Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Changes

Holy Trinity has seen a few changes in 2013 that will affect how 2014 goes forward.

First, all Sunday services will now be at 9:00 a.m.  We will endeavor to have a supply priest come a couple times of month, at which points we will have the Eucharist service.  We do have a few lay ministers in the congregation, so we have Morning Prayer services on all other Sundays.

One in our congregation has decided to hold Morning Prayer every Monday through Saturday at 7:30 a.m. throughout 2014.  Anyone is welcome to attend at any time, being aware that it will simply be the service without music and will follow the Book of Common Prayer.

Let's go forth with the collect for this last day of the year:  "Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Day

Wouldn't it be wonderful for everyone to celebrate the good tidings of great joy?

Faith Is Choosing to Believe

Things to Think About

Christmas Eve's meditation is about the concept of faith - and that part of what forms our belief is the desire that Christ's presence is true.  We are able to find evidence in nearly everything around us, from the laugh of a baby and the miracle of birth to the rainbows that appear after storms.  It is that desire to believe that helps us find those things - not quite the scientific method that so many would like to use as a standard.  But faith is not scientific - it is a choice, and a choice that we make every day. 

When you're feeling down or lonely (sounds like the beginning to a song, doesn't it?), remember to consciously make that choice, and realize that you're not alone.  The joy of Christ's birth is always present - as Christians, we only have to look around, and find the evidence.  And listen for that voice that can help you know without doubt that you are loved, and not alone.

Something Fun for Advent

Find someplace close that's got a live Nativity play and take the family before or after your Christmas Eve service.  When you get home, have hot chocolate with marshmallows, and talk about the Gift God is giving all of us this Christmas.

Live Each Day

Things to Think About

The meditation for the fourth Monday in Advent goes to the heart of why Christ came to Earth - to forgive the sins of mankind through His death.  That forgiveness affects us all, but it does not leave us without regrets that such a sacrifice was needed to redeem humanity.  The meditation also reminds us not to waste time - to ensure that you have told your loved ones that you love them, to ask for forgiveness for things you've done wrong, and to grant forgiveness to those who have wronged you.  While this physical life is ephemeral, we still have to live it, and should live it to the best of our ability. 

So today, remember to tell those you love that you love them.  Don't live with (or die with!) regrets if tomorrow does not arrive for one of you.

Something Fun for Advent

Grab your pillows and a blanket, get snuggled up in your jammies, and bring your favorite Christmas story to a family story night.  Have snacks (cookies and milk are always good, but sometimes a bit too messy for the littlest ones), and take turns reading or telling the stories of Christmas.


Things to Think About

Beginning where I left off...  The fourth Sunday in Advent's meditation is a video - please choose the correct one.  The author points out that over time, most Christian religions have centered their iconography around death:  the cross we often wear around our necks or place at the forefront of our sanctuaries is the equivalent of today's electric chair.  Now we realize that our focus is actually not on the death of Christ, but on his rebirth into eternal life with the Father - but the symbolism is not one of life.  It's an interesting point to make.

The Japanese culture have long used the Cherry Blossoms as their symbol of the cycle of life, death and rebirth, on the one hand, and of productive and reproductive powers, on the other.  Many will point to Mary and the baby as being favorites of artists around the world.  But worldwide, the symbol most used to identify Christianity is that of the Cross. 

Something Fun for Advent

Everyone has seen pictures of the garlands of popcorn and cranberries that are hung on trees - why not make some for your tree, and sing Christmas carols while you do, so that the tree will be surrounded by the voices of joy, anticipation and happiness, captured in the simple, family task of creating.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Rule of Law

Things to Think About

Today's meditation discusses the "dignity of the human decision to live under the rule of law.  That some choose not to do so does not injure this dignity."  How we respond to those who choose not to do so shows some measure of who we are. 

Long ago when I was working as a juvenile court mediator, through a program called Mediation and Restitution Services (MARS), I got to watch the process of mediation - with restitution - make real differences in the lives and thought processes of the children and teens we worked with.  So often, someone who commits a crime doesn't think far enough ahead or empathize enough with the victim to realize that their actions have consequences they might not know about.  One teen lived next door to a relatively elderly gentleman, who had a moped in his back yard.  The teen never saw it move, and it was driving him crazy that something that could be so much fun was just sitting there.  So, one day he went for a joyride.  It crashed (fortunately he was not hurt, but the moped was), and he came to meet with me and the older neighbor.  The interesting thing about these mediations is that the parents must attend, but aren't allowed to say anything.  This is all on the kid, and the choices that they've made to get here.  I asked him why he'd taken the moped, and he explained.  He apologized to his neighbor.  I then asked the neighbor if he ever used his moped.  It turns out he did - once a week when his neighbors were in church, he would ride the moped to the cemetery and spend time with his wife.  This opened quite a few people's eyes - the parents learned they had a widower for a neighbor, who was a rather lonely man; the teen learned how much of an impact his actions would have on a man he really knew nothing about.  The man was prepared to accept the apology, but was unwilling to take money from the parents of the teen.  The teen was too young to get a job.  So here's where the mediation came in - the teen needed to be able to make restitution for the damage he'd caused to the moped, and was quite capable of doing chores.  The neighbor was getting on in years, and could use some help with yard work and someone to learn and assist with wood crafting and the tools he used.  So, twice a week after school, and one weekend day, the teen spent in the company of his neighbor, at a set "hourly" rate until he'd paid off the repairs.  When I checked on the family of the teen a few months later, I learned that they had begun having their neighbor over for dinners or cookouts, and that their son was thriving under the extra attention he received, not to mention the new skills he was learning.

Through that process, we gained another person who would, in the future, choose to live under the rule of law, and understanding that the laws were created for our own benefit.  Christ's message in Matthew 17, "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." reminds us also of His message in Matthew 22:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Something Fun for Advent

Get dressed in your most fun (but okay to get dirty in) Christmas outfit (Santa hat included), take trash bags and make it a contest of who can get the most trash picked up in a 30 minute period in your neighborhood.  Invite your friends and make it a whole community, spontaneous effort. 

Then later on in the evening, take a stroll or a drive and look at the Christmas lights.  Talk about the one light God sent to guide the wise men to where the baby Jesus would be born.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Children of God

Things to Think About

Today's meditation brings up an interesting point for a country who has been at war for over a decade.  The patriotic unity produced by war can only flourish in the arid soil of a much greater disunity.  Divisions among humans are a commonplace occurrence - simply look at the number of sects of Christianity (over 41,000 by some counts) worldwide. 

And yet the author of Let Every Heart Prepare makes another very interesting point - the dead do not all look alike to God, in whose image we are all created.  God cherishes each one of us as a beloved child.  And we are awaiting the celebration of the birth of God, Himself, in the form of the Christ child.

So the challenge for today:  seek out someone with whom you have disagreements - political, religious, moral, even family.  Have a conversation with them and hold in your mind, "This is a child of God, just like me."  Find something in common.  Focus on that for this one conversation - even if it is that you both feel passionately about certain subjects (and don't agree).  

Think of your favorite color.  Imagine if everyone had that same favorite, and the uniformity that would come from decorating everything with that color, making all the houses that color, all the decor that color, etc.  The world would not only be a pretty boring place, but I think we'd likely grow to hate that color, because there is no diversity.  Fortunately, God created each of us unique, and we like different colors.  If He wanted uniformity, He likely wouldn't have created the huge variety that exists in the world.  Celebrate that the person you disagree with adds color to your world, and appreciate it.

Something Fun for Advent

Color pictures to hang around the house. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Things to Think About

While today's meditation focuses on the topic of the last judgment, and the punishments of the damned, it also brings to the forefront the reason we are anticipating the celebration of the birth of the Christ child.  When everything was in perfect harmony in the Garden of Eden, and the relationships between God and man, person to person, man to nature and man within himself were in perfect balance, the concept of life and death really had no meaning.  With the sin of Adam and Eve, the harmony and balance were destroyed, and they experienced the judgment of being put away from God.  Christ's birth puts an end to that judgment, and provides us a way to find eternal life and blessing in once again being in the presence of God. 

So take a look at your choice.  When was the last time you said the words of the service and actually thought about what they mean?  Do you mean them?  Or are you saying them out of habit?

Look at your faith - is it something you've grown up with because your parents told you it was the right thing to do, or have you actively thought about and chosen your faith?  Do you actually believe, or is it a habit you got into long ago? 

As a child, my father taught us that if all we were going to do is say the words of the service and not actually think about them, we should leave, so that we did not show such disrespect to God.  And this was an every single time we went to service choice.  When is the last time you actually made the choice, and chose to believe as you went through the service?   Try it - and see if you don't feel differently about being there. 

Honor Christ's birth and presence here, not only with your actions, but in your words - for they are powerful tools.

Something Fun for Advent

Read the Christmas story in Luke in the Bible.  Watch The Nativity Story.  Go and visit a live nativity in your town.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Request for Prayers

We would ask that your prayers be with Rev. Pattiann Bennett and her family as they deal with the loss of her father.  Please keep her safe as she travels to his side.

For her father:

Saints of God, come to his aid!
Come to meet him, angels of the Lord!
Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.

May Christ, Who called you, take you to Himself;
may angels lead you to Abraham's side.
Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.

Give him eternal rest, O Lord,
and may Your light shine upon him forever.
Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.

Let us pray: We commend our brother to you, Lord.
Now that he has passed from this life,
may he live on in Your presence.
In Your mercy and love, forgive whatever sins he
may have committed through human weakness.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
For those who use rosaries or prayer beads, this is the rosary for the dead.

Freedom and Responsibility

Things to Think About

Today's meditation reminds us that there needs to be a balance between God-given freedom and God-given responsibility - that we must be a community which would have, had we been around at the time, been welcoming to the Christ child, and which will be supportive of the spirit of Christ in each of us.

The following is taken from The Western News' Facebook page, showing the community spirit of Troy (and Libby) following the recent apartment fire here:

"One day after an apartment fire displaced eight families in Troy, the Rev. Cam Foote of Troy Community Baptist Church sat in the church's activity center surrounded by shoes, hats, gloves and toys. The donated items came in such abundance and so quickly that efforts to organize were abandoned when there were no more tables on which to sort items.

In the days following, Foote would have to direct donations elsewhere because of the overwhelming response.

The floodgates opened shortly after Nicole Heyne, 21, posted a comment on Facebook requesting donations to the church.

"It's been busy since then," Heyne said. "I even had phone call from Colorado asking how they could help." "

Something Fun for Advent

Don't forget our furred and feathered friends this winter season.  Call your local shelter to discover what sort of food they might be in need of, and if the animals are allowed visitors and treats.  Jesus and his family weren't alone in that barn, but surrounded by animals.  While they might have been a bit different from what you're going to find in a shelter, they still need love and community care until they can find their forever homes.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Things to Think About

Today's meditation speaks to the expectation the people of the Earth feel, but often can't explain.  They are waiting, but waiting for what - that can usually be defined by their belief system, as all of them speak of awaiting the coming of a savior. 

Hindus await the return of Lord Krishna.
Zoroastrians await Ahura Mazda, the god of light.
Jews await the Messiah.
Buddhists await the Fifth Buddha.
Christians await the second coming of Christ.
Muslims await both the second coming of Christ and the Imam Mahdi.

There is a great piece of music by Jack Lenz that was originally called "Expectations" that talks about the expectations of each religion, combining music with the writings from each religion talking about what they expect to happen.

Ron Julian, a professor at Gutenberg College, wrote an excellent article called "Thief in the Night" which talks about what Christ advised his followers with regard to His return.  It focuses not so much on attempting to identify the signs, but rather on being ready, and focusing on faith, hope and love to do so.

Something Fun for Advent

Try Christmas Bingo:  For young non-readers, or people who are youthful, create a Bingo board of different Christmas pictures. Make nine 1-inch squares on a word-processing document and paste a different Christmas clip-art image in each square. Use a manger with straw, a star, a cow, a candle, a shepherd with sheep, an angel, Mary, a gift and a donkey. Print a Bingo game card for each child with rearranged images on different cards. Using either small candies or bingo tokens, have children place the item on each figure when you describe it with clues.

Straw – "I am all golden brown, where Mary laid her baby down."
Star – "I shined brightly in the sky over baby Jesus that first night."
Cow – "I mooed with joy so sweet and breathed on baby Jesus' feet."
Candle – "I have a warm, soft glow that lit that room so long ago."
Shepherd – "I am keeper of the sheep who came to watch the baby sleep."
Angel – "I told of Christ's birth. I shouted the message, 'Peace on Earth!' "
Mary – "I am the mother of this baby boy. To serve God completely is my heart's greatest joy."
Gift -- "I was brought by the wise men to worship this baby born to be King."
Donkey – "I walked a long road with Mary, the mother, as my heavy load."

Third Sunday in Advent

Things to Think About

Today's video meditation (make sure you scroll down to the 3rd Sunday) talks about an interesting concept - that of Christ being the "Second Adam".  God created a perfect world with Adam into which sin and death were introduced.  Christ came to undo the damage Adam had done, taking the sins of the world onto his own shoulders and promising salvation and eternal life. 

According to Corinthians 15:45:  "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit."

The author of the meditation mentions medieval art often depicting the bones of Adam lying at the foot of the Cross.  One of the other things medieval art was famous for was symmetry, and the full circle of the two Adams would have appealed to medieval artists.

Something Fun for Advent

Make a wreath from materials you have in your home.  Talk with your kids about what an Advent Wreath is, and how it works. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Generosity of the Spirit

Things to Think About

The second Saturday in Advent's meditation talks about the difficulties of economic disparity.  The author discusses that "generosity of the spirit is harder" when you are without funds, but I think I'll respectfully disagree, to a point.  Obviously, money does make generosity easier, but when you have been in a place where you know what people are going through, you're better able to know what you can do without so that they may be blessed by your generosity, poor as it might be.

As an example, this little Town of Troy, Montana recently had a fire at a low-income apartment building.  8 families, 14 people were displaced, 3 were burned, 1 was life-flighted to a special burn center in Utah, 2 at a more nearby hospital.  The people in this little town, a full one-fifth of whom were laid off from the mine earlier this year, living in a county that has been in a depression for over 40 years - pulled together, got people clothed and fed, temporarily housed and back on their feet within a short time.  The people in the next little town over organized a drop-off point for contributions to be brought here.  The person in Utah is doing well.  The pastor at the Baptist Church, our local Red-Cross Center when needed, has said that they've got more than enough for right now.  As people find places to live, they will need household goods of all sorts, furniture, bedding, dishes, etc.  And I have no doubt that the people will arise again, giving what they can, because that's what Montanans do for one another. 

A Tiny Tim here would see fundraisers, coffee cans at the local store for change, and would find the resources to help him get well.  Each person is valued.  Each person has either been in the position, knows someone who's been there, or fears being in the position in the future.  So we take care of our own.

Something Fun for Advent

Got ingredients for sugar cookies?  Take a plate of cookies and a homemade Christmas card to your doctor’s office, library, church office, and/or dentist office. 

Or gather together clothes that don't fit, toys that aren't played with (Island of Misfit Toys anyone? Watch Rudolph while you're doing this!), canned goods that haven't been used and donate them to those less fortunate.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Things to Think About

Today's meditation talks about a problem too often seen in our society - our own reactions to things beyond our control and how we go through life.  Have you ever been around someone who is determined to see the absolute worst in people?  Who will take the interpretation that would be most insulting, rather than the plain meaning of something said?  Who can find the clouds on a sunny day, and amplify them by their attitude?  It's hard, in the face of that, to maintain an upbeat and cheerful attitude, despite what life may be throwing at you. 

Knowing that you can only change yourself, what can you do to help yourself maintain a positive outlook?  There are quite a number of things:
  1. Pray.  Pray with your whole being, not just talking about yourself, but remembering to listen as well.  Use the acronym:  P (Praise), R (Repent), A (Ask), Y (Yield to God's will). 
  2. Choose to be happy.  Choose to be in environments and around people that increase your probability of happiness.  If there's a choice that will lead toward more negativity, consciously choose the other one.
  3. Cultivate gratitude.  Make it a daily exercise to find five things in your day for which you are grateful.  You'll soon see just how blessed you actually are.
  4. Foster forgiveness.  Hanging onto anger is poisonous to ourselves.  You don't have to forget someone's actions, but forgiving them and allowing God to deal with their consequences will ease your own burdens. 
  5. Actively counteract negative thoughts and feelings.  Prayer, meditation, exercise, rhythmic breathing, yoga, or relaxation techniques to quell anxiety and promote serenity are all methods that can contribute to that.
  6. Foster friendships.  Be a good friend - not just over social media, but actually in person.  Remember that hugs keep you healthy.
  7. Engage in meaningful activities.  Find fulfillment in your vocation or avocations by actively contributing to society.  Volunteer, help those less fortunate, develop skills that will help you do that more easily, teach others skills that can help them improve their own lot in life.
So start now - what are you grateful for, right now?

Fun Things for Advent

Make a Birth Announcement!  When a family welcomes a new baby, they often send a birth announcement to friends and family. Children can celebrate the birth of Jesus like this as well. Have children work together to create a birth announcement for Jesus – complete with a footprint from a baby in the nursery, with the consent of the infant's parents. Make two copies per child – one to keep and one to share to spread the news of Jesus’ birth.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Love and Fear

Things to Think About

Today's meditation speaks to the concept that love inspires both joy and fear, whereas appreciation only inspires the joy.  We hear the word love tossed about in relation to desserts, cute pictures, songs, outfits, shoes, etc.  What we really mean there is that we have an appreciation for those things, because honestly, if you were without them, while you might miss them, you're not actually risking anything in appreciating them.

"In joy and terror, the Word is born" are some of the lyrics in today's hymn.  The terror is as a result of the knowledge that your world is about to change, and to potentially change drastically.  The love of God is eternal, exemplified in the gift of His Son.  Our fear is not that we will lose God's love, but that we have to change ourselves to acknowledge that it transcends this life and all else slides to less importance, because the "big picture" just got a whole lot bigger.

Think back to when you realized God's love.  What changed in your life?  What fears did you hold?  What joys did it bring?

Something Fun for Advent

Bring the energy of a home blessing into your house.  Each person should keep in mind that their particular task is done as a blessing to the home and all who reside or visit there. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Different Drummer

Things to Think About

Today's meditation talks about things that we individually hold as dear or important to us, what we value as opposed to what might be practical in the eyes of others.  "By their self-imposed distance from normal life, they see things other people miss."

It's commonly referred to these days as walking to the beat of a different drummer.  As a child, my mother taught me that absolutely every person you meet has something you can learn, if you're willing to listen - because their perspective is different from yours, and different from every other person's out there.  One of the best lessons I ever learned was from a 5-year-old, who taught me that assuming you know something without all the facts - from the perspectives of *all* those involved - is a mistake.  Obviously, that wasn't how she worded it, but that was the lesson learned from her.  One doesn't have to only listen to those who separate themselves from ordinary life - but listen for the perspectives that they might not have otherwise contemplated.

Something Fun for Advent

Make a pine cone bird feeder and attach a little note that says, “Merry Christmas birdies and squirrels!”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Taking Comfort in God

Things to Think About

Today's meditation discusses pain, mostly of the chronic sort, and how, if we're willing to listen, we can learn quite a bit about ourselves from that pain. 

Learning to accept help, graciously, without the attitude of being irritated to be in the position of needing help; learning to ask for help when you need it - again, nicely, with gratitude; learning to adjust and take the time you need to do the things you want to do; learning that there may perhaps be things you can no longer do, no matter how much you wish you could - and handling all of that without becoming as pleasant to deal with as the Wicked Witch of the West.  Chronic pain sucks - but it can be an effective teacher, if you're willing to learn.  Keep in mind that in asking for help, you're allowing others to help you, and that actually makes them feel good about themselves.  It's still hard, but you can be an instrument of God in your need.

Music can be one of the things that helps your spirit soar, even as your body disagrees with every movement you'd like it to make.  Take comfort in God, and in His gifts. 

Something Fun for Advent

Make a garland for your tree or the stairwell or wherever you'd like to hang garland - use popcorn, cranberries, beads, paper - whatever strikes your fancy.  Sing songs as you create, say prayers for those who need them.

Suffering and Comfort

Things to Think About

The meditation for Monday, December 9 (late due to internet outage) speaks to the importance of peace, and how we face challenges in our daily lives.  In many instances, troubles we have are of our own making, whether it be decisions made in the long-ago past that come back to haunt us, or daily habits that become addictions from which we can't break free, or holding onto hurts until they manifest in some physical manner because we're not ready to deal with them.  All choices that can result in suffering.  And sometimes, it's the choices of others that cause your own suffering.

As the meditation states, we may not have a choice about whether to suffer, but we can always choose how we will face suffering.  Even knowing what was coming -- what He would be choosing, God made manifest in human form, to experience life as a human, to suffer and die for the sins of humanity -- Christ chose to live among us, and became both an example of how one could choose to face suffering, and a comfort to those who do suffer.

Something Fun for Advent

Be a comfort to those often alone - visit a nursing home; take goodies or cards; sing carols; visit quietly and see if anyone would like to read or be read to from the Bible.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holy Days

Things to Think About

Today's meditation is actually on video, and you'll need to click the Second Sunday in Advent for today's video.  The concept that a Christian can see Christ at work, in every situation, in the heart of every person, whether that person believes the same, is very tough for a great many people. 

During this time of year you often hear, "Jesus is the reason for the season", or "Put the Christ back in Christmas."  While I do agree with the second statement, I have to disagree with the first.  And before you get angry and give up on this blog, read with an open mind.  The Church long ago chose December 25 as the date on which they would celebrate Christ's birth.  The Christ-Mass has been celebrated that day ever since.  Historically, we are aware that Christ was likely born at some point in the spring, simply from the descriptions of lambs being young and what was eaten at dinner.  Does it matter?  No - we simply want to celebrate the birth of the Son of God - a day was chosen, and all of Christendom acknowledges and abides by it.

The season, however, has existed long before Christ - the changing of the seasons have always been days of reflection and celebration with solstices and equinoxes being the days on which those events are acknowledged.  Ḥănukkāh has been around since the 2nd century before the common era (about 200 years before Christ).  Other celebrations and remembrances also take place during this time of year, some old, some newer - but all an acknowledgment of the passage of time and events.  The birthday of Jesus is certainly an important event - and generally the reason that Christians celebrate, but in reality, it's not the only event, and should not be the only one acknowledged.  If we want people to accept both our holy-day and our right to celebrate it, perhaps we should step up and assist others in celebrating their own holy days, by simply wishing them Happy Holy-Days as well.  You don't have to know what they're celebrating to know that the holy day you are anticipating will arrive, and we will once again remember the day of birth of the Christ child.**

Something Fun for Advent

Check out books from the library about how people celebrate Christmas in other nations.  See if there's something you'd like to adopt into your own family, either based on your heritage, or because it's something that looks like fun!

** Obviously, this is my own viewpoint, and should not be reflective of any church or policy.

First Saturday in Advent

Things to Think About

My sincere apologies for this blog being late.  This meditation gives us much to contemplate - the most telling statement being, "It was not in its virtue that humankind's readiness for Christ lay; our readiness lay, as it continues to abide, in our need."  While humanizing God is something that often makes humans more comfortable in the familiar, it is a reality that does not exist.
Perhaps this might help to remind us that we should strive to have the faith of Abraham when he and Isaac were on the mountain.  God will always provide, though we may not understand how.

As humans, we are subject to time in a linear fashion, but think about God, who is not.  He provides us with His only Son - past, present and future - as His constant symbol of His love for us.

Something Fun for Advent

Buy a small gift for a child in the long-term care wing of the children’s ward, and bring a bouquet of flowers for his/her mother.  Or, if you are as so many of us, running short on cash, create a gift either through re-purposing something you have, or perhaps creating a craft kit (crayons, printing out pictures to color (Crayola provides Christmas pics), glue, cardboard, felt, markers, blank paper, glitter, pipe cleaners, etc.) and picking flowers if you're in an area where you can, or creating a picture for the mom.

Friday, December 6, 2013

God Is Love

Things to Think About

Today's meditation focuses on the qualities of love, and the differences between romantic love and Godly love, pointing out that human love tends to be ephemeral, whereas God's love is constant. 

Love is an interesting word, but just for today, try an experiment.  Take the portion of 1 John 4:8 that says "God is Love."  For today, everywhere that you would normally say "God", substitute "Love."  And everywhere you would normally say "Love", say "God." 

You might find an interesting change in perspective, because God is not only a noun now, but a verb - an action that governs your relationships.  And you might find how often we trivialize "love" when you substitute God as a verb.  You might also find Love elevated, for if God is Love, shouldn't those we love be given stations and respect far above where they currently are? 

Let us know what epiphanies you reach today.  And Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Something Fun for Advent

Draw names and write a love note for a family member. On Christmas Eve, distribute your notes into their stockings.

Reflection from a Guest Pastor - Dustin Parker-Fahey

In today’s meditation focus we look at love and the difference between an earthly, physical love and that of our Heavenly Father's love. Yet as believers are we not called to love as our Father loves? Are we not called to be Followers of Christ? To love as he loves?

God is Love. It’s an incredibly deep yet incredibly simple statement that we read many times yet completely gloss over. If we stop and actually spend a couple minutes thinking about what it really means, if we meditate upon God's Word, I’m sure that He will reveal to you many epiphanies as He did for me.

The Pharisees came to Jesus with what they thought was the perfect question to snare Him. “What is the greatest commandment?” they asked, knowing that however He answered, it would divide His audience. Jesus replied “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment.”

Well that wasn’t what the Pharisees were expecting, and they certainly weren’t expecting what He said next. “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

You see, what Jesus is saying is that if we can’t love, then we’re doing something wrong in this walk with Him we call life. “All the Laws and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Jesus is telling the Pharisees “Listen, you can do everything that the Law and the Prophets say to do. You can keep the feasts, make the offerings, whatever. But if you can’t love God and can’t love people then you aren’t doing it right.”

In that statement there is a hidden little message for us. “The second is like it, Love your neighbor.” I’m going to make a bold statement here. If we can’t love people, then we don’t love God. Because “God is Love.” His message through Jesus was one of love. “For God so loved the world…” That didn’t mean that He loved the hunk of rock, but the people that walk on it. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, shared table fellowship with them-as a means of showing them love; and in turn, showing US how to love.

I had a conversation with a man I witness to on a regular basis. He has been very angry about the cars that drive up and down his road and has taken to yelling and even cursing the drivers. I asked him one day “Ronnie, do you remember when Christ says we are to love our neighbor?” “Yes,” he replied grudgingly. “Do you think God loves them despite their speeding?” “Yes,’ he replied again. “Do you think that God loves them so much that Christ died for them just like you and me?” This time, he couldn’t say yes as tears rolled down his face. He just simply nodded. God's truth rung just as true in my ears as it did his and the Lord reminded me of the people I had been unloving to lately.

If we are to be true followers of Christ, we need to learn how to love like Christ. Not this earthly love or the mortal/physical sense were it fades with time, with an action, or lack of an action. We are to love them unconditionally, for the Child of God that they are, to love them as Christ loves them.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

St. Nicholas Day is Tomorrow

Today's meditation provides a sneaky segue into a topic I enjoy, having been raised in Germany.  For tonight, children in many places around the world will leave their shoes outside their door, in hopes that when they awaken, they will find that St. Nicholas has visited and brought treats - fruits, nuts, candies and maybe a small gift or two.

Today's "Things to Think About" and "Something Fun for Advent" are combined.  Legends of that mysterious gift-giver, St. Nicholas, abound, and I encourage you to share with your children, grandchildren, family and friends.  The video here is actually a Ukrainian invitation to a feast in honor of St. Nicholas at the local monastery.

As a child, my parents would take my brother and I to the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg.  There would be crafts and foods, ornaments and entertainers, chestnuts actually being roasted over open fires, Gluhwein (a hot, spiced wine I've never seen duplicated) and children everywhere.  The children would be waiting for the Bishop of Nuremberg to make his walk on St. Nicholas Day, as he had a huge staff with a shepherd's crook at the top, and would of course be all decked out in his official finery.  As he passed, he would lower the staff in blessing to the crowds, and the top of it would open to spill candies, nuts and fruits for the children to gather.  It was a family celebration and outing, focusing not only on the gift-giving, but on the church as well.

Because of the rampant commercialization of "Christmas", so many have lost the concept that we are getting ready for the birth of the Christ, the Son of God, and images of Santa Claus fill up the time and airwaves instead.  I admit to enjoying the separation of St. Nicholas' arrival tomorrow and the birthday of Jesus later in the month.  For one, it gives us two separate holidays in one month!  And far more importantly, it puts the importance of Christmas back where it belongs.

Germans do still celebrate Christmas with gifts exchanged, but the gifts are an acknowledgment that we all have that spark of Christ within each of us, and we celebrate the birthday of a baby so long ago, who had such a huge impact on the world. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nothing Too Small

Things to Think About

Today's meditation from CREDO brought to mind this song:

The idea that the God who could create all things, all creatures great and small, being "too busy" for anything we bring to him seems a bit ludicrous.  But how many times have we heard or said, that God's too busy - or for that matter, that our troubles are nothing compared to others, and we shouldn't bother the Lord with trivial things? 

Awhile ago, I saw a short video production with someone playing Christ, showing that Christ is always there, listening, helping, guiding.  In one scene, a man came into a coffee shop - apparently his place to meditate and pray - and Christ was there, greeting him when he arrived (not that the man actually noticed, as he was too busy praying and getting things off his chest to listen to the simple word of greeting), and as the man began to speak, Christ obligingly sat and listened to him.  The scene ended with the man looking at his watch and rushing off, with Christ looking rather bemused.

As the meditation this morning said, only half of praying is speaking - the other half is listening.  Watch here in another video - examples of everyday life where Christ is there, and you can recognize the times when things have suddenly become lighter - even though nothing has changed - simply because you listened

So the challenge today?  Listen.  Hear with your heart those things that God says or provides that makes our burdens easier.  Listen to the prompting to go and *say* something to someone that is encouraging or flattering - something as simple as telling a stranger (honestly, mind you), that is a great necklace, or, what an awesome tattoo - or whatever it is that you're led to say.  *You* may be the word from God that someone needs to hear, even if you don't think it's important, or you don't know that person - you couldn't possibly say something to a stranger.  If nothing else, smile at everyone - it can lift people's spirits in ways you'll never know, including your own.

Fun for Advent

These are listed as 101 Random Acts of Kindness, but if you're listening, perhaps you will be guided to the ones that will help someone most at this time of year.  Take a look at the list, and see what you can do to brighten someone's day today - including your own!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Love Renders Us Lovely

Things to Make You Think

Today's topic of the ephemeral versus the lasting is summed up both in today's meditation and in the title of this blog, taken from that meditation. 

Thanksgiving, as a holiday, seems to get lost in the shuffle between Halloween and Christmas if we pay attention to advertisers and local stores.  It seems that retailers want us to believe that happiness can be bought, and if they open their doors on Thanksgiving, well, we should be that much happier, right?

You know, if you put the phrase "expressions of love for Christmas" into a search engine, the majority of "hits" you get will bring up cards and flowers.  Instead of waiting for the thrill of things bought, we'd like to challenge you to be lovely.  Wherever you are, find a way to express your love in a tangible fashion - whether that's volunteering your time at a senior center, helping pre-teens in making gifts for family, spending extra time with your kids or grandkids to help them understand what Christmas is truly about, teaching a class some craft that you know how to do, or finding someplace that needs help by typing into your web browser "volunteer at Christmas [your city/state]" - show that the love of God can shine through you as you express it to God's creation.

Something Fun for Advent

So many of our men and women in the Armed Services are far from home at Christmas.  Think about sending a card and not only bringing some Christmas joy to them, but letting them know that their service is appreciated and not forgotten.  The Red Cross has guidelines and the address on where to send things here.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Things to Make You Think

Today's Credo meditation discusses the all too human habit of expectations and disbelief when our expectations are not fulfilled.  The coming of the Messiah is clearly told in Isaiah 7:14, that he will be born of a virgin and called Emmanuel. 

What, however, are people expecting of their Messiah?  That He would be a king, would lead armies and overcome the current lives they had; that His coming would be glorious and seen throughout the world.  What a disbelief so many had when Jesus arrived, born in a manger, and traveled and lived among the plain people of the day.  And despite Daniel clearly stating that His ministry would be suddenly cut off, the people of the day believed He should be long-lived.  People held fast to their expectations, choosing not to see beyond the images into the actual substance and reality. 

Andrew Hess put together a great blog about what Jesus Himself said regarding His return.  And while Revelation goes into great detail about the dream of John, again, many people expect that dream to be reality.  Dreams tend to be symbolic - and while the dream and what Jesus said are not incompatible, the truth is, we really don't know what to expect.  Just don't let your expectations blind you to reality when the time comes.

Something Fun for Advent

Build a nativity snack – Gingerbread house kits are in abundance at Christmas, but bring Jesus back to the focus of Christmas and build a Nativity set. You will need four large pretzel rods, two graham crackers, one Hershey Treasure candy, one Tootsie Roll candy, two pretzel sticks, one marshmallow, five animal crackers and the Nativity snack directions. (You also will need waxed paper and a container of frosting.)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Incredulity Warmup? or Miracles of Birth?

Things to Make You Think

Today's meditation from Credo brings up several topics in a short 3 minutes that can take a lifetime of discussion to even come to a conclusion over:  virginity, sexuality, the miracle of birth, adjustments to be made in thinking and accepting "facts" on faith.  And even with that lifetime of discussion, reasoning, deductive and inductive thinking, it will always be a personal decision on the part of the individual whether you accept an incredible event written about in the Bible. 

With all of the advancements of science, we often find that those who are skeptics attempt to apply scientific theory to the events of history.  That, by itself, makes no sense, as science requires the ability to reproduce the same results in a repetitive fashion.  History, on the other hand, is always documented with the author's particular view of events, their own beliefs ingrained in their writing.  Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry discusses the requirement by those who have no belief in God for extraordinary proof (rather than the proofs generally required for historical events) of events that those of you reading this blog will generally have decided that you accept on both ordinary proof and faith.

So as we start down this road in Advent, leading to the birth of Jesus, the Christ, we challenge you to think about what you believe, why you believe it, and how that affects your life and actions today.  Because if you are going to accept something on Faith, should that not be reflected in your daily life?

Something Fun for Advent

Over the course of Advent, we'll find ideas on the web of how people celebrate Advent.  Here's today's:

Make an Advent Paper Chain.  Each day we chose three things to pray for, and wrote one name on each link: someone we didn’t know (a four-year old girl in India), someone we did know (a friend or relative), and some way we’d like to grow (wisdom, etc). We kept adding to the chain, and by Christmas could ‘wrap our tree in prayer’.