Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. Together we face a new week and a new beginning. Take a deep breath and let the peace of starting fresh seep into your soul. I find that I need this sense of newness and starting fresh. Have you been in this situation?
When you feel overwhelmed, or sinking in exhaustion, are you one to barrel through or do you step back and allow yourself to refuel and heal?
I’m normally one who barrels through. I move forward, confident that I will survive and regain the sleep that I’ve lost or just get a flood of renewed energy sourced by my adrenaline. How do you face such times in your life?
Over these last few weeks, I finally realized that I needed to step back and refuel. It’s hard to do that. It’s one thing to tell someone else that when you’re busy and burdened, know that you can find rest in God. I say that because I believe it. In Matthew 11:28-29 we are told, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
But there are times I just refuse to take a breath. I am too anxious about completing all of my good ideas to allow the priority of feeling God’s peace. Recently I came across this scripture. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” These words have a remarkable message in them.
Sometimes we feel we are too busy to allow ourselves some quiet time with God. So I challenge you (and myself) to find time with God each day. Try it for 3 days. Track your time with God. And once you come to the end of those 3 days, add a few more. Create a new habit where you find a renewed energy and attitude about spending time with God.
God is always ready to spend time with us.
So once again I say “take a deep breath and let the peace of starting fresh seep into your soul."
(Author: Bonnie Barber)
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. Today is the first Sunday of Lent and I invite you to turn off the sounds around you to allow for prayerful reflection of the journey ahead. Take a deep cleansing breath. Do you hear the silence? Perhaps you need to move to a quieter place, far away from the noise and chaos of the day. It may be tempting to put this off because it seems there is just too much to do. Or perhaps you think you can fade out the sounds around you. But I encourage you to allow yourself to slip away to a place where you can find silence. What place might that be for you?
As we enter the Lenten season, I recall how Jesus drew away from the crowds and entered the wilderness. He sought out the silence of his journey which would ultimately lead the cross. He valued his time where he could focus on God and the struggles and temptations of life. My goal during Lent is to also find silence where I can focus on God and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Many times, I have a problem with silence. Do you? In the silence, my brain gets distracted by what happened during my day, or past situations that caused me anguish. My mind often finds no silence because my worries and concerns, or just the day to day agenda, although not spoken aloud, are loud nonetheless, and intrude the silence.
I would love to offer a quick and easy remedy to this, but I don’t really have one. That’s because it takes practice. If you want to be a great chef, you have to practice the skills that are needed. You have to practice if you want to play an instrument, drive a car, paint a picture, etc. What particular skill have you had to practice?
I remember learning to play a flute. I could barely make a sound at first. At times it seemed hopeless that I could get better. But my music teacher made me account for my practice time and I had to write down the amount of time I practiced each day.
While reflecting on my experience when learning to play my flute, I remember my Practice Card which documented the times I practiced each day, and I was inspired to grab a pen and paper (actually I opened an app on my phone) and began to document my “practice time” where I sought moments of silence to spend time with God. On the first day it was a five-minute struggle that had very little silence. I hesitantly wrote down “5 minutes”. As I struggled to begin my “practice time” I rediscovered a hymn in our Community of Christ Sings hymnal titled “Listen in the Silence”. It is a beautiful, peaceful way to tame my mind so I can practice my time of silence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO-GLmShiVE
I invite you to join me in engaging in silence. Take another deep cleansing breath and join me in prayer.
You are my power and you are my strength. You walk with me in the chaos. You walk with me as I quickly step through my day, often rushing to accomplish one more thing. Help me to stop and find the silence where you wait for me. Help me listen for your voice and find the precious silence to dedicated to You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen
(Author: Bonnie Barber)
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. In my daily life I sometimes get too involved in busyness. But as I sit at my computer, as I am doing now, and I start gathering my thoughts in preparation for writing a devotion, I find that this quiet tap-tap-tapping brings my thoughts into focus, pushes away the distractions and starts to arrange my thoughts into some order. My thoughts become words and my words becomes sentences. The theme for this week’s worship is “Tend the Light” and that is what metaphorically and spiritually is happening. For me, I am tending the Light of God as it touches me. I am shaping the light, focusing on it, letting it push away the chaos of my busyness.
As we approach Lent, I hope we all can find ways to push away the darkness of distractions and focus on the Light of God. We must tend to this light as we would a newly started campfire. Nurse it into flickering flames, add more fuel, watch it grow. Then enjoy the light as it grows bigger and brightens more space around us.
That is what happens as we spread God’s love. May we sit in this realm of growing light and enjoy the warmth. God’s love is warm and welcoming, and we rejoice that we have Jesus, God’s son, to be a light unto our world.
Dear God, the Light of Love,
We come in thankfulness of your amazing love and greatness. Help us to push away the distractions and replace them with renewed focus on the gift of your son, Jesus Christ. Quiet our minds. Help us to breathe in your spirit. Help us envision the light you cast in the darkness, pushing away the shadows. Open us to allowing your light to fill us. May we tend and nurture your light, making us a light beam of your love. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. As we experience days of growing warmth, I feel the changing of the seasons and anticipate the newness of spring. That is what we have been experiencing in 2023 as the new year makes us pause and reflect on new ways ahead, new possibilities, new growth for ourselves. Is there new growth in our spiritual journey? Imagine us as a garden. What seeds have been planted? How fertile is our ground? Can we feel the warmth of God’s love? Are we getting abundant rays of the “Son”?
I love the metaphor of us being a garden. We at times may feel dormant, but the new months of 2023 have allowed us time to become more fertile, for weeds to die out, for the “ground “ to be prepared for spring. Today, let’s concentrate on that preparation. Clear the weeds. Water the soil. Prepare for the renewal of spring. Be a garden where the seeds of love, kindness, compassion and grace will find a fertile soil
Find a place where you can listen to this beautiful meditative chant “You Shall Be Like a Garden” by John Philip Newell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxHYw4vMNx0,
Dear God, We long for the tender care of your hands, the watering of the Living Water, and feeling the warmth of your Son. Help us to fight back the weeds. Help us to grow and flourish and bring beauty of your spirit to everyone. May we become that garden, receptive to the You, the Master Gardener. Amen.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. In what directions has your life journey moved recently? Have you pursued new ventures? Have there been times where you felt you were stuck and needed help moving forward? Or perhaps, you just needed a way to keep your head above water. Take a moment now to breathe. Release the tension and just breathe. Allow God’s presence to enter into your space.
In the last few weeks I have had to contend with the tension of thrusting forward in my life’s rush. It seems to be the way I run. I live by “To Do” lists. But I think I need to add my down time to my list. I need to add my time with God. How do you claim your time with God? Is it in brief flitting moments or greater amounts of intentional time?
Jesus knew that he needed the alone time to be with God, to listen and to pray. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) So before I pick up my phone or turn on the TV news program in the morning, that is the time that I need to claim with God. I can rejoice over the new day and seek God’s care, blessings and help.
I also find time when I lay my head down on my pillow at night and reflect on God’s presence during the day. I find God in the friends and strangers whom I encountered. I find God in the blessings. I find God in His comfort and grace as I reflect what has happened.
God’s love and grace is transforming, if we allow it. We can find and make a better world by seeking God intentionally and discerning God’s will in our lives. May we keep and protect our time with God. May we push away the “To Do” lists that feed anxiety and fill our busyness of life. It is our oneness with God offered through Jesus that has the potential to transform us and the world.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday devotion. As we move forward in this new year, we are looking at new ways to face and embrace changes that seem to be happening rapidly in our lives. Even as we engage in pursuing Christ’s mission, we must discern how we go about doing that amidst a new normal that seems to be constantly evolving. When you go to church, what are your expectations? Why do you go? Or why do you choose not to go? What parts of Sunday morning traditional worship speak to your spiritual self? Do you find the music to be the most engaging, or is it prayers, readings, sermon, etc.?
As I reflect on my worship experiences, it is often the music that fills me with the presence of the divine. It is said that those who sing, pray twice. Whether it is the music of the choir, the hymns or special instrumentals, music calms, inspires and fills my heart, mind and soul. It helps nullify the anxieties of my daily life. It awakens my senses and allows the spirit more avenues to enter in. What parts of worship speak to you?
Some people question the value of gathering together for 1 hour a week – what does it really accomplish? In the traditional worship service, it offers a separate time to intentionally spend time worshiping and focusing on our relationship with God. Some may not find this valuable. Others really look forward to it and need it. We must realize that the diverse ways of worship help speak to the unique and diverse souls gathered together. Plus, it brings us together with others who share our basic beliefs and need for community and fellowship with those who share our faith.
I also have to admit, I really like it when worship is ”outside the box” and offers something new. I catches my attention. Perhaps it is something like writing special thoughts of God on strips of cloth and attaching them to a tree in the churchyard to “allow our prayers and thoughts to blow in the wind and into the world.”
But we must also recognize that we are a community that pledges to live Christ’s mission. And that mission exists outside the church walls. As a way to reach out in mission and take advantage of the dedicated Sunday worship time, our congregation has found ways to incorporate service into the worship hour. We’ve created inspirational artwork to send with packages to Ukrainian people, letting them know we are thinking of them. It is amazing the responses we hear about these handmade offerings. We’ve also packed lunches for those experiencing homelessness and cooked meals to be delivered to shelters. This, too, is worship.
May we continue to expand our expectations of what is worship and how we express God’s love to others. May we grow to appreciate the spiritual needs of others and allow the unity of diversity and the blessings of community to be exhibited in our worship time and expanded in living Christ’s mission.
We’d love to hear about your experiences. Feel free to contact the Washington, DC Community of Christ at email@example.com and share with us what worship means or can mean to you.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. We step out every day, making a new path at times and, at times, retracing the old. Are there significant moments where you have had the good fortune to cross paths with someone who shared their experience and their faith and hopes bolstered your state of mind or resolve? Those moments, those testimonies, big or small, may offer strength or peace, hope or grace, just when you need it. Sit back for a moment and allow yourself to draw those experiences from your memories and reflect on the good feelings they offer.
I can remember when as a young adult I first heard people offer personal testimonies in a church Prayer and Testimony service. In Community of Christ, there is a rich history of these services. I remember being amazed by people’s testimonies. Not necessarily because those testimonies were astounding, but because they gave witness to people seeing and experiencing God during their normal day. It made me aware that every day, God was present in even the simplest of moments. I began to look for those moments in my life where I encountered God. I found my faith expanding as I felt God walking with me, holding me and loving me.
Have you shared such testimonies from your life with someone? We shouldn’t be shy about sharing. Just as another’s testimony spoke to my heart, your testimony and my testimony may also offer a window of hope, love, peace, insight, or any of so many feelings. It builds relationships with each other and with God.
Perhaps as you sit here reading these humble words, you have recalled such testimonies. Even if you don’t remember the details, your heart may remember the sense of a spiritual space where you felt God working in people’s lives.
Make it a point to develop new testimonies where you see God working in the lives around you and in your life. At the end of the day, as you settle your head on your pillow, look back at the course of the day and find your moments where you see God’s presence. And be ready to share your testimony, remembering that not all testimonies are through words; many testimonies are through actions.
Dear God, our Ultimate Companion, help us to approach each day with eyes open to your presence. Help us to share our stories with others so they may find You in their life. May our community of faith grow and reach out to others so that the peace of Jesus is shared throughout the world. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion for 8 January 2023. As of this morning, we have completed 7 days of the year 2023. How have those 7 days been going for you? Have you been able to rewind, refuel and regain a calmer, less stressful life? We can find ourselves so focused on the secular part of Christmas, we get tired and worn out. Let’s take a deep breath and turn our mind’s focus on what we were really celebrating at Christmas – the amazing gift of God coming to earth through the embodiment of Jesus.
As I look through our church’s worship resources, I see “Siyahamb' Ekukhanyen' Kwenkhos' as our weekly worship theme. Being curious about the literal interpretation of these words, I go to Google Translate and find it is Zulu meaning “We walk in the light of the Lord”. We have a song in our Community of Christ’s Sings Hymnal where we sing this song “Siyahamb' Ekukhanyen' Kwenkhos'” - “We are Marching in the Light of God”. I get excited and imagine drumming along on my djembe as the congregation sings with strong rhythm and joy-filled voices. If you are not familiar with this song, listen to it on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyNn5nPW57Y .
"We are marching in the light of God. We are marching, marching, marching. We are marching in the light of God.” This song shines light in my life’s path. It helps me refuel and I can feel God’s spirit swell within me. It draws me to the love of God by reminding me we can live and move and work in the light of God.
How do we walk in the light of God? The Bible states in James 1:17 that light comes from the Lord God, the “Father of the heavenly lights”. In John 1:3-5 John states, “What has come into being [God] is life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.” And “If we walk in the light as He [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)”
The lesson we learn from scripture is that as we walk with God, we walk “in the light of God”, which also means we walk with Jesus whom we consider as “the light” in this world. We “walk” in Jesus’ light by following His teachings, drawing upon His power, and putting his lesson of love and grace into action. In John chapter 8, Jesus said again to the people, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
I find refreshing hope, generous love and a blossoming spirit when walking with Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. “Siyahamb' Ekukhanyen' Kwenkhos'” Let us walk in the light of the Lord together. Let’s create testimonies of peace and love, generosity and grace as we claim the peace of Jesus Christ and make Christ’s mission our mission.
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. It was so beautiful to wake up this morning and realize, “It’s Christmas!” My head is full of the images from last night’s Christmas Eve candlelight service and the live nativity performed by the children. We hadn’t been together for the Christmas Eve service since Dec 2019, so it was very special to be together again and hear the story of Jesus’ birth through scripture and song and then ending the service with our traditional handheld candles whose flames originated with the Christ Candle of the Advent Wreath. May this special season of Christmas bring to mind the great love God has for you, and may we all strive to share love, hope, joy and peace daily as we find ways to reach out to all people with a generous heart.
“O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord, Immanuel”
Today the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center offers a pre-recorded Christmas Day worship service. Friends throughout the Mission Center have offered their ministry in this worship video. Link for this video is below.
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. We are so close to Christmas and it is exciting. One of the things I love most are the immense changes in all that we see and hear. It means something’s different. I love the Christmas carols. We are taken back in time to hear the story of Jesus’ birth and all the hope and love it promised. The words are timeless, however, because the hope and promise are still so important today.
One song, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and the story about its origin really speaks to me. Phillips Brooks, a young preacher and staunch abolitionist, found himself exhausted from years of the Civil War and longed for rest, so he went to the Holy Land, hoping to find peace.
There, he visited the small town of Bethlehem. He found a silent spot and looked over the land, bathed in the darkness of night, and the lines jumped to his mind: “O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, a silent star goes by.”
There is so much to experience as we read through the verses. The first two lines of the third verse is not well known but comes with a special message that Jesus, God’s amazing gift to us, entered the world with no pomp and circumstance, but in the quiet stealth of night.
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
Someone recently suggested I go to the last verse of the carols, because there we often find a profound message so needed by today’s world. The fourth and final verse reads:
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us; abide in us, Our Lord, Immanuel.
What better words are there for us to pray?
O come to us; abide in us, Our Lord Immanuel.
Various authors throughout the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center and beyond provide these thought-provoking weekly devotions.