring in our cities across the country. Each day unfolds more sadness in the world.  What can each of us do? I work in Baltimore City and regularly interact with people of different races and backgrounds. This week, I have made it a point to be intentional and show acts of kindness during the day. My acts have including these and others;  smiling at someone , holding a door, offering a greeting, providing an answer or direction, thanking for help, leaving a small tip, offering a compliment,  and ????  Each time I do one of these small gestures, I am saying to someone “I respect you as a person.”  
Start each day with this simple prayer:
Dear God,
Provide opportunities for me to show simple kindness and respect to others. Direct me to those who would benefit from a simple act of generosity or kindness. Help the words I say and the actions I do, change my heart as well as the hearts of others.

“If it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

Romans 12:8New International Version (NIV)


July 19

            Every one of us has at least one irrational fear of something. It may be of spiders; it may be of heights; it may be of flying. In my case, my big irrational fear is of thunderstorms. There’s even a name for it – brontophobia.
            There’s no real reason that I should be afraid of thunderstorms; thunder is just a loud noise, and the chance of being struck by lightning is very small. Nevertheless, there it is. I’m afraid of thunderstorms.
            Thunderstorms are certainly no fun if you’re caught outside in one of them. They can do tremendous damage and leave a wide patch of destruction in its wake. I recently saw a tree that looked as if a giant had taken a huge ax and chopped it down with one blow. Definitely not something you’d want to mess with.
            But even after the most horrifying of storms has passed and things return to normal, there is one thing that renders it a thing of beauty. If you look in the sky in just the right spot, at just the right time, you’ll see one of nature’s most beautiful sights – the rainbow.
            We know, essentially, that a rainbow occurs when white light from the sun passes through water and emerges as colored light. Many cultures, however, saw the rainbow as a bridge to heaven, an idea that lives on the Rainbow Bridge, a bridge which – after we cross it – will see us reunited with our loved ones, both two-legged and four-legged.
            I like the idea of a rainbow being a path to heaven. After all, in Genesis 9, God put the rainbow in the sky as the sign of the covenant that He would never destroy the world by flood. That would have been the worst storm in history. I’m sure nobody would want to go through that. The rainbow is a gentle reminder for us that no matter how bad the storm was or is, it will come to end, and we can come out stronger and more beautiful for it.

            All we need to remember is to place our trust in the One Who put the rainbow up there in the first place. He didn’t promise that we wouldn’t have storms in our lives, but He can take the worst of it and make it into something beautiful.


July 9

This past weekend was full of Fourth of July celebrations. I am so thankful for those men and women who sacrifice so much for their country every day. Often we hear them share their stories on these patriotic holidays. One article I read was written by a young soldier who was a triple amputee
caused by an IED incident in Iraq. He talked about how he almost gave up soon after he returned to Walter Reed Hospital for rehabilitation. Fortunately for this young man, his mother came daily to be with him and encourage him to keep moving forward during this difficult time. With the encouragement of his mother and prayer, he was able to be successful in his rehabilitation. These days he works for a wheelchair company that designs wheelchairs for amputees, and he is also an inspirational speaker for returning servicemen and women. God sent his mother to encourage him at a critical time in his life, and now he encourages others. We can all give encouragement even in a small way, and it can make a difference in someone's life. Look around you, is there someone who needs
your encouragement today?


July 7

It seems that violence and hatred are all that I see on the news.  I encounter it on Facebook. Most of the personal encounters I have, though, are loving and kind.  Many express sadness at the violence in our world. It does grieve us, and I believe that it grieves God.

Merciful God, it is your will that the all of creation be in harmony and that love is the chief character of all that we do and say. We join you  in grieving for brothers and sisters who suffer loss and injury from the violence that comes out of hatred and fear. We grieve with you for those who turn to violence as a response to their pain.  Heal our world. Help us to join you in that healing. Amen.


July 3

            I have a friend who, along with his son who lives along the coast some distance away, had spent a good bit of time eagerly making plans for a week-end visit at the home of that son and his wife. They had a good relationship and this promised to be a special time for all of them. Then a medical problem erupted in the son’s family, shattering those plans. The trip was just not possible at this time. On that all were in agreement.

            But I felt very sorry for my friend. I knew he’d looked forward to some much needed time with family. I’d be happy to try to do something with him, but I was a friend, not family.  And family was what his soul needed just now.  But when I called to offer whatever I could, I found him already buoyed up.  His brother, who lives some three hours away, had called in the midst of all this, and knowing nothing about it, was wondering if he and his wife could stop by and see my friend in two days, staying about three hours and having lunch with him. It was just the kind of thing my friend needed.  He was still sorry the  carefully laid plans had fallen apart under the weight of illness; but he was ecstatic he’d be seeing his brother and sister-in-law. He said to me “You know, it’s just amazing how true the words of the 23rd Psalm are; God does restore our souls---just when disappointment seems deepest. My brother had no idea what was happening here. He just called on the spur of the moment to see if these plans could work.  Behind all of that, I see the grace of God at work.”

            How true! God’s grace comes to heal, bless, and renew in such surprising ways!  Be ready to have some way, some connection, some grace-filled surprise fall upon you when you least expect it and most need it.


June 29

Today, I have been inside all day, working. My office is rather chilly and lit with fluorescent lights. When I got up for some coffee, I was surprised to see that the parking lot outside my window was wet. It was also quite hot today.  I felt none of that weather. I was reminded of times when I have been so wrapped up in myself that I was oblivious to other people. I didn't know what they might be feeling or how their day was going.

Gracious and loving Savior, please forgive me when I become so inwardly focused that I miss the cues you might be giving me to be a loving presence for you.  In Jesus' name, Amen.


June 27

wishes, wondering 
we wait, wait upon His will
wakened waitpersons


June 25

The regular school year is over, but summer classes will be offered at all levels of learning. The church offers a modified schedule for learning, too. We never stop learning, and many of us never stop teaching.

Thank you, Lord, for giving the gift of teaching.  Thank you for giving hearts of compassion to those with the gift of teaching.  Help and bless those who are nurturing the minds and hearts of others.  Amen.


June 23

As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers. Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
                                                                    Matthew 4:18-20  RSV

Dear Father,
I want to follow you in all things, in all ways, and at all times.  Why do I forget that desire of my heart until I desperately need you, reach out to you and call your name?  Comforter, Counselor, Teacher, King.  I seek the peace that comes with knowing you better and putting you first in my life.

Help me to drop the net of things I have made more important than you. Help me to follow you in all things, in all ways, and at all times.


June 21

I am watching a TV show about the wonders of Greek architecture and the concepts and skill needed to carve and move the stone used to build those wonders. Last night, I watched a TV show that ended with a huge battle in which nearly everyone was brutally massacred. The human mind and the human heart is capable of such creative beauty and such horrible destruction. How we must grieve the Lord.

Wise and merciful God, we confess that we are far from the people you created us to be.  Please help us to see who you want us to be, Help us to let go of the parts of us that are contrary to your will. Give us strength and courage to find ways to be loving and creative and to turn from ways of violence and hate. In Jesus' name, Amen.


June 19

A question that’s often voiced by grumbling adults is, “What is it with kids nowadays?” No doubt it was asked in one form or another dating back to the days of the cavemen. It’s one of those questions that never seems to go away, and it’s usually asked when some adult either finds some kid’s behavior bewildering, or strongly disapproves of it, or both.
            Unfortunately, adults have a tendency to dismiss the contributions of young people as “childish” or “immature,” and not what “normal” people (whatever that is) would do. Yet the Bible contains references to children and young people. For example, there’s the phrase, “And a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6) Or Jesus saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” (Mark 10:14) Or Paul’s strong admonition to his young protégé, Timothy: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12) And, of course, the fact that we are all “children of God.” (Galatians 3:26, among other places in the Bible)
            All of this, though, brings up a strong caution for adults. Yes, we need to listen to our children and value their input, but we – we parents, we teachers, we mentors, we adults – must realize that we need to set an example for the children. We must not only say it, but do it as well. And we must also teach our children to do it and not just say it. Without a trusted adult’s guidance and example, a child may very well be lost in darkness and unable to come back to the light. With it, a child can thrive and set his or her own example.
Not long ago, I was in Frederick, and I was privileged to hear and watch a group of very talented kids sing and dance for a charity event.
Some of the kids not only sang and danced, but one girl – just barely out of middle school –  wrote and performed an original song, and another girl – about to go into middle school – choreographed an original dance routine, complete with props.
The energy level among all the kids was palpable. When the call went out for kids to sign up for the event, there was no hesitation. They all said yes, no questions asked. Why did they do it? Because not only did they believe in the cause, they also learned by the example of the adults who were running the show.

So, to answer the original question, “What is it with kids nowadays?” I say, “The kids are doing just fine; it’s up to us to steer them in the right direction.”


June 17

I had a wonderful time wandering and learning and observing this past week.  It is amazing that we know so much about people and events of the past, and yet we can still learn more.  I love the stories about what people used to do and how they used to live. I especially love the way those stories can help us to reflect on how we live today.

Wise Lord, thank you for giving us the capacity to learn and grow, to learn form our mistakes and to improve.  Help us to become more loving every day, and to teach upcoming generations to avoid our lack of love. Amen.


June 15

Gracious God, thank you for days of sun and for days of rain. Thank you for busy days and lazy days.  Thank you for days filled with people and for days of solitude.  Thank you for joyful surprises and for disappointments.  Thank you for all of life and for walking with me through all of my days. In the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.


June 11

When I got up this morning, I was greeted by the soft cooing sound of a dove’s call. It must have been perched near a vent shaft. I often hear them at a distance and pay little attention to their song.  This one I could not let go unnoticed. It sounded too close to ignore.  That being the case, it set me to thinking and reminiscing.

          I remembered that my mother used to refer to it as a rain dove—when you heard it, the implication was that it was going to rain.  I never noticed any correspondence between the dove’s call and the coming of rain, but so the saying went---perhaps harking back to how the dove helped Noah to know when the flood waters were receding.  I seem to hear doves calling mostly in the morning.  Do they do it to wake up the world?  Or because they are happy in the morning?  Or to send a message to other doves? I don’t know.  But I like their cooing. It’s not harsh, or insistent.  But it is calm, and distinct, and kind of assuring.  It’s a peaceful sound—the dove’s coo.

          So much like God in that respect. The most unmistakable experiences of  God’s presence are those  that are quietly assertive like the dove’s call.  The ancient prophet perceived that God was not in the earthquake, wind, or fire, but in the quiet, assuring, insistent moment---kind of like the cooing of the dove. Jesus may have meant even more than we often think when he said “Consider the birds of the air….”  God not only cares for them, but speaks to us through their ways.

          “Thank you God for speaking to us through the creatures and plants around us.  In these days of summer abundance, may we be assured of your loving presence.  Amen”


June 9

     I feel very close to God when I am walking in the woods.
It is particularly relaxing when I am feeling stressed. I feel God's peace
as I am walking along the trails. I focus on the beauty of nature around
me rather than what is troubling me. In the spring, when I am walking,
I love seeing all the birds return from their southern destinations. In May,
the beautiful male Baltimore orioles, in their striking orange and black plumage,
are singing their hearts out to attract a mate as are the other male birds. This
past week I was able to see a red tailed hawk fly into its nest atop a pine tree
with food and feed its two young chicks. It makes me smile when I spot a bird
I don't often see like the yellow billed cuckoo. In the pond, hundreds of tadpoles
have hatched from their eggs and are swimming among the white water lilies. God has given us these wonderful gifts of nature. I am very thankful that I can experience all this beauty and peace while walking in the woods.


June 5

Today is my mom's birthday.

I've been writing today's prayer message for a couple of weeks in my head.  I've been afraid to write any further than the first sentence, which is my heading.  You see my mother has stage 4 breast cancer, we've known since last September.  She tried one round of chemotherapy and the chemo almost killed her.  Her support group of doctors and health experts agreed with her to not continue any means to stop her cancer -- except one -- that is prayer.

Mom's journey since September has been remarkable.  Mom is one of those quiet women who raised 5 children following the "war" -- all of us baby boomers.  We went to a catholic school where most of the kids came from families with 4 - 12 children in each family.  I didn't realize how close the mothers of those families were until I went to a funeral for one last December.  I was amazed how many of the large family mothers were in attendance, praying for each other.

Mom has received cards, gifts, and flowers from people she didn't think remembered her.  Their messages of love have been endearing.  And little things have become big miracles for mom.  My parents drove to church one Sunday and while they were at the service, the man who parked next to them noticed one of the tires on my parents' car was flat.  He waited for them after church and changed the tire for them.  It turned out the spare did not have enough air in it, so another man and his wife offered to go home and get an air compressor.  They offered to take my mother home, but mom insisted she wanted to go back into church to pray for her angels.

My dad goes in and out of doctors' care for his heart and now his kidneys.  Mom stands by him and writes everything in her journal so they can refer to it when they forget.  Two weeks ago dad was in the hospital for a couple of days while we were visiting family.  There were so many prayers offered from so many places.  Even the man who runs the Bed & Breakfast we were staying at offered prayers (and cinnamon buns for us to take to dad in the hospital!).

Prayers have brought a community together to support my mother and father.  A community bigger than my mother ever imagined existed.  Prayer has given them the strength, courage, and patience to meet the challenges of each day.  It's their response to prayer that has positively affected the rest of us -- children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, neighbors, friends, doctors, nurses, nurses assistants, and anyone who comes in contact with them.

My mother is 86 years old today.  She has given me (and now you) a very special gift -- don't be afraid to pray, and don't be afraid to ask for prayer.


May 27

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
                                                                                                                  Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

As I was driving the other day, I noticed all the signs that provide direction. Our lives are a path directed by God. We must pay attention and select the choices he makes available. There are times he directs us to STOP, look at the choices and follow the right path. Sometimes there is ONE WAY to go, requiring strength and faith.  At times, there are options and we must decide which is best for us and others involved. We may find ourselves with a message that says, DO NOT ENTER. In other words we should be guarded, hear the word of God, and go in His clear direction.
Our lives are like a trip, with many options to arrive at our destination. There will be detours, shortcuts, new routes, but all require trusting in the direction of God.

With God, we can stay the course….


May 25

What I find vital to understanding the mystery of faith is that God never intended the relationship between us to be forced. We all have access to the word of God and it is up to us to choose whether or not to accept him into our lives.

God could have created a sinless world if he wanted to. Or he could have just forgotten about the human race and left us to the consequences of our sin, but he didn’t do any of this because he loves us. He sent us his son so that those who believe in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.  For Jesus said, “Blessed are those not seen and yet have come to believe.”(John 20:29).


May 23

     I find such delight in the sweet breath of a new baby. Each breath celebrates God's precious gift of life. Each breath confirms His love for us. And each breath holds the hope of a promise kept to His people. 
      The Breath of God, the Holy Spirit. As close as your next breath. As sweet as the breath of a new baby. Thank you, God, for the gift of life in this world, and for the gift of life re-born in you.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.

by Edwin Hatch


May 21

This is the time of year for endings: end of the school year, graduation, end of the program year at church.  This is also the time of year for beginnings: beginning of summer, beginning of planning new programs, beginning of the next step.  All endings are also beginnings.  Even death is a beginning.  We think of death as the end, but we forget that we live on.  God has given us the gift of eternal life.  The end that we think of as final is really only the beginning of our eternity.  That beginning will never end.


May 19

            Let’s start with a little quiz. Look at the following list, and see if there’s anything wrong with it. If so, what?
            Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.
            Time’s up. What was your answer?
            Some of you probably said that there is nothing wrong with the list. It’s a list of all the planets in the solar system. Well, yes, it was.
            But, unfortunately, there is something wrong with that list. Pluto is no longer considered a major planet, and this has been true as of 2006.
            Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has always been a bit of an oddball as a planet. It was the smallest, but it was out beyond the four giant planets. And its orbit was well above the other planets. In short, it just didn’t fit.
            Have you ever felt like Pluto? You try your best to fit into a group, only to find out that, despite everything, your attempts to fit in end in failure. I know I’ve been down that road many times, and it’s not pleasant to contemplate.
            But there’s another way to look at it. Yes, Pluto was demoted to what is now called a “dwarf planet,” but when it happened, a remarkable transformation took place. It went from being the runt of the litter to (as of this writing) the second-largest known object of its type. From zero to hero.
            This classification turned out to be a better fit for Pluto, and it also in no way diminished its uniqueness as a member of the solar system.
            This is also true for us here on Earth. We are all members of one family, and we all bring our unique set of strengths to the gathering. When we were designed, God made us all unique, and He knew just how we should use our strengths. Psalm 139 describes us as being “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” (New Living Translation)

            So, take heart. If you are disappointed to discover that you’re not a “planet,” keep in mind that something else – something better – is waiting over the horizon. We are all unique, yet we are all of the same family – the children of God.


May 17

We have been praying for our church leading up to Pentecost.  The pastor asked us all to pray at least one minute every day for 15 days to seek God's direction for our church. Where does God want us to go?  What does God want us to let go?  What does God want us to try? What risks does God want us to take? How does God want me to be a prat of all that? These are big questions.  How well did we do asking God those questions and, more importantly, listening to God's answers?

Loving God, please lead us in the direction you want us to go, and help us to help one another to get there. Thank you for walking with us.  Amen.


May 15

"When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit ... Those who accepted Peter's message were baptized.  God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day."     Acts 2, CEB

Lord, send your Holy Spirit upon us that we may come alive in your name.  Amen.


May 13

Thank you, Lord, for those people who offer themselves to do your work, for those who seek to use the gifts which you have given them, for those whose hearts turn toward people in need, for those who are committed to helping our young people learn about you, for those who reach out to those who are ill or infirm. for your children.  Thank you.  Amen.


May 11

A group in our church has been wrestling with the concept of foundational beliefs. What do we believe that sets the foundation for everything else that we believe?  What beliefs do we hold that are nonnegotiable?

What beliefs do you have that are the bedrock of your life?  What beliefs do you hold that are unshakable?

Gracious Lord, help us to know you better.  Help us to be open to learning more about you and how you would have us live.  In Jesus' name, we pray, Amen.


May 9

    Some of my friends, as well as I myself, are in the midst of difficult family situations. We are finding that we don't have control over these challenges that we are experiencing. There are no quick solutions to any of our problems. Learning to depend on God during these times draws us closer to Him. If we trust God when we are sad, fearful, and weary, we will discover that He will give us the strength to get through these times. We will experience God's love during these tough times, and quite often it is through the support we receive from others.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.  Phil. 4:13 (NLT)


May 7

Tomorrow is Mother's Day, the day when we say thank you to our mothers and let them know how much they mean to us. I actually didn't know how much I appreciated my mother until I became one.
The balance between directing our children's lives (where they go, who they are with, what they wear and eat, etc.) and stepping back, even to the point of not knowing where they are, who they are with, what they are wearing or eating, etc. is a changing and delicate one.  As my children grow, my role in their lives diminishes, as it should. But, it is hard. I anticipate problems and can see how different choices would probably make things better for them.  I can give advice, make suggestions, maybe even nag a bit, but ultimately, they must act or not act.

I think that God must feel much the same with us.  I only have my own children for whom I feel this tension and balance.  God has all of us!  God gives us great advice, excellent suggestions, but ultimately it is our choice to act or not to act.

I can't be present with my children in every moment, but of course, God is always with us. Yet, God steps back and allows us choice.

Holy God, thank you for my mother.  Thank you for the lessons she taught me and continues to teach me.  Thank you for the balance she kept in her mothering.  Thank you for my children.  Help me to keep a balance in my relationships with them.  Help me to turn to you as I make choices in my life.  Help me to live the life you want me to live and to be the person you want me to be.  Amen.


May 3

           It seemed like it was the first morning in  quite a while when there were no immediate deadlines, no impending appointments, no delayed obligations to be met, no matters on which I had to focus my thoughts and energies.  Most things that seemed recently to have driven me weren’t worries; they had not intimidated me.  But they had demanded my focus and my action.  Now my calendar was blank for a day or so, and I felt a good kind of tiredness.  So, I rested, and in so doing, dozed off.

            Suddenly, the ringing of the phone roused me out of semi-consciousness. I knew it was the phone.  My senses seemed to be reacting to an emergency; my un-focused mind suddenly sent out feelers to this phone call for an emergency, a forgotten appointment, a reason to suddenly get myself in gear and going. I felt a  bit of panic as I scrambled to acquaint myself to the time of day it was and to what this phone call might be about.

            And then suddenly it all fell into place.  The phone call was a wrong number; the time of day was morning; I had fallen half asleep in rest; and the only things at hand were the daily duties we handle almost absent-mindedly.  God’s peace that had caused me to sleep hushed my unfocused thoughts and energies like the loving hug of a parent who quiets a child’s confusion.

            How quickly and surely and wondrously the love of God restores our perspective!  Life can be demanding and doing the things and responsibilities of life can be exhausting. But if God’s loving presence is one to which our hearts are tuned, then the words of Paul are wonderfully borne out: “…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)


April 29

When I was a little girl, my aunt had in her yard what she called a rock garden.  It was in the shade under several maple trees.  It fascinated me because she called it a garden.  There were indeed many rocks which she had placed in an appealing pattern.  There were also usually several dirt patches and a few hardy green plants.  My mother pointed out that only here, in this one place in the yard, did the Lily of the Valley flowers flourish.  They bloom for a short time and their delicate bell flowers emit a beautiful perfume.

Thank you, Lord God, for the beauty which you put in unexpected  places.  Thank you for the people in our lives who help beauty and life to grow in hard places.  Help me to be someone who encourages people to bloom even in the difficult places of life.  In Jesus' name, Amen.


April 27

In the past few months, I have been engaged in conversations with friends who are facing difficult and challenging situations.  Quickly I can feel the exhaustion and despair they are experiencing.  In these times we can lose sight of God and his power to help us through. The following poem, “When We Let Him Have Control”, offers a series of actions we can practice in giving our burdens to God.
When We Let Him Have Control
Why is it as though
We struggle so much
And live in constant despair?
We don’t need to carry
Such burdensome loads
But should go to God in prayer

Give Him your burdens
And all of your hurts,
Just lay them at His feet
He’s such a big God
He can handle it all
And watches over His sheep

He cares so much more
Than we’ll ever know
And just wants the best for our lives
Each one of his children
Has so much potential
If we’ll only begin to rise

To be all that God
Has intended us to be,
To walk through His open doors
We need to stay focused
And open to God
And put our trust in the Lord

For when we all come
To realize God’s love,
Our hurts will not have a hold
For God’s love will cover
And free us from fear
As we give Him total control.

©      By B.S.Lowdes

In summary, the poem directs us to…give ALL of our burdens and hurts to Godopen yourself to God… walk through his doors….focus on Himtrust in his solution….realize he will act in love for us…and give Him total control. When you are in the middle of a challenge and fixing it is not in your capacity, remember he will provide what you need because as the poem says, he is a big God.