Crossroads: Love

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel loved by God. I grew up in the church, and I remember standing on top of the pew and sharing the hymnal with my mother.

A View from the Pew: Manger Scenes

Christmas has a lot of baggage to be sure, but there is something special about worship during this overstuffed season that I appreciate.

Crossroads: Joy

I have a friend named Joy (she’s one of the 8-year-olds at church), and her name suits her personality. She always has a smile on her face and a radiant attitude.

An Invitation to Joy

If we relied on Mark, we would have to stretch to get a story worth a Christmas carol. Mark has no shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, no Mary, no Joseph, no manger, no wise men, no Herod.

Crossroads: Peace

dish detergent, water, and food coloring. We started with clear water, and then we began to talk about all the hard things that can happen in life.

Light the Candles and Push Back the Darkness

During Advent, in churches and private homes around the world, candles are lighted and the stages of the journey to Bethlehem are observed. It is the time when we sing familiar hymns commemorating the birth of the Christ child.

A View from the Pew: Who Is the Christmas Program For?

It’s that time of year when the church sanctuary is transformed into downtown Bethlehem circa first century AD, and the parking lot may or may not host some sheep.

Crossroads: Hope

I saw the Star Wars movies much later than many others. I was in my early twenties before I watched any of them, but when I did, I found a familiar story: of hope.

Flame: Advent Prayer Bags

Lately, I’ve seen a variety of lovely ideas online for helping children and families to get involved with the Advent season. Drawing on some of the ideas I’ve seen, I’ve come up with a little bag of items that will take children through some of the main Advent themes.

Helping Each Other Grieve

As well as being a joyous time, Christmas can be difficult for people touched by tragedy or loss in the past year. Grief is isolating. While the rest of the world seems to be celebrating, tragedies years and decades old resurface.

Meditations on Mark: Prepare the Way

This is the promise John the Baptist makes in the opening chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Mark doesn’t begin with the story of Jesus’ birth. Rather, he jumps into the middle of the story with Jesus already as an adult, ready to begin his ministry. This is the urgency in Mark: The Messiah has come.

Catching a Glimpse

The first Christmas comes and goes, and most people don’t notice. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and a few others catch a glimpse of what is happening, but they’re just a handful.

Finding the Child for Ourselves

My nephew Connor was born nearly a month early. My husband and I had just visited the weekend before to help my brother and sister-in-law assemble the crib, wash onesies, and set up the changing station.

Crossroads: Love

In the book Love You Forever, both the mother and the son sing these words to each other at different times in their lives: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”

A View from the Pew: Dilemmas of Christmas on Sunday

Every five to 11 years, depending on leap years, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, and church-going folks, especially those with small children, face tough decisions.

Crossroads: Joy

God takes the dustiness of our lives—the mistakes and the bad things that happen to us—and uses them to make diamonds. In order for coal to turn into diamonds, it must undergo a lot of pressure.

We Need the Hope of Christmas Now

Simply and directly, our world is not what it should be. And the Advent and Christmas season offer the expectancy of what should be.

Waiting During Advent

In the Advent/Christmas season, let me encourage you to learn how to wait. I know we don’t want to do that.

Crossroads: Peace

When I was a teenager, my family and I went tubing down a river. Before we got in our rafts, the guide warned us to watch for bears. I knew that bears were dangerous and didn’t want to get close to one.

Facing Grief, at Christmas and Always

I am neither a nihilist nor a pessimist. For heaven’s sake, I am pastor of America’s home of Positive Thinking. I am, however, a realist. And as such, I have a theory about life. Here it is: Life is not the last five minutes of the movie.

Crossroads: Hope

When I was a kid, I loved reading about heaven. My mom would read the part in Revelation 21 that talked about heaven. I loved hearing about the pure gold of the New Jerusalem and the gems.

Christmas Card Boxes and Advent Calendar

I always keep my Nativity themed Christmas cards because the children, especially at our school, love to look at them and talk about the Nativity story.

As Slow as Christmas

It was late on Christmas Day; the sun had set and my parents and I were somewhere between Yatesville and Barnesville on our way back home after the day-long celebration of Christ’s birth through the eating of food and the exchanging of gifts.

A View from the Pew: Lighting the Advent Wreath

With the exception of that time one of the deacons set the church lawn on fire while trying to get rid of fire ants, I don’t remember much fire at church during my formative years.

DIY Nativity Advent Calendar

If you’ve ever thought of making your own Advent calendar but wondered if it would be too tricky, this is the post for you! Here you can make your own Nativity-themed calendar that can hold candy, small toys, or personalized daily Advent activities.

A View from the Pew: Pancho and the Christmas Play

If you’ve ever performed in a Christmas drama you know the truth of the old show business maxim attributed to W.C. Fields: “Never work with children or animals.”

A View from the Pew: ‘Tis the Season for Missionary Speakers

Missionary speakers at church are as much a Christmas tradition as Christmas trees, Advent wreaths, and Nativity scenes.

Advent Devotions: Joy

Merry Christmas! Technically, Advent is over, but as I’ve said before, even though the Christ child has come, in a way, we are still waiting. We wait with hope. We wait with peace. We wait with love. And today, we wait with joy.

A View from the Pew: Hearing the Story

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” aired in 1965, and a generation formed an indelible association with the passage from Luke 2 and the recitation of the Christmas story by the character Linus Van Pelt. Born in 1970, I am definitely of that generation.

Advent Devotions: Love

When I was in junior high school I began going on mission trips each summer to New Orleans. Our youth group would break up into teams and lead backyard Bible clubs in neighborhood parks. We always carried Evangecubes—an interactive tract—with us. One day I was sitting at the bottom of a slide with a little boy who was around 8 years old.

Advent Devotions: Peace

Isaiah tells us of a promise that will be fulfilled. Though he expects to see the promise fulfilled in his lifetime, he is left waiting and faithfully pointing toward the truth. This is the same promise that we are waiting for as we move toward celebrating the birth of the Christ child.

Advent Devotions: Hope

As I’ve prepared to explore Advent and journey through this season of waiting and watching, I’ve had one song stuck in my head. Well, one line from one song stuck in my head: “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices….”

Advent Devotions: Introduction

On Sunday we will begin a journey through the season of Advent. During Advent, the start of the church year or liturgical calendar, we wait expectantly for the coming Christ child. I’ve never been a huge fan of waiting…is anybody a fan of waiting?

An Advent Prayer

O God,
As you come to us, please come bearing faith, hope, and love.
We need to trust, hope, and love more.

A View from the Pew: Thanksgiving, Advent, and Missions

It’s a season for thanksgiving and anticipation, but I have a confession to make: celebrating abundance and extending a call to give at the same time feels incongruent. I have mixed emotions, and it’s hard for me to sort it all out.

A View from the Pew: What Are We Waiting For?

I wasn’t introduced to Advent as a season of spiritual reflection and anticipation until well into adulthood. But for nearly 20 years now, this season has enriched my spiritual journey leading up to Christmas.

Christmas Time

When I was a child, I was very confused by the tense of the verb “to be” used in the Christmas hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful.” We’d sing, “With angelic hosts proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Thrive: The Gift of Acknowledgement – Amy Shorner-Johnson

During the Christmas season, we often talk about loneliness and remembering those who are marginalized, those who might also feel abandoned as they get lost or overlooked.

Flame: Loom Band Advent Stars

Here’s a way to use up some loom bands in a reflective Advent activity. After sharing the story of the WIse Men, make 5 popsicle sticks into a star shape and secure each point of the star with a loom band.

A View from the Pew: Counting the Choir

I have a confession: for reasons I’m about to explore, each week during worship, I silently count the members of the church choir. Bizarre, I know.

Holiday Interrupted

I’ve been busy with the holidays since last week. When the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson was announced, I was picking up extended family from the airport. When a local action took place in my city the next day, I was gathered at my church for our annual Thanksgiving meal and service.

In Pursuit of the Spirit: Picking Our Way Through Advent

Our son, Caleb, will turn three a few days after Christmas this year. For the first two years of his life, we didn’t worry too much about holiday traditions, recognizing that he was too little to understand or remember much.

Thrive: Love is Stronger – Amy Shorner-Johnson

Cyber Monday. Some of us have already spent some time trying to get the best deal online. Whether or not you participated in the last few days of shopping, it can be hard to avoid the hype that begins as we countdown toward what is supposed to be one of the most “wonderful times of the year.”

Thrive: Couldn’t You Stay Awake with Me? – Cynthia Insko

I love the beach. I don’t go often, but when I do, I pay close attention. Engaging my senses, I take it all in. I smell the musty, fishy breeze, taste the salty air, feel the sand between my toes.