Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. As I explored the worship resources for this week, we find in Habakkuk 1:1-4 and 2:1-4 that the prophet Habakkuk is among those who no longer find satisfactory answers to the concept that if you are disobedient, you will be cursed (punished). Today, I find it unfathomable to apply punishment to victims of violence, let alone the horror of conquest and devastation.
I find myself feeling anxious as I witness the injustices of today. For me I think about everything from homelessness to the war raged upon the people of Ukraine. I feel broken over the mass shootings and the drills for children ages 5 – 18 should a shooter come into their school. I see even more injustices in our laws, minimum wages, and issues of health insurance. What injustices come to your mind?
Have you ever felt like protesting against the injustice you see in the world? What did you do? In the DC area we have opportunities to participate in a protest virtually every week.
Some think that protests are not for them. This is where I ask, “Do you vote?” Voting is a way of protesting. By voting you make your voice heard and our Election Day is only a week away – November 8th.
We could spend hours discussing the injustices we see in our communities, our country and the world. How do we apply our faith in today’s world? God reminds the prophet Habakkuk that the righteous live by faith, even when circumstances are difficult and the result unclear.
As I reflect on personal parts of my life that were very painful, I do know that it was my faith that held me together and gave me strength. "Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always." (1 Chronicles 16:11) "The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace." (Psalm 29:11) "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6)
I pray that as we face injustice, violence and devastation, we turn toward the divine. God inhabits the very breath that we breathe. Take a deep breath. Scoop it up in your hands and let it flow over you. Then find a way to make a difference. Face the injustice by becoming informed. Talk about it and challenge the minds around you.
We are told to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Jesus also used his voice. Let’s use ours.
Let’s use our voices to bring the peace of Jesus Christ.
Author - Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. As I look back at the week, I could be consumed and overwhelmed with the work that still had to be accomplished. But instead of focusing on that, I remember a meme I saw that really spoke to me. “Sometimes it’s okay to take a pause...” In this meme there was also a cute picture of a baby sloth and in full disclosure, it said, “Sometimes it’s okay to take a pause and enjoy a photogenic baby sloth.” The sloth was adorable, but it was the first words “…take a pause” that spoke to me.
Those words came back to me again and again this week. And it was in those moments that the burdens lifted and I felt the tenseness in my neck seep away.
Maybe the baby sloth influenced this initial feeling, but my active mind reset and I felt the comfort of the divine. In Psalm 61:4 it says, “Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.” Pause, take a breath and feel the presence of God. “Sometimes it’s okay to take a pause...”
It’s a challenge, isn’t it? But I found that even in a small moment where I paused, there was a great sense of emptying myself of the hurried overflow of thoughts and worries. Sometimes we associate feeling empty with depression and loss, but this pause clears the clutter.
We need to slow down and breath, taking in the presence of the Spirit so we feel the love and peace of the divine. And all this can happen in just a paused moment. Can you imagine if we allow moments to grow either in time or frequency?
I said the baby sloth was not a meaningful part of my moment, but maybe it was. It caught my attention and helped me reset my thoughts, even for a second. It allowed me to hear “take a pause” and there I found the blissful and serene presence of God.
Welcome the blessings of the Spirit. Stop and take a pause to reset, refuel and renew even in the most unintentional moments and recognize that God is in those moments waiting to offer peace and love.
May your week be filled with pauses where the busyness of life suddenly drains from your thoughts and is replaced with the wonder of God.
(Author: Bonnie Barber)
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. As a church, we have various seasons we celebrate which cause us to focus our gaze in a certain direction and spend time in meaningful reflection and preparation. Advent and Lent are 2 of the most widely known. In Community of Christ we also recognize the Season of Generosity. This is a period set aside to recognize the grace of God and to discover a deeper joy in discipleship through intentional whole-life stewardship. What does whole-life stewardship mean?
A steward is really a “manager.” So we could say that in whole-life stewardship we manage God's resources God's way because of God's love. Many times our thoughts automatically go to giving 10% of our money. But in whole-life stewardship we manage, i.e., take care of, 100% of everything God gives us. As stewards, we are tasked to look after the world for God. We must look after the interests of the planet and all life on it.
In making this part of your spiritual journey, how do you view the generosity of God? One way to meditate on the beauty of the earth is to find videos such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyZMCd6nS0Q
But there is more to the whole-life stewardship. As we gaze and meditate on the powerful beauty of God’s creation, we must also be thankful for God’s generosity in all that is provided to us.
Think about all the blessings you see around you in God’s world. Around me I also see food, shelter, people of compassion, unique gifts and talents of others, the blessings of a diverse community, and a desire to make a difference.
We are so blessed by the generosity of God in all things and there are things we can do in sharing the responsibility to protect and nourish all those parts of God’s world. It is in the responsibility to protect and nourish that we live the life of the disciple, sharing the message of God’s love not just through words, but also through action. In 1 John 3:17 we are told, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” I challenge you to find ways to make a difference. What programs offer compassionate assistance to others in your community? In the DC area, we have the upcoming Winter Warmth https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/SQPKJWN5BXQ?ref_=wl_share
where Friendship Place sponsors a program to offer coats, hats, and gloves to those in need. There are also special programs in 46 of the states and Washington, DC, that offer a weekend food backpack program providing food to children experiencing food insecurity. (see https://www.blessingsinabackpack.org/)
Make a difference. Respond to the generosity of God by responding generously yourself. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
What will you do?
(Author: Bonnie Barber)
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. There are so many variables to each day. But one thing I’ve learned is that how I start the day affects much of what follows. As I read the Psalm scripture in this week’s worship lectionary, memories of peaceful God-infused mornings came back to me. Let me share from the first few verses of Psalm 66.
Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth worships you;
they sing praises to you,
sing praises to your name.”
Take a deep breath and read these verses a second time. Then a third. Allow these thoughts and words soak through your mind and into your soul. Feel the peace.
Studies show that when you begin your day in a positive mood, it increases your chances of remaining happy as the day progresses. As I look back, I remember that starting my day focused on making a “joyful noise to God” was the most positive way I could start a positive mood, and I can personally attest to how it affected my day.
I wish I could tell you that having found this spirit-filled start to my day became a daily practice. It did, but only for a while. Somewhere, somehow, I lost that pattern. But reading this scripture today brought back memories that make me long to return to this type of morning routine.
I stop as I realize that if I don’t do something right now to make this change, I will continue to wake up each morning and entrench myself in the daily news from my online feeds. So, before I finish my next sentence, I am googling “Praise scriptures”.…
… I found numerous entries but the most promising is in Verse for the Day. https://www.verseoftheday.com/topics/praise/ where there are approximately 70 different praise scriptures written out. I’ve emailed it to myself and I’ve printed the few pages. Now when my alarm goes off at 7:00 a.m. the alarm label says “Offer Praise”. And by the bathroom mirror is taped page 1 of the praise verses.
I challenge you to do something similar. Print off a list of praise scriptures and tape it next to your bathroom mirror, or next to your coffee maker, or on the refrigerator – wherever you will pass it every day. Stop, take a deep breath and read the scripture once, twice, then a third time. You will find yourself less distracted and more focused when you get to the third read. Add a few words of your own and be thankful for God’s enduring love and peace. If you miss doing it in the morning, it is still there when you pass it again.
In closing, use these words in Psalm 104:33-34 as your words (reading 3 times): “I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.”
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. I often view life as a journey and this journey is never along a straight path. It winds and curves. It moves upwards and downwards. It can be smooth at times but is often full of bumps and rocks. One of my favorite (fun) quotes is “Life is like a road trip. We may appreciate the smooth stretches, but the bumps in the road are what truly make the journey memorable.” (author unknown)
We often think of bumps in the road representing something hard and unpleasant. But sometimes those bumps are because the road is just unpaved. “Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.” (author – Lin Yutang) It is the presence of this hope that speaks to me. Hope helps us traverse the road, whether straight or winding, uphill or downhill. And having faith helps us hope.
In Luke 17:5-6, the disciples ask Jesus to “Increase our faith.” Jesus replies saying, “‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you.” Have you ever seen a mustard seed? It is so very, very tiny – about the size of the head of a straight pin. But Jesus tells us that faith the size of a mustard seed can bring about unimaginable things.
There is the story of Carol Kane and The Mustard Seed of Central Florida. In 1984, Carol started a small operation out of her garage. She believed that through her efforts, she could help someone who was homeless transition to becoming a productive and whole member of the community. Over the next 4 years, Carol’s inventory grew and she expanded to include the elderly and the single-parent families. Her efforts grew so much that in 1988 The Mustard Seed of Longwood, Inc. became a nonprofit corporation.
From a single woman‘s dream of wishing to help one family per month, the Mustard Seed grew into an organization that helps over 1,000 families a year with furniture and 700 families with clothing. Over the course of a year, an estimated $1.5 million of furniture, clothing, and other household goods are distributed free of charge. Through faith and hope, Carol traveled a road not yet paved. She no doubt found it windy and full of bumps. But she held onto her hope and she and others walked along this rough path, creating a road that brought blessings to her community.
May we always remember the words of Jesus, telling us that even with the smallest hope we can accomplish great things. Don’t look at hope the size of a mustard seed and just see something so tiny that a wisp of wind can cause it to float away. See the potential and with faith move forward knowing this mustard seed of hope is strong and full of promise.
During this time following the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian, may we be the mustard seed of hope for others by providing compassionate help. The Red Cross and UNICEF have programs in place to provide assistance and could use our donations.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Various authors throughout the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center and beyond provide these thought-provoking weekly devotions.