Saturday, December 31, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day #35 What we crave

By Linda Johnson 1st Kings 3:14. "If you walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life."

Be merciful and loving and his promise of ever-lasting eternal life is ours.  This is the inseparable bond that our hearts crave. 💝

Love God with your everything!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day#29 The most precious gift of all

12/25/16 – Titus 3:4-7
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

When I think about my faith, not only at Christmastime, but all year long, I think about God’s mercy and grace.  There is no better gift on earth than His gift of mercy and grace!  I’m sure God wants us to be righteous people, help those in need, and be thankful for our blessings. But He also completely forgives us when we “wander”.

And the hope of eternal life . . . how wonderful is that?  My mom is spending her first Christmas in heaven this year, and it gives me such peace that I know she had a strong faith, which she expressed and shared,  and truly believed in His grace and mercy.  It is so comforting to know that she is right there beside God, watching over all of us.

By: Debora Morlock

Friday, December 23, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day #27 God has a purpose for YOU!

Luke 1: 46b-55;  2 Samuel 7: 18, 23-29;  Galatians 3: 6-14

First scripture reading from Luke 1: 46b-55 is the Magnificat, Mary’s Song of Praise.  Magnificat, a Latin word, is the first word in this passage and is praising God for what he is going to do through her, and that all would be well through her faith.  This song has been used through the centuries as a basis for many hymns and choral music.  God is portrayed in this passage as a savior of the hungry and downtrodden for the ages.

The second scripture is from 2 Samuel 7: 18, 23-29.  This prayer in the Old Testament is from David to God thanking him for what He has done for him and his people, taking them out of Egypt.  David is then asking God to keep his promise to him and his descendants with His blessings so that they would help fulfill God’s greater purpose.   Then through them the world would be continued to be blessed.

The third scripture is from the New Testament in Galatians 3: 6-14.  In this passage Paul writes that we should consider Abraham.  He lived by faith, that his descendants would be blessed; that by their faith they might receive the promise of the Spirit.

In all three of these passages, mortals are praising and thanking God for his help and blessings, asking God to continue his mercy to them.  They receive blessings through their continued faith, even through hardships.  May we continue to live in the faith and fulfill God’s purpose for us and for all humankind.

Dorie Deyo

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day#24 Freedom is Free! No really...

On Sunday evening at confirmation class, the students and I looked at Galatians, a letter of Paul, that was written to the people in Galatia (present day Turkey); that focused on the challenges of being the church that included people from varying backgrounds. Some of the people that were in this early Christian movement had started their faith in the Jewish tradition and others were gentiles who had come from a background of various belief systems. This new collaboration between people from diverse backgrounds caused conflicts.

What did a person have to live like to be considered a Christian? What about all the traditions and laws that the Jewish people used to follow? Would this newly developing group find a way to be church together, even in this midst of these challenges?

All in all, Paul spoke to the people of Galatia about the importance of all people being united in Christ, and because of Christ that Jews and Gentiles had been freed to live - and be the church that was no longer slaves to the law. Jesus had, on the cross, made all that believe in him - FREE!

To some, this offer of freedom from sin and freedom to live seemed too good to be true, like a sales offer that claims a desirable new product is FREE - with no strings attached. This is often NOT our experience, so it's hard to believe that God would give this gift of freedom - for FREE!
But this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the good news that we long for. This freedom is better than any sales offer we've seen, because this offer has been paid in full by Christ on the cross.

We have been freed from sin and sent out to live - to be the church - to be God's children in all the variety and complexity that is the sea of humanity.

Prayer:
Thank you God for this freedom from sin and freedom to live - help us - in our diversity and varied gifts to live freely. Help us to know your offer is one we can trust.
Amen

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Monday, December 19, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day #23 A brag letter for God

Recently and friend and I had a cup of tea, shared what was going on in our lives since our last cup of tea, and talked about our feelings concerning "Annual Christmas Letters". While we enjoy hearing news from family and friends, we did notice that is challenging to tell the whole story of our year on one piece of paper. It is easy to look at the high notes of the days that have passed and think that achievement and the communication of achievement can become to focus of  our annual holiday letters. It also can become easy to allow this letter to become a singular statement of, "This is what I've accomplished this year.", without taking into consideration how many other unseen heroes actually were instrumental in making any of these accomplishments possible.

The more we talked about holiday letters, we came to embrace that whatever achievements we like to share - we need to give credit where credit is due.

Meeting a goal or achieving a dream is not reached by sheer determination or effort of one person; but is a collaboration of many people through many networks with shared sources and influences - and some would say; with the help of God in order to come to pass. Today's text is Hannah's prayer - and some might say it is a bold statement, perhaps even a brag letter - on how amazing God is. Even in the midst of struggle, Hannah sees God as her rock, her wisdom and her hope. If Hannah were to write an annual Holiday letter - the star of it would be God.

In the joy of the season, we love to share the happiness and good things of the past year; but it's important to remember how God has blessed us with the helpers and 'the help of God' in every moment.

Prayer:
God thank you for your help, for the helpers and the people, family and friends, that share our days, our joys and our sorrows. Thank you God for being our rock!


1 Samuel 2:1-10 (RSV)

Hannah’s Prayer
2 Hannah also prayed and said,

“My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,because I rejoice in thy salvation.
2 “There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides thee;
    there is no rock like our God.3 Talk no more so very proudly,
    let not arrogance come from your mouth;for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
    and by him actions are weighed.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day #22 WOW!

Fourth Sunday of Advent—Matthew 1:18-25 by Allen Johnson
FAITH IN TIMES OF BEWILDERMENT---WOW—HEAVY DUTY! Joseph’s faith was tested when an angel of the Lord spoke to him in a bewildering dream. He passed the test with awesome faith! Sometimes in the face of trying times and difficult situations we have to do as Joseph did so marvelously---ACT ON IT by trusting the Lord, being obedient, and letting Him work in our lives.

“Faith is more than thinking something is true. Faith is thinking something is true to the extent that we act on it.”---W.T. Purkiser

Saturday, December 17, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day #21 God, shine your light

As we pass each day into the heart of winter, the light of day grows darker. Our time of light and clear vision seems to become more and more challenging. The Psalmist writes to God the Creator of all things - of light, and matter and most importantly, love. This God is not one that disengages with the darkness of our world, but sent his son, Jesus Christ, to  become Emmanuel, "God with us". While the atmosphere of our days literally becomes darker as we approach Christmas Day, the light of Jesus is something that will never leave us or forsake us.

What we see with our physical eyes, does not give us the whole picture and light of what God is up to. No matter what darkness - physical or otherwise - we face, the light and love of Christ is always present. In our tears, our scorn - we can always turn to our God, who always hears our prayers and lights the day's and night's of our lives.

PRAYER:
Heavenly Father,
Thank you for hearing our prayers, helping us in the conflicts we face, and bringing the light of Jesus; our hope, our joy, our peace and our love.
Amen

Psalm 80:1-7
 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou who leadest Joseph like a flock!
Thou who art enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
2     before E′phraim and Benjamin and Manas′seh!
Stir up thy might,and come to save us!
3 Restore us, O God; let thy face shine, that we may be saved!
4 O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry with thy people’s prayers?
5 Thou hast fed them with the bread of tears,
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
6 Thou dost make us the scorn[a] of our neighbors;
    and our enemies laugh among themselves.
7 Restore us, O God of hosts;let thy face shine, that we may be saved!

Friday, December 16, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day#20 Who am I?


Ian Eastman writes: “Who am I?” “Where do I fit?” “Am I capable of love?” These are some of the central questions of life. The gentile Christians in Galatia struggled with the idea of being second-class Christians because of their ancestry. Saint Paul in a letter explained that “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children” (Galatians 4:4-5 NRSV). Good news for them—and us. We need not worry about measuring up or being good enough. New life is a gift of God, not an achievement of our efforts.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

#advantageousadvent #19

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 2 Samuel 7:1-17; Galatians 3:23-29

To me these verses remind us that God is always with us and He has a plan for each and every one of us.  The law helps us to know right from wrong but no matter how hard we try we always fall short.  But God is always there to forgive us.  We are all God's children whether we are rich or poor, young or old, Jew or Gentile.

Judy Lind

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

#advantagousadvent Day #17 St. Lucia Day

#advantgeousadvent For December 13th by Karin Flynn

Ezekiel 47:1-12, Psalm 42, Jude 17-25
Today Scandinavians celebrate St. Lucia's Day. The eldest daughter in the family usually plays the part of Lucia.She brings the symbol of light to come as she wears a crown of candles and brings coffee and rolls to her family early in the morning on one of the darkest nights of the year. The song she sings translates into, "Santa Lucia, thy light is glowing, through darkest winter night, comfort bestowing."
During the dark days of Advent as we wait for the light of the world how can we bring light and comfort to others? As we wait let us take comfort in these verses... From Psalm 42 "I will put my hope in God and once again I will praise him my Savior and my God." and...Jude 21 "Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life."
Dear God, Thank you for giving us the light of Jesus Christ who shines through our darkness. Amen

Monday, December 12, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day #16 Waiting

 Psalm 42; Isaiah 29:17-24; Acts 5:12-16

Today's focus is on Psalm 42.

It’s the season of Advent; the season of waiting.  There are many things we wait for in life – we wait for dinner to cook; we wait for the days’ work to be done so we can go home; we wait for the bus; we wait for love.  Sometimes the waiting seems endless; we feel that prize at the end of the wait is never going to get here.  We get impatient, even angry sometimes while we wait.  We may feel sad.  The writer of Psalm 42 was waiting for God.  Verse 1 says: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”  This season of Advent is a season of longing.  We are longing for the birth of that little baby who is our Lord and Savior and who gives us hope.  Some of us fill that time by going to church each Sunday and celebrating the waiting.  Some of us fill the time with Christmas shopping, decorating and baking.  Others don’t have much to fill that time with – they are sad and afraid, maybe waiting alone for Christmas.  Perhaps that is more of us than we care to admit.  We worry about our families, our finances, our world in general.  But then Christmas Eve comes, we go to church and we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the light of the world.  As we light our candles and sing “Silent Night,” we feel the hope surge within us.  We, too, follow the star and find hope at the end of it.   Verse 11 says: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”

Keep hoping in God my friends, for Christmas is almost here.

Darcy Whitney

Sunday, December 11, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day #15 Glitter gets everywhere

Earlier this morning in worship, my church celebrated the third week of Advent with the youth of the church telling the story of the birth of Christ. As you might imagine, there were wise men, angels, Innkeeper, King Herod, Mary, Joseph, a star, some stable "animals" and three sister shepherdesses led our shepherds. In addition to all the familiar parts of the joyful storytelling was singing, clapping and glitter...lots and lots of glitter.




Apparently in all the movement and telling of this nativity story, a great deal of glitter from our costumes left a trail all over the sanctuary, fellowship hall and out the doors and into the parking lot. After service had ended and I headed up the main stairs to turn off all the lights, little glints and glimmers of glitter caught my eye and I thought, "Glitter gets everywhere!"

Indeed it does. 

Yes glitter can be difficult to get up off the carpet and it travels home with you on the bottoms of your shoes because glitter is persistent. 

While there is a time to break out the vacuum and clean up all the glitter, for the moment I am encouraged by seeing it here and there. I love how it makes its way into all the rooms we live and travels with us wherever we go. On this third week of Advent, when we might be feeling a bit weary with all our preparation for Christmas, we need a dose - I need a dose - of persistent, glittery, joy. I need to be reminded that in the midst of challenge and conflict - the joy of Jesus is with me even now. Th joy of Christ is the light that goes with me everyday. It is a light in the darkness. It is hope when we feel helpless. It is like the persistent glitter from Christmas program angel wings - and  it carries us in joy to the day we long to see...Christmas morning, because..."glitter gets everywhere!"

Prayer: Jesus help us to hold on to your light and hope this day - and even when we think we are in the dark, remind us that you stick with us like glitter. You are always lighting our path and leading the way with light. Amen


James 5:7-10
5:7 Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.
5:8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.
5:9 Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!
5:10 As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

#advantagousadvent Day #14

From Mike Flynn...

Saturday December 10, 2016:  Psalm 146:5-10; 1 Samuel 2:1-8; Luke 3:1-18


Hannah praised God for being protected from many dangers and for providing her a son.  God is also praised for helping the poor and needy and generally lifting people of faith to a higher level.  In the last reading, John the Baptist strongly encourages us to respond to God's grace by actively being responsible in our Community of Faith.  We accept God's grace, but we are also obligated to respond in the same way to others.  

Thursday, December 08, 2016

#avantageousadvent Day #13 "Waiting... for us"

Psalm 146:5-10, Ruth 4: 13-17, 2 Peter 3:11-18
By Paula Hofgren

In this season of Advent, we watch and wait…………
“Happy is the man and woman who has God as his/her helper, whose hope is in the Lord God.”
God keeps his promises to every generation, forever. Advent is a season that emphasizes this hope and waiting for those promises to be fulfilled for each of us through his birth then death, resurrection and eventual return when everything around us will someday melt away and in its place a new earth and heaven where only goodness will reside.
Jesus’ promises, to give justice to the poor and oppressed and food to the hungry, freedom to the prisoners, protection to the immigrants, and care for the orphan and widow, must be accomplished through the good deeds of the people who love and carry out those promises for him and with his help. Peter warns that God loves and desires goodness in men and women person to person. Peter says that while you are waiting for these things to come we should try hard to live without sinning and live at peace with everyone so He will be pleased with you when He does return.

He has delayed His coming to give each of us time to get His message of salvation to others, so while you are waiting; I pray you will grow in spiritual strength and become better acquainted with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

#avantageousadvent Day #11

By: Janet Thom

Readings:Psalm 21; Genesis 15: 1-18; Matthew 12:33-37 Prayer after reading all three... Lord, giver of life, I praise you. Through the ages you have given men reason to hope. Your love for us has been never ending in spite of our shortcomings. You have kept your promises. Because of your never ending love I can have hope even when all around me there are many dark and scary events unfolding both near and far. Let me learn to better reflect that love in my daily living so that I too can share the hope you have given so many.

Monday, December 05, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day #9

Some reflections from Dale Ann on today's readings...
God cares about our lives                                                                                            I Thess 4:1-12
God is deeply concerned with our daily walk, and how we live the Christian life. The Lord came, not just to make us children of God and to get us into heaven; but also, to enable us to live as the children of God should live, in a dark and sinful world that does not know Him. We must not only persevere to the end, but we should grow in our faith, and walk even more closely with God.  We are encouraged to live in Holiness, and cautions us against uncleanness. We are instructed to love each other in brotherly love, live a quiet life, and to honor God .
God gives people the gift of Jesus                                                                                Psalm 21
This Psalm can be read as a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. All our blessings are the gifts of goodness and grace from God.  We did nothing to earn or merit these gifts; but rather, they are examples of God's goodness. We should look forward with faith, hope, and prayer for what God will do for us.
God forgives sinners by His grace, receives them to His favor, and delivers them from His wrath to come. May He be exalted, by His all-powerful grace, in our hearts, destroying all the strong-holds of sin and Satan. How great should be our joy and praise to behold the Messiah, our Brother and Friend, upon God’s throne, and for all the blessings we may expect from Him! Yet He delights in conferring happiness and glory upon us as poor sinners, who love and trust in Him.
 Rejoice in God, not human efforts                                                                        Isaiah 24:1-16 
All people who depend upon their treasures and happiness on this earth, will soon be brought to despair and misery. Sin has turned the earth upside down; the earth has become quite different from what God first created and intended. The world we live in is a filled with disappointment and tears, and our few days on this earth are full of trouble. God's curse applies to all people, regardless of their power and position on earth.  Sin brings these calamities upon the earth.  The earth is polluted by the sins of men; therefore, it is made desolate by God's judgments. Let men rejoice in God; then no man, no event, can take their joy from them.
Those who rejoice in the Lord can rejoice in trials and tribulation, and by faith, they will triumph. In every fire, in every place, let us keep up our good thoughts upon God and His wonderful mercies.
(Paraphrased excerpts from Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible, and Bible.org.)

Sunday, December 04, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day 8: Small roots for peace

When I think about a stump - I recall a grove of trees and plants that was at the center of our rural driveway growing up. It was filled with rhododendron bushes that bloomed in the warm months. But somewhere in the midst of all this growth there was a stump of an old tree that had been cut down, probably to make way for the new plants. This stump wasn't much of anything to look at, but became a place for me to sit and ponder the world around me as a child. Stumps are for sitting on, right?

The "stump of Jesse" referred to in Isaiah 11 is an old fashioned way of defining the Messianic line that began with King David and from whom the Son of God - the Messiah - would come. This "stump" will grow a branch and from that branch, according to chapter 11, true peace will come to pass. 

In this second week of Advent - we focus on the theme of Peace, and how God is the one always coming to us - and came to us in flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ. Because of God's action - growth comes from unexpected places. Because of God - a small stump can produce a new branch - even a big tree. 

As you ponder peace this week, look for unexpected places of peace - of growth - and hope. God changed the world starting with that "stump of Jesse" and is still at work bringing peace.

Prayer: God help us to see small signs of Peace. Help us ponder all the ways you are working in our lives. Thank you for always coming to us.

Isaiah 11:1-10 The Peaceful Kingdom

11 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 And 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;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist,
    and faithfulness the girdle of his loins.
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
    and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
and the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall feed;
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy
    in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day #7 - John the "Plow"

The gospel of John is, in my opinion, the most poetic of the gospels. From the opening line, John canvases all of time and space to make the important point that God is always coming to us - and in the case of John the Baptist, is doing all he can to plow the way clear.
While it might not be poetic to say that John purpose was to plow the way clear for Jesus, I do like the drama of this statement. The hope of the Advent season wasn't something that John was meek in sharing. John, even in the midst of giving testimony and being questioned for his actions, continues to speak boldly - to clear the path and make the way strait for the Lord.
Hope does not have to be quiet.
Hope can be BOLD! 
Thank you John the "Baptist-Plow" - sometimes boldness needs encouraged!

The Testimony of John the Baptist JOHN 1:19-28
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Eli′jah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 They said to him then, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Eli′jah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Friday, December 02, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day #6 Reflecting on some lessons of the week

#avantageousadvent Day #6... Some reflection from Marie on a few texts from this week's lectionary readings.

Psalms 72 v.1-7 Faithful prayer that the powerful will be just and good to ALL people to flourish and prosper and enjoy the fruits of all the earth we have been given.

V.18-19 We are to praise and give God glory to God who does all good for us always.

Isaiah 30 19-26 If you have faith even in times of adversity and strife and if you persist in your faith and not be enticed by superficial things God will see to it that you have all that is necessary and more.
When you read these texts, what do you discover?


Thursday, December 01, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day #5 Advent Blue

About a week ago, I dug out my watercolors to help me to actively ponder the season of Advent to come. The blue image below is what resulted in my doodling and searching for hope. 

 So. Much. Blue. 

The liturgical color for this Church season used to be purple, but now is blue. In many ways this seems fitting to this time of waiting, this time of longing for and anticipating hope, joy, love and peace of this season. But this focus on the color blue also allows me to wrestle with the difficult things of life: injustice, violence, poverty and the like. 

When you think of feeling blue this time of year, the popular song by Elvis, (one of my personal favorites) "Blue Christmas" speaks to the need and hope to be with the ones we love in this holiday season.

It seems every way I look today, there is lots and lots of blue.
What are the blue things of life that you notice today? 

Psalm 72 is a prayer for guidance and support for the up and coming King. It calls for those who are in places of power to work on the behalf of those that do not have power - and in all things to work for peace. 

This Psalm speaks of the 'King' as one that has a radiant quality, who will,"be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth! In his days may righteousness flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!" 

This leader has a huge responsibility - and seems to be focused on using their power for the benefit of others; to bring hope for all the blueness of life. 

That in the midst of this sea of blue, that there is light and hope because of the Christ child.I like that Advent is represented in the color blue and its important for me to recall that blue is not only a color for sadness - but it also is the color of hope. 

What are the "Hopeful" blue things of life that you notice today? 
Prayer:
We long for peace and hope.
We long for leaders who use their resources and wisdom to care for the needs of others.
We long for the ability to see hope in the blue of this Advent season.
Jesus, help us see the beauty of this blue season.
Help us to know that Advent blue is the color of hope.
Amen

A Psalm of Solomon.

72 Give the king thy justice, O God,
and thy righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge thy people with righteousness,
    and thy poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the needy,
    and crush the oppressor!
May he live[a] while the sun endures,
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth!
In his days may righteousness flourish,
    and peace abound, till the moon be no more!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day 4: Hope for peace

Submitted by Cindy Swan
Peace in time of monsters by: Delawer-Omar


Advent Day 4: Thursday, November 30, 2016
We are in a time when there is daily exposure to wars, floods, fires and other discouraging news. It is difficult not to become overwhelmed by the problems and have concerns and a desire to change it.

The good news is that we are now in the season of Advent. It is a time to focus on Hope. I am thankful for this message and the encouragement it offers as it also brings with it feelings of peace and comfort.  The theme of Psalm 124 is we are delivered from those who seek to destroy us. Our faith teaches us we can turn to God in our time of need as He is on the side of those who seek Him. With God there is always a way out as He is the creator of heaven and earth. Another important message to reflect on is from Isaiah 54:vs10. It states, “though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord who has compassion on you.

Prayer:
God, help us to remember this good news and the offering of hope during this Advent season and be thankful for all we have.

Psalm 124
1If the Lord had not been on our side-
    let Israel say-
2if the Lord had not been on our side
     when men attacked us,
3when their anger flared against us,
      they would have swallowed us alive;
4the flood would have engulfed us,
       the torrent would have swept over us,
5the raging waters
       would have swept us way.

6Praise be to the Lord,
        who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7We have escaped like a bird
        out of the fowler’s snare;
    the snare has been broken,
        and we have escaped.
8Our help is in the name of the Lord,

       the Maker of heaven and earth. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#advantageousadvent #3 God's gifts

Submitted by Linda Johnson...

Advent day #4 by Linda Johnson…
Genesis 9:1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.

God gives you all, but you must be mindful of his wonderful gifts. 😊 Just like God's love, he shares everything with everyone.  Wow! What a wonder it will be when we meet one another. I am certain my heart will burst.

Image found at; clarityfitnessny.com

Monday, November 28, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day 2 - Hibernation or wake up call?

From guest writer Ian Eastman...

 “It isn’t even officially winter yet and I’m already counting down the days until Spring. The most appealing alternative to winter I’ve ever heard comes from the bears, who just sleep the whole thing off. Truth is I can’t put life on hold until I get to do all the things I like to do again in the Spring. There are a lot of productive and enjoyable things to do this time of year, too. In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul tells of the eternal hope we have in Christ: “We have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5).  Yet he also tells us that we don’t have to spend our days hibernating for the future: “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” 



Image found at "Teachhub"

Saturday, November 26, 2016

#advantageousadvent Day 1: The Hope App

Advent 1 Sunday, 2016 November 27th

In a time that we are very aware of time: with cell phones, planners and apps; the idea of missing something seems impossible. But even with all these tools to help us not “miss” out on what we plan for our day; we sometimes do miss a prompt or call to something good.

As the season of Advent begins, this week we are called to focus on “Hope” for the good things of God. Perhaps like my cell phone that often is turned to mute to save me from being distracted – I might miss out on a call that is good. The gospel of Matthew chapter 24:36-44 is a wake-up call to see life through the lens of hope and the goodness of God.

In the midst of the business of life, we need a reminder – an alarm – a hope prompt to help us live into these days of Advent that help us see where God is active in the world and our lives. This Advent, God help us to set an alarm – to look with and to live into days where God’s goodness light the path ahead. May hope be the application that helps you enter this season of Advent and carries you to the day we anticipate – Christmas Day. #advantageousadvent, #advent16

Matthew 24:36-44[Jesus said to the disciples,] 36“About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”



Something to think about:

How does hope help you anticipate Christmas? 
What do you hope for this Advent Season? 
Where can the 'Hope App' help you wake up to hope around you?


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The gift of the advantageous Advent



There was a time not long ago, that I faced living with a serious shift in my status quo of life. In a moment all of my norms changed. Where I lived, who I spent time with, and who I worked with all changed in the blink of an eye. With all of this change swirling around me, I had two choices:

1. to fight the change with every ounce of energy I had...
or
2. embrace the change as an exciting adventure.

After trying out option one for a few weeks and only feeling more frustrated, anxious, and exhausted; I reluctantly tried out option two and began living into my changed life with a sense of excitement. Where there had been resistance and negativity, this new sense of adventure and hope began to take root and for that time of "all things changed" - became a time of adventure that I treasure.
What is Advent all about?
As the season of Advent is almost upon us, I’m struck by the opportunity it brings for reflection on the themes of: hope, joy, peace and love. Traditions for Advent that we are most familiar with are chocolate Advent calendars, weekly candle lighting and possibly a celebration on January 6th (Three Kings Day) at its conclusion; but this year might be a good time to consider new ways of taking advantage of this time for prayer, reflection, and building up community connections.
How could we work together to create and advantageous advent season?
In this season of Advent, we walk into a time of waiting for Jesus. We look through the lenses of: hope, peace, joy and love. We ponder these things in order to become more aware of the places God shows up in our daily lives. In Advent, we take part in a devotion time or prayer practice that helps us fill our time as we wait for Jesus. I love the sensibility of restfulness that Advent call us to, but I long for something exciting to capture my heart and mind in the season to come. I often live life too fast to take time for this kind of spiritual reflection, this kind of waiting; but I wonder what would happen if we injected a sense of adventure into our Advent waiting? What if we enter into Advent like Mary and Joseph, like the shepherds in the fields, and even like the wise men that adventured as they waited for the Christ child to be born.
In the Advent that awaits us, there is and need for time to reflect upon the themes: hope, joy, peace, and love; but there also is room for adventuring. In this Advent before us, I think is is BOTH a time of waiting AND adventure.
This Advent, we have an opportunity to spend 40 days actively waiting for Jesus by taking note of all the places God shows up as well as where we are being called to love and serve our neighbors for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What if, this Advent, we embarked on an adventure where noticing love, hope, joy and peace were just the beginning of a advantageous Advent.

How can I participate in an advantageous Advent?

On November 27th, the season of Advent began and now I invite you to join me each day of Advent by taking time to mark this season of active waiting. Advent active waiting could look like:
1. Writing daily in a journal.
2. Posting thanks for moments of hope, joy, love and peace on social media.
3. Drawing daily in a sketch book.
4. Finding hands on ways to helping a new person each day of Advent.
5. Committing to a time of daily scripture reading and prayer.

Only you can determine what this 40 day Advent adventure will look like, but I hope that you will embrace this opportunity for adventure as we wait for Christmas and join me in taking part in an Advantageous Advent inspired by Christ's call to the adventure of loving God and people. ("Follow me...and I will make you fishers for people.") If you decide to take part in this 40 day adventure by way of social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), please use the hashtag #advantageousadvent so that more people can locate your posts and participate in the fun.

A new way Tree of Life will take part in #adventageousadvent…

As a way to help you get started in taking part of an advantageous Advent, Tree of Life will be posting daily reflections, prayers, art and songs on our Facebook page to give a road map for the next 40 days. But in order to make this an interactive experience, you are invited to help build this interactive devotion. At the back of our worship space, you will find a poster board titled Advantageous Advent that will have 40 post-it’s on it. Each post-it will have an idea or scripture reference for that day in Advent and you are invited to choose a day to create a reflection for our online project. Daily #adventageousadvent posts will appear on the Tree of Life Facebook page starting on November 27 and ending on January 6th. If you plan to participate in this 40 day devotion project, please email Pastor Tara your contributions at least 5 days before the date you have chosen from the board.

The refection you create for the day could be a poem, a prayer, a drawing, or a short devotion written or focused on the theme of each day. Use your creativity and encourage the children in your life to help you with your submission. With your help, Tree of Life will be able to create a encouraging message of hope, joy, peace and love that hundreds of people can read and reflect upon throughout the Advent season.

Let’s adventure together this Advent season by celebrating a #adventageousadvent in sharing God’s message of  hope, joy, peace and love.


For questions or to submit your #adventageousadvent reflection for the Tree of Life Facebook page, please email me at: taralamonteastman@gmail.com







Monday, October 17, 2016

Gratitude and letting go

Image from: Yoga Inspiration

Philippians 3:12-14 ESV

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

This autumn season is one of color, beauty and celebration and as we step into the month of November our focus shifts to the coming holiday of Thanksgiving; where we enjoy the bounty of the harvest season and the company of those we love. In the midst of these cooler days, the trees that were once full of leaves are beginning to grow thin. The leaves that were once green have changed to red, orange and yellow - and now they blanket the ground like confetti. 

As I think about this yearly cycle of life, I'm always impressed with the grace and flexibility of trees. Each year, every tree shifts from winter, to spring, spring to summer, summer to autumn and finally back to winter. In the midst of living through these seasons of perpetual change, the tree continues to live - to grow and change. 

What if I could live my own life with such grace and flexibility, like the trees that line the streets where I live?

If I were to be more like this changeable tree, what would my life look like? 

This selection of verses from Philippians reminds me also of how God calls each of us to live each day with grace and flexibility. While this verse admits that as people we are imperfect, that in our imperfection, we are called to live life fully. That because of what God has done for us through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit - that we are freed to let go - to forget what is behind us - and press on to the season ahead.

The way that trees let go of their leaves, makes the process of letting go of the past look easy; but for people this process can be difficult. We long for what is familiar and for what is comfortable - and yet God calls us to keep looking forward, to press on, and to hear and live the call of a life that's been freed through Jesus.

While on the surface, trees let go of their leaves simply; we have to remember that each tree moves from season to season living with its leaves: nurturing in spring, blooming in summer, letting go in autumn, and preparing for new life to come all winter.When the time is right, the tree lets go of what is past - and moves on to what is to come in the cold of winter; because it knows that spring is coming after that. As we observe the falling of the leaves, we can see that the trees have some wisdom in how to live in freedom, grace and flexibility - just as our text in Philippians reminds us as well. We are called to live our lives in freedom - because of Jesus Christ - and to embrace each season for what it is. God calls us to live out each season fully - to nurture, to bloom, to let go, and to prepare; as it is appropriate. But in all seasons, God calls us to "press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." As we let go of the past, our lives are freed up and space is made the upward journey of the season to come.

Do not be afraid of letting go. We have so much to be thankful for. All of the colors of our lives are glorious, but new colors need a place to grow as well. The trees have shown us, just how beautiful letting go can be...because letting go makes room for new life, a new season and a new exciting life that is yet to come.

This autumn, consider how your gift of life is one to celebrate and how your unique gifts (time, talents, treasure) can bring color, grace, and beauty to those around you! When you give your gifts to others - you take part in the autumn dance of letting go and pressing on for what is to come, because the next season is already on its way here...

                                           Painting: Holding things lightly, by: T.L. Eastman