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Daily Devotion – November 30, 2013
11.30.13

Luke 1:78-79

By the tender mercy of our God,

   the dawn from on high will break upon us, 

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

   to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Reflection by Monty Wyne

The whole point of this passage is
to tell the world that God is not distant but active in our world. He is here
now, spreading light and hope where there is darkness. God’s path has always
been the path to peace.

 

Ever struggled with a difficult
situation where you felt there was no way out, no ready solution? You’ve sought
advice. You’ve asked a best friend for help. You’ve turned to a family member,
all to no avail.

 

I remember such a moment not long
ago. I was struggling, caught in the grips of despair and hopelessness. I could
see no way out. As the moment of truth approached and I watched the door to a
solution closing, I found myself walking down a city street late one night
searching my mind for a way out, when much to my surprise the answer lay before
me. 

 

A homeless man stood in my path.
There was no way around him, no easy way to avoid him. I dreaded the encounter
because I knew what he would ask and I had no money. I lowered my head, tried
to look away. 

 

He humbly called out to me,
“Sir…sir?” As I was about to sternly rebuke him and deny his
request, he said, “You…you look troubled.” I hesitated for a
moment. Again he said, “You look troubled.” I thought to myself if
anyone had faced difficulty it was him. As I moved on past him, he said
“You need to talk to God.” I hesitated for an instant then moved
on. 

 

That night I talked to God and in
the light of the following morning I had my solution. 

 

Prayer: 

Dear God,  

Let us remember that you are always present, always active
in our lives.    When we are troubled by a difficult situation, you
are there with an answer.
 

Amen

 



Daily Devotion – November 29, 2013
11.29.13

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. 

Luke 1:76-77

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

Talk about pressure.  Zacharias’ son, John, is not even born yet and the expectation is for him to grow up and prepare for the coming of God on earth.  Zacharias certainly dreams big and doesn’t hold anything back with his prophetic words.  Even though these words were written many years ago, I can’t help but get caught up in the hype to see what God has in store for John.  I mean who wouldn’t get excited about a prophet of the Most High coming into the world to forgive us for our sins. 

 

This passage got me thinking about Zacharias’ attitude and spirit, in particular the effect it had on John as he grew up.  I wondered if it was his father’s expectations of him to do great things that propelled him into his prophetic ministry of living in the wilderness as a wild man, evangelizing, spreading the message of forgiveness and proclaiming the coming of Christ? Was it because of Zacharias that John became the person we remember today?  Maybe Zacharias instilled this mindset of salvation and forgiveness into John for so long it was all he knew.  Zacharias’s passion, joy and confidence in knowing that God will do as God has promised caused me to reflect on my on journey. 

 

What if I adopted Zacharias’ attitude of passion, joy and confidence this advent season? What if I really believed that there was hope for this broken world? What if I believed there was a light shining in the darkness or enough love for all or that joy is possible despite our suffering? What if I was confident that peace was possible; a peace that knows it will be ok despite the storm that rages? Would I then be a participant in preparing the way for the Lord? Would the consequence of this attitude then lead to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, “every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” (Is. 40:3-5)  Is any of this actually possible?

 

Then I thought…maybe it’s not just John who has been called to be prepare the way for God’s son this season.  Maybe his words are for all of us as followers of the Christian faith.  Maybe we are called to dream big with our prophetic voices.  Maybe we are called to believe.     

 

Prayer: 

May I know your hope, peace, joy and love, so that I may adopt Zacharias’ attitude of passion and confidence this advent season.  Amen.




Daily Devotion – November 28, 2013
11.28.13

Psalms: 68:5 

 

Father of orphans and protector of widows


is God in his holy habitation. 


 

Reflection by Diane Ingram 

When
I make my early morning rounds I try to be particularly careful with my
driving.  In the area where I live, there
are school children standing by the side of the road waiting for the school
bus. Usually, the groups are made up entirely of children, no adults. It’s a
small town, a quiet street, and the children are close to their homes. 

 

Recently,
though, my headlights have silhouetted a young child standing next to an older
man — his grandfather, I suspect. I’ve seen them several times, and each time I
start imagining their story.  The child
appears to be about seven years old, and he stands close to his grandfather.
The man’s head is usually bent toward the boy, paying attention. They’re not
talking, yet they are communicating. 

 

The man: I’m here. I love you. I would do
anything for you.

The boy: I’m not afraid when you’re here.
I wish you could go with me everywhere.

 

There’s
something very familiar and comforting about their postures: child and
protector, standing out in the cold, dark morning, waiting.

 

It’s
like we envision ourselves with God sometimes.

 

 

Prayer:

 

Father God, thank you for
those times when we are able to feel you standing there tall and protective.  And, help us to stand there for others who may
need a “grandfather.”

 

 

 

 

 

 



Daily Devotion – November 27, 2013
11.27.13

Luke 1:68-71 

 

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because
he has come to his people and redeemed them. 
69 
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in
the house of his servant David  70 (as
he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from
our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—

 

Reflection by Don Tawney Sr.

 

     God has made a gracious visit to the world
in the person of Jesus Christ. Zacharias is filled with the Holy Spirit when he
prophesied The Messiah’s coming. 

 

     God visited His people when they were in
bondage, and delivered them from Egypt.  Now He visits us with His
salvation.  In Christ Jesus we are redeemed from sin and raised up with
Him, and seated with Him in the heavenly places. (Eph. 2:6).

 

     Have you ever said, “I want a
personal visit from God and hear His voice”?  It says in the Bible,
“God, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” 
(Heb. 1:2)   By His mighty power, by our mighty Savior, God has
visited us and offers redemption for the whole world.

 

   
             Prayer: 

                       
Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus, speak that my soul may hear; Speak to my heart,
Lord Jesus, calm every doubt and fear.  
 

                                    Amen

 (B. B. McKinney–Prayer)

                                      



Daily Devotion – November 26, 2013
11.26.13

Jeremiah 23:1-6

 

Restoration after Exile

 

23Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my
pasture! says the Lord. 2Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the
shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and
have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to
you for your evil doings, says the Lord.
3Then I myself will
gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them,
and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and
multiply. 4I will
raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear
any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.

 

The Righteous Branch of David

 

5The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and
he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness
in the land. 6In his
days Judah will be saved and Israel will live
in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

 

Reflection by Lynne Buell

 

We say we are experiencing some of
the worse times ever; with senseless school shootings, wars, hate, economic
conditions, and poverty.  But Jeremiah
was living during a tumultuous era.  Here
he writes about our Lord expressing disappointment over the leaders’ inability to
keep the people together.  Why, God
almost threatens these leaders by announcing that he will keep track of their
criminal behavior.   That would be enough
for me to hear.  Of course, I wouldn’t
treat people this way to begin with.  So
in verses 5-6, is Jeremiah talking about the coming of Jesus?  And here is the frustrating part for me:  Why haven’t things changed?

 

To quote Kim from her sermon last
Sunday:  “…if we do as Paul suggests—keep
on keeping on with what we already know—we’ll be closer this time next year
than we’ve ever been before.  And that
will be cause for great rejoicing.”  I
loved this quote when I heard it, and I love it still today. 

 

We are entering the season of Advent.  A time for hope, peace, joy and love.  Let’s get serious and practice, beginning
today.  Baby steps.  That’s all it takes to make just one person
smile or help someone in need. 

 

Prayer:

 

I will continue to pray for hope,
peace, joy and love.  And I will continue
to release positive energy every day through my daily encounters, my work, and
my thoughts and prayers.  Amen

 

 



Daily Devotion – November 25, 2013
11.25.13

Isaiah 12:2

 

Surely God is my salvation;

    I will trust, and will
not be afraid,

for the Lord
God is my strength and my might;

    he has become my
salvation.

 

Reflection by Ugena Whitlock

 

This
semester has been my first at Candler School of Theology. One of the classes I
am taking is the Old Testament, Part 1. You can always tell when there is going
to be an OT test. A pall is over the entire building. Students are bleary-eyed
from study marathons the day before, and you can hear voices coming from small
groups: “Well, do you think anything from Numbers will be on it? He didn’t
spend any time in Numbers. Gee, I need to go read Numbers.” One day, one of the
deans, an ordained Episcopal minister, walked in the room, blessed the class,
then left. Kind of makes you think twice about the whole pastoral world,
doesn’t it? But let me tell you what I’ve come away with from OT class. I have
found a God that I can worship with reverence—and with great joy.

 

Well,
you might ask, what were you doing with God before? That is a very good
question. There’s an old saying that when you are a kid, you take out the trash
because you are afraid you’ll get in trouble if you don’t, but when you are
grown up, you take it out of kindness and love as a member of the household.
God for me, based on years of Sunday school and sermons (not to mention Cecil
B. Demille), was a composite of a stern father, a mighty but ambiguous being,
and Santa Claus. I pictured him as looking like statues and paintings Zeus or
Neptune. God was fierce, and he was always masculine. Now, in the New
Testament, I really got in touch with my Jesus, who incidentally, talked almost
exclusively about God—but I missed that part somehow. Jesus was compassionate
and kind. I could relate to Jesus. I
no longer had to worry about the Christian Zeus striking me with a lightning
bolt.

 

Then
came the OT. This semester we’ve focused on the Torah, covenants, wandering in
the wilderness, and the Kings of Israel and Judah. (The prophets are next
semester.) We have tracked the Israelites from God’s promise of land to Abraham
to their exile from that Promised Land. Deep and intense reading made me pay
attention to the nature of God in relation to these people, God’s chosen. Sure,
God is still fierce and jealous; God gets mad and regrets making people at all,
and God still smites. But God is also resolute. God offers blessings and above
all else, love. It took me 50 years, you may ask, to find this out? What had I
been doing in Sunday school? I think I had to see the whole narrative of God
and God’s people to see me and God in relation to each other. I think
mini-lessons in Sunday school presented several one-dimensional portrayals of
God that over the years I had strung together. Although, I did frequently
doodle in my Bible during Sunday school.

 

This
week’s verse, Isaiah 12:2, is a song of thanksgiving, very appropriate to this
season. Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord
God is my strength and my might; he
has become my salvation.
To my new-found God, the one I come to anew, I
offer this prayer in humility and awe. God is my salvation, strength and might.
I will trust, and I do not have to fear any more. When I was preparing this
reflection, I compared different translations of this verse, which is from the
New Revised Standard Version. I like some of the words in the other
translations better. For example, in some versions, the first word, Surely, is Behold! I like that; it’s like a Southerner hollering “Hey!” or a
coach yelling, “Ok, listen up!” Something important is coming, so listen!

 

Some
versions use the word confident for
trust. There’s a nuance of difference here since I can say that I trust in the
Lord, and I do. But to have confidence? Those are not the same thing. Confidence
is something that has an effect on me; it causes me to change my behavior, to
put a pep in my step. Trust may help me not be afraid, but confidence allows me
to be bold. The phrase, Lord God, is
the putting together of two different Hebrew words, which would read something
like Yah the Lord. What this does,
putting it like that, adds an emphasis of holiness—like the Lord your God phrase we hear over and
over in Deuteronomy. And finally, the word might
is sometimes translated as song. The
Lord my God is my strength and my song. This to me makes more sense than saying
God is my strength and might. Strength and might have similar meanings. Song,
though, changes things.

Hey! God saves me! I will be
confident and unafraid. God—even God!—makes me strong, God is the song I sing! God
saves me!

 

I want
to sing loud praises of foot-stomping hymns like Elvis sang with the
Jordanaires. This God makes me excited to serve God. And, in spite of the tests,
and the pop quizzes, the hundreds of pages of reading a week, and the thought
of doing it all over again next semester with the prophets, I am awfully glad I
got to know God.

 



Daily Devotion – November 24, 2013
11.24.13

Isaiah 12:1

Thanksgiving and Praise

You will say on that day:

I will give thanks to you, O Lord,

   for though you were angry with me,

your anger turned away,

   and you comforted me. 

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

I can’t say God was angry with me,
but I do know He comforted me. On Sunday, October 13th of this year, Polly and
I were watching the Atlanta Pride parade when suddenly a knocked-over Coke can
enticed a swarm of bees to descend on the crowd. I was among the group that was
stung. Immediately I felt extremely itchy all over. After about 15 minutes, I
could stand it no longer and we began to walk back towards our car. As we
walked, I got weaker and weaker and began to stumble. I remember wondering very
clearly if this was the day I was going to donate my organs. Unbeknownst to me,
Polly began screaming for help.

When I awoke, passers-by were
tending to me. A man who identified himself as a doctor calmed me to remain
laying down so blood could continue to get to my brain. A woman was constantly
talking to me to keep me conscious. My throat and lips were very swollen. A
policewoman radioed for an ambulance. Within minutes my vitals were taken. My
pulse was 70 over 30 and my oxygen level was at 80. I didn’t know until the
next day when I was home checking the internet how bad was my condition. But
through that EMT and the others, God comforted me. First an IV was given even
before boarding the ambulance. Once inside the ambulance my ears started to
swell and a small pain began to travel across my chest from the right side
towards my heart. I was given a high concentration of Benadryl and five doses
of Epinephrine. My breathing was restored, my itchiness reduced and my chest
pains subsided by the time we arrived at the hospital. 

It’s kind of ironic that it was a
good thing that I was stung where there were so many people and where
ambulances were at the ready. Had it occurred a week earlier when Polly and I
were driving on the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway in the middle of nowhere, a
much worse outcome could have occurred.

Prayer:

Dear Lord, I don’t know if you are angry with me. But I
thank you every day. Now I thank you for “just” being alive. And I
thank all of those people who helped me that day. Their actions contributed to
my living to see another day.

 



Daily Devotion – November 23, 2013
11.23.13

Isaiah 65:25


The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
   the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
   but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain,

says the Lord. 

 

 

Reflection by Rochelle Lofstrand

 

Here we are, a few days before Thanksgiving.  I recently saw the 1995 film “Home for the Holidays” with Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr.  The movie was supposed to be a comedy (and some in my family found it hilarious) but I found it to be very sad.  Holly Hunter’s character heads home for Thanksgiving and the viewer gets to spend 90 minutes watching the drama that unfolds during the holiday.  No big family issues were solved, no secrets revealed, but instead a family – just as they are – prepares and enjoys a meal together.  (Well, maybe there was a flying turkey but you have to see the movie to enjoy that scene!)

 

In today’s devotion, the writer of Isaiah 65 is looking toward the making new of the physical world, as to the renewing of the relationships and interconnections within the world which maintain life in its physical, spiritual, social and other dimensions. That is the Christian hope. While it might sound a bit ‘pie in the sky when you die’, i.e. unreal, to doubtful minds, we should remember that Christian hope is not just about some distant future. That vision of the future is also what shapes our living in the world in the present. We are called to live as people of hope, shaped in our lives by that very hope.

 

So over the next few days as you are welcoming or being welcomed by family, try to renew relationships with loved ones.  Build on the hope that we have in our lives for new beginnings when the wolf and the lamb may feed together. 

 

Prayer:

 

God, thank you for this time of year when we give thanks for all that we have in our lives.  Despite the stressfulness of the holiday, may we all be blessed with family and friends with whom we renew our relationships.  AMEN.

 

 

 



Month of Gratitude: Day 22 (Pain)
11.22.13

Here’s what I’m learning at physical therapy:  If you don’t tell the therapist where it hurts, she can’t do what needs to be done to help you heal. 

When another patient at PT yesterday said, “Um, that muscle isn’t happy,” I realized how reticent most of us are to say, “Ouch!  That hurts!”  I’m getting better at it.  A few of my lines from yesterday’s dry needling session…  “Ouch!  That hurts.”  “Ugh!  That felt like a lightning bolt traveling down my leg.”  (That line was delivered with a firm kick that nearly caught my therapist in the jaw.  Oops.)  “Okay.  That feels like a hot rod being run through my leg!”  And then, of course, there’s the sharp intake of breath and the low moan.  Those are particularly effective when delivered in quick succession. :-)

So much of our culture is about avoiding pain, or masking it–with achievement, consumption, entertainment, addiction, sleep.  Facebook.  We work so hard at avoiding pain….all the while, it’s naming our pain and dealing with it that, as my physical therapist says, “promotes healing.”  

So, weird as it sounds, today I am grateful for pain.  Pain shows us where healing needs to happen….and then works hard to put itself out of business.



Daily Devotion – November 22, 2013

 

Isaiah 65:21-24

 

21.
They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat
their fruit.

22.
No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others
eat.

23.
They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune;

For
they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with
them.

24.
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.

 

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

 

During times of hardship, the
promise of Divine generosity can open one’s eyes to the bountiful, good things
in the present. In my experience, the daily practice of attuning my heart to
the gentle and loving Mother, has opened my eyes to the many ways in which all
my needs and even some desires are fulfilled. When I compose myself to the
Source of such outrageous love, I’m able to give to others; I can show kindness
to others, while I am barred from judgmental thoughts or actions. Hence, by
individual and community commitment to the Divine, the promises in Isaiah
chapter 65 are brought to life.

 

 

Hymn:

 

Mother, I thank you for the health and
joy and love you bring.

Mother I thank you how I cannot fall out
of your grace!

Thank you for the songbird’s tune!

Thank you for the lily’s bloom!

Thank you for the springtime life,

that
rises as the snow subsides!