Today’s Bible passages are: Numbers 7, Psalm 42-43, Song of Songs 5, and Hebrews 5

Psalm 43 imageBy Christina Vinson

If you were to look at my life as an outsider, this is what you would probably see: an almost-29-year-old living in Nashville, loved by a truly doting and selfless husband, working her dream job [at home, in sweatpants!], with a wardrobe almost wholly supplied by a twin sister who works for Anthropologie’s headquarters.

If you were to come in a little further and step into my home, my safe place, this is what you would find: rooms bursting with Southern sunshine, an eclectic mix of West Elm furniture, thrift store finds, and a rather obsessive collection of [dying] plants. If you’re a close friend, you’d also see the messy side of our lives: the dishes crusted with two-day-old food, the dust bunnies in the corners, the hair on the bathroom floor (really, does it ever end?).

But if you were to peek into my heart, you would find something drastically different from my somewhat curated home and the ‘ideal’ circumstances I live in.

If you were to take up residence in my heart and head, here’s what you would find: a girl prone to depression; not just the kind of ‘down in the dumps’ feeling that thinks, “Man, I feel kind of down today.” No, it’s the kind of depression that keeps me in bed, with the curtains drawn, and an utterly crippling feeling of numbness and apathy toward life.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Leviticus 5, Psalm 3-4, Proverbs 20, Colossians 3

Leviticus 5 imageBy Teri Vogeli

So the priest will make atonement on his behalf for his error which he committed (although he himself had not known it) and he will be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; he was surely guilty before the Lord. (Leviticus 5:18-19)

Guilt. It’s why I’m not into Lent.

I grew up in churches that loved Lent. We sang goodbye to Alleluia the week before, as if there were nothing left to celebrate for the next month. We sang dirgey music about what poor, miserable sinners we were and about the agony Christ suffered at our cause. The pastor would read the Scriptures describing the torturous events of Jesus’ trial, while the congregation shouted in unison, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” like we really meant it. It was six weeks of guilt and depression.

Then, Easter. Alleluia is back in the song book. The end. On to the next holiday!

I understand not everyone feels this way about Lent. My husband thinks I’m nuts. He loves Lent. For him, it’s the story of Christ, who loves us so much that He took on hell itself and died, fighting for our freedom, kind of like watching Saving Private Ryan for a month.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Leviticus 2-3, John 21, Proverbs 18, and Colossians 1

Colossians 1By Hannah Anderson

“His becoming what we are enables us to become what He is.” — Irenaeus

I didn’t grow up in a church tradition that placed much emphasis on the Easter season. While Jesus’ birth merited a full six weeks of anticipation and busyness (and an additional week to come down from our sugar-cookie induced highs), the time surrounding His death and resurrection were strangely quiet. Perhaps it was due to the fluctuation of the calendar and never being quite sure when Easter would fall (was it early or late this year?); or perhaps it was because Jesus’ atonement for our sins was already an ever-present theme in our worship. But for whatever reason, Easter never seemed to require much more than a new dress and a basket of candy.

So I’ve been encouraged lately to see many of us embracing a more robust celebration of Easter as adults. Many of us are choosing to participate in Lent, dedicating that forty day period to prayer, repentance, and self-denial. Then during Holy Week, we celebrate Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with special services and the Stations of the Cross.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Exodus 35, John 14, Proverbs 11, and Ephesians 4

03242014_CPBy Christie Purifoy

I grew up in the Bible-Belt South. I remember Scripture references painted on barn walls, pasted on billboards, printed on bumper stickers. I can still see the embroidered verses that hung, framed, on the walls of my grandmother’s house.

When I read the Bible, it is filtered through so many memories.

Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and I will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3).

Reading these words, I see an image from my first children’s illustrated Bible. I see Jesus, with outstretched hand, ascending into heaven on a cushion of pink-tinted clouds.

Picture and words are so intertwined in my mind that it took me much longer than it should have to recognize the fault line in my memory.

***

Jesus does not speak of preparing a place for us as he floats into the sky. He says these words just before his arrest.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Exodus 28, John 7, Proverbs 4, and Galatians 3

Exodus 28By Megan Oldfield

I’m squirming on the velvet-padded kneeler, sweating from the wool stockings my private school makes us wear. I make the sign of the cross, whisper, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned,” and venture a guess on how long it’s been since my last confession. Then slowly I start naming my offenses.

“I lied to my mom twice. I stole a piece of candy from my brother. I-I-I…”

I’m stammering, searching my conscience for anything else I need to confess. And I’m tempted to make something up, but I’d just have to confess that, too, so I stop. But I know there’s more I’d like to say.

The priest has his back to me. And it adds to my discomfort. I’m accustomed to the confessional where he is in one compartment, and I’m in the other, and there’s a nice solid barrier between us. But today our fourth-grade class lined up on this side of the sanctuary, the side where a small room serves as the place to do penance, and I can’t escape.

“Is that all?” the priest asks me quietly.

“I think so,” I reply.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Exodus 8, Luke 11, Job 25-26, and 1 Corinthians 12

By Kendra Roberts

1 corinthians 12
Today’s art is a response to 1 Corinthians 12:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

 

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?

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Today’s Bible passages are: Genesis 35-36, Mark 6, Job 2, and Romans 6

mark 6By Patty Kirk

The account of Jesus’ rejection by the people of his own town gets at a faith problem a lot of us struggle with: not really understanding and accepting our own power as believers. Mark writes that, after Jesus preaches in Nazareth—among the people he grew up with, including his own sisters and brothers—“many who heard him were amazed.” So amazed, we learn a few lines later, that “they took offense at him” (Mark 6:2-3 NIV).

A few lines after that in Mark’s story, Jesus is also “amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:6). He’s probably offended too, judging from what he tells them. “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town,” he remarks disgustedly, even “among his relatives and in his own home” (Mark 6:4).

The word “amazed,” here, is actually two different words in the Greek of Mark’s account, but translators appear to regard the Greek words as synonyms, since most translations don’t significantly distinguish Jesus’ and the Nazarenes’ reactions from each other. If you ask me, though, in neither instance does our English word amazed—or astonished or astounded, as some translations have it—get at what’s really at issue here.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 22-23, Revelation 10, Zechariah 6, and John 9

john 9By Lisa Velthouse

When I was in fifth grade, in the weeks and months that led up to Christmas, two men in our church learned that they had brain tumors. One of the men was a man named Gary. The other was my dad.

Gary’s tumor had been discovered first, and as I recall, it came with a prognosis more grim. His tumor was cancerous, and something about it (either the location or the shape of the tumor or both) made surgery cuts especially complicated. My dad was cancer-free, and we were told that physicians removed tumors like his most commonly of all.

Still, each of the two men required a procedure that involved the work of sharp instruments in his head, so that Christmas was a stressful one for both our families. My parents found solace in a new friendship with Gary and his wife, and I think the feeling was mutual. Both couples were about the same age with a handful of kids, both worked hard to make ends meet, both were facing complicated decisions about doctors, hospitals, surgeries, and radiation, not to mention added financial strain and the all-too-real awareness that everything could change in an instant.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 1 Chronicles 15, James 2, Amos 9, and Luke 4

James 2By Emily Cummins, Guest Contributor

Recently, I saw the words of James 2 come to life under an oak tree, surrounded by over 80 homeless people in my community. No, I wasn’t at an outreach event to serve a hot meal or hand out jackets to help guard against quickly dropping temperatures. I was at church.

Four years ago, Ken, Wendy, and Madi Kebrdle were living the life: dream job, nice cars, gorgeous house with a pool, and a constant stream of dinner parties with friends. Life couldn’t get better—or could it? In 2009, the Kebrdles saw a dream they were missing—an eternal dream they’d rather pursue than material possessions wrapped with a white picket fence. So they traded in the perfect house for an RV and ditched their pursuit of the American dream.

As they sold everything they owned, Wear Gloves was born. The Kebrdles’ hearts broke for the hurting and homeless in their Florida community and the undignified way in which people treated them. They made it their mission to change that. Fast-forward four years later, and they’ve traveled thousands of miles across state lines and time zones, partnering with countless churches and community organizations, teaching people how to partner with the homeless in a dignified, life-giving way.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Kings 9, 1 Timothy 6, Hosea 1, and Psalm 119:73-96

By Stephanie Rische

Not long ago my husband, Daniel, and I went to our friends’ house to introduce ourselves to the latest addition to their family—an adorable eight-pound bundle, newly arrived from the hospital and decked out in a duck-themed onesie.

We asked his parents if there was any special meaning to his name, and we found out that his first name means “Big Hope” in Korean. As I held him, I looked in his eyes—wide and unblinking, taking in everything with solemn contemplation. Big Hope. So much hope wrapped in something so small.

A couple of days after our visit, I met with my weekly prayer buddy. We meet every Tuesday to talk and pray over coffee, and we’ve been praying about one thing consistently ever since we started meeting. Week after week, year after year. But nothing seems to be happening. “I’ve been wondering,” she said. “What’s the point of hoping?”

The question wasn’t bitter, nor did it stem from a lack of belief. She was asking genuinely, almost pragmatically. “Is there any real benefit to hoping?” If you don’t hope for something and God delivers, it’s a pleasant surprise, right?… Continue Reading