Words of Hope-Advent 1

Years ago, I was asked by a church to lead a four-week Advent study. I’ve always loved the ritual of the Advent candle lighting, so for the study I decided to explore where does the Bible mention hope, peace, joy, and love. Each Sunday in Advent, we met and opened our Bibles together. It was such a rich experience that I’d love to do that again here on my blog. Each Monday morning, I’ll share Scriptures for the next week of Advent. I do my sharing a week early to help out any clergy friends in need of inspiration. Bring your Bibles and read through the Scriptures listed.

I’ll invite us all to reflect on these questions-

What surprised you about how and where hope/peace/joy/love is mentioned in the Bible?

Where do you find hope/peace/joy/love this Advent season?

How will you share hope/peace/joy/love this Advent season?

And since Advent begins on Sunday, we’ll start right away with hope.




But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,   his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.

                                               Lamentation 3:21-25


Psalm 33:18, 22- God’s eye is on those who hope in God’s steadfast love.

Psalm 39:7 – My hope is in the Lord.

Psalm 42: 1-5 – My soul longs for God.  God is my hope.

Psalm 71: 5, 14 – “I will hope continually.”

Jeremiah 17: 5-13 – verse 7 trust can be translated as hope. Hope/trust?

Romans 4:13-25 – Abraham’s hope

1 Corinthians 13:13 – faith, hope, and love abide


What surprised you about how and where hope is mentioned in the Bible?

Where do you find hope this Advent season?

How will you share hope this Advent season?

photo 5-7

What to Wear to Church?

I have a confession to make. I wear jeans to church. For most of you, this may not seem like something I need to confess. Let me give you the background. In my family, we went to church every Sunday during my childhood. Our nicest clothes were our church clothes. I remember new dresses for Easter and shiny church shoes. When I started working in churches, I continued to dress very nicely for Sunday worship. I was leading worship and wanted to look the part. Now, things are different. I must dress nicely Monday-Friday for work. I want to wear something different on the weekends, and so I wear my jeans. As I got dressed for church recently, I said to my husband, “I am wearing jeans today.” He reminded me that I told him that God doesn’t care what we wear to church. I believe that and need to live into the belief for myself. So with apologies to my grandmother who might not like it, I wear jeans to church. And upon further reflection, I don’t think a confession is needed for this wardrobe choice because God does not care what I wear to church. I am working to get on God’s page with this one.

My hope for all of us is that we spend much more time growing our faith on Sunday mornings and much less time worrying what we or anyone else is wearing to worship!


Today is All Saints’ Day


Today is All Saints’ Day. This is a day when we remember and give thanks for everyone throughout the centuries who has shared their faith with the next generation. Today we are thankful for our ancestors of faith in biblical times, the saints we’ve known in our lives, and everyone in between. When we say saints, some people think that only applies to certain important people of faith. In fact the opposite is true. We are all saints of God doing our best to live our faith and share our faith with others.

Today, I encourage you to take a moment to remember a saint you have known who is no longer with us and a saint you never knew. You can give thanks for someone whose name you know or someone whose name is now known only by God. As people of faith it is important for us to remember that our faith was passed down to us and it is our job to pass it on to others.

I’d love to know more about the saints you are remembering today.

My New Spiritual Practice

My New Spiritual Practice

After reading Coffeehouse Contemplative, I contacted a local Spiritual Director. We had our first meeting recently. I asked her for a suggestion of a spiritual practice I could do regularly. From our conversation, she suggested I find a way to add Scripture and a time to slow down to my day. To make my new practice something I’d want to continue, I decided to include sticky notes too.

I write a Scripture verse on a sticky note and place it somewhere I’ll see it often. For me, this is in my hospice binder. I pause and read the verse multiple times each day. I can keep the same verse for as long or as short of a period of time as I want. When I was preaching a few weeks ago, my verse was from the sermon text. When I read a verse that I enjoy, I write it down.




I’m enjoying an opportunity to slow down and reflect on these Scriptures. So far, this new practice has been easy to keep doing.

What practices do you keep as you live your faith in your daily life?



I believe we all need to listen more to that voice inside of us that urges us to do kind things for others. Some call this voice your conscience. Some call this voice inspiration. I think the voice is the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to listen when the Holy Spirit nudges you toward kindness.
Here’s a recent example. I was looking through pictures on my phone. I saw one of a trip my friend and I took, and this picture made me smile. I sent it to my friend thinking if it made me smile I bet it will make her smile too. I felt something encouraging me to send her the picture. She responded with, “I am truly blessed to call you my friend! I needed this.” You might call this a coincidence. I call it God at work in our lives.
So I urge you to listen this week. Where are you being encouraged to share kindness? What is the Holy Spirit whispering in your ear? How can you lighten someone’s load or spread joy?
I’d love to hear your stories of how you listened and what happened.

Playing in the Sand

As a kid, I loved playing in my sandbox. When you grow up in the Midwest, a sandbox is much cheaper than a trip to the beach. To this day, I love playing in the sand. I keep this tray of sand in my office. People will come to meet with me and spend their time making designs in the sand. It is relaxing.


This sand was originally used for a prayer station with my youth and now it brings a sense of peace to those visiting my office.
What do you keep near you that calms you? What items in your home or workspace bring you peace?

Pray with me
God of Peace, We are busy and need to remind ourselves to slow down. Help us to find ways to find peace and be peace! Be with us as we play in the sand. Calm us so we can hear your voice and be open to your leading. Speak for your servants are listening. Amen.

A Fun Way to Play Jenga


A few years ago while searching for games for youth group, I saw an idea of using empty soda boxes to play Jenga. When I shared this idea with my husband, he suggested that we do it without wrapping each box in paper. We have created Soda Jenga twice now and have some tips to share if you’d like to give it a try.

1-Start saving your soda boxes. If you know someone who drinks soda, ask them to save for you. Be careful when you open the boxes. The less you rip now, the less you’ll have to tape back together later.

2-Save your newspaper. We suggest using 4.5 full sheets of newspaper crumpled up into each box. Adding weight to the boxes provides more stability.

3-You are ready to make boxes. You’ll need your soda boxes, newspaper, and packing tape. Stuff 4.5 sheets of newspaper in each box. Tape boxes shut including the hand hold in the middle of the box. Tape carefully as any bumps will make it more difficult to play!

That’s it! You are ready to play. I’ve used the boxes for youth tournaments and as a fun way to start youth group while waiting for everyone to arrive. I’m looking forward to playing one more time with my youth before passing the boxes on to another youth group. When your youth get tired of playing or your boxes are no longer useable for Jenga, you can recycle them. Enjoy!

Mission Trip Prayer Partners



A major focus of my ministry is building relationships and one way I have seen this work across generations is through mission trip prayer partners. The concept is easy. Connect each mission trip participant with someone who is not going on the trip and who will pray for him or her during the trip. I like to add a little extra to it by asking the stay at home partner to write a letter or card which I give to the mission tripper while we are away. Everyone loves mail, and handwritten cards are in short supply these days. Also, I have the mission trippers write and mail postcards back home to their partners.

Here’s a request from me (someone who has struggled to find enough prayer partners to make this happen). If you hear an announcement like this at your church, sign up for it. Step out of your comfort zone and pray for someone else. Write a card to a youth or adult you don’t know. By participating in this ministry you are developing and strengthening relationships that are vital to your church. All I’m saying is give it a chance.

I’ll tell you how I do this in case you’d like to make it happen at your church.

What You’ll Need

One Prayer Partner for Each Mission Trip Participant

One Postcard, Stamp, and Address for Each Stay at Home Partner

Patience, Perseverance, and Prayer to Make It All Come Together

Months before the mission trip-start asking for prayer partners. Put your request in the bulletin, newsletter, on a bulletin board, send it to your boards/committees, and email or talk with people who you’d like to participate.

Here’s my announcement (which has been running for about 2 months).

Would You Like to Support Our Youth?
-Be a Mission Trip Prayer Partner. Sign up with Susannah. She’ll assign you one of the 26 people going on the trip. You’ll need to write a letter/card to your prayer partner (which will be given to your person while we are on the trip) and give the card to Susannah for safe keeping. Each day we are away, you’ll be asked to pray for your prayer partner and our whole mission team. This is a great way for anyone who can’t journey to Atlanta with us to participate in the mission trip.
As the people accept this invitation, you’ll need to pair them with someone going on the trip. A simple spreadsheet will make this easy. As card are dropped off, I send a thank you email to the partner to let them know it is received.
Before leaving for the trip buy postcard stamps and make sure you have the addresses for the prayer partners so postcards can be sent. Printing them out on address labels will make it very easy on postcard writing day.
While on the mission trip, you’ll need to find postcards from your location which is not always the easiest thing to do. I suggest doing a little research before you leave to find where they are available or stopping at a touristy gas station.


Find a time on the mission trip to share the cards and write the postcards. I recommend at least halfway through the trip. Mail the postcards while you are still on the trip, if possible.


Extra Credit-Find a time after your return for the prayer partners to get together in person. This is a great way to strengthen the relationship!



A Prayer to Pray While Avoiding What Needs To Be Done

We all have things we’d rather not do. My list includes dusting, washing windows, folding laundry, mowing the grass, running, and many others. At the very top of my list is packing! And at this very moment I am typing this I should be packing for a trip. By the time you read this, I will be celebrating the birthday of a very special five-year old. In order to do this, I need to pack tonight. In fact, right now would be a good time to pack. And I’m avoiding doing it. To tell the truth, I’m not the best packer. I make lists and take way too much. I go without my list and forget very important things. I believe we all have gifts and I acknowledge that packing is not one of mine. Sometimes I let my husband pack what I pick out, and that always results in half the stuff I think I need not making it into the suitcase. I’m not sure when I began to dislike packing so much. I know that I avoid packing until it can no longer be avoided.  So I thought what if I wrote myself a prayer to use when I have to do something I don’t want to do. Maybe it would help me pack, and if I shared it maybe it would help others complete a task they think is terrible. So the next time you are faced with a task you’d rather avoid, try this prayer and see if it helps!

God, It’s me. You know I don’t want to do what needs to be done. I’ve convinced myself I’m not good at it. I’ve avoided this for too long and just need to do it. Help me, please! Move my feet in the right direction. Guide my movements and make them quick, so I can get this over with as soon as possible. Patient God, there are too many other things I’d rather do at this moment. Maybe if I take a quick break. No! God, Keep me on track! Help me to finish this task that I am dreading. With your help, Loving God, I can finish this task. Give me strength. Grant me perseverance. Let this be done soon. Amen.


Picture Us! A Summer Church Activity

Summer is an interesting time in the church. Some people think we should do everything the same year round. Some people think the church should take it easier since so many people are away and volunteers want a break. Each church handles summer differently. A few years ago, I wanted to offer the congregation a way to stay connected and remember that each of us is an important part of our church family whether we are in worship each week or not. This idea was based on the concept of Flat Stanley which some churches changed to Flat Jesus. I wanted to do something a little different and so I used a picture the youth had created as sand art that featured the church’s initials.


Here’s how we took the church with us-

Everyone is invited to take an StG picture with you when you leave worship today. Wherever you find yourself this summer, snap a picture while holding the picture of the church name. Send your picture back to the church office and let us know where you are. You might find yourself in the newsletter or featured on the screen before worship. Know that wherever you go this summer, you are loved. Share that love with everyone you meet.




It is as simple as finding a picture that is meaningful to your congregation, getting many copies made (I found that only about half of the people in worship took a picture with them and I got the pictures copied at my local Walgreens when they were having a super sale), announcing the summer project, and sharing the pictures. While it might be too late to try this project this year, it doesn’t have to only happen in the summer. In September, you could ask kids or youth to do this when they visit a favorite spot near home or when they are doing a favorite activity. It could be a great way to get to know new youth and children in your church. It can also be a whole family project. The opportunities are limitless. The point is to remind people they are part of the church even when they aren’t in the church building and to help us get to know each other better. Have fun and I’d love to see how you use this idea as a springboard in your context.