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.