Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Glory of Children

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their parents.
Proverbs 17:6 NRSV

Before the notion of a continuing afterlife became prevalent in Judaism, the legacy of an individual on earth was his or her children and grandchildren: they continue my flesh, they often continue my name. 

However, this scripture subverts the popular religious beliefs of the day. Yes, grandchildren are the crown but the glory of parents is not necessarily their children: “The glory of children is their parents.”

So often the drive in successful parenting is to enroll children into activities to make parents proud. It is a strange economy where parents’ pride in children is an extension and manifestation of privilege and a celebration of the resulting inequalities. In these cases, whose glory is being celebrated, the child or the parents?

If the glory of children is their parents, we seek to live in a world where all children are rendered as divine gifts. Their parents live in a just and equal society where they may give their children opportunities to excel, perform, and create.  When parents are disadvantaged from offering their children opportunities, or those opportunities are practiced as exercises in inequality, the legacy left behind is an extension of the mistakes and horrors of the past. 

We can do better.

Holy Spirit, descend upon us, onto all flesh, from our oldest to our youngest. Move in new ways among us. Grant us the courage to speak with tongues of fire to support parents and to work for justice for parents and children, in ways that do honor to you. Amen.

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

Christopher is the author of Too Good to Be True and The Synaptic Gospel

Monday, September 29, 2014

Making the Best of Being Blessed Too Soon

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. 1 Samuel 1:27 NRSV

On some evenings at our worship service with the homeless, prayer requests cascade on similar themes. 

At one, a pregnant teen, looking very uncomfortable as she leaned against her boyfriend, asked for prayers for the safe delivery of her baby. She had had no prenatal care, but she thought the baby would be coming soon. 

Another young woman ask us to pray that she get her little girl back. The teen had left the baby with a relative and now wanted her. The relative would not give the baby to the teen until she got and held a job and had a place to live. 

A third very young teen, requested prayers that she would get pregnant because she wanted a baby so badly.

God answers all prayers. Sometimes God lets us hear them so we can be a part of the answer.

Mother God, thank you for blessing us with children whether they are newborns or teenagers. They remind us of our vulnerability and how much care we each need and brighten our lives with wonder and love. Amen.

Marilynn Knott
Crown Heights Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Blessing the World

Monday, September 29, 2014

...and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Genesis 28:14 NRSV

Genesis 28 describes Jacob’s dream of a ladder of angels, in which angels ascend from earth to heaven and back again. When he awakens, Jacob exclaims, “God was in this place, and I did not know it.”  

Jacob receives a blessing. From his family, all the families of the earth will be blessed. Jacob builds an altar and calls the place, “Beth-el,” the house of God.  

Today, we affirm that the house of God is everywhere and in everyone. Each child is holy. Each child’s face reveals the face of God, and awakens us to our own childlike spirit. We can exclaim “God is in this child, and I know it.”  We can bring out the holy in each child by blessing the child with our loving touch, nourishing food, and good water, safe housing, and neighborhoods and nations that are peaceful and secure.

God of all families, bless your children.  Open our hearts to love, nurture, and protect them.  Help us be generous in our time, affection, treasure, and political support so that each child might be blessed to be a blessing, in Christ’s name.  Amen.

Bruce Epperly
South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Centerville, Massachusetts

Bruce is an ordained Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ pastor. He is the author of over thirty books, including Process Theology: Embracing Adventure with God and A Center in the Cyclone: Twenty-first Century Clergy Self-Care.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"Mommy, What Is a Blessing?"

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:2 NRSV

My son asked me, “Mommy, what is a blessing?”

“You are a blessing,” I replied.  

Blessings in the Bible are accompanied by a lot of work and little reward, by a lot of responsibility and determination with sparse hope for the fruits of big dreams. When it comes to teaching children about blessings, work and responsibility must be a part of the definition.  

This promise of becoming a great nation comes with receiving blessings and giving blessings.  Giving of ourselves to another person, so that their burdens are easier, is the blessing we are asked to pass along.  We are blessed by the works of others as we are blessings to others through our works. How easily we forget this! 

My children are much happier when they work to make someone else happy. When I think of my blessings, all of them have come from making myself a blessing to another.

God, help us to intentionally think about blessing another and teaching each other to do so, especially children. Amen.

Rev. Dawna K. Watkins
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Dawna is supply preacher, playwright, puppeteer, and  pastor’s spouse serving in the congregation of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Hematite, Missouri

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Global Promise

Saturday, September 27, 2014

For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” Acts 2:39 NRSV

We are confronted daily with terrible news from around the world. Refugee children trapped at our national borders, families fleeing persecution in the Middle East, and the ongoing struggle to provide access to clean water for our sisters and brothers in developing nations impact the lives of children.

In the face of global hardship, can we find within our hearts the courage to believe that ours is a God of abundance? Could our journey toward discipleship extend beyond the scope of our own personal experience?  

As Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost, God’s promise is not only local but global in its scope. God is present, walking beside the refugee children and their parents.  When we remember God’s promise is for all, we let God’s global mercy shape our ongoing prayer life and faith journey.

God of All Creation, kindle within our hearts a sense of global kinship. Remind us that your promise is for all humankind, near and far. Amen.

Rev. Nathan Dannison
Senior Minister
First Congregational Church, UCC
Kalamazoo, Michigan

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Warning: Gravity!

Friday, September 26, 2014

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.
Mark 9:42 NRSV

Gravity.  Gravity is one of the things that would pull a person with a millstone around their neck to the depths of the sea. It is also a word that describes the seriousness of not caring for a child of God, especially “one of the least of these.”  This warning may seem harsh but I think it indicates the immense care that God has for all of God’s children.

A women’s meeting I attended recently addressed human trafficking, which often involves children.  One way traffickers convince children not to leave those trafficking them is by telling them no one cares for them.  They fill them with lies and tell them they are not worthy of respect.  

We must combat this insidious issue by being vigilant in showing care for all children and reminding them they are all beloved children of God.  That is gravity that can keep us all grounded.

Loving and Caring God, help us treat all of your children as your beloved.  Forgive us when we forget the importance of telling them how very much you love them. Help us feel your divine spark within each of us.  Amen.

Rev. Janna Preston
Southside Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Jacksonville, Florida

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The "It" Factor

Thursday, September 25, 2014

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.” Luke 9:46-48 NRSV

My cousin called me it. As a newborn I wasn’t that offended but, as the story goes, my aunt tried correcting him. My cousin protested, “Until it has teeth, I’m calling it an it.” 

These words in scripture that refer to a child as it are awkward to our ears: “Jesus … put it by his side.” However, that is how culture of the day viewed children. Children were treated as non-persons. They were at the bottom of the pecking order. Jesus tells the disciples to put themselves in the place of society’s most vulnerable. Still, this child has a place close to Jesus’ side. 

God’s care for children must be expressed to the world by becoming vulnerable on their behalf. God’s care for children must be expressed to each child by the way we tenderly hold them to our side. 

Lord, give us the courage to stand in the gap, making ourselves vulnerable on behalf of children. May we speak out and stand up for all your children. May we call them by name and hold them close to our side. 

Rev. Lee Yates
Minister of Faith Formation
Christian Church in Indiana (Disciples of Christ)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"And How Are the Children?"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” Matthew 10:42 NRSV

The Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania greet each other with “Kasserian ingera?” which means, “And how are the children?”

What they hope to hear – what we all hope to hear – is “the children are well.” If all the children are well, life is good and the future is hope-filled.

“And how are the children?” could be a conventional politeness, like “How’s your kids?”  But what if it means “How are all the children, how is this place or this situation or this climate affecting the young and vulnerable?” Could this question become a reminder to us that all children are precious in the eyes of God?   

What if we began each day asking, “And how are the children?” Would it change anything in your life or mine? Would it change life for the children of the world?

God, open our ears to disciples asking, “And how are the children?” that it might undermine our preoccupations and refocus our energies. May the children be the beneficiaries of our hope and trust in you. Hold us accountable for our words and actions. Amen.

Rev. Susan Meeter
United Church of Christ

Monday, September 22, 2014

Marvelously Set Apart

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

You are the one who created my innermost parts; you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb. I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart. Your works are wonderful-- 
I know that very well. Psalm 139:13-14 CEB (1) 

Children learn and develop both good and bad habits from us. They learn how to see themselves from how we see ourselves. Sometimes when we look in the mirror all we see are imperfections and things we want to change.

Children will notice. 

What if we looked in the mirror and saw the beautiful things? Children will see that too. The Psalmist reminds us that God knit us together before we were born to be set apart, to be us. 

All God’s children are made up of different shapes, different abilities, and different gifts. Let us celebrate that. Show all of God’s children how wonderful they are, exactly the way they are.   

Wonderful, creative God, we give you thanks for making us exactly the way we are. Help us to see all of ourselves as wonderful and set apart by you to do marvelous things. May we show the children in our world how wonderful and marvelous they were made. Amen. 

Rev. Kim Crowley
Associate Minister
Seventh Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Richmond, Virginia


(1) Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Helper of the Helpless

Monday, September 22, 2014

But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan. Psalm 10:14 NRSV


“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”  Desmond Tutu

There are many things in this world that can cause hurt and pain in a child’s life! Each day too many children are told by adults and other children that they are less than their peers. These children hurt so deeply inside that they sometimes don’t even know how to express their pain.

God sees their pain; God knows the pain is caused by those who oppress them. 

God is the great help to the helpless. God’s concern extends not only to the orphan, but to the bullied and the beat up.  

God of the helpless, help us to see those children around us who are in pain. Use us to help those who are in need. Help us to bring your kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Rev. Ann B. Shepherd
Director of Christian Growth
Timberlake Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 
Lynchburg, Virginia

Associate Regional Minister for Youth & Outdoor Ministry, Christian Church in Virginia

Saturday, September 20, 2014

God Hears Us

Sunday, September 21, 2014

And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Genesis 21:17 NRSV

How often do we cry out in pain, fear, or anguish? How often do these cries fall unanswered? There is this fear that we will be left to handle things alone. An angel of God tells Hagar not to worry or be afraid. God heard the cries of the boy.

We are called to provide loving care to all of God’s children. The good news is that we don’t have to do it alone. God promises to help us in our time of need. Let us listen to the cries of the children and work to protect and cherish these precious lives.

Gracious and loving God, gently guide us to protect the children of this world. Remind us that you too hear our cries and will be with us always. Amen.

Rev. Katie Carlson
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Friday, September 19, 2014

God's Call to Care for Children

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. Amos 5:15 NRSV

This scripture reminds me of a Sunday about three years ago after the Chardon High School Shooting. The children and I made cards to send to the families of the victims. I suggested making cards for the shooter. “He's just a kid who made a bad choice,” I said to the children.

None of the children agreed with me and no cards were sent to him. 

Several months later during the news coverage of the trial, I reflected on that day. My kids perceived evil. Being called to care for children means listening to their perceptions and thoughts. Bad choices or not, it is God who gives second chances; it is God from whom grace flows.

Heavenly Father, I come to you knowing I will make mistakes. Open my heart to knowing and remembering it's not about the mistakes or choices but the heart that is connected to you. Amen.

Michelle Brown
Children's Minister
Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Cleveland, Ohio

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Purposeful Response

Friday, September 19, 2014

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1 NRSV

Why do we need to purposefully answer the call to cherish and protect every child?

Hillel the Elder was a famous Jewish religious leader in the 1st century. He said: “whosoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whosoever that saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”(1)

Within the precious life of every child is the opportunity for a whole new world of possibilities. When we intentionally protect every child, we are protecting the opportunity for those glorious possibilities to emerge, possibilities that have the power to change our world for the better. 

Our children are instruments of God’s love and grace. As we cherish our children we are accepting God’s gifts of love and grace for our world, gifts from God that every child bears. 

Amazing God, help us to see how your soul delights in every child. Give us the courage to cherish and protect every child, your servants, so that they may bear the fruit of your blessing upon us for a better world. Amen.

Rev. Robert E. Van Ess
United Church of Christ
Resident Chaplain 
College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Little Rock, Arkansas


(1) Khushwant Singh. The Freethinker's Prayer Book: And Some Words to Live. New Delhi: Aleph Book Company, 2012.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Learn to Do What is Right

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:16-17 NRSV

God’s message to us through the prophet Isaiah could not be more to the point: 

  1. Stop doing what is wrong. 
  2. Learn to do what is right. 
  3. Work for justice. 
  4. Help and defend those who cannot stand up for themselves, specifically children and widows. 

In today’s world the real problem is figuring out how and where to start. The answer is easy and hard at the same time. 

We begin with prayer, by caring for those children right where we are, and with more prayer. We lead by example, showing others how to cherish and protect the children of our communities. 

We support and encourage those who can do things on a larger scale. We respond to God’s call by taking one step forward and then another, taking care of the children, and learning to do what is right.

God of All Children, you have called us to care for the children of this world. Prod us, provoke us, guide us onto the paths that will make this a world where they are cherished and protected. Amen.

Donna J. Hanby
Pilgrim South United Church of Christ
Springboro United Church of Christ
Springboro, Ohio

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

God's Question to Us

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:2-4 NRSV

A year ago I was blessed to meet and hear Mark Barden, parent of Daniel, one of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Their group, Sandy Hook Promise, wants to change the Newtown tragedy into an opportunity to change the culture of violence in our nation.

God asks the powers that be and us, “How long?”  That you includes all of us who are not actively working to change our nation’s gun laws. How long will we let guns rule?

Although gun violence is only one facet of the injustices faced daily by the precious children of God, the love affair with a gun and the power over others that it represents is abhorrent to our loving God, who puts aside power in order to become one with us in Jesus Christ.

Join Sandy Hook Promise; let us have sensible dialogue to rescue the needy.

O LORD, you call us to give justice, to rescue the weak, to stand up to the evil in our world. Embolden us to follow Jesus in a life that challenges the status quo. Amen.

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

Being the Favorite

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people. You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Deuteronomy 16:18-20 NRSV

If you have siblings you've wondered it. If you have multiple children, you’ve been asked about it or thought about it: which one is the favorite?

Which one is the favorite that gets a little more leniency, a little more patience, a little more trust from you? 

I have four kids and it baffles people when I say that each kid is my favorite depending on the day and the situation at hand. It baffles people because even though we all wonder about it we don’t ever say it. The thing is, none of us is good at not showing partiality.  Only God can do that. Only God does that!

Holy and just God, please remind us that we are not the ones who get to decide who deserves more love. Remind us that our hearts have the ability to grow with love when we are willing to share it with all your children. Amen.

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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pursuing Truth About Children

Monday, September 15, 2014

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit. Exodus 23:1-3 NRSV

News reports such as those about the children at our borders fleeing violence and poverty in Central America often leave us feeling helpless and confused. What are we to do? 

Exodus calls us to pursue the truth directly and let it speak for itself. When it comes to caring for children, God calls us to learn the facts and put faces on those facts. God’s truth and power for shalom (healing and wholeness, justice and peace) is at its core, relational. 

While you can find online eyewitness reports from persons of faith on the front lines and denominational staffers can help you connect directly with children in need around the globe, the best course of action is for you to talk to teachers, social workers, and police in your own community. The effects of poverty, violence, and injustice are all around you. No community is immune.

As you follow God’s call to care for each and every one of God’s precious children remember the guidance of Exodus 23. Amidst popular misrepresentation and 
information overload, seek truth and let it speak to your heart. Then prayerfully let your life touch and be touched by children. Your life will be blessed to be a blessing.

Gracious God, motivate and equip us to seek the truth about children suffering from violence, poverty, and injustice in our local and global communities. Guide us to discern your wisdom and reach out to become a significant force against popular misrepresentation, confusion, and helplessness. Help us affirm in word and deed that each and every child is precious in your sight. Amen.

Kate Epperly
Family and Children’s Co-Minister for Disciples Home Missions and the Faith Formation Team of the United Church of Christ

Saturday, September 13, 2014

When the Children Come, So Does the Kingdom

Sunday, September 14, 2014

When the Children Come, So Does the Kingdom

Answering the Call to Cherish and Protect Every Child

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way. Matthew 19:13-15 NRSV

Today she turns 16. Today he turns 16.

Sixteen years ago today two important people entered into my life in very different circumstances.

After being the youngest girl in my family for 19 years (and through 12 boys), my baby girl cousin came into this world with her big cheeks and crazy dark hair.

He was born to one of my best friends who was only 18 and had just lost her father and graduated high school.

Even at 19, I could not help but to love, protect, and cherish these children. Again and again they have shown me the Kingdom of God on Earth.  

Each day these meditations will help us cherish and protect those children we know and those we don’t know. These meditations will remind us to take action in words, movement, and prayer so that we continue to find ways to break down the barriers that keep children from Jesus’ love.

God of our Children, Help us to truly cherish each child as the blessing and gift that you have created as a masterpiece. Find ways for us to protect them from the dangers that threaten to keep them away from you and your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Olivia Bryan Updegrove
Family and Children’s Co-Minister for Disciples Home Missions and the Faith Formation Team of the United Church of Christ

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Error in Book Fixed

An error on the date at the top of the devotional for Saturday, September 27 has been corrected in the downloadable book. This was never an error in the RSS feed, by email, or Facebook versions. The links on this page lead to the corrected version.

If you catch an error, please let us know.

Friday, September 5, 2014

2014 Writers

The following writers have volunteered their time and gifts to the Light a Candle ministry. 

Michelle Brown
Andrea Brownlee
Katie Carlson
David Cobb
Carol Cook
Doug Cripe
Kimberly Crowley
Nathan Dannison
Bruce Epperly
Kate Epperly
Molly Goodrich

Tim Graves
Donna Hanby
Kenneth Hardway
Samantha Houser
Marilynn Knott
Susan Meeter
Brian Morse
Tammy Nelson
Tracy Parker
Ruth Patterson

Laura Phillips
Janna Preston
Olivia Stewart Robertson
Chris Rodkey
Lisa Setty
Ann Shepherd
Robin Spurling
Aaron Todd
Jenny Tripses

Olivia Bryan Updegrove

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Download the Printable Meditation Book Now!

As promised, the downloadable mediation for the 2014 Light a Candle for Children Prayer Vigil is now available. You can download it by clicking here or by clicking the tab above. If you have any difficulties, please email Tim Graves.