Friday, December 7, 2018

Words from Malachi

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 3:1

(click on photo to view larger)


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Live in the Light

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one 
another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

Photosynthesis is the process by which a green plant uses the energy from the light of the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into its own food for growth.  Picture the simple experiments in your elementary school science classes which were designed to demonstrate the concept: grass seeds on soil in a tray, partially covered, sitting beside the window; or sprouts in shoe boxes, some with and some without lids.  Do you remember the stark contrast between the plants which received adequate light and those which did not? 

Just as science textbooks explain that light is essential to the lives of plants, our Bible explains in many different passages how the light of the Lord Jesus is essential to the lives of Christians.  For example, Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”  The author of Hebrews writes, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”  And in John’s gospel, Jesus says, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight: A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” 

Prayer: Lord, you are our everlasting light and our salvation, and Jesus is the radiance of your glory. May our words and deeds also reflect your glory.  Shine your light on us so that we will not stumble in the darkness. Just as the green plants use sunlight as energy to sustain life, let us use your light as energy to sustain our lives and produce good fruits. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Judith Keller (reprinted from our Advent Devotional - 2015)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

We've a Story to Tell the Nations

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:11-15

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head that you just can’t get rid of?  I usually blame what is playing on the radio, or something used in a repetitive commercial but not this week. This week I have a hymn. It started with the chorus and then built verse by verse in a glimpse of my childhood. I am generally a fan of older hymns; rhyming verse with a simple rhythm that is repetitive and familiar. “We’ve a story to Tell to the Nations” is something that I remember my grandmother singing. I always loved the chorus:

“The darkness has turned to the dawning and the dawning to noonday bright, for Christ’s great kingdom has come to earth – the kingdom of love and light.”  

In looking at the hymn as a whole the verses have a wonderful message – share God’s story – in your life. Each verse expands on this and asks that we all share the message, in word, in song, in truth and in life. In reading other interpretations of this hymn, I found that it isn’t often published in newer/non-denominational hymnals because of its “outdated” missionary focus and the “preachy” undertones in the message. 

I disagree. While this hymn definitely feels “older” (it was first published in London in 1896) I think it shows the ways we can simply and elegantly share God in our lives. We all have moments when we know that God is with us, pushing us into something that may feel uncomfortable, even though we know it’s the right thing to do. Acts and words give us the opportunity to share God’s love for us.  

There is so much darkness in the world today. Human rights issues everywhere, war, fought by U.S. soldiers in foreign lands, food, money and clothing shortages in America, a land of excess. With all of this darkness, it is comforting for me to think of God as the light. And I want to live a life that reflects my faith that the darkness will break apart and let God’s light in.

Prayer: God – please be with us in the darkness.  We share our fears with you but we don’t always share your story with those around us.  Help me to share the beauty of your work in my life through my words and actions.

Christi Moock (reprinted from our Advent Devotional - 2015)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Saying Grace

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with Thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:4-5

And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you. Deuteronomy 12:7

My daughter's in-laws include me in their family celebrations, and this year we had not one but two Thanksgiving feasts.  It was delightful to share food with others, since most of my meals are spent with my cats by my side.  My daughter's father-in-law always has a prayer at the ready, and I enjoyed two different graces from him this year.  It made our time together even more special. 

When I was little, my family did not say grace except at holiday meals.  I never understood grace, or many other prayers for that matter.  We were taught to be grateful for our food, and for our mother's valiant efforts to make it something a child might actually want to eat.  I figured we should be blessing her, as well as congratulating ourselves for taking the three required bites of each item. But I was careful to wait for grace to be said when I was visiting other people for meals, since I realized it had meaning for them.  

It is so easy to clink glasses with someone before drinking, especially when celebrating something.  It should feel just that easy to thank the source of all our nourishment in body and spirit.  I like to think of different ways of expressing gratitude now.  I recently watched a cooking show where the chef demonstrated how to turn humble vegetables and grains into special dishes by cooking them thoughtfully.  It made so much sense, because we often take for granted the foods most easily available to us regardless of season or finances. I like to think of being creative and resourceful with simple ingredients. Sometimes I will come home late from work, and all I really want is a hot potato to nibble on. It completely satisfies a need. 

I am a vegetarian, and after I stopped eating meat a few years ago I realized  I had always wanted to be a vegetarian.  It is fun to explore new foods, but limiting the diet is also gratifying.  My friend who is trying to cut out sugar has discovered she feels better and has more energy. I am trying to make some substitutions in that area, but I am not ready to give up all sugar. 

We spent a fair amount of time in the car when my kids were growing up.  Quite often we would end up having Car Picnics because we didn't have time to go home for meals. 

I like to think that those meals brought a little of home to our car, and the conversation was more free because we weren't facing each other. 

Wherever and whatever I eat, I now understand the reason for stopping to give thanks for everything that brings food to my body.  It is a way of beginning again. Our food is a gift, and the work that provides it is a gift. I love that there are many ways to be mindful of that gratefulness.  

We can ask that our food fuel us to do God's work; we can remember someone missing from us who used to pour that cup of tea for us; we can bless an old family recipe that reminds us of the people who used to share it with us; we can ask for others to enjoy the same privilege of being fed; we can ask for the food to nourish and heal us and others who aren't well; we can ask that the meal bring us together as family; and we can ask that the transforming power of Communion be present in our meal.  

This a grace from jesuitresource.org: May this food restore our strength, giving new energy to tired limbs, new thoughts to weary minds. May this drink restore our souls, giving new vision to dry spirits, new warmth to cold hearts. And once refreshed, may we give new pleasure to you, who gives us all. Amen.

Mollie Manner

Monday, December 3, 2018

Rejoice and Reflect


“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25a 

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4 

“Making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3 

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will to you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18  

In his Editor’s Note of the October, 2018 Guideposts, Edward Grinnan suggests, “(Fall is) a good time to take stock, to rejoice and reflect, to forgive, to love, to give thanks.” Many things in life distract us from what truly matters. 

How are we doing in using our time wisely? Do we invest our time in searching God’s Word?  Do we listen for God’s directions for us?

Do we refresh our spirit and body by enjoying the world of nature that God provides us? We can talk to God and become more physically fit at the same time. Or we can “walk and talk” with our spouse, or other family member or friend. Do we rejoice in knowing that God is with us in all of life’s joys and challenges?

Do we forgive those who have hurt us? Do we truly show love to both those easy to love and those not easy to love? Do we express thanks every day, not just as we celebrate Thanksgiving?

After we “take stock, rejoice and reflect, forgive, love, and give thanks,” then we can begin the season of Advent and step into a new year. 

Prayer: God, help us to use our time wisely. Show us how to make every moment matter today and every day. Amen.

Lois Poppe

Friday, November 30, 2018

What?


Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Recently I had a conversation with someone about communication and how abbreviated our language has become.  Are we really communicating?  Do we understand what the other person is really saying?

It reminds me of a posting on Facebook, where the son was telling a story about his mother and learning to use modern abbreviations on text messages. She saw several people using lol.  Upon someone announcing the death of a family member, she responded with lol.  Her son said, "Mom, how rude!" The mother responding to her son said “why, I just responded with lol meaning lots of love.”  Her son said, “Mom it means Laughing Out Loud!”  How many times have you seen a response from someone and said: I wonder what that means? I usually goggle it to see what it means, I can’t keep up with all the new ones. There are several I don’t want to know what they mean or would ever use. 

Upon my first day at a postal distribution center, I was instructed by the supervisor to go help unload the scf from the bmc on to the 1070’s.  He was pointing to a direction which helped but the rest was unclear except that I was to unload something on to something. I responded with I am happy to do that; but I have no idea what you just said. He was a supervisor that spoke abbreviations for just about everything, and soon I understood what he was talking about, but it meant a lot of questions.  

Many conversation workshops tell you to listen, repeat what the person said, then ask for clarification to make sure you understood what they are actually saying. In my recent part-time work, I had a co-worker say something to me, I looked at them and said I am sorry I do not know what you said. They repeated it, and I still didn’t know what they said. It finally came down to someone else interpreting for us. We were both speaking English, but neither knew what the other was relaying. 

Emojis are another form of communication that leaves a lot to the interpretation of the person using it and the person receiving it. Is that smiley face crying a good thing or bad? Is it not bad enough we don’t all speak the same language, or have the same dialect but now we use pictures and abbreviations!   

Have you ever read the Bible and thought, I wonder what this is really saying to me? Or had someone tell you their interpretation of that passage. Thank goodness it is not all just pictures, abbreviations and emojis. Thank goodness we have a church where we can gather and learn of the meaning of the words in the Bible. Pastors to teach us what the Bible is saying to us. A place that we can gather and worship God in a better understanding. A place where we work at understanding each other and expressing our thoughts in words, music and praise to Jesus our Lord.

Prayer: Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for the Pastors, the church staff, the musical directors, Sunday School teachers, and all those that help to put together a welcoming and open gathering place to worship our Lord. May we find more understanding of your messages. May we find more ways to open communication between the generations, the cultural differences and any other dividing differences. May we extend our hand to help others learn of your love.  In Jesus name, we pray. Amen

Lori Hood

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Prayer

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:42   


There is a scene in the movie Evan Almighty that I absolutely adore, Morgan Freeman (God) is explaining to Lauren Graham (Joan, Evan’s wife) that God doesn’t always clearly grant our prayers in the ways that we expect them to be granted. In this scene God says “Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”


This is such a short burst in the film but it always stays with me and I love the way it ties to this verse – if you believe that you have received what you have prayed for, it will be yours. As humans, we think about our desires, and we pray for ourselves and those around us. We ask God to be in our lives, but we are frustrated when we have to admit that his power and will is greater than our own.   


As I reflected on this verse and this scene I thought back over times when I have asked God for something and he has delivered in ways that I would not have expected.  When I prayed that my son would receive an education that would make him successful and enriched, I wasn’t ready for him to move 640 miles away, but it has been such an amazing experience for him. Years ago, when I prayed for a very ill friend to have less suffering, I wasn’t ready for his death to be so sudden, but I know that he has been released from all the pain his body experienced on earth. As part of our spiritual and emotional growth we have to accept our gifts and make the most of them and we must have faith that God will continue to provide for us in ways that we could never have imagined. Especially in those moments were we don’t get what we ask for.    


Prayer: God who knows our deepest fears and hopes, please continue to help us grow. Continue to respond to prayers in ways that are better than we could have asked, and guide us on the path that you have always planned. Amen.     

Christi Moock