Blog
November 2013: A Month of Gratitude
10.31.13

By Pastor Kim

When he’d just about hit rock bottom—his business was circling the drain and his marriage already was down it—John Kralik did something radical:  every day for a year, he wrote a thank you note to someone.  365 Thank Yous:  The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life is the book that chronicles that year.

The discipline of expressing gratitude was hard at first—really hard.  As the year wore on, though, after expressing thanks to people he loved, people with whom he was angry, people he didn’t even know, John was changed.  By the end of the year, expressing thanks was no longer an item on his To-Do list, but a habit.  Gratitude had become part of his makeup. 

I’m not at rock bottom—far from it!  But I do believe in the power of living out of a mindset of gratitude.  So, for the month of November, I’ll be blogging about things for which I’m thankful.  I’m going to try to post every day….but you all know I’m not the most consistent blogger in the world      :-/

Hey!  There’s the first thing I’m thankful for—the grace and patience of the two of you who are still reading this blog!  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

 



Daily Devotion – October 31, 2013

 

Psalm 19:99 

I have more understanding than all
my teachers, for your decrees are my meditation. 

 

Reflection by Geoff Heilhecker 

If we open our minds and hearts completely, to the Lord, we will gain such wisdom from God
that no mortal can impart.  Of course, that sounds easier said than
done…well, maybe not.  If we can take a moment each day to sit and be
quiet; to allow our minds to clear and open up to the energy that is God and
life, we will start to feel the power and beauty and light that is God.
 The Lord’s gift of wisdom and joy is always there, just waiting for us to
accept it.  It’s up to us to allow God in.     

 

Prayer:  

Please Lord, help us to empty our
minds of the clutter and help us create a peaceful atmosphere within us so that
we may be more open to you.

 



Daily Devotion – October 29, 2013
10.29.13

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

 

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

 

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

 

 

Reflection by Lillian Daniel  from October 17, 2010

I am tired of hearing people say stupid things in the name of Christianity. I am tired of nutty pistol-packing pastors who want to burn the Koran. I am tired of televangelists who claim that natural disasters are the will of God. I am tired of Christians who respond to the pain of disease with a lecture about behavior. I am tired of preachers who promise prosperity.

 

I am also tired of people who say that they are privately spiritual but not religious. I am tired of people who have one bad experience with a church and paint the whole of Christianity with that brush. I am tired of celebrities who criticize the church for being patriarchal and homophobic but do nothing to support the churches that are not.

 

I am tired of people who say they want a church like ours but cannot be bothered to attend one. And I am tired of people who criticize churches like ours and go somewhere else.

 

So I resonate with the angry words from this letter to the early church. I feel like I live in a society where the stupid and simple in spirituality always trump the depths of a complex faith. We are a people of itchy ears, who depart from sound doctrine in favor of easy answers.

 

Perhaps I am really just tired of myself. In criticizing others in their faith, I hardly live up to the best in my own faith. Perhaps the people who irritate me the most are exposing my own false doctrines.

 

Prayer:

 

God, guide me toward true doctrine, not of my own making but of yours. Keep my focus on the one who died on the cross, and not on the little mini-god I have created in my own image. Amen.

 

 

 

About the Author:

Lillian Daniel is the senior minister of the First Congregational Church, UCC, Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Her new book, This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers, co-authored with Martin B. Copenhaver, has just been published.



Daily Devotion – October 28, 2013
10.28.13

2 Timothy 3:10-15

10 Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

Reflection by Lillian Daniel

 

These days, very few people who join our church were raised in the UCC. Most of them were raised in other forms of Christianity, and they may have some negative feelings about the church of their childhood. And so they drifted from church and sought to go it alone, without a faith community.

 

But eventually, they hit something that is bigger than private, self-created spirituality. Perhaps it is the death of a parent, the birth of a child, a friend’s illness, a lonely patch in life, but suddenly they find themselves remembering some of those childhood Bible lessons. They find themselves recalling the blessings of the Christian faith, and they search for a church, but they do so very tentatively, not knowing what they will find, and afraid of being hurt.

 

When they do find us, they have the same reaction that so many people do when they discover the UCC. “This is the church I always wanted to find but didn’t know existed.” But our church isn’t perfect any more than the churches they left are all bad. And a miraculous thing happens to grownups on a faith journey. We come to appreciate moments from our past, like the Sunday school teacher who taught us the “sacred writings” in our childhood.

 

That is why when people join the church, we always say, “We give thanks for every community that has ever been your spiritual home.”

 

As the scripture tells us today, we realize that there is a connection between who we were raised to be and who we are now. It might not be a straight line, but you can connect the dots.

 

Prayer:

 

Today I give thanks for the small and tender blessings of every place that has ever been my spiritual home.  Amen.

 

 

About the Author:

Lillian Daniel is the senior minister of the First Congregational Church, UCC, Glen Ellyn, Illinois. 



Daily Devotion – October 27, 2013
10.27.13

 

Psalm 119:  103

 

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

 

Reflection by Don Tawney Sr.

 

Jesus Christ said “for judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see (John 9:39).

 

As soon as the Word of God enters into us, and has a place in us, it gives us understanding.  Reading the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit gives “Light” or understanding.  We find we begin to see when we begin to study the Word of God.

 

Another way the Psalmist says it is, “The unfolding of Thy Words gives Light.” The unfolding of a rose to its full bloom does not happen instantly; its beauty gently, quietly opens to the great delight of the gardener.  Our learning and growing in the Christian Way lasts a lifetime, for the Word of God shows us the Way to Heaven.

 

 

Prayer:

 

Silently now, I wait for Thee, ready, my God, Thy will to see; Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit Divine!

 

       Amen    

 



Daily Devotion – October 26, 2013

Psalm 119:97


Oh, how I love your law!
   It is my meditation all day long!

 

Reflection by Lynne Buell

 

You can just feel the joy in these words.  You can also feel the love, can’t you!? 

How exhilarating to love God’s law so much, that you live in the love from the moment you wake up in the morning, until the second you fall asleep at night.  Now that is contentment.

 

Prayer: 

The more I learn about God’s law, the more I love waking up in the morning.  Thank you, God.  Amen. 



Daily Devotion – October 25, 2013
10.25.13

Jeremiah 31:31-34

 

31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt-a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,says the Lord33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

 

Reflection by Ugena Whitlock

 

“Heart” Trouble

 

As many of us learned in Sunday School, Jeremiah’s nickname is the “weeping prophet.” Jeremiah had a lot to weep about. He saw a train wreck-the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, his people exiled into Babylonian captivity-and couldn’t do a thing to stop it. What was probably worse, God tapped him to speak to the people-and it was pretty much all bad news. Mainly, it was that they had been unfaithful to God and they were about to get what was coming to them. The outlook was bleak, bleak, bleak.

 

I have a dear friend who is Jewish. We had an email exchange about the book of Numbers, called Bamidbar in Hebrew for in the wilderness. He wrote, “About complaint, that’s all the Israelites do throughout the book: complain, complain, complain, rebellion, rebellion, rebellion.” My friend, a Hebrew scholar, notes, “that’s the point of complaint: it is action without acting, and it is a request to be sustained.” By Jeremiah’s time, the Israelites are way past complaining; his job was to explain this disaster as God’s response to their transgressions.

 

And then there is this section, above, that stands out as different. In a pretty hope-less book, these words are filled with promise; they offer hope. God will make a new covenant with the people. Even though they broke the old covenant, even though the Promised Land that was part of the terms of the old one was now under occupation, God is faithful. God is faithful even though they were not. God still sustains.

 

Today’s scripture is unique in a couple of ways. According to the NIV study notes, it is the longest sequence of Old Testament verses to be quoted in its entirety in the New Testament (Hebrews 8:8-12). It also contains the only Old Testament usage of the words “New Covenant,” which later evolved into “New Testament,” the name of the Christian part of the Biblical canon. This covenant will be different, God says. I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. I am reminded here of a section in Deuteronomy called the Shema (She-MA), it says, Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart (6:4-6). There is an awful lot of talk about “heart” in these two passages.

 

God gave many, many laws to the people as their part of the first covenant. I’ve thought about it, and I don’t know how the Israelites had time to do much else besides keeping all those laws. In those verses above, it seems pretty clear that this is a different kind of command, a different expression God requires of the people. It is a kind of branding of the heart: I will be their God, and they shall be my people…The Lord is our god, the Lord alone. You shall love…These verses remind us that like a covenant agreement, our relationship with God is a two-way street-and God insists that it be that way. God wants our love-wants it deeply internalized. Jeremiah wept for his people because he saw what was coming. But maybe he also wept because he saw what the people were refusing-a precious and powerful relationship of love; maybe he saw the blankness of their hearts. It makes me take a minute to consider what is written on mine.



Daily Devotion – October 24, 2013
10.24.13

 

Jeremiah 31: 27-28

 

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord.

 

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

 

This scripture is quite troublesome. Why would the Lord “overthrow, destroy and bring evil”? I can see if the Lord were to overthrow, destroy and denounce evil. But why bring evil? Perhaps it was to explain why there was so much evil in the world, and to motivate people to turn to the future and to change their ways.

The second thought here is that the Lord will watch over believers and help them to build and to plant. And that is reassuring.

I’m still troubled by the thought of evil in the world. I know it exists. But does there have to be evil in the world? And does the Lord bring it into the world?

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord, help me to build and to plant the world you had envisioned for us. Let me be a servant to You. In Your name I pray.  Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – October 23, 2013
10.23.13

 

Luke 17:11-19

 

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’

 

 

Reflection by Rochelle Lofstrand

 

The Rev. Laurie Moeller’s sermon two weeks ago spoke inspiring words about today’s devotion:

 

“So I have to ask you – have you at some point been healed of your suffering?  Have you at some point felt the lifting of your burden or the easing of your sorrow?  Have you at some point awakened with hope after a long dark night of despair?  Have you known that Jesus saw you – saw your pain and hoped you would see it healed?  If you have, then turn back and praise God.

 

Have you at some point had enough?  Have you found yourself able to sit comfortably at a feast or have you felt welcomed to the table?  Have you felt known?  Have you felt loved?  Have you nourished deeply?  If you have, then turn back and praise God!

 

Has this church – has this congregation experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit?  Have you been able to keep the lights on and the pastor paid?  Have you come together to give abundantly to those in need?  Have you people who champion the cause of human suffering?  Have you people who see the need for all to be welcome – for those who are often turned away by your sister churches to have a place?  If you have, then turn back and praise God!”

 

 

Prayer:

 

God, there are so many times in my life when I haven’t taken the time to stop and praise you for all that I have.  Please forgive me and be with me as I do take the time and the energy to give thanks to you for everything in my life.  AMEN.

 



Daily Devotion – October 22, 2013
10.22.13

 

Psalms 66:5-7

 

5. Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works on man’s behalf!

6. He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot –

come let us rejoice in him.

7. He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations –

let not the rebellious rise up against him.

 

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

 

This Psalm recalls the Exodus, a time of great wonder, but also a time when the Israelites

seemed to have blinded themselves to the works of the Divine. The unprecedented events

witnessed by the wandering Israelites did not convince them to change their lives. Their hearts

were hardened by rebellion or their minds were clouded by dogmatic preconceptions.

Perhaps, they simply lacked practice in attuning themselves to the Divine presence

Eventually, Israel matured in faith, acquiring a sort of “faith-hindsight” to see the Divine at

work in the midst of their past hardships. Such hindsight appears in Psalm 66.

To those grown mature in faith, miracles are not necessary; the Divine Spirit works through

the ordinary. I believed in fantastical miracles as a child; as a young adult I doubted

everything supernatural. Today, I look back upon difficult times in my life and my travels to

far-off places and see how Divine Providence revealed Herself to me. All along, the

miraculous has been hiding in plain sight.

 

Hymn:

 

I wandered lost in the fog of my youth.

Goddess Mother’s mercy always endures!

I struggled and fled to escape from my truth.

How her gentle mercies always endure!

I took to the ships plying westernmost of seas.

Goddess Mother’s mercy always endures!

Was tossed in the storm swells and knocked to my knees.

How her gentle mercies always endure!

The cold sea-spray-sting awakened my eyes.

Goddess Mother’s mercy always endures!

My slumber within ‘woke beneath northern lights!

How her gentle mercies always endure