Week Beginning January 31, 2010
Excerpt from Luke 4:21-30
"When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way."
Reflection by Debbie Hoogesteger, Great Lakes Regional Women's Ministry Consultant
Thirty-six years ago, when I was 16, my family moved back to what I still consider my hometown. We had been away from this small, Midwestern town for only two years but for a teenage girl who had recently experienced a bigger world and was entering her sophomore year of high school those two years seemed like a lifetime ago, a different world ago. I had the task of once again being the "new girl" in school but with a strange twist, I was the "new girl" that everyone already knew.
The first day of school, I entered the building wearing a new pair of straight leg Levi jeans, brown dock-sider shoes, and a yellow button down shirt; my sandy blonde hair was long and I wore gold, wire rimmed glasses. (Few girls even wore pants, let alone jeans.) I looked different than I had two years ago and the "in crowd" I used to be a part of let me know it by ignoring me, by inflicting upon me a loud silence. I thought - how could it be that everyone who'd known me since kindergarten treated me like an outsider? I was miserable.
In spite of my misery, I went to the first sock-hop of the school year, after the Friday night football game. I sat on the gym bleacher among the kids I hung out with before I had moved away. I was intentionally excluded by the crowd. I felt like I was being pushed to the edge of my sanity but I didn't want the mob to see it. I sat on that bleacher in the dimly lit gym for two hours, holding back tears and then escaped, arriving home to find my dad had waited up for me. He rocked me in his arms as I shared with him, between my sobs, my despair and confusion. He whispered to me as gently as he held me that it would get better, once they took the time to really get to know me.
Looking back, I see how the exclusion I experienced took the form of a fearful mob trying to hurl me off a cliff…break me…mold me into what they wanted me to be. Things did get better by school year's end. I held my ground, but with kindness and patience, and eventually the mob scattered.
Pray Psalm 71: 4 & 5 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Week Beginning February 7, 2010
Excerpt from Luke 5:1-11
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets…When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Reflection by Debbie Hoogesteger, Great Lakes Regional Women's Ministry Consultant
Deep water is powerful. Deep water is intoxicating. Deep water holds mysteries below the surface.
Although I am cursed with a motion sickness ailment, it does not stop me from going onto the deep water in our fishing boat on Lake Michigan or on the Pacific waters outside Mexico's Banderas Bay. Whether I'm reeling in a 10 lb salmon or a 30 lb mahi-mahi the joy and gratitude are the same. These fish are magnificent creatures to look at, and of course eat. Fishing success depends on the guide's knowledge and experience, which leads to a boat full of fish. But here's the real catch - the memory and the mere possibility of the catch sustain the fishermen's faith in the guide and themselves.
It was shallow water that reared up and decimated Gulf Coast lives and landscape when Hurricane Katrina came ashore some five years ago. But it was and is the deep water of faith that reshapes lives and rebuilds homes. I've been a part of hurricane recovery work-camps in Biloxi MS for Back Bay Mission, a United Church of Christ community ministry. What I witness on those trips that bring me joy and gratitude is the Christ transformation unfolding before me of the first time work-campers. The deep water faith experience of helping others in need is powerful, mysterious, and so intoxicating that folks commit to the next work-camp before they even arrive home.
I've come to realize that we are all fishermen of sorts and we survive and thrive on faith. It is no coincidence that Jesus called Simon and the rest of the fishermen to join him on his course set for Jerusalem. Jesus was their true, clear, deep water, but they didn't know it yet. They were headed for uncharted waters.
Pray Psalm 138: 1 & 2 I give you thanks, O God, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.
Week Beginning February 14, 2010
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
Reflection by Debbie Hoogesteger, Great Lakes Regional Ministries Consultant
Jesus foretold his death and resurrection to the disciples (Luke 9: 21-27) then chose three of them to climb up a mountain to pray - it turned into an astounding mountaintop experience. In spite of the glory, they came off the mountain only to be confronted by a crowd dealing with a boy possessed by an unclean spirit (Luke 9: 37-43). Sounds like the disciples dealt with peaks and valleys in their lives too.
When we accept reality, life in the valley, we are sensitive to the finitude of life – death and suffering. Sometimes it may feel like we spend too much time living in the valley and not enough time being bathed in God’s glory on the mountaintop. But wow (!), when we do live and breathe in God’s presence and stand on sacred ground, it is a holy experience. No one has to explain it to us. We just know it. Our hearts are cracked open and the sacred, mountaintop memory allows us to survive and thrive when we return to the valley. And most importantly, the mountaintop experience allows us to serve others in a broken world.
I read somewhere that the time between mountain top experiences is known as “in the meantime”. Faith and hope born out of the mountaintop experience are what sustain us in the valley and “in the meantime”. Glory to God in the highest!
Pray Psalm 99: 2-5 God is great in Zion; God is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name. Holy is God! Mighty Ruler, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Extol the Sovereign our God; worship at God's footstool. Holy is God!
Week Beginning February 21, 2010
Excerpt from Luke 4:1-13
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
Reflection by Debbie Hoogesteger, Great Lakes Regional Women’s Ministry Consultant
Jesus was well equipped and wholly hydrated when he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness after his baptism. You can’t be more prepared than that! The Holy Spirit was Jesus’ companion for his forty days of wilderness walking. Jesus had faith, trust AND the Holy Spirit - Temptation didn’t have a chance.
The first time I ran away from home I was six years old. I don’t remember why I ran away from home but I do remember the shock and deep hurt when my mom said she would help me pack my little blue suitcase and point me in right direction. I wandered into the wilderness meadow beyond our back yard and trampled the tall grasses into a large circle, big enough for me to lay down my blanket and suitcase. The secret space became my fortress of sorts. I remember lying on my back, looking up at the sky and feeling safe and hidden from the world.
I don’t know how much time had passed when I woke up to my mom’s gentle nudge. She was sitting next to me. How did she know where to find me? She’d brought lunch for us both and Peter Pan to read after. Soon my belly was swollen with Frito corn chips and a P&J sandwich. My heart was bursting at the seams with love for my mom, my angel. Her voice and words as she read took over my imagination and filled me with wonder and possibilities. I wasn’t even tempted to leave that spot as I heard the screams and laughter of the neighborhood kids starting up a game of kick the can. It was as if time and space had a dreamy, magical quality…something heavenly.
Today, I have a small plaque perched on my desk with a drawing of Tinker Bell in flight holding her wand. She’s surrounded by Peter Pan’s words - All you need is faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust. Ah yes, those dreamy, magical, and heavenly Holy Spirit memories…
Pray Psalm 91: 1-2 & 9-11 You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to God, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For God will command God's angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
New Year Greetings!
I share these thoughts with you as we enter the New Year.
2010 will find me moving more fully into my role as a Regional Consultant for Women’s Ministries in the UCC’s Western Region. I hope I will meet many of you, face-to-face or by one or another electronic means – I have mastered email, at least!
May 2010 be a year of rich blessings for each of you!
by Rev. Kathy Youde
Week of January 3
Happy New Year?
I usually stay home on New Year's Eve. I find it a good time for quiet reflection. After the hustle and hubbub of Christmas, I enjoy a few hours to catch my breath, rest awhile, prepare myself for another year to come!
I re-visit the year just past: What was good? And not so good? What did I learn? Often this takes me to memories much earlier. When we look back at our personal or communal past, sometimes we don't like what we see: shortcomings, wrong-doings and failures. I look to the future: What will I do differently when the opportunity comes this year – and beyond?
Much of this preparation for a new year is personal – all about me. But this year I'm more concerned about our communal lives. "Happy" New Year seems a hollow sentiment just now. Unemployment continues at high rates; more soldiers are heading to war; hope wanes for real health care reform; more people are homeless or hungry; business executives reap huge rewards!
We live in a world much different from Mary's hopeful description: "My soul magnifies the Lord . . . he has scattered the proud . . . brought down the powerful . . . and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry . . . and sent the rich away empty . . ." (Luke 1:47-55)
We celebrate this hopefulness in Christ's birth. After the holiday, we settle back into the reality and routine of ordinary life. Injustice and suffering continue.
The lectionary texts for January continue the promise: "See, I am going to bring them . . . a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come and with consolations I will lead them back. I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble . . ." (Jer. 31: 8-9)
The verbs of this text suggest that we must cooperate. God will bring, lead and let us return to a better place. God will not force, drag or compel us to go there. What will I do – this year and beyond – to cooperate with God in justice-making?
Week of January 10
God is My Salvation!
In the church, Advent and Christmas are all about new beginnings. Outside the church, Advent is drowned out by the call to shop! Christmas seems more like an ending. We prepare for special meals, family visits and bestowing of gifts with such intensity that, when it's over, we are done! or done in! For many of us, especially women, Christmas is performance oriented!
When I was a young woman, I did Christmas in the spirit of popular magazines. Magazines at the grocery check-out every year (really! every year!) promise to tell us all we need for the best Christmas ever! Eventually, I railed against the expectation that every year we must improve on the beauty, tastiness and perfect gifts of our celebrations! Where would it end?!
Such promises, not reserved for Christmas celebrations, assure us that we can provide the wonder, joy, pleasure and fulfillment that we long for. With help from the magazine experts and all that stuff we can buy, happiness is ours!
True happiness is found in our relationship with God. It does not need constant, or annual improvement! God-with-us and within us is the power for good in us. God imbued us with intellect and creativity – God did it! When we use those gifts, aware of God-within-us, we are capable of great things! When we use those gifts, but ignore God, joy and happiness will elude us. What a relief that my fulfillment does not require my perfection!
"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; God has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." (Is. 12: 2-3)
Week of January 17
New Year Resolutions
Years ago, I stopped making New Year's resolutions. For me, they had the same impact as when I would "go on a diet". As soon as I named my intentions as resolution or diet, I thought about that behavior a LOT. With food, I experienced the munchies constantly and may have eaten even more than if I'd never made the dieting decision.
One New Year when others talked about resolutions, I said, "I don't make them anymore; they don't help; I think about them all the time and feel guilty that I've failed to keep them." Actually, I'm pretty good at guilt without providing this extra opportunity.
I wonder if my problem with resolutions is related to relying too much on my own will and strength. Surely we all thrive more fully when we face our challenges with a friend or partner encouraging us. Surely our communities, small and universal, work better when we work together.
It seems to me that we grow to be our best selves when we share our challenges, hopes, dreams and disappointments with others. I often figure something out completely – self- sufficiently – and when I share my plan with another, she names an idea that hadn't occurred to me. God does that, too. If I sleep on a decision, often when I awake, I have a new insight! Unbidden wisdom – God with a better idea; God reminding me that I am not alone!
"My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." (Ps. 121: 2-4)
Week of January 24
January was named for the Roman god Janus who had the gift of seeing both future and past, depicted by his two faces looking in opposite directions. In Roman mythology, Janus was the patron of beginnings, entrances to homes, gates, bridges and covered passages.
Beginnings, entrances and journeys – we note their sacred significance in our worship. The opening hymn and words call us into worship and community: “Enter into the gates of the temple!” or “Enter, rejoice and come in!” The greeting and passing of the peace honor all who are present. The closing hymn and benediction send us on our way: “Go in peace!” or “Go, refreshed and renewed, for another week of service!” These markers are often done with such similarity, week-to-week, that we’d know where we are in the service, even if we’d dozed off for a bit!
This gathering of God’s people, its regularity and patterns, remind us of our connection – to God and to all of God’s people. Every week, we “come home” to God. At home, we are safe; we know we are cared for; we are restored and renewed. We are at home where we belong. The font near a sanctuary’s entrance reminds us of the baptismal ritual of welcome, commitment and belonging – to the whole people of God!
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine . . . I will say to the north, ‘Give them up,’ and to the south, ‘Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.’ ” (Is. 43:1b, 6-7)
Deborah Dee Brayton
Mid-Atlantic Women’s Ministry Consultant
HOPE: Reflect on Isaiah 64:1-9
Hope draws our attention to the anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. The theme of hope is weaved throughout the Old Testament stories. These stories recount God’s people being abused by power-hungry kings. There arose a longing among some for God to rise up a new king who would show them how to be the people of God. They wanted a return of God’s presence in their midst.
God did indeed reveal to the prophets that a leader would be born to the people.
Dear Lord, may the many blessings of Christ be showered upon us, brighten our way and guide us by your truth. May Christ the Savior bring the light of hope into the darkness of the world. Amen.
Chose a “Christ Kind” (German for “Christ Child”)
Get together with family and friends. Draw names, the person whose name you draw represents your “Christ Kind.” During Advent secretly do good deeds and pray for your “Christ Kind.”
PEACE: Reflect on Isaiah 40:1-5
God is faithful and enriches us in all things and in always. God is able to keep us steadfast. With God all things are possible including and especially peace. Peace within our families, our work places, our schools, churches, communities and for the whole world. “You have put gladness in my heart more than when the grain and wine abound. I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.”
Psalm 4:7-8 NRSV
Dear God, we are waiting for the warm embrace of your peace. Wrap your arms of assurance around us so that we can feel your calmness in this often restless and rebellious world. Make us instruments of your peace. Let us walk in the path of the Christ Child that you gave to be the “Prince of Peace.” Amen.
Say a prayer each day for world peace. Gather with the elders of your extended family to tell the younger ones (and everyone else) about Christmases from their past childhood. Record these Christmas memories.
LOVE: Reflect on Isaiah 61:1-4
Love is a word we use very freely during this time of year. Christmas –
a real feast of love. The sounds, scenes and smells of the season beckon us to get beyond our narrow lives of work and play and tell those around us that we love them. A fine idea for sure, unfortunately it ends there. What passes for love in our society can be more often a stirring of emotions than the committed covenant intended for humans. Paul’s great love chapter
1 Corinthians 13, gives the details of this kind of love, it is Jesus’ kind of love. Christmas reminds us to bring warmth and light to others through Christ’s love.
God, we are grateful that you have shown your love, for the least of these.
Lord create in us hearts filled with compassion for all who struggle. Let us be the gift of love to the world. Amen.
This Christmas no matter what other Christmas traditions you keep, resolve to make spending time with your family the most important one. Don’t get too busy that you miss this time of love and closeness. Invite someone who does not have any family to be apart of yours. Make a point to say I love you to your family members. This simple act is one of the greatest gifts you can give.
JOY: Reflect on Isaiah 62:10
This is a time to rejoice and share the good news of great joy with others.
Let us rejoice as we retell the timeless story of God’s wonderful gift to the world, the gift of his Son, our Savior. May the joyous events that took place in Bethlehem strengthen our faith today and always. Do not be afraid for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10 NRSV
Lord, may we always remember, from the moment we rise each day, through all our actions through out the day, until lay down to sleep at the end of the day that we are called to the joy of discipleship, to live constantly in the presence of God. Help us to pray with out ceasing, and most of all, to rejoice always in the gift of your presence. Amen.
Go caroling with family and friends. God blessed each of us with special talents. You can bring great joy to others by sharing what you do well.
The Blessing of Sisterfriends
Week of November 1, 2009
As we enter the holiday season we will often be reminded to count our blessings and be thankful for what we have. I contend that one of our greatest blessings that we may often overlook is our relationships with other women, our sisterhood. Different from friendship, sisterhood is an undeniable bond between women that goes beyond age, ethnicity or background. Whether she's a blood relative, a stranger or fictive kin, we can almost always find a shared or similar life experience with a sisterfriend.
As you know, women have always played instrumental roles in society – often without proper recognition. In the workplace, at home, at church or in the community, women tend to do so much to meet the needs of others yet we often do not take care of ourselves physically, mentally or spiritually. Research shows that as we get caught up in doing for others we often do not eat healthy, exercise, make time for prayer and meditation or talk with someone when we have a problem. We are to "honor God with our bodies" (1 Corinthians 6:20). Society tells us that we must be strong so we tend to push on, often keeping things bottled up inside. In Proverbs 3:5 we are reminded to "Trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding" especially during times of despair. As humans we sometimes forget and bow to the many expectations – often self-imposed – to be superwoman. The pressures of meeting those expectations can periodically cause feelings of frustration, loneliness, depression and worry, sometimes affecting our health. God does not intend for us to worry but to have faith that He knows what we need (Matthew 6). On occasion that need is filled by an unlikely or unexpected connection with another woman. Research shows that strong, nurturing relationships between women offer safe places to be heard, validated and affirmed through shared experiences. A Penn State Study and the Harvard Medical School's Nurses Health Study indicate that women who turn to other women for friendship may live longer by reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and experiencing more joy in their lives.
When God places a sisterfriend in our lives to share our experiences with, it enables us to be healthier, happier and more self-confident. In turn when we feel good about ourselves, we are more willing and capable of meeting the needs of others.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father,
Please open my eyes and my heart to truly see the women you have placed in my life. Please allow me to embrace the similarities and differences and to appreciate the strength, beauty and resiliency of all women. Amen.
Reflection: God wants us to be in companionship with others. Think of a woman you enjoy talking to. Make a list of her attributes.
John 15:13 Ecclesiastes 4:9
Week of November 8
A Blessing, huh?
Female relationships are not always easy. Just as trust, loyalty and commitment are important components of any relationship, jealousy, miscommunication and insecurity can derail it. Sadly, we can all remember a time when we felt betrayed by someone we trusted. Look at the two women who entered into the pact to eat their sons in II Kings 6: 24-30. The mother of the dead son complained to the king not that her son had been eaten but that the other woman did not keep her agreement. She felt betrayed (her lack of remorse is for a different discussion). Of course our first instinct is to say " How disgusting-I would never do anything like that!" Let us thank God that our daily situations and cultures do not put us in this position. However, if we were to replace the idea of eating the children with the concept of entering a deal to help each other with: dating a mutual acquaintance, finding a job or borrowing money…would you feel betrayed? Do you put your trust in the wrong people? Have you been the one to not keep the agreement? Betrayal looks different to different people. Another example may be the frustration Martha felt when she complained to Jesus that her sister Mary was not helping her with the work (Luke 10: 38-42). What may have been Martha's motivation? Would she have felt vindicated if Jesus had rebuked Mary? Do we try to make other women look bad to make ourselves look good?
Believe it or not, these circumstances can be a blessing. Perhaps the untrustworthy person is not meant to be a part of your life and you learn that before more damage is done. You can move on to get past the hurt. In most cases surviving the feelings of perfidy may make you stronger and help you to grow. Maybe the lesson to be learned is not really about you. Maybe God is using you to be the example of trust and loyalty. Try to put yourself in the other woman's shoes and attempt to understand why she acted the way she did, what she may need. Feelings of low self-esteem and frustration can contribute to a woman's unhappiness with herself and her situation. The key is to objectively look at the sources of those feelings and not allow them to keep us from being open to the possibilities God has for us. This could be your opportunity to lead someone to Christ. What a blessing that would be!
Prayer: Dear God,
We know that people come into our lives for a reason and a season. Please give me a discerning heart that I may clearly see an opportunity to be a friend. In your precious name. Amen
Reflection: Distractions of life such as busyness, judgments and expectations keep us from developing our relationships with other women and with God.
Luke 6: 37-38 Ephesians 4:29
Week of November 15
By definition, Nurture means to feed and protect; to support and encourage; to bring up; train; educate.
I believe that beside the definition should be a picture of a woman. For the most part, isn't that what women do? In order to protect, support, encourage, etc., you must be in relationship. From the ancient days when women were gatherers and harvesters they recognized the importance of being with other women for protection, support, companionship and survival.
An excellent example of a nurturing relationship is the story of Ruth and Naomi. After the death of her husband and sons, Naomi decided to return to her homeland. Her daughter-in-law Ruth not only made the long journey with Naomi but vowed "Your people will be my people and your God, my God" (Ruth 1:16). Ruth left her family, her culture and her religion of worshipping many gods for the unknown with Naomi. She then willingly went to glean in the barley fields in order to support Naomi and herself. Ruth's acts of loyalty, commitment and compassion did not go unnoticed by Boaz, the landowner and close relative of Naomi's husband's family. In an effort to make certain that Ruth was provided for, Naomi encouraged and educated Ruth in the Jewish traditions which led to her marriage to Boaz.
These two women had a bond of support and dedication built from their shared experiences. They both demonstrated great strength, commitment and faith. Aren't those wonderful qualities to share with someone?
Prayer: Dear Lord,
Thank you for the many nurturing women who teach, influence and encourage others. Please give me the insight to seek opportunities that I may be a blessing to someone today. Amen.
Reflection: Do you see yourself as Ruth or Naomi? Do you have a nurturing relationship with another woman?
Proverbs 2: 20 Proverbs 12:16
Week of November 22
Passing It On
Each and every one of us has something important to offer as a friend. We all have gifts to share (Romans 12: 4-8). Fostering positive, nurturing relationships allows us to use our gifts in ways we may never have thought possible. The key is to not limit our selves by only approaching those we feel comfortable with but to challenge ourselves. The saying "God is more interested in our character than our comfort" comes to mind. Listen, talk, laugh and cry. Being able to share in the safety of a nurturing environment with one or a group of women builds feelings of confidence and affirmation. When we extend ourselves to others, we invite them to be a part of a sisterhood.
Prayer: Open my eyes Lord
And let me see
All of the beautiful women
Especially those who do not look like me. Amen.
Reflection: Take time to review the list of attributes you wrote for the first week then
celebrate how many of them you recognize in yourself. Next, reflect on the
frustrations that came to mind during week 2 and acknowledge any that apply to
you. Focus on ways to use these self-realizations to enhance your relationships
with other women.
Psalm 34: 3 Romans 1: 11-12
by Rev. Lizette Merchán Pinilla
Think Globally, Act Locally
October 4, 2009
~ UCC Neighbors in Need Special Mission Offering (NIN)
~ World Communion Sunday
Excerpt from Mark 10:2-16
~ Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."
~ Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."
~ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them."
The Bible shows us the many stories that Jesus came across along the way on his journey among the people of his time.
Jesus embraces those who care for one another, those who genuinely look after each other - for who they have become in joining their lives together. A place to call home outside the home once you've left the one of your own birth.
How then do we take this time in October to reflect on those who have come together and who do not necessarily fall into this bible-story list of pre-requisites of what being together means?
Families and couples come in all sizes, colors, faiths, journeys ... all come with a common idea for companioning, living and making the most of the extravagant welcome that Jesus offered to all those who - like little children - deserve a place at the table.
Prayer ~ Oración
God of family, couples, loved ones, children, and everybody in between - be a presence before us, and show us the way to extend the invitation of your welcoming presence wherever it's needed.
Monday, October 12 to Saturday, October 17
~ Women's Event
~ Access Sunday & Disabilities Awareness Week
~ Indigenous People's Day (Monday, October 12)
~ Hispanic Heritage Month — celebrated September 15 to October 15 each year — honors the diverse peoples of Spanish-speaking backgrounds who have come to the United States from more than 20 countries.
~ Children's Sabbath (Friday, October 16)
"Children, how hard it is to enter the kin-dom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
October readings keep inviting us to be challenged. Challenged about how, when and who will have the answer to human beings' questions of how to reach God's kin-dom.* (this is referring to the rich biblical vision of the kingdom of God but eliminates the "g" to avoid connotations of monarching or sexist language, stressing "family of God."
Does it mean, to some, that getting to "it" means buying the home of one's dreams, earning the degree that will take us to the next pay level at work, or receiving that next check for food stamps and knowing for how long they will last?
Kin-dom might only be a step away from our sight, at the most unexpected paths right before our eyes ... in the most unexpected places we have ever dreamed!
Our Indigenous people's life journey are our best start to finding kin-dom; right here in this country, right here in your/my state. Kin-dom might not be that far from our reach ... just look out our own peoples' kin-dom! http://www.caimucc.org/ (Council for American Indian Ministry)
The board of directors of CAIM conceived the CAIM Relatives campaign in order to enlist the financial support of brothers and sisters in Christ across the UCC. We are seeking 500 individuals or churches pledge a 5 year commitment of $25 per month, or $300 per year. With this support CAIM can make a difference in the lives of the American Indian ministries we serve. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or call 612-721-4393.
Prayer ~ Oración
Creator of yesterday, Maker of today, empowerer of our tomorrow -be the constant presence in our daily tasks ... through the air we breathe, the earthly goods you've given us, the warmth of your shining sun, the wetness of your waters, and the companion of our journeys ... and let us not forget those who paved the way for who we have become today. Amen
October 18, 2009
“The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
~ "Children's Sabbath Sunday"
The theme of the 2009 Interfaith National Observance of Children's Sabbaths is Create Change for Children Today: Bring Hope and a Better Tomorrow.
The National Observance of Children's Sabbaths Celebration is a way for faith communities to celebrate children as sacred gifts of the Divine, and provides the opportunity for houses of worship to renew and live out their moral responsibility to care, protect and advocate for all children.
Each Day in America (www.childrensdefense.org)
2 mothers die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth.
4 children are killed by abuse or neglect.
5 children or teens commit suicide.
8 children or teens are killed by firearms.
32 children or teens die from accidents.
78 babies die before their first birthdays.
155 children are arrested for violent crimes.
296 children are arrested for drug crimes.
928 babies are born at low birthweight.
1,154 babies are born to teen mothers.
1,511 public school students are corporally punished.*
2,145 babies are born without health insurance.
2,467 high school students drop out.*
2,421 children are confirmed as abused or neglected.
2,483 babies are born into poverty.
3,477 children are arrested.
18,221 public school students are suspended.*
* Based on calculations per school day (180 days of seven hours each).
Challenging God - we ask your prayers for those little ones who are traveling along with us on this journey called life. Remind us how to be your people by providing, helping, supporting and advocating for your/our children. Remind us we once were children as well ...
May you be the child within us that calls us to action ... NOW! Amen
Our UCC National Staff
Minister for Children and Families
Lutie O. Lee
Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Team
700 Prospect Avenue
Cleveland OH 44115-1100
Phone: 1-866-822-8224 (X-3863) or 216-736-3863
October 25, 2009
Job 42:1-6, 10-17
"In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers."
How many stories in the bible barely talked about women ... women before us? Some women did not even have a name to which to relate to, as women were considered - along with children - as the outcasts, under the ruling of the males in their families. How are we today honoring and empowering women for who they are truly called to be, and not for the roles society imposes on them? Gather, invite and empower ... for a woman is in need of you today.
2009 A Calendar of Prayer for the United Church of Christ
Three years ago, MAESTRA – Spanish for teacher – opened its first clinic in Luque, Paraguay to provide medical services to people who live in areas without access to medical care. MAESTRA was initiated by Friendship Mission – a ministry founded in 1953 by the United Christian Missionary Society and a forerunner of the Division of Overseas Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – and graduates of the International School of Paraguay – the Disciples of Christ’s first mission in Paraguay, founded in 1917.
Now in partnership with the UCC and Disciples, the ministry includes access to a medical clinic, and classes in proper hygiene, disease prevention and workshops on the causes of such conditions as hypertension and diabetes. The education portion of this ministry lives up to the program’s name – maestra – Spanish for teacher.
Within two months of the first clinic opening in Luque, more clinics were added in Lambare and Arroyos y Esteros – towns located about one hour north of Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion.
The statistics of those being served today are astounding: nearly one-third are younger than five; most patients are treated for gastrointestinal or acute respiratory illnesses; almost half of the patients over 40 are treated for hypertension; nearly ten percent of those seen cannot pay the consultation fee of 4,000 guaranies – the equivalent of 40 cents; another ten percent cannot afford medications; children under the age of ten need anti-parasite medication every six months. While the project continues to identify the needs of these communities, more outreach is needed.
MAESTRA has formed a relationship with the Friendship Mission School of Nursing which has helped to extend their reach into outlying areas at weekly clinics. In order to sustain the project’s work, the plan is to grow those weekly clinics to 20 per week.
Prayer ~ Oración
The Sad Mother by Gabriela Mistral
Sleep, sleep, my beloved,
without worry, without fear,
although my soul does not sleep,
although I do not rest.
Sleep, sleep, and in the night
may your whispers be softer
than a leaf of grass,
or the silken fleece of lambs.
May my flesh slumber in you,
my worry, my trembling.
In you, may my eyes close
and my heart sleep.
"We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color." Maya Angelou Quotes.