December 6

Immanuel - God With Us

We sing it and we read about it during the Advent season, but do we really experience God with us? I did last night. I was driving to choir practice for the last rehearsal before our big Christmas concert. I had worked 12 hours and took care of a difficult patient while I was there. As I drove, I began to think about that patient and I began to have an anxiety attack. I began to cry, my heart began to pound, and I was breathing hard. I managed to get to the church parking lot and continued to cry. I didn’t want to sit in the parking lot and I didn’t want to drive home, but I knew I couldn’t go into practice. I got out of the car and walked into church and entered the dark, empty, quiet sanctuary. I sat down in a pew and just continued to cry. I walked up to the front chancel and stood beneath the cross and cried out to Jesus and looked up at the cross. I sat down in the chancel, continued to be anxious and cry. I prayed out loud and slowly I felt Jesus surround me. A warm feeling of peaceful energy surged through my body and I could feel His Love and Peace. I sat there for a long time experiencing “God with Us”.
This Advent season, take some time to experience the miracle of “God with us” for yourself as we once again welcome to our world the Holy Child, Perfect Son of God.

Isaiah 9:6 King James Version (KJV)

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

November 29

            It seems that there are many things that are in short supply in the world today. Many of them are things that aren’t tangible, such as respect, manners, kindness, faith, and love. When such things are in low quanities, and things that aren’t so desirable can be found in great abundance, it is easy just to give up and say that it’s hopeless, that everything is beyond hope.
            And this is not a new idea. In his masterpiece The Divine Comedy, Dante describes these words carved above the gates of the Inferno: “Abandon every hope, ye who enter.” There can come a point where things are so full of despair that they can make even the most optimistic person feel low. For them, the tiny spark of hope that energized them has disappeared.
            But as hard as it may be, it is at this point that we must not let that spark die. We are responsible for keeping it alive, and we as Christians do it by turning to the Lord. In Isaiah 43:1-2, we read, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by my name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” And in a rather nice follow-up, Lamentations 3:22 says, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” We put our hope in the Lord that He will make things right. May the tiny spark of hope turn into a large fire within us that shines the love of God throughout the world.


October 31

            It has been said that the only constant in life is change. And many people do not like change. Change means the unknown, not being sure of what lies ahead. Fear drives our resistance to change, even when that change is for the better. But even though we know change is inevitable, it’s sometimes hard for us to distinguish between change for change’s sake and change that results in progress.
            As with many other subjects, the Bible is replete with verses regarding change. For example, one of the more well-known verses is Jeremiah 29:11. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declared the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” In 2 Corinthians, Paul says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” And Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
            The point of these and other verses is that even though change is scary, we should not worry about it; rather, we should strive to remember that God is always with us through the changes – not easy, since humans tend to be stubborn about not giving things up. But with God’s help, we can live our lives not in fear, but in love, and determine what is change and what is progress.


October 22

It always surprises me when I hear something I have heard many times before and suddenly not only my ears, but my mind and heart are really open to hearing it. This happens to me most with scripture and songs. This recently happened to me with the song “I Have This Hope” by the group Tenth Avenue North. I heard this song awhile ago and liked it a lot and then I heard it again recently in my car coming home from work and it was like it was the first time I ever heard it. It made me stop and really listen to the the message of the song. “But I have this hope in the depth of my soul, in the flood or the fire, You’re with me and You won’t let go”. Not a new message by any means for Christians, but sometimes you just need to “hear” things in a different way. I truly felt the presence of God with me listening to that song. I went home and researched the song and it was written for one of the band member’s sister-in-law who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. The song is rooted in verses from Isaiah 43:1-3:

…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; For I am the Lord your God….

Note it doesn’t say *if* you pass through the waters, rivers, or fire, but *WHEN*. We don’t understand why all this pain and suffering happens to us. Our human nature wants to know why. Most of the time we never find out why. If only we could truly surrender and let God carry us through. I don’t know about you, but I am not very good at doing that in the middle of suffering and pain. Maybe that is why I have to hear that message over and over again so that  maybe one day I will finally understand and truly hear  the message that God is present with us through whatever happens.

If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. -Mark 4:23


September 25

            The world can be a scary place. There are many things that will frighten even the bravest of souls. Perhaps what scares us the most is the feeling of uncertainty, of not being sure what will happen next, of not feeling in control of events. We like to think we are in total control of it all, but then life throws us a new plot twist and everything gets thrown off-kilter. We wonder how we are ever going to deal with this new thing. Some people adapt quickly; others take longer or not at all.
            The Bible is full of events that quickly spiraled out of control for the people who were living through them. The Great Flood is one of them. So is the exile of the tribes of Israel after centuries of misrule and sin. There are many bad things that can happen to people, but I should think that having your home destroyed and being uprooted and exiled to a place you know nothing about would be among the worst.
Jesus, too, probably had a moment of uncertainty before He went off to be crucified, when He beseeched God to take the cup away if at all possible. He didn’t want to do this, but He realized that if everything was to be made right, He had to die a violent, agonizing death. He submitted to God’s will. Trusting and letting go is not easy. “Let go and let God” is easier said than done because we are stubborn and fearful creatures. May we find the discipline to trust that even though things may be uncertain now, we will find our way to the light.


September 12

Listen to Your Nudges

“We are not called to save the world, to solve all problems, and help all people. But each of us has our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world. We have to keep asking God to help us see clearly what our call is and to live out that call with trust. Then we will discover that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the illnesses of our time. “
-Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

I think we sometimes feel like we need to do BIG work for God, but the longer I am this spiritual journey, I realize that the little things make a difference. The Holy Spirit nudges us and sometimes we listen and sometimes we don’t. I try to listen to the nudges and act on them. 

About a year ago I gave a devotional to a friend. I really don’t remember why I ordered it for her, just got a little “nudge” to do it.  When I gave it to her she began to cry and said the day before had been the worst day of her life. I did not ask her what happened, I just hugged her.  Over the past year she has shared with me and we have had many spiritual discussions. She said the devotional was a spark that pushed her back to her faith during a really tough time.  I have since given her another devotional and she gave me a thank you card telling me how helpful and insightful the books have been for her. She said she was once told that one of the greatest things a person can do for another is to lead them closer to God. She felt like I helped her on her spiritual journey. I do not take any credit for this, other than acting on a nudge. 

Trust your nudges and act on them and who knows what will happen!

“Christ has no body now on Earth, but yours. No hands, but yours, no feet but yours. It is your eyes with which His compassion looks out on the World. Your feet with which He walks about doing good. Your hands with which He blesses humanity. Your voice with which His forgiveness is spoken. Your heart with which He now loves….” -St Teresa of Avila


August 27

            Have you ever noticed that there are certain things we resist early in our lives, only to embrace them fully later on? Naps come to my mind. When we were kids, we never wanted to take naps. It was only when we became adults that we realized how important naps really are.
            There is much to be said, in this day and age, for resting. We don’t do as much of it as we should as a society. Today, everything is about constantly being on the move and staying connected so that we can be ready to shove off at a moment’s notice. With all of this emphasis on go, go, go, it’s no wonder that we end up becoming so tired that we can barely function. Rest is one of the most important parts of our well-being, yet we so often resist the urge to rest because there might just be something else out there for us to do.
            Whether we like it or not, though, eventually we all have to stop and rest. Not even Jesus could be on the go every waking minute of the day. Even He had to rest and have some alone time. There are passages in the Bible that demonstrate this, such as Matthew 14 and Mark 4:35-40. Even though Jesus was out there doing His Father’s work, He also knew that there were times when He had to rest. May we have the insight to realize that we don’t have to be constantly busy. We, too, need rest.


August 7

A time of Rest

In today’s society, we are so full of “doing” we have a hard time resting and not doing. We feel guilty, we feel like we have not accomplished anything, that we are not making a contribution. We forget that rest is not only important but necessary. I don’t just mean sleep, I mean rest from doing. I have seasons in my life when I cannot do anymore, almost a forced rest, a weariness when I am empty and I need to be filled up. During those times, I feel like I am not doing God’s work and I am not shining His Light.  I read an article entitled “ Come, All who are Weary” by Jon Bloom who referred to this emptiness as deep soul weariness. That term sort of resonated with me.  He goes on to say that in our times of weariness, we may not be the best preachers of our souls and we need others to speak truth to us and help us believe in Jesus. 
The causes of weariness are different for all of us. I think that we need to take a lesson from scripture and give ourselves permission to rest and fill up our spirits in whatever ways help us. 

In Genesis we find that God rested on the 7th day and actually set aside a Sabbath day. We read about the Sabbath in both the Old and New Testaments but in today’s society we do not honor the Sabbath. Maybe it isn’t a day every week that we rest from all our duties, but we need to work in Sabbath time for us to refill and renew our spirits and not feel guilty about it. I don’t really have an answer on how to do that. I wish I did, but I think it looks different for all of us. I try retreating into nature, listening to spiritual music, and talking with other believers. 

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

Jesus would retreat by himself during his ministry many times to renew his spirit because he knew it was imperative to prevent weariness. I think when we are in those times of weariness we need to pray to God to give us the strength and then trust that He will give it to us to help us go on with His work. But in the meantime, we need to rest, whatever that means for us individually. Some of us need more rest than others because we are all different and that is ok, but we all need to rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30)

July 24

            Ours is a fast-paced society. We have hammered into our heads the idea of go-go-go all the time. Even when you don’t feel like it, even when you’re tired to the point of exhaustion, still we hear the message of “Never mind how tired you are, we still want you to keep going!” And on, and on, and on we go, toiling ceaselessly for what ultimately seems like little to no recognition for our efforts.
            It can be very discouraging for us to work all the time with very little to show for it. It’s no wonder that people become burned out easily. There is, however, a difference between being tired of the work you’re doing and just being tired. Paul exhorts us twice in his letters not to stop doing good. He says in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” And again in 2 Thessalonians 3:13, “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.”

            D.L. Moody, when asked if he ever grew tired of his work, said, “I get tired in the work but not tired of the work. [emphasis added]” Therein lies the difference. Discouragement is easy to succumb to, but if we keep in mind that even though we may not see the results of our work immediately, one day we will, as long as we keep at it. God grant us the strength and perseverance to carry on, even when we want to give up.


July 15

After the darkness comes the Dawn 

Why is everything magnified by the darkness? Why does everything seem worse in the middle of the night? Whether it is sickness, anxiety, insomnia, a phone call, or a strange noise that wakes us, it all seems worse and more scary in the dark.
Seems odd to be talking about darkness in July when we have long days of sunlight, but it is still dark in the middle of the night. We don’t think to turn lights on, we just continue to try to deal with whatever it is in the dark while still half asleep.
Recently I was awakened abruptly by a phone call at 2 am from my son who lives 800 miles away who was having a rough time and needed to hear my voice.  He has never done anything like that before so it shook me to my core. We Methodists don’t talk about Satan much, but that night I yelled at Satan to get away from him and for Light to shine on my son. 
Even the darkness is Light to God. 
 Psalm 139:12 
even the darkness is not dark to You;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with You.

One thing we need to remember is morning will come. We need to hang on. We may choose to wake someone and talk to them because the dark is worse when you are alone. We definitely need to pray because we know that God is always listening, even in the dark. And we should read scripture. That night I opened the Bible to Psalm 119. A few years ago when I was going through a difficult time, I read the entire Psalm out loud to myself in several translations and underlined verses that spoke to me and gave me comfort. 
Morning will come.
After the darkness comes the dawn. The sun WILL rise in the morning. Things will look different in the morning, in the light of day. In the meantime, God will be there with us in the darkness. I try to imagine that Jesus is sitting right next to me during those times.

Even the darkness is light to You.

As the Michael W Smith song “Surrounded” says - “It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You, this is how I fight my battles.”
 Next time you are in darkness, let the Light of God surround and flow over you


July 9

Gracious God, thank you for friends. Thank you for friends who are with us for a season and friends who remain with us for life. Please help me to be a better friend: generous, forgiving, just, and being a loving presence when needed. Thank you for being my friend, now and forever. In Jesus' name, Amen.

June 25

            One of the old sayings that I try to live by is “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” It comes in many forms, such as “Things aren’t always what they seem,” and although it is a cliché, it’s still true. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I am afraid of thunderstorms. Specifically, what always rattled me was the thunder because of its loudness. The lightning only bothered me because I knew that the loud thunder would not be far behind it. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that thunder was merely noise, but it wouldn’t hurt you, and the silent lightning was what could harm you if you were extremely unlucky enough to be hit by it.
            There are other instances of things which appear to be beneficial yet can hurt us if we are not vigilant. For example, people who seem to be full of piety and keeping up a good appearance may be exactly that, or they may just be showing off to “show” their worth to an admiring world. It is up to us to discern the wheat from the chaff and to practice that which we have been commanded to do.
            Jesus warns us against falling into this trap in Matthew 6. When we give alms, or pray, or fast, we are told not to make a big display of these actions; Jesus tells us that those who do these things ostentatiously “…have received their reward.” We are instead told to do these things in secret, for “your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” In both cases, things are not what they seem, but only one course of action will meet with God’s approval. May we strive never to fall into the trap of doing the Lord’s work merely to bolster our egos, but always to further the advance of God’s Kingdom here on Earth.


June 12

Recently while driving to work the scripture passage about “The Armor of God” popped in my head. This is unusual for me, scripture passages don’t just “pop” in my head.  I didn’t even remember where in the Bible this passage was located nor what it was about. By the way, it is found in Ephesians 6: 10-17  and explains about the full armor of God, including a belt, breastplate, shield, helmet and sword. It is not a particular comforting passage to me, nor is it one of my “go to” passages, nor do I really get its meaning, nor can I relate to putting on armor. So this sort of made me curious and start looking up other translations of it to figure out why this just popped in my head. Of course we all know that things just don’t pop in our head, for some reason God wanted me to think about this some more. The passage talks about the armor representing truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation. The translation in “The Message” says: “God is strong and he wants you strong…be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own…truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation are more than just words…God’s Word is an indispensable weapon…”
This makes more sense to me, but I was still confused. Life is a battle, that is for sure. Trying to stay on the right path and imitate Jesus is a little intimidating to me and I always fall short, but I still want to try my best. 
Work is the place I struggle the most these days. I am a nurse and I work in the operating room at Shock Trauma. It is a stressful and challenging job, but I believe God has placed me there to do His work. Lately I have been struggling and feeling weary. I talked with my pastor about it and he suggested I pray over my scrubs before I change into them. I like that idea. I have begun thinking of the pink scrubs as my armor of God at work, praying over them when I put them on and again when I take them off. 
I am sure there is something you could specifically pray over in your life when you are struggling and begin to think of it as your armor of God. Prayer is a powerful weapon we have to help us in our wars and battles. In fact Ephesians 6:18 tells us to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. 
The picture above is me and one of my best friends at work. We have worked together for over 25 years. We pray for each other and help each other when we are struggling. I am blessed with a group of work friends that I can talk to who understand the struggles of our work and who will pray for me when I am in need. 
Putting on the armor of God gives us powerful weapons to fight our worldly battles.

Heavenly Father, help us to remember to turn to you when we are at war. Your strength helps make us strong to fight our battles! Amen.

May 27

“If you’re not careful, you’ll suffer the consequences.” We may or may not have heard that statement at some point in our lives, and while we realize that actions have consequences, some think that that applies only to others, and not to themselves. Sometimes the consequences of our actions are immediate, and other times the consequences don’t become apparent until long after the initial event took place. And depending on our actions, the consequences can be either good or bad.
            This point struck home after I read the first part of Romans 15 not long ago. This chapter illustrates that those who are strong are obligated to bear with those who are weak. It warns us against using the freedom we have in Jesus merely as an excuse to please ourselves, but to use it to build up our neighbors. If we abuse this freedom and seek to live out a life of pleasure only for ourselves, the consequences of such a life will travel with us down to the end of our road. Paul exhorts us to use the freedom of Christ to build each other up, to build relationships with others by not just telling of the Scriptures but by putting them to proper use.
            Paul concludes this passage in verses 5 through 7: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” If we are able to at least work toward that end, the outcome may be greater than any of us anticipate.


May 10

Look around you:  Winter is over; the winter rains (snow and ice)are over, gone! Spring flowers are in blossom all over. The whole world’s a choir - and singing!
Song of Songs 2:11-12 (The Message)

I took some creative liberty and added the words snow and ice in the scripture passage. It seemed like old man winter just did not want to loosen its grip on us this year. But finally, better late than never - spring has arrived!

Spring is a favorite season for many people. It brings with it the hope of new creation and life, which God has promised us. It is a time of new beginnings.

This spring has taken me by surprise. You would think I would remember how beautiful the new leaves on the trees were and the vibrant colors and fragrances of the flowers from all the previous springs I have experienced in my life. Or maybe I just appreciate them more since we had to wait so long for spring this year. Or maybe I am just paying attention and being present. Whatever the reason, I am thanking God for Spring!

Let spring soak into your soul and renew your spirit!


April 30

Gold is one of the most sought-after materials in the world – it is a beautiful yellowish color, it is rare, and it does not tarnish. Most other precious metals, like copper and silver, don’t stay in their pure states for very long. Gold has become a standard like no other. We use it to designate the very best of many things – the gold standard, gold medals, and the Golden Rule.
            The Golden Rule is not unique to Christianity, though Jesus mentions it in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:12), but it is considered to be central to Christian ethics. Sometimes, though, it seems as if this gold is tarnished. If you’ve read the news lately, the Golden Rule no longer seems to apply to anything or anyone in this world. The Golden Rule has been replaced by this rule: “Do unto others before they do unto you.”
            I’m no theological expert, but I’m pretty certain that isn’t what Jesus or any other religious leader who advocated The Golden Rule had in mind. I also don’t know very many people who like being treated like yesterday’s garbage. For the world’s sake, we must reclaim the original sense of the Golden Rule and put it out there for all to see, with no hidden motives. We reap what we sow; let us, therefore, strive to sow good in the world so that we may reap the benefits.


April 11

“A major part of the Christian journey is learning how to handle those times when the heavens are locked, when our lives are weighted with the winter garments of despair, pain, worry and loss. We try desperately to convince ourselves that we don’t serve a God who has absented himself from the listening post, who has hung up a “Shop’s Closed” sign and taken off to vacation somewhere in the balmy south.” -Karen Burton Mains

I am angry at God right now. My sister’s husband has cancer. He was diagnosed 2 years ago, but the past few months his health has declined and his symptoms have gotten worse. My sister said to me tonight she is watching her husband die. I am not the first one to be mad at God. I am not the first one to not understand human suffering. Sometimes it is easy to look the other way when others suffer, but not when your own sister is describing to you about her husband literally starving to death in front of her. I feel so helpless. I have been praying for them since the diagnosis. I can listen to her cry and yell and be angry. I know God is there in our suffering, but sometimes it sure is hard to feel it.  I can’t fix the suffering for my sister and her husband, unfortunately, no one can. But I can try to “be” there for her. I can check in on her, even if I think maybe it isn’t a good time or I may be bothering her. I can cry with her. I can just listen to her and ask others to pray for both of them. Here on earth we can be God’s arms to give a hug, or shoulder to cry on, or a hand to hold. We can be God’s ears, to be present and listen.

“The literal translation of the words, ‘pray always’ is ‘come to rest’…This rest, however has little to do with the absence of conflict or pain. It is a rest in God in the midst of a very intense daily struggle”. - Henri Nouwen

God’s spirit is right along side helping us along…He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of wordless signs, our aching groans. Romans 8:26-27 (The Message)

Gracious Father, help us to be the vessels for you here on earth when others are suffering. Help them to feel Your presence through us. Amen.

March 28

            Consider for a moment your feet. Without them, we would not be able to do basic tasks such as walk, kick, or drive a car. Our feet are very useful parts of the body, yet we often take them for granted, noticing only when they hurt – and when they do, we know that it’s time to get off them as soon as possible.
            The Bible has quite a selection of verses about feet. For example, Isaiah 52:7 says (paraphrased in Romans 10:15), “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” We are also often called to lay ourselves down at Jesus’s feet, and to be His hands and feet in the world.
            Jesus walked all over Judea and Galilee, delivering His message to any and all who came. And when, at long last, the time came for Jesus to be crucified, His feet had to support not just His body, but also the cross on which He would die. I can only imagine how much His feet hurt by the time He got to Calvary, but He knew what this would accomplish, so I can also imagine He knew the suffering would be worth it to save the world. May we honor His act of sacrifice by being the feet (and hands) this world desperately needs.

March 21

     Giving thanks when things don’t go as we planned may be a challenge. Sometimes God puts others people in our lives to help us learn to do so. A few weeks ago, our Women’s Retreat was scheduled on a weekend that was rainy and very foggy up in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Some people talked negatively about how the fog was affecting the weekend. A few days after the retreat, a wise friend shared that as she thought back over the weekend, she said she realized she was thankful for the rain and fog. The reason being that she thought the women on the retreat spent more time together in the large meeting room enjoying talking with each other. If the weather would have been sunny and warm, many people would have gone outside and not spent as much time together. My friend was able to be thankful even when the weather conditions were not what we had hoped they would be. I pray that I can be one of those people who can give thanks in all circumstances.

Father, teach us to be thankful in all circumstances.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
                                                                                                    Thess. 5:18

March 14

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

I recently attended my uncle’s memorial service. I was close to him when I was a teenager and young adult. As the years went on, he   remarried a woman who turned out to be the love of his life. When he remarried, his new family seem to literally swallow him up, and I felt some resentment that he was taken away from “my” family. He and I were never that close again. 
As I sat there at his service and listened to person after person from his “new” family speak from their hearts about what a positive role model he was, what an influence he had on them, and how loved and supported they felt by him, I had an epiphany. God’s plan for my uncle was to be there for them, not us. My sister had the exact same epiphany during the service. Somehow, acknowledging that this was God’s plan brought us some peace and understanding. This was not our plan, but it was God’s plan and purpose for my uncle.
He was a man of faith most of his life, but like many of us, his faith grew stronger as he got older. He was an artist, and the picture above is from one of his drawings of the church where he was baptized and grew up in Cincinnati. He felt a special connection to the church and sometimes returned there when he came in town to visit. Living out his faith and beliefs were what his new family experienced when they were around him. 
Isn’t this what we all hope will be said about us? Are we living our faith, loving and supporting others on their faith journeys, even when it isn’t our plan, but God’s plan?
Loving God, Thank You for revealing Your plan to us to help us understand and give us the courage and strength to continue on our earthly journeys.  Amen.


February 26

            We are living in a time of what used to be considered unimaginable horror, but which has now become so normalized that we’re now numbed to it all. We feel that whatever is happening is so far beyond our ability to do anything about that we either do nothing or do something safe such as offering thoughts and prayers. There is nothing wrong at all about offering thoughts and prayers; they are a way of letting people know that we are with them. But there comes a point when thoughts and prayers are simply not enough. Actions must, at some point, accompany the prayers.
            James 2:17 says, “Thus also, faith without works is dead.” Many biblical scholars have taken this to mean that works consistent with the ideals of the Christian faith should naturally follow if we have true faith; if not, then our faith is empty and meaningless, and we are lying to God and ourselves. It is just as important to note, however, that good works by themselves do not guarantee us salvation. The two – faith and works – must necessarily be joined together.
            I do not claim to have all the answers to what ails our society, but I do know that it is not enough just to offer thoughts and prayers, and nothing else. At some point, we will have to act on our faith and let our good works flow through the world. If we are going to claim that we are Christians, then it is high time that we started believing and acting the way Jesus taught us.


February 18

Ecclesiastes 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven

Does this include winter? The season of winter has a bad reputation. Most people I ask would say winter is their least favorite season. Not too many of us embrace winter: too dark, too cold, too long. Ice, snow, blustery winds. But we don’t want to miss the gifts of winter: the quietness of snow falling, the icy trees that glisten in the bright sun and look like Christmas decorations, the crisp clean air, the clear blue sky, and the clear night sky that reveals stars not seen in other seasons. 

A former TUMC pastor said “winter offers us a time to reflect, remember and give thanks. There is a grace in the quietness and solitude of winter which is unlike any other season.” I find it interesting that Lent, a time of reflection, begins in winter. Many folks try to escape winter, but I think God gave us winter to teach us the lessons of slowing down, refreshing, reflecting and resting. 

The Lord says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” Isaiah 55:10-11

“May your winter places be kissed by light.” - John O’Donohue


February 8

Ice and freezing rain are not usually amusing. They are dangerous, inconvenient, and miserable. But, I had to laugh at my dog and his reaction to the ice this past week. He was so obviously disgusted by the whole thing! He refused to go down our porch steps, refused to go into the street, and gingerly stalked around the crystalline grass. I'm grateful that he is small and easily carried. I'm grateful for the giggles in an otherwise grim weather event.

Thank you, Lord, for my funny little dog. Thank you that we didn't take a tumble down those steps. Thank you for the warmth of our house when we returned after our adventurous walk. Amen.


January 29

We live in an age in which it seems the predominant emotion is hatred, and nobody is immune to it. Hatred can range from the seemingly trivial, as in “I hate it when I have to restart my computer,” to the much more serious “I hate those [fill in the blank] people! They don’t belong here! Let’s get rid of them!”
            Hatred is one of those things that should not belong in a Christian (or any other) society, yet it keeps cropping up. And the sheer negativity of the hatred is often enough to overpower its opposite, love. I think it should be reasonably clear that the God as revealed by Jesus is a God of love, and it must grieve Him when he sees so much hatred in the world.
            The Bible is also clear on what it says about hatred. 1 John 4:20 reminds us, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” And Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”

            We, as humans and, thus, as children of God, have a choice. We can either choose love or hate. And though hate may be the easier choice, it is also the path that leads to ruin. Therefore, let us choose love; it may be more difficult than hate, but the end result will be far better.


January 21

     Encouraging others is a way of serving God. It shows that you value that person, and you want to help them be the person that God wants them to be. We all need encouragement at some time in our life. A few words of encouragement can make a difference to a person who is struggling. Ask God to guide you to those people who need encouragement. Sometimes God nudges us to encourage people who have hurt us. This can be a challenge, but God will help you find the words. Encourage someone in your life today!
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

                                                                                                         I Thessalonians 5:11                                                                     

January 14

We are renewing our baptism at church this month. This got me thinking about water. We cannot live without it. We often take it for granted, we sometimes don’t even notice it. 
It can be refreshing, cold, hot, frozen, scarce, plenteous, and powerful. It can be both beautiful and destructive. When we do pay attention to it, often we are mesmerized, captivated, and soothed by it.  Many of my friends as well as my sister love the beach and consider it one of their favorite places to be. The waves continually come in and go out and you can look forever toward the distant horizon. The sound of water can be very calming and you hear it differently in lapping waves, impressive waterfalls, streams gurgling over rocks, and rain falling gently on a roof. I also love the reflective quality of water - sun or moonlight shining on water has delighted humankind for years. Light and water can even combine to form a dazzling rainbow.
I think when God created water, his intention was to remind us of Him. He used water over and over again in the Bible as a symbol for many things including spiritual cleansing, new birth, life and deliverance. Water and God have many of the same characteristics. Something to ponder.

Isaiah 55:1 
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…”

Gracious Father,

Help us to see You when we look at water. Help us not to take it for granted or waste it. Help us to remember You and that it reflects Your beauty.