-Rev Evan Dolive-
Hotheads stir up conflict, but patient people calm down strife.
Proverbs 15:18 CEB
I can’t stand the cliché, “patience is a virtue.” It just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it is because there are times when I am not the most patience person in the world. I have been working on it, but there are sometimes when I fail miserably. I can be a loud mouth, a hot head and an overly opinionated person. On some levels I can’t help it or at least that’s what I tell myself; I find ways for the wrong doing to be someone else’s fault or I rationalize why whatever I said was in fact the truth and they needed to hear or that the hearer was just over reacting.
Words are important; the words we say and more importantly how we say them are of even more significance.
Patience is a skill that has to be crafted and often times re learned and that’s why its so hard. We actually have to work at it. Patience is not just something we remind ourselves to have when we on the verge of road rage but it is a key element in the Lenten journey.
In our society the concept of waiting or pausing or even inhaling is becoming a thing of the past. We want things and we want them fast. We want out internet to be blazing, we complain when it takes 10 seconds to download a song or a picture. Cell phone companies market their phones to show how a person can get things done faster or applications load faster than the competition.
Lent is not just a call to center our thoughts and minds on the life of Christ and the journey to the cross rather is one a deliberate patience. We want to get to the happy day of Easter but we don’t want to have to do the long way around to get there. There is something that we will miss if we do not take the time to journey with Christ in the Lenten season.
Take it from a fallible person who is continually working on patience, its not the easiest thing in the world, but I believe waiting for Easter will make that fateful day just that much more special.
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O God help me to be more patient in my daily life. Grant me the strength and wisdom to slow down and breathe you in. Calm my soul as I wait for your realm to come. In Christ’s holy name, Amen.
Rev Evan M. Dolive is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He currently serves as the Associate Minister for Family Life at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Longview, Texas. He is the author of "Seeking Imperfection: Body Image, Marketing and God," a theological examination of marketing and body images propagated in the world today and the Christian response. He also writes for various online publications and at evandolive.com
He is currently working on his Doctorate at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. He is married to his high school sweetheart and has three children ages 6,4 and 2.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
“Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.”
Matthew 5:9 CEB
Advent is… what? This is Lent? I shouldn’t talk about Advent during Lent? Phooey! Everything is connected. Life is one big tapestry, and a thread used in one part of the image comes back again in strange ways. Getting back to my point, Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas. It is made up of four Sundays in a very specific order: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. This isn’t an order that just works during this pre-Christmas time of year. It’s an order that is true for the whole year.
Hope is like picking a destination. We set sail towards something. As Christians I hope your hope is set on Christ. Peace is packing your bags and starting the journey. The thing about finding peace is that it takes work. Peace is order when the world is drawn to chaos. Peace is sometimes blood sweat and tears. Hope always comes before peace because you have to set a destination in order to travel towards it. You have to set your hope before you can travel towards peace. It is when we know where we’re headed, and we are actually headed there, joy bubbles up. So, yes, happy are people who make peace. Happiness is the natural result of peace.
These three attributes often connected to Advent leads naturally into love. When one finds love, that’s where we find God. That’s something to truly be joyous about!
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Holy Father, We praise and adore you! Thank you for the gifts you bestow upon us! Amen.
Rev Melissa Fain is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.) She currently serves as the Senior Minister at Fig Tree Christian. Her passion is new church planting and revitalization. Fig Tree is the second big church plant she has been part of. Melissa enjoys all forms of the arts, having a degree in vocal music from Kennesaw State University. She also graduated from Candler School of Theology in the Fall of 2010, and has worked in Christian settings since 1999. Melissa is a mother of two wonderful children, and the wife to a very talented illustrator.
I have a lot to tell you. I don’t want to use paper and ink, but I hope to visit you and talk with you face-to-face, so that our joy can be complete.
2 John 1:12 (CEB)
Many of whom I consider to be my closest friends live very far from me. I live in Michigan and they all live in Texas. As such, these days most of our keeping up with each other is done online over Facebook or Skype. Occasionally, we might even call one another! While these alternative modes of communication have been a great blessing to me, there is still nothing quite like meeting up in person. Every couple of years, my friends and I will decide upon a destination halfway between us and travel there together for a reunion trip. Over the course of the weekend together, we will laugh and smile as we reminisce, sharing stories and making new ones. All of this is done with great joy.
In John the Evangelist’s very short letter that we know as Second John, we see something very similar to what I just described. Whomever the woman is that he is writing to, John has a very close relationship to her and cannot wait to see her in person once more. There is much more to tell her beyond that thirteen verses of this letter contain, but pen and paper just isn’t enough. He wants to see her face to face. In doing so, their “joy can be complete.” Any reader can see that this letter reflects great joy in its words, but it is nowhere near the levels of joy seen in the immediate personal interaction between these two people.
Why is that? Much has been written and discussed about joy, especially in its relation to happiness. What’s the difference between the two? Without going into great detail, I offer a simple supposition: joy does not come from within. Joy comes from other people. I can make myself happy in many different ways, from eating a cookie to watching a favorite movie. However, I cannot give myself joy. Joy is a gift from God that His Spirit bestows upon us in the company of our fellow people.
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. I will confess that I have most often thought of this spiritual attribute in the context of receiving it. However, I believe that the Holy Spirit is also made manifest in the giving of joy as well. I know many people in my life who are very good at this and the simple act of seeing them walk into the room with a smile on their face brings joy to everyone in the room. Perhaps, though, it is the work of these two in tandem—both the receiving and giving of joy—that are at the heart of what the Spirit provides for us.
Is it any wonder that God calls his people to assemble? I experience great joy on a Sunday morning. It isn’t from the songs we sing (though I often do love them.) It’s not from the sermon, though I do enjoy both listening to our pulpit minister as well as preaching myself. Joy is in the interactions with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Joy is in the breaking bread together. Joy is not in the words or music of a song, but in the united voices joining together. Joy is in the little children being cared for by the elderly widows sitting next to them in the pew. Joy is in the love of God that is present when His people are together face to face.
Wherever you are, whomever you are with, you have an opportunity to be a beacon of joy to another person. May God’s Spirit be at work in you to bless others with your presence.
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We pray to you, our Fount of Joy. We thank you for every cherished moment we have with one another, knowing that you are present there, too. Help us to be joyful and to spread Your joy to those around us in our words and in our actions. Amen.
Mike Miles is the student and family minister at the Livonia Church of Christ in the western suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. He attended Abilene Christian University, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry in 2009. Mike is currently working on his Master of Religious Education in Missional Leadership at Rochester College in Rochester, Michigan.
Mike has a love for community and for bringing people together, especially across society's dividing lines. Born in the Philippines, he has since lived in over twenty different places but happily calls Michigan "home." He is unashamedly nerdy. He has tried to maintain a blog for years, but has decided that he is just too lazy. He is married to Blythe and has a son, with a baby girl on her way in early 2017!
-Rev Rebecca Yowler-
“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.
Mathew 5:43-48 CEB
I do NOT love my neighbor. Not “my neighbor” as in the global sense, or as in loving all of humanity. I mean the person who lives next door to me right now. I do not love her. I don’t even like her. I border on feelings of hate, anger, and complete abhorrence of her, to be quite honest. I’m not usually a hateful person— I tend to look for the good in everyone and find the essence of the divine in them. But not this woman. She has been a thorn in my side since my wife moved into the house we now share. She’s called our landlord to complain (we don’t share the same landlord), she sabotaged our wedding reception, she even bought an extra-loud speaker to blast at our house in an admitted attempt to run us out of the neighborhood. But none of these things is the reasons I don’t like her. I really don’t like her because of the way she treats her elderly dog. This poor dog is forced to live outside 24/7 regardless of how hot it gets (over 100) or how cold it gets (sometimes below freezing). His fur is matted to his body, and we can hear him crying in pain. I don’t even understand the level of cruelty this poor dog endures. So there, I said it. I don’t like my dog abusing, stereo blasting, wedding reception sabotaging neighbor.
And I’m sorry for it. Truly and deeply sorry. We’ve tried conversation. We’ve tried being nice. We’ve tried ignoring her. We’ve never stooped to any level of retribution. We’ve “turned the other cheek.” But we don’t love her and we certainly don’t pray for her. For her dog? Yes. For her? NO.
Today, this scripture reminds me that I am called to love my neighbor, not just in the global sense, but even in the sense of the woman next door. I am called to love her, pray for her, and ask God to give her good things. This scripture reminds us that love means looking past all of the reasons we hate someone. This is difficult. I mean this is REALLY difficult. What does this kind of radical love even look like? How can you love a neighbor that won’t even make eye contact? How can you love a neighbor during a 3am heavy metal blasting session? How can you love a neighbor that abuses an animal?
I don’t know, but I’m going to try harder.
Is there a neighbor you don’t love? Maybe they don’t live right next door, but is there someone in your life that you don’t love? Even if you have a good reason, what would loving them anyway look like? Are you willing to try harder?
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God, please remind me that loving my neighbor includes the one that lives next door (or down the street, or across town). Please help me to be a better neighbor and a more loving neighbor. Help me to learn to love even those who are hardest to love, and if I can’t love them, help me to at least be nicer. Amen.
Rev Rebecca Ann Yowler is an ordained Disciples minister and an academic librarian. She is currently adjunct faculty at Valparaiso University. She is passionate about pugs, knitting, and figure skating. You can read her occasional sermons and devotions at www.beccassermons.livejournal.com
-Brandon William Peach-
Jesus returned from the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There he was tempted for forty days by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and afterward Jesus was starving. The devil said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread.” Next the devil led him to a high place and showed him in a single instant all the kingdoms of the world. The devil said, “I will give you this whole domain and the glory of all these kingdoms. It’s been entrusted to me and I can give it to anyone I want. Therefore, if you will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” The devil brought him into Jerusalem and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here; for it’s written: He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.” Jesus answered, “It’s been said, Don’t test the Lord your God. ”After finishing every temptation, the devil departed from him until the next opportunity.
Luke 4:1-13 CEB
Self-control may be the most difficult of the virtues expressed in the Fruits of the Spirit. Since the Fall of Adam, our natural proclivity is to give in to temptation, not to resist it. It exists in decisions we make in our everyday lives. Refuse self-control enough, and you begin to develop patterns: one more drink, one more episode, one more slice. The patterns turn into addictions. They become idols.
Why is self-control so difficult? In part, because temptation hits us at our personal weaknesses. When we give in to temptation, we’re “scratching an itch” that’s unique to our desires. When we begin to address one area of temptation with self-control, it’s often not long before we give into another. This business of sanctification, it’s a lifelong process—a process that requires self-control.
When Christ was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, He was confronted by the Tempter who tormented Him mercilessly over forty hungry days. We’re not told the details of those forty days, but we know that He was tempted in every possible way [Hebrews 4:15]. The final three temptations exploited his weakened state ruthlessly, yet He displays self-control of a degree we cannot imagine, using the words of Scripture to combat His attacker.
The story of Christ in the wilderness is rich with lessons, but in the context of self-control, there's a striking parallel made between the first Adam and Christ, the "Last Adam." [1 Corinthians 14:15]. Sin nature came through Adam. Self-control nature came through Christ. With Christ as not just the example of self control, but also the source of it, we have the power to overcome temptation and avoid sin.
“Self-control” therefore is not about controlling our selves, despite how the term may sound. Christ’s example in the wilderness and His finished work on the cross allows us to give the control of ourselves to Him. As we determine to do so, and as we begin to hone this virtue, our desires begin to conform to His and the temptations of the flesh—our areas of weakness that the Enemy takes advantage of—become weaker and weaker.
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Lord, help me develop self-control. Purify my desires and bring my will into alignment with Yours. Amen.
Brandon William Peach is, first and foremost, the husband of Kathleen O'Neill and the father of William Sean O'Neill. He is a writer with a degree in literature from Penn State University, and a frequent contributor to various blogs, magazines, and podcasts.
While his career is in marketing, Brandon's primary interests include historical Christianity, literature, art, and pacifism in practice. He lives in the heart of Amish Country in Central Pennsylvania, where "getting stuck in traffic" often means being stuck behind a horse and buggy on a windy backroad. His hobbies include reading, writing, watching good movies, cooking, and most importantly, spending time with his wife and son.
He is owned by his cat Tiger and his dog Millie.
Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too.
Galatians 6:1 CEB
Think about a time when you made a mistake and you were called out on it in public. Was your first instinct to humbly admit you were wrong and try to fix whatever it was you’d done wrong? If so, you’re a rare bird. Most people don’t react positively to being corrected (and humiliated) in public like that. Most people respond by getting defensive and doubling down.
Now think about a time when you were corrected privately. It’s still not fun to be corrected, but without the added embarrassment of losing face in front of other people, it’s usually not as bad. Sometimes, we run across people who are clearly in the wrong. If it’s a Christian, and they are doing something that is counter to the gospel, it often falls on the community of believers to correct that person. But we should never jump the gun and rebuke them in a harsh way
We should offer gentle guidance. We should speak to them the way we’d want them to speak to us. Sometimes that means taking them aside and gently nudging them back onto the right path. Sometimes it means just listening to them to find out why they’re doing what they’re doing (which can lead a person to realizing their own mistakes). What it never means is getting up in someone’s face and wagging a judgmental finger at them.
Gentleness isn’t a righteously aggressive rebuke. Gentleness is taking someone by the hand and slowly guiding them back into the light.
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God, Please help me to have a spirit of gentleness, especially when I notice someone doing wrong. Help me to remember I am a sinner as well, and to treat other people the way I would want to be treated. Amen.
Kristy Burmeister writes about stalkers, church-related trauma, feminism, and pie (pretty much in that order) at kristyburmeister.com. She's currently working on a memoir about a church that almost got her murdered when she was a teenager. (Spoiler: She's still alive.)
-Rev Myra Torance-
“Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much.”
Luke 16:10 CEB
I will open the door to my closet and admit “I am a word freak.” I am many things more but today I choose this to disclose.
So when I was asked to write this piece I went to my dictionary (it has lots of words) and I looked up “faithfulness.” Faithfulness (the word) means: true to one’s word, promises, vows---
The word “one’s” means you and me. I have always known of faithfulness to humanity, but I don’t believe I truly knew what my faithfulness was; until I gave birth to my first child and he was placed in my arms.
My husband and I counted fingers, toes, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, etc. And then it hit me face on. My husband and I had signed more than a contract when we married. I was now holding this little bundle that God, in Hid faith, had given me to love and cherish.
Faithfulness is one of those words we should live by every day of our lives. An apple tree is planted, watered, pruned and harvested. Thus faithfulness means to me, to plant and pray. I many not live to see it grow to its tallest or produce the yield, but I am faithful to the vow I gave to God. My first bundle will be 48 on November 2017 and I daily praise God for His faith in me
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Holy Father, parent in my life. As we grow, help us find faith in the ways that help us grow a full harvest. Amen.
Rev Myra Torrance is the pastor of Chelan Christian Church, where she has led the congregation for four years. She has been a pastor in the Disciples of Christ Christian Church for over 35 years. Prior to being called to the pulpit, she was the Executive Director for Hospice in Vincennes, Indiana. Myra is originally from Vincennes, Indiana, where she raised her four children with her husband, Bud, before his passing in 2011. Myra loves to write and enjoys time with her two Chihuahuas.
-Rev Barbara Taylor Minton-
...examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 CEB
In 1880, a baby girl came into the world full of life. Eighteen months later a devastating illness left the child both blind and deaf. Years of struggle and discouragement did not dampen the Keller’s hope for their daughter’s future. Keeping abreast of developments that pertained to their daughter’s condition, the parents made certain that Helen received the most current care. In time, with help of a dedicated governess, Helen Keller learned to communicate, graduated college, and became a world advocate for many causes, with a focus on improving the plight of the deafblind and people with other disabilities.
Helen Keller spoke out against injustices, supporting workers’ rights and laboring diligently for a woman’s right to vote. Learning of the life and work of Jesus, her biographers’ report her as saying she knew God was there, she just didn’t know God’s name.
Often in his teachings Jesus spoke of hearts that had grown dull, of people who had ears but could not hear the truth of his teachings or of people with eyes, unable to perceive the power of God in his actions. More than once Jesus concluded his teachings with a simple statement: “Let those who have ears, hear.”
Helen Keller proves with her life and her many accomplishments that one can hear and respond to God without having ears that hear or eyes that see. She also exemplifies one dedicated to a careful examination of life, hanging on to what is good, and even working for what is good and beneficial for others.
Throughout Scripture a thought prevails, an encouragement, a call for our openness to God’s activity, summed up in these verses from the Thessalonian letter. Be attentive to what God is doing. Don’t brush it off as inconsequential, but instead, “…examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good.” Examine life in a framework of faith, aware of God’s involvement.
Joseph, son of Jacob, provides an example of reframing his life to include God’s activity! Overlooking the murderous intentions of his jealous brothers who had sold him into Egyptian slavery many years earlier, Joseph simply said to them, “You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people….” Genesis 50:20 Joseph, now the second most powerful man in Egypt, preserved the lives of his father’s descendants and found a place in Jewish tradition because he let go of bitterness and vindictiveness while hanging on to the good.
Don’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. Avoid every kind of evil. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22
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Lord, give us eyes to see your goodness and ears to hear your voice so that we might reflect your nature. Amen.
Rev Barbara Minton, ordained April 1, 2001, now semi-retired, gladly serves a small rural congregation in Henry County KY, Berea Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She also volunteers in local interdenominational outreach ministries. Barbara describes herself as wife of one, mother of three, and Mamaw to eight. She enjoys journaling, which she began while living in Switzerland and Germany for 16 years. Now she will occasionally write on her blog, which she fondly entitled Muesli. http://bjm-muesli.blogspot.com/ Her hobbies include bird-watching and word-botching. She claims to get her exercise by jumping to conclusions, running at the mouth, and climbing the walls. Her partner in these adventures is Thomas, her husband of 53 years, and presently pastor of Eminence Christian Church in Eminence, KY. (When she grows up she wants to become a retreat speaker!)