Advent 2023 – A Legacy of Faith
The Advent season is upon us and, as always, we have a new theme for these daily devotionals in December 2023: “A Legacy of Faith.”
This Fall, I have been teaching a series of Bible studies on what each ancestor of Jesus contributed to the Line of Christ. Those classes prompted me to remember the multitude of people who have influenced my own life. As a result, this year, our Advent season will focus on the faithful people who, from all walks, have touched our lives in important ways.
Some who have impacted me are people I never even met. Over 400 years ago, my ancestor Robert Cushman fled England in 1607 for the Netherlands in order to worship God freely. His wife and two of his children died in the Netherlands, bringing grief but not discouragement to Robert. Ten years later, he arranged passage for a host of colonists escaping persecution in England. Robert fell ill and was unable to join the initial voyage of the Mayflower in 1620, but his efforts on behalf of others demonstrated his active faith. He at last arrived in Plymouth in 1621 and delivered the very first sermon published in America. His faith has been passed down our family tree from generation to generation. My brother, Robert Cushman Parke, is the proud heir of our ancestor’s original prayer book.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us, “Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
As you prepare your heart for Christmas this year, I suggest you begin by thanking God for those ancestors whom you never knew but who passed on a living faith. If you aren’t aware of godly ancestors in your family tree, take time to read Hebrews 11 and thank God for the faithful people listed there.
Advent 2023 – Day 2
Welcome back to the second of our series of devotionals titled “A Legacy of Faith.” We are looking at people who have impacted our life by teaching us to walk by faith. One group of people who can have a profound impact on us, for good or not, is grandparents.
Both my grandfathers were pastors, but my grandmothers were also women of faith. Nai Nai, my father’s mother, was always old from my point of view as a child. In my remembrance, she never played tennis or swam or even cooked, but all my cousins and I remember her being a cardshark. She was ever ready to drop what she was doing and play a game of canasta, cribbage or casino with her grandchildren. She encouraged us to play cards even before we learned to read. Nai Nai felt these games taught us valuable lessons like how to win and lose graciously. Nai Nai felt she was always a winner: When she won, she would be pleased with her luck. If her opponent won, she congratulated herself on having such smart grandchildren.
Yes, she felt games were character building.
My other deep impression of my grandmother was of her habit of reading her Bible for hours every day. As it says in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night.”
That habit too was character building.
Who taught you to appreciate God’s Word? Before you head out to face your day, thank God for that person. (And if you are a grandparent, how will you influence the lives of your grandchildren?)
Advent 2023 – Day 3
We are still at the beginning of a series of Advent devotionals on the theme of “A Legacy of Faith.” Thanks for returning to join us on the journey. Today we’ll look at the influence of fathers on our legacy.
Last year, for 24 days in Advent, we followed the story of my father meeting my mother and falling in love. Soon after they married, World War II broke out. Dad went to Europe as a chaplain with the US Army. Dad was a gentle man, and war was anything but gentle. I have been reading all the letters he sent home from the front, including his first-hand account of liberating the concentration camps. The scenes he described were horrific. Yet my father was also deeply distressed when the American GI’s raped local women and his fellow officers became intoxicated. Were they any better than the Germans?
Dad’s commander asked him to lead a memorial service for the US servicemen who had died en route to defeating Germany. After praying for the dead, Dad also prayed for the living:
Grant, O Lord, that we who live on may highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. We here dedicate ourselves anew to the divine cause of freedom and justice for which they fought. Inspired by their sacrifice, help us, O God, to rise to nobler living, to be obedient to Thy holy commandments, and to share in building a better America and a world of brotherly love and peace among all mankind. We ask it in Thy Holy Name. Amen. – John H. Parke, US Army chaplain
Many men came home from the war wounded physically and scarred emotionally. When my father returned, he rarely spoke of the events he had encountered, but his faith preserved his sanity and his hopes for mankind. Even more importantly, he passed that faith on to his children.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “Even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you.” (1 Cor. 4:15)
Who fathered you in the gospel? Offer a word of thanksgiving for their ministry in your life.
Advent 2023 – Day 4
Welcome to those who are just joining us for this series of Advent devotionals. We are looking at types of people who have had strong impact on our faith. Yesterday we looked at the influence of fathers. Today we look at mothers.
My mother was a wild Irish woman. She had auburn red hair and a flaming temper to go with it. Mom grew up in northern Ireland during the bloody conflict of the Black and Tan. She spoke of how soldiers ransacked her home and how her mother made her lie down on the floor of a public bus as it drove through a volley of bullets. Despite those war experiences, my mother developed a wry sense of humor.
When I was in my early teens, Mom went back to Ireland to visit her mother. She left me in charge of preparing meals, doing the wash, and cleaning the house. One day, I somehow added soap twice to a load of laundry. Huge quantities of bubbles started foaming up and sliding down the outside of the machine. One of my older brothers sauntered out and offered this sage advice: “Next time, don’t add so much detergent.”
When I complained to Mom in my next letter, she gave her own advice: “Next time, ask him to show you how to do the chore better. He’ll feel good about himself, you might learn something new, and, in any case, he will have done the chore for you!”
My mother passed along advice to me, but Jesus’ mother faced a far more difficult task: No other woman had ever mothered God’s Son. Mary was young and inexperienced. What wisdom did she have? Who gave her advice?
The Lord gives much more than advice. The Bible is full of God’s wisdom. James 1:5 tells us that if any man (or woman) lacks wisdom, they merely need to ask God for it. May I suggest you read Proverbs 2:2-11 today?
Advent 2023 – Day 6
Today we continue our Advent journey, recognizing key people who have influenced our lives. We’ve mentioned parents and grandparents, but there are other family members – aunts and uncles – who can also be part of our “Legacy of Faith.”
My father had four siblings. Of them, I knew Aunt Priscilla best. She never married and thus had more time to travel and visit her sixteen nieces and nephews. We delighted in the attention she showered on us.
While I was at college, across the country from my own family, she hosted me on numerous occasions at her New York apartment. She, like my grandmother, never learned to cook. Her idea of cooking meant buying a rotisserie chicken from the local deli, boiling a plastic bag of frozen vegetables, and adding a Sara Lee cake for dessert. Knowing I was coming and my love of cooking, Aunt Pris would sign up to help with bake sales at her work and at her church. I spent many happy hours in her tiny kitchen measuring flour and sugar, fulfilling those obligations.
All my cousins have similar fond memories of Aunt Pris. She accepted each of us as we were. She recognized our unique gifts. That was part of her special legacy in my life. I’m sure there were decisions we made that caused her to shake her head in concern, but she never rejected a one of us.
We have no knowledge of whether Jesus had uncles and aunts. Jesus had no home where he could host nieces and nephews, but he had a special way of accepting all who came near. In Luke 15:1-2, the Pharisees criticized him for welcoming sinners and tax gatherers. Yet, these were the people who needed him most. Feeling accepted, they came to listen to him.
Who has made you feel welcome? Perhaps another phone call is in order to express gratitude to that person. Is it time to pass along the gift of hospitality to someone else this season?
Advent 2023 – Day 7
We are just finishing the first week of the Advent season. This year we are looking at “A Legacy of Faith” and recognizing the many people who have become tiles in the mosaic of our lives.
Brothers and sisters can have a huge influence on the direction of our lives. They can point toward good choices, like following God. Other siblings give less honorable guidance, perhaps establishing a pattern of alcohol or drug abuse.
When I entered college, I became very confused by all the choices that lay before me. These included my academic major, the people I dated, and even the roommates I chose. My oldest brother, Richard, saw my confusion and paid for me to fly from New York out to California to attend a Christian conference. He had little money at the time, having just graduated from college himself. But he invested a large sum in his little sister. That week at the conference transformed the direction of my life. I turned my life over to Christ. I jettisoned the young man I was dating. I ended up serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Mexico.
Jesus also had siblings. He had a different experience from mine. In John 7, his brothers openly mocked him. His brothers said, “No one does anything in secret. If you really are doing such things as these, you should show yourself to the world.” Jesus’ brothers did not yet believe in him. But Jesus, the first born of Mary and thus the oldest brother, led them in a better way. By the time Jesus ascended into heaven, his brothers were gathering with other believers in the Upper Room. In Acts 1:14, we read, “They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.”
Are there tensions in your family? Are there painful memories? Are there decisions you made that you now regret? Do you need to ask forgiveness? Or do you need to offer forgiveness to someone? Offer a prayer for healing in your family today.
Advent 2023 – Day 8
Advent always follows our national holiday of Thanksgiving. This year, we are giving thanks for people who have become part of our “Legacy of Faith.”
Those who have been married know how much a spouse can impact our lives in positive or negative ways. If you have never married, you may feel that what follows does not relate to your story, but perhaps you will change your mind as you read on.
My husband Gene impacted me in more ways I can count. He modeled patience, forgiveness, encouragement. We laughed together. We sat quietly together. He was a good husband.
Gene grew up in an unchurched home and watched his parent’s marriage disintegrate due to mental illness. When he became a believer, he wanted to know what a Christian home was like. After we married, Gene told me how he had spied upon his pastor’s family to see how they lived out their faith. How did a Christian father treat his wife behind closed doors? Did they shout and scream at each other? How did they work together to discipline their children? Everything Gene learned about being my husband and, later, about being a good father, he learned by observing that pastor’s family. Gene’s passion to learn how to be a better Christian spouse challenged me to do the same.
Hosea 2:19-20 speaks to all of us, whether married or single. The Lord said, “I will betroth you to me forever. Yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion. And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord.”
What can you learn of God’s example from this verse? How can you demonstrate these same qualities of commitment, righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, compassion and faithfulness to those you meet today?
Advent 2023 – Day 9
During this season of Advent, we have been looking at family members who have touched our lives in meaningful ways. All these people have become part of our “Legacy of Faith.” However, family is not the only influence on our lives. All of us have had teachers who also guided us.
For me, the teacher who impacted me most was Dr. David Needham. After I graduated from a secular college, I needed a stronger foundation in scripture. I searched for a one-year grad program at a Bible college, and Multnomah University promised that the basic textbook in every one of their courses would be the Bible. I wondered how that could be possible. Was there really enough content in scripture to require a whole year of study?
David Needham taught me how to study the Bible. Just as the Christian conference that I had attended earlier transformed the direction of my life, Needham’s course now transformed my entire approach to scripture. I learned to see the people in scripture as individuals who got angry and tired, they laughed and grieved. They had faults, and yet God still used them. There were enough people in the Bible that I could spend a lifetime learning from them.
Needham also introduced me to topical studies and passage studies. There were historical, geographical and cultural studies. Then we learned how to study poetry and prophecy. Each method promised a lifetime of learning.
Psalm 119:11-12 tells us, “How can a young person [or old person!] stay pure? By obeying your scripture…I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. I praise you, O Lord; teach me your decrees.”
Did a teacher touch your life? Was it a Sunday school teacher? Someone in elementary school, a professor at college? I bet that they would love to know that their ideas took seed in your life and continue to grow. Give them a call or jot them a note today. If you have lost touch with your teacher, why not send a text to a friend who is a teacher and encourage them?
Advent 2023 – Day 10
Thank you for returning faithfully each day. This season of Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas, and we are examining our “Legacy of Faith,” the long list of people whom God has used to guide us to become all that we are today. That list includes co-workers.
After graduating from an institution of higher learning, I was proud, maybe too proud, of my college education. I began working with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Mexico, expediting translated manuscripts through publication.
When the WBT held its international conference in Mexico, the event made our base’s population swell fivefold, the extra mouths to feed put a heavy load on our limited cafeteria facilities. An appeal went out for volunteers to help the dish crew meet the need. My position required me to prepare for printing the countless reports needed for the conference. I felt I didn’t have time to wash dishes in the kitchen. But as I returned my dirty plates to the kitchen, I glanced in the pass-through window. Imagine my surprise when I saw Dr. George Cowan, president of WBT, rolling up his sleeves to scrub greasy pots and pans.
George Cowan held a doctorate. He was in charge of our entire conference. He was accustomed to meeting with prime ministers all over the world. And he was willing to humble himself and wash dishes. By his example, my co-worker taught me more about humility than any words could communicate.
Jesus modeled humility. At Christmas, we celebrate his leaving the glory of heaven to stoop to earth. Thirty-three years later, in John 13, he knelt before his disciples and performed a task usually assigned to the lowliest slave. The “CEO” washed the feet of his co-workers. Jesus, the Lord of the universe. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the Light of the entire world, wore an apron and did the dirty work of salvation.
Consider what you might learn from someone at work. They might not be a believer, but what have they taught you about perseverance? Or forgiveness? Or encouragement? Do they realize how their example touched you? Today might be a good day to speak up and thank them for the way they influenced your life.
Advent 2023 – Day 11
During Advent, we are seeing how “A Legacy of Faith” includes not only close family members but a multitude of people from all walks of life. I hope these thoughts are stirring gratitude in you for those who have impacted your life.
One tends to think of parents instructing their children, but our children can also teach us surprising lessons about faith.
My daughter used to attend a women’s Bible study on the gospel of John. It was her turn to teach the week they studied John 17. As she walked to the front of the class, Prisca reached for her cell phone and began to dial. She stood in front of the class and ignored the other women while she spoke into the phone.
“Dad, I’ll be coming home soon.” (pause)
“Yes, I have finished the work you gave me to do.” (pause)
“It’s going to be hard to leave my friends here. We have grown close. Dad, they listen to me and trust me.” (pause)
Prisca’s audience became restless, but she continued her imaginary conversation.
“I’d like them to one day come to our home and stay with me.” (pause)
“Thanks, Dad, for making that possible. I know you love them too.”
Slowly, it dawned on the women that Prisca was not being rude but paraphrasing Jesus’ words in the chapter of John. His prayer was his “phone call” home to the Father. And Prisca’s lesson reminded me that my prayers too are conversations with my Father.
What have you learned from a nephew or niece, a friend’s child, or even a student in your class? The lessons we learn from children are often simple truths. Psalm 8:2 says, “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”
Advent 2023 – Day 12
Our Advent journey continues as we climb our family tree and remember those who have supported us and become part of our “Legacy of Faith.”
God never planned on any person walking the road of faith alone, but some of my readers haven’t experienced supportive family relationships. Their family may look downright barren like a tree in winter. For many, the important people in our lives are close friends. Some of the best friends are those we have known for many years.
I have known my friend Amada for over fifty years. Half a century! We met in Mexico when we were single. My first Christmas in Mexico, her family made me feel welcome in their home. A few years later, we each married. Now we are grandmothers, and between us, we have a passel of grandchildren. Over the years, we have communicated by letters, cassette tapes, email, and more recently by Zoom.
In the early years, we worked together at Wycliffe Bible Translator’s headquarters in Mexico City. Amada and I agreed to memorize the Gospel of John together, she in Spanish and me in English. All twenty-one chapters? Stories and discourses? It was not an easy task. Each week, Amada and I met to encourage each other in the work of memorization. I didn’t complete that task until long after I was married, and then only with the help of another friend. Would I even have begun without the influence of Amada?
James 2:23 describes Abraham as the Lord’s friend. This was not a passing acquaintance. From the time he left Ur at age 75 until he died at age 175, Abraham walked in friendship with God. Their friendship lasted for a whole century! In truth, God continues to keep his promises to his friend even though Abraham died thousands of years ago. What key element bound them together? Abraham’s faith and God’s faithfulness.
Who is the friend you have known for the longest time? What has bound you together over the years? Have you thanked God for that friendship? How does it differ from your friendship with God?
Advent 2023 – Day 13
We are already halfway through Advent, and there are still so many people to identify as part of our “Legacy of Faith.” Yesterday we looked at friends we have had for many years, but recent friendships can also have a deep impact on us.
When my husband and I moved to our retirement community in 2017, I introduced myself to my nearest neighbor on our hall. Rita had heard that two professors from Messiah College were moving in, and she was concerned] that we might be stuffy intellectuals. However, she and I soon became close friends. As one ages¬¬–Rita was in her 80’s and I in my 70’s–one doesn’t have as much time left to build decades-long friendships. Roots need to go down rapidly, and a shared faith acts like Miracle-Gro.
Little did we guess that Rita’s husband would die just a year or so later. I encouraged her through the grief process, handing her tissues as she cried. We spent an evening together looking at old family photos of their cruise to Alaska. On the first anniversary following her husband’s death, I didn’t want her to be alone. We went out for dinner together.
A year later, my husband died. Suddenly we were both widows. Rita guided me through my first year without Gene. Together, we celebrated our husbands’ birthdays, remembered wedding anniversaries, and then marked the death dates too.
Today, despite our short time of knowing each other, Rita is not merely one of my nearest neighbors, but my dearest neighbor!
Who has comforted you in a time of sorrow? That person may have been a long-time friend or a recent acquaintance sitting near you in a doctor’s waiting room. According to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, God is the ultimate source of all comfort. St. Paul wrote, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
Advent 2023 – Day 14
We are back with another Advent thought about those people who have added a special touch to our “Legacy of Faith.” We’ve mentioned longtime friends and recent ones, but there are other categories of friendship.
In our society, often people are segregated into homogenous age groups. If you attend church, you might be part of the singles group, or the newly-marrieds, or the mothers of preschoolers, or the senior adults. Schools divide children into classes based not on academic skills but according to age. (My mother always felt that basing classes on age was as irrelevant as determining the classes according to the child’s shoe size.)
So today let’s focus on how much we have benefitted by having friends who are a different age than ourself. I draw strength from being around people who have already weathered the storms of life and continue to trust God. They have rich experiences to share.
Eileen is almost 90 years old. Her husband suffered from Alzheimer’s. I watched her tenderly care for him. Then, after Ted died, Eileen’s oldest daughter came down with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Again, Eileen helped her daughter through the fog of that disease until Marie died. And for the past ten years, Eileen has again taken on the full-time job of caregiver for another daughter, also afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Eileen’s patience and gentle spirit have been an incredible example for me of faith enduring through extreme difficulty.
The prophet Jeremiah faced more than his share of difficulties too. He struggled because few listened to his messages from God. His colleagues and fellow priests tried to kill him. The king allowed him to be left in a sewage pit. His own neighbors threatened him. His family rejected him. Like Eileen, he emerged with a strong faith. When Babylonian armies destroyed his culture, he was still able to say, “The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” (Lam. 3:23-24)
Look around you today. Who are those strong oaks of faith that are farther along the road and who can support you in a time of storm? Let them know how much they mean to you.
Advent 2023 – Day 15
Glad to have you back again. As we await the arrival of our Best Friend’s birth at Christmas, we are looking at the other friends God has placed on our path as part of our “Legacy of Faith.”
Believers who have followed Christ for multiple decades are like trees that have weathered the storms of life, but new believers are like young shoots in the garden of life. Their passion can energize our faith. They too become part of our growing legacy.
Over the years, I have done a fair amount of lay counseling. The first time I met L., she came reluctantly, under protest, at the urging of her mother. L. had shaved her head, had multiple piercings, and wore a dark scowl on her face. Drug and alcohol addictions had caused her to attempt suicide on multiple occasions. Doctors responded by pumping her full of antidepressants. She fought with her parents and refused to obey their house rules.
L. declined to see me again. She had no desire to be “fixed.”
Months later, L. changed her mind. She agreed to meet with me even though our sessions included Bible study. Then, one evening, she arrived in a passion of excitement. Elders at a local church had prayed over her and cast out several demons. Demons? Her story left me uncomfortable. Did my faith allow God to work in such a dramatic way?
L. was a new believer, but I watched as her insights into familiar passages became deeper, her applications to her own life were on target. A year went by. L. moved to Texas to attend a Bible school. She married. She became a mom. Across the miles, we stayed in touch.
L’s faith grew, but so did mine as I watched God transform her life in every area. L. brought the truth of 2 Cor. 5:17 to life: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Do you know a person who is just beginning to walk with Christ? How can you encourage them? I know God will use them to encourage you also!
Advent 2023 – Day 16
Are your decorations up? Are your gifts all wrapped? Thanks for taking time out to join us on our Advent journey as we look at those people who have had a role in our personal “Legacy of Faith.”
People often speak of the church as their “family,” so today we will remember those within the body of Christ who have deeply impacted the course of our lives.
When I was a teenager, a member of the parish came to my father for help. She listed all her woes, her aches and her pains in great detail. After several meetings, all recounting the same miseries, my father suggested that she find a way to serve others instead of focusing on herself. The advice was sound, but Jeri chose to make the pastor’s daughter–me–the focus of her attention. At the time, I was not enamored with the prospect.
Jeri prayed for me every day. She wrote me letters when I went off to college. She offered advice that I did not want. But she kept on praying. When I dated a young man who was not a believer, Jeri prayed me out of that relationship. She prayed that I would attend a strong Bible program after college. She asked God to guide me in my decision to join Wycliffe Bible Translators and head to Mexico. Jeri was the only person I knew who actually knelt down and cried out to God about my needs.
Today, I am grateful for this woman who set aside her own concerns and prayed so fervently for mine. My life would have been very different without her influence.
In John 17, Jesus faced the end of His ministry on earth. He knew that beatings, mockery, and crucifixion lay ahead of Him. Yet He set aside His own concerns and focused His prayers on those He left behind. He said, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.” Jesus prayed fervently for you and me!
How have people from your church touched your life? Who has made praying for you a priority? How can you pray for them today?
Advent 2023 – Day 17
Welcome to those who are just joining us on this Advent journey. We are looking at people who have left an imprint on our faith journey, people who have become part of our “Legacy of Faith.”
Many of my readers have participated in a Bible study or a prayer group. There is a special dynamic when an entire cluster of friends gathers and stands behind you. One such group had a special impact on my life and ministry.
Working for our local pregnancy center, I discovered that many of our clients had regrets about being sexually active. I began looking for open doors into local schools. It would be a tough challenge to convince teens to consider sexual purity, so I gathered a team of a dozen people who knew the power of prayer, and I asked them to partner with me. Each person prayed daily for the schools. If I spoke in a class in the morning, I’d call to let my team know how the students responded.
Ruth was a member of that faithful team. One day, I reached out to her. The superintendent of a local school district had turned down our offer to present a program to his students.
“That’s the school I graduated from!” Ruth exclaimed. She started praying hard.
The very next day, the superintendent called me to say he’d changed his mind. In fact, he became one of our strongest supporters. For the next fifteen years, we saw thousands of teenagers and never had one complaint from parents. God protected our program under a banner of prayer.
When Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane during Holy Week, He needed back-up. He asked His prayer team to pray for Him, but they fell asleep. “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?” he asked. “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.” (Mark 14:37-38)
Is there a group that has your back? Take a few moments to pray for those people, and then thank God for their role in your life.
Advent 2023 – Day 18
Only seven days until Christmas! I trust that these Advent devotionals are helping you appreciate the great variety of people in your “Legacy of Faith.” I also hope that these brief thoughts are preparing your heart to welcome Jesus, the root of our faith.
Have you ever considered the impact that doctors, nurses, dentists and caregivers can have on our lives? What about emergency providers like the firemen and policemen? Most entered their profession because they wanted to serve. Many of them are people of faith.
Back in 2017, I faced excruciating back pain. After I had PT, epidural injections, scans and exams, I still walked bent over at a 45-degree angle. My surgeon explained what caused that pain. Dr. Wolf rattled off a long list of culprits, including my osteoporosis, stenosis, spondylitis, scoliosis, kyphosis and lordosis, to name just a few.
Dr. Wolf is a brilliant surgeon. Over the course of four surgeries, he has reconstructed much of my spine. However, the truly extraordinary thing is to see his humility. He has made his hands available to the Lord to complete the complex surgeries needed to correct all these problems. As a man of prayer, he placed me in God’s care before each of my operations. After one difficult surgery, I experienced a period of discouragement. Had God abandoned me? When Dr. Wolf visited my hospital room, he gave medical advice and encouragement but also offered a much needed prayer.
In John 5, Jesus met a lame man near the pool of Bethesda. Jesus asked him, “Would you like to get well?” I can understand the relief that lame man felt after Jesus touched him. Today, I too can stand and walk without pain. This is as close to resurrection as I can imagine while I am still in this earthly body.
Do you know a nurse or doctor or emergency responder? Today presents a good opportunity to express your gratitude to them and also to God for His care!
Advent 2023 – Day 19
Advent is quickly passing. Thanks for continuing to travel on this journey with me. Today we add another dimension to our “Legacy of Faith.”
When I was a new mom, nothing in my life had prepared me for the incredible responsibility of parenting. My college education did nothing to impress an infant that demanded I set aside every one of my priorities and meet his needs. My mother was several hundred miles away. My husband was at work. Alone with a newborn, I felt overwhelmed. I wondered if my son would ever recognize me if I stopped crying.
Enter a category of people who left another imprint of my legacy of faith: my neighbors. Bernice and Mary lived on each side of our home. Both were experienced grandmothers. I would show up on Bernice’s doorstep, carrying my squalling child. Tears ran down my cheeks. If Bernice was not home, I would turn and cross the lawn to Mary’s house. Mary would take one look at the two of us and invite us in. She would set a mug of hot tea in front of me and put my son on her shoulder, rocking him gently. Her relaxed embrace calmed Tim, her tea calmed his mother.
My son probably has no idea how much he owes to those kind neighbors. I know their kindness made a huge difference in developing my confidence as a mother.
We don’t know Jesus’ childhood neighbors, but he did answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), Jesus made it clear that a neighbor is not only the person who lives next door but that person who cares for a person in need.
If you are a baker, why not take a plate of Christmas cookies or a loaf of bread next door to a neighbor today? And if you feel hopeless in the kitchen, why not pick up a carnation or two at your local Walmart or Target and offer it to neighbor? Don’t forget to add a measure of thanks for their part in your life.
Advent 2023 – Day 20
Is today a gray winter day? Why not slow down, grab a cup of tea, and join us for another look at our “Legacy of Faith”?
Some of my readers know that I have authored five books, and my stories have been included in many Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. But other authors have had a major impact on my life. Some, like Marlene Bagnull, have encouraged me by teaching me practical skills such as how to prepare a book proposal to send to a publisher. Other authors have challenged me with their excellence in writing.
When I read a book by someone like Jan DeHartog or Rumer Godden, I feel humbled. Their excellence of writing puts my own feeble efforts to shame. They can develop characters that are vivid and remain fresh in my mind years later. Their plots are strong. The setting of each book becomes another character, creating a powerful mood. When I turn the final page of one of these books, I lie back in amazement and say, “Wow, God!” Their writing also impels me to stretch and improve my own efforts.
The Lord too is an excellent writer. Over several thousand years, He developed a plot line that revealed His passion for mankind. The characters in the Bible are complex, not simply black or white, good or bad, but nuanced and unforgettable, like Joseph and David and Daniel. In 2 Tim 3:16, St. Paul (yet another author!) explains that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” God’s writing has a far greater impact than anything I could ever aspire to accomplish.
You may not be an author, but perhaps you have been impacted by an author’s writing. If you have read a book or seen a video that touched your life, why not pass along the title to a friend today?
[If you have never watched a short video called “Butterfly Circus”, I can recommend it. You can find it on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnzEIqbBVK0.]
Advent 2023 – Day 21
Christmas is only a few days away, and we are all being distracted by last minute shopping and guests. Thank you for taking time to pause and read another of these thoughts about people who are part of our “Legacy of Faith.”
Writing can be a lonely task. That’s why readers are important participants in my legacy of faith. They encourage me to keep going.
For example, recently, my daughter sent out my Christmas letter by e-mail to several hundred friends. Within hours, she knew that over 200 of those e-mails had been opened. My in-box was flooded with people responding to the letter and the sample devotional that was attached. One friend texted, “Have had you on my heart a lot recently then just read your Christmas letter and the first day of your devotional and cried, thanking God for His goodness! So grateful to Him for placing you in my life and for your influence for Him!”
I replied that her response was exactly what I hoped would be the result of my writing these devotionals. I wanted readers to reach out and thank all those who have helped them to grow in Christ. But her next text touched me also. She explained that she had shared the devotional with all her children and her mother, too. A ripple effect.
In Psalm 22, King David prophesied about the coming Messiah in amazing detail. His hands and feet would be pierced. People would divide his clothes and cast lots for his robe. All were fulfilled when Jesus hung on the cross a thousand years later. But David went on to prophesy about you and me too. “Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done.” That ripple effect is felt even now, thousands of years later!
When we thank someone and encourage a person’s faith, that act can also have a ripple effect, prompting others to pass it on. You may not be an author hearing from readers, but the prayer, phone call or text you initiate today can start a ripple that may touch lives of people you have never met. We all can have a part in fulfilling David’s prophecy!
Advent 2023 – Day 22
The season of Advent is closing, soon to be eclipsed by the joy of Christmas. Thank you for staying with me for these past three weeks and, for some of you, over the past twenty or thirty years of different Advent themes. Today we continue the theme for 2023, “A Legacy of Faith.”
We have looked at many people who have influenced our lives, including ancestors, parents, teachers, friends and more. However, there is one person who has had the greatest influence of anyone on my life. I should say he is the Person who has had the greatest impact on me. That would be my Savior, Jesus Christ.
Like my parents, Jesus has protected me. Like my husband, he has provided for all my needs. Like my teachers, he has taught me. Like my friends, he has encouraged me. In truth, if you review all the categories of influencers we have looked at this Advent season, people who have had major impact on my life, Jesus rises to the top in every category.
At Christmas we mark the birth of Jesus, but do we remember all he sacrificed to come to earth? He left his family in heaven to come to earth. He shed his divine nature and became a man. He stepped out of eternity and into time. He left unending light and entered the darkness of Mary’s womb.
Jesus went beyond what every other person ever did for me. He laid down his life for me. A woman once knelt and wept as she prayed for me, but she did not give her life for me.
Because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, I do not have to fear walking into God’s presence. I do not carry a heavy load of guilt or shame. Jesus introduced me to the Father. Now, as it says in Psalm 84:2, “I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.”
I pray with all my heart that you feel the same way.
Advent 2023 – Day 23
Perhaps you imagined that, after yesterday’s Advent thought, our “Legacy of Faith” was complete. After all, what could possibly top all that Jesus has done for us? There is another member of the Trinity that has an equally major impact on our lives. Read on.
As a new believer still in my teens, I didn’t know much about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Yes, he was named in the Apostle’s Creed that we recited in our Episcopal church, but all the Old Testament stories we heard about in Sunday School centered on the Father and those in the New Testament on the Son. The Holy Spirit was the silent member of the Trinity.
I credit Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, for opening my eyes to the work of the Holy Spirit. He explained the concept of spiritual breathing, exhaling through confession and inhaling the power of the Holy Spirit. Far from being inactive, the Spirit worked in me to show me what I did that offended God, helped me understand salvation, and then guided me into truth. I began listening to his voice.
Listening, paired with obedience, resulted in my going to Mexico to work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. During a five-month jungle training program, I discovered how the Holy Spirit also protects God’s children. I figured he stepped in to save my life almost every week, rescuing me from an exploding Coleman lantern, a runaway horse, river rapids, a fire in our thatch hut, poisonous spiders and venomous snakes.
When I memorized the Gospel of John, the final chapters of the book offered a fuller picture of this member of the Trinity. Jesus called him the Advocate. In John 14:25-26, he said, “I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” The Holy Spirit is my private tutor!
I also call him the Ally. He’s got my back. As you face the uncertainties of 2024, take the time to ask the Father to fill you with his powerful Spirit.
Advent 2023 – Day 24
Today our Advent series on “A Legacy of Faith” draws to a close. Tomorrow, we celebrate Christmas, but before you rip open packages and eat too much candy, take time for one last thought.
When my husband and I moved to our retirement community, we downsized with great effort. There were many things we had saved for years but our children were not interested in inheriting the 100-year-old Singer sewing machine or Gene’s grandmother’s quilts or the china passed down from Emily’s great-grandfather. Those things will rust, fray or break. What we know of Christ will never disintegrate.
What will you pass on as your legacy? Who will benefit from the things you have learned from family and friends about faith?
We don’t know for certain who wrote Psalm 71. It carries a title, “Prayer of an Old Man for Deliverance.” The author asks for deliverance not because he is afraid to die, but because he wants to pass on all he has learned about the Lord. Ps. 71:17-18 reads “O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do. Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.”
That is my prayer for myself but also for you as we begin a new year. Celebrate Christ’s birth but also celebrate the new life we have received in Jesus. Share all he has done with those who follow in our footsteps!