Gift – A Christmas Thought

I’m writing this just after midnight, technically Christmas Day. The house is peaceful, kids asleep while Dennis, my mom and I quietly visit. Probably because I had so much to prepare for preaching two days in a row, all of the presents have been wrapped and ready a while now. I can’t remember a Christmas Eve wrapped up so early before (pun intended).

The real gift is that we kept the holiday relatively simple. Our kids are pretty wonderful, so I’m looking forward to a fun morning of Lucas’s excitement and the rest of us keeping the magic alive. It is such a joy to be the parents of our kids.

Another gift was the chance to help lead Christmas Eve worship earlier tonight. I’m honored to be part of the staff at New World UMC.

And perhaps the biggest gift of all was seeing our family friend Allan in worship. He is part of the Kenyan family I mentioned in my sermon & I’m deeply grateful God placed his family in our lives.

My prayer for each of you is the gift of knowing that God is real, God loves you & you, dear reader, are worthy of love. May you find space in your heart and home for the holy.

Merry Christmas to all….and to all a good night!

Love – A Christmas Eve Reflection

We love because he first loved us.
“Love” and “because” showed up in bold because those were the search terms I used on Biblegateway. I think that pretty much sums up the call of Christianity – Love because.
Merry Christmas love from our family to yours!

Many thanks and much love to my friend Allison from Seven Arches Photography for these photos. Not only does she consistently make us look like we came straight from an Old Navy ad, she’s also one of my favorite friends.

Wreath – A Welcome Thought for the Day

My sermon on Sunday at 9:30 AM is called “The Wreath.”

Just like a wreath is a sign of welcome and hospitality, you are welcome to join me at church this Sunday to hear more! 9:30am at New World UMC in Arlington, Texas.

You’re invited to come wearing your Christmas sweaters or even Christmas pajamas! We’ll even have a hot cocoa station for you to enjoy.

All are welcome – and I mean all.

Angel – An Advent Devotional (Guest Post!)

My girls dressed as angels

Today’s devotional was written by special guest contributor, Rev. Gena Anderson. Be blessed today! ESJ

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
Luke 2:10-14 ESV

Angels, play a very important role in the Christmas story. An angel announced to the virgin Mary that she was going to bear the Son of God, then appeared to Joseph, telling him the very same thing. Finally, we see a group of them announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem. You might just get the idea that the main role of angels was to make announcements for God, and you would be right! The word for angel literally means “messenger” and they played a similar role as human beings who bore that title: acting as a king’s herald who made royal announcements.

Angels always point away from themselves and to God. During this Advent season, how are you being an angel for God?  How are you pointing others to Christ through the words that you say but more importantly through your actions?

Prayer: Jesus, we worship you as our Savior, our Messiah, our Lord. Help us to be like your angels, announcing the good news of your birth this Christmas. Amen.

Pastor Gena

Child – An Advent Devotional (guest post!)

Today’s devotional is written by special guest contributor, Rev. Gena Anderson. Be blessed today!stock photo child

 

 “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Luke 1:14-17

 

The word of the day is child. When I think of the word child I think of wonder. The best way of seeing the joy of Advent and Christmas is through the eyes of a child, which ideally should be our own. We should see the time of expectation, which is Advent, through eyes which are pregnant with wonder. If, however, as is sometimes the case, our own child-like eyes have become dimmed with age or skepticism, the next best way of seeing these two joy-filled seasons is through the eyes of another child; perhaps, if we’ve been so blessed, through the eyes of our own children.

I have been blessed to be able to see the Advent season through the eyes of a child.  Actually two children, my girls Julia and Georgia. The way that they receive the birth of the Christ child is with hope, expectation, and wonder.

This Advent season, may you also experience Christ with the same kind of wonder.

 

Prayer:

God of signs and wonders, heaven touching earth and the divine entering into human flesh, be the peace among us, the hope within us, and that we might become your people filled with wonder so that we can share the gospel of Jesus Christ with all that we encounter along the way. Amen.

Pastor Gena

Shine – An Advent Devotional


“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.” Isaiah 60:1

The picture above is from one of the paraments that decorates our church during Advent. “Parament” is a fancy church word that refers to the decorations we put in our church, usually on places like the altar or pulpit, to signify the different times of the church year. Blue and purple paraments are used during Advent.

I love the shiny glow of this manger on our parament – the glory of the Lord is shining. What a beautiful reminder of the most important thing to shine during a season full of all that glitters and twinkles.

What are the qualities in you that are shining this season? Is your love for God shining through your thoughts and actions? How can people see the light of Christ shining in you today?

Prayer:

God of all light, remind us this season of what is most important. Keep our hearts centered on the love of Jesus Christ, and help us to share that love with others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Waiting – An Advent Devotional

During Advent this year (Dec. 2-25) we are having an Advent Photo Challenge! You are invited to participate for any of the topics. Each day I will also send out an accompanying short devotional on the day’s topic. Feel free to share it. Be blessed, Erin

Waiting.

This little art piece by my favorite artist, Kelly Rae Roberts, sits on a shelf in my office. It serves as a great little reminder that sometimes we just have to wait.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
– Isaiah 40:31 ESV

Do you believe in the power of prayers to change things? I do…but I have learned that I don’t always get to expect prayers to change things the way I want them to be changed.

That’s one of the tricky things about prayers. Sometimes we pray and God’s answer seems to be a clear “Yes” or “No.” But, way more often it seems the answer seems to be “maybe” or “not yet.”

It’s hard to wait. Like an expression I’ve heard, the problem seems to be “the same as it always is – I’m in a hurry and God’s not.”

Sometimes we wait a long time. Even when the answer to our deepest prayer seems to be silence, we can still trust.

I take comfort in knowing that while we wait, our strength can be renewed.

While we wait, may we be blessed with people who come into our lives offering comfort and peace. While we wait, may we grow in wisdom and faith. While we wait, may we continue to trust.

That is our prayer. Amen.

Advent Photo Challenge Day 1: Bells

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This sweet little jingle bell started as a preschool craft project for one of my big three kids. It was delightful to have our littlest one put it on the tree this year!

The jingling of bells reminds me of this passage from the book of Psalms:

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

(Psalm 150:1-6 ESV – source: Biblegateway.com)

How can you give praises to God today?

Be blessed,

Erin

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Here’s a link to the instructions for the photo challenge.

Tomorrow’s word will be “Star”

Advent Photo-a-Day Challenge

Slide1.JPGAdvent, the Christian season that leads up to Christmas, begins on Sunday, December 2 this year. (It also marks the beginning of the Christian liturgical year, so Happy New Year!)

It’s easy in all of the hustle and bustle of commercialized Christmas to get caught up in being stressed out, rushing from one thing to the next.

This season, I invite you to join me in participating in an Advent photo challenge.

How it works:

Each day has a topic/keyword assigned to it. As you go through your day, try to find something that captures the essence of the keyword for you. (Example – the first word is “bells” – this could mean jingle bells, doorbells, bell curves, alarms. Be creative!)

Then post the picture on social media, with or without any explanation, using the hashtag #NWUMCAdvent. By sharing with the hashtag, we can all look up each other’s pictures and share in the challenge together!

I hope you’ll find this to be an exercise that helps you to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas this season.

Be blessed,

Erin

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Finding the Common Ground

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” -Philippians 4:8

Which side are you on? Would you say you are on the left or on the right?

As I look through my Facebook friends, my community, my congregation, my extended family – there is so much pressure to pick a side on all the issues. Which issue concerns you the most today? Racial violence? Discrimination? Gay marriage? Immigration? Refugee Crisis? Climate change? Poverty? Employment? McGregor vs. Mayweather?

No question, one glance at the news and you know there are plenty of reasons to be up in arms about something. There are sides that are right and sides that are wrong. We view the world through our personal perspective and cannot understand how anyone can be outraged in a way that is different than our own flavor of outrage. Clearly, your side is right and the other side is wrong, right? It’s tough when people you genuinely love, family members even, feel compelled to share opinions that seem so hurtful and wrong to you. It’s crazy making when total lies are passed on as truth, and no one seems to be questioning things.

I don’t know about you, but I’m just tired of feeling like I have to pick sides on issues, and feeling I need to be either outraged or fearful all of the time. There are definitely reasons to be outraged. I feel manipulated by the news, whether it’s fake news or real news. It’s just exhausting.

But what if there is another option? What if we don’t have to be divided about everything?

As a pastor, I serve a wide range of people. I mean a crazy wide range of people. In my congregation, I have gun-carrying NRA members sitting near pacifist gun control advocates, LGBTQ couples and allies sitting next to gay rights opponents, self-identified liberals and conservatives…name a division, it’s in my congregation. I tiptoe through this socio-political minefield as a pastor and pray to bring God’s words of hope and truth in a faithful, God-honoring way. I try to find our common ground as humans and Christ followers in the midst of a media culture that is determined to instill fear, hopelessness and division.

Finding common ground is an uphill battle, friends, but not an unsurmountable one.

What is our common ground? We worship a God of hope. A God who promises to never leave us nor forsake us. A God who brings redemption to oppressed people. As Christ followers, we can know the deep peace, love, and grace that is offered freely to us. As forgiven people, we have the power and freedom to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. We can be a people of hope in a culture that really needs it.

We also have a beautiful opportunity to love others through trying to understand their perspectives. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we can bring steps closer to reconciliation by opening our hearts and minds to hearing how God is at work in the hearts and minds of others. We can listen to one another for the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. I’ve found that the more I listen to people who are different, really listen, the more I have to see our common humanity. Divisive “issues” slip away when we see the humanity in others.

Let’s go listen to one another in love.

Blessings,

Erin

  • Who do you need to reach out to in order to understand their struggles better?
  • Who can you invite to coffee/lunch/dinner this week to get to know better?
  • Where do you find hope?