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….”

Crossroads: My Hope is in the Lord

I am a worrier by nature. When things go wrong, I get anxious. When things have the possibility of going wrong, I get anxious then too. So it is comforting to know that the Lord who watches over us doesn’t sleep. God doesn’t get tired. God doesn’t get anxious.

Flame: Advent Wreath Craft

We’ve now entered Advent and I was thinking of how families could use the tradition of the Advent wreath at home in a craft and prayer activity. Of course it’s great to have the real candles to light, but here’s an alternative to make and do.

Crossroads: Thanksgiving

This is a time when families gather together around a table filled with food, and remember all of the things for which they are thankful. Some years it’s easy to remember the blessings you’ve been given. But other years, it seems as if nothing has gone right.

Spiritual but Not Religious

Many would say, to use a modern phrase, that Lincoln was “spiritual but not religious.” Such a posture should be celebrated as an expression of heartfelt belief and longing, but it should also be considered with a word of caution.

The Night Before Advent

The calendar gave us an early Thanksgiving this year and it seems like it has been an eon between turkey and Advent. But I am ready for Advent. I need Advent right now. I need it more than I need Christmas.

Crossroads: The Candle of Prophecy/Hope

Welcome to the first week of Advent! Advent is a time of preparation, when we wait and prepare for the Christ child. Each week you will light a new candle as we recognize the things that Christ brings to this world: hope, peace, joy, and love.

Connections 10.22.2017: Steadfastness of Hope

To me, it’s one of the most beautiful words in the English language. Its French, Spanish, and Italian forms are beautiful too: esperer, esperanza, speranza. Hope means much more to me than wishful thinking or unmet desires. It is a lifeline keeping me afloat in a world that is often disappointing and frightening.

Seeking True Hope and Happiness

About this time each year, I start to feel a bit sorry for myself. The weather is usually dreary and cold. The excitement of the holidays and the promise of a new year have passed. I have not made any progress on my resolutions since the first week of January.

The Gracefulness of Hope

For many, 2016 is coming to a close with anger, fear and brokenness. How can we move forward? Some of my friends are writing, protesting, wearing a safety pin, donating money or praying. A public school teacher I know has hung signs on her classroom door indicating that every child is welcome and safe in that space.

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.

Connections 11.20.2016: The Perfect City

When I read about John’s vision of the new and perfect city, or about Ezekiel’s similar vision in chapter 47, I picture the settings from books like C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, or J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.

Formations 11.13.2016: Sing in Time

When I walk into a new sanctuary, I find a pew, pull out the hymnal, and look through it. I see if anyone’s names have been embossed on the lower right corner. I check to see how the church decided to phrase the words on the bookplate dedicating its use to the Lord’s worship.

Formations 10.30.2016: Start Again

Harvey Thomas Young, a musician from Austin, Texas, wrote a song called “Start Again.” First a poem written on the back of a postcard to his brother in jail, his manager saw it and requested he set the poem to music.

Formations 09.25.2016: Hope in Christ’s Appearing

In the religious circles I tend to run in, there are a lot of people who grew up in churches that were saturated with the teachings purported experts on end-times prophecy. They grew up with that kind of theology, but somewhere along the way, that theology got, well, left behind.

Connections 09.11.2016: The Hope of “That Day”

If you’re a regular reader of Coracle—or a regular participant in a Bible study class that uses it—you may or may not read the Scripture references before you read the articles. Today, I encourage you to look up Isaiah 25:6-10a and read it thoughtfully before you go any further.

Formations 08.07.2016: Obadiah

The truth is that we don’t know who Obadiah was. Some people even think his name, meaning “servant of the Lord,” was just a title. Whoever he was, he came from a world that was falling apart.

Connections 07.24.2016: Hope Called and Love Answered

I remember an old Gospel song: “Justice Called and Mercy Answered.” Were I to write a song based on Romans 5:1-11, I’d call it “Hope Called and Love Answered.”

Formations 12.27.2015: Only the Beginning

This December, we reach the 150-year anniversary of when the United States officially ratified and adopted the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Formations 12.13.2015: Freedom to Hope

Zechariah’s song leads us through the second week of Advent in celebration and hope. But in this Scripture text, Zechariah’s song is almost as important as his months of silence leading up to it.

Crossroads: The Candle of Prophecy/Hope

Welcome to the first week of Advent! Advent is a time of preparation, when we wait and prepare for the Christ child. Each week you will light a new candle as we recognize the things that Christ brings to this world.

Uniform 09.27.2015: Dancing in the Silence

At a Baptist Student Union meeting in college, I heard a charming story about a dancer who was on stage, in the middle of a performance, when her music stopped. If you’ve ever stood in front of a crowd for any reason, you can imagine how she felt: heart pounding, stomach clenching, face flushing.

Formations 07.19.2015: God Speaks from the Whirlwind

If we have read Job diligently, we arrive at chapter 38 perhaps a bit worse for wear. We have listened in on anguished expressions of pain, smug assertions of theological correctness, and fierce protests.

Use It or Lose It

Antonio Stradivari was the master instrument maker of the last five hundred years. He built a number of stringed masterpieces: Harps, cellos, and guitars. But his name is most closely associated with his violins

Formations 02.15.2015: A New Creation

The apocalyptic outlook of today’s passage may be challenging for modern readers. Apocalyptic is a mindset prevalent in some circles of early Judaism and Christianity. It is not quite the same thing as prophecy.

Formations 02.08.2015: Haitian Conditions Slowly Improving

Five years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, there are signs of improvement…. Industry is being rebuilt, and they are even making gains to improve health.

Crossroads: Hope – Ezekiel

Sometimes our world seems hopeless. Whenever I see the news about a natural disaster, a terrible crash, or a horrific tragedy, the world seems hopeless in those moments. But then something happens.

Crossroads: The Christ Candle

Christmas Day has finally come! Christ is born! Today, we light the Christ Candle in the center of our Advent wreath. All the candles glow today. The world is bright and warm.

Crossroads: The Candle of Peace/Love – Angels

During the fourth week of Advent, you will light three purple candles and the pink candle. The first two purple candles are the candle of prophecy/hope and the candle of Bethlehem.

Crossroads: The Candle of Prophecy – Elizabeth and Zechariah

Welcome to the first week of Advent, a time of waiting and preparation as we prepare for the birth of Christ. This week you will light the first purple candle, the candle of prophecy and hope.

Uniform 11.30.2014: Gratitude and Hope

This week marks the start of a new season on the church calendar. It is Advent, the time when Christians wait with hopeful expectation for the coming of Christ. As it so often does, this first Sunday of Advent—when we light the candle of hope on our wreaths—falls just a few days after Thanksgiving.

Uniform 11.23.2014: A Step in a New Direction

On April 15, 2013, thousands of runners participated in the annual Boston Marathon. Most of them had trained for weeks, building up their bodies for the strenuous race. They had persisted, getting up early to run each morning, improving their pace and hoping for a personal record.

Uniform 11.02.2014: If You Build It, God Will Come

In the iconic 1989 film, Field of Dreams, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella is moved by a mysterious voice to plow under most of his cornfield and build a baseball field. “If you build it, he will come,” the voice whispers.

The Gripping Reality of the Spiritual “Dark Night”

We all know the hard-luck person (that’s what he gets labeled) who seems to encounter one tragedy after another. Sometimes, the tragedies seem to pile up on each other. Maybe you have been that person.

Crossroads: Love That Endures

We hear stories of senior adults who have been married for 70+ years. For these their love has endured. It seems like in each instance it wasn’t because they always felt like they were in love.

Uniform 10.26.2014: Hope in Front of Me

We’ve all been in a situation where we doubted God. We may have accused God of not answering us, failing to guide us, or even deserting us. Despite his insistence that “my Redeemer lives, and…in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-27), Job had his doubts about the Lord.

Uniform 10.12.2014: A Certain Assurance

Take a moment to name your top three fears. Chances are, your answers include some or even all of what Job experienced in his life. If anyone went through a “dark night of the soul,” it was him.

Uniform 10.05.2014: And Never Stops at All

Habakkuk displays an ability to do something that I struggle with, especially in times of crisis or grief: he acknowledges and laments God’s silence while trusting that God will speak again. When I have experienced God’s absence from my life, the idea that God was still there somehow has not provided me with any sort of comfort.

Uniform 09.21.2014: Acting with Hope

When this week’s text begins, things look pretty bleak for Jeremiah and the people of Judah. Jeremiah finds himself imprisoned by King Zedekiah, who is distressed by Jeremiah’s message of coming destruction.

Letter to the Dying Church

Dying. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about dying. How things die and people too. Dreams die. Traditions die. The roles we’ve played die. Marriages, friendships, partnerships, institutions, buildings. So many things pass away.

Formations 09.14.2014: Reeling from a “Lifequake”

Americans remember September 11, 2001 as a horrific day in which the world was shattered by the destructive acts of ruthless fanatics. According to Dr. Howard Samuels, all of us have also faced smaller, more personal “ground-zero” experiences that have left us reeling, struggling to get back on our feet, and wondering how we could ever survive.

Uniform 09.14.2014: A New Covenant

In the 1960s when it was just beginning, my favorite television show faced a crisis: the actor playing its title character felt the effects of age and illness. The show’s creators had a problem: if they let the actor go, they’d have to kill off his character. And without him, how could the show continue?

You (Plural) Are Not Lacking

“You Are Not Lacking.” That was the title of the sermon I planned to preach on Sunday, January 19. But before I got to it, on Friday, January 17, the daughter-in-law of some beloved church members went on a walk near the church in the afternoon and never came home. Her name is Leanne Hecht Bearden.