December 31

123112“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.” - Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

This week as I was trying to think of “promises fulfilled” in my life, one of Dan’s daily scriptures jumped out of familiarity as a very positive one to connect with. Later today, I was talking with someone else at church (Dora Lee Bryan) who said she had thought of using the same verse. So, this may be a duplicate scripture but we have confirmed together that is has positive meaning for both of us.  

This, to me, is a true view of God, to my understanding. The One Who is always watching out for us. The One Who has plans for us. The One Who has great expectations for us.

Sometimes just this reminder may be what can turn a blue Monday into brightness.

PRAYER: Dear God, Thanks for always being in our corner and making it a place of infinite possibility. AMEN.

Jim Cook

December 30

The Promise Revealed To Mary…

123012We walked through the Nazareth village and stopped at a sheep pen where I was to tell the story of the angel, Gabriel, announcing the upcoming birth of Jesus to Mary. The cameras were set and the forty five people stood around me in a half circle.  

Moments before I began to tell the story, a shepherd appeared with his 12 sheep and began leading them into the pen. One ewe and her two lambs did not follow but came and stood between me and the people. Knowing that time was crucial, I began telling the story.  

“And the angel appeared to Mary, the teenager, and began speaking to her telling her that she had found favor with God and so God had chosen her to fulfill the promise that he had given His people years before. Mary, although she was frightened, recalled the promise of a Messiah. But why was Gabriel talking to her? The angel continued revealing that Mary had been chosen to give birth to a boy named Jesus…the promise child.”

At that announcement, the ewe loudly bleated: “Baaaa, Baaa, Baaa” and started walking with her two lambs towards the sheep pen.   

I finished the story and then began to recall the fact that sheep are the most frequently mentioned animal in the Bible. I wondered why this sheep was there and what she understood! And then I wondered what we understand about God’s promises which he has always revealed and kept.

PRAYER: God help us to see and hear what you have promised and may we give you honor, thanks and praise for your constant care for us. May we understand the power of promise in our daily lives. AMEN.

Ann Scroggie

December 29

122912A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. - ISAIAH 11:1-3

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” - LUKE 2:25-32

I’ve always enjoyed journaling. Once my husband and I married and began a family time for writing faded. Yet each morning, as I sought God’s face, I scribbled brief statements in margins of Bibles and devotionals. They included happy moments and sad; births and deaths; prayer requests and answers plus the year they occurred.

Years later now as I flip through old readings, not only do I receive directions from God, I see evidence of ways he worked and continues to work in my life.

In repeat readings, I’m reminded, for example, of a reconciled marriage as a couple traveled on a second honeymoon out of the country. Another message boasted of a healing of a sister-in-law who survived breast cancer fifteen years ago. One margin recorded the birth of a healthy baby girl to a 42-year-old friend, who the previous year, grieved the death of her six-year-old daughter from a car accident.

Like many in the Old Testament, men still seek hope and promise. God delivered Isaiah’s prophecy through the birth of Christ. Simeon affirmed God’s promise when he held Jesus in his arms.

God’s promises deliver.

Will you witness them?  

PRAYER: Father, God, as I turn towards you and offer you my day, may your grace shower me with direction, hope and peace. Open my eyes to see you and your promises. I pray in the precious name of your Son, Jesus, the Messiah. AMEN.

Pidge Boyles

December 28

12-28Promises Fulfilled

“Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live,” “This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.” - Isaiah 55:3,13

Many years ago, I was drawn to these promises in the Old Testament as a freshman at Asbury College in Wilmore, KY.

As I faced retirement from teaching in July, I knew I was in for a period of major reflection for the way I used my time and gifts toward a specific focus not entirely decided by me! As I tackled the clutter of unfinished tasks in my home, I also prayed for clarity of new divine purposes. When I exercised, I tried to listen for nudges or consider options of action. I journaled insights as I received them. As a teacher, I had been very structured, organized and disciplined to accomplish a defined agenda for many years. Now I was living in a new reality of time and choice. I was feeling out of my comfort zone by not automatically knowing what BIG thing I would do next when in a Bible Study group a new book was suggested for another reason. I found this poem that seemed like part of God’s promise fulfilled for me in present days. (Thanks, Jim Cook and Dan Johnson)

For Retirement

“This is where your life has arrived,
After all the years of effort and toil;
Look back with graciousness and thanks
On all your great and quiet achievements.

You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let your heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons.
Have the courage for a new approach to time;
Allow it to slow until you find freedom
To draw alongside the mystery you hold
And befriend your own beauty of soul.

Now is the time to enjoy your heart’s desire,
To live the dreams you’ve waited for,
To awaken the depths beyond your work
And enter into your infinite source.”

To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue

My hope and prayer is that when I do my part as the above scripture says, God will continue to fulfill His promises of long ago personally for me! May it be so!

Jan Johnson

December 27

122712In my vision at night, I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man coming in the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was lead into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all people, all nations, and men of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Did you ever have dreams and plans that didn't turn out quite the way you envisioned it? Years ago, and looking forward into my future, I dreamed about children, relationships, careers. I envisioned being an astronaut that walked on the moon, being a teacher, being a grandmother. My visions were far in the future, and sometimes not quite spot on.

Daniel had a vision of the Messiah who would come to lead Israel into the future. the Messiah was led into God's presence and given great power and authority. What a different turn history would have taken had The Messiah in the picture Daniel paints really arrived on earth ready to assume dominion. People would be terrified, and rulers would attempt to defend their lands. Instead, that very same Messiah with all that power, laid it aside, to approach us on our own terms. He became vulnerable, to invite us to approach Him.

(Luke 2: 6,7) And while they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her first born, a son. She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and placed Him in the manger because there was no room for Him in the inn. There He was, just a little bit of nothing, mewling, spitting up, and wetting His swaddling clothes. Most people didn't even notice Him. The old prophet Isaiah, shaking his head in wonder, described this Messiah as He was seen by the people of earth:

(Isaiah 53:2-3) He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem.

This is how much He loved us! He did not arrive on Christmas to royal pageantry, to worshipful crowds, to bowing and scraping rulers of countries anxious to please Him. He knew He was coming to be a Man, to live in poverty and obscurity, to serve a people who would not listen, and to die to redeem and forgive them. He still came to fulfill the promises God had made. Getting a glimpse of this incredible love is the true promise of Christmas fulfilled in our hearts each year.

PRAYER: Ephesians 3:14-21 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to doimmeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! AMEN.

Rosellen Dedlow

December 26

122612God’s Lesson Of Hope In Humbling Circumstances

When the prophet Isaiah pronounced God’s promise of the Christ, people did not understand they would wait for more than 700 years for it to be fulfilled. Yet, like all God’s promises, it was fulfilled, but just not in the way people expected. For, few could have imagined that Christ, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father of Peace, would be born in the humblest of circumstances, in a stable amid the animals.

To spread the good news of Jesus’ birth, the Lord sent an angel to lowly shepherds watching their flocks at night. Surely they were surprised that they were gazing upon the Christ child in such a humbling circumstance – lying in a manger in a stable. Yet, the humbling circumstance did not dampen the shepherds’ awe and amazement. For the long-promised birth of the Messiah and God’s lesson of hope – the promise of salvation and eternal life to all that believe – overshadowed this most humble of circumstances.

Like the shepherds that Christmas night, we have all found ourselves placed in humbling circumstances – some good, some bad, some expected, some unexpected, some created by us, some created by nature. Humbling circumstances can overpower and humble us and, I believe, can cause us to change and sharpen our focus. A feeling of hopelessness can change to a feeling of hope, because we are able to hear what God wants us to hear and see what God wants us to see. We can comprehend what we could not comprehend before amid the noise and distraction of everyday life. We are reminded of God’s lesson of hope that, for those who have faith in the Lord, things will turn out for the best, albeit differently from what we expect.

This Advent season, some of us will find ourselves personally in a humbling circumstance. Or we will observe a family member, friend or another in one. Regardless, in this circumstance, God calls us to trust in God’s promises for our lives and to cling to God’s lesson of hope.

When the shepherds heard the good news and saw God’s lesson of hope revealed, they did not keep it to themselves. Rather, they shared it with others, glorifying and praising God. Have you personally experienced or seen a family member, friend or another experience a humbling circumstance this Advent season? Have you found God’s lesson of hope for your life? Have you shared God’s lesson of hope with those who need it?

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 9:6; Luke 2:1-20.

PRAYER: God, when we find ourselves in humbling circumstances, help each of us to grasp your lesson of hope. Help each of us to capture the hope that is the celebration of the Advent season. Help us, like the shepherds of long ago, to share your love and hope for our life and the lives of others. AMEN.

Booker Schmidt

December 25

122512aChristmas Rituals

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

I'm flooded with memories of Christmas morning growing up on the farm. We all (six boys, Mom and Dad) got up at 4:30 and hurried out to the barn to do the required chores, reduced this day because it was Christmas. But the cows needed to be milked and the livestock fed. Then we hurried back to the house where Mom had breakfast waiting, which we ate with anticipation of the next move: lining up by ages to go into the dining room and the fireplace mantle where we found our own stocking that Santa had filled with goodies. Then it was off to the living room and the presents under the tree. Eventually we loaded up the car (no seat belts back then, all 8 of us in a sedan (somehow!), and off to Mom's side of the family for Christmas dinner and gifts.

It was all a child's delight - these rituals which gave shape and meaning to this day of days. Jan and I have since added some rituals of our own: lighting the Advent wreath, reading the Christmas story from Luke's Gospel, pausing to give thanks for family and church, those who have shaped our lives with rituals of grace and love.

As you live out your rich traditions and create new ones this sacred day, may the Christ Child be at the center of all you do and at the center of who you are.

Love and prayers,

Dan Johnson

December 24

122412A New Life I Asked, He Provided

How humble I am to know that my Lord is always with me. (Colossians 3:12) He is there daily, moment by moment. I asked, He provided. I asked and He provided answers to so many medical decisions and problems following Roger’s stroke in May 2011. I asked and He provided strength for all my decisions, as to what facility Roger would live in, what medical treatment and tests, and physical and occupational therapy. I asked and He provided me with a network of people to give me support mentally, emotionally and physically. I continually asked daily, day after day, for guidance. He provided me with peace, to be calm, to accept and assist Roger to have the calm, peaceful exit from his physical earth to the glorious heaven with Jesus Christ, our Son. I asked and He provided, daily, step by step. (John 14:3)

Because I asked, this last year was a transition in Roger’s and my life. I asked and He provided a journey for both Roger and I which was oh, so humbling. I prayed to Jesus and asked God to provide for Roger as he was leaving this earth and God provided me with all the tools to help him on his journey. (Matthew 7:7)

Daily, I was so thankful for the people who so kindly guided me and helped me. My Lord placed me with a Church family who plays a major role in my life - Trinity United Methodist Church. Thanks be to God.

Dora Lee Bryan

December 23

122312What Joyful News!

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-I am brining you good news of great joy for all the people." Luke 2:8-10

Can you just imagine what those shepherds must have thought when the angel appeared before them out in the fields where the shepherds worked? Shepherds were very low on the hexarchy of people in that culture. They were very unlikely people for God to reveal the news of his son’s birth. Yet God did send his angel to tell the shepherds this amazing news.

The scripture says the shepherds were afraid. I suspect we all would have been afraid if an angel appeared before us. But, the angel said “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Good news would be an understatement! It was the best news the world has ever heard. These lowly shepherds would learn that a savior was born who was Christ the Lord.

I never cease to be amazed at how God chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. These shepherds would be among the first to see the baby Jesus. Their lives would never be the same. Somehow I think our lives will never be the same either when we experience and then celebrate the birth of Jesus. We are called to go and tell the good news to others.

Every Christmas we are reminded of God’s greatest gift to the world. It should always be joyful news to us. This Christmas let us experience the joy of Christmas much like the shepherds of old and let us share that joy with all we meet.

PRAYER: Oh God, we thank you for the joy we experience every time we are reminded of the news that Jesus came into the world. May his birth be celebrated in our hearts not just one day out of the year but every day of our lives. AMEN.

Troy Holloway

December 22

122212The Lamb Of God

He was oppressed and afflicted yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. - Isaiah 53:7

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” - John 1:29

Joseph M. Martin is one of the Trinity Music Ministry’s favorite composers. A few years ago we sang one of Martin’s Christmas cantatas, Morning Star. My favorite piece in the work is what I call the “so-what” piece. It is the piece without which the text of the cantata is just nice holiday music. The text transmits shimmering, life changing truth. Consider the pivotal words of this song.

Just beyond the manger, I hear no lullabies, I see no golden hay, I feel no starlight.
Just beyond the manger I hear the hammer fall, I see a rugged cross; I feel the chill of night just beyond the manger.
Just beyond the manger I see no swaddling clothes, I hear no angels sing, I feel no candles glow.
Just beyond the manger I see a lonely hill, the Savior crying still, I hear the thunder roll.

Forgive us Lord and grant us eyes to see in every Christmas, Calvary; implant it in our hearts. Help us recall ‘mid trees of red and gold, on another tree raised long ago we hung God’s brightest star. Just beyond the manger.

Calvary was neither a mistake, nor a flaw in God’s plan. It is the reason the Messiah was born, to reconcile God’s creation to Himself. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that, whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

PRAYER: Thank you, Loving Lord for your great plan to redeem me and your other children. The gift of your Son was generous and merciful beyond measure. Teach me to thank you and love you more completely. AMEN

Donna Edmunds

December 21

122112I cry out to God Most High, To God, who fulfills his purpose for me. - PSALM 57:2

I grew up planning to be a nurse. There was this foundation of an old Church across the street where I grew up and I would go there and play being a missionary nurse. Going to nursing school after high school was always the plan. However, I grew up and married young, went to work and never made it to nursing school. Two children, many years and a second marriage later I moved to Gainesville, Florida and joined Trinity UMC.

Then at age 49, with encouragement from coworkers and the promise of a small scholarship for advancing my education, I decided to attend Santa Fe Community College to get my RN degree. I had no idea how I would work full time and afford college classes, but on faith, took the first step, which was the entrance exam. I failed the math part but was told I could take the intro to math class and if I pass that I could get in. I did that and passed and thus began the long process of taking one class at a time until I could apply for entrance into the RN program.

I continued to doubt and worry about how I could financially afford college and prayed to God to give me a sign that there would be a way. Soon after that prayer, a check for $1000.00 dollars came in the mail for me. It was sent by my aunt that I had not seen in years. That check was totally unexpected and out of the blue. For me, that was God’s way of telling me to trust him with the finances and just do the work I needed to do to finish my college education. When we face trials, God will quiet our hearts and give us confidence.

I did get into the RN program and finally finished graduating with honors. When I took my test for registered nurse, I finished and went to my car and prayed,” please Lord let me pass, this has been such a hard road.” I turned on the radio and playing on the Christian radio station was this song singing, “Everything’s going to be all right, God’s going to answer your prayers tonight.” Well, I did pass the RN exam on the first try and the song was right, God did answer my prayers. I went to work in a local hospital and also worked part time for Hospice. I got my accreditation as an oncology certified nurse, which was my goal, and continue to work in that field today. I love my job and caring for my patients and know being a nurse was God’s calling for me. I celebrate the birth of Christ and his gift to all of us. Jesus was faithful to God’s calling of his life. When Jesus fulfilled his promise, he saved the world. Joy to the World.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. - HEBREWS 11:1

Gloria E. Parker

December 20

122012“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
- Daniel 7:13-14

(The angel Gabriel speaking to Mary) “You will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his Father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” - Luke 1:31-33

Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the Old Testament Prophets – their dreams, visions, warnings, railings. In the middle of Daniel’s bizarre dreams of strange, frightening beasts, there is this clear, rational description of a leader whose kingdom will be eternal. It sounds so similar to what the Angel Gabriel explains to Mary. Are they connected? I cannot say for sure.

We do know this, that the Kingdom of God, with Jesus its advocate and author, will never pass away, never be destroyed and never end. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. Well over 2000 years after his life on earth we are still inspired and empowered by his stunning words and deeds, his death and his resurrection.

PRAYER: Holy Father, Thank you for your greatest gift to us, your son, Jesus. His Kingdom is forever. We belong to Him. AMEN.

Pat Kilby

December 19

God's Promises

121912Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In Him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen...By His Spirit, He has stamped us with His eternal pledge, a sure beginning of what He is destined to complete. - 2 CORINTHIANS 1:20-22 (THE MESSAGE)

Because of God's Promises, I have found that my faith grows stronger in the hard times; my growth has certainly taken place in the valleys of my life. The seven year journey with Harold during his illness following an aorta dissection came to define our spiritual walk with each other as well as our walk with God. When you do not know what the future holds, it is vital to know who holds your future.

Life without the Promises of God would be terrifying and overwhelming. But life in the arms of our Loving God is filled with peace, strength and calmness with the knowledge that He provides our every need. Just as the wise men followed the bright star to find the baby Jesus, I must constantly keep my focus on the Light of Christ Jesus, seeking to know His will and serve in His name.

Standing on the promises of Christ my King
Through eternal ages let his praises ring
Glory in the highest I will shout and sing
Standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises that cannot fail
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail
By the living Word of God I shall prevail
Standing on the promises of God
Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord
Bound to him eternally by love's strong cord
Overcoming daily with the Spirit's sword
Standing on the promises with God

Standing on the promises I cannot fail
Listening every moment to the Spirit's call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all
Standing on the promises of God

Standing, Standing
Standing on the promises of God my Savior
Standing, standing
I'm standing on the promises of God

Sandy Heinrich

December 18

121812God Is Present And Working Today!

For with God nothing shall be impossible. - LUKE 1:37

Some people will call this coincidence but we know that it is God present and working.

We have a cousin who lives a couple hours out of Gainesville and deals with a kidney function issue. During the time, my mother was in the hospital, a close friend of hers here developed a similar issue and was not getting any better. We kept saying that it would be good for our cousin and him to get together and share. We knew the cousin was coming to see my mother on a particular Saturday but had not heard from the local friend in several weeks. As I got in bed that Friday night, I thought I should have called the local friend to say that our cousin was coming. But, I had not done it so I left it in God’s hands. When I walked into my mother’s room on that Saturday morning, there sat our cousin and the wife of our local friend talking about their similar medical issues. It gave me goose bumps. As the local friend said, “God works it out!”

Just as God gave us the promise in Isaiah that He would send a Messiah and Comforter and just as He carried Mary and Joseph through the challenges and journey of Jesus’ birth, the flight to Egypt and the rearing of the Christ Child, He continues the promise that nothing is impossible with God in control. He is present and ready if we give him the opportunity.

PRAYER: Gracious and loving God, thank you for your presence and doing what seems to be the impossible. Help me to continue to recognize your presence and work in my life. AMEN.

Linda Cook

December 17

photo 1Praying for someone else (Intercessory prayer), allows for “entering in” with support in a way that can make a difference for everyone – those offering the support as well as those receiving it.

My son, Eddie, was hit by an IED in Afghanistan this morning. He lost both legs and his right arm and is intubated in the ICU in Kandahar. Eddie is 32, a 2006 West Point graduate, and commander of B Company of the 4/23 Infantry. His wife, Jessica, lives in Seattle. Prayers needed.

Well, it has been a tough week with lots of ups and downs. He goes to surgery for 8-9 hours every other day and is on high doses of narcotics for pain so he's not very alert. We get excited by eye blinks on command. He did get extubated for a few hours yesterday but the tube is back in today for surgery. He has had lots of complications: sepsis, fungal infection, CSF leak, pulmonary embolus. The docs remain optimistic and we try to be also. There is lots of family support here, and we are staying in a nice Marriott a mile away. It’s supposed to snow tonight. We have been here long enough that I am doing laundry. Thanks for your support.

Sally Klein

December 16

121612“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight – indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” - MALACHI 3:1–2 (NRSV)

Something I have been doing a lot recently is packing. It is the hardest part of getting ready for a trip. It is tough deciding what you need and what you need to leave behind. However, the best part of the process is imagining what you will be encountering, so you know what to bring. This is what is happening in this passage. Malachi’s messenger proclaims the Kingdom of God and tells us to get packing. Because we hear Jesus’s declaration that the Kingdom of God is drawing near (Mark 1:14), we can begin to imagine the day with no poverty, war, injustice, pain, or death. It is this vision we receive which orients our lives; which actions and habits we need to keep, and which we need to leave behind. Do our priorities today mirror God’s ultimate intention for the world? Are we preparing ourselves and our world now for the Kingdom of God?

PRAYER: God of Grace and Love, you have made us your children through the life and death of Jesus Christ our Lord. As we celebrate his birth and await his coming again, let our celebrations turn to actions so that Your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. AMEN.

Drew Weseman

December 15

121512Have you ever noticed how a light in the darkness conjures up
– even only for an instant –
feelings of warmth and safety?
Like seeing a lit-up window at the end of a dark and rainy path,
like looking down from an airplane and seeing a string of lights
that defines the firmness and safety of the earth within a
seemingly shapeless darkness.

Does it really matter what is behind a lit-up window?
Does it matter if the strings of lights on a dark earth
illuminate only cold and emptiness?
Probably not, I think,
because our first reaction is
– even if only for an instant –
a feeling of warmth and safety.
What counts is what we make of these lights.

In this festive time and throughout the year
let us kindle warm and comforting lights
which fill us and others
with a feeling of safety and homecoming and a little joy and happiness,
lights which brighten and warm many a dark space in our souls
– even if only for an instant –

Waldtraut (Val) Hummel

December 14

Promises Fulfilled On Both Sides

121412Recently a friend asked me how I pray. It was an interesting question. I told her that I never pray for anything material like a car. I mostly thank God for all that my life has become. I ask His blessing on people. I ask forgiveness. And I pray for Him to show me His will and how I can serve Him. I’m quiet most of the time, so being able to sense the answers to my prayers is pretty easy. My silence isn’t what it appears to be; I’m in a non-stop conversation with our Father.

Sometimes I feel that God is asking me to do things that are impossible. To be honest, sometimes I go back to God again and again to make sure I understand Him correctly. Is He really asking something so big from someone like me? A peace comes over me when I know I’ve got it right. Then no matter how big the mission is or how impossible it seems, I plunge right in. I’m sure that when God directs me to do something, He guides every step, and things work perfectly according to His plan. God and I exchange promises. He promises to take care of every detail and I promise to serve Him.

Almost everything in my life is challenging, so I have a support team of people to help me learn and manage. Rebecca Jackson is my advisor and works closely with me to keep my life and finances on track. She has become a good and trusted friend over these past years. Together we’ve discovered a fine line between excitement and anxiety in my life. She can sense when I’m about to cross it and is quick with practical help and encouragement. Sometimes, she’ll find Scripture she thinks will ease my mind and inspire me. Not long ago, when I was feeling overwhelmed, she chose and marked a passage for me in a new Bible I’d bought. (I’ve read the Bible all the way through twelve times. I like seeing different versions.)

“You, LORD, are my shepherd. I will never be in need. You let me rest in fields of green grass. You lead me to streams of peaceful water, and you refresh my life. You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths. I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe.” -Psalm 23:1-4, CEV

This interpretation of David’s familiar Psalm was worded in an unusual way that reminded me again of the promise of God: “You are true to your name, and you lead me along right paths.” I liked that.

Of course, I also keep my promises to God. As for the difficult things He asks of me, I’m active in three: walking and raising money for the American Heart Association, walking and raising money for the March of Dimes, and collecting food for the homeless (a mission that expands this year from my apartment complex to my job at Barr Systems). I get awards from organizations, letters from grateful people, and praise from my family and friends, but I don’t do any of this for attention. I’m doing it to keep my promise.

I was taken from my family when I was young and grew up in institutions, hospitals, and group homes. No one thought I would be able to function on the outside or ever amount to anything at all, but God promised me something else. He promised me that if I would trust and follow Him, He would show me all that He created me to be. We would surprise everyone…even me.

Andy Jasperson

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December 13

121312The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. - Isaiah 40:3-5

For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. - MATTHEW 3:3 (KJV)

This Old Testament passage from the prophet Isaiah and its corresponding New Testament recounting in Matthew herald the grandeur of the Lord and the birth of our Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger.

I often listen to the words of Isaiah’s prophecy as sung in Handel’s Messiah (throughout the calendar year) and am constantly struck by its powerful retelling of the Lord’s manifestation in the world and I particularly marvel at the 4th verse.

Its allusions are to the natural world but its redemptive meaning is really applicable to our human foibles and frailties. It speaks to me of the majesty of the Lord while focusing on his mercy for all those who suffer. It relates the most important event in human history, the Incarnation of our Lord in the person of Jesus Christ, and its announcement is music to our ears.

As the Messiah chorus sings “Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to his People on Earth!”

Erik Arved Bredfeldt

December 12

Stone To Flesh

121212A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. - EZEKIEL 36:26

Being described as “hard-hearted” is not usually a compliment given to or of another. Ezekiel is speaking on God’s behalf that our nature often turns into hearts of stone over time if we are not being transformed. The people of Israel had apparently gone from being a “light to all nations” to salvation by Law. In Biblical days, stones were sometimes used as a means of cruel and horrific execution as weapons of choice. Our stones often come in the form of words, attitude, or hatred expressed towards an individual, group, or organization we don’t like, understand, or feel threatened. Where are the stones in my life that need God’s transformation?

Nature can provide valuable lessons about the nature of God. I am amazed that persistent droplets of water can indeed change the shape of a rock over time. This indicates to me that God has the subtle power to form our being, slowly wearing away the hardness of our rocky hearts. With a new spirit given by God we are changed into being “tender-hearted” with a heart of flesh where God’s love resides. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. There is nothing we have done or have not done that has ever made God love us any less. Do you hear a hint of Incarnation in this Scripture...“I will...give you a heart of flesh” later proclaimed the “Word became flesh and dwelled among us”? (John 1:14) Love indeed came in flesh to our hearts at Christmas in Jesus.

PRAYER: “Loving God...change any hard places of our hearts to one of tenderness and mercy. Help us to see the calluses in our hearts formed over time needing to be transformed in the loving image of Christ not only for our sake but also the sake of others. In His name we pray. AMEN.

Lynwood Walters