Devotions by Pastor Nichole

December 24 - Advent

posted Dec 27, 2017, 10:41 AM by Maple Sheyenne

December 24 – Gift
I don’t know what you do on Christmas Eve Eve but for us we do a couple of the same things: we almost always go out to eat because who has time to cook, I guess. We almost always stay up way too late – either out of excitement or more my issue – trying to finish a sermon or wrapping or baking. And my kids almost always have their faces pointed towards the gifts under the tree. They almost always ask if they can divide them up – you know put the gifts for church in one place and the gifts for my family to be opened somewhere else in another place and then what is left is of course their gifts. It’s an ingenious plan because they get their hands on the gifts they have been wondering about since they were first placed under that tree. Thus commences the shaking, counting, comparing and cajoling me to “open just one”! If only we could be that excited about seeing the manger complete! If only we could be that excited to give our gold, myrrh and frankincense to the Christ child! If only we could look around and remember it is all gift. Every last harried, panicky, crazy, hot and cold, messy, beautiful, relational, loving, weird and awesome moment of it is ALL GIFT! All because God loves us that much – God loves us so much God wants to experience it all with us! Presence is always gift! Merry Christmas and may your Christmas be pure gift! 
Scripture: Matthew 2:9-12

December - Advent

posted Dec 27, 2017, 10:40 AM by Maple Sheyenne

December 23 – Pondered
When was the last time you pondered something? My favorite synonyms of ponder are: contemplate, review, reflect on, meditate over. When was the last time you reflected/pondered over something? I mean really? Perhaps you overthink something but this culture is terrible at reflection. Did you know you can spend a month in silent reflection at a retreat center in the Appalachian mountains? A month of reflection? We consider that absurd. But like Lent that is just what Advent is designed for! Fewer and fewer are describing themselves as contemplative these days. Is that because we have lost the art of reflection. When was the last time you reviewed something or an event and wondered what you could have done differently? When was the last time you reflected and reviewed your job performance, your relationships, your time management, your hobbies or the things that bring you joy, your other activities, your exercise routine, etc.? Of course, all of these words require one thing that many of us are terrible at and that is to actually stop. To actively stop and refrain from our busy schedules so that we could actively reflect/ponder about something takes intention, will power, and well silence. And therein lies the problem … who can stand the silence anymore? We tend to fill every moment of our days with busy and noise. We often avoid silence. If Advent teaches me anything year after year, it is always this. My very body, mind and soul crave reflection and contemplation. My mind needs a chance to step back and to let my brain wander to towards reflection. My body needs rest. My soul is parched from having to have something to say that it needs time to just be. The whole season of Advent can help do this very thing. The whole season of Advent is designed for us to prepare and I don’t know any other way to prepare than to stop, make an inventory (list), admit the way we were going about it was wrong and then step out in faith, praying something will get better. I hope you get some pondering time in before the new year. You were created to need it. 
Scripture: Luke 2:19-20

December 22 - Advent

posted Dec 22, 2017, 11:18 AM by Maple Sheyenne

December 22 – Amazing 
Let me set the scene: Kmart, 11:15 pm, 1 check out open, 4 people deep, clerk chatty and slow, really old woman purchasing a bunch of clearance items which are not ringing up right, woman behind her and in front of me SUPER annoyed and impatient. There is a man behind me with toilet paper. I am third in line with one box of candy canes needed for my daughter’s class party. Woman ahead of me is murmuring under her breath and sighing and shifting back and forth between feet behind her ginormous cart full of stuff. I begin to look at my phone trying not to give the annoyed woman any of my attention while silently praying that we all come through this encounter unscathed. She is finally next and the clerk asks, “Did you find everything ok?” To which the cranky woman replies, “yes, like 10 hrs ago”. The man behind me and I both take breaths of horror. Then the cranky lady loses it – like lost her ever loving mind and went on a rant that ended with, “the reason I shop so late at night is to avoid the long lines.” And the clerk who has been quietly and calmly scanning and bagging her items looks up at her and says, “well that’s too bad – think of all those people you are cheating out of your holiday cheer!” with a smirk on her face. The man behind me chokes on his own spit and is trying not to laugh and I let out a small laugh and quickly look at the cranky woman. She looks at me and then back at the clerk and there is one big pregnant pause. Then the cranky lady busts out laughing – like from the gut laughing. The clerk laughs too and then comes around to the other side of the till and she says, “you seem like you need a hug honey” and proceeds to hug this complete stranger. And then the exchange ends with the cranky lady apologizing to the clerk AND to us behind her in line. I am pretty sure I stood there with my mouth open for a bit. I have not seen something quite that amazing in a long time – kind of made me shutter and a tear came to my eye. I mean we went from someone is going to get a black eye or their tires slashed to hugging and apologizing in a matter of 4 minutes. I’m pretty sure only God can do this and is doing this all the time. I got in my car and thought wow – I just witnessed a Christmas miracle and God’s AMAZING Grace. (There is lots to glean from this story but whatever you do, please be kind to the person who is behind the counter.)
Scripture: John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

December 21-Advent

posted Dec 22, 2017, 11:16 AM by Maple Sheyenne

December 21 – Come (already!) 
Round about this time during Advent I am kinda over it! I find myself longing for Jesus to come already! Like really come – not the kind of arriving on Christmas Day after much ado but to come and make things different. Because right about now, I am over the wrapping, the baking, the over analyzing, the over-stimulated and sugared up kids, the messy house, the lack of adequate sleep, the piles of work that are always put off until after Christmas, the extra emotions, well the list goes on. But I know, as well as you that I will be just as busy with stuff after Christmas. And I will probably feel just the same as I do now. But what will change? I think what is different is that God chooses to come at all. If Advent does its job well, then we grasp the miracle that is simply this: God chooses to come. God could have road in on a unicorn carrying rainbow cookies and wearing a tiara but instead God chose to make the ordinary extraordinary. God chose to sneak in beside us in the still quiet of the night and whisper “you will get it all done”. God chooses to sit beside us as we count backwards from 10 so we don’t blow up at the over sugared kids in our midst. God chooses to give us a bit of a reminder that we have family to wrap presents for, bake and clean for. God chooses to experience humanity and so God came. Maybe that’s enough. 
Scripture: Isaiah 64

December 20-Advent

posted Dec 22, 2017, 11:15 AM by Maple Sheyenne

December 20 – Grace
Ever had one of those days? Or weeks? Or years? I am so over 2017 – it can be done anytime! It was one of those days when I was feeling rushed, running over the list of stuff I needed to do, balancing my coffee on my knee and trying to pull out of the driveway and although I thought I looked, I didn’t see the Mail Carrier. She started yelling, “hey, hey, hey … stop!” It scared me so badly, after she handed me the mail through my now rolled down window as I apologized profusely, I put the car in park and thought twice about changing my underwear. I was beating myself up in the then, telling myself, I needed to “get it together” and that I could have killed someone. And the tears, out of nowhere came. Then I started to beat myself up about the tears and that I needed new meds if I was going to get so emotional. All this negative self-talk filling my brain and then I unknowingly grabbed the mail and started opening it. A card, addressed to just me, without a return address. I opened it and read the inside – “God loves you as you are – accepts you as you are – and redeems you as you are. Merry Christmas – BOOM! Nothing like a little dose of grace upon grace for myself. I don’t know who sent the card although I have an idea, but I do know they couldn’t have known just how badly I needed those words that day. Thank you to you whoever wrote that card and sent it and thank God for God’s grace that shows up just when you need it! So tonight, despite ALL the stuff I need to get done including this devotion, I showed myself a little grace and sat down with another gift someone gave me – my favorite snack, tea and an Advent devotional and lit up the Christmas tree and just read for a whole half an hour. It felt like salve for my soul – maybe Advent is for each one of us to understand how God’s grace works. Thank you God for giving us grace upon grace – especially when we don’t think we deserve it! 
Scripture: John 1:15-17

December 19-Advent

posted Dec 19, 2017, 8:50 AM by Maple Sheyenne

December 19- Shepherds 
I read a book once that compared shepherds to modern day over the road truckers. I can’t remember much about the book other than it made this point that the good news is always given to those least likely to expect any. I imagine OTR truck drivers to be those loners who spend their lives moving the stuff we think we need from one end of the country to the other. But they are often the most forgotten since they aren’t in any one place for too long. I always get a little sad when I see trucks parking at Petro on Christmas Eve and I often wonder about their families and who misses them at Christmas time. One Mother’s Day we ate out at a restaurant by a 32nd Avenue truck stop and I will never know what possessed him to show such kindness but a trucker paid for our meal that day – the whole thing including the tip and simply slipped out without us noticing him. I often wonder where he is and if someone showed him kindness in a similar way. What I do know is that I will never forget the kindness and gesture he showed me. Perhaps he saw a kindred spirit in me – being alone with my kids on Mother’s Day or perhaps he missed his own mom or perhaps he missed his wife or kids or perhaps he grieves of not having any of those. Whatever his story he showed me Christ like a good shepherd. Aside from truckers, who in our society might need to receive the good news that Christ is born? To put it another way – who in our community quite unexpectedly is receiving the good news of Christ right now? What could we learn from them? Who are those among us who are least likely to expect any good news? Who is expected to tell them?

Scripture: Luke 2:8-15

December 18- Advent

posted Dec 18, 2017, 7:16 PM by Maple Sheyenne

December 18 – Peace 
I have a plaque on my wall that says, “Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of God.” I think of this often when I watch the news and hear about places like Syria, Yemen, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Central African Republic and the list could continue. Peace is not a reality for most countries and of course like anything it varies in degrees. Did you know that according to the Global Peace Index, the world is .28% more peaceful this year over last year. But the United States dropped 11 spots to 114 out of 163 countries to be placed between Rwanda and El Salvador. The index measures peace in three domains (safety and security in society, international/domestic conflict and degree of militarization) to come up with a score for each country. The most peaceful country is Iceland and the least is Syria. Yet, peace still hasn’t caught on. It still eludes us as humans. Perhaps we will never have peace among peoples and nations but we sure can ask God to be present in our conflict even if peace seems impossible. Maybe peace is only possible one relationship at a time. Maybe peace begins in our relationships and spreads? Maybe peace is looking for where God is instead of how we are all different and cannot get along? Maybe peace is letting go of the toxic relationships in your circles? Maybe peace is saying “no” more than “yes” to begin to have some boundaries? Maybe peace is saying to God like St. Francis “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace …” and then being willing to trust God when God leads us into self-forgetting, forgiveness and even death because we know peace God’s presence. I pray you experience peace not just the fleeting kind on Christmas morning but the abiding kind that seeks out God’s presence and stays there. 
Scripture: Luke 2: 13-14

December 17 - Advent

posted Dec 18, 2017, 7:15 PM by Maple Sheyenne

December 17 – John 
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.” I think I am going to create an advent nativity set that has all the main characters in advent – you know because when do you put your nativity up? During Advent! Most nativities are missing Elizabeth and Zechariah, signs and wonders, a pregnant Mary and of course, John the Baptist. All of this happens before the baby! But I wouldn’t stop there! I would also have a little King Herod and a star too to round out the Epiphany experience. Ok well maybe all of that is going too far but there should be at the very least a John the Baptist in the nativity scene. The problem of course is that he is only like 6 months older than Jesus and when we encounter him in the other gospels he is like already grown but pointing to Jesus as the Messiah. So which John would appear in the nativity? For a while now, I have been sending my “godchildren” one piece of the Fontinini nativity. Google them if you don’t know what they are because they are fantastic hard plastic material for children and ornately beautiful for adults. This Italian company, makes a John the Baptist piece for the manger. He is dressed disappointingly like a prophet and not the wild man he is but nonetheless he makes the scene! But yet I wonder, what would Christmas be like if there were no John the Baptists’ pointing us toward Jesus? Hmmm… doesn’t seem like a foreign vision at all – perhaps it would look like Santa and some tiny reindeer! We need more John the Baptists pointing out what Christmas really is – pointing us toward the manger to the Messiah! Can I get a witness? 
Scripture: John 1:6-8

December 16-Advent

posted Dec 16, 2017, 3:35 AM by Maple Sheyenne

December 16- Manger 
Isn’t it funny how we have sanitized Christmas? Have you been in a barn lately? They don’t smell pleasant. Perhaps no one wants a manger scented candle for a present but still, we have taken the stink right out of Christmas. And when we do that – when we sanitize the idea of a manger – think Hallmark cards with perfectly white iconic figures and perfectly clean and behaving cows, sheep and donkey – we kind of take the real out of Jesus too. The very idea of God coming to us in the very ordinary smelly manger shouldn’t be lost on us. This is how God chose to come to us – to identify with us. God didn’t choose a castle on a hill, a tropical vacation destination or even the minimal convenience of an inn but rather, chose a messy outdoor abode. Which means quite literally, I think that there is no place God won’t go to be with us. So lest you think your life is too messy for God, or that there is no way God would enter into this awful world of violence and hatred, remember the manger and a God who chooses exactly the most messy and ordinary of places to come be God with us. 
Scripture: Luke 2:6-7

December 15-Advent

posted Dec 16, 2017, 3:34 AM by Maple Sheyenne

December 15 --Name (above All Names) 
Jesus Christ, W.C.; M.G.; E. F.; PoP
According to Isaiah this is the way Jesus’ business card would read with all His honors after the comma. Or at least that is how it would read in our culture – one impressed with education, honor and importance. I have a few degrees and desperately want to go further in my education (mostly because I like to gather information) and yet I have a sneaky suspicion that instead of a shadow box with all my achievements, Jesus would be handing me a picture of Mother Teresa with her worn and weary face, which I am becoming more certain is what God looks like. Because I think for Jesus it is much more important what we do before the comma. Do we reflect the love and care that went into the giving of our name – Child of God? Do we embody the traditions and heritage of all those faithful who came before us and named us? Are we worthy to carry the name Christian or is that just on paper? Whatever name you find yourself to be called – first and foremost you are a Child of God and that can never be added to or taken away. Really isn’t that all we need?

Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7; 43:1

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