Advent 2021

Witness: Monday, December 27, 2021

Monday, December 27, 2021

Witness: Robert (Bob) Jorden

Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Weekly Theme:  Proclaim

During this Christmas season, we often think about what gifts we can get our family, but we don’t often think about giving spiritual gifts, as well as tangible gifts. It is a rare occasion that you can give both. My devotional story starts here. 

 My wife and I were shopping at Best Buy, and we saw a Christian Bookstore on the other side of the parking lot that we had never been in. God moved us to stop in and look around. The store was empty when we went in except for the clerk, myself, my wife, and a young woman behind the bookshelves crying. I asked the sales clerk why she was crying; she said the woman came in to buy a Bible but didn’t have enough money to get one (even the cheapest one). God moved me to help her, and I told the clerk to pick out whatever Bible she wanted, and I would buy it for her. The woman stopped crying while we finished the transaction. Then, when we were finished, she turned to thank me and started crying again. She said she was crying because she was so happy. I told her that owning a Bible is the easy part; the hard part is reading it daily and pondering what it says. She said she would read it in its entirety. She left the store and went to her car. When we left, a few minutes later, we saw her in the front seat of her vehicle, hands-up praying. 

As a new Christian, she felt good because she had God’s word to help her get through her day. I felt good because I had introduced a believer to God’s word for a small amount of money. 

I believe that God had put me in that place at precisely that time.

Daily Prayer:  Lord, let us not grow weary in doing good, for we will reap the rewards in due season. So then, when we have an opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of believers.

Discussion/Reflection Questions: 

  1. How often do you see a need and fill a need?
  2. Are you open to hearing when God calls us to act; do we jump right on it, or do we wait until another time?
  3. How often are you called to do something big, but you have trouble stepping out in faith that God will provide?
  4. Do you pray for opportunities to be used by God to glorify him?
Advent 2021

Witness: Sunday, December 26, 2021

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Witness: Jan McCoy

Scripture: 1 Chronicles 28:20

Weekly Theme:  Proclaim

In May of 2020, before Covid, Pastor Loida asked me if I would consider developing a respite program at Lake Deaton UMC for people with early dementia. She gave me resources and contact information for a model program in Montgomery, AL. In my professional experience as a Nurse Executive, I developed numerous programs, which sounded interesting and challenging…..little did I know what impact this program would have on me, our volunteers, the participants and their caregivers, and countless others in the community.

The “Sonrise” Respite program opened at LDUMC on March 1, 2021, and it has become a weekly encounter with Jesus for everyone. There have been so many “God-incidences” that have occurred, and we know without a doubt that Jesus is with us every Monday. He is there in every participant and caregiver who walk through the door with a hug and a smile on their face. Each person brings a unique personality, individual needs, and barriers based on their medical diagnosis, and the bond created with them is genuine and fulfilling. Jesus is alive in the volunteers who share their time, gifts, and talents throughout the day and in the camaraderie and love shared among the ‘family.’ Jesus has also provided for our every need through the gifts and donations from people who have learned about a necessity. Often within days, that need has been met.

My personal “intersection with Jesus” is in the humble gratitude and appreciation and love that now defines who I am and the impact this program has had on me and so many others. We thank God every day for the opportunity He has given us to serve Him in a powerful way that we could never have imagined.

Daily Prayer:  Father God, thank you for always being an active participant in our lives. Please help us see you in our actions, activities, and others with whom we interact every day. Please help us find our life’s purpose, which you have laid out for us and prepared us to fulfill. Thank you for bringing us opportunities to do your will while helping to meet the needs of others. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Can you identify a time in your life when God presented an opportunity that was unexpected and perhaps intimidating? Still, you accepted the challenge and found God’s presence in the experience?
  2. Do you look for Jesus in your everyday activities and interactions with others?
  3. Is there anything you feel God is calling you to do right now….at home? At church? In the community?
Advent 2021

Witness: Saturday, December 25, 2021

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Witness: Connie Dooley

Scripture: 1 Peter 2:9 and John 1:9-18

Christmas Day

When the Covid pandemic started in March 2020, I was not prepared for the ministry God had for me during that time.  I am a people person and being isolated from my family, friends, and Church family was not on my agenda.  Daily going to church, where I worked, was getting quite lonely.  I was whining to God one day and asking him what I would do.  Well, I didn’t have to say it twice because God had a ministry well on its way for me.  

God supplied me with scriptures and encouraging words to share with over 200 of my friends and family.  I sent out e-mails, texts and made phone calls.  Being so shy (not), this was a thrilling charge.  Every day I would get answers back, letting me know that what God had given me to send was precisely what they needed to hear to encourage them to move forward.  Many recipients sent the mini devotions on to their friends and families.  One of my nieces remarked, “Aunt Connie, you are the only one who cares about our spiritual well-being.”  I let her know I was going about God’s ministry to reach the lost and bring healing and encouragement to all.  

When I received concerns and prayer requests, I would lay them on the altar and pray for God’s intervention.

I didn’t always know what to do, but God always took over where I lacked as I laid the notes out.  When I got the news that God had answered prayers, I took them to the altar and prayed and thanked God for his mercy, kindness, and healing touch. 

I was amazed and honored that God could equip and still use this mature senior citizen to accomplish his work through all this time.  He was always faithful to supplying me with his words to help others.  All I had to do was open my mouth, use my fingers, and pray.  He did all the rest.

Daily Prayer:  Dear Lord, thank you for allowing us to be the vessels to do your work.  Please help us keep your will and work fresh in our lives to reach others for you.  Use us to accomplish the work you have for us and give us the courage to speak your word.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you ever been in a situation where you could not visualize what God wanted you to do?
  2. Does your self-pity party keep you from reaching others for Christ?
  3. Do you let go and let God do His work through you?
Advent 2021

Witness: Friday, December 24, 2021

Friday, December 24, 2021

Witness: Joanne Lord

Scripture: Proverbs 3:5 and Luke 2:1-7

Christmas Eve

Linda & I went through many life moments together. Our kids were the same age, and after we met on their 1st day of kindergarten, we became terrific friends. Together, we were Girl Scout troop leaders; we enjoyed many pool parties, holidays, and lots of girls’ nights out.  

We did almost everything together…but churchy stuff.  I was a basic church attender, and she was a disgruntled Christian.  

One night, everything changed. Linda was a strong individual, and she could generally figure everything out.  That night, as we sat on my back porch, she was so distraught. She felt helpless – her niece had been arrested and was charged with jewelry theft, and she lived five hours away.  

Linda was like a mother to this young 18-year-old, and she had tried ‘everything’ during the last several days to help her, but nothing worked.

As we sat there out on my porch – I felt like my thoughts and words were hijacked! Jesus was RIGHT THERE; I know it! 

Surprisingly, I asked her if we could ask God to help together.  In desperation, she said yes!   This was a HUGE moment.

I had her cup her hands, and I asked her to place her niece in her palms; I then asked her to physically lift her hands in the air and give this one up to God.  Why not? 

blur close up flower hands
Photo by Pixabay on

The next day a miracle happened.  Linda was contacted by a Public Defender, who announced that he was assigned to represent her niece. His name was THE SAME as Linda’s uncle – the exact first and last name.  It was also Linda’s maiden name!  

Linda was in shock – her uncle had ALWAYS been her favorite uncle, and he was always there for Linda when she was growing up. She said that while talking to this stranger who was now preparing to help her niece, she immediately had a sense of calm and truly felt that God’s hand was on this predicament.  The Public Defender assured Linda that he would assist her niece in any way he could.  

Long story, short…. within two days, all charges were dropped!  Her niece was cleared! 

Linda and I both changed that day. The door to talk more about God and His miracles was opened – for both of us. Any time after that, if either of us were stumped about anything, we would giggle and lift our hands to God!  

Throughout the years, we did a few Bible studies together, we talked about Bible verses related to ‘our’ miracle, and because of GOD, our relationship grew stronger. 

On this Christmas Eve, it is important to relive our miracles like this again and again. It will help solidify and remind us that God is always with us, not just during Advent or during Christmas. He’s always ready to help…. all we have to do is ask!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding.

                                                            Proverbs 3:5

Discussion/Refection Questions:

  1. Have there been any miracles in your life that you can recall? Take time to relive them and share them with others as Miracle Testimonies.
  2. When was the last time you honestly asked God to solve a BIG issue in your life?  Did you actually LET IT GO, and truly TRUSTED God to work your miracle? 
  3. Believing in God and believing God is similar…. but vastly different.  Take the time to let that sink in. The Bible speaks truths about God that we read, but do we REALLY ‘believe’ God is in control??
Advent 2021

Witness: Thursday, December 23, 2021

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Witness: Peter Popko

Scripture: Acts 20:24

Weekly Theme: Love

“No be worry”

As a young teenager, one of my great joys was fishing with my grandfather, Simon.  He was a skilled fisherman who could position his hand-tied fly just under the overhanging tree limb with a long fluid swing of his fly rod.  He also took me ice fishing on nearby ponds.  We used a long-handled, homemade chisel to chop through the ice and employed his hand-made jigs to catch fish.

One time ice fishing, I decided to try another spot a few hundred yards from where we were having no luck.  I walked along using the chisel as a walking stick.  As I took a step and planted the chisel head on the ice, it suddenly broke through, and the chisel slipped from my gloved hand. I stood there in total disbelief; my grandfather’s chisel that he had handmade and ground the edge to sharpness was gone. I was devastated.  How could I even tell him what had happened?

I eventually walked slowly back to where my grandfather was still fishing.  I felt so bad inside, but I told him what had happened.  He had every right to yell at the stupid, careless teenager in front of him but instead, he just said in his broken English, “No be worry.”

It was years later that I understood how and why my grandfather showed me such grace.  It had a lot to do with his life experiences.  As a young man living with his wife and only son in eastern Poland, he had been “enlisted” by the Russian Army to fight in the Russo-Japanese War around 1905.  He was trained to ride horses and be part of an artillery troop.  He was transported across Asia to join the deadly fight when the war ended in a peace agreement.  He returned to Poland and was released from the army.  His next bold move was to leave his wife and son behind and travel to the United States to start a new life.  Once established in the states, he sent for his wife and son.  They added four daughters to the family, including my Mom.  Simon owned a butcher shop but lost it during the Great Depression because he was too generous in giving credit to his customers. Throughout all, he instilled a great love for the Lord in his family.

So what I came to realize is that my grandfather’s grace toward me came from a man who had survived great peril and had taken risks, all for the love of his family.  So when he said to me, “No be worry“, he was really saying I put my love for you, my grandson, above the chisel that was lost accidentally.

Isn’t that what our Lord says to us time and time again?  He loves us unconditionally; nothing we say or do could ever separate us from His love.

Daily Prayer:  May we exhibit the same type of grace you show us to those around us.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Has anyone ever shown you God-like grace? How did you feel?
  2. Have you ever shown God-like grace to someone? How did you feel?
Advent 2021

Witness: Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Witness: Kristine Gray

Scripture: Philippians 4:13

Weekly Theme: Love

In 2007, my mother was 83 years old.  She and her husband lived in a small suburb about 50 miles west of Chicago and 65 miles from where my husband and I lived in Lombard, Illinois.  I never thought of a time when Mom’s husband could pass away, and she would be alone.  They had been married 34 years, and I thought their life together was okay.

Mom’s husband suffered a massive stroke and died shortly after.  Now, what to do.  I found out their financial situation was a mess, and there was virtually no money except for a small monthly Social Security check for Mom to live on.

I prayed that Christ Jesus would be with me and help me figure this all out and find a place for her to live that would be closer to me and be somehow affordable.  I worried a lot.  I had to get her finances taken care of and sell her mobile home quickly.

I worked hard and continued to pray daily.  Little by little, my prayers were answered.  I found a low-income apartment, which was nice and only 6 miles from me.  She lived there for nine years until she needed some help and moved to an assisted living facility.  Three years later, she required skilled nursing care, and she is still living there at age 97.  What a blessing!   She often wonders why she is still here, and I genuinely think it’s part of God’s plan.  Each birthday is a gift.

In each of these stages for Mom, I have prayed, asking Jesus to continue to give her quality life in her remaining time on earth.  God has answered my prayers, and I continue to be so very grateful.

Daily Prayer: Lord God, we thank you and praise you for the wondrous gift of your love for us.  Keep us faithful and help us to live according to your will.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.  

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you ever been in a situation when trying to help your elderly parents, and somehow things do not seem to be working out?
  2. How do you handle worry?
  3. How do you handle a situation that seems hopeless?

Advent 2021

Witness: Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Witness: Loida Divine

Scripture: Matthew 25:37

Weekly Theme: Love

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?” 

About eight years ago, we lived in Miami, Florida. It was there that I had an opportunity to serve a ministry for the homeless. Because Miami is warm year-round, there is a large homeless population. At First United Methodist Church in downtown Miami, there is a ministry that serves food for the homeless. The day before we served the food, several of us got together, prepared the items, and put them in brown bags. The bags contained apple sauce, juice, canned sausages, etc. During the distribution, I observed that homelessness has no boundaries regarding race, gender, or age. Some folks had mental issues or health issues. Others looked well but were obviously going through a rough patch in their lives. One person caught my attention: a young lady came in who looked strong and healthy. She was tall with long hair and had a European accent. She came close to me and told me that she was hungry and had not eaten for a day or two. She was well dressed but carried a suitcase as if she had no place to live. After I gave her the food bag, she was so thankful and repeated that several times. As we had been instructed, I invited her to come back every morning as we served breakfast every day. I also gave her information on the different shelters in town. I did not see that young lady again, but I prayed for her and others like her, somewhat lost in our fast-paced world. 

It is humbling to see a large group of people gathered that are homeless. In the area where I now live, I rarely see homeless people, but it does not mean that they do not exist. When I travel to other cities, I often see the signs of people living in tents, under bridges, or in temporary shelters. You think this should not happen in a country like ours, but it does happen. Regardless of the circumstances of how they got to where they are, our responsibility is to help, offering a meal, a toothbrush, a bar of soap, or however we can help. I experienced true joy when I served others. 

I believe that around our neighborhoods, we might have spiritually hungry people and in deep spiritual need; we just don’t see them out on the streets. Yet, God will still demand from us an answer to what we have done to help those in need around us. God has blessed us to be a blessing to those around us. 

Daily Prayer: “Lord God, today I thank you for all the blessings you have given me. I pray that I might have a generous heart, ready to help those around me that are in need. Amen!”

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you ever recall a time that someone helped you when you were in need?
  2. If you had to identify those in need around you, who would be on the list?
  3. Today, find a way to do one act of helping those in need – such as bringing food for the Wildwood Food pantry or writing a card for someone who needs a word of encouragement.
Advent 2021

Witness: Monday, December 20, 2021

Monday, December 20, 2021

Witness: Connie Manchester

Scripture: Philippians 2:4

Weekly Theme: Love

Years ago, while preparing to make a military move with my husband, our first one with a baby, I ran an errand in a town outside the base where we lived in Georgia.  As I brought our two-month-old out of the car, a woman called and waved to me from a window above the street.  She had a baby too and had just moved to the area!  After a quick exchange of baby facts, I explained that we were getting transferred, the area was nice, and I hoped she liked it.

While I ran my errand, she stayed on my mind.  She was so excited to see another young mother and was reaching out to find a friend.  But I can’t be the new local friend she needs.  We are days away from moving.  Still, I felt compelled to go back and make a connection.  Perhaps I could share some information about the area.  

So after my errand, I went into the building, guessed which apartment door hers was, and knocked on it.  She was a military wife and a first-time mother alone in a new place, waiting for her husband’s transfer.   He was stationed in Virginia, not far from where we were headed.  So in a few days, we loaded a moving truck, added a car seat, and shared a ride in our hatchback and an unrestful hotel night with two traveling babies so that this military family could reunite.

Sometimes, when things seem to fall into place like that, I wonder if it is by design or coincidence.  Did that answer the prayer of a lonely new mother?  Was it my idea, or was I led to it?  At that time, before her greeting, I was absorbed with a baby and a move, so I am sure that I was not looking to help anyone.  

Other times I’ll set out to do a good deed thinking it is my idea, but with some uncertainty about it, then things will go so well that I will wonder again.   How do I know when I’m being led to it by God?  

Am I so absorbed in making lists and going about my busy life that I don’t hear well?  Maybe I’ll be able to tune in better if I learn to declutter my mind and space more often, to quiet down.   But meanwhile, I will continue to pay attention when I feel compelled to reach out, take a chance and make a connection, try to do something, and see what happens.  

Discussion/Reflection Questions:  

  1. Have you ever set about with uncertainty to help someone and came away surprised at how well it went? 
  2. How do you know if you are being led to something by God? 
  3. What helps you to quiet down and tune in better?
Advent 2021

Witness: Sunday, December 19, 2021

Double Feature Sunday, December 19, 2021

Weekly Theme: Love

Witness #1: Susan Yinger 

Scripture: Matthew 1:23

“The Virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

In 1989, as a wife and working mother of three, I was also a breast cancer patient.  At one point, I was receiving chemotherapy and radiation simultaneously.  It was challenging to balance my work, family, emotions, and health care and drive forty miles round trip daily to get to the treatment center.  Clinging to the scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), I also buoyed my spirit by listening to Christian music on the car cassette player.  Songs such as “We shall behold Him” and “The Lord is my strength and my Salvation” helped me to grow in faith and trust.  The Hymn “Great is thy faithfulness” was my favorite.  

One particular day, however, I was feeling tired and dejected.  I hoped that didn’t mean my faith was faltering.  Not only was I worried about having cancer, but there were also all sorts of other things going on that day: the car air conditioning stopped working on a sweltering south Florida day, I hadn’t slept well the night before, I had forgotten my lunch, and I realized I only had seventy-five cents in my purse, barely enough to use at the drive-through McDonalds! After a tedious radiation session, while on my way home, I made a sudden decision to pull into a grocery store in what was considered to be a dangerous area in Riviera Beach.  Little did I know I would find far more sustenance than just something to eat!!!!

First, a woman at the deli counter who seemed to radiate God’s love kindly assessed my situation and said that although sandwiches were $1.50, she would make me half a sandwich for seventy-five cents.  While she heaped extra contents into my “half” sandwich, the store’s Mu-Zak loudspeaker began playing “Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see….” Suddenly, at a random Winn Dixie in a “bad” part of town, I felt like I was standing on Holy Ground.  God sought me out and spoke directly to me just when I needed Him most.  I was reassured of His presence and His love.

The song’s final words, “all that I needed thy hand hath provided,” were still going through my head as I, with restored faith and trust, greeted my children joyfully just as they hopped off the school bus.

Daily Prayer: Father God, thank you for being God with us – Immanuel.  Thank you for Jesus our Savior and for the comfort of the Holy Spirit.  Thank you for pulling us back into your fold when we falter.  Amen.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you experienced “God with you”?
  2. Have you ever sensed that times of difficulty led you to greater spiritual growth and faith?
  3. Do you think it would be helpful to others to share your stories?  

Witness #2: Marilyn Booth

Scripture: Luke 6:38

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

As my dad was weakening from cancer, he became bedridden.  Our family resolved to take care of him at home, which is not an easy task.  It took my sister, nephew, two hired caregivers, and me to pull this off.  We took such great care that he outlived his doctor’s expected timeline and almost used up the entire year of Hospice care.  During this time, Daddy told us many stories of his childhood and shared so many memories.  One that sticks out in my mind was the story of Christmas when he was about eleven.  His family consisted of my Granddaddy and Nanny, my dad, his older sister, and twin younger brothers.  My granddad has gotten sick.  I don’t know all the illness details – I remember my mom saying he had a nervous breakdown, but Grandaddy could not run his barbershop in Leesburg.  He had done well and had the family home and a rental property.  He often didn’t collect the rent on the rental because the family couldn’t afford it.  My Nanny began selling her valuables to make ends meet and called my dad and his sister, Dorothy, in for a serious talk just before Christmas.  She told them not to expect anything since there was no money coming in and Granddaddy couldn’t work.  She told them to make the best of the situation, promised that they would have food, and help the twins understand.  The kids were all disappointed that they wouldn’t get any candy or a toy of some kind, but as my dad said, that’s just how it was.

 On Christmas Eve, after dark, Daddy told me they heard a noise on the porch and went out to see what it was.  On the porch were several wooden boxes containing a ham, fruits and vegetables, pies, and a fruit cake.  Another box had new clothing for the kids and a toy for each of them.  Knowing the hardship they were going through, their neighbors had banded together, and all had contributed to this Christmas gift for the entire family.  At the age of 90, my Dad was still so touched by this act of generosity and caring.  I often saw him give to others the same way.   I like to think that this molded him into the generous man he was.

Daily Prayer:  Lord, help us to see the needs of others every day, not just at special times of the year.  Thank you, our Savior, for giving us the most generous gift of all.  Amen.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. How observant are we to our neighbor’s struggles?
  2. How can we as a community of believers live out the generosity of Christ?
  3. How can we make our Holidays more meaningful in this world of excess?
Advent 2021

Witness: Saturday, December 18, 2021

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Witness: Doris Ruiter

Scripture: Proverbs: 3:5-6Zechariah 9:9-10

Weekly Theme: Joy

I was born and raised in a small Dutch community on the south side of Chicago.  Namely South Holland, Illinois.  This small town was rich in community celebrations.  There were parades, there were outdoor concerts, and there were bands… lots of bands.

When I was seven years old, I told my parents I wanted to play in a  band.  I really… really loved the band.  I had chosen the flute as my instrument of choice.  My enthusiasm for becoming a band member was soon squelched when I was told there was just no money to buy a flute. However, my Mom could teach me how to play the piano.

What does a seven-year-old know about money?  All I knew was that I wanted a flute.  So one day, I brought home that shiny flute from school. After all, the band leader told me it was free.  The flute remained in my house for one night, and I was again told that it had to go back because it wasn’t really free.

My Mom eventually began to teach me how to play the piano, but my heart was just not in it.  After a few years of seeing there would be no flute or band membership in my future,  I became serious about learning to play the piano.  Over time, I progressed to the organ, and my church organist career began.

Over 50 years, I’ve played the organ in many churches.  I’ve played for traditional services.  I’ve played for weddings.  I’ve played for funerals, and I’ve played for relaxation and my enjoyment.

In 2018 we moved to The Villages full time, and I was determined to retire from playing the church organ.  I was officially RETIRED!!

Dan and I attended the Lake Deaton Campus of New Covenant Church at the Eisenhower Rec Center, and I enjoyed hearing the praise band.  I was a great listener and an enthusiastic church musician retiree.

Fast Forward to COVID- 2020.  The praise band was changing, and there was a need for new members.  So I met with David, our then worship leader.  David and I agreed that I would play 2 Sundays a month.  But little did I know David needed a keyboardist, not a pianist or an organist.  BUT LORD, I’ve never played the keyboard before.

It’s over 60 years since that little girl so desperately wanted to play in a band. WELL… GUESS WHAT… I’m in a band and love every minute of it.  

Daily Prayer:  Lord, give us the patience to wait for your direction in our lives.  Please lead us to that spot where you need us to witness in your name.  And give us the tools to complete the task.  Amen

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you pray for daily direction from the Lord?
  2. Are you patiently waiting for an answer to your prayers, or are you taking matters into your own hands?
  3. What opportunity is out there for you to volunteer and witness?