Monthly Archives: November 2022

Advent Wednesdays

Advent candles

It is the first Wednesday in Advent, and traditionally this is when churches conduct special services or activities related to this season of waiting. I remember when I was a teen that our youth group made tacos for a meal before one of the Wednesday night Advent services at my church. It was a good time to get together with other teens and do something to bring joy to others. It was a good break away during the week to reflect on the coming of Jesus on Christmas.

I know that some churches still practice this tradition, but it has gone by the wayside in many of our parish communities because of our increasingly busy schedules inside the church and out.

If there are no Advent Wednesdays at your church, consider having Advent Wednesdays at home. Work together on a fun or different meal. Gather around the table and light the candles of an Advent wreath. Have each person say a prayer. Read a Scripture passage read in church the previous Sunday. Make baby Jesus the center of your celebration by having everyone draw a picture of Jesus in the manger.

Whatever you do, let your Advent Wednesdays give you a time away from being busy and provide a time of peace and comfort and joy. For that is what Jesus is coming to bring.

Where’s the Pumpkin Pie?

pumpkin pie

For those of you familiar with the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving TV special, one of the classic lines from Peppermint Patty after a less-than-stellar meal of popcorn, pretzel sticks, buttered toast and jelly beans is “Where’s the turkey? Where’s the mashed potatoes? Where’s the cranberry sauce? Where’s the pumpkin pie?”

Like Peppermint Patty, we can so often get caught up in exactly what entrees should be served at Thanksgiving dinner. The truth of the matter is, of course, that Thanksgiving should be more than the particular dishes on the table. It should be about the people around the table, the many things we are thankful for and the God who has blessed us all.

No matter what food is set before us, let us give thanks. No matter what traditions may be followed or not followed, let us give thanks. No matter who is present and who is away, let us give thanks.

There is no perfect Thanksgiving, and there is no one way to celebrate it. Our God knows what we need and when we need it, and our God has given us more than we even have asked for or imagined. Those overflowing gifts day after day, every day of the year are what we look back on this day. We can taste and see that the Lord is good even when what we are tasting is not necessarily pumpkin pie.



When I took piano lessons as a kid, my least favorite thing to do was “scales.” My teacher would make me play the notes of the scales of various key signatures over and over again. What was the point of all this, I thought. But now I get it. Songs are composed in different keys, and a good musician needs to know what the keys are. It is most helpful to know scales in order to transpose a song into another key in order for that song to be more singable for higher or lower voices.

One of the most commonly used key signatures is C Major. It has no sharps or flats. It uses middle C as its beginning pitch, which gives it a singable and playable range. But composers can’t use C Major for every composition they write. Key signatures are often connected to different feelings, and writing in a minor key, for instance, may conjure up a particular emotion that the composer wants the listener or singer or instrumentalist to feel. D Minor is one of the most common minor key signatures a song can be transposed into.

I say all this to compare transposing to transmitting the message of the Gospel to people. We can present the Gospel in an easily readable and listenable way for a general, unchurched or children’s audience. We want the message to be understandable and enjoyable. But there are times when it is good for us to transpose or transmit the message of Christ in a way that reaches a different audience in a more impactful way. I know that there are graphic novels out there that tell the Gospel story more visually to teens. There are children’s Bibles that tell the Gospel like a bedtime story. Then there are Bible commentaries, of course, that more complexly explain the meaning of the Gospel in a distinctly scholarly way. We as transmitters of the message of Christ need to “read the room,” if you will, to transpose the Gospel in a way that has the greatest impact on the audience in front of us, whom we are serving.

Let us open our minds to new options for spreading the Word and singing the praises of the One who came to earth to save us. Let our customized methods of bringing the Good News to those around us be music to their ears.

What Comes Next?


My updated email system now attempts to finish my sentences for me when I start typing. I will write, “It was so good” and instantly gray letters appear that say “to see you.” Or I will begin to say, “Take care” and the computer will suggest the ending “of yourself.” I assume this feature was designed to help email customers save time and energy. But as a writer, I find it a bit annoying and presumptuous. Who is the computer to say what it thinks I will want to say next? Am I that predictable? I don’t want a computer to tell me what to write next. I want it to come from me and my own mind. The feature, to me, has the potential to stunt creativity and promote clichéd language.

But taking a step way back, this feature has become for me an indicator that we in this world (through a computer program or not) think we pretty much know what will happen next in any given situation. We tend to finish each other’s sentences already in many cases. But God says to us again and again in Scripture, “Not so fast.” We as human beings can never fully know what will come next in our lives, and only God can truly end the sentences of our lives with his ultimate plan for us in mind. James taps into this when he says:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

Only by God’s will is our future made known. Let him be your sentence finisher, and don’t let that frighten you, for we know, of course:

In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

So keep letting God write the story of your life. We all know where it ends: living in heaven with him through Christ Jesus our Lord.



In the fall of 1990 I backpacked through Europe for two weeks while I was on a semester abroad in Cambridge, England. Above is the backpack I brought with me on that trip. Thirty-two years later, I still cannot bring myself to throw it away. And it still is in good enough shape for me to use it from time to time on my travels.

Each time I use it, I still have the urge to strap it on my back and feel the weight of it. I remember that the best advice anyone gave me was to not take too much with me because I was going to have to carry it all with me wherever I went.

I thought I had narrowed it down to the bare minimum, but spending a whole day walking around the streets of Barcelona with a backpack on made me purge a few things. The extra jeans, the extra sweater, the extra shoes were tossed, and my back felt a lot better from then on.

I come to realize now that we still carry around a lot of extra baggage that we shouldn’t. That guilt over a past sin. That grudge over some perceived or real slight. That sorrow over some missed opportunity. That anger over a mistake we made long ago. Unload it all. Toss it away. Throw it at the foot of the cross and never turn back on our journey through life. Live life with a lighter load, knowing we are forgiven and freed by Christ to experience more joy and grow as travelers who look only forward to the final destination where nothing will hold us back from him.



In 1984 for my eighth grade graduation, my parents gave me the maroon hard-shell Samsonite suitcase shown above. I used it on my class trip to Colonial Williamsburg, and, believe it or not, I have used it on most every trip I have taken since then. When I pack my clothes, socks, shoes, books and any other items I might need into the two halves of that sturdy case, fold it shut and snap the two top locks down, I feel like my belongings are safe and secure for whatever travel hard knocks my come my way.

People are shocked I still have it, but I recently read that it is better to use “vintage” suitcases like mine in airports because people are less likely to steal them. The older the suitcase is, the less valuable the items inside are perceived to be, the rationale goes. While that may be true, I use it more for nostalgia’s case. Looking at it and carrying it around on my trips even this year remind me of all the fun times and happy memories of vacations past. I thank God for the ability to travel and experiences I have had with that suitcase as my travel companion.

My close connection to my Samsonite is reminiscent of my relationship with Christ. Knowing he is with me makes me feel like my earthly belongings are safe and secure in his hands. My time with Jesus in prayer reminds me of my times with him in the past when he traveled with me through the many journeys of my life, which would not always be considered a day at the beach. And my Savior, like my Samsonite, makes my sojourns special.

One day, I know, my Samsonite will no longer be in shape to carry on, but I know that I can count on Jesus to carry on with me in every voyage, earthly and otherwise—even when I can’t take anything else with me.