Mary Johns Nichols
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
Isaiah 9:2-3 (NIV)
The nation of Israel was walking in darkness in Babylonian captivity. There are times we feel we are walking in the land of deep darkness due to grief, depression, chronic pain or other life setbacks.
After my husband, Wally, died in May of 2000, I had my own time of darkness. He was so young! I was heartbroken! There was no will! There were bills to pay and little income! There were so many documents! The pain of loss was like heavyweights across my chest! Going to work and church with loving friends and family helped me continue the daily task of living.
The following spring, I was outside on my patio and noticed that several bougainvillea plants were growing new leaves after a hard winter. One of them, however, looked totally dead and I moved it aside to throw away. I often sat outside on the patio to read, think and pray. Every time I saw that dead plant, I thought about throwing it away, but it seemed too much effort. Weeks later, long after any hope was left, I saw a leaf starting to grow from that pitiful plant. It wasn’t dead—it had been in darkness. Seeing that plant deciding to survive to bloom again filled me with hope that I could start a new life. I felt God’s presence and light. What joy to feel the darkness melting away!!
Dear Lord, Please help us see your great light and respond to your love with great joy! Amen
By Marilyn Gladson
“The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Today is a special day for me. My father was born on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1926. Once, when I was a child, I asked him if he got combined Christmas/Birthday gifts when he was growing up. “What gifts?” was his reply. He was the third of three brothers and had three younger sisters. It is safe to say their family was quite poor. My grandfather was a jack-of-all-trades who made his living by doing a variety of jobs. He even did some preaching along the way. Yet, he always provided for his wife and children. And not all gifts come wrapped in pretty paper, ribbons, and bows. Daddy had the gift of a loving family who nurtured his faith, taught him to sing the old hymns of praise, and showed him how to be a fine man, husband and father.
He learned those lessons well. While his teacher/preacher salaries did not always stretch to the end of the month, our family of five was never hungry, always had clothes and shelter, and managed to put a dollar each in our Sunday School envelopes every week. The “true bread of God,” Jesus Christ, was as familiar to me as my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I cannot remember any time in my life when I did not know about our loving God and our salvation through faith in Jesus.
So, today I celebrate not only the human birth of Jesus in tiny Bethlehem, but also the birth and life of my dad. Both have given me life and love and joy.
Water is necessary to sustain life. All life (plants and animals) must have water to survive. It is something we take for granted. We can just turn on a faucet and out comes water. We can shower with hot water. We swim in cool pools during hot summer months. Not everyone has this same access.
World Water Day, on March 22 every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis.Let’s take a moment to reflect …
Let’s take a moment to reflect. Look at these stats from a fact sheet on worldwaterday.org:
- Globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused.
- 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with feces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene cause around 842,000 deaths each year.
- 663 million people still lack improved drinking water sources.
- By 2050, close to 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, compared to 50% today. Currently, most cities in developing countries do not have adequate infrastructure and resources to address wastewater management in an efficient and sustainable way.
- The opportunities from exploiting wastewater as a resource are enormous. Safely managed wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials.
- The costs of wastewater management are greatly outweighed by the benefits to human health, economic development and environmental sustainability – providing new business opportunities and creating more ‘green’ jobs.
From Garrett Vickrey’s sermon on Sunday, March 19, 2017:
In developing nations women and girls are primarily responsible for collecting water; on average, 25 percent of their day is spent on this task. Collectively, South African women and children walk a daily distance equivalent to 16 trips to the moon and back to fetch water. If they spend this much their day just getting water imagine what they are not getting— education to improve their lives and the lives of their children. Today, there areover 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours trekking to distant water sources, and/or coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water. The children of God are thirsty; they don’t need to be. A few have improvised solutions to water crises. This Wednesday, March 22, is World Water Day. It’s a good day to consider a gift to an organization like Watering Malawi that provides access to clean water. God’s children are thirsty. Could we risk hitting the rock and seeing if water comes out?
Check out these resources to learn more and to help:
By Cameron Vickrey
Jesus had just gotten through feeding the five thousand with 5 loaves and 2 fish. The disciples had been looking for him the next day, hoping for more miraculous food. They remembered that in the wilderness with Moses, God provided manna from heaven. Naturally, they assumed this is the next installment of God’s miraculous provision of bread for the people that follow God’s prophet. But Jesus clarifies that this is not the same thing. The sustenance he provides is not just to fill them until the next mealtime. In verse 26-27 he says “You are looking for me…because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
I think we love the idea of being provided for. To have our nourishment rain down from heaven, or multiply out of a small bit of food sounds really great. As someone in a phase of life where I am feeding five mouths, 3 times a day (plus snacks), every day without end, I relish the chance to go back to my own mother’s house and be fed for a while. Being provided for is a gift, it is restful. And isn’t rest what we are seeking in this season?
But Jesus says no… don’t seek temporary provision from me. What Jesus brings is more than that. He doesn’t just bring bread to us, he is the bread of life. “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Jesus brings us so much more than our next meal. He brings us life!
In a season so focused on celebrating through food, let’s pause to be grateful for the gift that the bread of God brings to us. Life bread, bread that sustains us for eternity. I will gladly rest in that this Christmas.
By Edgar Twedt
There is an old aphorism, which says, “Life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans.” In the movie Dead Poet’s Society there is a poignant scene where the teacher has his students look at a picture of former students who have long since passed away. As the students look at the picture the teacher says, ”Carpe diem”, that is, seize the day. But how can one seize the day while “making other plans”, and what does this mean for those who are Christ’s disciples?
It is so easy for all of us to get caught up in thinking about what we’re going to do some day or sketching out so many things to do, and then never getting to them. In the meantime life goes on while we’re “making other plans.”
We need to spend more time seizing the day or doing those things which matter for Christ’s kingdom, those little things which are all a part of Kingdom living. When we do this, life doesn’t happen to us, but in an important sense we happen to life. As a once famous TV ad used to proclaim, “Life comes at you fast.” Don’t let it pass you by while you’re making other plans. “Only one life; ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Life is pretty amazing, isn’t it?
For example, take my Lord Baltimore Hibiscus. When I bought it in the spring of 2012, it was just a 3” high stick in a pot. It didn’t look like much. Jennie even asked me why I bought a dead stick in a pot. They told me at the nursery to give it time and consistent water and it would grow when it got hot.
Well, it got hot and we kept it watered and it grew and bloomed and was beautiful. And then when the winter came, it died. This hardy-type of hibiscus is supposed to last through a mild winter and there aren’t many winters more mild than here in San Antonio. So, I did the only thing I could…I cut it to the ground, watered and waited.
At the bottom of the left photo, you can see a stump, that is where I cut it down. In the same picture you see the new growth that finally began to erupt in late spring. On the right, you can see the same plant as it looked in early July. It is beautiful; already taller than last summer and putting out more blooms this year.
We thought the plant was dead — two different times. Yet, life was still there. We kindled it with patience, pruning, and water. God delivered the miracle of life.
Have you been to a point of complete despair? I have — both for myself and others I love. It is so hard to be patient and wait. It is hard to be gentle. It is hard to prune things that need to go (some of those things are good and some are not). It is hard to continue to water. But, God is faithful. He will provide beautiful life.
What does it take to get that beautiful life back? The patience of consistent time with God in prayer, Scripture, and community no matter how you feel (Philippians 4:6-7, Psalm 119:11, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Consistent watering of humbly serving others in Jesus’ name (Philippians 2:3-5). And trusting God to provide a miracle (Deuteronomy 31:6-8).