UNITY Winter Devotionals
Stay engaged with our church community this winter with our 7-week devotional series
Week 1: THANKS
We are thankful for our El Salvador Translators!
Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good; his love is eternal.
~1 Chronicles 16:34
Always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus. ~Ephesians 5:20
You should always give thanks to the Lord. Think for a moment: what are all of the things that God has done for you?
A lot right?! So you should say thank you. And give God your thanks every day. For example, every time you pray you can thank God for something good that happened that day. And when you sit down for meals… thank God for your food! Because some people can’t have three meals a day! Be thankful! And give thanks.
What if I run out of things to say thank you to God for?
If that happens…….. It’s never going to happen! You always have so many things to thank God for. You will never run out! If at times you feel like you’ve run out of things to be thankful for just say, “Thank you God for my Family.” “Thank you God for my friends” Thank you God for the roof over my head!” there are SO MANY THINGS.
But God isn’t really the only one you can say thank you too. Saything thank you is polite. You can say thank you when someone holds the door open for you! You can say thank you when someone gives you something as a gift! You can say thank you all the time, no ones stopping you!
Dear Lord, let me give you thanks...for my food and water, for the roof over my head, and everything else you have given me. AMEN
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Matthew 25:35
One of the amazing things that happens every year at UNITY is our annual Food Pantry Scavenger Hunt. Sr High students travel throughout the area neighborhoods and collect donations from UNITY families. This year, our goal was 1000 lbs. so stay tuned for final weight. What a great example of our families living out the gospel of Matthew 25:35. This year especially, there are many who need help. As you give thanks this weekend for all that you’ve been given, remember to keep your eyes open for those in need.
Thank you for everything we have. Help us to see the people around us in need, and give us the courage to act. Amen.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:13
To be thankful for such a wonderful and powerful God. One who has given us strength. Strength to do things we sometimes think are impossible. Strength to do things we think others would be better suited to do. Today we are faced with many challenges. Challenges we have never faced before. God has made us all in the same flesh, and has given us all unique spirits and gifts. Unique abilities we can use to do the impossible, or do things that have never been done before. Our world and local community are filled with heroes who exemplify this greatness our Lord has intended for us. Let us not forget whose image in which we were made. So be thankful for the unique gifts he has given us. Do not be afraid to be bold and use these gifts as he has intended for you to use them every chance you get.
Thank you for all of the people in our community who show us an example of your strength and who prove what a wonderful God you truly are. Thank you for all of the experiences and gifts you have given me today. Please be present and help me to be bold and use these gifts to help myself, my family, and my community. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, and his love endures forever. ~ Chronicles 16:34
Today we celebrate Thanksgiving and I know 2020 has been difficult mentally, physically, and spiritually but try to put all that aside for a moment and look - really look for something you are thankful for. It may be more difficult to find than in past years but there has to be something you can find to be thankful for and when you find it try looking for something else and then something else. As you do this it might get easier and easier to find things to be thankful for.
Help us to find things we are thankful for in our lives and when we find them help us to use them to fill our hearts and minds with a joy that comes from you knowing you love us and always will. Let that be everyone’s starting point for giving thanks and let us build from there. Amen.
Week 2: HOPE
November 29-December 05
Hope, change, and life at Foxbrook Lake
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. ~1 Thessalonians 1:3
If we all sat down and made a list of the character traits we need right now, I think that endurance would be near the top of the list. As 2020 goes on, we are all looking for strength to make it through the challenges we’re facing.
A friend on Facebook recently pointed out that the lyrics to “O Come O Come Emmanuel” hit a little different this year: “That mourns in lonely exile here…” For many there is a feeling that we know we will “get through this,” but it’s still difficult.
In this season of waiting, we are reminded of the hope that we share. The writer of Thessalonians reminds us that endurance and hope are not unobtainable, rather they are ours through Jesus. And in the words of UNITY member Fred Varin, WE WILL ENDURE!
Dear God, Thank you that because of your son, Jesus, we have the hope that we need to endure all the current difficulties in our lives and rely on your strength and not our own. Amen.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ 2 Peter 1:5-8
God has given us so much. He has given us the strength to grow spiritually in so many ways. When we spend time on our spiritual growth, it gives us hope. Hope that we will overcome our fears and demons. For within our spirit is the strength of our Lord. A strength that cannot be beaten. A strength that cannot be broken.
Dear Lord: Thank you for giving us strength. Strength with your spirit. A spirit that knows not of fear, but one of grace. Grace that will overcome all that this world offers. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” ~Romans 12:12
Hope can be a tricky thing. If we say we hope for something but really mean it has to happen, it can lead to disappointment and feelings of anger. If we want something to happen so badly that the hoped for result determines our future happiness, then that is no longer hope, but a demand. We, as children of God, should be hopeful and positive as we live our lives, with the understanding that not all the things we hope for will turn out the way we want, and that is okay.
God of hope, help us to lead lives of hopefulness and joy. And as we live those principles, help us to be examples of what hope can do in our lives and the lives of others. Move us to be examples to others of how to react when hoped for results don‘t turn out exactly as we wanted them to. Amen.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. ~Romans 15:13
Below are 12 ways you can claim the living hope in Christ Jesus.
1. Count your blessings - “Hopes fulfilled.”
2. In faith call upon God in prayer.
3. Sing a hymn of hope.
4. Spend time in worship with our God who gives far more than we can ever hope.
5. Give another person hope by telling someone how God has blessed you.
6. In confident trust give back to God a portion of the blessings that the Lord has first given you.
7. Become a shining beacon of “hope” by serving and helping the less fortunate.
8. Make real your desire to live in ways that are pleasing to God.
9. Pressing ever forward, utilize the time, talents and treasures that God has given you.
10. With all of creation that eagerly awaits the coming of Christ, give thanks for the wonder of nature.
11. In remembrance of your baptism, place the sign of the cross, the sign of hope, on your forehead.
12. Based on God’s record of steadfast love, confidently trust that you are saved by grace through faith.
God of hope, we give thanks that you abide with us as we await the fulfillment of your good and gracious promises. Amen.
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
Aiden is a 7 year old boy at Hephatha Lutheran Church, one of our Milwaukee partner Churches. He has been hospitalized for high blood lead levels, twice in his 7 years. He suffers with difficulty learning, difficulties with impulsivity and at times has difficulty controlling his behavior and has outbursts of anger. He has been bullied at school and is afraid to ride the school bus. He suffers a lot. If you have visited Hephatha, you may have seen him. He sometimes runs right up the aisle to the front where Pastor Mary Martha stands. He will say “Hi Pastor” and will stand and look at her, or walk past her to climb the 3 steps to the altar and then turn around and jump off, several times. Pastor Mary Martha, who has a wonderful, Gospel way of making everyone feel welcome, will always give Aiden a hug and she has taught us, as a congregation, to call him by name and tell him we are happy to see him and that we love him…even when he is behaving poorly. We do this in the middle of church service when he comes up to the front and interrupts church. Over a 6 month period of time last year, our interactions with Aiden made a huge difference in his behavior at church. He started smiling more. He clearly began to enjoy coming to church and his outbursts were less. He started interacting with others in a much better way. It became clear that he began to feel valued within our church family. God created us with great value and has hope for our lives and our future. God created Aiden with great value and has tremendous hope for his life and future. God created every last one of us with great value and hope. He knows his plans for us and they are full of hope.
We know you love us, we know you want only good for us. Your plans are always good. Help us as individuals and as the body of Christ to welcome others in a Gospel way that creates hope for each other and our world. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. ~Joshua 1:9
We can know that no matter what we are going through we are not alone even though at times we do not feel his presence. We have to remind ourselves sometimes that God is with us and has given us an unconditional promise that he is always with us. We especially need to remember that when we are in the midst of sorrow and fear and so involved in our lives that we forget his word.
Help us think of ways to remember your presence in our lives. Use our smartphone screen to show a scripture or Bible verse; put up a wall plaque with a favorite verse; set a recurring note on our smartphone that will remind us of God; help us schedule daily devotional readings and prayer.
Heavenly Father: Help us to know that you are always with us, help us to be strong, help us to be faithful, help us to remember that if we are overwhelmed with worry and sorrow, you are there for us. Amen.
Week 3: PEACE
A moment of peace and calm
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. ~Luke 2:14
Today we’re going to look at something super exciting: Civil War Poetry! I know you’re tempted to stop reading right now but stay with me here! Because this poem is the basis for a Christmas hymn that should definitely be bumped up towards the top of your playlist this year. I’m talking about “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.”
It was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas day in 1863. His wife had recently died in an accidental fire, and his son volunteered to fight in the war, and was left wounded. It was with that personal backdrop, not to mention the historical backdrop of the throes of the Civil War, that his poem was written.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
God of peace, may the bells of Christmas remind us of your angel’s message: Peace on earth. Amen.
"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." ~Isaiah 26:3
I don't know why God gives us stress and anxiety. It seems to fill our lives and keeps us from doing and being what he needs us to be. The word of our Lord gives us peace. Prayer gives us peace. When I keep these two things in my life it helps me keep my mind steadfast and free (for the most part) of stress and anxiety. I recently went through 7 months of being unemployed. This was challenging to say the least. I don't know what I would have done without prayer, the word, and encouraging loving people around me.
Dear Lord, thank you for giving us everything we need to keep our mind steadfast and peaceful. I ask for your presence and the presence of others to help free us of the stresses and anxiety this world always seems to provide. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ~Numbers 6:24-26
When I read this verse it took me a moment to realize that these, or similar, words are spoken as a blessing at the end of each church service. Such an important blessing or sending should not be taken lightly. Read the words again, and as you do, hear Pastors John, Sherrie or Muriel saying them, and really take them to heart, as I did for the first time in a long time. No matter what is going on around us, the Lord is giving us His peace. Whether we take that to be peace of mind or peace to calm a troubled heart, we just need to know that it comes from the Lord.
Gracious God, grant us your peace. The peace that comes from the faith-based knowledge that you stand with us, no matter what we face in this world. We can be comforted that you, or one of your angels, here on earth, are always nearby when we need someone to turn to in times of trouble. Amen.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” ~Isaiah 9:6
The angels announced Jesus’ birth with songs of “Peace on earth and goodwill to all.” Below are ecumenical prayers for peace.
· “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” - Christian
· “May all things be a source of peace to us. May Thy peace itself, O God, bestow peace on all.” - Hindu
· “May people think of befriending one another.” - Buddhist
· “If the enemy inclines towards peace, do thou also incline towards peace.” - Muslim
· “Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love, to respect, and to be kind to each other so that they may grow with peace of mind.” - Native American
· “Know that we attaineth God when we loveth, and only victory endures in consequences of which no one is defeated.” - Sikh
· “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” - Jewish
· “For this is a moment of deep concern that requires comfort, and a practice of peace and compassion to confront our sorrows.” Humanist
Prince of Peace, who blesses the peacemakers, help us claim and share your peace that the world cannot give, that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ~Isaiah 9:6
2020 has not been known for its peace. As a matter of fact, it has been known for its unrest. We have been experiencing unrest in our hearts and minds, unrest in our politics, unrest in our streets and our cities. And yet we have come to Advent in our church year and we are waiting. We are waiting for Jesus; The Prince of Peace. What does it mean as Christians, as the body of Christ, to wait for the Prince of Peace? We have a lot to ponder as we wait; it seems we have more to ponder than ever before in our lifetime. Pondering peace, the peace that Jesus brings to us seems like a good use of our time as we wait. In this time of waiting, let’s think about why, if we want peace, we spend so much time living out the opposite of peace. Let’s take some time to sit and contemplate what peace feels like; what it looks like in our thoughts, words and actions. May you find the peace of Christ as you wait now in Advent and always.
Dear God of all life, We pray for your peace, the peace that surpasses human understanding to be revealed in our lives and in our world. Open us to your peace and create a hunger in us for it. Amen
The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace. ~Psalm 29:11
Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to all whom God favors. ~Luke 2:14
God wants our lives to be peaceful, so, to prove that he died on the cross for our sins. AND so we could be at peace forever in heaven.
God cares for us and loves us, so he still wants us to be at peace when we are still here on earth. Even though we sin, God loves us very much and wants us to be happy and feel at peace, even if it doesn't feel that you’re at peace all of the time…. THAT’S OK. The fact doesn’t go away though, that God wants us to be in peace. He doesn’t want us to stress. But we are still all human, and we all sin, so sometimes we do stress even though God doesn’t want us to.
Dear God, thank you for loving me and dying on the cross for our sins, and making sure that we are able to live in peace forever in heaven. Amen.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ~John 14:27
Coming to terms with difficult news is tough. Throughout my career in a healthcare setting, my team has had conversations with new parents that deliver life changing news. The reaction to this news varies, of course, but the most common reactions are fear, loss and sadness. From those dark days, though, I’ve also witnessed the same families experience hundreds of moments of happiness, growth, hope, joy and peace! Knowledge, perspective, advocacy, trust, and engagement build over time and a transition from grief to peace evolves.
Our faith journey hits bumps and lows at times, too. Unexpected news brings fear, loss, and sadness. God and the peace that comes from him are there to ease our anxiety and worries. Turning towards God in times of trouble, but also in better times brings peace that is eternal. Knowledge of God’s love for us; perspective that comes with time; advocacy of others through prayer; trust that God’s peace will come; and engagement in building our faith are all steps that can bring peace into our troubled hearts.
Dear Lord, we experience difficulty and challenges. Remind us to come to you at the start of our anxiety, sadness and loss, and we can be transformed with your peace. Thank you for this wonderful gift. Amen.
Week 4: JOY
Joy to the world in music!!
The joy of the Lord is your strength ~ Nehemiah 8:10
With the craziness of this year it has been hard to pick out the joy. The other day at work I was helping a woman look for a jacket over the phone. I was able to find what she was looking for and set it aside for her. Before we hung up she said, “You just made my day”. I was taken aback by her exclamation as I had spent no more than 5 minutes helping this woman find something she was looking for, but to her, it was such a great joy. As the Advent season continues and Christmas draws closer remember to appreciate all the little joys in your life, and acknowledge the people that bring you joy.
Good and Gracious God, in the busy holiday season, allow us to find moments of joy, no matter how small. May we use the joy you bring to our lives as strength to help us through any struggles we face. Amen.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. ~Romans 15:13
The holiday season is truly a time of joy. It starts with our joy and peace in believing in our Lord Jesus Christ, and how much he loves us. It grows into the time when we enjoy time off from work, spending time with people we love, and eating food we enjoy. Only understanding the true meaning of Christmas does a better job than any other distraction that gets in the way of really bringing us joy. And when the holiday season is not a joyful time, we turn our hearts to him so we feel the joy he has intended. When we pause long enough during our enjoyment of the holidays, we may then abound in hope and reflect on what this Christmas holiday season really means to us. What it represents…Joy and hope.
Dear Lord, Please help us see true joy this holiday season. Let the joy you have intended us to see overflow in us and the people around us. We pray all these things, in Jesus' name, Amen.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. ~John 15:11
In the previous verses of this chapter, Jesus is telling his disciples that He is the vine and we are to be fruit bearing branches from that vine. We need to stay attached to Him; especially at this time. Joy can be found in many places and people. I know this year has seemed like the most joyless year we have ever had to slog through. Don’t let that rob you of all the joyful feelings this time of year should bring. Christ is coming as that holy child in the manger in Bethlehem. Take joy in that sentence!! Sure, things look different this year:no formal children’s programs; no Adventfest; no marathon of Christmas Eve services, etc. Don’t let that stop you from celebrating Christmas this year. In time, that will all return. For now, gather with your family and celebrate in new ways. Have the kids tell the Christmas story to you, or you tell it to them. Bundle them in a car and go out and look at the decorations. Jesus gives us reason to find joy in our lives. We need to just do it!
Dear Jesus, Your name should bring great joy to our hearts, no matter what is happening around us. Help us find joy within us and then help us to unleash that joy on our troubled world. Help us make this a better world in the coming weeks. Amen
A cheerful heart is good medicine ~ Proverbs 17:22
“Ten Commandments for a Joyful Life” as shared in Dear Abby
1. Thou shalt not worry, for worry is the most unproductive of all human activities.
2. Thou shalt not be fearful, for most of the things we fear never come to pass.
3. Thou shalt face each problem as it comes. You can handle only one at a time.
4. Thou shalt not cross bridges before you get to them, for no one yet has succeeded in accomplishing this.
5. Thou shalt not take problems to bed with you, for they make very poor bedfellows.
6. Thou shalt not borrow other people's problems. They can take better care of them than you can.
7. Thou shalt be a good listener, for only when you listen do you hear ideas different from your own. It's very hard to learn something new when you're talking.
8. Thou shalt not try to re-live yesterday for good or ill—it is gone. Concentrate on what is happening in your life today.
9. Thou shalt not become bogged down by frustration, for 50 percent of it is rooted in self-pity and will only interfere with positive actions.
10. Thou shalt count thy blessings, never overlooking the small ones—for a lot of small blessings add up to a big one.
Immanuel, whose birth filled the wise with great joy, be with those who are grieving during this holiday season. Amen
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart (where?)
Down in my heart (where?)
Down in my heart
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart (where?)
Down in my heart to stay
This is a song I learned, at least 45 years ago in Sunday School. I remember that I loved singing it with the whole Sunday School as we met together before breaking up into our Sunday School classes. You could feel the joy that was present in the words of the song and also in our young voices, as we sang with the joy we genuinely felt in our hearts.
It seemed easier back then, as a child to feel joy. As we become adults and deal with the realities of the world and our lives, so many different feelings seem to come into our hearts and can dampen the feelings of joy that innately exist there. The Apostle Paul knew this, and gave encouragement and a helpful practice for the new Christians in his first letter to the Thessalonians;”Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
The ability to feel the gift of joy that is indeed down in our hearts is a worthy practice. In this time of Advent, take some time to rejoice in the good things that are present in our lives, pray to a God that loves us so much and is always listening and give thanks for all that we have, most especially the gift of Jesus and the hope and joy that his resurrection brings to us.
Dear Father of all Joy, You have given us; all that we are, all that we have and the ability to do all that we can do. Help us to find the joy that you have given to us that lives deep in our hearts and help us to practice feeling it, rejoicing and giving thanks for it and sharing that joy with others. Joy is truly the light of Jesus, your Son, whose Holy Spirit lives within and among us. Amen
I know the Lord is always with me… no wonder my heart is filled with joy… ~Psalm 16:8-9
What does it feel like to feel joy? Maybe you feel happy or excited, or maybe even both at the same time. The feeling of joy is a strong feeling. You may feel it when you have a new baby sibling, or when you cry “tears of joy” at a wedding. Joy is a good feeling, we feel joy at Christmas, or at times of excitement or happiness in our lives. The Lord our God gives us Joy and we thank him because joy is a wonderful feeling.
Dear God, thank you for creating joy and spreading it everywhere you went. Even if we might feel like we are in a sad and stressful time in our lives… there’s always room for joy. Amen.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. ~ Romans 12:12
This isn’t a verse that I refer to regularly. But as we journey through Advent 2020 it may become my daily reciting verse…a verse applicable to just about every situation.
This year has been filled with “afflictions”; the Pandemic completely roadblocked our daily routines, we lost loved ones to illness and we watched so many people struggle with medical, emotional, financial and relational issues.
Afflictions are normal and expected in our lives, but how do we endure? Maybe Paul gives us a clue in this simple, straightforward verse.
· Seek God through prayer. He’s always available to listen. Lean on Him!
· Knowing our God cultivates an inner patience, peace and trust.
· That trust builds hope.
· And hope can lead us to joy.
So…we can endure.
Gracious God, Help us trust that you use difficult times to bring good. Help us to see hope and feel joy each day through those around us. And use us as well to give that same hope and joy to others. We ask this in your name. Amen.
Week 5: LOVE
Wrapped in a quilt for warmth and love
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. ~ Colossians 3:14
If you will allow me to be just a little introspective and congratulatory, I just have to say, that I have been so impressed with the people of UNITY this year. This year has been difficult. Even an eternal optimist like me has to admit that. But there have been so many ways that you all have risen to the moments of 2020 and “put on love.” As someone who sits in the church office from time to time, I couldn’t believe how many of you came through our doors because you were dropping off donations, contributing to a special appeal, giving blood, the list goes on and on. UNITY...through it all, you have “put on love.” So as you bask in the afterglow of Christmas, remember that going forward, it’s all about love, because that’s what keeps us in UNITY. Merry Christmas.
God of love, we thank you for all the ways in which we are able to reach out in love to our brothers and sisters. Help us to continue that generosity in the coming year and show us even more ways to spread your love to people everywhere. Amen.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8
God teaches us so much about love. In this world God has made for us, he has gifted us to love and appreciate one another. In this world however, it is also easy to judge. It is easy to judge people for their performance or for what they believe spiritually or politically. When we struggle with judgement, he teaches us to work on understanding one another. People we work with may not have the same training we do. We may also need to do a better job of understanding that not everyone can have the same life experiences that shape our beliefs. God teaches love over judgement. Even though we are sinners, he still loves us.
Dear Lord, As we go through the pressures of work and the stresses of family relationships, please help us to choose love over judgement. Let the love you give inspire us to love others as you have intended. We pray all these things, in Jesus' name, Amen.
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: Continue ye in my love. ~John 15:9
In this verse, Jesus is speaking about God’s love for Him, and His love for us. Love can be an incredible thing. It can, and will, make us do or say things we may have thought impossible. Love will fill our hearts with joy and our eyes with tears. It will take us to the side of a family member as they experience incredible highs and devastating lows. Living into the love from Jesus should make us want to provide for others at all times, and especially at this time of year. As we move forward to and through Christmas and into a new year, fill us with the love You have for us; the love that is the fount of great joy, but also great sacrifice, because it is Your love for us that sent Your Son to us on Christmas.
Gracious God, Your love sent Your Son to us to save us. Help us to remember and return that love by being beacons of love, shining the light of your love to all people everywhere. Amen.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” ~John 3:16
The Nativity Story brings to life the wonder of God’s greatest gift - “Love”.
· Joseph reveals that genuine love not is not expressed in word or talk, but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:18)
· Mary shows us that love endures all things, hopes all things, and believes all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7)
· The Christmas Star confirms that God’s love and kindness shatters this world’s darkness. (Luke 1:78)
· The Wisemen remind us how love is patient, kind and not self-seeking. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
· The Heavenly Host’s song of peace and goodwill teaches us that we should love others as God has first loved us. (I John 4:11)
· The Shepherds demonstrate how love rejoices in the truth. (I Corinthians 13:6)
· The Baby Jesus, asleep in the manger, proclaims unto all that God so loved the world that He sent his beloved Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (I John 4:10)
Lord of Love, in compassion for all people send anew your Son Jesus into our hearts so that by grace through faith we will not perish but receive eternal life. Amen.
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
Jesus, Emmanuel, God’s incarnation into man, was born to Mary, an unwed teenager. He was born in a stable, amongst animals, which was a pretty lowly birth. Not too long after his birth, his family had to take him and flee to Egypt to save him from being killed by Herod. They were refugees.
God could have chosen to dwell with us as royalty, with money and power and position, but he didn’t. He came into this world in poverty and strife. He walked among us, with us, in the difficulties of the world. As he moved into his ministry, his life did not get easier. He walked toward a tortured death that he knew was coming.-- He never excluded, never pushed anyone away. He commanded us to love our neighbor and called us to feed the hungry, and to welcome the stranger. All of these things are easier said than done, but he did these things. He lived them, here on earth, among us. God’s love for us is so, so great. As we wait in Advent, let’s dwell in God’s great love for us and look for ways of carrying his love to others.
Dear Lord, Your love for us is more than we can even fathom. Your love for us, if truly known and understood, would wipe away the power struggles of the world. Place in us a desire to discover the depths of your love for us, and then be conduits of that love in your world. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
So I now am giving you a new command: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.~John 13:34
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. ~John 13:35
Love covers a multitude of sins. ~1 Peter 4:8
If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us. ~1 John 4:12
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. ~Psalm 118:29
Have you ever loved someone? And then thought “they don’t love me back”? Or have you ever had someone do something to you that made you feel as if you shouldn’t love them anymore?
There are many expectations for being a Christian. One of the many is that we will love others, as much as you feel like they don’t deserve it. We have all Sinned, and many of us might feel at times as if we probably shouldn’t deserve it either, but God loves us nevertheless. “Our Christian conduct is proof as to whether we love each other, and loving each other is proof that we belong to Christ” (quote from TouchPoints God’s Answers For Your Daily Needs)
There are many gifts from love. Here are a few:
Love for truth
Love for justice
Love for the best in a person
Loyalty at any cost
Belief in a person no matter what
Love does not allow for:
- A haughty spirit
- A demand for one’s own way
Dear God, thank you for giving us people to love in our lives. It feels so great to spread love to those who may feel sad and need someone to love them. Please help all of us to be more loving to the people around us. AMEN.
We love because he first loved us. ~1 John 4:19
Do you know a baby who was born this year or a family expecting a new baby? As you think about that family (or your family) like everything else, the effects of our world influence the anticipation and delivery, for sure! Zoom baby showers, severely restricted contact with friends and family, no hospital visitors, face masks, and perhaps even an unexpected delivery story. But no matter the challenges, you knew that love would still be part of the story. The feeling when you meet that baby - better than you could imagine; right? If you need a refresher of pure love, talk to a glowing new parent or grandparent!
We’re preparing for another birth and the due date is coming soon! Travel on donkey or on foot; search for a room in a bustling Bethlehem and settle for a barn; there isn’t a midwife and you’re all alone; and yet, a baby is born! Jesus is born! God sends his Son into the darkness and uncertainty. As much as we anticipate this good news, our hearts erupt with joy, gladness and love for this tiny human who was born to bring us everlasting life!
Christmas will be here soon! As we wait for the birth, we know that we will love this little one. Yet, when baby Jesus is here, pure love breaks through! Better than you could imagine! Amen; Come Lord Jesus!
Week 6: LIGHT
December 27-January 02
Silent Night, Holy Night
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ John 1:5
There’s something special about a light that shines in the darkness. It just looks cool, doesn’t it? I’m currently sitting in a living room looking out at a frozen lake, watching a group of 6 snowmobiles take laps around the shoreline. Each sled’s light shines in front and lights the way. Without the light, it wouldn’t be possible to navigate. What a great reminder of how our capital “L” Light illuminates our own path.
Dear God, without your light, I would be lost and in trouble! Thanks for shining and for reminding us to spread your light to others. Amen.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. ~ Luke 19:10
This verse summarizes what the light of the world means to me. I also think of this poem and song written by Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash, and Matt Redman for singer Lauren Daigle.
Love incarnate, love divine
Star and angels gave the sign
Bow to babe on bended knee
The Savior of humanity
Unto us a Child is born
He shall reign forevermore
Son of God and Son of man
There before the world began
Born to suffer, born to save
Born to raise us from the grave
Christ the everlasting Lord
He shall reign forevermore
Come and see what God has done
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us
Dear Lord, As we go into a new year, help us to see the light. Help us to help others see the light. The light of this world, given to us. Amen.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ John 1:5
As I sat down to write this on Monday December 21st, it was not lost on me that this was the day with the least amount of daylight for the year. I guess in some ways this year has seemed bleak from almost the beginning. But no matter what has happened, we the children of the light have persevered. We have found ways to worship - maybe not always the way we would like, but we have done it. We have also lost many loved ones - but we keep their lights burning in our hearts. As the verse says, “light shines in the darkness,” which is what we need to do each and every day.
This past Thursday we celebrated Christ’s birthday – partially in daylight and partially in darkness. However when we celebrated in darkness we pierced that darkness with a light that was seen by others, whether with a wax candle or a more modern version – a cell phone. We let our lights shine and the darkness was overcome with a blazing light shining up to, and down from, heaven.
Dear Lord, we are to be shining examples of Your love here on earth. Help us to live into that each and every day. Let our lights and lives push the darkness deep into the background, leaving the paths to you bathed in bright light for all to see and follow. Amen.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ John 1:5
All of creation sparkled with beauty as it joined together to celebrate the nativity of our Lord.
· The shining star in the East shone forth in awesome wonder.
· The mule that carried the Virgin, and the beasts in the stable huddled around a burning fire raised their voices in praise.
· The glistening straw in the manger, upon which the baby Jesus slept, surrounded the newborn Lord with warmth.
· The flax, woven by candlelight into swaddling clothes, and the trees, fashioned by the Joseph into the manger, welcomed the Christ child.
· The camels that followed starlight as they carried the Wisemen, and the sheep, in their fields, upon which the angels shone, danced and skipped as the ancient promise of the messiah was fulfilled.
· The shimmering gold, the myrrh and smoldering frankincense harvested from trees, expressed homage to the newborn King.
· The dazzling cherubim, seraphim, Gabriel and the hosts of angels glorified God in the highest heavens on the holy night of the Savior’s birth
· The lampblack ink and aquatic papyrus, upon which the prophecies and Gospel were written, proclaimed the glad tidings of Immanuel’s birth illuminating the hearts of all generations.
Creator God, whose first creation was light, continue to overcome this world’s darkness, and help us reflect and pass on your light to those who still sit in darkness. Amen.
The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. ~ Matthew 4:16
Jesus came to us 2000 years ago, and walked with us as a human, starting out as a babe in a manger. His light was so bright, so full of God’s love; he continues to come to us today. Jesus’ light comes to us in so many ways. Where do you see his light today? Where has Jesus’ light dawned in our lives? It is so easy to see his light in the beauty of a child, or in the successes we experience, but it can be difficult for us to see his light when we delve into situations that are tough and very polarized. Jesus light is not divisive. It always brings us together, but we have situations in our world that seem impossible to come together on. Let’s start looking for Jesus light in those situations. His light is there, and when we look for it, the impossible becomes possible.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for your Son Jesus. He brings us beauty and light always and forever. Help us to look for Jesus’ light and seek his light in every situation. We know Jesus’ light has already overcome the darkness, help that light to shine through us and in us. Amen.
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all. ~Acts 4:33
I think light symbolizes joy, happiness, love, friendship, and all of the good things in life. So I’m hoping this devotional continues the work of my past devotionals.
I want to send light and goodness into all of your lives right now.
So I’ll do it through this devotional.
Because that’s what I feel light is.
It might not be much but I hope reading this devotional is touching all of you with light, joy, love, and happiness.
Because you’re not alone.
You have light.
And that light will guide you.
It’s like all of the good things put together.
And sometimes I almost feel like light is God.
Perfect, and loving.
And always there for you.
So next time you see light…….. Be thankful, that it’s there to guide you. Because God’s always there to guide you. He’s the light of our world.
Dear God I know you are the light of the world and died on the cross for our sins, so I thank you for that. And for lighting the way for me. Amen.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. ~Matthew 5:16
While driving, walking or enjoying the view, it’s a simple conversation starter around our house: Look at the sky and say names of colors that you see. Simple descriptions: Blue, gray, yellow, and orange fit the task sometimes. At sunrise or sunset the ever changing hues invite creative contests rivaling names of fancy nail polish or monochromatic paint strips. Depending on the light, the colors evolve, emerge, glow, fade.
How might we show our colors in the life we live? Bright, shining light; soft, muted hues - all enhance the world around us. Ways in which we can reflect color and light might include volunteering on a committee or church council, leading an adult forum or participating in a Zoom meeting, reviewing Sunday School lessons with a child, texting a friend when you heard good news, driving supplies to a partner or a member to an appointment, bringing a banana bread to a neighbor who could use a smile, reading the lessons for recorded church, remembering someone’s name, handing out bulletins, praying for those on the prayer list, teaching a youngster the Lord’s Prayer, sending a sympathy or get well card, and a warm, caring smile. The options - like color - ever changing, always beautiful and reflecting God’s light in our lives.
Dear Lord, let our light shine! When we serve others, we serve you and our light shines bright! Amen.
Week 7: GRACE
Waukesha Food Pantry
In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land. ~ Isaiah 49:8
G.R.A.C.E. - God's Riches At Christ's Expense
This Christmas . . .
· Be the voice of grace that cries in the wilderness, makes straight the crooked paths, and prepares the way of the Lord;
· Be the shining star that gives guidance, shatters this world’s darkness, and fills people with great joy;
· Be the caring angel that reflects God’s glory, lifts up a song, and brings peace and goodwill;
· Be the compassionate wise one who unites with others, follows where God leads, worships the Savior, and inspires others with your generosity;
· Be the caring shepherd who keeps watch at night, tends to the needs of your flock, and tells others the Good News of the Savior’s birth;
· Be the unselfish spouse who protects your family, transforms a stable into a home, and ponders the wonder of your child;
· Be the disciple, saved while you were yet rebellious and unworthy, who unselfishly shares the bread come down from heaven, reflects the light of the world, and produces fruit worthy of the living vine.
Gracious and merciful God, thank you for your gift of salvation - Jesus, “the gift that keeps on living.” Amen.
No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:39
This text is a game changer for me. It helps me understand God’s grace. It helps me know that there is not anything in this world that can stop God’s love. God is going to love us, no matter what. When I came to know this verse, it helped me to see God in a different light than I had previously seen before. It helped me to know that God is not conditional in his love for us and he gives it with grace to everyone. When we look at Jesus' life, death and resurrection, we know this to be true: he healed strangers; he had compassion and love for people who were considered to be unclean and sinners; he did not keep Judas from partaking in the last supper, even though he knew Judas had betrayed him; and on the cross he gave forgiveness to the criminal who was crucified with him and then to all in his death and resurrection. It is in this great grace for each of us, when realized deeply in our own lives, that our hearts can be opened to giving grace and forgiveness to others.
Dear Lord, Thank you for your Son. Thank you for loving us and giving that love to us freely with grace. Help us to share your love, forgiveness and grace to others. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
He gives us grace and glory. No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who do what is right. ~ Psalm 84:11
I believe grace is a gift. A gift from God. And it is one of the many good things that God has given us. If you ask me to define grace I would say: “I think of a quiet and beautiful setting that is peaceful and filled with kindness.”
While I might have said that this time, I could also give you so many different examples of what I think grace is. And if you asked someone else they would be able to come up with a very different but great answer as well.
Now, my experiences of grace come mostly from in my house. My middle name is Grace and my sister’s middle name is Joy. So most of the time our family jokes about us being complete opposites in that way. For example, we say my sister is filled with joy, always jumping up and down, making a lot of noise, and laughing with Joy. While I, on the other hand, am as graceful as a butterfly. Sitting quietly showing love and happiness in more quiet and peaceful ways.
Now, that’s my say on grace. And I get it from life experiences. (mostly from having my own middle name be Grace) :)
Dear Lord, Thank you for your grace. Thank you for showing us grace in many different ways. Please be with us in 2021 to help us show others grace as much as we can. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. ~ Philippians 4:23
I have been so blessed in life, especially during the most difficult of times. The blessings I speak of come through the Christian community that surrounds me. This loving community is able to be a blessing to others because each person has been given God’s gift of grace. Grace allows each of us to think and do better for both ourselves and others. To greet and support each other in Christ Jesus A heart full of God’s grace nudges us to recognize others hurting, hungry or in need Grace gives us the empathy to reach out, hold a hand, give a hug, make a meal or just “walk with” someone hurting. Grace extended to others can bring them a welcomed strength to move through their difficult period. Thank you to each and every one of you that has offered God’s gift of grace to someone at a time they needed it most.
Loving God, Thank you for filling each of our hearts with your Grace. Guide us to use your gift wisely, with keen senses and gentleness. Amen.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?" ~ Romans 8:35
During the Pandemic, we have all been touched in varied ways by this disease. Certainly some have been affected by the loss of life, the loss of loved ones, the loss of health, some by the loss of employment and the loss of financial stability. Some people have had to work increased hours in the community setting or in hospitals putting themselves at higher risk of getting the disease. Many of us have been isolated, in our homes, isolated from family and friends. Some have been in hospitals or healthcare facilities without having loved ones present while they are suffering. In the church, we have been affected by the loss of physical fellowship and the kind of worship we have known for as long as we have been coming to church. The collective loss is truly immeasurable.
Romans, chapter 8 is a chapter that speaks a truth about God’s love for us that I find very helpful. When I read it, I am reminded of some of the people that I have met through my connections at Hephatha Lutheran Church, which is one of our partners. The people that come to mind are people who have experienced unfathomable hardships and yet through their hardships, they have received comfort and strength in their faith in God’s love and have praised and worshiped God. I will tell you about one woman who lived the last 6 years of her life in a healthcare facility. She was younger than me, had 11 children, had become blind and bedridden and could not care for herself. As a part of Hephatha’s work ministry, I would visit her with four or five youth. We would stand around her bed and she would listen to the children talk about what they were doing in school or activities they liked. She would interact with them and ask questions and smile and laugh and encourage them like they were like her own. When we would pray, she would pray for the homeless, the hungry, the sick and the suffering and praise God for his mercy and grace. Her hardship and suffering were very real and yet she was comforted by God’s love and certainly by our presence to her in her suffering. Her faith and strength, through her suffering, has influenced me and strengthened my faith in God’s love for all of us. He is with us; each of us and nothing will ever stop that love. He knows our personal and collective suffering and wants us to know His love and be comforted in it. I believe he wants us to share the hope we find in that love with others, especially those whose suffering is profound.
Heavenly Father, Help us to know the depths of your love for us. Help us to be comforted in our most difficult days and to share Your love and compassion and the faith we have in you, with others who suffer greatly. Amen.
"Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, LORD, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me." ~ Psalm 24:3
The coronavirus pandemic has affected all of our lives in the past year. The pandemic may have taken a burden on you, but we shall not let it bring us down. We should bring the light of hope to this dark shadow, for that shadow will soon be the Past, and we will carry on our light of hope into the Future.
Gracious God, Please help us to remember the hope and strength you bring to our world, and guide us so that we may bring light to the darkness we encounter. Amen.
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."
~ 2 Timothy 1:7
On 3/14/20, my every week work travel came to an end. I realized traveling and entertaining clients had taken a toll on my health. The only one who could take charge of my health was me. I started moving more, drinking more water, and eating more responsibly. Almost a year later, my health is at the top of my priorities. Don’t get me wrong – I miss traveling, and entertaining, and certainly going to events where great food is everywhere. Through my acceptance of change, I’m much happier and healthier, even through the challenges of a global pandemic.
Heavenly Father – may we all find a way to make sense of the isolation we feel through this pandemic. Thank you for the ability to move and power through tough situations, including working our bodies and minds. May we find a sense of strength through a feeling of self-care and discipline. Amen.
"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
~ Philippians 4:13
This has been my mantra through this pandemic. Trying to find strength however I can, and leaning on my faith to get me through it all. The year 2020 and this pandemic, have been some of the hardest times for myself and my family. There have been times of deep despair and darkness, and my faith has certainly been tested. I have many unanswered questions in my faith journey, but also know that my faith is being strengthened by the mere fact that I am still a believer. I have learned that I cannot give into these dark times, and have to focus on the times of joy amidst the sadness. These times have definitely made me stronger as a wife, a mother, a friend, a teacher, and a Christian woman. I know that I can overcome anything in life, and I am teaching my daughters that there will always be setbacks in life, and the comeback is always greater than the setback. I am learning a new appreciation for all of the little things in life, and hope to become a stronger version of myself when this pandemic is over.
Dear God, Please continue to guide me and lead me during these times. Please give me strength in times of weakness, faith in times of fear, and power when I am powerless. In your name I trust. Amen.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace."
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Boy, this is a big one to tackle. The pandemic has created a “new normal’ none of us could have contemplated. We have been isolated from family, friends, colleagues, and clients; we are limited in our opportunity to visit places that enliven and restore us. Countless loved ones, others we know of - and some we don’t know at all - have lost their lives, or have had their lives forever altered.
Yet, in midst of the challenges some have found new ways to connect personally, returned to old hobbies or discovered new ones, and hopefully found a little more time for contemplation in our days.
I miss seeing my Mom as much as I did before; I miss my friends; I miss seeing my work peers; I miss traveling with my daughters. But I am grateful for my health. I cherish the deeper connection I’ve found with loved ones; I pray harder for unity, empathy, and justice to blanket the world. And I pray the pandemic will end. Our lives will not be the same when it does but I hope we hold on to some of those things that have awoken our love for one another, brought peace to our hearts and minds, and unified us in ways we had not witnessed before.
I think this season may be best summed up in the reflection from Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven”
I pray you find peace and perspective in whatever season you find yourself in. Amen.
"God is our Refuge and Strength, an ever-present help in trouble" ~ Psalm 46:1
So what does that verse have to do with the topic for this week? I think it has everything to do with this topic and a few others in the coming weeks of Lent. Like it or not this pandemic has touched, or will touch, every person on the planet in some way or another. It will have a greater impact on some of us, but it will have some impact on ALL of us. Personally it has given me an even greater respect for the caregivers and health care workers in this country. In the past few years I have watched as these heroes cared for my aging parents in ways I never could—and that was before the pandemic hit. Mom passed away almost two years ago, but Dad is still with us, and his caregivers are incredible. It has been hard on my family because we can’t see him face to face much, but he keeps us up to date with daily texts. It is hard not being able to see him or hug him, and I know I’m not alone in this, believe me. I take great solace in the verse above knowing God has his earthly angels watching over Dad and all the rest of us.
Dear Lord, we know you stand with all of us as we go through tough times, whether it is this pandemic specifically or any other hardship we encounter. Remind us that you are constantly there for us offering comfort and strength to carry on no matter what strife we may face. Help us to be one of your angels on earth by showing us how to use our talents to help people in need. Amen.
“Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.” ~ Daniel 9:3
On Ash Wednesday, when we receive the ashen cross on our forehead, it serves as a sign of our fragile humanity, our grief in that our sinfulness caused Jesus to take upon himself our punishment, guilt and shame, and it also helps us recall our baptism when we were marked with the sign of the cross. As we begin our Lenten series on “Messiness”, we are mindful of how this pandemic has jumbled things up, and challenged us to muddle through the disarray of an uncertain time. I recall another “messy” and frightening time - the 911 attack on the Twin Towers. This was a time when debris was strewn about, rubble of bent iron, broken lives and brick was everywhere, and we asked how can we ever dig out, repair and recover. But as the survivors, on-lookers and heroes at ground zero, all covered in a gray covering of ash, worked together, digging through the debris; as patriots who loved our country enlisted; as we prayed together as one nation, out of the mess and charred remains came a new beginning. As a nation, we were wiser, stronger, more appreciative, kinder and more united than ever. Like 911, from the ashes and debris of this terrible lingering pandemic, the world is beginning to recover because heroes have arisen, because we are praying and working together, because we are growing in wisdom, patience and kindness.
God, Creator and Redeemer, while from dust we were born, and to dust we shall return, we give thanks that you have overcome sin and death. Amen.
"Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
~ Galatians 6:2
I am a nurse in the community near the Bread of Healing Clinic. The Bread of Healing is a free clinic supported by grants and partners. Its main clinic is located in Cross Lutheran Church near 16th and Walnut in Milwaukee. In my work as a nurse in the community, I have sent many people who do not have insurance to the Bread of Healing to get care. One of the things I really like about the Bread of Healing is that they hold the lives of people they serve in reverence. It’s more than just giving healthcare. It is even beyond respect, it is a holy importance. It is the faith in action of Jesus’ commandment to love thy neighbor. It’s a really important place for many people who have no other access to healthcare; pandemic or no pandemic.
As a healthcare worker in the community, I was eligible for a COVID vaccination from the Bread of Healing. They have taken on the huge challenge of vaccinating as many people as they can get vaccines for in the community. It is an act far beyond their normal capacity. When I went there, I was so moved to see a UNITY member welcome me at the door and take my temperature. Then another UNITY member did my paperwork. A third UNITY member drew up my vaccine and then yes, a fourth UNITY member who is a nurse gave me my vaccination. They were all volunteering to help. Volunteering at the Bread of Healing is faith in action; it is the act of loving thy neighbor.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the Bread of Healing Clinic and all of the people who work there and volunteer there. Help us in this pandemic and always to look with reverence on all people and take faith in action to show them love and care. Amen
“Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God- what is pleasing to him, and is perfect.” ~ Romans 12:12
On New Year’s Eve, I wrote a page full of resolutions. Of those resolutions, only a couple changes have continued into the month of February. My theme for 2021 could be titled, Consistency. My first resolution was to consistently get 7 hours of sleep or 49 hours within the week. It forces me to call it quits earlier at night than I would like. Yet, I’m able to wake up refreshed. My second resolution was to exercise 150-180 minutes each week. As many of you know, I like to run. However, with all the cancelled races, I needed to branch out and recruit people to join me. The www.52hikechallenge.com caught my eye. We took this challenge a step further and instead of being limited to hikes, we ski them with whoever is willing to join us. It’s quite fascinating to explore your favorite park in all seasons. I highly recommend Lapham Peak and Scuppernong. Get lost in the woods. Smell the pines. Cherish God’s beauty in creation.
So, the next time you reach to open the refrigerator door looking for something, and you’re not even hungry, try opening a real door and walk outside. Soak in the sunlight and feel the crisp air. If you don’t have time, simply stand, pause and breathe. In this Lenten season, remember every new day is another chance to start anew. Set an intention, find your positive mindset, or work on something as simple as sleep. Try a new activity and feel the transformation of the mind with accomplishing something you have never done before or return to something you enjoyed in the past. Encourage a friend to join you. Be accountable. After a month, shape it into a healthy habit that you can’t live without, or let go of a habit that doesn’t feed your soul. Take small steps to your goal. Accept a day of rest, if getting up and dressed is the best you can do. Dive into a devotion. Color in your Bible. Listen to a Belief Beat podcast. When you feel depressed, call a friend, write a letter, or check in on a neighbor or relative. Take time to recharge. Take a power nap.
Dear Lord, During this Lenten season, please heal us to feel whole again and provide continued protection of our physical, mental and emotional health. Lift us up, when we feel we can no longer walk, and wrap us in your everlasting love until we find our footing again. In your name we pray, Amen.
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do everything through him who gives me strength." ~ Philippians 4:12-13
As a sales leader, my role is ensuring the team feels psychologically safe and supported in successfully reaching their goals. Our company provides furniture in offices, hospitals, and education facilities. With people working and learning primarily from home, clearly sales have been affected substantially. What we’ve found is an even greater need for sharing research and conversations around what could be for employees and employers alike post pandemic. I’m proud of how the team has found greater ways to connect even while dealing with their own fear for what may come in uncertain times.
Dear God – thank you for creative teams who work together and find faith for the future. We hope to be together very soon and find ways to succeed. Be with us when we are overwhelmed with uncertainty. In those times, may we hear your voice of comfort and strength to sustain us. Amen.
"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline." ~ 2 Timothy 1:7
In these times of high stress, it has been important to care for ourselves, and others, in any way we can. Now, more than ever, our family is focused on caring for ourselves both physically and mentally. As a family, we have enjoyed spending time outdoors, camping trips, going for lots of walks, bike rides, sledding, going to parks, the zoo, etc. It has been a blessing to be an active family and has helped our mental health to stay active. Also, we have tried to focus on caring for others by being kind, offering grace to people at work and at school, and acting as role models to help others stay active. Being a support for others during these times has helped our family to heal from things we have gone through as well. There are many aspects to well-being, and we try not to take it for granted that we have been given this life on earth to live and to treat it as a gift.
Dear God, Thank you for the many gifts you have given me. The gifts of good health, strength of heart, and grace. Please continue to guide me on this path of healing and self-care. In your name we pray. Amen
"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?" ~ Psalm 27:1
The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused messiness in health care on a systemic and personal level for both patients and health care providers. In addition to the normal challenges associated with navigating a complex system, the pandemic has forced us all to face new challenges in accessing and providing quality care.
As an ophthalmologist, I am not a frontline worker nor am I involved in healthcare administration. For those who are, I am grateful for your unwavering service, even at great cost to your own physical and mental health. But, even in my position in healthcare, we’ve dealt with increased disarray over the last year, including acknowledging changed or missed opportunities, managing altered patient expectations, and working to prioritize and allocate health care resources. None of this has been comfortable.
We’ve also seen a shift in how we provide care. In my office, we’ve had to limit visitor and companion access to appointments, which has resulted in patients getting both good and bad news alone. We limit physical touch, including handshakes and hugs. In an attempt to bring increased order, we’re working hard to make telehealth feel personalized and accessible, and to keep patients’ family members engaged through technology. Not everyone has appreciated new safety efforts, and navigating this new normal has been messy and humbling for providers and patients.
While the emotional, mental and physical challenges of seeking and providing health care are likely to continue for many months to come, there is light and help ahead, as we all continue to work to make our new systems more manageable, safer, and more comfortable.
Lord God, please help us accept and move through the mess before us with courage, hope, and grace, by focusing on your light and strength, even during darkness and danger. Amen.
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" ~ Proverbs 17: 22
I’d like to say I knew about the verse I used for a long time, but I haven’t. I found it doing a search for a relevant verse for this week’s topic. When I saw it something struck me about it. These times we are going through certainly can crush the most optimistic spirit---if we let them!! A pandemic, lots of snow and cold weather, losing family and friends, and our routines completely thrown out of kilter. All of that and more can contribute to crushing our spirits. Now to what the beginning of the verse says about a cheerful heart. We are children of God!! That statement right there should give us cheerful and thankful hearts. No matter what happens here on Earth we have a Father in Heaven that knows us, cares for us, loves us, and looks out for us. If we can find and maintain a cheerful heart we can and will make it through anything the world can throw at us. Best of all if we have a cheerful heart, we can draw others to us and pass some of that on to them and they can take it and pass it on and maybe we can spread that feeling faster than any old pandemic. Why not try it? What is there to lose?
Heavenly Father we stand at the beginning of another Lenten season. Who knew that last year instead of some of us giving up something, we would all be giving up a lot of somethings? As we move through this Lenten season from Ash Wednesday to Holy Week finally arriving at Easter and Your Glorious Resurrection guide us, protect us, nurture us, and strengthen us to follow Your ways and spread Your love here on Earth. Amen.
"Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well." ~ 3 John 1:2
The pandemic has affected us all physically, mentally, and emotionally. The pandemic has been especially difficult because our main way for receiving support - socialization, being with others. is limited. If we are hospitalized, our families and pastors cannot visit. If we are in a long-term facility, we can’t have contact with outsiders. If we have a celebration, we have to limit our get-together. We cannot be with others for worship, and be strengthened by the singing, watching faithful parents struggling with their crying infants, and sharing refreshments and conversations during fellowship. The pandemic has hurt us all in various ways, and created a mess in our bodies, minds and spirits. I like what one of the Pastors here at Unity said, that has helped me when I am feeling down. Instead of fear, God offers us faith. Instead of panic, God gives us a peace that the world cannot give. Instead of worry, God gives us His Word. Instead of hopelessness, we have a living hope. I have had several ongoing health problems since the pandemic hit. The long path to resolving these health problems has further created emotional and mental problems. One day as I was listening to Unity’s Worship Service online, I heard my name mentioned in the Prayers, and that simple thing, renewed my spirit, reminded me I wasn’t alone - God and God’s people were with me, and I received spiritual healing and strength to persevere. I encourage you to let the church know if you, or someone you love is struggling in any way, and need pastoral support. God and the church want to help you become the whole person in body, mind and spirit that God intends you to be.
Abiding Savior, thank you for calming the storms within, and bringing us safely through the trials of this life. Amen.
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them." ~Luke 8:32
Luke 6:32 is one of those bible verses that always catches me by surprise every time I hear it. It makes me a little uncomfortable. I think about the people I meet, or know or those I am related to that see the world from a completely different perspective than I do. I tend to feel a little hot under the collar when I hear their points of view. Jesus is asking us to evaluate how we handle those relationships. Casual or familial, easy or difficult, He calls us to love them.
I find myself, at times asking; how can I love them when they infuriate me??! The prayer attributed to St. Francis or as they call it at Hephatha, the Peace Prayer, is a prayer that I have found to be instructive for this very situation. I will write it below for meditation.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, union;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life”
“Then we will shout for joy over your victory and celebrate your triumph by praising God. May the LORD answer all your requests.” ~Psalm 20:5
Relationships are important. They are why teamwork is so good. No one is completely independent through their whole life. Some are more independent than others and fight off loneliness like a warrior protecting a kingdom. Relationships are hard to keep and we are always changing, but so are others and sometimes, it is hard to accept change. With any change, it brings good and bad, light and dark, either putting a shadow over most of the change or a shine on it. Every relationship has hardships, and that is why some of them are so strong, because you fight the pain against another, but also with them. Relationships are so complicated that not everything is clear to everyone involved. As people age, conflicts in a relationship may worsen, but we are more prepared to face them over time. People say “with time, brings knowledge”, but what time brings is experience. Life is built up of many relationships and are very important to life because they teach us about each other and, also, ourselves.
Dear Jesus, In this messiness with relationships, please help me to be the friend I would want when I am lonely. Though I may not understand why friendships wither, guide me to reunite with those who were always there in the shadows, who cheer me on in my successes, and pick me up when I have fallen. Amen.
"No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light." ~Luke 8:16
Without the distraction of sports, no work travel, and my husband’s retirement, our Waukesha empty nest was different during quarantine. Early on, we only saw our adult children on a Sunday Zoom call, even though both live in Milwaukee. As a couple, we committed to finding ways to be better roommates and spouses without all the distractions. We found comfort in experiencing dinner together every night with no media other than occasional music. We talked about the day’s news and our life together. Our conversations were sometimes filled with laughter, while others were more serious. What we rediscovered was respect in the daily dialogue. Relationships are hard, and finding light together makes the challenging times worth it.
Loving Creator – couples need time together and time alone. Finding balance during this pandemic has been tough. Help us find the light we may hide. Help us share light even when we’re feeling vulnerable and tired. Be with us in all relationships where love and light must be central. Amen.
"So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." ~Matthew 7:12
During this pandemic, navigating relationships has been challenging, Relationships with immediate and extended family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors, have all been tested It has been heartbreaking as a parent to see my daughters struggle with not being able to get together with their friends, and early on in the pandemic when their school abruptly closed, the sadness they endured was unbearable.Finding new ways to celebrate birthdays, holidays, have playdates, etc., has been new and challenging, yet not impossible. We have prayed often for guidance on how to handle this as a family, and how to make the right choices to stay safe yet maintain a social life. We have certainly gotten much closer, not just because we had to quarantine together, but because we have had to lean on each other in ways that we never did before, We have gotten creative in how we spend time with people, and have come to accept the current challenges of keeping relationships strong. We have also learned that when this pandemic is over, we will enjoy getting together with people so much more than we did before, and truly appreciate all of our relationships, and not take them for granted. We will celebrate birthdays and holidays with new traditions and newfound appreciation for being able to get together and have a house full of people!!
Dear God, Please guide us and lead us. Offer us your wisdom to make safe and smart choices. Give us the hope that we need to continue to stay strong. With the coming of spring may we see your light and know that everything will be ok. In your name we pray. Amen.
“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the words of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~Matthew 22:36-40
Relationships are both the heartbeat and the heartbreak of our lives. When they are functioning well they bring vitality, joy, and peace; when broken - they bring pain, confusion, and heaviness. I am far from a relationship expert. But I know the Bible is a great relationship guide! We are routinely encouraged to look at our heart because if it is pure, that will spill over into other areas of our life – especially relationships. In other instances, we are given insight into the qualities we should embrace for healthy relationships - patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, grace, love to name just a few. They are beautiful words that, when put into action, can make for beautiful relationships. Other than the relationship we have with ourselves, our other relationships require a minimum of 2 people (often, they include many more). And everyone in the relationship must embrace these characteristics to achieve the ideal state. Pretty lofty isn’t it? While the Bible provides many examples of what contributes to a great relationship, it may be best defined by Jesus’s response to the Pharisee who asked - what is the greatest commandment? Imagine the possibilities if each of us, and our world, embraced this teaching? I’m certain you see, as I do, an immediate remedy to challenges that plague us personally, nationally, and across the globe.
Gracious God, you gave us the guidebook but so often we look elsewhere for answers. During this season, we pray you will bring us back to your word and its teachings. Help us absorb these truths. More importantly, help us live them so we might have healthy, safe, restorative relationships with you and others. We pray this not only for ourselves but for all your people. Amen.
“A new command I give you: Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another.” ~ John 13:35
Follow the command of Jesus and relationships are easy. I think we all struggle with that though because we sometimes put conditions on our love before we give it. We use our love as a bargaining chip with friends and family which leads not to healthy but strained relationships. If however, no matter what we face we can use the love God has for us and remember that his love is unconditional we can follow his command to love others as ourselves. We should remember to be spreaders of love to all as he commands us.
Dear God, Help us live into your command to love one another as You have loved us. Your command is to love one another without conditions. Let us put that love into action as we look for ways to help each other find our way through these trying times together. Amen.
“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!’” ~Isaiah 52:7
The pandemic has strained relationships, and made get-togethers impossible as we all try to flatten the curve. I am thankful that technology has allowed us to overcome distance and separation. Because of Covid, I have learned how to Zoom, and feel good when I have attended group/family/church virtual meetings. I’ll photo bomb my wife when she is face-timing with the grandchildren on the phone, and it’s almost like being there with them (and to be honest it’s a lot less messy and tiring than when they are actually with us). We have gone on the computer to watch virtual Christmas Pageants, graduations, funeral services and other family events. We have attended several outside family events, and perhaps because of the pandemic, we appreciate these more than ever. Phone calls, emails and texts with photos have helped us keep in touch. We looked forward more than ever to getting Christmas letters through snail mail. If this pandemic hit several years earlier, I don’t think we would have had the technology and know-how to bridge the barriers that physically separate us from family, church and loved ones. Perhaps God had something to do with this timing. When I think of our Father in heaven, I am in awe that he overcame the chasm of sin that separated and isolated us from Him. He didn’t do it virtually, but came physically to dwell among us. That meant he would become infected with our sin, shame, guilt and punishment, which would lead to his death, a death that he gladly accepted so that we could become members of his family, his precious children. You don’t need Zoom, a phone, or a computer to speak with God. He’s there in your heart and all around you, and God has given each of us the gift of prayer. Keep your family, church, friends, the less fortunate and your loved ones in your prayers.
“God with Us”, who has taught us to pray, thank you for communicating in various ways that we are saved by grace through faith. Amen.