Summer in the Psalms

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The other day someone randomly asked me if I could recite the 50 states in alphabetical order. “Of course I can. And in under 15 seconds,” I quipped, smugly. I proceeded to do so, to that familiar sing-songy tune from elementary school, here 25+ years later. As a musician, I’ve always used music to help me remember things and putting things to music elevates them to a new status for me. Singing something makes it seem worth remembering. Lately I’ve been thinking more deeply about why.

The book of Psalms, a book of prayers that was originally sung, is the source for the sermon series this summer at Grace Church. Each day we are reading one Psalm upon waking and one before sleeping. Each Sunday, Pastor Edwin will preach on one Psalm, and special musical settings from a variety of genres will be shared at worship, too, as we immerse ourselves in this central book of the Bible.

I’m really excited about this series because of the inherent musicality of it all. I find music to be a highly spiritual practice, and I find it so intriguing that these scriptures were what scholars say Jesus quoted the most. When he did quote from the Psalms, did Jesus sing? Were these familiar tunes that were so connected to these texts their words were unforgettable? Do these scriptures still have application to our lives today?

Join us each day as we pray through the entire book and meditate on these scriptures each Sunday starting this week. Here on the blog, I’ll be sharing my experience with this practice throughout the summer.

Here is the schedule: (And don’t worry, there’s some catch-up time at the end if you get behind!)


June 11, Monday, Psalm 1 and 2

June 12, Tuesday, Psalm 3 and 4

June 13, Wednesday, Psalm 5 and 6

June 14, Thursday, Psalm 7 and 8

June 15, Friday, Psalm 9 and 10

June 16, Saturday, Psalm 11 and 12


June 17:  Sunday, Psalm 1, “Happiness”


June 18, Monday, Psalm 13 and 14

June 19, Tuesday, Psalm 15 and 16

June 20, Wednesday, Psalm 17 and 18

June 21, Thursday, Psalm 19 and 20

June 22, Friday, Psalm 21 and 22

June 23, Saturday, Psalm 23 and 24


June 24: Sunday, Psalm 12, “The End of the Civilization”


June 25, Monday, Psalm 25 and 26

June 26, Tuesday, Psalm  27 and 28

June 27, Wednesday, Psalm 29 and 30

June 28, Thursday, Psalm 31 and 32

June 29, Friday, Psalm 33 and 34

June 30, Saturday, Psalm 35 and 36


July 1: Sunday, Psalm 23, “The Good Shepherd”


July 2, Monday, Psalm 38 and 39

July 3, Tuesday, Psalm 40 and 41

July 4, Wednesday, Psalm 42 and 43

July 5, Thursday, Psalm 44 and 45

July 6, Friday, Psalm 46 and 47

July 7, Saturday, Psalm 48 and 49

 

July 8: Sunday, Psalm 37, “Commit to the Lord: Refrain from Anger”


July 9, Monday, Psalm 50 and 51

July 10, Tuesday, Psalm 52 and 53

July 11, Wednesday, Psalm 54 and 55

July 12, Thursday, Psalm 56 and 57

July 13, Friday, Psalm 58 and 59

July 14, Saturday, Psalm 60 and 61


July 15: Sunday, Psalm 42, “Longing for God”


July 16, Monday, Psalm 62 and 63

July 17, Tuesday, Psalm 64 and 65

July 18, Wednesday, Psalm 66 and 67

July 19, Thursday, Psalm 68 and 69

July 20, Friday, Psalm 70 and 71

July 21, Saturday, Psalm 72 and 73


July 22: Sunday, Psalm 51, “Confession”


July 23, Monday, Psalm 74 and 75

July 24, Tuesday, Psalm 76 and 77

July 25, Wednesday, Psalm 78 and 79

July 26, Thursday, Psalm 80 and 81

July 27, Friday, Psalm 82 and 83

July 28, Saturday, Psalm 84 and 85


July 29: Sunday, Psalm 67, “Evangelism: Joy and Judgement”


July 30, Monday, Psalm 86 and 87

July 31, Tuesday, Psalm 88 and 89

August 1, Wednesday, Psalm 90 and 91

August 2, Thursday, Psalm 92 and 93

August 3, Friday, Psalm 94 and 95

August 4, Saturday, Psalm 96 and 97


August 5: Sunday, Psalm 73, “Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?”


August 6, Monday, Psalm 98 and 99

August 7, Tuesday, Psalm 100 and 101

August 8, Wednesday, Psalm 102 and 103

August 9, Thursday, Psalm 104 and 105

August 10, Friday, Psalm 106 and 107

August 11, Saturday, Psalm 108 and 109


August 12: Sunday, Psalm 91, "Abiding in the Shadow of the Almighty"


August 13, Monday, Psalm 110 and 111

August 14, Tuesday, Psalm 112 and 113

August 15, Wednesday, Psalm 114 and 115

August 16, Thursday, Psalm 116 and 117

August 17, Friday, Psalm 118 and 119

August 18, Saturday, Psalm 120 and 121


August 19: Sunday, Psalm 100, "Make a Joyful Noise"


August 20, Monday, Psalm 122  and 123

August 21, Tuesday, Psalm 124 and 125

August 22, Wednesday, Psalm 126 and 127

August 23, Thursday, Psalm 128 and 129

August 24, Friday, Psalm 130 and 131

August 25, Saturday, Psalm 132 and 133


August 26: Sunday, Psalm 121, “Looking to the Hills for Help”


August 27, Monday, Psalm 134 and 135

August 28, Tuesday, Psalm 136 and 137

August 29, Wednesday, Psalm 138 and 139

August 30, Thursday, Psalm 140 and 141

August 31, Friday, Psalm 142 and 143

September 1, Saturday, Psalm 144 and 145


September 2: Sunday, Psalm 139: “Born to Praise”


September 3, Monday, Psalm 146 and 147

September 4, Tuesday, Psalm 148 and 149

September 5, Wednesday, Psalm 150

September 6-8: Catch up, if needed


September 9: Sunday, Psalm 139/150 “Born to Praise: Part 2”

Christmas Prayer

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God of miracles and mysteries,

We give you thanks this day for the most joyful gift of your son Jesus sent to us on Christmas. Grant us your peace that we might harness the Christ child’s gentleness, humility, and love to do your work in this world. Help us to remember the least, the last, the lost and the lonely, as He did.

As the angels announced the good news to the shepherds and as the star led the wise men far from the safety of their own land, help us to never cease to sing your praises and go out into the world to share the news of your breaking into our world.

In Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen!

Merry Christmas from all of us at Grace and Lumina Arts Incubator! 

 

Creative Arts Advent Devotional: Week 3, Day 5

 Some of my first baby gifts! 

Some of my first baby gifts! 

 

Friday, December 22, 2017:

“But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

Luke 1: 20

Before I became pregnant myself, numerous people told me that becoming a mother could be a deeply spiritual experience. As this process of growing a human for the first time has been happening to me this year, I do find myself in agreement with them. Miracle is one way to describe this process. Getting out of God’s way would be another. It has certainly been a lesson in trust and praise, that’s for sure. Mostly, I feel blessed to be expecting a child, as I know many people are not afforded this privilege.

What has surprised me most in this process is how along with these warm feelings of closeness and mysticism, has come a very unsettling feeling. To describe it positively, I might call it awe, more negatively it could be deemed worry... but let’s just say it might be most accurately described in Zechariah’s reaction to the angel in this verse from Luke 1.

Have you ever been given an amazing blessing and felt a rush of intense doubt and anxiety immediately upon getting the news? I do not blame Zechariah in his response one bit. I fell mute in disbelief the first time someone gave us baby clothes as a gift. It seemed impossible to believe that a human being that I was going to make in my own womb was going to wear that onesie.

Maybe the silence that the angel sentences Zechariah to isn’t a punishment but a gift. How many of us could benefit from quietly reflect on God at work in our lives, to quiet our minds and lips as we live in the presence of the holy miracles happening every day in our midst? I don’t believe that my disquieting (interesting word...isn’t it?) feelings about even my blessings are a direct distrust of God. Instead, I think they are more of a symptom of the smallness of my hopes and dreams.  God always seems to be calling us to greater and greater blessings that are beyond our understanding. Like C.S. Lewis wrote, “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”* When did our awe and praise become so clouded by doubt and worry? How can quiet meditation and reflection of both the good and bad in our lives bring us closer to God and God’s will?

Prayer: Creator God, thank you for your miracles, big and small, believable and unbelievable. Help us to not be so easily pleased, and to hope for your power and might to bring about impossible blessings in our lives, in spite of past hardships. Thank you for the gift of motherhood and all your precious children, in and out of utero. Especially the Child we celebrate at Christmas, your Son, in whose name we pray, Amen.

Creative Call-to-Action: For 10 minutes today go for a walk, keeping silence. Listen to the world around you, and whenever you notice something, give it to God. What questions form in your mind? What doubts trouble you? Trust God in the silence.

—Merideth Hite Estevez

*The Weight of Glory

Advent Creative Arts Devotional: Week 3, Day 4

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Thursday, December 21, 2017:

The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.”

  Luke 1:19

When I used to think of angels, I always imagined these figures draped in all white with a gold halo strumming a harp. WITH WINGS! Don’t forget the beautiful long white wings that allow them to travel between heaven and earth. In fact, the main-stream media has made an angel out to be this unattainable creature that no human has the potential to become.

It wasn’t until I became an adult that I encountered people who challenged my thought process. They challenged me by exhibiting characteristics of an angel that I didn’t hear about or see on television or read in stories. They showed me compassion in times of desperation, generosity and kindness at times I didn’t deserve it, and most importantly they showed me unconditional love.

Just like this passage, angels come into our lives spreading messages of hope, love and salvation. They are constant reminders that God is always present whether we are  enduring tough times or celebrating the best of times. Sometimes we listen and we are filled with hope, other times we may be so discouraged that we don’t embrace the message. This may be because it’s not the message we wanted to hear, it wasn’t said when we thought it should be said or it didn’t come from who we thought it should have come from.

We must remember to not be like  Zechariah, in his doubt. We must take the time to lis-ten and take heed to messages that come from God’s chosen people. We must use dis-cernment and recognize when we are in the presence of an earthy angel who God has sent to help us find our way.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for thinking of me so highly that you would send your angels to me in my times of need. Right now I ask that you bless me with the wisdom to know when you have sent me an angel to bring about good news and the courage to listen to the message. I pray that I be reminded that your angels are a  constant reminder that you are always there and you will never leave me or forsake me. In your name I pray, Amen.

Creative Call-to-Action: Write a letter to someone who has been an angel in your life. Take the time to include a moment where they shared good news or a message you desperately needed to hear. When you complete the letter, decide if you would like to send it to your angel or keep it for yourself. 

—Brandi Bey

Creative Arts Advent Devotional: Week 3, Day 3

  Kehinde Wiley, Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, 2013 


Kehinde Wiley, Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, 2013 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017: He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Luke 1: 16-17

In this passage, Gabriel, an angel from God, is speaking to Zechariah informing him of the birth of his son John. Just like people of today, Zechariah didn't believe what the angel said, even though the angel told him of John's great purpose-- that John was to announce the birth of Jesus: The Christ, our Lord and Savior. John did accomplish his mission, but it took persistence, stamina and boldness. He never backed down.

Who are the forerunners of Christ today? It's all of us who are born-again believers.  We must now prepare the people for Christ's Second Coming.  Like John the Baptist, we are the ones God chose to spread the good news: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We have all been gifted with talents to be used for His glory, and it takes commitment as we strive to stay on task and always be devoted to the cause.  The work can be grueling at times, but like John, we must never give up.  Distractions can also get in the way but keeping our minds stayed on the task at hand will brings results that will never be for-gotten for generations to come.

This is what it was like for John the Baptist. He warned the people to repent so they could be prepared for the anticipation (or Advent): the birth of Jesus. All who listened and believed in the coming of the Son of God, were reconciled back to the Father and had everlasting life.

Prayer:  Father God, please lead and allow me to have the boldness of John the Baptist to prepare today's people to receive within their entire being the love of Jesus. Open their hearts and minds to ask for forgiveness of their sins and the desire to live a life that glorifies you. In Jesus’ precious name I pray, Amen!

Creative Call-to-Action: Familiarize yourself with scriptures by attending worship and Bible Study, and by committing to personal time with the Lord each day. Challenge yourself to share with at least two other people about what Advent means to you this week. Remember: it’s not always what you receive, it's what you bring.

   —Minister Sandy Clark

Creative Arts Advent Devotional: Week 3, Day 2

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017:

Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.

    Luke 1: 11-13

These verses reveal a lot about God and His plan for our future before we were ever born. We are reminded that He has known and planned for everyone to see the grace of God in Jesus the Christ.  John’s name means the “Grace of God” or gracious God.

Zechariah had prayed for a child for a very long time. This time the prayer is answered while he is at the altar,  by an angel of the Lord who appeared and called him by name.  Not only was Elizabeth going to have a son, but their son would be the forerunner for Jesus.

This had been God’s plan all along, yet Zechariah prayed year after year for a child... and possibly thought his prayer would never be answered.  He could not have known the answer to the prayer would be so much more than he had prayed for, that their son would make way for Jesus.

This passage reminds me that God does hear our prayers even if they seem to be unanswered. Even if we doubt that they will ever be answered, like Zechariah, we must not lose hope.  Rejoice and know that in God’s time, prayers will be answered and will bring unexpected blessings.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father for hearing our prayers and answering in your time. Thank you that you have the best answer, far greater than we might imagine. Align our prayers with your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Creative Call-to-Action: Make time to pray the prayers that you have prayed for a long time. As you pray, rest in God’s answer to Zechariah and Elizabeth, and reassure yourself that they will be answered in God’s timing and with His amazing grace. 

—Cindy Thompson

 

Creative Arts Advent Devotional: Week 3, Day 1

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Monday, December 18, 2017:

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

  Luke 1:5-7

Besides the miracle that is on the horizon, one of the things I notice most about this passage are the names.  Luke wants to give a historical account, but he also wants the reader to see the contrasts: King Herod, the political power, serves as the backdrop to the story. The priest named Zechariah, a descendant of Abijah and his wife Elizabeth, whose descendant is Aaron, are barren, and so not valued highly in society. Aaron’s name would have reminded anyone familiar with Jewish history of the great Exodus-- the liberation of God’s people from Egypt, a miraculous visit from an angel, and God’s faithfulness to the covenant.  Those with this lens would see that Luke’s Gospel presents a God seeking to fulfill the promises to God’s people, just like he did in Exodus.

The meaning behind the names are also enriching. Take, for example, Zechariah. His name means “The Lord Remembers” and Elizabeth can mean “The God of the Oath.”  When placed together, they echo Luke’s story: “The Lord of the Oath Remembers.” So amid Roman imperialism, religious subjugation, and economic difficulty, God is at work with a miracle, remembering the barren and the old, those who have not produced as society expects.

  This portion of the Gospel reminds us that we worship a God who does not forget us, no matter how unimportant we might seem to the likes of the King Herods of our world. We are loved not because of what we do, but because of who we are—the beloved children of God through Jesus Christ.

Prayer: God of our weary years, God of our many tears, help us to trust that you continue to be with us, and have not forgotten us. Remind us that you are at work in our lives and in our world, through miracles large and small, making all things new and beautiful. Encourage us with the hope that you’re about to do something in our hearts, in our relationships, in our jobs, in our finances, and in our troubles. We pray in Jesus’s name, Amen!

Creative Call-to-Action: Write down a miracle God has performed in your life. Where were you, what did you feel, what had you been praying for, who was there and who/what was affected? Share this story with someone who may not know about it.  —Rev. Edwin Estevez

Creative Arts Advent Devotional: Week 2, Day 5

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Friday, December 15, 2017:

They will not hurt or destroy    on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord    as the waters cover the sea. On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

          Isaiah 11: 9-10

  Lately it seems that each week there is a new terror attack or act of violence that claims the lives of innocent people.  Those who love God and try to live righteously may get discouraged living among the turmoil and wickedness of our day. Hope may begin to seem unrealistic. Yet our hope is not in society. Our hope is in the Lord of all creation; a God who is still in charge and is actively at work transforming the world.

At times of discouragement, it is important to look at the “bigger picture” of God’s plan to realize that righteousness will eventually prevail.  Isaiah 11 is about God’s Peaceful Kingdom, the “bigger picture,” and contains a message of hope concerning what God will do for his children.  No pain or destruction; what a wonderful thing for which to hope!

  This scripture passage made me think of a few stanzas of the beloved Christmas carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: 

 

And in despair I bowed my head:

“There is no peace on earth, I said,

“For hate is strong and mocks the song

of peace on earth, good will to [all].”

 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

  the wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

with peace on earth, good will to [all].”

 

  Prayer: God, thank you for your marvelous promises.  Please help me to trust in these promises and hope for your Peaceful Kingdom.  Help me to live as an instrument of your peace.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

  Creative Call-to-Action:  Sing or listen to the Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on                Christmas Day.”  Write down your thoughts about how you can help bring about the Peaceful Kingdom.

 —Neil Harmon 

Creative Arts Advent Devotional: Week 2, Day 4

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Thursday, December 14, 2017:

Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

Isaiah 11: 5-8

Here in this passage science is suspended—we know these statements are not true in our world today, simply by observing the Animal Kingdom.

Yet, did not our hearts burn within us, yearning for something we can’t quite name, stirring our spirits toward a dream, as we read this passage? Literature like Plato’s “Republic,” Thomas More’s “Utopia,” and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, I Have A Dream speech have painted a picture of what could be, and yet is not. Something so fantastical it could only be read with longing or mocked with cynicism. It leaves us asking our-selves: What do we yearn for?

When we hear of war and rumors of war, when we see someone sleeping on the street in the cold, when children don’t go to school but instead go to jail, and power continues to dominate and silence: What do we yearn for?

What I find so compelling about Scripture and our God-given faith is that it reveals something so deep about myself, others, and the world. This text captures my deepest yearnings even as I grow cynical and skeptical. Isaiah offers a world I can hardly imagine.

The good news is that in Jesus Christ, Isaiah’s vision is being fulfilled. He is the “child” leading this parade of reconciled relationships, and it is this child we celebrate on Christmas—leading us toward reconciliation with one another until the “upside down” Kingdom of God’s grace is established everywhere.

Prayer: Gracious God, give us the faith and courage to inspire in us the dream of Isaiah, and may we see it fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In His name, Amen!

Creative Call-to-Action: Take 5 minutes today to draw what a “utopian world” would look like. What do you see and who is there?

—Rev. Edwin Estevez

Creative Arts Advent Devotional: Week 2, Day 3

Wednesday, December 13, 2017:

His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

          Isaiah 11: 3-4

From time to time I have moments where I consider Christ’s character. When I’m    watching television, or making a joke, or even hearing a joke I wonder, “Does He find this funny?” Is He laughing with me?  Every so often, I feel that we are laughing together and I am reminded of how God sent Jesus to earth as a human. He experienced all the emotions and feelings that we go through and he was just as vulnerable as we are.

One task that God has given us is that through the evidence of His character and the life of Jesus, we not only draw closer through knowing Him better, we also strive to be like Him.

We all have those friends who love to gossip or maybe we are one of those friends. Think            about some of the things you’ve “heard through the grapevine” or that you’ve sent through the grapevine. (Don’t worry, this won’t lead up to a huge “gotcha!” moment.) Imagine if everything God heard about us was through a grapevine or based on what he sees. I could not imagine the things that would reach His ears!  The wonderful thing about God is that he will disregard all of the hearsay and look at your heart. If we follow his example by not judging based on how things look or what we have heard, we will not be deceived by some of the evils of this world. If we develop His character, we will become wiser in our judgements.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for not judging me by what you see or hear, but what’s in my heart.  Please grant me wisdom to make good judgements. Allow the desires of my heart to coincide with your will. Thank you for sending Jesus to show me how to live.  Amen.

Creative Call-to-Action: Find two Scriptures that describe Gods characteristics. For example, Matthew 7:11. Write down how adapting these characteristics can help you be more like Him. How can you put them into practice? —Jazmin Salaberrios

 

Advent Creative Arts Devotional: Week 2, Day 2

Tuesday, December 12, 2017:

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“The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”

Isaiah 11:2

One of the lessons I learned this year is that I can't be in control of everything in my life. Being in control of every situation, emotion, and action can become so tiring. It is necessary to let go and trust and surrender to the belief that God only wants the best for us. He sent the Holy Spirit to rest upon us at all times. If we surrender to the Spirit and allow the Spirit to provide us with the wisdom and understanding and knowledge to move forward when we feel stuck, we take so much pressure off ourselves. Seek the counsel of the Spirit through prayer and wait for the answer to appear. Even if you feel like taking control again!

When I looked up the meaning of “the fear of the Lord,” I found the following: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10) This gives me comfort to know that we don’t have to fear the Lord in the basic sense of the word, but that we should continue learning and understanding what he wants for, and from, us.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for giving us wisdom and understanding through the Holy Spirit. Teach us to surrender and wait on the Spirit to lead us. Amen

Creative Call-to-Action: Create an affirmation that is meaningful to you and repeat it throughout the day and week. Here is an example: “I surrender to the knowledge and wisdom of the Holy Spirit that loves and leads me.”

—Riana Prins

Creative Arts Advent Devotional: Week 2, Day 1

Monday, December 11, 2017:

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. Isaiah 11: 1

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This time of year often brings drab views of the countryside. Absent are the hanging baskets of blooms that adorned porches, yards and sidewalks. Gone are the vibrant golds, reds and oranges of the leaves that so gloriously adorned the fall landscape. After getting this scripture passage to contemplate, I drove along the PA Turnpike and interstate to a funeral. At first I thought of how depressing everything looked as the colors grew farther apart. Occasionally a house here and there stood out. The pavement was monochromatic. Only the evergreens were still green. Even the fields that had been filled with corn, hay, soybeans, and lush ground a few weeks ago stood barren where the harvest had been made.

Then some clouds separated to bring back colors; I looked up and saw bright sun, blue sky. I was reminded of how, even in the dark, the sunrise and -set often bring us spectacular and glorious palettes of colors that painters have tried to reproduce. If we focus on the lack of the summer colors, we miss the beauty in a resting world, a world that prepares for next growing season. At the end of each night comes the hope of a beautiful sunrise and a new day.

Our faith is often like that, too. We travel in monochromatic paths for a while. Then something wonderful and hopeful meets us where we are. Perhaps it’s a message from a distant friend or family member, an unexpected promotion or recognition, recovery from an illness. Hold onto those glimpses of sun, the possibilities of a new beginning in the morning, reminders that God has, does, and will provide for us.

The Old Testament prophets came close enough to God to hear what God had to say to them. They listened, they spoke, they hoped, they prayed. This passage from Isaiah spoke of someone yet to come. It gave hope to those who read it. A new king, Jesus, is coming. He may arrive in rather drab surroundings but will provide what we need all the days of our lives.

Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for adding the colors to our lives, in the people we love and meet, in opportunities to minister to others, in times of creativity. Remind us that even in the dark, you are with us and will bring us to a new day. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Creative Call-to-Action: Sit quietly for a few minutes. Make a list of all the colors around you.

—Diane Olin White

Creative Arts Advent Devotional: Week 1, Day 5

Friday, December 8th, 2017

“He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”    Isaiah 9: 7b

Do you ever read the Bible and think, “I wonder how God is going to do that?” I try hard not to be cynical (after all, hope is a big part of faith in God),  but it seems impossible to uphold a kingdom of peace with justice and righteousness for one day… forget forever-and-ever-amen. The “peace” we have seen in our day, especially lately, seems to be teetering on the edge of dangerous chaos and complete disintegration. The last line “the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this”— this seems to be a strange choice of words. The prophet doesn’t say it will be the power of God that will do this, or the army of God, or even the politics of God that will bring peace—it is God’s zeal. God’s fervency and devotion to God’s people will accomplish this peace forever. This “zeal” that the prophet Isaiah speaks of—what is it?

God answers this question at Christmas. It is now that we see the zeal in the flesh. We know from Jesus’ character that this zeal is first and foremost about compassion and love; that it works through broken people and great injustice to make all things right in the end. He joins us in the muck of the messes we make and weeps and suffers alongside us. Born a weak and dependent child in a manger, becoming a homeless rabbi wanderer, lover of sinners, a miracle man. What a strange and beautiful way to bring peace forever-more. 

Prayer: Thank you for your mysterious ways, Oh Lord. Thank you that Jesus was born on Christmas to proclaim your power and glory, and that He does so through love and mercy. Place this zeal of yours within us. Give us passion for the weak and disenfranchised, break our hearts for what breaks yours. Thank you for allowing us to partner with you, as you bring about your peaceful world in the most perfect, powerful, and zealous way. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Creative Call-to-Action: Today, be on the lookout for people or things working to bring peace. Take a photo of one example and find someone who may need proof that God is at work, making peace in our world today. Share your photo with them (either on the Facebook post for this devotional, in person, or via text) and proclaim to them “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will bring peace!”

—Merideth Hite Estevez

 This is my friend and neighbor, Tom Davis. He’s a Vietnam vet, a “retired” Presbyterian pastor. I say he’s “retired” because since retiring he’s been commissioned as an “Interfaith Peacemaker” of the New Castle Presbytery and has started the “Interfaith Veterans Workgroup” here in Wilmington—so not really retired at all :) He is also a self-taught photo journalist who reflects the beauty of our city and world through his photographs. He is bringing God’s peace to our little corner of the world... and so LOOK, “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will bring peace!” 

This is my friend and neighbor, Tom Davis. He’s a Vietnam vet, a “retired” Presbyterian pastor. I say he’s “retired” because since retiring he’s been commissioned as an “Interfaith Peacemaker” of the New Castle Presbytery and has started the “Interfaith Veterans Workgroup” here in Wilmington—so not really retired at all :) He is also a self-taught photo journalist who reflects the beauty of our city and world through his photographs. He is bringing God’s peace to our little corner of the world... and so LOOK, “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will bring peace!”