Sunday, October 20, 2013

Walking in the Light of the Lord

Day 36: October 20, 2013

We'd scour the playground each morning for dangers. Most days we found bottles or broken glass. Often, we found needles, razor blades, and shell casings. We learned not to be surprised. We knew we could only protect the children during the day. Most lived in violent, impoverished neighborhoods. 

We longed for a future like the prophet Isaiah describes, when sword would be beaten into plowshare and the people would go up to the mountain to learn and practice God's loving and peaceful ways. 

That was three decades ago. Too many children still live in violent neighborhoods. Too many children are still killed by guns. Too many children are valued less than the right-to-bear automatic weapons. National budget priorities fund wars at the expense of children's services and programs. 

The prophet offers hope to a people weary of violence and war. But hope is hollow if we refuse to see our collective sin that allows any child to grow up in poverty and violence. 

Peacemaker God, teach us to walk in your light. Instill in us the urgency of beating our swords into plowshares for the sake of the children of Newtown, the thousands of children whose deaths and injuries never make the news, and those who hunger for bread. Give us hope and the will to make it a reality. Amen.

Tim Graves
Condon United Church of Christ
Condon, OR

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Boldly Speaking Truth to Power

Day 35: October 19, 2013

In the wake of this past year’s flurry of unimaginable violence against children, we must work harder than ever to protect our children from the ravages of gun violence. However, the problem is not just about guns. There are many powers arrayed against the welfare of our children. In the spirit of Acts 4:23-31, we must look at these threats and have the courage and wisdom to speak God’s Word of peace and justice with all boldness. Guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit we must not only speak but confront fear mongering along with the evils of racism and poverty that harm our children. 

Let us prayerfully unite hearts and hands to boldly speak God’s Truth to power. In our congregations, let us equip ourselves like the early community of Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem. Let us demonstrate the healing and transforming power of Spirit led, nonviolent, direct actions of self-giving for the safety and wellbeing of our children.

God of love and peace, deliver us and our children from violence and fear. Now, Lord, look at the threats against our children and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness. Give us courage that we may be your hands and feet to heal our violence-ridden land. May signs and wonders be performed in the name of your holy servant Jesus that those who live by violence and greed may be “shaken up” by the Good News of God’s compassion and justice for all. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Kate Epperly
Minister of Family and Children’s Ministries 
United Church of Christ


Friday, October 18, 2013

Peace & Play

Day 34: October 18, 2013

Each year, the preschoolers I work with pass on childhood traditions and tales. The river rocks on the playground are just the right size. A preschooler can pick one up and move them around, but just barely. That effort makes it even more valuable. Turns out, I was wrong, they aren’t actually river rocks. 

Over the years the rocks have evolved to tell different stories. Sometimes they are lined up to make a path or a bridge. Other times, they are assembled in a big pile. Chairs circle the pile and a campsite appears. For a while, they were dinosaur eggs that needed saving. Sometimes they are babies. 

Now that I think of it, they are rarely river rocks. When children, when people, play  in the streets or playground or backyard, a new home, a new place, and a new peace is created.

Lord, guide us to the streets, to see the vision, to play together. How will I play today?

Pat Barton
Chalice Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Gilbert, AZ

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sons as Healing Sunflowers, Daughters as Foundations of Peace

Day 33: October 17, 2013

Imagine sons as sunflowers reaching their full autumn height.  These magnificent plants share seeds, oil, and healing properties pulling radioactive contaminants from the soil.

Imagine daughters sturdy and beautiful as founding beams of homes and institutions: supporting the full thriving of all the world’s children, drawing in the exile, and responding to cries of distress.

Psalm 144 offers these hopeful images, a hope rooted in God. To pray with these few verses is to root our hope in the God who seeds our prayers with longing and harvests our peaceful actions.

Creator God, with your help we can see the world’s children fruitful as sunflowers and sturdy as foundations for the future. We see all children nurtured in love and safety. Help us refuse to seed the world with guns and violence. Help us fully accept our one responsibility: creating a peaceful, just world for all children. Amen.

Rev. Susan Meeter
Mira Vista United Church of Christ
El Cerrito, CA

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Leaders & Miracles

Day 32: October 16, 2013

Psalm 72 is all about praying for a just, righteous, generous, and peaceful king. At first glance it seems foreign to us. We do not have one person who will “defend the poor, rescue the homeless, and crush everyone who hurts them...[and who] has pity on the weak and the helpless and protects those in need." (Ps. 72: 4, 13 CEV). 

But we do have a government and we have leaders. We are called to pray daily that they will be honest and fair, righteous, and ready to defend the needy.  This psalm does not celebrate the wealthy; it is all about how the government –the king – is there to help those who are oppressed.

There is a revealing final phrase, however, in this prayer for the king: “Lord God of Israel, we praise you. Only you can work miracles.” (Ps. 72:13 CEV)

Divine Presence, We pray for your guidance for our “king” – our leaders. We need your miracles to help them turn toward each other and work together to bring peace to our nation and our world. May they become a model of a nonviolent solution to conflict and injustice. Amen.

Rev. Carol L. Cook
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Baltimore, MD

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Blessed to Be a Blessing

Day 31: October 15, 2013

What meaning do blessing rituals possess? Jacob demonstrated no hesitancy in blessing grandsons he had never met and might never see again. His vision, faithfulness, and sense of urgency called forth a blessing.

On behalf of the God who is our shepherd, in faith, urgency, and with vision our children deserve blessings. Our world needs their gifts. We must affirm the mantles they wear in their young lives. Capable of amazing things, we witness youth as peacemaker, reconciler, and compassion bearer. With blessing (and loving guidance) they possess all they need to love as they are loved.

God of Jacob and Joseph, Ruth and Naomi, bless our children’s lives with peace.  Bless those who care for them with wisdom and a sense of urgency on their behalf. Bless them to be peacemakers and compassion bearers, following your way. Amen.

Karen Ziel
Minister of Faith Formation
CT Conference UCC

Monday, October 14, 2013

If You Get Lost You Can Always Get Found

Day 30: October 14, 2013

Having sown his wild oats and hit rock bottom, the Prodigal Son decides to return home. Despite fears he is unworthy of being considered a family member, he's welcomed home. 

His father, overwhelmed with elation, orders the best calf slaughtered and a party thrown. The eldest is not at all pleased. The father explains that there should be happiness because although he was lost to them for sometime, he has found his way home.

Despite what may cause a family to distance themselves, we should rejoice when a path is opened up and healing can begin. True unconditional love is hard, but is worth it when families can come together and celebrate overcoming life’s struggles.

Creator God, We pray that children of any age, know unconditional love from their family, no matter what distance may separate them. Light the path to those who are lost to family members, and give them safe passage home. Open the hearts of their families to accept them home with open hearts and unconditional love. Amen.

Karen Anne Fitterling-Eckhardt
South Joplin Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Joplin, Missouri

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Right Blend

Day 29: October 13, 2013

Mary “treasured all these things in her heart.” Each moment of a child’s life is a treasure, and an opportunity for growth and adventure. Children need space to discover their dreams and gifts. What looks like the terrible twos or adolescent rebellion may be the stirrings of a child’s vocation and discovery of their life’s work.

It’s difficult to give children space, especially in a world in which we are constantly bombarded by threats. Still, a child needs room to be her or himself, to go on adventures of the spirit to places never traveled, and to delight in the unexpected wonders of life. We need to be watchful while providing space for adventure.

Mary let go and came to treasure what at first seemed like teenage rebellion. She trusted God and her child Jesus enough to let him go and let him grow as God’s beloved child, the inspiration for our own beloved children.

Adventurous God, help us to let go so our children may grow. Awaken us to the right blend of order and novelty, structure and freedom, and security and risk.  Help us to grow so that our children might flourish. Let us together embrace our identity as God’s beloved. In the name of the growing Jesus. Amen.

Bruce Epperly
South Congregational Church
Centerville, MA

Author of Letters to my Grandson

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Swerve Often

Day 28: October 12, 2013

“If you stop to be kind, you must swerve often from your path.”
-Mary Webb

The disciples’ sternness in this passage is not their only foible. It is only a symptom of a deeper and more tragic truth. As human beings, we are often afraid to swerve from the most comfortable and secure paths. Being afraid of the unknown, we can fall into the trap of excluding others from our party, particularly strangers, minorities, outcasts, and little children.

Jesus instructs the disciples to stop and be kind, even if it means swerving from the path. Indeed, he urges openness and inclusion for all, but especially for children.

Receiving the Kingdom of God means to welcome the unexpected and greet change kindly. Redirecting can be hard sometimes, but somewhat easier if we remember we are all created children of God.

Loving Creator, We who are fearfully and wonderfully made often forget to be open. Out of fear or doubt, we exclude what is different and overlook the invitation to be kind. Rekindle in us a spirit of adventure, a mind for acceptance, welcoming hands, and affirming hearts. In your many Holy names, Amen.

Rev. Shayanna Jolly
Crittenden Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Crittenden, Kentucky

Friday, October 11, 2013

Shoots of Hope

Day 27: October 11, 2013

When I was a child, I participated in a 4-H program where I learned how to plant, nurture, and harvest strawberries. The strawberry plants had “runners” where new berries would emerge. If one is not careful, the strawberries could take over the garden fairly quickly.

The prophet proclaims “a shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse, a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Isaiah is striking in his depiction of the tensions between violence, peace, destruction, and hope. What stands in its center is the child.

The shoots of humanity are full of violence, despair, abuse, and death. These are the branches in which we are accustomed to abide. The hope for our future, “the child,” forces us out of this logic of the world and to accept that a different kind of world is possible. A world where hopelessness does not infest the ground, but instead peace, and with peace, children who live to their full potential is possible.

God of peace, The ways of the world are not your ways; bring us to a new understanding of your will for humanity.  Your prophet proclaims that future generations will not hurt the earth or destroy each other through knowledge of you. Lead us to make this vision a reality. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Christopher D. Rodkey
St. Paul’s United Church of Christ
Dallastown, PA

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Eager Sharing

Day 26: October 10, 2013

Anyone who lives with, works with, or knows a two-year old understands we are not innately born knowing how to share. However, once children learn the skill they are eager to share all they have with us, whether we want those little treasures or not. It is fitting that this boy eagerly shared his gifts of two fish and five loaves. Adults would see the lack of food and hesitate to share with the large crowd.

Jesus saw the gift the way the boy saw the bread and fish: more than enough. Thanks be to God!

Gracious God, Thank you for the children who teach us to eagerly share our gifts. Thank you for those who see the world through the understanding of children. Point our attention to the simple acts of shared faith so that we can see the ways you make simplicity into more than enough. Amen.

Molly Goodrich
Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
 Weatherford, TX

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Day 25: October 9, 2013

But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, 
and he was able to stand. Mark 9:27 NRSV

Holding hands is the first thing we teach children to do. Before we try to get them to smile or talk we are putting our fingers into their tiny palms and waiting for the grasp of their little fingers to tighten. When they get old enough to pull themselves up, we are right there holding their hands to help them stand. 

When they take their first steps our hands are right within reach of their fingers. When they cross the street or the parking lot our hands are always open for theirs to fit into. There’s a connection made.

There’s a feeling of love and safety, even healing in the act of hand holding.   

God, Help us to offer our hands to the boys and girls of this world who have no hand to hold. Help us to make a connection, to extend healing and security and support and, above all else, everlasting love. Amen.

Rev. Samantha Houser
Zion United Church of Christ
Waukon, IA

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Persistence for Children

Day 24: October 8, 2013

In Jesus’ time, custom dictated that the Hebrew people and Gentiles had limited contact with one another. Men and women also did not have direct contact except within families.  

In this scripture lesson, Jesus is alone when a woman comes into the room. She is not only a woman, she is also a Gentile. Jesus looks at her because she should not be there. This woman knows that also. However, her daughter is very sick. So instead of being afraid of custom, she comes to ask Jesus to heal her daughter.

Though Jesus first goes along with the rules about relationships, the woman will not give up.  Finally, Jesus agrees and heals her child. How great it would be if we would all be as persistent as this woman when it comes to helping a child!

God in communion, Holy One, help us share your unconditional love for all people -- children, women, and men -- all people.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Wes Morgan
Peachtree Corners Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Norcross, Georgia

Monday, October 7, 2013

Do Not Fear, Only Believe!

Day 23: October 7, 2013

It is hard to look at this world and not have fear in your heart. It is hard to believe that things can be better, that war can end and peace prevail. It is hard to think that one person can make a difference.

Jesus says: “Do not fear, only believe.” Trust God to make things right in the end. Believe that God can work through you. Believe that you can bring peace to the life of a child. Focus on one child at a time and let God’s peace ripple out into the world.

O God, help us to believe, to believe in you, to believe that peace will come to this world, to believe that we can make a difference one small step at a time. Help us to help the children who will carry peace forward into the future. Amen.

Donna J. Hanby
Springboro UCC
Pilgrim South UCC
Springboro, Ohio

Sunday, October 6, 2013

God's Messenger

Day 22: October 6, 2013

Called the “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah was aware of both the sinful behavior of his people and the anger and frustration of God at their disobedience. Even though the ancient people of Judah attended temple worship, they had become entrenched and comfortable. Their traditions led them away from heartfelt worship of God in spirit and truth. They ignored God’s command to seek justice and provide care for the orphans, widows, and aliens. 

Like the ancient people of Jeremiah’s day, we, too, can have good intentions toward God and others as we faithfully attend church and follow the rules of our tradition. But when we allow idolatrous attachments and misplaced values to get in the way of true love for God and others, we, like the ancient Israelites, need to examine our intentions and relationship with God and others. 

Through God’s grace and guidance, we can be like the prophet Jeremiah, finding the courage to speak God’s message of truth and justice for all of God’s children. 

Holy God of Justice and Mercy, grant us the wisdom to recognize and the courage to speak out against unjust systems that oppress and harm your children. Grant us grace to be your messengers of hope to a world in which poverty and violence abound. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Karen Cote
Guyton Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Guyton, Georgia

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Composition of a King

Day 21: October 5, 2013

How does a kid from the backwater of Bethlehem escape his mundane, sheep-filled existence to become king? David’s gift for music brought him into the royal court. Whoever nurtured David’s musical ability, opened up a world of possibilities. 

Where better to learn the day to day workings of a kingdom than at the side of the current king?  His music brought comfort and not just to Saul. During some of his loneliest moments David turned to his music. 

When we work to ensure music and the arts continue to be available to children, the results will be unimaginable; kind of like a shepherd king!   

God, we are your instruments. Help us to nourish the bodies, minds, and souls of our children so that your symphony will one day be heard with the clarity that you envision. Amen.

Tammy Nelson
Northern California Nevada Conference, UCC
Hayward, CA

Friday, October 4, 2013

Words of Love From Friends

Day 20: October 4, 2013

Have you ever been told something about a friend that is so awful that you’re afraid to talk to that person about it? I remember this happened to me as a child. I felt like I had a burden thrust upon me and I was afraid to talk to anyone about it. 

I imagine that Samuel felt the same way after God told him Eli and his family were about to be punished. Just like Samuel talked to Eli, I talked to my friend. After I unburdened myself, my friend told me to let the other person say what they need to say. They will eventually do what is right, my friend predicted. 

I think about how words can carry love and strive to make my words show love.

God, as we go about our daily lives, let our words show peace and love as we speak. Magnify your blessings to those we speak.

Marcus L. King
Hilton Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 
Newport News, VA

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Listening for Someone Else’s Call

Day 19: October 3, 2013

Perhaps the most important message Eli gave to anyone was to tell young Samuel that it was the Most High God who was calling in the night.

A few days after the movie theater shootings in Colorado, a young girl worked on her craft project for Vacation Bible School. The children were decorating friendship gift bags to hold handmade gifts and snacks for residents at a nearby retirement complex. 

She was thinking seriously as she sought to make her glitter glue swirls come out just right. She asked hesitantly, “Do you believe God wants to love everyone and be their friend?” I said I believed that. She continued, “What about that man who hurt all those people?” I told her that not everyone wants to be friends with God. She was quiet for a time then said simply, “I’m going to pray for all the hurt people and especially that man; he must be hurting, too.”

Holy One, As grown-up companions of the children you have placed in our care, help us remember that your call goes out to all people and is not age-specific. Help us be ready to identify your call and claim on our lives. Lead us to ways of supporting children’s efforts to live in your holy peace. Amen.

Ola I. Cricket Harrison
Minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

That Each Child May Follow Where God Calls

Day 18: October 2, 2013

Every 29 seconds a child is born into poverty. Many are cared for and loved. In desperation, some are sold. Hannah was the object of abuse from her husband’s second wife who gave Elkanah children. When Hannah finally bore Samuel, for whatever reason, she didn't keep him. Eli took the boy in, gave him a chance to follow his call.

Every child deserves the chance to grow up and discover his or her calling. Neither poverty nor race, parent’s education nor vocation should hinder the next Samuel or Samantha from becoming the person God is calling them to be.

We pray for each of our children, born in home or hospital, in whatever circumstance the miracle of life is revealed. We pray for ample opportunity for education and nurture, sustenance and flourishing, and the encouragement to listen for and follow your call. Amen.

David Cobb
Spirit of Joy Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Lakeville, Minnesota

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Make Me Laugh

Day 17: October 1, 2013

Such a potent, powerful action from God. When God gives the seed, whether planted in a womb or planted in a garden, what wondrous bounty results! “And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh.” (Gen. 21:6a KJV) 

What a bounty of laughter and love is in the bond between Sarah and her child. In her old age, Sarah is given the joy of a child to laugh with and to nurse. I imagine this joy of laughter contagiously infecting the entire community. 

What does a womb share with a sword? Each one can change hearts and lives. God changes a barren womb to one charged with life. Humanity has the power to change a sword into an implement to break the hard, barren soil so potent seeds can be planted and be transformed into plants of food. What do we want for our children?  Peace and plenty and lots of laughter.  

God, Creator and source of seeds of all kinds, may our desire be to laugh with you! May our love for you lead us to actions that result in loving, happy homes and gardens of plenty. Where there is violence, let us create and sow the seeds of peace as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus to express your love to everyone. Amen.

Brenda Matkin
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Huntsville, AL