Many years ago, when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister of Canada, he gave a speech in which he shared with the nation that because of budget shortfalls, the government was going to reduce financial assistance programs. “If there is any relief,” he said, “it will be narrowly directed to those in dire straits.” On hearing Trudeau’s speech, the residents of New Dundee, Ontario, assembled and promptly changed the name of their town to Dire Straits. The town’s mayor explained, “If we are not in Dire Straits, I don’t know who is!”
Many of us experience times in our lives when we feel just like that – like we are in dire straits.
There is no doubt that life is challenging. We experience much loss and change and even heartache. Though it is tough to remember in the midst of hardship, difficult times come – but they also go.
Friend of Geneva, when you find yourself in crisis mode may you remember that there will be daylight on the other side. You don’t need to set up camp in the darkness. You don’t need to change your name to “Dire Straits!” Instead hold onto hope. There is the potential to come out on the other side stronger, more loving, more faithful, more compassionate. While you won’t emerge unchanged, you will get through it. God is with you.
Let us pray: Loving God, we claim the promise of the prophet Isaiah – that you will make a way in the wilderness. I pray especially today for those who are in the midst of difficult times – for those who feel as though they are hanging on by the last thread of hope. Give them eyes to see beyond the darkness. Grant them an overwhelming sense of your presence and peace, and carry them through. Amen.
Not long ago, I heard about a woman who always went to a branch post office in her town because the postal employees there were friendly. She went there to buy stamps just before Christmas one year and the lines were particularly long. Someone pointed out that there was no need to wait in line because there was a stamp machine in the lobby. “I know,” said the woman, “but the machine won’t ask me about my arthritis.”
It is true. In our tech savvy world, many people are starved for community. God made us in such a way that we need other people. We need to hear real voices, experience human touch.
As I read the gospels, I am continually amazed at how often Jesus touches the people he seeks to heal.
Today, no matter how “connected” you are online, may you make an effort to connect with those you actually see around you. Make eye contact with the store clerk. Hold the hand of an elderly friend, smile at the stranger, hug a friend. And, as you do, may you notice God’s loving, healing presence in your midst.
Let us pray: God of Love, in Jesus Christ you walked among us – flesh and blood. You ate with sinners, you touched the lonely and the sick, you laughed and cried and suffered. Thank you for your incarnate love. Teach us to love others as you have loved us. Amen.
Once the eminent philosopher John Dewey found his son in the bathroom. The floor was flooded and he was mopping furiously trying to contain the water in that room, keeping the damage to a minimum. The professor began thinking, trying to understand the deeper ramifications of the situation. After a few moments, the son said, “Dad, this is not the time to philosophize. It is time to mop!”
The same is true at times in the Christian life. No doubt, there is a time to study, to reflect and think deeply. But there is a time to mop – to put our faith into practice: when we see others in need… when a friend or co-worker is going through a difficult time… when our resources could make a difference….
In his first letter, John wrote, “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help? Little children, let us love not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
Friend of Dial Hope, my prayer for you today is for a balance. May you always find ways to be fed spiritually. But then, refueled and refreshed, may you put your faith to work.
Martin Luther King Jr once said, “The time is always right to do what is right!”
Let us pray: Loving God, my prayer today is especially for those who need to be fed – literally and / or spiritually. I lift up to you those who are lonely, or broken, or hurting, or hungry. Use our gifts, our lives and our prayers to bring your healing, wholeness and peace. We ask in Jesus name. Amen.
A young man just out of business school, answered a want ad for an accountant. He got the interview, and met with a very nervous businessman who ran a small business that he had started himself.
“I need someone with an accounting degree,” the businessman said. “But mainly, I’m looking for someone to do my worrying for me.”
“Excuse me?” the accountant said.
“I worry about a lot of things,” the business man said. “But I don’t want to have to worry about money. Your job will be to take all the money worries off my back.” “I see,” the accountant said. “And how much does the job pay?”
“I’ll start you at eighty thousand,” said the businessman.
“Eighty thousand dollars!” the accountant exclaimed. “How can such a small business afford a sum like that?”
“That,” the businessman said, “is your first worry.”
Can you imagine? Wouldn’t it be great if we could just pay someone to do our worrying for us!
I actually heard a business consultant say that the best practice for worriers is to schedule a time during the day for just that. Set aside 15-20 minutes each day on your calendar to be your worry time. Then, throughout the course of the day – or night – whenever worries come up, simply write them down and save them for your scheduled worry time. Nine times out of ten, they won’t feel like such a big deal when you go back to them!
The apostle Paul offers a different prescription. He wrote, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If you schedule a “worry time,” perhaps you could meld it into prayer time.
Let us pray: Loving God, we all come carrying burdens, concerns, worries. Many of these we can do nothing about. We hand them over to you now – asking you to lift them from our hearts and minds. We are grateful for your mercy and grace. May we know your peace. Amen.
Author Sue Monk Kidd once told a story about when her daughter was small and got the seemingly small part of the Bethlehem star in a Christmas play. After her first rehearsal, she burst through the door with her costume, a five-pointed star lined in shiny gold tinsel designed to drape over her like a sandwich board. “What exactly will you be doing in the play?” her mother asked her. “I just stand there and shine,” her daughter answered.
I love that!
My friend Debbie Abbott was the Christian Educator at a previous church I served. I’ll never forget that when asked how she was doing, she would inevitably respond, “Shining brightly!” She also was ever encouraging the children to respond in the same way.
Jesus said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before others in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
I pray that in your own life, you would find ways to shine brightly!
Let us pray: God of hope, I pray today especially for those who are carrying heavy burdens and for others who are struggling to get by day to day. It is hard to shine when you feel you are at the end of your rope. I ask you to meet them at the deepest point of their need. Wash over them – and each of us – with your grace that we might be filled anew with your Spirit. May your light pierce even the dark and shine on through. Amen.
When a gifted preacher is nailing a sermon, you would think that it wouldn’t be difficult to follow and engage. But we aren’t so simple, are we? I was in the church of one of the most gifted preachers I know, and this particular morning he was on his game. He was teaching out of Luke 12:22-34, where Jesus exhorts his disciples trust in God’s plan for them and not to worry. The pastor did an amazing job of explaining Jesus’ challenge, while applying it tenderly to some of our greatest fears. I was torn between two thoughts that morning. First, I have some very real, very active fears. Jesus was doing work in some of my most painful areas. But my second thought that morning was on two others in the crowd.
“Worrying about God fixing you, not me!”
Two of the biggest “worriers” I know just happened to be in the audience that day. The pastor’s words had the opportunity to really help both of these people. After the service ended, I went up to both of these friends, one at a time, and inquired about what they got out of the sermon. “It was alright, I guess,” said one. The other conveyed to me how bored they were and how the pew hurt their rear end.
I was really disappointed. No, I was annoyed. These two had just squandered a real opportunity to make some in-roads in areas that cause them immense pain. Yet, as I continued to reflect, the words of Jesus came alive to me in new ways. “Do Not Worry” also means that I have to trust Jesus when he isn’t working in other’s lives the way I would prefer. How about you? Does your trust of God extend to those friends and family who are making bad choices? Do you believe God can reach them, even if they are squandering wonderful opportunities?
Let us pray: God, it is hard enough to trust you with what is going on in our own lives, but help us to trust and not worry about what you are doing in the lives of those we love and care about. Amen.
Daily Message Author: Mark Hults
Mark Hults is a graduate of Purdue University and the Columbia Theological Seminary. Early in his career Mark worked for the InterVarsity Ministries, and he is now serving as Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church at Green Cove Springs, Florida.
Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent. And so we have begun a new year in the Christian liturgical calendar. We usually begin this season in church with readings about Jesus second coming. As the weeks progress toward Christmas, we then move toward the birth narratives.
The joyful, prayerful season
The placement of these scriptures is intentional. We begin by remembering where God is going with history – that there will be a time when God will wipe away every tear; when mourning and weeping will be no more. As the weeks pass by, we then shift to Jesus’ birth – the beginning of the fulfillment of these prophecies. And we celebrate that God came among us in the person of Jesus.
My prayer for you is that you would reclaim this time as a holy season. Yes, there are parties to attend and shopping to be done. But, I hope that you will take the time to reflect and to worship and allow the deeper meaning and joy of the season to sink in.
Let us pray: Loving God, we claim the promise today that what you began on Christmas morning more than 2,000 years ago, you will one day bring to completion. As we long for your peace, joy, hope and love, help us to make decisions and commitments that reflect that longing. Meet us in this holy time, we ask in Jesus name. Amen.
Letters play a major role in our lives: love letters, letters of encouragement, critical letters, business letters, newsy Christmas letters. Letters give people a lift or a letdown. Letters may also bring a smile, even when written in all seriousness. I read of the wife and daughters of the brand new pastor who sat in the same pew each Sunday with a dignified elderly couple. After several weeks of exchanging nods and smiles but with no introductions, the pastor’s wife received this note from the elderly lady:
“My dear, I’ve enjoyed worshiping with you and your precious children. And, I want you to know I’ve been praying a special prayer that the father of these lovely children will agree to come to church with you some Sunday.”
The New Testament letters of Paul, Peter and John, serve as the inspired means though which we may discover who God is, what he has done for us through his Son, and how the new life in Christ is to be lived. These love letters from God tell us a love from which nothing can ever separate us.
During this holiday season of Thanksgiving, Advent, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year, I propose that you write a letter to God. In other words, write God a “thank you” letter. Let your letter be motivated by what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 8:9:
“Do you remember the generosity of Jesus Christ, the Lord of us all? He was rich beyond our telling, yet he became poor for our sakes so that his poverty might make you rich.”
Let us pray:Thank you God, for our lives, for your love, for our families, for your church, for our friends, and for your Son, our living and risen Lord. We pray in his name. Amen.
Daily Message Author: Roger Kunkel
(November 24, 1934 – June 29, 2011) Rev. Dr. Roger Kunkel was a native of Parsons, Kansas, graduated from Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, where he received an award for “Outstanding Student and Citizen”. After graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary, he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois, and went on to serve as Senior Pastor in Duluth, Minnesota, and Riverside, Illinois. He served as Chaplain of Heritage Park Rehab Center in Bradenton, Florida, after retiring from his pastorate at First Presbyterian Church of Sarasota in 1998.
In his book Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery, Physician Richard Selzer wrote the following touching observations:
“I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?
The young woman speaks. ‘Will my mouth always be like this?’ she asks.
‘Yes,’ I say, ‘It will because the nerve was cut.’ She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. ‘I like it,’ he says, ‘Kind of cute.’ All at once I know who he is. I understand and I lower my gaze… Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show that their kiss still works.”
The story strikes home because it speaks of love – unconditional; the kind of love that the world desperately needs – but doesn’t always understand. It is this kind of love that promises never to give up on us – no matter what. That’s the kind of love, the kind of commitment that God has promised us.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote: Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. (49:15)
Jesus said, “Remember I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Let us pray: We thank you, Loving God, that you have promised never to give up on us, never to forsake us or leave us. We are ever grateful that we don’t have to earn your love, and that there is nothing in life or death that can separate us from you.
We pray today for those who find themselves in really difficult situations – people who need to know you are with them. Especially we lift up police officers, fire fighters, and military personnel. We ask that you would surround each of us with your grace. May we know your merciful presence – right here and right now – through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Rev. Tony Campolo once wrote about a sociological study in which fifty people over the age of ninety-five were asked one question: “If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?” It was an open ended question, and a wide variety of answers came back from these near centenarians. However, three answers consistently reemerged and dominated the results of the study. These three answers were:
If I had it to do over again, I would reflect more. If I had it to do over again, I would risk more. If I had it to do over again, I would do more things that would live on after I am dead.
That’s really interesting, isn’t it? As you think back over your life, I hope you don’t have regrets. I hope you trust that God will not waste anything – any experience – any failure – any success – any bad or any good. If we are open to God’s healing grace, those experiences can shape us into more compassionate, generous, faithful, loving human beings. And looking forward, as long as we are able to sit up and take nourishment, it is never too late to reflect a little more – to risk a little more – and to do a few things that will live on after we die!
Friend, I wonder how that might look for you. Imagine you are on a rocking chair reflecting back on your won life….
Let us pray: God of Hope, we thank you for your faithfulness to us over many years. We thank you for the experiences we have had in life and for your ever redeeming grace. Help us today to live life to the fullest – knowing that we can trust you. Amen.