Sunday, December 25, 2011

Uncle Lowell's Christmas Story

Advent Devotional by Dianne Radcliffe

“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.”
—John 1:5—

It was in the mid-1930’s when my Uncle Lowell was touched by his faith to go into the ministry. He was living on a farm in northeast Nebraska with his parents and five younger brothers and sisters. He attended college in Yankton, S.D. His parents would drop him off each Sunday to walk across the toll bridge over the Missouri River because they could not afford the quarter toll. They would pick him up on Friday night. He took fresh eggs and cream to pay for his board and room. On the weekends he would serve a small country church about five miles from his home.
On Christmas Eve that year it was cold and blustery as he walked to church in the late afternoon, but he wanted to prepare for the service. As nine o’clock drew near and it was time for the service, a raging blizzard had developed. He waited, but no one showed up for church. After much thought and prayer Uncle Lowell decided that his mother would worry if he did not come home, and he really wanted to be with the rest of the family on Christmas morning, so he left the church. The wind was very strong and the snow was coming down hard. He trudged slowly along the road, praying he could find his way. As he came closer to home he could see a slight glimmer of light. To his amazement the answer to his prayers for safety and guidance was the lit kerosene lamp that his mother had placed in the front window to show him the way up the drive and into the warmth and love of home on Christmas Day.
My prayer is a family grace that Uncle Lowell, The Reverend Dr. Lowell Jones, wrote. We use it at holidays and family meals. Feel free to use it.

We are a family for one another. We are love and strength in times of trials. Even when we are far apart we belong to one another, and in various ways we remember and pray for each other. We join now to give thanks to God and to ask God’s blessings on this family, those who are present and those who are not here. Amen

Saturday, December 24, 2011

MapQuesting Jesus

Advent Devotional by Diane Bauerle

Read Matthew 2:7-12
“When they had heard the king they went their way;
and lo the star which they had seen in the East
went before them; till it came to rest over
the place where the child was.”
—Matthew 2:9—

Can you find Jesus by using MapQuest or programming a GPS? Technology has made traveling to unfamiliar destinations easier with the assistance of these two electronic tools. Enter the start and end addresses and push a button for a road map, detailed directions, and calculations showing the length of time and number of miles. This form of technology has helped many travelers successfully find their destination.
The Bible tells us a story about the three wise men traveling to the unfamiliar destination of Bethlehem. The three wise men were summoned by Herod to find Jesus. As they set out on their journey, they didn’t have the luxury of using MapQuest or a GPS system. Instead they knew to follow a brightly lit star.
Can you imagine traveling by night looking skyward at the stars to find your way? Amazingly, the three wise men were guided directly to their destination and were overjoyed to find Jesus, God’s gift to the world.
Is finding Jesus using MapQuest or by programming a GPS possible? Try entering a start address of “your heart” and an end address of “Jesus” and see what happens. You’ll be surprised at the destinations to which Jesus will lead you.

Lord, help us find Jesus in Bethlehem this Christmas season and guide us on our daily journeys as we travel to unfamiliar destinations. Amen

Friday, December 23, 2011

Blessed Assurance

Advent Devotional by Joan Osler

Read Psalms 103:19-22
“In my distress I cry to the Lord, that he may answer me.”
—Psalm 120:1—

My mother’s birthday fell on Dec. 23 and she usually came to our home to celebrate with our family. The year 1971 marked her 80th birthday, so my brother and his wife from Seattle, Wash., joined us for the occasion. Mother had been enjoying an early Christmas gift, a beautiful Christmas Amaryllis plant. Its beautiful blooms lasted most of the season. However, after it faded, I hurriedly carried it to our basement, carelessly putting it on the shelf and promptly forgetting it. The months went by and in August Mother quietly slipped away from us to go to her Heavenly Home.
Christmas came again, and with the help of Bill and Amy, our two youngest children, we finished decorating the Christmas tree. I sent the children to bed and then sat down wearily in Mother’s favorite chair. A wave of sadness came over me and I whispered a prayer, “If only I knew Mother was happy and I would see her again.” After a few moments, I got up from the chair and began carrying boxes to the basement. For some reason, I reached to the back of the shelf and found a flower pot. When I pulled it out, I discovered the Amaryllis plant was starting to grow again.

Dear God, help us to remember Your promises which tell us that we will have eternal life if we love You and strive to do Your will. Send the Holy Spirit to us when we are feeling lost and lonely. We ask this in Jesus’ precious name. Amen

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Advent Devotional by Monna Milner
Art by Bruce Lantry

“To everything there is a season, and a time for every
matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die.”
—Ecclesiastes 3:1-2—

Today the calendar says it’s the first day of winter. Even though spring and fall are my favorite months I love to wake up on a winter morning to a beautiful, gentle snow that covers everything. God is giving the wheat, bulbs and roots protection and moisture just as he protects us. Whatever the current season is, it will not last. Life brings seasons of dancing, mourning, embracing and times to be grateful. I am very grateful God planted me in Chase County. I have no fear of earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis or floods here and I do not think we will ever have a terrorist attack. Oh yes, we do have tornadoes. One was so close to my home Father’s Day this year, but again the Lord protected us as He has done so many times.
We find seasons change and turn, children are born and grow up, parents grow old and a new generation begins. The planting is done but the harvest is not ready. There is growing time ahead. God takes us through different seasons in our lives, seasons of rejoicing, mourning, saying hello and goodbye. God consoles me through these words: for everything there is a season for every activity under heaven.

Thought for the day:
This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Dear Lord, help us to learn from every season. Remind us to be joyful and grateful for all you have given us and to remember those less fortunate. As we prepare for Christmas Day, remind us to give thanks for the miracle of Your coming to us and to show Your loving care. Amen

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Manger?

Advent Devotional by Melody Newman

“For there is born to you this day in the city of
David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe
wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
—Luke 2:11-12—

A manger? What is a manger? My handy Webster’s dictionary says that a manger is a “trough holding livestock feed.” A trough! What a bed for the King of Kings! And yet this is what God allowed Mary and Joseph to place Him in. On our Christmas cards and in our Christmas pageants, we usually show the manger as a cute little wooden structure filled with fresh, clean hay. It may actually have been made of roughly hewn stone, and we can only hope that Joseph and Mary found hay that was clean enough to make a comfortable crib for their baby. Whatever the manger was made of, and whatever it was full of, it was almost certainly not beautiful or fancy, bejeweled or sophisticated. It was a utilitarian object, plain and simple, and yet it held the Son of God. We people, too, are often plain and simple. We are rarely beautiful in the world’s eyes. We are seldom fancy or bejeweled, and most of us are not terribly sophisticated. Yet our Heavenly Father has allowed our hearts to hold his only begotten Son. If that isn’t a wonderful Christmas gift, I don’t know what is.

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us enough to send us Your son. May our lives reflect the beauty and the glory of that gift. Amen

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Advent Devotional by Mary Luhrs

“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those
who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord
and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly
in love for their word’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.”
—1 Thessalonians 5:12-13—

Christmas Day is rapidly approaching. The children are bursting with excitement. Soon the mystery of the brightly wrapped packages will be revealed.
But the expectation of the Hebrew people for a Savior was not so quickly satisfied. Years upon years they looked for someone to deliver them from a series of conquerors and oppressors. Few among them realized that their Savior would not come with an army to rout the human enemy, but with love and goodwill to conquer the hearts of all humankind.
The mystery is that so much love and goodwill could arrive wrapped as a babe born in a stable in an insignificant town in an occupied territory. Who among us would have recognized such a gift?
We are continually unwrapping other gifts our Father gives to renew us each morning.

Forgive us, Father, when we fail to thank you for the blessings we receive daily. Forgive us especially for those times when we have not given thanks under all circumstances. Amen

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Depth of God's Gift

Advent Devotional by Jill Bauerle
Art by Marcia Bauerle

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only
begotten Son that whoever believeth in Him
shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
—John 3:16—

It’s Christmas time and we are preparing for the birth of Jesus. Why would I choose a verse we so often associate with The Resurrection? It’s actually quite simple—how can we appreciate the birth of Jesus, His humble beginnings, His life, and the purpose of God’s plan, if we don’t acknowledge the depth of God’s gift?
From the time I was a young girl attending church camps, Bible school, and Sunday school, I learned and sang the words from John 3:16, and I believed them. I believe in Him, and I know that eternal life is mine. It’s that simple! What I truly did not understand was the first part of the verse, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” What does ‘so loved’ mean? That part seems simple enough—at least I thought so when I was young—but experience has taught me that it is much more than I can humanly comprehend.
I remember vividly the moment my mind and heart wrapped around the depth of God’s gift. I was changing my newborn Anna’s diaper, and my own mother peeked over my shoulder and whispered, “Now you know how much I love you.” WOW, did those words impact me. (Yes, my eyes watered.) Maybe it’s because Anna was a near-Christmas baby, or maybe God decided it was time for me to ‘get it,’ but my thoughts jumped right to John 3:16. If I can love my baby this much and want to protect her from all hurt, how can I fathom the gift of Jesus? The love our Father has for each one of us is beyond human understanding. But, I do have faith, and I can humbly pray, “Thank you, God, for the Gift of Jesus.”

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your gift of baby Jesus, for the opportunity to celebrate His birth, and for Your love. We ask for Your guidance to find peace in the busyness of life. We pray for those who believe and for those who still seek You. With meaningful celebration, help us focus on the depth of Your gift. Amen

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Growing Up

Advent Devotional by Rachelle Richman

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when
he is old (grown) he will not turn from it.”
—Proverbs 22:6—

How many times in your adult life have you thought “Mom did know what she was talking about after all?” As parents, we are learning that it’s not as easy as we thought it would be. Giving our children rules, not letting them do what they want to do, and being disciplinarians is a tough job! We sometimes are so busy making/enforcing rules that we forget important things our children need just as much. Encouraging our children, praising them for their strengths despite their weaknesses, and enjoying their differences will help them become confident adults.
Today our children are plugged in to so many things, it becomes difficult to fit in 20 minutes of family time. Tonight, I challenge you to turn off the TV, iPod, music, computer, etc., and have a family night. It’s amazing how much you can get in tune with your kids in 20 minutes! Give our children a gift that lasts a lifetime . . . our unconditional love.

Dear God, thank you for my parents. Thank you for the life lessons they have taught me. Please help me be a great parent to my children. Amen

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where Did You Glean Today?

Advent Devotional by Dennis Batterman

And her mother-in-law said to her,
“Where did you glean today? And where have you worked?
Blessed by the man who took notice of you.”
So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Bo’az.”
—Ruth 2:19—

It was a dark, cold night in late December. I was driving to my parents’ home in South Dakota, and I had just one more hour—almost home. I was listening to Christmas carols on the car radio. Then the man on the radio started to tell the story of the person preparing for a visit from the Lord. According to the story, everything was ready. Several visitors came by. They were given shelter, food, and warm clothes to wear, but the Lord never did show up. Of course you all know what happened next. When the Lord was asked why He never came, his answer was, “Yes, I did.”
Just as the story was finished, and I was traveling the last few miles through the Indian Reservation, I passed a person walking along the highway bundled up like an Eskimo. Mother had always said, “Don’t pick up hitchhikers and be careful when driving through the reservation.” Even though Mother’s words came flooding into my head, I stopped and asked if he needed a ride. He happily hopped into the car . . . backpack and all. As he started to remove a few layers of clothes, I saw to my astonishment that he was an Indian, but it was too late to change my mind about giving him a ride.
As we awkwardly started to converse, we found out that we were both young elementary school teachers and that we were both going home for Christmas. What a pleasant surprise!
Why did I stop? Why did I pick up this hitchhiker? Why did I hear that story just before I saw the Indian on the side of the road?

Dear Lord, help us to recognize an opportunity to serve when it presents itself to us. Amen

Friday, December 16, 2011

Home for Christmas

Advent Devotional by Elna Johnson

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may
not perish but may have eternal life.”
—John 3:16—

The date was Dec. 16, 1989, and Christmas preparations were well underway. I received a call that Saturday evening from my sister. She said my aged father, who was well past 98 years of age and resided in a nursing home in Colorado, had breathed his last breath.
Dad had lived a good life and as I thought of the timing of his death, at first my thought was how sad just before Christmas. Then I began to think of the memories of all the wonderful Christmases and other times we had shared together. As I began calling relatives the next morning to tell them of his death, I recall particularly calling cousin Mary in eastern Nebraska and starting my call by saying dad had “gone home for Christmas.” It seemed so right and peaceful to think of him with my mother and other loved ones who had received their heavenly reward. Mary was a retired school teacher and enjoyed writing poetry. Ironically, at her memorial service last November as some of her writings were read, a poem entitled “Home for Christmas,” which was in reference to my call to her, still gave peace for both of their deaths. As is the case with all loved ones I find so much more peace in dwelling on the positive and happy parts of their lives rather than dwelling on their death.
For my dad’s service, one of the songs which still speaks to me is the verse “Our Father Has Light In His Window, He bids me come home, come home!” God gave his only Son so that all who believe may have eternal life.

Thank you God for parents of a Christian home with love abounding. Amen

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In the Garden

Advent Devotional by Lucille Bauerle

“ . . . and they heard the sound of the
Lord God walking in the garden.”
—Genesis 3:8—

The song “In the Garden” begins, “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.”
This song was sung every Sunday while I was growing up. My family attended a rural community church. Services were held at our local school house. The lay minister was a neighbor who loved the Lord and shared his ministry with his friends. His love of the Lord shone through dedication of being there every Sunday and preparing a small sermon. His wife, who was at his side, taught an exciting Sunday school class. I still remember these people as I walk through my garden.
The refrain of the song is “And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

Dear God, thank you for loving role models whose devotion to You sets examples for us to live by. Amen

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Carrying Our Sack of Rocks

Advent Devotional by Garneta Bauerle

“That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses,
and in the insults, hardships, persecutions,
and troubles that I suffer for Christ.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
—2 Corinthians 12:10—

I’ve heard many people tell of their experience of opening their Bible and having a certain verse, apropos of their situation, jump right out at them. I’ve been waiting for it to happen to me—let me tell you of my experience.
Recently, our youngest daughter called home. She was feeling a real sense of persecution as her boss was giving her numerous menial jobs around the office which definitely weren’t listed in her job description as an “interior designer.” Of course, this had been going on for some time. After giving her the usual “parent-like” statement that when she becomes the boss, she can give orders, etc.—we visited awhile about other things and ended our conversation by me telling her that we would include her, her boss and this particular problem in our prayers. After our telephone conversation, I took a new cookbook I had purchased and headed for an “easy chair.” I noticed the author had very tastefully included quips, Scripture, poetry, etc., at the bottom of the pages of recipes. Here’s what I read on the very first page I turned to—
“Remember where all “the priceless things” in your life came from, be sure to say thank you. Remember also to say “thank you for that sack of rocks,” for carrying it will make a stronger, better person of you!!!”
I got out my calligraphy pens and paper—copied the saying and sent it to our daughter. It now hangs over her drafting table. Not Biblical you say, but it certainly came at an opportune time and has made us both mindful of saying “Thanks to God” for our little persecutions or “sacks of rocks.”

Dear Common Father of us all, help us all to be mindful of the fact that we will be stronger, better persons when, with Your help, we carry our “sack of rocks.” Amen

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Living in the Light

Advent Devotional by Carol Hess

“The people who walked in darkness have
seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the
shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
—Isaiah 9:2—

As a teenager, I was a faithful member of United Methodist Youth Fellowship and the high school Sunday school class of the Dimock Community Church. We were too old for Santa Claus but young enough to need a holiday ritual to call our own. Advent became ours. Each year the youth would prepare specials for the services. Usually on the first Sunday we would do a choral reading from the book of Isaiah and light the Advent wreath. My brother who had difficulty reading aloud in time with the choral reading was responsible for lighting the candle at the appropriate time in the reading.
Even though we knew the words in the reading, every year we had to practice using the correct intonation and emphasis. We were split up into groups based on the timber of our voices. We didn’t read many lines together, but all of us had our parts. The one line that the choral director always asked us to emphasize in both loudness and intensity was “upon them hath the light shined!” The exclamation point is mine. I didn’t feel that I walked in darkness or dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, even though now I understand the metaphor. However, with that one line, the light in that little country church grew brighter. We were the people that the light was shining on. We were the ones who were renewed and awaited the coming of our Lord. To me that phrase means what being a Christian is. We are people on whom God’s light is shining.

Dear God, thank you for Your light. Help us to live in Your light and to do Your will. Show us how to help others to join us in Your light. Amen

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Newborn Miracle

Advent Devotional by Barb Hill

“Children are a gift from God: they are His reward.”
—Psalm 127:3 (The Living Bible)—

Thirty-seven years ago today my life was changed forever. That was the day our first child, Lori was born. I remember looking at this beautiful newborn, her tiny head covered with a little bit of soft white hair. I counted her fingers and toes and marveled about what a special miracle I had received from God. This was especially true as I considered everything that has to be just right for a life to be created. I said a prayer thanking God for our precious new baby girl. Along with the joy came the realization that this child was a gift from God and one for which God had made me responsible.
Not only did I have to take care of her physical needs and mental needs but I was also responsible for her spiritual needs. It was mind boggling that God was trusting me to do all these things for this tiny helpless child. It was then that I realized that God would provide the help and support I needed as she grew.
Lori is now an adult who is raising her own two little miracles to serve God. To me it was very special that she was born during the Christmas season. I have often reflected on the feelings that Mary must have had that very first Christmas so long ago.

Dear God, help us to remember that each life is a special gift from You. And that each one of us is precious in Your sight. Thank you for giving us the ability to share Your love with others. Amen

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Did We Forget?

Advent Devotional by Marilyn Hust

“Share with God’s people who are in need.
Practice hospitality.”
—Romans 12:13—

The beauty of summer and fall have come and gone so fast. Now it’s time for winter: the snow and the wonderful Advent season—a time of joy and the birth of Jesus our Savior.
Did we do everything we planned to do? Did we have a plan? This is the time for us to make a list of the things we forgot to do, and make a list of things yet to do.
God doesn’t forget His plans. He carries on no matter what.
Let’s be followers of Jesus this Advent season and continue throughout the coming year.

Our Dear Heavenly Father, be with us as we make this change in our lives. In Your Name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

All Creatures Great and Small

Advent Devotional by Vicky Brown

“You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
You put everything under his feet.”
—Psalm 8:6—

A few years ago, on a Sunday morning, I sat in the bleachers listening to a pastor conduct a church service before a barrel race start. The pastor quoted a Bible verse (I can’t remember the verse, but it may have been the one above.) Then the pastor went on to explain that with the tremendous authority given human beings, comes a great responsibility. We have the legal authority to do whatever we want with our pets (in my case, a barrel horse), but we have the responsibility to feed and care for them in the best way possible. When we adjust an animal’s diet properly, when we seek the proper medical care for an animal, and when we give an animal the loving attention it needs, we are treating God’s creation respectfully.
I have never seen a nativity scene without animals. I hope I am doing my part in caring for God’s creation.

Dear God, help us to preserve and protect, as well as admire, all of Your creation, especially the animals so dependent on our help. Amen

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mom's Courage and Faith

Advent Devotional by Karen Welch

“Trust in the Lord with all our heart.
Never rely on what you think you know.
Remember the Lord in everything you do and
he will show you the right way.”
—Proverbs 3:5-6—
“Trust in the Lord. Have faith, do not despair. Trust in the Lord.”
—Psalm 27:14—

I realize now how much courage my mother had when we were small and how much she relied on God for guidance. Dad was headed to a cancer treatment hospital in Missouri in early December 1952. We thought he would be back by Dec. 9, his 38th birthday. Mom had her hands full with four children between the ages of 1 and 12; 15 cows to milk twice a day, chickens to care for and all other chores demanded by a farm. Besides, it was winter. Her only time to go see Dad was one short weekend during the months he remained there. Due to complications, Dad remained at the hospital until mid-January 1953. He returned home and over time he fully recovered from the cancer.
Mom always felt the constant prayers for strength, courage, guidance and for Dad’s recovery were answered. Her display of courage and faith in God have stayed with me all my life. “Be strong and of good courage.” These words are frequently found in connection with some great and difficult tasks. The blessings for which we plead are spiritual and all unseen, things impossible with men.

Lord, help us to remember to trust in our faith in You; that You will show us the way. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Man of Faith

Advent Devotional by Don Newman
Art by Danny Lenners

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows:
After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
before they came together, she was found with
child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a son. And you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” . . . Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her first born son.  And he called His name Jesus.”
                                                                  —Matthew 1:18-21 and 24-25—

The Bible depicts numerous men of faith. Most of these men proved their worth and their love of God by their actions. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, was an eligible young man who was told by an angel in a dream to put himself in a position of scorn by taking a pregnant young woman (Mary) as his wife. He faced trials and hardship along the way, but answered the call of God.
Joseph was a steady presence in young Jesus’ life—teaching him a trade as he grew into a young man. Oh that we all could be so focused and dedicated to follow God’s plan for our lives.

Loving Father, help us to appreciate the plan You have for our lives and to live as Your followers. Amen
by Don Newman

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Victory In Jesus

Advent Devotional by Renae and Mark Bottom

“Do not suppose that I have come to
bring peace to the earth.
I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
—Matthew 10:34—

Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
These words, spoken by President Roosevelt after the attack on Pearl Harbor, heralded the advent of war for our country. Sources estimate that more than 50 million people, including soldiers and civilians, died as a result of the conflict.
From around the world, courageous men and women joined to battle human tyranny. After a long and bloody struggle, they prevailed; sadly, their noble victory could never hope to eradicate tyranny forever.
How marvelous, then, the advent of Christ. Quietly, into a manger, came the one, true hero of mankind. His arrival, as a helpless infant, heralded war no less than the emphatic words of a president. His would be the battle against the tyranny of sin and death.
He would offer Himself, the single casualty. He would prevail, the perfect Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah, whose heart beat with the courage of humility and obedience.
His victory would secure the hope of mankind, forever.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Almighty God, You knew we were a people in need of a hero, a Savior. So You sent Your only begotten Son to save us and to bring us peace . . . not the peace the world gives, but your peace. Thank you. Amen

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Nicholas Day

Advent Devotional by Pastor Fred Andersen

“They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph,
and the baby lying in the manger.”
—Luke 2:16 Common English Bible—

As a child I looked forward to watching Santa’s Workshop on television. It featured Santa telling stories about the flying reindeer, life at the North Pole, and reading letters from the children.
One letter stands out after all these years. The letter began with the usual request for toys and continued with how the child prayed to Santa every night.
Santa read the letter with great care and then gently put it down on the table beside his chair. He explained that he was honored to receive the letter and he would forward the request to the elves preparing the list for Christmas Eve.
He went on to explain that he was not a “god’ who was deserving of being addressed in a person’s prayer. He further explained that he is a servant of the one God just like many other people. He encouraged the writer to continue the bedtime prayers and to address them to the one God.
Many years later I saw a statue of the red suited Santa Claus kneeling beside the manger of the Christ child. His hat was on the ground, his head was bowed, and his hands were folded in prayer. I instantly remembered the letter read on Santa’s Workshop and how Santa Claus said to the viewing audience that ‘he was a servant of the one God.’

O, Lord, our God, help us to always remember that Jesus is the reason for the Christmas Season. Amen.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Judge Not

Advent Devotional by Helen Schilke

“Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
—Matthew 7:1—

I knew they were going to be a problem. The mother was disruptive, and the child screamed like a banshee every time the mother was out of her sight. No matter how simple the learning task was, it went undone; books were unread, weekly meetings were missed.
My job was to prepare low income families to start their children into school, and this year few of the children spoke English. I struggled to engage this family in the process of preparing their child.
In frustration I said to my interpreter, “I don’t understand. Why won’t these people help their child? Don’t they understand how far behind she will be if she doesn’t even know how to write her name?”
In her gentle loving way, my interpreter said, “Maybe it would be easier for the mother if she could read or write Spanish. She comes from a very poor family. She only went to the first grade and never learned to read or write. She gets by the best way she can.”
I was dumbfounded! It had never entered my mind that I was dealing with total illiteracy. In her attempt to hide her feelings of inferiority, this woman had taken on an air of complacency when it came to my help.
I was not proud of my actions in this situation. I had judged before I knew the facts. I had not looked beyond the surface. This woman was a victim of poverty beyond anything I had ever experienced. Because she had not conformed to my expectations, I had judged her. I was unfair and ashamed of myself. Needless to say, the lesson stuck and now, with all my heart, I try to look beyond the surface to the heart of a person.

Creator of us all, help me to remember how blessed my life is. Remind me that there are others who are less fortunate than I am. Help me remember to look beyond the surface and see the whole person. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Packing a Lifetime Into So Few Years

Advent Devotional by Ray and Alice Lindekugel

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished
the race, I have kept the faith.”
—2 Timothy 4:7—

It was Dec. 4, 1998, when the angels came for our precious grandson, Levi. He was only nine years old and had fought childhood cancer for three years. He died at home with his mom laying by his side, his dad, brothers, sister and we grandparents surrounding his bed and great-grandpa holding his hand. Then, through our tears, we saw a gentle smile on Levi’s face after his passing. How comforting that was to us, knowing what joy lies ahead!
Levi loved anyone and anything “cowboy.” He kept in touch with many western singers, especially Charlie Daniels, who is a St. Jude’s Hospital supporter. Those who came by the house that night said that there were clear, starry skies all around, but within a half-mile of the house, the fog was so thick, you could cut it with a knife. Western Wishes magazine said, “It’s amazing the kind of dust a bunch of stampeding angels can stir up when they come to lead another cowboy home!”
Revelation 21:4 says, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” Because of Jesus’ birth and resurrection, we, too, can have the hope that will give us a gentle smile when we pass from this life to our home in Heaven. Families are forever—it’s another “until we meet again.”

Heavenly Father, thank you for your wonderful gift of Jesus, who gives us comfort, peace and assurance of eternal life. In his name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Moments Lost

Advent Devotional by Sue Smith
“. . . man looks on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart.”
—1 Samuel 16:7—

This morning as I was cleaning up the kitchen after fixing breakfast for the Smith-Clements clan I was reflecting on how delighted Mom (Gladys) would have been with this family gathering. There probably wasn’t anything that she enjoyed more than having all her sons and daughters-in-law together. Then I’m also reminded of the times we could have done this, but didn’t and feel a certain sadness at the opportunities missed.
As we come to the Advent season it brings with it a time to remember to make the extra efforts doing even small things, to be thankful for a family gathering, to keep in touch with loved ones when miles or activities separate you, as well as remembering the time we have is granted by God and we need to use it wisely.

Dear Lord, may we always be conscious of the time given to us on this earth and use it in ways that will bring us closer to You. Amen

Friday, December 2, 2011

Trust IS Faith

Advent Devotional by Russ Pankonin

“O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust:
save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me:
—Psalm 7:1—
The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
—Psalm 9:9-10

How would you respond if someone came up to you, asked you to sell all your possessions, your home and leave everything else behind, and follow him wherever he leads you?
I don’t think I could do it. Could you? But that’s what Jesus asked of his disciples and that’s what they did. What great trust those 12 disciples put in our Savior. What great faith they had to follow him. Yes, trust IS faith.
God has not asked us to sell our belongings and leave everything behind, but he has asked us to put our trust and faith in him.
As Christians, we believe in the one, true Almighty God. Yet, none of us have ever seen God, or touched God—all we have is the Bible. But through our faith and trust, we know that he is always there with us—serving as our guidepost for daily living; in times of joy, in times of grief; in times of trial. He has never forsaken us!
He told us that if we have faith and never doubt, that faith can move mountains. “You can get anything—anything you ask for in prayer—if you believe.” Sometimes we find that God has a different plan from what we think we need. And He knows best.
Trust is indeed faith.

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for the peace you bring to our daily lives and pray that you continue to guide us and protect us. We pray that our trust and faith in You and Your word continues to grow each and every day and that we never doubt our faith that will one day bring us to your heavenly home. Amen.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Have An Attitude of Faith

Advent Devotional by Joyce Terryberry

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.”
—Hebrews 11:1—

Our grandson recently had a birthday party. He wanted the theme to revolve around games. One of the games was an obstacle course. One of the parts of the obstacle course was to swing on a rope over a long pool of water and not land in the water. Well, more than half of the children landed in the water, but to my surprise most all of them “shook it off” and repeated the course several more times. Oh, to have the faith of a child, that everything will be okay.
As we go through life, those who have an attitude of faith, know that Jesus is with us even in the unknowns of the future. Like the little children, we must have hope and trust in the Lord.

Dear Lord, thank you for giving us the opportunity to worship You and experience an attitude of faith. Help us to never give up hope in ourselves and others. Amen

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Have Your Tastes Changed?

Advent Devotional by Elna Rae West

“Oh, how I love Thy laws!
It is my meditation all the day.”
—Psalm 119:97—
Why is it we feel that some foods don’t taste as good as they did when we were younger? We wonder why fresh peaches, sweet corn and delicious pastries, like chocolate cake and cherry pie, lack the flavor they used to have. It’s not the “quality” that changes, but our taste buds thin out as we grow older.
Young children have an abundance of taste buds. When a little boy “crams” food into his mouth and he looks like a chipmunk, he doesn’t think it’s “poor manners,” he’s satisfying his taste buds.
In a spiritual sense, some Christians suffer a similar deterioration . . . a loss of taste for the things of God. Many new believers eagerly devour the milk of the Word. They can’t get enough. Their spiritual taste buds are in overdrive and soon they are chewing the solid food of the Bible.
Then something happens to “numb” Christians to the delightful delicacies of God’s truth. Unlike the process that weakens our ability to enjoy the flavor of the cherry pie, this spiritual deadening can be avoided. The attitude of the psalmist will prevent it. He said, “Oh, how I love Thy laws!” (119:97)
Are your spiritual taste buds “sweeter than honey?” Does the Bible still have its same appeal as when you were a young Christian? If not, there may be a problem with your taste buds.
How sweet are Thy words unto my taste? Yea sweeter than honey to my mouth. (Psalm 119:103)

Dear Lord, may we cram Your words into our hearts, so they will be sweeter than honey! Amen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesdays With Steve

Advent Devotional by Jewel Jensen

“The Lord your God is with you,the Mighty Warrior who saves. 
He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
—Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)—

Because of God’s love for us, we are blessed in so many ways. For me, relationships with the people I have known have been some of God’s greatest blessings.
In the Spring of 1997, my nephew Steve was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He had the courage to undergo experimental treatment, have two stem-cell transplants, endured many rounds of chemo, and suffered through surgeries. Yet during all of this, his faith in God never waivered. He touched so many lives, making those better people for having known him.
During his final weeks in the hospital, I spent many Tuesdays with Steve. As sick as he was, he was always thinking of others. He would telephone early to hear what I wanted for lunch and place the order. At the young age of 38 years, Steve left us with hurting hearts to be with his Lord and Savior. There will always be a special place in my heart for him; especially on TUESDAYS.
Several years ago Steve wrote, “My faith deepens my trust in God, as I have laid this troubled part of my life at His feet.”

Loving God, may we lay our troubles at Your feet. Help everyone who is hurting spiritually and physically. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Was Lost

Advent Devotional by Lori Pankonin

“For this son of mine was dead and is alive again;
he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.”
—Luke 15:24—

I think back to an experience when I felt lost. My husband, Russ, and I had gone to a governmental affairs conference in Washington D.C. with my parents. My choice of activities one afternoon was to tour the Holocaust Museum with other newspaper folks. Rather than returning on the bus, I’d take a cab to Arlington National Cemetery where some of our Nebraska delegation had special permission to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I would meet Russ there.
The Holocaust Museum was gut wrenching, the stories of pain and suffering physically and emotionally made real. I would have liked to stay longer but it was time to go. As I was waiting for a cab, someone mentioned that the subway system was just down the block. Well I hadn’t ridden the subway yet this trip but did recall that it’s a great way to get around. And Arlington Cemetery was indeed one of the stops.
I found the entrance and was reading the maps when someone gave me hints that I needed to get on the blue line. Insecurity hit me and I found myself praying for guidance and safety. Down the cement stairs I went and asked the other folks waiting if this was the blue line. They didn’t speak English so there was no assurance there but whoosh, up pulled the next train. Not even realizing how totally blind I was, I stepped on the train. Oh my gosh!! There sat my parents. I could have stepped in the door just feet away and wouldn’t have even known they were close. Or minutes later, I’d have been on a different train. Here I was in my adult life as petrified as a young child who found my Mommy and Daddy.
As it turned out, we were not on the blue line. Dad realized we were going the wrong way and we jumped off that train at the next stop and quickly got on another. We literally ran through the cemetery, getting to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just in time. There was Russ so very relieved. He had started wondering where he would start if I didn’t show up. That was in the day before cell phones.
I was beyond thankful and truly sensed that the Lord put my parents there for guidance. I was lost but they found me.
This makes me relate to the above Bible verse. What a celebration for those who have strayed from loving Jesus if they are found and return to the life of trusting Him.

Loving God, may we remember how much more safe and secure we feel when we have You to turn to. Be with us when we start to stray and help us to find others who need led to You. Amen.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A-D-V-E-N-T, The Prophet's Candle

The desert and the dry land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom like the crocus.
They will burst into bloom, and rejoice with joy and singing.
They will receive the glory of Lebanon the splendor of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the LORD’s glory, the splendor of our God.
Isaiah 35: 1-2 Common English Bible

A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse; a branch will sprout from his roots.
The LORD’s spirit will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
aspirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD.
Isaiah 11:1-2 Common English Bible

The first candle of Advent reminds us of the Hope of the coming of a savior, a descendent of King David, who will redeem humanity and restore a righteous relationship between God and all people.

Advent Devotional by Esther Arnison

“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,
and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only
begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
—John 1:14—
If we are going to celebrate the birth of Christ and its meaning for us, we must prepare ourselves for that unique experience. That preparation is the Advent season.
We must affirm our Christian faith; take the yes side, knowing that in a positive attitude toward Christian principles lies our joy.
We must discern that faith as it is, one that is truly distinct from others because the Christ who came as a baby was evidence of God’s faith in man.
We must venerate the God who sent the Son, keeping the Old Testament commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.”
We must embrace the precepts which Christ gave us to live by, not only voicing them, but living and dying for them.
We must nurture the Church that has grown out of the birth, life, and death of Christ Jesus, believing in the salvation He brought for all mankind.
We must transcend the difficulties and burdens that tempt us to turn from the star and the cross which symbolize our faith in God.

Most Gracious God, through Advent to Christmas and beyond, grant us Your love in our hearts, Your peace in our world, and Your kingdom for eternity. Amen

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Scenes From My Kitchen Window

Advent Devotional by Arlene Large

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor
reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father
feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
—Matthew 6:26—

It was a hot July day. From my kitchen window I saw a little ground squirrel run up the steps headed for the corner where various pots of flowers and foliage would provide shelter. I had been needing to clean up the bird droppings on the picnic set, so I went out and unrolled enough water hose to reach across the porch. With the spray nozzle on the hose I went for the corner first, thinking, “I really do not care to have that little creature abiding in my flower pot!” I watched for movement in the direction I was spraying, but quick as a flash of lightning, the little squirrel dashed past my sandaled feet and across the porch. What had attracted that little creature to a cement porch?
Earlier that year, I laughed as, from my kitchen window, I watched as a small bunny darted from the flower pot corner, scampered along the brick wall and came to a screeching halt at the drop off into the garden. The bunny spun around, returned to the sheltered area, and then, after contemplating awhile, took another run. Again he came to an abrupt stop and dashed back to the sheltered area. How many times he tried to get brave enough to make the drop into the garden I do not know, but he was gone when I went outside to investigate.
Although these stories made me grin, they also made me think how we humans react to our faith and trust in God. Do we get into places that are strange to us and get rebuffed like these little animals did? Do we run against the waters of life to escape what God has in store for us? Are we afraid to drop over the edge and surrender to God’s love?

Father, we pray for your guidance in our lives. Give us strength to face the unknown, trusting that you are with us. Amen

Friday, November 25, 2011

Logan's Way

Advent Devotional by Jana Pribbeno

“Don’t forget to be kind to strangers, for some who have
done this have entertained angels without realizing it."
—Hebrews 13:2 (The Living Bible-paraphrased)—

The evening of Dec. 6, 2008 started out as any ordinary Saturday night. Our daughter had taken our grandkids to a movie, our son was in his second year of law school, my husband was watching TV and I had just opened up an Angel poem that I had purchased for a Christmas present. The phone rang early and we were notified that our 14-year-old nephew, Logan, had been in a very bad accident. Shortly after that we were told that he had passed away.
After his death, a swarm of students, parents and friends filled the home of his parents. They began to share their stories of Logan being an extraordinary young man. He helped and encouraged everyone as they were all his friends.
The days, weeks and now years have passed and his parents found a way to grieve for their loss. They have established a foundation to help under-privileged kids through scholarships to one of the best high schools in the Denver area, intramural sports and numerous other things—giving children a chance to dream and to hope.
Even though Logan is no longer with us, his short life has brought and continues to bring good things to others.
Thought for the day:
Live our earthly lives in peace and harmony, pleasing God, ourselves and others.

Dear Father, be with those who are mourning during the holidays. Help them to enjoy the company of others and be surrounded with love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Be Still

Advent Devotional by Pat Andersen

“Be still and know that I am God. I am exalted
among the nations. I am exalted in the earth.”
—Psalm 46:10—
My assignment for the Lay Ministry School was to write a “homily.” The scripture “Be still and know that I am God” was the thought that kept going through my mind. There are so many distractions that drown out the silence. Our lives are filled with responsibilities, jobs, families, all of which give people many reasons not to take the time to listen to the voice within.
The song “Softly and Tenderly” tells us that Jesus is calling each of us, not over a loud speaker in some auditorium, but quietly in our hearts, describing how God’s spirit is working within each person right where they are. It is in the silence that we can listen to what God is leading us to do and sometimes we turn on the distractions of life to avoid hearing God, but He is still there.
God is like the ever flowing babbling brook we enjoy in the mountains. His presence is always there in spite of the world’s distractions in which we immerse ourselves. In all areas of one’s life, to “be still and know that I am God” is such a reassurance and comfort, like coming home to where you know you are loved. To refill our souls with God’s ever present unconditional love is there for all of us to experience. It is in the silence that God is heard and in the hearing that we know where God will send us.

Dear Lord, you know what’s in our hearts: our joys, sorrows, concerns and the busyness of our every day lives. Help us to be still and feel your presence, your direction, your purpose, your comfort and most of all your love each and every day throughout this Advent season and always. Amen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Advent Devotional

Throughout Advent this blog will reprint the devotionals from Advent Inspirations, a wonderful booklet featuring personal devotions and artwork by the congregation of Imperial United Methodist Church.  Today we start with the introduction which also features artwork by Anna Bauerle.

Faith, marker and colored pencil on paper 
For a color assignment in high school art, Anna illustrated a favorite Bible verse, using a triadic color scheme: “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.” Hebrews 11:6

This Advent devotional began with the simple desire to share personal faith and memories.  It grew from the thought of gathering the Advent and Christmas memories of several people spanning many years and life experiences. It grew to include the original art of local artists and the people who did the proof reading, adding the special touches to the pages, and the final layout.  The idea grew even more. In memory of those with whom Advent and Christmas have been shared, this publication is funded by the generosity of many people in honor of family members and friends. It is the prayer of the congregation of First United Methodist Church, Imperial, Nebraska, this devotional will be a source of blessing for you this Advent and Christmas season and for seasons to come.  A blessed Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas to you.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Advent Devotional

Madonna & Child
by Marcia Bauerle
It's been many months since I posted anything new on this church the point that Google deleted all the old posts!  It was taking up way too much of my time, but I need to let you know a few things and this is the best way to do it!  Hope you are enjoying this amazing fall, and hanging in there with all the crazy business that seems to happen in our lives.  Since Chase County Schools had Fall Break on Friday, lots of our friends are in Lincoln for the game (Yea, Huskers!)  

October 30th is Consecration Sunday, with a great meal after the 10:30 service.  Hope to see all of you there.  I am going to skip the desserts so I can indulge in pie and ice cream at the Celebration of Margaret Uden's life at M&M JAZ. (Okay, I will probably eat dessert at both places!)

The image shown here is going to be part of our Advent Devotional that the Imperial Republican is printing and should be ready in the next week!  It has turned into a great little booklet-- lots of people have spent many hours getting it put together.  It is our prayer that the results of this effort will become a meaningful part of our church family's preparation for Christmas this year and for many years to come.  I can't wait for you all to see it!

Memorial services for Jean Moline will be held at the church on Monday, October 31st at 10:30.  Keep her family in your prayers as they adjust their lives to accommodate their loss.