Trinity Presbyterian Church
2015 Advent Devotionals
Sharing the faith at Advent
By members and friends
Trinity Presbyterian Church
TRINITY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH ADVENT DEVOTIONAL BOOKLET 2015
I Peter 1:21. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And because God raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory, your faith and hope can be placed confidently in God. (NLT)
Since 2005 the Christian Education Committee has been providing the congregation with devotionals in preparation for the Advent Season. Over the years our writers have shared some truly inspirational stories. In the past we have had themes of JOY, HOPE, and GIFTS. Our theme this year is FAITH. Our focus on FAITH has provided an opportunity for our writers to share stories of finding faith, restoring faith, tested faith, faith through kindness and warmth, and a reminder that things happen in God’s time, so have faith.
We are grateful for the eight new writers who have joined us this year. All devotionals are original, reflecting the nature of our congregation and experiences they have had in faith. They are unique and cannot be found anywhere else.
Every year folks tell us they appreciate and are inspired by the many devotionals. Some people read all the way through the booklet, then return each day to reread daily entries. Morning or evening, shared out loud with family, or read silently we hope it brings inspiration to each and every one of you.
Norman Vincent Peale said in FAITH MAKES YOU STRONG, “We need to develop within ourselves indomitability, confidence, humility, tranquility and the calm faith that if we do the best we can about everything, believing in God and in ourselves and in life itself, we can live with power…..the amazing power of faith. Leave the outcome to God. However it works out, it will be all right.” We hope our Advent Devotional this year will help strengthen your faith.
Thanks to all the contributors (see names at the back of the booklet) who have shared their inspirational thoughts for this season as we prepare to welcome, once again, God’s gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.
For the Christian Education Committee.
November 29, 2015, 2 Corinthians 5:6-7
REMEMBER TO PREPARE
With the temperature a steamy 90 degrees, I was not prepared to see Christmas cards displayed not far from the Halloween decorations at Aimee’s Hallmark. It was September. As each week passed, more and more Christmas items filled the stores. By November, stores and businesses displayed their own Christmas holiday decorations. Christmas carols played in the background. The merchants message to buy, buy, buy was heard loud and clear. Super sales promised prices even lower than on Black Friday. Not even mentioned in all this rush to buy were the true reasons for the holiday. I reflected on a Sunday early in Advent in 2014 when the Trinity Chancel Choir sang “Prepare” by Joseph Martin. The anthem started with the basses chanting “Prepare ye the way. Prepare ye the way.” The altos joined in chanting, “Prepare ye the way. “The anthem continues with all voices reminding the congregation to prepare the way of the Lord. Prepare your mind and heart for this important event, the celebration of the birth of Christ.
This weekend, with Thanksgiving over, it is time at our house to replace decorations for that holiday with wonderful decorations we use year after year at Christmas. We have a large mirror that hangs over a cabinet in the dining room. Each year, I hang a beautiful angel in the center of the mirror. The angel has a ceramic face and hands. She has white wings made of real feathers. She holds a gold horn that she could use to announce the birth of Christ For years she would hang over the manger scene my family used when I was a child. Two years ago, when we traveled to Israel, we purchased a new manger scene. This one is hand carved out of olive wood. These two decorations are the center of our holiday decorations. They announce the beautiful story of the gift to mankind of baby Jesus, Son of God. This story is not just another story. This story is one we Christians accept by faith. This story is the backbone of our faith.
As stated in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “We live by faith, not by sight” It is this faith that makes the difference in our belief in God. As stated in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” So, as we all prepare for the Christmas holiday, we must prepare and strengthen our faith in God, not just hang the decorations, trim the tree, address the cards, and wrap the gifts. The essence of the holiday, the truly wonderful gift we all want and seek, is this faith.
Heavenly Father, Help us to slow down and listen. Help us take the time to strengthen our faith so we may indeed prepare the way for the birth of our Lord, Jesus. Amen.
November 30, Psalm 45, 46, 89: Matt 25: 14-30
FAITH THROUGH BELIEF AND CONFIDENCE
Faith is defined in the dictionary as “believing without proof, trust, and confidence.”
I believe that faith is better defined in the people around us, proving their faith with generosity and love.
When my beloved husband Robert and I were going through the horrible two year battle with his cancer, God’s love was shown through all the kindnesses extended to us. Someone asked me how I survived this terrible time and didn’t it test my faith to see my best friend and soul mate suffer so.
Well, yes, it DID test my faith-but in the testing, my faith grew and sustained me throughout the ordeal. Friends and neighbors, some whom we’d only known a short time, brought meals for me since Robert couldn’t tolerate the smell of food; sat with Robert so I could get errands run; taped cash to our door to pay for gas for the frequent trips to Orlando; doggie-sat; paid for several days at Hubbard House, a facility for patients at MD Anderson; did yard work; pro vided gift cards and airline tickets for family members; and prayed for us continuously.
Our Pastors Ron, Don, & Sheryl were there for us, too. Truly, all these dear people were God’s hands in our battle, and I believe Robert’s grace in suffering may have increased the faith of others as it did mine. I BELIEVE and have CONFIDENCE that Robert is at home with our Lord and that he was helped along his journey by the faith and loving hands of those around us. Especially during Advent season, I am reminded of all my blessings, especially the greatest gift of all, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Father in Heaven, what gratitude we feel for all those loving and kind people you surround us with during such times of stress and sadness. Help us to remember to be those people sharing your love for others in their times of need. Amen.
December 1 Hebrews 11:1
HERE I AM LORD
One of my favorite church hymns is “Here I am Lord.” I was taught this song in the Trinity Choir when I was a youth. This is a song that has stayed with me throughout my entire life. “Here I am Lord; Is it I Lord; I have heard you calling in the night; I will go Lord if you lead me.” These words have brought me through many tough situations and many times have be come a prayer that I sing myself to sleep with.
About a year ago, I was feeling very restless. My children were growing up quickly; not so much “babies” anymore; they were becoming independent. My part time job at our family’s pest control business was, well, a job. One Sunday in church, the topic of the Youth Coordinator search came up. I felt a pulling at that time. Could I do this? No, I told myself. I don’t have any background or training in this area. No way. As the week went on, I began to think more and more about it. I started singing my prayer, Is it I Lord? Am I really hearing you call me? Was I making this feeling up? I made a promise to God. I would begin the process of applying and, at any time, if he didn’t want me to continue, I would stop. I would go where God was leading me.
In the beginning of December, I was standing on the TLC playground after church one Sunday, watching the kids and enjoying the beautiful weather. Jason Wheeler came running toward me with his choir robe flowing, “The job is yours if you want it,” he breathlessly said. Tears immediately overcame me. I couldn’t speak for a minute because I was thanking God, “This is it, and this is where you want me”. As the tears were streaming down my face, Jason said, “Now don’t screw this up.” Tears turned to laughter as I hugged him.
Now here we are a year later, and I could not be happier. Every day I thank God for this great blessing and every day I raise my hands to heaven and ask for guidance, use me Lord.
This to me is what faith is all about. Closing your eyes, raising your hands to the heavens and saying, here I am Lord, I am yours to use.
Prayer: May today there be peace within me. Help me to trust you, God that I am exactly where I am meant to be. Help me to remember the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. Help me to use the gifts you have given me and help me to pass on the love that you have given to me. Let me be content knowing that I am a child of God. Your Spirit is alive and well within me. In your name I pray. Amen
FAITH IS EASY AT CHRISTMAS
Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
The coming of Christmas brings with it reminders of our faith ,.., decorated Christmas trees, poinsettias decorating our homes and the sanctuaries of our churches, Christmas carols sung in cars and malls and on doorsteps as well as in houses of faith.
The fir tree signifies peace and immortality with its top pointing upward, indicating heaven, the dwelling place of God. The lights with which we decorate are symbols of the light that Jesus brought to the world with His birth.
The poinsettia is sometimes referred to as the star of Bethlehem and they are known as the “Flowers of the Holy Night”. The red leaf reminds us of Christ’s blood and the white, His purity.
The carols we sing during church services but also share with those who are hospitalized or shut-in, tell the story of Christmas. We carry them with us throughout the Advent season.
We have these reminders with us throughout the Advent season, and our faith flourishes. But what happens when the music ends, the tree is packed away, and the poinsettia leaves the house (one way or the other). Does our faith go with them? Or does it become, in the words of Paul, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, please allow the faith of Christmas to live in my heart throughout the year. Amen
December 3, 2015, 2 Peter: 1-10, Luke 21: 25-36
Sure, I’ve Got Faith — But on Glass??
Quite a few years ago, while still living in western New York State, we made one of our fairly frequent trips around the end of Lake Ontario to Toronto. This time we decided to take the long elevator ride to the observation tower on the spectacular 1,815 foot tall CN Tower. The observation platform is at 1,122 feet, and gives wide views of the city of Toronto and Lake Ontario (we looked in vain for our house on the opposite shore). A breathtaking feature of the platform is a 256 square foot glass floor; yes, a glass floor that you can walk on; a glass floor that you can walk on 1,122 feet above the ground and look between your toes at all those ant-like humans below.
“So, Del, do you have faith that that sheet of glass can hold you?”
“Of course I do; just look at all those other people on it”
“And do you have faith in the engineers who designed this remarkable structure?”
“So are you going to step out on it now?”
“Not a chance!”
And I didn’t Somehow I knew that if I so much as put one foot on that glass that it would shatter and I and all those other people would go hurtling down 1,122 feet to the ground below. So much for my faith!
In the same way it’s pretty easy to affirm our faith while sitting comfortably in church, or while praying quietly at home. But when we need to take action, and step out on faith? Like stepping out onto a glass floor? I think (and hope) that my Christian faith is strong. But have I ever been in a
spot where my faith, that is, my trust in God’s leading, has been truly tested, in the way that some Christians’ faith has been? I think that the only way our faith is strengthened is by exercising it, as when we exercise our muscles. We do this each Sunday in church; each day as we read our Bibles and pray; each day as we meet life’s encounters. Special seasons, such as the Advent season in which we now find ourselves, give further opportunity to strengthen the faith muscle so when we are called upon to step up or step out, we’ll have the faith-strength to do it.
Prayer: Father, sometimes our faith in glass floors fails, and our fears win; let
our faith in You never fail, and may our faith overcome our fears.
December 4, Amos 5: 1-17, Matthew 22: 1-14
MY PURPOSE IN LIFE
One of my favorite plays is Grace and Glory. It is about a back-woods woman, Grace, facing death and questioning her faith. She has outlived most of her family and in her words, “Ain’t left my mark on much o’nothin’ .” She asks herself, “What’s my life been for?”
Maybe I like this play because I often ask myself the same question. What is my life for? What purpose do I have? I’m not rich or famous. I haven’t made huge contributions to the world of medicine, finance, politics, or even the arts. I haven’t even made my mark in the community! So why am I here? Have I missed my calling and wasted my life?
While thinking about a sweater she has knitted, Grace finally realizes that her life has had meaning. She sees that, no matter how small, each stitch is important because if one stitch breaks the whole sweater falls apart. Her role may be as little as being there to hold on to what came before her and what comes after. She decides, “If that’s all I was put here to do, it’s still a mighty important thing. And it makes me a mighty important person .”
So maybe it’s as simple as that — or as difficult! Maybe we are here to pass on our faith and our love of Jesus Christ. Each time we speak or act we have the ability to display Christ’s message to the world. Are we spreading kindness? Are we helping others? If we are, then maybe that is our mission in life. Maybe that is our purpose. I may not know what my life’s been for but I have faith that God has put me here for a reason.
Prayer: Dear God, please help me know what I have been put here to do. Let me find my purpose, and even if it is only to pass on my love for you, the power of prayer, and of life everlasting, then help me realize that that is also a pretty important mission. Help me show the world my faith by my words and actions. Amen
Luke12:27-28 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you of little faith! (Jesus)
We each have obligations; family, occupation, church, etc. We don’t begrudge these debts. It is the price we pay for our lives and many are of our own choosing. Many, if not repaid, will incur even larger costs. Some will say debts are a part of life. True.
What of our debt to Jesus? What a sacrifice he made for our insignificant beings! We take Him for granted and it seems only call on Him for help when we are in trouble, or afraid, or ill. Some people pray and are angry with God when their prayers are not answered immediately -like today! Instead, we must pray every day of our lives and be grateful for every day of our lives! It is a gift which many of us do not deserve and yet expect. God is always there waiting for us to put aside things which cloud His presence. He waits for us to let Him in. Are you going to keep Him out?
Prayer: “My faith looks up to thee, …..Savior De vine…Oh let me from this day be wholly thine”. Amen (Ray Palmer, hymn writer and pastor)
December 6, The Peterson Bible
A FAITHFUL EXPERIMENT
As one with responsibility to teach a graduate course in research design, I often shared the story of a commuter who rode the train from his home north of Chicago into the city. He frequently noticed another individual who always sat by an open window with the most peculiar behavior. For miles, this person would tear small pieces from his paper and throw them out of the window.
After observing this for several weeks, his curiosity overcame him, and he approached the individual.
“Excuse me” he said. “I have been watching you spread small pieces of paper along the railroad tracks for several weeks now. Exactly why are you doing this?”
The individual explained: “Why? It keeps the elephants off the tracks!”
“But there have not been any elephants on the tracks!” the curious commuter replied.
“You see how well it works!” he answered confidently.
It is not possible, of course, to prove an experiment worked when the “outcome” has never happened before. The Chicago area is not known for elephants along the commuter lines.
Christ is the experiment which had never happened before. He was born. He grew to maturity. He spread a message that revolutionized religious thought that persists today. He would seem to be, in this experiment, the elephant on the tracks for the first, and only time in human history.
Prayer: Our gracious father, may we accept the miracle of Jesus, and the message he delivers to all who believe. Amen
December 7 – Revelation 1:1-8; Matthew 22:23-33
MEMORIES THAT RENEW THE FAITH
Dec. 7…a day that will live, etc., etc… Although that event took place before I was born, I’m sure my grandmothers Pearl and Pauline felt a great deal of concern. One son was at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, the other at West Point. Both boys graduated in time to serve and both survived WWII.
Fast forward to 1954. My dad was stationed in Korea and we had moved to my mother’s hometown . My grandmother gave me my mother’s Bi-Lo baby doll (with a cloth body and china head) and I loved her to pieces. The doll was life-sized; I named her “Karen” and treated her like the real thing.
One day when we were visiting at my grandparents’ house, I decided to let my doll “sleep-over at grandmas”. As we prepared to leave, my great-grandmother forced the doll into my already too full arms. Of course, the doll fell and her head shattered on the porch. I was inconsolable.
Imagine my surprise, when on Christmas morning, I looked under the tree and found “Karen” with a new plastic head! Apparently my mother had called around until she found someone who could make repairs to dolls. And, although the thought was there, the doll was never the same. The identical, but cheap replacement head eventually started to peal, and I had no qualms about parting with it several years later.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for love, and for those Christmas memories that DO renew our faith.
December 8: Rev.1:17, 2:7, Matt.23:1-12
FAITH: A DUAL MEANING
When asked to explain faith we can refer to Webster’s definition:”a strong, religious feeling and the existence of God”. But do we ever consider the secondary meaning, that being, “trust in your fellow man”. With the Advent Season upon us, I am reminded of a time nearly fifty years ago.
It was a cold, damp, Christmas morning in Viet Nam. Sitting on a pew made of sand bags in front of a cross made up of two 2 x 4’s, we received the Christmas message from the division chaplain. No organ, no choir, nor the expectation of eating the Christmas dinner being prepared in the mess tent, because immediately after the service, my patrol was scheduled to go out in the field. Our Christmas celebration would definitely be short-lived.
My patrol unit, consisting of twelve men, could not be more diverse. Christians, a Muslim, a Jew, even a Buddhist, but we had faith in each other to successfully and safely complete the mission we were assigned to do.
Upon returning to camp the next day, the sandbag pews had been removed to reinforce bunkers, the 2 x 4’s disassembled and put to another use and the aroma from the mess tent had already dissipated. The only sign of Christmas was the single strand of Christmas lights flashing on the headquarters tent! Christmas may have passed us by, but our faith in each other was made stronger.
It is this incident that reminds me of the dual meaning of “Faith”, and for that I give thanks.
Prayer: At Trinity we give thanks for the fellowship we experience as a family, and that His light continue to shine upon us and beyond. These things we pray, not just in Advent, but all year round. Amen.
Matthew 17:20 ” I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard see, you can say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
I shared this recently with my ladies in Miriam Circle, so they have to hear/read it again. Sorry, ladies, but it is an amazing story about our faith, God’s goodness and answered prayer.
This summer I had to place my dad in a nursing home. He is 91 years old, and was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My dad had been living alone for the past 6 years. For the 3 years he was visiting daily with “his honey” (Darlene). She lives in a nursing home and they became friends when he was visiting my mother (his first wife) where she lived also. Now, you have to understand how a daughter feels to find out that her 91 year old father has a girlfriend (he was married to my mother for 33 years, his second wife for 22 years and now has a girlfriend of three years). Okay, Dad. Well, there are no rooms available at the nursing home where his honey lives, so the social services personnel suggest placing him in their sister home temporarily until a room becomes available where his honey is. I was told there is one gentleman ahead of my dad on the waiting list.
Dad was admitted on Friday. He was not happy about not being where Darlene was and I assured him that I would do all I could to move him there just as soon as a room became available. At this point I should explain I worked in long term care for 12 years when I was a nurse in Ohio. I know how these things go. If there is one gentleman ahead of my dad, that meant that someone would have to expire or go home, then that gentleman ahead of my dad would move in and someone else would have to expire or go home before there would be an open room for Dad. Well, realistically this could take a day or two, or a couple of years.
Over the next few days I took Dad to the next town to the nursing home where Darlene was, so that they could visit. They are so cute. They hold hands, kiss and are really in love with each other. They just wanted to be together. I called my sister Kay, who lives here in Palm Coast and was with my sister Linda, in Ohio and the three of us prayed that a room would be available for Dad. My husband and I had been in Ohio for a family reunion and we were ready to come home. However, I felt strongly about getting Dad transferred to the same nursing home as Darlene.
That very Wednesday morning that my sisters and I agreed to pray for an opening our prayer was answered!! We could not believe it! As we were leaving the nursing home with Dad to take him to see Darlene, the social worker was walking toward us with a big smile on his face. “We have an opening!” he said. Amazing! Prayers earlier that same morning…God is so good. Just two days later he was down the hall from Darlene, both so very happy. Dad doesn’t really grasp all that had happened, all the prayers, and the thankfulness that my sisters and I experienced, but he doesn’t need to. Dad is happy and he deserves that.
Prayer: Heavenly Father you have shown us “The Lord is good; He has compassion on all he has made.” (Psalm 145:9) Thanks for answered prayers. Amen.
December 10, Hebrews 11:1
THE FAITH PUZZLE
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
This spring I moved into the main Las Palmas complex and I began to spend many hours putting together jig saw puzzles. I have become fascinated with the work to form the finished scene. Each piece must fit together perfectly. Sometimes it is so very difficult to find the right piece. When the pieces go together easily we feel like cheering. It is so much fun to find the right piece. I have been thinking this is somewhat like our lives.
Maybe “we” are that big beautiful puzzle, and just maybe God has given us this package of pieces to put together in order to make a beautiful scene for Him someday. Each year of our lives is part of our total picture. Does it all fit together to make our scene beautiful? I am hoping someday God will feel I have made a beautiful scene for Him.
Prayer: Dear gracious Lord: May we appreciate the beautiful scenes you have offered us. Help us to put together our lives that they may present something lovely to you someday. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our holy example.
I am writing this at the same time that Pope Francis is making his historic visit to the United States. He is a man whom I admire, who speaks to me as a fellow Christian, who not only believes in but carries out the teachings of Jesus. I am especially drawn to the fact that he believes his calling to be among the people, the poor people, and others who are marginalized in the societies of the world.
My faith comes from the Protestant church that broke away from the Catholic Church during the Reformation. The Catholic Church, as we know, was built by the Apostle Peter as Jesus instructed, and for 2000 years has endured while struggling to do Christ’s work here on Earth. There are many good things that the Roman Catholic Church has done over the years, including helping the poor, visiting and healing the sick, educating children and spreading the faith through missions. It has had its faults and problems and still does, but it is a strong church with millions of followers.
Protestant and Catholics have struggled to work together over the years, believing that their beliefs are the “right” beliefs. I have learned this first hand, having fallen in love with and married a man who was not only Roman Catholic, but who was educated by Catholic schools. When we decided to get married fifty years ago, some on his side of the family believed they could not attend the wedding because we were getting married in my church, a Congregational Church. The important thing to us was that we were married, took our vows and both believed in the basic tenants of the Christian Church that Christ and his teachings of love and forgiveness would be the center of our faith.
PRAYER: I pray that Pope Francis will effect a new awakening in the world to faith and that God’s people will endeavor to work together to accomplish God’s will on Earth. Amen
December 12 Romans 15: 13
TRUSTING THE FAITH
I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace while you trust in Him. Then your hope will overflow by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I used to tell the following joke to parent groups at the beginning of the school year by way of broaching the subject of helicopter parents.
“A mountain climber was ascending a steep cliff when his pitons came out and he was dangling from a rope hundreds of yards above the valley and he was scared to death. ‘Help, help,’ he cried. ‘Is there anyone down there?’ There was nothing but silence. ‘Help, help is there anyone up there?’
A voice came from far above him. ‘Yes, my son, I am here.’
The climber said, ‘Please, please help me. I can’t see you. Who are you?’
The voice said, ‘I am God.’
‘What should I do?’ said the climber.
‘Just let go,’ said the voice.
There was a long silence and then the climber said, ‘Is there anyone else up there?'”
This joke is funnier when it is told than when it is read. It is funny because of the speed with which the climber immediately looks for an answer from someone other than God because the climber doesn’t like the answer he receives. Like much humor it is amusing because we recognize ourselves in the climber. When we encounter an extreme test, we frequently have faith as long as the answer to our prayers and the course we are asked to follow is one that does not truly require us to take a risk or follow too difficult a path.
If we don’t take the story too literally, it becomes instructive. It reminds us that at times events in our lives will challenge us to simply put ourselves in God’s hands. Sometimes we must have faith even when we cannot perceive God’s answer to our prayers. We must sometimes accept the fact that we may not recognize God’s work in our lives when we see it.
PRAYER: Lord, free me from doubt, strengthen my faith, help me to walk humbly and faithfully with you.
December 13, Psalm 23
GAINING A WIDER AND DEEPER FAITH
Faith—- How do any of us define our faith? I thought about that a great deal when I sat down to write this devotional. I had gone to the workshop about writing and had been given a stapled list of bible verses that were about faith. I realized that how I live each day and conduct myself is part of my faith. My faith is also defined by the bible studies I attend, prayers, Christian fellowship and works I do for the Lord through my church.
Because of my circumstances, I would consider solace part of my Faith. Having lost my husband in February, I was initially numb. But one of my friends sent me three pages of different quotes from the Bible, including one of my favorites, the 23rd psalm. Those pages gave me peace temporarily for the first few weeks. During my nightly prayers, I asked God for solace and comfort. Once I returned to church it became my peaceful place to talk to Jon in the Columbarium and worship God during the service. Sitting in the church before the service starts when it is quiet and peaceful, I can talk to my Lord. My Faith did not falter, nor did I ask God, “Why?” during my adjustment to being alone. I wasn’t angry with Him. I just asked for Him to be with me as my days and nights went along. As it says in the 23rd Psalm, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. That is what He gave me. I never felt abandoned by Him. Because of my experience, my faith is wider and deeper than ever before.
The feeling of peace is ever present in my heart and soul.
Prayer: Dear Lord, Be my constant companion. I will honor you, follow you, and love you all the days of my life. Amen
December 14, John 14:1-4
BELIEVE IN GOD
Three years ago my mother, Paula Ray, passed away. She was very sick for the last two years of her life. She was always in pain and very unhappy that her body was failing her. It was a very difficult time for our entire family. At her request, she was placed in hospice care on a Saturday night and passed away the following Wednesday.
After her death, I wondered if I would ever receive any sign from God that she was at peace. About two weeks after her death, the first sign came. I sat down at the table to write thank you notes to some of our neighbors and friends who had donated to the hospice unit that cared for my mother during her final days. I had an “oldies” station playing on the 1V. Just as I picked up the pen to start to write, the song “Hey Paul” by Paul and Paula came on the 1V. Of course, this was one of my mother’s favorite songs. A feeling of deep peace coursed through my body.
A few days later, God sent another sign to me. My mother was an avid bird watcher. She could sit and be entertained for hours just watching the birds attracted to the bird feeder and bird bath in her back yard. She knew the names of all the birds that migrated to south Texas each winter. That day a little bird appeared outside our bedroom window. It perched on the open door that goes into our garage. That little bird sang its heart out for at least a half an hour, my second sign. Now I know my mother is with the Lord and no longer in pain.
PRAYER: (John 14: 1-4) “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. I fit were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
December 15, John 3:16
WHEN DEATH IS TEMPORARY
After our daughter, Tiffany, went to heaven, I had such a difficult time realizing she was not here with us. I never doubted that it happened, but the thought of not seeing, touching or hugging her was beyond anything I could fathom. I prayed and prayed for the peace of God to handle the pain and reality of her passing into heaven.
This verse, John 3:16, along with the cross I wear on my neck, has become my peace and a constant reminder of my faith. The cross has her name on it. I hold that cross in my fingers and say a prayer when life gets tough. I am reminded where she is, that she is safe, and she is loved.
To this day, I won’t use the ‘d’ word when speaking of her. Jesus died, but the word death seems to imply a permanent situation. When talking to people about her, I want them to understand that through my faith and my love of God, I know we will be together again. I know in my heart that she is not permanently gone from me. It is a promise God has given us and one that I hold on to every day that I live.
Although I don’t have her physical touch anymore, I feel her love and the love of God after I tell someone about her. Tears flow and usually I get a much needed hug. By getting the touch of another person, who shares in my pain, I can feel God’s love and her presence with me. It is by our faith that we are able to wait for our time together with our loved ones in heaven .
Prayer: God, Thank you for your love, your peace and the eternal life that you promise each of us. Amen.
December 16, 2015 Matt 24: 45-51
The decision was made to take a road trip to Florida in the spring after a long, cold, icy Pennsylvania winter and Bob’s cast was removed from his ankle. We dropped my mother off at her sister’s house in Ormond Beach for a visit and we continued to Tampa to begin our adventure looking for……..? ?
We visited several nice towns along the west coast of Florida with Bob’s questioning look to me. It wasn’t until we drove into Naples and spread out dozens of real estate brochures on the bed of our motel that we became excited with the prospect of looking for a “new home” in Naples. We engaged a realtor but quickly discovered we couldn’t work with her as we were limited with our time. The second realtor had her work cut out for her when we scheduled twelve houses to look at in one day. We found a house we thought we liked and decided to sleep on our decision.
Now came the hard part of the journey…we had to look at the hard facts….we were both out of work at the time, our youngest child would be graduating college in a few months, we would have two mortgages, what to do, what to do? Now, when some one asks you about the word “faith”, let me tell you it’s not something you can give away and it’s not something you can purchase yourself, it’s not something you can inherit, but it is something deep inside abiding in one and always ready for what life throws at you. We go on with faith.
We lived in Naples for twenty-five good years before moving to Palm Coast eleven years ago and our story isn’t finished. What would we do without our faith?
We thank you Lord for our faith and your love.
Bob & Edwina Tabit
December 17, Revelation 4:9-5-5; Matthew 21:23-32
Make Sure Your Lamp Has Plenty of Oil
As a small child growing up in Pennsylvania, my parents took me to church services regularly. Sunday services and sermons were longer in those days when compared to present times and my attention often wandered. During the less interesting parts I was able to amuse myself by practicing holding my breath. I got so good at doing this that I was able to go without breathing for 2-3 minutes consistently, as measured by the second hand on my father’s wrist watch. At that time I had no way of knowing this action would save my life twenty-five years later-but God had a plan for me and it was accomplished in His time.
Fast forward to the spring of 1972 when I participated in a white-water raftering adventure on the New River in West Virginia. In the spring, with the heavy winter runoff, the New River attains a Class IV rating out of a maximum of VI. Our guide was a young college male who asked his four passengers if they would like to “flip-over”. Since there was ice on the water’s edge that morning none of those questioned was interested in getting wet and everyone answered him with an emphatic “NO”. That didn’t faze our guide and seconds later he put the raft into the current in a way that caused it to flip. In addition to myself, seated in the middle of the raft, a young couple rode in the front and another man was seated in the back with the guide. This unexpected action gave me no time to take a breath and fill my lungs with the air I would desperately need as I found myself being swept, upside down, along the bottom, fighting to keep from being wedged under one of the large boulders that defines the New River.
My immediate thought was that I hadn’t expected to die that day and how quickly our lives could be terminated without adequate time to get prepared. After what seemed like an eternity, I felt the only action available to me was to inhale the surrounding water- thus ending my life. Suddenly I was rising through that water and my head came into contact with the inside of the black rubber raft. Everyone always told me that there was air inside an overturned raft but I could not find any. Remember I was spinning in water flowing rapidly down-stream, being banged into boulders along the way while the black rubber raft shielded any sunlight that might otherwise have illuminated the water and my path to safety. I needed to fight for my life and thought that if I could push myself down and under the side of the raft I would come up outside its obstruction. Great plan but where was the side of the raft? All that my actions accomplished was moving me from one section of the raft to another-still no air. After three tries I was suddenly free of the underside of the raft and able to float downstream until I reached a shore-out of breath, cold, wet and thankful. Everyone else had been thrown clear of the raft and was able to safely grab hold of its sides. It was not their day to be tested. I believe that the only reasons that I survived that day was because I had practiced holding my breath twenty-five years earlier and God was not ready to call me, or maybe I wasn’t ready to be called.
Ever since that day, I have tried to be prepared with sufficient oil in my lamp so that when the Master does come, unexpectedly, I will be ready. You, too, should be ready, for we do not know the time nor the place of our calling and you may not be given a second opportunity as I was. Thanks be to God for his mercy to me.
Prayer: Our Father, during this Advent Season, help us to be mindful of the many instances in which you help guide our lives. My we fulfill our responsibility of being prepared so that each of us can be ready when we are called. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Redeemer-Amen.
December 18, Titus 1: 1-16, Luke 1: 1-25
GOD’S CREATURES BRING FAITH IN GOD
As yet another Christmas season comes around I am always in awe of the way our Lord Jesus Christ was born in a manger surrounded by peaceful animals watching over the new baby.
As some find their FAITH in watching the flow of waters or flowers grow, I feel closest to God and my FAITH everyday by watching the animals.
God showed his love for us by putting these animals on earth for us both for the food they provide such as eggs, cheese, milk, and honey, as well as the pleasure they bring to our lives. It is amazing to watch a baby deer follow its mother learning survival instincts from her, a dog or cat trying to please their master, an insect going about its busy life, a bee protecting its queen each with its own characteristics and traits. It is through these creatures which God created that I am most content, peaceful and feel my FAITH IN GOD the most. Praise God!
Prayer: Our Father in Heaven, we are so very grateful for your creation and especially for the many creatures you have provided for our subsistence and pleasure. Thanks for the blessings you have be stowed on us through your creation. Amen.
FAITH THROUGH ACTIONS
I had been baptized as an infant. My grandfather, who passed shortly thereafter, had been a Baptist minister. He had been founder of the Theological Department of Temple University for Sir Russel Conwell. My dear mother recounted stories of her father, and yes, I have read Russel Conwell’s “Acres of Diamonds”.
As a child I was so fortunate to have annual visits from my uncle and aunt who were missionaries in the Belgian Congo. Their mission lasted over 35 years. Uncle Howard was a physician with a PhD in Theology. He built hospitals and treated these dear people. He consoled them and counseled them with prayers. He was so gentle. The memory of his giving, loving nature, along with such great faith, while showing us the slides each visit, brings tears to my eyes.
Decades later, he was in his upper 7o’s and in a severe auto accident. Uncle Howard called urgently for us to bring my mom to Red Bank, New Jersey, as Aunt Kathryn was dying. We were able to get there prior to her death and she would squeeze my mother’s hand, her last effort.
Within two weeks after Aunt Kathryn’s death Uncle Howard took off on a road trip out west for the Council of Churches, intent on fulfilling his Christian obligation.
Through my mother, Uncle Howard, Aunt Kathryn and many others I was truly blessed and infused with great faith, through actions, not words.
John 3:16-21: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life….that through His Son the world might be saved.
Prayer: Thank you, Dear Lord for the growth in faith I was given through love. Happy Birthday Jesus! Amen.
Don’t Wait, Have Faith Now
Jeremiah 29:11 “-For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
Philippians 4:13 “-I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Mark 13:32 “-But of that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”
As far back as I can remember, I played with baby dolls and Barbies. I al ways used my brother’s GI Joe to be the husband to my beautiful Barbie doll. Her life wasn’t complete without Joe as her husband. At least that’s what I thought.
Even though I stopped playing with dolls, my dream lived on that my life wasn’t complete without a husband . Certainly my purpose was to be a wife and a mother. God had a different plan but I didn’t’ know it.
By the time I was 30 and still not married, I, along with my friends and family thought something was wrong. It was around this time that I searched the scriptures for spiritual guidance. It was there! There was nothing wrong with me. He has a plan and it was not to hurt me but to give me hope. The scriptures never said I was going to get married, have children and live happily ever after. Those were my thoughts based upon this world’s standards.
God is so good. He gave me talents to use for providing for myself, for establishing incredible friendships, and he surrounded me with nieces, nephews, and God-children. In truth, when I look at my life I have never
needed anything more than what he gave me. He just wanted my faith and trust in his plan to “give me a future and a hope.” And He gave me the strength! If I had not had faith and trusted Him, I would have missed the joy in my life that was always right in front of me.
God’s plan eventually brought me a husband. My husband and his family have added to the abundance of blessings in my life. I have continued to learn that every day requires faith in His plan. No matter your plan, or dream, or circumstances. For…”of that day or hour, no one knows”…trust Him.
Dear Father in Heaven, thank you that you have given us your scripture to learn by, to gain knowledge, and to find faith. Thank you for Your Son who brought to us an understanding of what you wanted from us and for us in your love which you have bestowed upon us. Amen
Sherry Lewis Settles
December 21, Titus 2: 11-3:8 Luke 1:39-56
Over the years, I have from time to time enjoyed the opportunity to be in the presence of some of the most “rich and famous” people in our society. The recent visit of Pope Francis reminded me that I have always been more impressed by Christian celebrities than by Hollywood or political personalities.
Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, was planning a walk from Maine to Georgia as a fund raising venture for the organization. Since I had been a member of the Habitat Regional Board of Directors and knew most of the HFH staff, I was asked to map out a segment of the route from Mt Holly, New Jersey, through Philadelphia, and on to Wilmington, Delaware.
Our church in Mt Holly had arranged to use a local school gymnasium to provide the group of walkers a place to spend the night. On the evening they arrived, Karen and I went to the gym to fellowship with the group. I was talking to Millard Fuller, when a young man came up to us and asked Millard if he could take his picture. Millard immediately took the camera from the man’s hand and handed it to me. He then, displaying his infectious smile, walked over and put his arm around the man’s shoulders and let me take their picture. This act of warmth and kindness, gave me as much insight into Millard’s personality as anything I have ever read or heard about him.
This season of Advent should remind us of our desire to see and be with Jesus, the greatest celebrity of all.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us always to be imitators of Jesus, even in our most trivial daily activities. Amen
Sinclair W. Stickle
December 22, Hebrews 11:1
FAITH: A DEVOTIONAL
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen …by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.”The Nicene Creed, version 1 states, “We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”
Faith is complete trust and confidence in God and that’s the challenge for most of us. That is, to trust God only without putting our two cents into it. One woman I met once said to me with a coy smile; “Sometimes, I take God’s job and then when I get backed into a corner I say O.K God I need you.” We both had a little chuckle with that statement.
My faith grows, slows, and gains speed as God allows me to discern God’s will upon my life. The miracle is the older I get the more questions I have piled onto God….and then answers ….or silence ensues as God feels fit for me to comprehend. Somethings I will never fully understand and today I am o.k. with that. Why? Because God makes it so. There were days when all I had were my prayers and my God and other days were full of family, friends, church, funerals, weddings, and exhaustion. My faith in my Lord and Savior, has allowed me to weather quite a few storms, and yes, I did pray to God and ask the question, “Can’t you see me drowning here?” And the seas did eventually quiet down and my life had a bit of order…until the next time.
Every morning my God paints a new picture through the sunrise over the ocean and I thank God its prayer time again. When my frailties kick in and they always do, I think of a young mother who I thought I was consoling, said to me as she was holding her dying baby, “I have been blessed to have this angel for as long as I have. I have seen how perfect God is through my little angel. “That young mother’s words changed me forever. She consoled me and my faith grew that day! My faith grows every time I see an elderly couple sitting in a pew and think how they have weathered so many storms and they are still sitting side by side. My faith grows when I pray and feel the Spirit of God that I can’t explain to others without being defined as one in the DSM 5, [Diagnostic Statistical Manual] as having a mental disorder. My faith grows every morning I wake and know I am alive and have a chance to make a difference in someone’s life and death.
And when I think the blessings are silent and my faith wanes, and it does, I pray for someone, I give a touch, hold a hand, give a hug, drop to my knees in prayer…and the strength of my God, Lord, and Savior, carries me once again.
Sheryl Rene Sumlin-Barclay
December 23, Romans 5: 1-11
Faith in what, and whom?
Our theme this year is faith; faith in what and whom? This is not an easy world to understand. Even with all its beauty and gifts we have been given, we sometimes feel de pressed and lost. We ask, “Where are you, God?” We have killings daily by people with guns, refugees who are fleeing for a better way of life and all the wars and natural disasters. People are discouraged with Washington, older people are concerned if they will run out of money, and young people worried about the future.
Who and what do we rely on in times of trouble? Some gravitate towards more money, power and material things to make them feel better. Others resort to things they smoke or ingest to help cover up their fears. As Christians we celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth in December when perfect love was born. Jesus through his life and teachings brought to us God’s promise he would be with us always, that we are loved, and he is present in our lives bringing us comfort and help. This doesn’t mean everything will be perfect or everything will be resolved in our time.
As in Romans we need to open ourselves to God. We do this reading the Bible, prayer, being still and listening and attending worship. We see not just the negatives, but also the miracles that happen every day. I read, I think, in Ben Carson’s book, “We don’t need to explain miracles, just accept them”.
So, this season and every season let’s recognize the miracles. Let’s take God at his word. Be more open, loving, for giving, thankful, and positive. “Be still and know that I am God!” God is in control. Feel his presence and accept the gift of his love. That is faith.
Prayer: Gracious God, help us to keep in touch and re member your promise, that no matter what befalls us, you are there. We have the ability to live abundantly in your presence and love. Amen
Oh, what a gift! For hundreds of years the Jews praised God and trusted Him, respected Him, and acknowledged His authority over all. They worshiped Him and yet, they wandered away from Him time and again. So God sent His Son to give us a Savior and to show us the role model He wanted us to emulate. But without the apostles to spread the word it could not have happened. When we read all they endured: beatings, stoning, imprisonment, hunger, rejection and so much more we know they truly believed. They had to have had a faith that could not be shaken.
God gave us all The Great Gift, The Light to follow, the proof to those who needed proof in order to trust fully what God was about. Christians need to share the wonders of faith that strengthen them in order to help others in their faith as they may falter. This is the time to set aside, give thanks and celebrate that great gift. This is the time to give back through love and service to God, to all his children, to our church and our community. Thanks be to God for the gift of Jesus Christ, our savior.
PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, we rejoice in your great gift. Help us to remember “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. (Phil 4:13) Amen
December 25, I John 4: 7-11
THE CIRCLE OF LOVE
7) Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8) Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9) God’s Jove was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10) In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11) Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:7-11
Where does love begin? Does it begin in an infant’s cry on that child’s day of birth as the cry reaches the ear of mother and father and melts their hearts? Does love begin with sheepish, stolen glances between a couple that are not quite strangers, but not yet well acquainted? Does love start on the battlefield between comrades determined to save each other, or on the sports field between teammates?
Maybe love comes from all of these places. We could say that love is a circle that is shared, especially on this holy day, where we remember the best of Christmases that have passed and the love that we have given and then received from family, church, and friends. Each Advent and Christmas wreath is a symbol of such love. But love is a circle that is different from all others, for this circle had a beginning. “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son …”
Love had a beginning. That beginning, for people of faith, was the first Christmas day. Yes, God loved humanity Jong before that moment, but love was realized when Jesus came down from heaven and was born as one of us. Oh, that we could glow each Christmas day! Oh, that our love for God and for each other would bum brightest in celebration of the beginning of love’s circle on earth! You may indeed feel God’s love in a most intense and special way this Christmas day. But if not, do remember that it is not our action, our love, which set this thing in motion. It was “not that we loved God, but that he loved us…” God still loves you. Christ mas love is God’s own Christmas card to all God’s people.
“Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world -stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death -and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.” -Henry Van Dyke
Prayer: Father, may the light of your son, Jesus Christ, shine in us as we share the love of Christmas. AMEN
Rev. Dr. D. Ronald Watson, Jr.
Trinity’s 2015Advent Devotional Contributors
Many thanks to this year’s contributors for the timely submission of their personal stories of FAITH .
Sherry Lewis Settles
Bob & Edwina Tabit
A PUBLISHER’S PUZZLER
Every year Trinity’s Advent Devotional Booklet emphasizes the insidious assault of technology in today’s modern culture. Adapting to this culture is highlighted by the need to put each individual contribution into a single, digital program, Microsoft Publisher.
This year was novel because two devotionals, which were submitted digitally, defied being transferred into a form compatible with the software. One was eventually resolved through removing imbedded codes which are invisible instructions in a text document. The second devotional presented such a maze of problems that inserting it into Publisher in a text format was never achieved. The final solution was to convert this devotional into a picture which was then pasted into Publisher without incident.
This created a different problem when Lois tried to edit the “text document”, which was not a text document. She was unable to insert a cursor where she wanted to make a correction, because what she saw as words were not words, but were pictures of words. When it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, this may be absolutely correct. The corollary to this, which Lois discovered, is that a thousand words may actually be a picture.
The publisher’s puzzle this year is whether any of Trinity’s readers can identify which of the devotionals in the printed edition is really a picture? If you figure it out, let Bob or Lois Settles know. This same puzzle does not apply on the website.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.