January 23

            It seems as if the things that dominate our culture today, whether it’s in the news or on social media, are things that highlight the differences between us. It could be liberal-conservative, black-white, male-female, gay-straight, or just about anything else you can think of. Differences are an integral part of our lives – it would be a very boring world if we were all the same – but if we use these differences as excuses to build walls of exclusion instead of bridges of understanding, we cannot establish any kind of meaningful relationship with others.
            It is human nature to people to divide themselves into units such as families or tribes, and all the rest who don’t fit into their group as some “other,” but God calls us to more than that. God wants us to be united as one body in Christ. He wants us to celebrate both the diversity in the natural world and the unity we have, not only with each other, but with the Creation. We are all part of the body and part of the world.

            Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12:12, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” He later goes on to say (paraphrasing) that just because one part of the body is not like any of the others, it has no part of the body. It doesn’t work that way. We all have our parts to play as both an individual and as a member of the Body. May we never forget this lesson that Christ, through Paul, has taught us.

January 16

Happy Winter! Ok, most folks would say a big Bah Humbug to that and then ask when is spring coming! I am in the minority, I like winter. But even I feel the let down after the holidays.  You know, that blah feeling we all get this time of year on these dreary cold days and long dark nights. The brown earth appears “dead” to us with the all the bare trees only further reminding us that most of the world has ceased to grow. We think all the Christmas magic is gone and we go back to our normal daily boring lives.

So here is an idea to spruce up this dull season we are in. Why not thank someone who has helped you on your faith journey? Why not take the time to tell them that they helped you just when you needed it? Perhaps they sent a card, they listened, they gave some advice, shared a devotional, or said something to you in a new way and you really heard it differently this time. 

A co-worker and I started talking very innocently one morning. We are not particularly close, but I knew she had been having some health issues lately and I asked how she was. And then I told her I had her on my prayer list. This opened up a whole spiritual conversation between us. As we shared some of our faith experiences with each other, she said she thanked her Mom for taking her to church when she was a child. I thought that was awesome!  I decided I would tell my mother the same thing. She and my dad made me go to church every Sunday while I was growing up. I sat down to write a letter to my mother to include in her Christmas card because I knew I would not be able to get it out without bawling! So I wrote the letter and gratitude and tears just poured out . She said she cried when she read it , but since she is turning 90 and not sure how much time we have left together, I wanted to say it and for her to hear it.

I try to tell others when they have been helpful to me. And likewise, it encourages me on my own faith journey when someone says I have been helpful to them. Our faith journeys are not supposed to be a solo act. Paul referred to this in Romans 1: 11-12  “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong -that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith”. So perhaps we can brighten someone’s day by thanking them for their part in fostering our faith journey!

Heavenly Father, 

Thank you for all you have given us, even this bleak, brown, cold season that we are in. Help us not to forget that Your Light is always shining on these dark winter nights. Thank you for putting people in our lives to help encourage us on our faith journey. We cannot do it alone and you provide us with someone to help us just when we need it. Help us also to follow our nudges that Your Holy Spirit gives us to reach out to support others on their faith journey. 


January 11

      God often times uses our friends to guide and teach us. I was having brunch with a group of friends last week, some whom had experienced some difficult times this past year. My one friend, who is in her late eighties, had lost her husband. Prior to that, she had experienced a terrible fall that required rehabilitation for an extended period of time. Her husband had arranged for her to have companions with her when her family members were at work upon his death. This was a surprise to her. This arrangement has been a blessing for her, and she has done quite well with these companions. Once she was fearful about what would happen to her when her husband died. She said she feels God’s presence with her every day and that she trusts that God will be with her no matter what happens. If we put our trust in God, we can conquer our fear during difficult times.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  Prov. 3:5


January 2

Advent is the time when we are supposed to prepare our hearts for Christmas but, with all the business of "getting ready", sometimes we skip the preparation part. Now that Christmas is over, many of us just go back to our ordinary lives and forget about the Christmas miracle. We are ready to take down all the decorations and lights as soon as New Year's is over. But what if we revisit Christmas throughout the year? Maybe on a cold, dark winter night or a hot, humid day in July? We can continue to think about and carry around with us that "Christmas feeling" of joy and love.
I might just leave my nativity up a little longer this year. The nativity has always held special meaning and memories for me. This year, I displayed the nativity that I grew up with since I was a little girl. I asked my mother for it since she is no longer able to display it. My father took a picture of me when I was 4 or 5 years old looking at that same nativity with all the wonder of a child. One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season was to set up the nativity. My father made the stable himself and I was allowed to set up the figures every year and I passed that tradition down to my son. When my son was very young, he called the stable a barn and liked to put everyone in the barn at night and close the door and then set up the figures again the next day. Having a nativity helped teach me and then my son about the Christmas story. Perhaps I need to get a miniature nativity that I could keep out all year as a visual reminder of Christmas.
 And everyone loves Christmas music and has their favorites. Why not play some Christmas music throughout the year as yet another reminder of the joy and love sent down from heaven?

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Gracious and Loving Father, thank you for the gift of Your Son. Help us to remember that You sent Your Son to save us from our sin. And let us not  forget that we are fragile, just like our old painted nativities, but Christmas is about Emmanuel, God with us. Let us continue to celebrate and carry Your joy and Love with us beyond the Christmas season and be filled with child- like wonder. Amen