The Unbreakable Relationship

Dec. 16, 2011

Hosea 1:2-3

When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.” So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

Hosea 3:1-3

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” So I bought her for fifteen shekelsof silver and about a homer and a lethekof barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”

There is a little book in the Old Testament called Hosea that is often overlooked. It’s an important book as it provides a metaphor for how intensely God loves us.

Hosea was a prophet. He lived at a time when the Israelites had become very lukewarm in their faith. It’s after the people have been lead out ofEgyptand back to the Promised Land. God has established a covenant with the Israelites as God’s chosen people. But the Israelites have strayed away from God. They haven’t kept up their half of the covenant.

The Lord comes to Hosea and tells him to knowingly marry a promiscuous woman named Gomer. He is to have children with her and love her fully. This is challenging. Hosea is asked to knowingly marry a spouse who will not be faithful to him. He is told to have children with her and raise them, not knowing fully if these children are biologically his children or not.

After marriage, Gomer continues to be unfaithful to Hosea. In chapter 3, Hosea has to go and purchase her back from her pimp! Even though she has been unfaithful, has committed adultery and sold herself into sexual slavery, Hosea is to love her unconditionally and reclaim her as his wife. When he gets Gomer back to their home, he promises to love her fully and make her his wife in every sense of the word.

This is in the Bible? Yep! Who needs an afternoon soap opera? Simply read Hosea!

Why is this story important for us to recall during Advent? This metaphor gets to the very heart of why God sent God’s son into the world. Think of God taking Hosea’s spot in the story. Think of the Israelites, God’s chosen people, as being Gomer. The Jewish people have knowingly turned away from God, prostituted their special relationship with God and given up the most serious of covenants casually, with little thought or understanding of the gravity of their sin. As awful as Hosea feels about his failed relationship with this wife, it is akin to how od feels about God’s failed relationship with God’s chosen people.

While it makes logical and emotional sense for Hosea to let his marriage fail and move away from this relationship, God coaches Hosea to take his wife back and re-establish his marriage covenant. While it makes logical and emotional sense for God to give up on the Jews – to declare that it’s no longer worth investing in – God doesn’t. The relationship between God and humanity is more important to God than the relationship between a husband and a wife. Even when it may not make sense, God doesn’t give up on humanity.

God determined there was one way to solve this problem: God coming as a human being. The way God decides to re-establish an eternal relationship with all of humanity is through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Want to know how much God wants to be in relationship with you? Look at the baby in the manger scene.

Rick and I believe that God had a hand in bringing the two of us together. How else would have it been orchestrated that I would become a student pastor at the only church Rick had ever been affiliated with? Sometimes we have rocky days in our marriage. But I am confident that there is nothing that we will let tear our marriage covenant apart.

God’s commitment to each of us is even stronger than my commitment to my husband. When Rick does something that disappoints me, I am reminded to remember how often I let my Savior down. What am I to do when I feel let down by Rick? Love him even more and re-commit to him at a deeper level, just as Hosea re-committed himself to his prostitute wife.

God promises never to give up on us. Now if we can only remember not to give up on God and give up on each other! The relationship with God is unbreakable because of God’s perfect love for us. We can’t love perfectly but we can esteem to do so. Most importantly, may we see how much God desires us to be in relationship with God every day of the year.

Let us pray: Love came down at Christmas, Love divine. Love was born at Christmas, star and angels gave the sign. Love shall be our token; love be yours and love be mine. Love to God and all humankind. Love for plea and gift and sign. Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

A Perspective on Buyer’s Remorse

Dec. 15, 2011

John 3:16-17

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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

The news media shared this morning that Christmas shopping revenue since Black Friday is higher this year than last year. But there’s a catch. Returns are also higher. Why? Folks who track this kind of thing call it buyer’s remorse. After the purchase is made, the buyer regrets the purchase and returns it. Sometimes the return is made because the purchaser discovered the item could be bought somewhere else cheaper. Or the person decided that they really didn’t need the purchase.

There are times when I buy items and know that at least part of the purchase will be returned. I want to check an item of clothing with what’s in my closet at home. What seemed like a good deal in the store later feels unnecessary or extravagant.

Retailers have used a variety of gimmicks to lure folks into stores this shopping season. The news media agree that overall, these tactics have worked. Yet, the media also confirms that there are a lot of people who have not yet done their Christmas shopping. A huge sprint to the finish line is still expected. With less than 10 shopping days remaining, the gimmicks will continue, the media reported.

I wonder if God ever gets buyer’s remorse. Does God ever look at humanity, ponder the price God paid through God’s Son, Jesus, and think, “Hmm. I overspent when I tried to save humanity. Did I really need to invest as much into redeeming the world as I have? Could have I done it cheaper?”

Let me be clear. By no means am I trying to equate God’s grace to purchasing a flat-screen TV, a laptop or the newest version of a DS. This is comparing apples to oranges. God’s grace isn’t cheap at all because it involved the blood and flesh of an actual person, God’s Son.

Deep down, I believe God looks at humanity and doesn’t experience buyer’s remorse. Instead, God graciously looks at us and says, “What else can I do to help these folks understand just how much I really, really love them?”

A few years ago, the Christian music group, “Go Fish” came out with a song called, “It’s About the Cross.” Here are the words:

It’s not just about the manger, where the baby lay
It’s not all about the angels, who sang for him that day
It’s not just about the shepherds, or the bright and shining star
It’s not all about the wise men, who travelled from afar

It’s about the cross, It’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once, so that we could be born again
It’s about the stone that was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday
It’s about the cross; It’s about the cross

It’s not just about the presents underneath the tree
It’s not all about the feeling that the season brings to me

It’s not just about coming home to be with those you love
It’s not all about the beauty in the snow I’m dreaming of

It’s about the cross, It’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once so that we could be born again
It’s about the stone that was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday
It’s about the cross; It’s about the cross

The beginning of the story is wonderful and great
But it’s the ending that can save you and that’s why we celebrate

It’s about the cross, It’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once so that we could be born again
It’s about God’s love nailed to a tree
It’s about every drop of blood that flowed from Him when it should have been me

It’s about the stone that was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday
So that you and I could have real life someday
It’s about the cross; it’s about the cross.

Someone asked me once if this was a Christmas song or if it is an Easter song. I think it is both. It gets to the important fact that Christmas cannot be separated from Easter, just as Easter cannot be separated from Christmas. To understand the full meaning of either, they must be connected. The full depth and width of the Christmas gift gets lost unless it is held in tension with the cross. At the cross, we see God’s deep love for humanity when Jesus, the Son of God, hangs on a cross and dies for you, for me, for all of humanity. Because Jesus came into the world as an innocent, helpless baby, he can absorb all of our sin and wrong doings. This is grace which Jesus extends to us freely, without any gimmicks.

When we see how expensive Good Friday is, there can be no doubt in our minds. God never experiences buyer’s remorse. God chose the most expensive route possible and has never regretted it. I pray that we chose not to give up on God because God certainly will never give up on us.

Let us pray: How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given. So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in. Thanks for giving this gift, Almighty God. I pray we will catch a glimpse of just how much you were willing to pay to purchase our lives. Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

THE Symbol of Christmas

Dec. 14, 2011

Micah 5:2-4

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.

Maybe 20 years ago (tell me it hasn’t really been that long!), my Mom asked what I would like for Christmas. I asked for a nativity scene. Also known as a crèche, I believe the nativity scene is THE symbol of Christmas. It illustrates the night of Jesus’ birth and the beginning of his story.

I also told Mom that I didn’t want a normal crèche. Many crèches I have seen are breakable, glossy, with all the figures coated in a creamy color. These are beautiful. But what I wanted was something that looked like real people; not just figurines. I wanted them to be non-breakable, pieces kids could play with.

It was early in the fall when we began talking about the nativity scene. One day while shopping with a friend, I saw the nativity scene that I thought would be great for me. Made out of wood, they were pencil-type figurines. While maybe their dimensions were skewed a bit, they actually had expressions on their faces, something I was looking for. I told my Mom about this set, noting internally that their cost was within a reasonable range. She arranged to purchase them and they were under her tree for me on Christmas day.

I love looking at other people’s crèches. Each one is unique and different. The style of the pieces is often indicative of the era in which it was created. You can sometimes guess which part of the world the nativity might have come from. Brown-faced figurines mean this set might have been made in Central America orSouth America. The clothes on these figurines are always a bit brighter and louder. And their stable is so different from the “pretty” stable my figurines are grouped around.

Nativity purists say that the wise men and the shepherds shouldn’t be in the stable at the same time because there is no way they both arrived the night of Jesus’ birth. We believe this because when King Herod gets outwitted by the magi and they don’t return to Jerusalem to tell him where the baby is, Herod issues an order to kill all boys in the Bethlehem vicinity who were two years old and under, “in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” (Matthew 2:16b) Personally, I group them all around Baby Jesus. My thought is they all did visit Jesus; maybe not at the same time, but that’s OK in my book.

Setting out the nativity is a big deal for me. I think about where I will station it within our home. I carefully unwrap each piece and look at their individual expressions. How people arrange them in the stable is always interesting. I’m always curious to see how various people set-up the crèche. Do the wise men and the shepherds look out at us … or in at the baby? Does the baby go in right away … or do you wait until Christmas Eve? Is the angel inside the stable or outside?

Several years ago, I had our nativity on the coffee table. I was meeting with a couple from church and two of their grandchildren were along. I let them play with my nativity – something the grandma was almost appalled with. But I had specifically chosen this crèche because I wanted kids to play with it, learn and remember the story, interact and vicariously become a wise man or a shepherd. One of the pieces fell off the table, landed on the floor and took a little chunk off a wise man’s foot. The grandma was very anxious. One of the pieces from my crèche (the pastor’s crèche, mind you) had been damaged. I gently tried to assure her that it wasn’t a big deal. If I didn’t want something to happen to the wise man, I shouldn’t have let the kids play with him.

After the family left, I walked over to the nativity. At the grandma’s coaxing, the kids had put the pieces back where they thought they should go. I had to laugh. Everything was in a completely different place than I had it. Having their perspective on where things should “go” was uplifting! I realized we all have a picture in our heads of what this scene might have looked like. It was refreshing to see an alternative to my picture. I left the pieces as the kids had organized them until the next set of kids came along and rearranged them again.

The children ofIsraelknew God was going to send the Messiah to redeem God’s people. Scripture reveals how the child would be born to a virgin, inBethlehem, and would be a descendent of their beloved King David. The Old Testament also gives hints about the star that guided the magi toBethlehemand the gifts they presented to the king.

What we see in the crèche is the fulfillment of all of these prophecies. We see the stable where the baby was born; the virgin mother Mary; his earthly father Joseph, a direct descendent of King David; the shepherds representing how he will shepherd his flock; the magi and their gifts from the East. Of course, the most important piece is the little baby in the manger.

A few years ago, my Mom gave me another nativity scene. This was is a pretty, breakable one, the beautiful Willow Creek version. These pieces are very different from my pencil-stick version. Willow Creek is unique in that the figures do not have faces painted on them. Mary is holding Jesus and Joseph has his had cupped near the Son of God. One year after Christmas, I never got this crèche put away. It was Lent, and it was still out. I was speaking about this with our friend, Gunta. She thought having the crèche out during Holy Week was just fine because it was a gentle reminder that Jesus started out as a babe inBethlehemin not the best of situations. Once again, in Holy Week, Jesus must endure challenging times; times that take him all the way to death on a cross.

Symbolism is alive and well in the Christian Christmas tradition. If you have a crèche in your home, arrange and rearrange the scene several times throughout this Advent. Get a different perspective each time the figurines are resituated. Have the people looking in; have the people looking out. Put the angel in, put the angel out. Hold onto the manger and the baby and say a prayer in your heart, pouring out to Jesus what his life means to you.

Let us pray: What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping? This! This! Is Christ the King, who shepherds guard and angels sing; haste, hast to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary.  Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

Keeping Fear Abated

Dec. 13, 2011

Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

One day changed Mary’s world. She went from “common Hebrew girl” to “the mother of the Messiah” overnight. Yesterday, her day was normal, simple, and maybe even common. Then after a visit from an unsolicited angel, everything went crazy. It had to be a trying time in her life.

We’ve all had bad days, challenging days, “You won’t believe this happened,” days. Mary’s day could stack up against any of our days. Yet, seemingly she didn’t get overwhelmed. She didn’t go off the deep end. She kept her wits about her and traveled to see her cousin Elizabeth. Despite everything being rather uncertain in her life, she writes a song. A magnificent song. A song that should stop us in our tracks and make us take heed.

Mary’s song is reminiscent of another woman’s song the Old Testament named Hannah. Elkanah had two wives: Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had children but Hannah did not. In desperation, Hannah vowed to the Lord that if she bore a son, she would give him back to the Lord. Finally, Hannah becomes pregnant and has a son, who is named Samuel. She takes him to the priest, Eli, and dedicates Samuel’s life for service to the Lord. Then Hannah prayed:

“My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the LORD will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”     – 1 Samuel 2:1-10

The songs aren’t exactly the same. But there are similar themes: rejoicing, trust in the Lord, the Lord cares for those in need. We see two women who don’t always understand God but willingly accept God and honor God in how they live their lives. Women sold out for God.

Are there similar women today? Does the life chosen by Mary get chosen by others today? If you look closely, you might see Mary in your neighborhood. She’s not the Mary you might think or are looking for.

This Mary volunteers at the local food pantry every chance she gets. She is the Mom all other Moms call when they need their kid transported to and fro and they aren’t able to do it themselves. She’s the woman who every Sunday teaches the wild Jr. High Sunday School class. When money gets tights, she forgoes new shoes for herself and makes sure the boy in her daughter’s class has a hat and mittens. She’s the first one to sign-up as a homeroom helper and the last one out the door from the school carnival.

At times, Mary feels overwhelmed, over-extended and under qualified. She knows that sometimes there are others who are more qualified but they don’t step forward. So she does, humbly offering herself and her gifts. At the end of some days, she looks forward to a few moments in a hot bubble bath, letting the worries of the day wash away with the suds, as they spiral down the drain. Maybe she doesn’t always understand God or completely agree with God’s choices. Yet, her life is defined by her relationship with God.

In the Bible, there are 106 occasions when God encourages us to “be not afraid.” Of those, 11 happen with the announcement of the birth of Jesus. Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, the shepherds are all encouraged to not be afraid. It’s a reminder that even good news can unnerve us. News that should excite us can scare us.

Mary had every right to be scared, unnerved and afraid. Instead, she wrote a magnificent song. Read the words again, found at the beginning of this reading.

You see, perspective is part of the Christmas story. We can be unnerved by something, or we can be comforted by the same news. Even when the news wasn’t what Mary wanted to hear, she chose to celebrate rather than be fearful. She’s learned the art of rejoicing in all things.

What has you a little unnerved these days? What puts fear in your heart? Is it an uncertain health situation? A seemingly shortage of funds? Too many things to do and not enough time? A broken relationship that just can’t seem to be repaired? A loved one who can’t get it together?

Maybe it’s time to write a song to the Lord. Or sing one that speaks of your innermost thoughts. If music isn’t your thing, how else can you express your confidence, your faith, your confidence in the Lord, even when you are unnerved by life? Don’t be afraid to express your deepest fears and joys to the Lord. That’s what the Lord loves to hear.

Let us pray: Forgive me for not always having the confidence and faith of Mary. Take away my fear and worry and help my perspective be changed to fit your will for my life. May I learn to discover that it’s not removing the hardship that is important but instead discovering how to live and deal with the challenge inside the love of your arms. Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

Recreating Bethlehem at Midland

Dec. 12, 2011

Luke 2:8-20

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

One of the interesting facts of the Christmas story is that most people know the story to some level. Whether a person attends church on a regular basis or not, whether you grew up in a Christian family or not, you know some of the story’s basics.

What are those basics? Probably something like a man and woman named Joseph and Mary had to travel to this obscure little town calledBethlehem. For some reason, the little town is busy with lots of out-of-town visitors; so busy, Mary and Joseph can’t find a place to stay. It’s time for Mary to give birth and they haven’t found a place to stay. Some kind soul lets them into a stable (or a cave) and she has the baby there. With no cradle, she lays the baby in a feed trough. Angels tell some nearby shepherds about the baby and they go and visit him.

That’s the story. Or so we think.

One of the problems with the story is because we live 2,000 years later, we often think of our culture and our situation and try to impose our culture and situations into the story rather than understanding the culture of the time when Jesus was born. I’ve shared a couple of these things already: how Mary could have been stoned to death for becoming pregnant as an unwed teen, that the stable was more likely a cave, etc. There are lots of innuendos in the story which I hope to explore the in days coming up to Christmas which might help us understand all that is really going on in the story.

While a basic reading and knowledge of the story is important, what the Christmas story beckons us to do is to try and place ourselves in the story and look at it from various vantage points. If you have a 12-15 year-old daughter or granddaughter (or had one or will have one or a niece), imagine this girl getting pregnant and how you’d react when she says, “The Holy Spirit did it.” How could a loyal, faithful Hebrew man who just wants to get married and have the traditional Hebrew family deal with a fiancé who isn’t making sense?

What about the shepherds? It was the middle of the night. It was probably cold. In those days, shepherds moved their sheep from location to location, looking for food and water. The hillsides aroundBethlehemaren’t green and lush. They are more like a dessert. Water isn’t abundant. Being a shepherd is a hard, thankless job. It certainly wasn’t very high paying. As the shepherds took shifts being with the sheep all night, at some point, an angel, a heavenly host appeared to them. Who wouldn’t have been afraid if the sky went from calm and dark to bright and scary? The angel gave them specific instructions: go into town and find the Messiah. He won’t be hard to find. He’s the baby lying in a feeding trough with a few strips of cloth wrapped around his tiny baby. That’s all his momma could find.

Off the shepherds go. Imagine poking around Bethlehem until they found the right cave. They didn’t have a star to guide them like the wise men would. But they found the babe, his Mom and Dad, all doing fine. When they left, they were so excited they couldn’t help but tell everyone!

Now, if you had just given birth to a baby, would you want as the baby’s first visitors some stinky, smelly shepherds from the neighboring hillsides? They may not have showered in a week, their clothes filled with dust and torn by briars. Unkempt beards and dirty fingers grazing over your new baby’s skin?

But this is who showed up, as planned by God. It’s hard for us to understand why God specifically chose shepherds. The symbolism is huge. Remember the first words of Psalm 23? “The Lord is my shepherd …” Jesus’ first assigned job will be to be our shepherd, represented by his first visitors. No job will be too great for Jesus. No challenge too difficult. Being a tough-as-nails shepherd will define his life over and over.

Last night wasMidland’s “Live Nativity.” We had a few challenges with the lighting. I forgot at rehearsal on Saturday when we ran through everything in the daylight that the house lights – the lights in the barn – need to be on a separate control from the lights in the back of the barn where the narrators read. All was fine until I turned down the lights in the barn and the readers lost their reading lights. We scrambled with flashlights. Matt, our innkeeper who also was a shepherd, kept unplugging and plugging in the right cords until we finally got it situated.

Mary and Joseph were in the front, on a raised platform. Baby Jesus had just been born. It was time for the shepherd scene. Three big shepherds (Dads) and four smaller shepherds with two cute little sheep started down the barn’s aisle. The pounding of their shepherd’s crooks echoed through the barn, as we heard about them watching over their sheep. Gabriel stepped out, they fell to the ground on cue. She announced the baby’s birth. And then seven little angels joined her. One of the Dad shepherds announces to the rest of his crew that they will go find the baby.

It didn’t take long for them to find the baby in our production. There’s only one possible place. So, the shepherds entered the “stable.” They touched baby Jesus and then stood behind them on the platform surrounded by hay bales. Sheep were in a pen on one side; goats on the other side. Being in the back and helping run the lights, I wasn’t sure what had happened when I heard a collective gasp come from the audience. By the time I saw what was happening, one of the Dad shepherds, Matt, was rescuing a little shepherd, Eddie, from the sheep pen. Apparently the hay bales had fallen backwards into the sheep pen and so had Eddie! Matt lifted Eddie back onto the platform, got himself back up and the show went on.

A few minutes later, Gabriel got her flock of little angels onto the platform. Eddie’s fall was momentarily forgotten when the barn lights were completely darkened, the little kids held tea lights and from the back of the barn, we heard a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.” The tea lights danced in the dark as we heard the words. Christmas arrived in the barn last night; in the hearts of each of us who saw those lights dancing in the hands of little shepherds, sheep and angels. It’s a sight I hope to hold onto for a very long time.

After the production, I was talking with Gabriel about the flubs of the night. She and Mary were not quite sure what to do when our narrators were distracted while we were trying to get the light situation fixed. King Herod was upset with himself for forgetting a great line he’d added to the script. And of course, Eddie falling into the sheep won’t soon be forgotten. Eleanor, aka Gabriel, said to me, “Didn’t you just tell us a week ago, Dianne, that the first Christmas inBethlehemwasn’t perfect?”

It’s hard to hear your own words back sometimes. Generally, when someone does this, I get excited because that means a) someone was actually listening; and b) they are getting it. What made me think that our little production of the story would be perfect when it wasn’t perfect the first time around?

Every time we hear or read or see the Christmas story, it should be a little different. We should note a new detail or word or nuance we haven’t observed before. Maybe not having all the details in the Bible is OK because we can add our details which make it personal and meaningful for us. When the light of the world came into the world, it wasn’t perfect. Far be it for me to try and recreate something perfect either.

In case you’re wondering how Eddie is doing, he’s just fine. After the production, he rode the school bus back to the church with the rest of the folks from the barn. He burst into the church community room to tear off his costume before getting a hot dog and chili for supper. With his eyes dancing and excitement in his voice, he told Gloria, one of the women helping with the costumes, “Sign me up for next year!” I’m thinking it’s a rendition of the story he – and many others who were in attendance –won’t soon forget.

Let us pray: Be near us, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay, close by us forever, and love us I pray. Bless all your dear children and thy tender care. And fit us for heaven to live with thee there.

Blessings –

Dianne

Christmas’ True Worth

Dec. 11, 2011

John 1:9-10, 14

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came to the Father, full of grace and truth.

My neighbor, Tina brought over a poem she wrote last year during the Advent Season. It fits right into the reason why I decided to do this Advent Devotional this year. Last Sunday, Tina shared this in church. And with her permission, I share it here:

Forgive us our sins, Dear God

At this Christmas time,

We should take a moment to give you thanks

As we stand in yet another line.

 

But we don’t give you a single thought

Because our minds are too busy racing

Planning the next six stops to make,

And that “gotta have it” gift we’re forever chasing.

 

Who has time to think of you?

We have to find a place to park.

Thank goodness the malls are open late

With all the fluorescent neon lights

Who notices when it gets dark?

 

Maybe we’ll find time to think of you

For an hour on Christmas Eve

And that is if we decide to go to church.

We might remember that we believe.

But all the cookies still need frosting

And last minute party invites start to appear,

So we decide the service is what we’ll skip,

Better try again next year.

 

It appears we’ve buried this holy day

Under a mountain of unimportant things,

We’re so busy endlessly talking and talking

We never hear the angels sing.

 

The colors and lights of our parties

Are glittering and sparkly bright,

But they blind us from those

Who cry out for food or safety from a war

That doesn’t stop for the night.

 

How could we possibly remember

The meaning of this day,

It’s enough we remember gift receipts as the hours tick away.

And that annual Christmas letter

We still have that to do,

All the wonderful things we include in it,

We forget they’re all blessings from you.

 

Still the end of Christmas season finally comes

And we box up all the garland and lights,

It all goes back in the basement

On a shelf and out of sight.

We’re glad to vacuum all the needles

And put things back in their place

At last a time to just sit

And rest from the dizzying pace.

 

But then we see it

Tucked in a corner by the chair,

A stray Christmas ornament

That fell through the branches

And all season stayed hidden there.

 

We pick it up and look at it closely

It contains the Christ child’s gentle face

And that’s when it hits us,

The only reason for Christmas

We let stay hidden

While we joined in the commercial Christmas race.

 

We’ve forgotten

That on that cold angel-filled night

Perfect love was born on earth.

And shamefully we’ve given everything else

Far more value and worth

Than the birth of that one baby

That wise men came seeking.

They worshipped him the Savior

But to his mother who sang to him

He was her newborn son

Who lay peacefully sleeping.

 

And so on the rare occasion

When we linger outside and look up

At your uncountable stars,

Forgive us for ignoring you

And remind us that the path to you is not far.

If we walk close to you

Everyday through the year,

Then when next Christmas comes

It will find us near

To the manger and the baby

Who was God here on earth

And we’ll rejoice with the angels

For we have found our way back

To Christmas’ true worth.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to remember the true reason for the season this year. Tina – thanks for these wonderful words as a reminder of why we even have a Christmas holiday.

FYI – if you come to Midland UMC’s “Live Nativity” tonight, Tina will be Eunice, the noisy lady from Nazareth who also went to Bethlehemduring the census. She’ll be looking for Mary and Joseph, to see if their baby has arrived.

O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. May your face be what we see as we journey through Advent this year. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

 

Observing Christmas vs. Keeping Christmas

Dec. 10, 2011

Matthew 1:25

But Joseph had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

I heard a thought this week about people who observe Christmas and those who keep Christmas. Hmmm … it got me thinking. What is the difference?

Is putting up a tree observing Christmas or keeping Christmas?

Are Christmas cards an act of observing or keeping Christmas?

Are wrapping presents be an act of love or a waste of time?

I quickly came to the conclussion that any part of the western Christmas celebration can be either. It depends upon your attitude and how you approach the tradition.

Christmas trees are green year around and remind us of God’s love for us year around. When we see a lite tree, it can remind us that Jesus is the light of the world.

Yesterday, Rick and I walked down to the local hardware store and bought our tree. It’s only two blocks away, so walking the tree back to our house isn’t very hard. Halfway home, I realized the checkbook had fallen out of my pocket. So, Rick stayed with the tree while I jogged back to the store. It was lying in the parking lot, right where I had bent over to pick up an end of the tree. I’m sure the guy driving away wondered what I was picking up from the ground. Finding the checkbook wasn’t a big deal but it made my day less complex as I pondered what I’d have to do if I didn’t find it.

I love receiving Christmas cards. Unfortunately, there are way to many people from various eras of my life that we only touch base at Christmas. As I complete the cards for each family we send to, I say a prayer for the family as I prepare the card. It’s a tiny way of lifting up those who are important to me that I don’t pray for every day. I pray that they will find peace on earth, not just one day a year, but be guided by God’s peace every day.

Another fun part of yesterday – I received a special Christmas card. The Elliots are a family who used to attend Midland. Chris and Michelle are about my age and have three daughters. How we miss them atMidland! They now live in Illinois, close toSt. Louis. Michelle called me yesterday. We had a great conversation and caught up. She was getting ready to mail our Christmas card and decided to call. Bonus! Now, if I would only take the time to do as Michelle did and phone someone who I would like to have a long conversation with, even if it meant everyone got their card just a bit later.

Rick and I keep our Christmas shopping to a minimum. We stopped last Friday night in Baraboo and did the majority of the shopping. On the way home, I said that I thought we had most of the shopping done. Rick’s response, “I sure hope so!” One night this week, I decided to see what we had here and if there was anything else I really needed to get. As I wrapped the presents we had, I thought about the person(s) the gift will go to and prayed that they would capture the reason for the season moreso than what they were receiving from us. As I went through this exercise, I decided that wrapping presents takes a lot of time. But it also gave me time to think about the loved one I was wrapping the gift for. Scenes from interactions with them from the last year replayed in my mind as I tied ribbon around the packages. “How can I be God’s presence to them this year,” I thought.

I also discovered that I needed two more gifts. On Thursday, I stopped at a store and picked out the gifts. I forgot that this store wraps everything more beautifully than I ever could. Bonus! As I carried the last two into the house, I stopped and thought about the receivers of these gifts. “May their Christmas be more about the Christ child than whether I got them anything significant,” I thought as I placed them with the other gifts.

What is the difference between observing Christmas and keeping Christmas? We decide that individually. For me personally, I pray the things I do this month are a little softer, more intentional and less about me and more about a baby born over 2,000 years ago. I want to arrive at Dec. 24, knowing that my heart has rediscovered once again why we go through this crazy time of the year every year. I pray that your heart will not just observe Christmas and that you will do more than go through the motions. I pray that you’ll rediscover how you and your family can truly keep Christmas.

Dear God: Did the angels simply “do their job” when they went to the shepherds? Or were they so excited to be the first ones to announce the Savior’s birth? How easily the wise men could have gotten discouraged as they probably spent months traveling to Bethlehem! I’m confident that they didn’t feel let down when they arrived. It was just an ordinary night for the shepherds until it was interrupted by a heavenly chorus. May our Advent nights be interupted by Your as You help guide our lives. These were the first keepers of Christmas. May we not be casual observers but determined keepers of Christmas this year. Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

I’m sick and I need healing …

Dec. 9, 2011

Matthew 8:1-4

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosycame and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Ever been sick on Christmas? I have been a couple of times. Once when I was a teen, I remember spending most of Christmas day on the couch with a blanket. Growing up, we seldom had soda in the house. There were two times when we did: when company was coming or someone was sick. My Christmas dinner was cold 7-Up. What a treat! As an adult, I got sick on Christmas Eve. For years, long-time family friends Dick and Jean Easterson would come to my parents house after church on Christmas Eve. Because they lived inCalifornia, this was the annual time we’d catch-up with them. I tried to enjoy their company that night, but after awhile, my upset tummy won out. I spent most of the night in the bathroom, praying for healing. I didn’t want to feel crappy all Christmas Day.

Healing is tricky. We pray for physical healing. There are also other kinds of healing: emotional, mental, spiritual. We want healing but not the person on TV who kind of scares us. We want healing but …

Right before this passage in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus completed the Sermon on the Mount. He was near theSea of Galilee and saw great crowds interested in him. The people sat on a hillside and he taught them many counter-cultural understandings of God. We find the Sermon on the Mount in the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of Matthew’s gospel.

At the conclusion of the sermon, Jesus is coming down the hillside when a man with leprosy kneels before him. Leporsy is an awful disease where the skin is transformed and eaten away at. When Jesus lived, folks with leprosy were required to live in areas separate from the rest of the population. They were outcasts and no one wanted to be near them, help them or see if they could be healed. We could equate the disdain for leprosy in Jesus’ day to how people first felt about AIDS when it was becoming an epidemic.

This man asked for Jesus to heal him and Jesus does. One of the many, many people the bible says Jesus healed. Another miracle by Jesus!

Before we moved to Mazomanie, Marilyn and Wil were our neighbors. One day, Wil brought over a book about running for Rick. I’m the one who read it and decided that I could run again. I’d ran on and off over the years, but never with a goal in mind other than trying to keep my weight in check. Wil inspired me to set the goal of running a marathon and complete it. Wil and I have ran a few races together. A few years ago, Wil and I ran a half-marathon inDuluth,MN. He was in his 70’s and still running half-marathons.

This year, Wil was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma. He went through very aggressive treatment, being in the hospital about every three weeks while he went through various chemo cocktails. Last Friday, Wil called and shared with Rick that he’d been to the doctor last week and received a good report. His next visit to the oncologist isn’t for another three months and at this time, no more chemo! A miracle for Wil! I’m confident Wil feels like he’s gotten a wonderful Christmas a couple weeks early.

When Jesus came into this world, he came as a change-agent. He was going to do, say and be things that were unpopular and would threaten certain people. In our very imperfect world, Jesus comes to heal us in whatever way we need healing. Jesus doesn’t want us to live crappy lives.

Unfortunately, when our lives are crappy, it becomes easy to blame God for our situations. Why did God allow this to happen? It’s not fair when a young person gets diagnosed with a terminal illness. We pray and pray for healing. Sometimes it happens. Too often, we think it doesn’t.

When Mary held her new baby in her arms the night he was born, it would have been impossible for her to imagine everything this baby would accomplish. The way he would heal would have been beyond her wildest dreams. She spent most of her life trying to understand Jesus. We see Mary showing up again and again, loving her son and wanting to try and understand why he did the things he did, said the things he said, lived the way he lived. She followed him all the way to the foot of the cross he died on, still not completely understanding Jesus.

Healing is an important part of the Christmas story. When Jesus comes into our world as a baby, he brings with him the ultimate healing: healing from ourselves, from this crappy world, from everything that separates us from God. Eternal salvation becomes available for us because Jesus makes this possible for all people. Our wounds are healed by Jesus’ wounds. We know this because we know how the story ends. For Mary and the man with leprosy, healing was what would fix their crappy situation right now. It was impossible for them to understand how Jesus’ life would become the ultimate healer for them and the world.

Like the man with leprosy, too often we look at the immediate need for healing and pray for that. If healing doesn’t happen as we desire, how do we respond? Get angry? Accept this? Or can we look deeper and see that Jesus has many different kinds of healing. He comes to us in so many different ways and venues that it’s impossible for us to even understand how complex his healing is.

Do you feel the need for healing in your life this day? What is separating you from completely experiecing God’s love for you? Or do you know someone else who would benefit from Jesus’ healing touch? Pray for them. Advocate for you or someone else. Don’t give up on how Jesus can heal you. I’m guessing the man with leprosy never expected Jesus to really heal him. It was a long shot. Jesus can take the crappy parts of our lives and worlds and make sense of them. This is the kind of present Christ gives every day.

Dear God: Thank you for sending the ultimate Healer in your Son Jesus Christ. You heal us even when we don’t know we need healing. The crappy part of our lives is not more than you can handle. May we seek and receive the healing we need in our lives this day. Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

Labor of Love

Dec. 8, 2011

Luke 2:4-7

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Andrew Peterson wrote a Christmas song called “Labor of Love.” Here are the words:

It was not a silent night

There was blood on the ground

You could hear a woman cry

In the alleyways that night

On the streets of David’s town.

 

And the stable was not clean

And the cobblestons were cold

And little Mary full of grace

With the tears upon her face

Had no mother’s hand to hold.

 

It was a labor of pain

It was a cold sky above

But for the girl on the ground in the dark

With every beat of her beautiful heart,

It was a labor of love.

 

Noble Joseph at her side

Callused hands a nd weary eyes

There wer no midwives to be found

In the streets of David’s town

In the middle of the night.

 

So he held her and he prayed

Shafts of moonlight on his face

But the baby in her womb

He was the maker of the moon

He was the Author of the faith

That could make the mountains move.

 

It was a labor of pain

It was a cold sky above

But for the girl on the ground in the dark

With every beat of her beautiful heart,

It was a labor of love.

When I first heard this song a couple years ago, it captured me. A labor of love. Wow.

When I went into the ministry, I served as a student pastor for two small, rural congregations. They were very gracious to me. I wasn’t really sure just what I was always supposed to be doing or how to minister to them spiritually. They helped me learn and was tolerant of my mistakes and shortcomings.

A year or two before I began serving them, they had began a tradition. They recreated the nativity story in Gene & Dorothy Barber’s barn. One of the ladies had put together a script, based on the biblical accounts of Christ’s birth. Another woman sewed together beautiful costumes with hats fit for a real king. The unused hay loft in Barber’s barn was turned into a small theatre. Straw bales became the seats. The east end of the barn became a crude stage. Ameatuer lights were hung from the rafters.

With a elementary speaker system, narrators recited the nativity story while actors portrayed the scenes. Mary and Joseph went to the innkeeper with a real donkey. Sheep baaed during the production. The production was portrayed after it was dark in the natural elements. This was a situation when more bodies in the inn was a good thing! Afterwards, everyone warmed up at the local town hall with bowls of steaming chili and hot coffee and lots and lots of Christmas cookies.

This will be the 12th year I will be involved in putting together a “Live Nativity” production. When we moved to the Midland UMC, Rick and I knew the perfect site. A barn just down the road from the church that happened to be owned by a church member would be the ideal spot forMidland’s “Live Nativity.” Like the Barber’s barn,Cal’s hayloft barn is mostly unused – except for one night a year when it becomes our local version of Bethlehem.

For me, the “Live Nativity” isMidland’s labor of love: our re-creation of the birth of Christ offered as a gift to the community. Yep, there are years the barn has been down-right cold. Cast and crew use hand warmers in their gloves and in their boots to keep our extremities warm. Costumes are big enough to go over King Herod’s real-life hunting gear. Angel halos glimmer above pink polertec hats. While we have real sheep, a few ofMidland’s youngest folks become the sheep that are actually with the shepherds when Gabriel surprises their quiet night. These little sheep have sometimes literally rolled around in the straw before the production began and their little white costumes are as covered with straw as the real sheep stationed in pens just off to the side from the stage. A few years, we’ve had a real baby Jesus; sometimes a boy and sometimes a girl.

For many of the cast and crew, our retelling of the nativity in the barn is as close as we’ll ever get to the events that happened in Bethlehem that first Christmas night. One man told me a few years ago that when we host the “Live Nativity,” for him, this is Christmas. It doesn’t get any more real for him than this.

One year when the production was at the Barber’s barn, afterwards we were done with the story, a grandma and her grandson came up to me. The boy was about 4-years-old. He was carrying a wrapped present. Grandma explained to me that when she told her grandson that they were going to a barn to watch how baby Jesus was born, her grandson insisted on bringing a present for baby Jesus. “After all, that’s what the wise men did. So here’s our gift for baby Jesus,” she said. I was touched beyond words. After I was home, I couldn’t help myself. I had to see what a 4-year-old would give baby Jesus. I carefully removed the wrapping paper and uncovered a helicopter. I turned the propellers and though how funny it was the Jesus traveled toBethlehemon a donkey. And now, he’s been given a new form of transportation. I carefully reapplied the wrapping paper and took the gift to the local giving tree. Some little boy got a helicopter that year that really was intended for baby Jesus.

What is the one event during the Advent and Christmas season that exemplifies the true meaning of the season for you? For many, it might be Christmas Eve worship. Maybe it’s driving by a staged nativity scene. For someone else, it might be attending a production of “The Messiah.” If you don’t really have such a tradition, begin one this Christmas. Invite someone to go with you who you might not otherwise do so. Together, discover a local labor of love production that gets right down to the real reason of the season.

If you’re within driving distance of Midland UMC, I invite you to our “Live Nativity.” It is this Sunday night, Dec. 11, at 5 PM. Please arrive at the church (10235 Hwy KP, Mazomanie) by 4:45 PM. You can park at the church and we’ll provide transportation down to the barn. Afterwards, we’ll fill our chilled bodies with bowls of steaming chili back at the church. And you won’t find better Christmas cookies and bars in the county. Oh, dress warm. The barn isn’t heated. Bring a blanket to cover the straw bale seats. And be prepared to be transported back to Bethlehem as we remember Mary’s labor of love for the world.

Dear God: We sing, “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.” May we find a labor of love where we can recall, observe and, remember Mary’s labor of love and your wondrous gift this Advent. Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

If you aren’t familiar with “Labor of Love,” go to youtube.com and you can listen to this song.

Even Pillars of Faith Struggle

Dec. 7, 2011

2 Corinthians 11:

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own people, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

I was in 5th or 6th grade. We’d had a lot of snow that December. On Christmas morning, it was bitterly cold. It was not a good day on the farm. Water pipes were frozen, getting a tractor to start was nearly impossible. If I remember correctly, the silo unloader was also under protest. You didn’t know a silo unloader could protest, did you? When it doesn’t cooperate and help feed the cows, I call it under protest.

It was going on noon before we sat down for breakfast and the morning chores still weren’t done. My Mom has this tradition of taking half a grapefruit and inserting a marshmellow and a candycane in the middleof it  for Christmas morning. They are put under the broiler for just a couple of minutes to slighty brown the marshmellow. Along with this, she makes homemade bread shaped like a Christmas tree. We’d help her decorate the tree with icing, red hots and sprinkles to make it look like a real tree.

This is an annual Christmas breakfast tradition that my siblings and I looked forward to. But that Christmas morning, the grapefruit seemed more sour than sweet. The Christmas bread seemed hard and chewy. My Dad was discouraged by all the set-backs from the morning. I’m confident my Mom was tired and running on very little sleep. As we sat in the dining room (which we did only on special occasions) eating breakfast, it was very, very quiet. No one spoke of opening presents. My parents were experiencing financial challenges and I know my Mom had to be creative. My main present was a 12×12 latchhook pattern with a rose on it. I’m sure it cost less than $10. We knew the cow barn still needed to be cleaned and water pipes thawed. Just getting the animals fed and the barns cleaned were going to take most of the day.

No one knows everything you’ve been through but you. No one has ever walked in your shoes completely. Even your spouse, your best friend, your Momma – they aren’t able to get inside your head and understand your emotions.

I wish that I could go back and hear the emotions that my parents and my siblings were experiencing that morning as we quietly ate our Christmas breakfast. What was not supposed to be like every other day of the year was turning out to be just that. For my parents, the morning was probably indicative of the cascading of events which just made their lives seem more and more challenging.

The Apostle Paul is usually quite humble. In this passage, he lets go and shares from his heart his pent-up frustrations. Even the most faifthful of disciples endure great hardship, disappointment and feel let down. “When is enough enough?” Paul is saying. “When am I going to get a break? Others around me have. Isn’t it my turn?”

My mentor shared with me this week how everyone considers Mother Theresa a Christian martyr. She’s only considered one because everyone knew what she’d given up to serve God and God’s kingdom. If her story weren’t as well-known, would it have the same impact? Definitely not. In this sense, to a degree don’t we all want to be martyrs? Don’t we all want someone to know even a bit of what we’re going through? There are good and honest reasons for sharing. We’re encouraged to share our burdens with another so that we don’t become overwhlemed by them. When shared, our challenges and frustrations can become teachable moments for others.

As these days drawing closer to Christmas become more packed, the nights become a bit shorter and we wonder how to accomplish the variety of things we feel compelled to do, don’t we all want someone to recognize what we’re all dealing with? Honestly, it’s not always during the month of December I feel this way. It’s hard for me to admit this. Humbleness is one of my “occasion” spiritual gifts. I don’t always practice it well every day.

Life has a way of smacking us down, even when we’re trying to do everything right. In the Christmas story, Joseph comes to mind. He simply wanted to marry a honorable Jewish girl, have a family, continue working hard and teach his family the proper Hebrew way to live. Instead, his fiance shows up pregnant, he has a wild dream that he should go ahead and marry this girl and call the baby his own. On top of it all, now he has to travel toBethlehemand be counted for a ridiculous census? Are you kidding?

In Matthew 1:19, Joseph is called a “righteous man.” “Righteous, smightous,” I’d be thinking if I were Joseph reading the story about himself from Matthew’s gospel. How I’d like to get inside of his head and hear his emotions. What was supposed to be a wonderful year of his life, was turning into an uncontrollable disaster.

We hear very little about Jesus’ earthly father. But we know he was righteous. Even when the going got tough, he followed God and God’s calling in his life. Even when it would have been eaiser to follow his own path, he hung in there. We know Paul didn’t give up either. Despite his frustrations in this letter to the church atCorinth, he continued his work as a church planter for the early Christian church. And even became a martyr for it.

None of us will probably ever become a Joseph, a Paul or a Mother Thersa. But their stories should inspire us. Without them, we’d never know how even they felt challenged by Christ’s message and call on their lives.

Dear God: Sometimes, we just want someone to recognize and appreciate what we do, especially for your Kingdom. Is this OK? Why do we feel this way? Thank goodness you’ve never stop doing for us even when we forgot to appreciate and say, “Thank you.”

Blessings –

Dianne