Advent 2021

Witness: Friday, December 3, 2021

Friday, December 3, 2021

Witness:  Glenda Wolfe

Scripture:  Isaiah 7:14Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:2

Weekly Theme: Hope

In the movie, Sleepless in Seattle, Meg Ryan’s character, Annie, comments several times “it’s a sign.”  The first time is when she is trying on her grandmother’s wedding dress and the sleeve rips.  She is about to be married, but she doesn’t feel the magic she senses should be in a forever love story.  She is looking for some kind of proof or a sign of what should be.

Though this is only a movie, for many Christians, we often call signs from God, God moments.  What is a God moment? For me, it’s an experience that signals that something larger is at work in my life or the lives of people around me and God is making me aware of his presence.

I’ve experienced these moments.  One in particular, happened here in our church at the start of the service. We had sat down and suddenly an overpowering feeling, a voice in my head, and out of context, said, you must pray for Ethan (our grandson).  I leaned over and took Bruce’s hand and said quietly, God is urgently telling me we must pray for Ethan now!  Bruce didn’t question, we both just quietly started praying for whatever Ethan needed.  At prayer time, I went to one of the prayer stations, and continued to pray.  During the rest of the day at different intervals, I would say a prayer of protection for Ethan.  It wasn’t a feeling of foreboding, but just one that Ethan needed our prayers.

That was a Sunday morning. That evening, we called our son, Ethan’s father, and asked if all was well with Ethan.   He thought it odd we called because he was just getting ready to call us to let us know Ethan was in a car wreck earlier in the evening while coming home from work.  He is fine and even though the car overturned on a curve, he had on his seatbelt and he walked away without a scratch.  The car was totaled, but Ethan was fine.  

This was a powerful God moment and is a reminder that in this season of Advent, for believers and non-believers, there are so many signs of the proof of Christ’s birth.  Take a quiet time to read the signs in the scriptures, and in your daily lives be open to recognize when God is trying to get your attention by giving you a sign.

Daily Prayer:  Holy God, the Majesty and Glory of your name fill me with gratitude and wonder of how you show your love to me in big and small ways.  Thank you for considering my prayers and always let me be a witness to others of your love.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you ever had a God moment or felt God speaking to you?
  2. How does it make you feel when you read scripture prophesies foretelling the signs of our Savior’s birth?
  3. What do you do during the Advent season that confirms your gratitude to God and honors the miracle of Christ’s birth?
Advent 2021

Witness: Thursday, December 2, 2021

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Witnesses: JulieAnn and Ken Davis

Scripture: Matthew 5 – The Sermon on the Mount – The Beatitudes

Weekly Theme: Hope

Blessed

When we are sent out on a disaster with our Emergency Response Team (ERT), we never know what we will find.  It could be anything from tarping roofs, chain sawing trees or picking up debris. An ERT Mission normally lasts 5 days.

We have done Disaster Recovery through UMCOR, which is different from ERT.  In Disaster Recovery you  stay more than a week.  Julie and I would typically stay 6 weeks to 3 months at a site. Much of our work has been rebuilding homes since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.  Our previous pastor had given his review of what he saw and did.  It was heart breaking and we decided this was what we wanted to do to help people.  

Until you have been in this situation and looked into those eyes, you cannot fathom the depth of their pain.  You do not realize what it does to them or to you.

We were blessed with the many families that we have helped since 2005, but there were two that have really touched us and we continue our friendship to this day.  One was an elderly lady (called the “pecan pie” lady because she made mini pecan pies for a local restaurant), whose inside of her house was totally washed away.  When we arrived, she threw her arms around us with tears rolling down her face and all she could say was, “Jesus you sent me two angels, thank you, Jesus.”  Wow!  How can you not be affected by this?  

Ernest and Callee were the other couple that we were blessed to be part of their lives.  Although Ernest was on oxygen, he worked side by side with us, helping rebuild his home.   He continuously helped those around him before he thought of himself.

It is people like this who are overwhelmed, tired, and don’t feel anyone cares.  Their faith was tested and they persevered… waiting.  And it affected us – seeing such a strong woman and man who never lost faith.  It was like Mary putting her faith and trust in God to carry Jesus for us.  

Daily Prayer:  Dear Lord, create in me a clean heart so that I may see those in need.  And bless those that are the “poor in spirit”, “those who mourn” and those who “hunger and thirst” for your word – for they shall be comforted and filled with your love.  We know it is in your time, not ours, so give us the patience to accept this.  We do this in your precious name.  Amen.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Why does it take Jesus so long to help those that are in need?  
  2. How can you describe the feeling of loneliness, destitution, fear?
  3. What can you do to those that need help?
Advent 2021

Witness: Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Witness: Sandi Todaro

Scripture: Isaiah 41:10

Weekly Theme: Hope

 At one point in my life I struggled to the point of depression, with doubts about my salvation and whether I really knew what I was doing as a child when I put my faith in Jesus and asked Him to be my Savior.  I talked with my parents, my pastor, my Sunday School teacher, but no comfort came.  The negative thoughts just kept invading my mind.

I was expecting my second child at the time and instead of gaining weight, I was losing it.  My doctor was concerned.  All I could do was cry.

I prayed and read the Bible seeking God’s reassurance.  Finally I told God that I had to be sure and if I wasn’t His child, I wanted to be.  I had to have a time and place that I could put my finger on and say “l know at this time I asked Jesus to be my Savior!”  As I continued to read Scripture, He lead me to the beautiful verse in Isaiah 41:10:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; 

Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.”

There it was!  My answer!  In print so I could read it over and over and know without a doubt that I belonged to Jesus.

After my son was born, I would rock him and sing “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine.  Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.  Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.  This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.”

Daily Prayer: 
Merciful God, how I praise you for being the God of comfort and hope and for giving me the precious gift of salvation through your Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Where do you go for assurance when doubts assail?
  2. What Scripture brings you comfort in times of doubt?
Advent 2021

Witness: Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Witness: Mary Davis

Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11

Weekly Theme: Hope

My great-nephew, Seth Flatt, was living the American dream. In 2015, he graduated with honors from a prestigious private college and was in his first semester of medical school. He was athletic, good looking, had a great personality, lots of friends and a loving family.

A family friend who was a doctor suggested to Seth’s mother she should check on how he was doing. He knew from personal experience how grueling medical school could be. When she got to Seth’s apartment she found him barely functioning and having suicidal ideation. He came back home and was hospitalized for a week.

He bounced from job to job. Finally he found a job as an associate research and development scientist at a company manufacturing medical test strips. However his life started unravelling, he hated this job.

He became withdrawn from family and friends. His body started ballooning with stretch marks around his abdomen and pads of fat on his cheek bones. He became sullen with periods of hyperactivity making bizarre crafts to sell. I was convinced he was bipolar, his mother feared schizophrenia. He told his sister that he thought he was losing his mind and was in turmoil.

In 2018 he went to his primary care doctor for a routine annual exam. The doctor ordered routine lab tests. One blood test showed extremely high levels of cortisol, 13 times the amount considered clinically significant. He referred Seth to an endocrinologist with a diagnosis of possible Cushing’s disease. The doctor laughed initially saying, “You don’t have Cushing’s, women in their forties have Cushing’s.” Most primary care physicians never encounter Cushing’s and hardly any make a preliminary diagnosis.

Cushing’s is a disease characterized in part by mood swings, depression, irritability, weight gain, fatigue, muscle atrophy and a long list of additional symptoms. Untreated patients usually die in a few years. The doctor then looked at Seth’s file and a picture in his chart from four or five years earlier. Then he looked at Seth and said, “Oh my, maybe you do.” Tests revealed Seth had a tumor on his pituitary gland at the base of his brain. Surgery at the Mayo Clinic removed the tumor, but the doctors said he had to go through withdrawal from the high levels of cortisol, which they warned was more difficult than coming off drugs or alcohol.

Fast forward three years and Seth has completely recovered, is a second year PhD candidate in chemistry at Notre Dame, and has regained his personality, good looks and athletic body.  He also has a wide circle of friends, including a charming young lady and he is shopping for a ring for her!

A gift of healing from God? Oh yes, but God was involved from the very start, that blood test was never ordered by the doctor! It was not a test normally given and the doctor told Seth he did not order it and had no idea why it was done.

Prayer:  Thank you God for this new day.  We thank you for the people you put in our paths to be our guides.  To help us in our times of greatest need.  To direct us when we are lost.  To give us hope.  Amen.

Discussion/Reflection Questions: 

  1. Have you ever had a time when a friend or family member came alongside you in a time of great need?  
  2. Our lives have peaks and valleys, where are you right now?  What got you to the peak or how did you come to be in the valley?  
  3. We can praise God in the peaks and valley, spend some time today thinking about Jesus, our hope.  How might you praise God today? 
Advent 2021

Witness: Monday, November 29, 2021

Monday, November 29, 2021

Witness: Barbie Strome

Scripture: Proverbs 3:5-6Isaiah 61:1-3

Weekly Theme: Hope

Six years ago I was a different person.  My life was centered—but mostly around me: my wants, my whims, and my desires.

Then my husband of forty years, Steve, became very ill.  He went into a very deep dark place.  I lost my rock.  Over the next six months, he needed to be hospitalized three times, each time worse than the previous.

Jesus stepped in.  He took my hand and held my heart.  Others appeared with open arms and gifts of love and grace.  Jesus began to lift me up and gave me strength to carry on and people who shared my burden during this part of my earthly journey.

Jesus also carried and cared for Steve.  The healing process was not in my hands, nor in the hands of the doctors’, but in God’s.  Slowly his darkness began to lighten.  His doctors began to find the right combination of medicines, and Steve’s outlook began to improve.

The Holy Spirit living in each of us provides continuing guidance in our lives, if we listen.  I’m more aware of my surroundings—the beauty of our flowers, the songs of birds, the evening stars, and the morning sunrises. Giving thanks to God makes me smile.  I am truly blessed.

I’m a different person now.  I found my true Rock.   I’ve been reborn into someone who gives rather than takes, acts rather than waits, tries to show kindness to all, and loves, loves, loves God.

Daily Prayer:  Dear God, You have brought us to the beginning of a new day.  We ask you to renew our hearts with your strength and purpose.  Forgive our errors of yesterday and help us to walk closer in your way today.  Shine through us so that every person we meet may feel your presence in our souls.  Take our hand, for we cannot make it by ourselves.  We love you!

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Where do you turn in times of need?
  2. Is there someone in need of your kindness and love?
  3. Do you have a story to share of God’s grace in your life that would help others?

Advent 2021

Witness: Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Witness: Kristyne Young

Text: Zephaniah 3:14-17

Weekly Theme: Hope

It’s Christmas!  Well, actually it is not!  It’s Advent!  Each year it seems like Christmas creeps further and further into November and even October.  Not only does Christmas creep into Thanksgiving but it also creeps into Advent.  This year the Christmas creep has been particularly bad because of worries about shipping delays and scarcity.  We will get back to that in a moment.  However, I want to say a bit more about Advent.  Advent is the season of the Church year where we have the opportunity to prepare for, not just the birth of the baby Jesus, but also to prepare for and long for Christ to come again.  During this time we both remember that Jesus came once before, as the little baby in the manger, the baby who grew to be the man, both fully human and fully divine who died for us.  Who died, but then in three days rose from the dead, conquering death and changing everything.  We get to – and should – spend Advent looking both forward and backward.  We look forward to a time when, as Zephaniah says, “..the Lord himself, the King of Israel will live among you!  At last your troubles will be over, and you will never again fear disaster.”  The day is coming when Jesus will return.  Because we know this, let us make this Advent a time when we prepare our hearts and minds to accept Jesus, both the baby from long ago and the Jesus that will come again.  That is Advent!

Christmas, on the other hand, is the season that lasts from sundown on December 24 through Epiphany on January 6.  This series of days is sometimes called the 12 Days of Christmas!  This year we decided to extend our devotional through Christmas all the way to Epiphany.  We hope you enjoy these extra days of reading and celebrating Christmas!  

Now, back to the creeping of Christmas and shipping delays and scarcity.  It is easy to get caught up in all of this stuff.  And stuff is what it is!  We worship a God who is enough.  Many of you know that more than a few years ago now, my family gave up giving a lot of presents at Christmas and moved to the four gifts… something you need, something you want, something to wear and something educational.  This changed the lives of our family & helped us all to remember that the Advent and Christmas season is about much more than giving gifts to each other.  Removing the focus from gift giving allowed us to focus on Jesus.  Allowed us to focus on relationships over possessions.  Allowed us to slow down and enjoy each moment.  Allowed us to see that God was enough and we did not need everything the world told us we needed.  My prayer for all of us this season is that we can slow down, take time with those we love, see those who are in need and spend time with our creator.  

Daily Prayer:  Gracious God, be with us this season.  Allow us to hear the message you have provided for each of us.  Open our ears to hear and our eyes to see.  Amen.  

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. What are you longing for this Advent Season?  
  2. What is a Christmas tradition that you could possibly move out of the Advent Season and into the 12 Days of Christmas?  
  3. Do you have a friend you could share this devotional study with?  Send them an email today and ask if you can forward them the devotions each day during Advent.