Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Day

when they went
home that night,
did they hope
the anthem would
be filed away
until three years from now,
or did the tune and words
keep running through their heads
that they couldn't fall asleep?

when they went
back to work
that night,
did they grumble
about the long hours,
the harsh nights,
the low pay with no benefits,
or did they discover
they were now herders
of hope and grace,
a thankless job
no one else would take?

when they snuck
out of Bethlehem,
keeping their faces hooded
from the searching eyes
of the soldiers,
did they forget about the star,
or was its reflection
so strong in their eyes
that it seemed
it was noontime?

when she snuggled
the infant to her breast
as he smuggled them
through the back alleys
to the forgotten road to Egypt,
did they wonder
if they would ever
get back home
or was the promise
so ingrained in their souls
that they knew God
would hear them crying out
for release?

when we go home
this morning,
today, tonight,
from the vigil
at the stable,
will we . . .

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Christmas Eve

(Read Luke 2:1-14)

Other than Chuck and Sarah themselves (and, of course, all the grandparents, aunts and uncles in waiting), no one was more concerned about the birth of Evan than Teddy. Calling once or twice(or seven!) times a day, he just couldn't contain himself waiting for this birth.

Well, it finally happened.

Last Saturday, December 15th, Sarah and Chuck headed down to the hospital, early that morning. After calling family, they called and left a message on my cell phone to let us know what was happening and about to happen. Bonnie and I were very excited, nad wondered if we should call Teddy to let him know. But we thought he should hear it directly from Chuck and Sarah, so we waited.

We shouldn't have worried. More than an hour (!) before calling my cell phone, Chuck had called Teddy's, to alert him to what was going on. Imagine that, calling the son before calling the father, calling the preacher's kid before calling the preacher, calling someone who doesn't rate very high on the world's "importance" scale, before calling all the important people (like me!)

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Sounds like the story we will be reading tonight or on Christmas Day. That story that begins with a list of all sorts of important people: Augustus, the proclaimed ruler of the most important empire in the world; Quirinius, the important governor of that important part of the world; the bureaucrats and number crunchers who are recording all the names and numbers for the most important head count ever done in human history! Important people are running around doing important tasks, and tripping all over other important people!

And who gets the news about the truly important event in human history? Just a bunch of people who have been hired to do that menial task of watching sheep during the long hours of the night. Just those nameless, faceless folks who go around picking up our trash, and cleaning our curbs, and repairing the power lines which come down in bad weather. Just those people that we don't even notice, who are patrolling the parking lots while we are in shopping, who are ringing up our purchases while we are marking another item off our list, who are cleaning off that table in the restaurant so we can sit down and have a meal.

The most important story ever told begins with that plot twist which will be woven throughout the rest of the tale, that when God thought it important enough to send the Child to save us, the news was first given to those who are shoved to the end of the line, to those who never get a vote in the 'Most Likely to . . .' balloting, to those who don't know where the stable is but won't stop until they find it, to those pushed aside by a world which believes in the survival of the fittest.

So, when you go to the late night Christmas Eve service, don't be disappointed if you get the good news second-hand, from someone who is heading back to work after getting to Bethlehem before you. Don't feel hurt that God first told someone else before God told you that there is a baby waiting for you out back in the barn. Don't get bent out of shape because God decided that the most important people to hear about the birth of their Savior, are the people we deem to be unimportant to us.

Prayer: Open our ears to the songs sung by an off-key choir, to the story told by those we are sure we should not trust, to the promises given so long ago most of us have forgotten them. Open our ears, so we might notice what you are doing in our midst, User of the unimportant.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Already here

(Read Philippians 2:5-11)

I had my list all ready for this morning. With a PhD in Procrastination (dissertation still in the works), I usually end up doing most of my Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. I used to love it that the stores stayed open late that night, but now, I have to hit the road early.

I had my gift choices written down, had marked exactly what stores had which, the best (and least crowded) routes to take. I had a plan. And then I opened my email, and God blew my plan away!

For there, from someone I don't know personally, was Christmas greetings. A sister in Christ down in New Zealand was writing to wish me, and everyone else on that cyber list, as she put it, a "Christmass filled with the Joy of the Christ Child. A Christmass when we take Him into our hearts, and remembering His ministry and teachings, and reach out to each other in Peace and Hope for the years ahead."

It's already Christmas in New Zealand and other parts of the world; it's already Christmas in places I may never visit, but God has; it's already Christmas, and folks have welcomed the Child into their hearts and homes once again, just as I am about to put the finishing touches on my 'planned' Christmas.

It's a good reminder that Christmas has already taken place. I don't need to make any more lists; I don't need to keep rushing around; I can stop worrying about making sure everything is ready for the worship services at the church; I can put my stress down at the entrance to the barn, and go in to be renewed in the presence of the baby.

It's a good reminder that, although Christmas came 2,000 years ago, it is never too late for me to welcome it into my heart, to humble myself as Christ did, to empty myself for others, to develop (and maintain) the same mind as the One who thought it important to think of me.

I wonder if I could 'exercise' my mind in this way in the coming year, by thinking of something to do every day to celebrate the Christ who has come to all of us. Maybe I could start each morning by saying, ' today I will celebrate Christ's birth by ______." Or, before I go to bed, make a note to myself, 'tomorrow I will honor Christ's birth by _______."

It might be something as simple as saying hello to that grumpy neighbor. It might be a commitment to spend a half hour a day tutoring a kid down at the school. It might be (finally) letting go of that anger at God that I have carried around for so long. It might be simply taking time during the day to go back to the stable, to sit down, and say to that little baby, "Okay, what do you want to teach me today?"

Maybe if I did that every day, then by next December 24th, I won't have to leap out of bed, grabbing for my list.

Prayer: You humbled yourself so that we might be lifted into the presence of Glory; you emptied yourself, so we might be filled with grace; you came, so we could no longer find excuses for coming home. Servant born in a stable, come to us this night. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Outrageous Scandal!

(Read Matthew 1:18-25)

It's a scandal, it's an outrage!

A 16-year-old girl who is pregnant. And apparently has no reservations about it, does not mind others knowing about it, and is even willing to let folks know who the father is! Can you imagine?!?

It's true. Jamie Lynn Spears has told the world that she is pregnant. She plays a virgin on TV, but apparently in real life she does not have a similar commitment. Some want to dismiss her, as just another celebrity gone wild in her personal life. Others would just like to put her as far
away from the media as possible, so our kids don't get any ideas. Still more, just shake their heads, and wonder about her poor family.

Reminds us of another young girl (probably about the age of Jamie Lynn), not married but 'involved' with some one; a young girl that people expected to behave in a certain way; a young girl who had to let her family and her boyfriend know that she was expecting.

It was a scandal! An outrage!

What Joseph did, I mean. To stand by Mary and support her. To take the heat from family and friends, to bear all the ridicule of his pals down at the pub, to hear and see all the neighbors talking behind their hands as he walked down the street. To be willing to say, "I love her; I believe her; I trust her; I will be with her through all the days to come."

As we walk to the manger, as we pass by the Jamie Lynns of our world, as we see the young girls from the 3rd world countries who have no voice in the matter but are married and bear children into unbearable poverty, as we notice the young (and older) men who struggle to provide for their families in the midst of so many questions, wouldn't it be a scandal, an outrage, if we simply passed them by, dismissing them from our minds, putting them away in that memory bank that says 'not important'?

Prayer: We pray that we will not scandalize you, God-in-all-the-16-year-olds-of-the-world, by our attitudes toward them. Help us to honor you as we help them; to glorify you as we tell them they are your Beloved; to model your trust in us as we entrust them with our hopes and dreams. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, December 22, 2007

stupid is as stupid

(Read Matthew 25:31-46)

One of the reasons I like the comic strip
"Red & Rover" (see December 17th devotion)
is that it reminds me of another comic called
"Calvin and Hobbes." I really miss Calvin,
that little boy who, with his stuffed tiger named
Hobbes, would go shooting into space, off
on a wild safari, or trick his parents wtih
amazing feats of daring-do.

In one strip, Calvin tells his father, "so long,
Pop, I'm off to check my tiger trap. I rigged
a tuna fish sandwich yesterday so I am sure
to have a tiger by now!"

"They like tuna fish, huh?"

"Tigers will do anything for a tuna fish sandwich!"

Then we see poor Hobbes, hanging by his foot,
eating a tuna fish sandwich, and bemoaning,
"We're kind of stupid that way."

We think the goats in this story by Jesus are
pretty stupid, don't we? As good little sheep,
who always do what Jesus has asked of us,
we look at them and wonder, "Hello? People
in prison, naked neighbors, sick friends, a starving
child, a thirsty kid on a hot day. And you
couldn't do anything for them, much less see

And we proudly pat ourselves on the back,
because we are willing to send the clothes we
have outgrown (or are no longer in fashion)
off to the thrift store; we drop a few coins into
the kettle for the army to feed the hungry on
Christmas Day; we'll sign the petition to end
the suffering in Darfur; we'll pray for those in
prison (and hope not a lot of them are released
in our neighborhood).

But Jesus catches us up short, when he makes
clear that we don't get it any more than the
goats do. Here in this story, the sheep are
just as stupid as the goats because, according
to Jesus, the sheep didn't realize what they
were doing.

Interesting twist, isn't it? Maybe what Jesus
is talking about here is not so much organizing
a prison ministry (though he would support
that effort 100%), but being there when a
friend who is addicted to gambling, drugs,
alcohol, whatever tries to find freedom.
Maybe it is not so much bagging up our
clothes, and putting them out for collection
by the trucks operated by the vets, but
standing by our classmate who is stripped
naked by the jokes and ridicules of his peers.
Maybe it's not just buying an extra can of
corn at the grocery store for the food
collection at the church, but trying to fill
the hunger for friendship that new family
in the neighborhood has.

Maybe instead of thinking, and planning,
and making sure others notice all the
good things we do (and congratulating
our selves for such a 'witness), it is feeding
on the words Jesus speaks, it is drinking at
the fountain of compassion he offers, it is
walking beside him as he goes into those
prisons called depression, loneliness, grief,
hopelessness. Maybe it is letting Jesus become
first and foremost in our lives, that doing all
these things become second nature for us,
so that we do them without even thinking
about it.

Then we can admit, as we continue down the
path to Bethlehem to welcome the Babe
into our hearts, 'we're kind of stupid that way."

Prayer: Wisdom we long for: teach us your
ways until we can walk, talk, do, and be
without a second thought. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, December 21, 2007

take 1xday and call in the morning

(Read Zechariah 7:8-10)

Don't you just love some of the commercials
shown on television these days? Especially
the ones by the pharmaceutical companies,
that want to pitch you something that is so
wonderful (and usually so expensive) you
should immediately call your doctor and
demand a prescription.

Of course, to fulfill certain requirements
about truthful advertising, they add the
disclaimer at the end. Much like the fabled
'small print' in a document, the disclaimer
is usually spoken so softly and quickly one
cannot understand it. Typically, it is something
along the lines of 'this medication may cause
minor reactions like heartburn, upset stomach,
aches and pains, yada, yada, yada.' They
even mention severe reactions; one this morning
said, 'in some rare cases, death has occurred.'
Huh?!? I want to feel better, not die.

Makes you wonder what might happen if
such disclaimers had to be provided on that
first Christmas. "Peace on earth, good will
to all people." Disclaimer: believing this
message may cause certain side effects like
loving your enemies, turning the other cheek,
going the extra mile. In a few isolated cases,
wars may come to an end."

"Do not be afraid; I bring you good news
of great joy." Warning: taking this joy more
often than prescribed may lead to outbursts
of song, a strong desire to spend time with
people (even some you don't like), and some
changes in your eyesight which allow you
to see sunrises, sunsets, and leaves changing
in the fall with new eyes.

Of course, God put on all those disclaimers,
all those warnings, all that fine print long before
the birth of Jesus. In the words of the prophets,
we are told over and over of the one who would
come, to completely overturn our world, to set
right all the wrong we have done, to bring new
life to those who are dying. Jesus came, not
to be some cute, ceramic figurine in a creche
we bring out from the basement or attic once
a year. Jesus came, simply because he was
the only medicine that can make us better.

So be careful. Walking the path to Bethlehem
may send you home a different way - through
the alleys of all those places of poverty and
brokenness you have learned to avoid.
Listening to Jesus may cause you to speak in
a more caring and loving way to others.
Following him into the streets of the kingdom,
may cause painful foot problems. Taking
up your cross and following him, may give
you callouses. In some extreme cases,
hearts have been transplanted as certain
individuals have radically altered their

Prayer: None of us like to take medicine,
Physician of our souls, but all of us can feel
better, do better, be better if we just took
Jesus on a daily basis. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, December 20, 2007

when we can't find the right word . .

Read Psalm 147:12-20)

Do you w00t?

It's "the" word of the year for 2007, according to the folks at Merriam-Webster Inc., who determine such things on behalf of the rest of us.

It reflects the increasing cross-pollination of words and numerals in today's means of communicating - either because of typos on a keyboard, or the sorts of short cuts text messengers are looking for. According to some, it came from the folks who loved to play the game 'Dungeons and Dragons', who would often exclaim, "Wow! Loot!" w00t!!!

But it has come to be used in a variety of ways: a cry of triumph ('i w00ted them'); an exuberant expression ('w00t! he said yes!'); a cry of joy about an accomplishment ('i passed the test. w00t!!!'). it is being used by more and more folks, in more and more settings. So . . .

w00t, Lord God!
the grandkids are coming
home for Christmas!

w00t God!
for that faucet of grace
that can't be turned off!

w00t the Lord!
the Word won the
Bethlehem marathon!

w00t God,
all you wandering
down the road,
looking for the stable.

w00t, God,
u r teh Lord!

w00t! w00t! w00t!

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This day

(Read Zechariah 3:1-10)

On this day, I'll be trying to get a few more things marked off "The List." I got one of Teddy's presents yesterday, discovered another one we hope to get him; I finally got our tree (of course, it is not up yet!); I have three different meetings; and I am trying to get three different bulletins into some sort of shape.

On this day, the Muslims in our community (and around the world) will be marking the end of the pilgrimage (the hajj) to Mecca, with prayers, reflection, and the celebration of their faith. For today is Eid al-Adha, the "feast of sacrifice," the major holy day of the Muslim faith. So today, Muslims will hold prayers, as well as community dinners.

Eid celebrates the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his only son, when commanded by God. Considered a prophet in the Muslim faith, Abraham is a main figure in Judaism and Christianity, as well. Indeed, these three major religions, which often are at odds with one another, are united in their belief of the central role Abraham plays in the faith development of all three.

While we Christians, and the Jews, tell the story in such a way that Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac, the Muslim tradition believe the boy was his son, Ishmael. But however we tell the story, the emphasis is on the willingness to be obedient to God's call on one's life, even if asked to give up what might be most precious to us. Certainly one of the 'themes' of our Christmas story is God's willingness to give the divine Child, the One so precious to God.

One of the ways Muslims observe this day honoring Abraham's sacrifice is to donate food, to the poor. Some of the Muslim families here in Cincinnati will be helping to feed folks in one of the chronic poverty neighborhoods; others will send assistance to families in Bosnia, Iraq, and other communities throughout the world.

On this day, I am reminded by my Muslim siblings in our mutual faith in the one God, that part of my way of celebrating this season needs to be acts of sacrifice. Not just giving up some time to go caroling, but giving up time to work in a soup kitchen; not just giving up hard earned money for gifts, but giving so that others might be blessed; not just filling myself with all those good things I enjoy, but sharing from the abundance I have so the emptiness of others might be filled.

On this day, we may walk different paths as we seek to find God, but Zechariah tells us that one day, one day (!), we will invite each other to come and celebrate with us the gifts of peace, hope, joy and reconciliation.

Prayer: On this day, and the days to come, help us to celebrate the sacrifice you have made, Glory's Gift, so that we may indeed give more and more of ourselves away to your people and your creation. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jesus' Cousin Charles

(Read Psalm 146)

If there is anyone who has lived out the opening verses of this psalm, it may be Charles Wesley. Born 300 years ago today (December 18, 1707), Wesley has passed on a legacy of countless hymns that have taught generations theological truths, mixed with powerful images from the Bible, as well as literary illusions from his time, and classical illusions, as well.

What would Advent be without Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus or Lo! He comes with clouds descending? Or, what would a Christmas Eve (or Day) service be without singing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing?

One of the great powers these songs have is they help us to focus on the Advent theme of Jesus' coming again. In our rush to get to the manger to throw a big party for the baby, we often forget that there was a promise born that day in that barn, a promise that was sealed at the cross, and will be fulfilled with the return of our Lord.

Sadly (IMHO), in the reworking of some of Wesley's lyrics, to be more inclusive as well as use more familiar words, we have lost the understanding (so true to the gospel) he had of all creation responding to the birth of Jesus, and the biblical truth that all creation will be healed, restored, given new life by the One born on Christmas Day.

Wesley's original opening two verses for Hark! the herald angels sing show this:
Hark, how all the welkin ring!
'Glory to the King of Kings,
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.

Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
Universal nature say
'Christ the Lord is born today!

Such words echo the praise of the psalmist who hopes in the one who made 'heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them.'

Wesley's hymns help us to keep our feet on solid ground, gospel ground, as we continue to walk to Bethlehem. So keep praising the Lord by singing those marvelous gifts Wesley has graced to us!

Prayer: Even as we get ready to celebrate your birth once again, come to us, Joy of our longing hearts. Come, so we may see you robed in compassion; come, so we may see you handing out gifts of justice and freedom to the oppressed; come, so we may feel your warm welcome, even as you embrace those we have ignored. Come, Lord Jesus, Come! Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, December 17, 2007

So, what did you see today?

Read Psalm 145

One of the things I try to do every morning before I head off to work is to read the comics in the newspaper. Over the last year or so, I have become a big fan of a strip by Brian Bassett called "Red & Rover." Red is a little boy, aged 8 or 9, I would guess. Rover is his dog, his confidant, his therapist, his pillow while he watches TV. Though Rover looks in the strip like a yellow lab, I pretend that he is a Golden Retriever like Dusty.

Today, Red and Rover are standing out in the snow, looking up at the sky. Red says, "They say snow is actually God brushing dandruff out of his hair." In one of those 'balloon' things, Rover asks, "Who're they?" To which Red answers, "Theologian dermatologists." What a line. What enjoyment. What a way to start a day!

A cartoon strip that just puts us in the right mood. A child standing on the corner waiting for the bus, pretending she is the first woman starting pitcher in the major leagues, as she throws strike after strike at the tree with her snowballs. A father who goes out into the cold night to make sure that his child has a gift for the teacher, since the child just remembered today (!) that the party is tomorrow. The neighbor who goes from house to house with her snow blower, clearing sidewalks and driveways, and walks on singing a carol.

Every day blessings from the One the psalmist tells us we are to bless every day. As we walk those ordinary paths that are part of the journey to Bethlehem, let us keep an eye out for a boy and his dog, a caring neighbor, a child dreaming.

Prayer: If we are not careful, if we don't watch, Shaper of our days, we might miss all those everyday wonders you put in our paths. And then, we might think we have no reason to offer our blessings to you. Keep us watchful, keep us alert, keep us praying. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Changing the Job Description

Every once in a while, the lectionary folks throw us a wild pitch, having us read stories that we don't usually connect with the Christmas story, or season. The gospel reading for the 3rd Sunday of Advent in Year A is one such reading.

(Read Matthew 11:2-11)

This sounds like one of those all too human, all too familiar stories from the gospels of someone who questions Jesus' identity or authority. Only this time it is not a scribe, a Pharisee, a lawyer, or some other religion leader. Nope, it is one of Jesus' kin, his cousin, John the Baptist. He's sitting in prison, wondering what is going to happen to him next (and having a pretty good idea what will take place), and he's been hearing rumors and stories about what Jesus is doing. So he sends some of his disciples to ask, 'are you the real deal?' Or are we going to have to put our hopes on hold again?'

Can you hear just the hint of disappointment in what John is asking? Maybe he and Jesus used to play that childhood game of 'Romans and peasants' with the peasants always winning. Maybe when they were teenagers, they talked about the kind of world they would bring about when they became adults. Who knows. But doesn't it make you wonder what John was looking for in Jesus? A man on fire, a man of fire? Did he hope Jesus would lead a army to break him out of prison, who would knock Herod off the throne, and who, after becoming king, would name his
favorite cousin as prime minister?

Whatever the reason, Jesus is just not doing what John expected of him. Yes, Jesus is going about the countryside doing things, but they seem to be the wrong things. He's not putting an army together, he's bringing tax collectors and prostitutes to the family table. He's not a mighty warrior like David, he's sitting around telling stories. He's not plotting to overthrow the oppressors from Rome, Jesus is giving sermons about turning the other cheek, and going the extra mile. In fact, his response to John's question is simple, 'go and tell cuz that I am the one who was to come; but the job description has been changed just a bit. The blind see their way home, the lame dance down the street, new life is given to those the world has thrown out with the garbage, and mercy comes before judgment.'

And we can just see John sitting in that cell when the answer comes back to him, thinking, 'where in the world did Jesus get all those crazy ideas?' Then, in the silence and darkness of those moments, he begins to hear words from Isaiah, and Amos, and Hosea. Words about God's vengeance turning out to be salvation; words about one who is coming to bring exiles home; words about the time when all creation will be healed; songs about the poor being filled with all sorts of good things; visions about Death Valley becoming Napa Valley; about a young woman in a wheelchair who plays Eliza Doolittle in 'My Fair Lady.'

And in the hearing of those words, and the recalling of those visions, those hopes, those dreams of God, John comes to realize, just as we must if we are going to walk to Bethlehem this year, that the way may just require going in an unexpected direction.

Prayer: Long before the poet put the words down on paper, Surpriser of our souls, you knew that we would come to a fork in the road. Help us to be able to choose the unexpected way, the way that leads us into your kingdom. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman


(Now that you have your finger in the Bible marking
where Haggai is, read chapter 2, verses 1-9)

Several people wanted to know about this pousitinia
thing mentioned in yesterday's devotional. Well, first
I have to admit to a misspelling - it should have been
'poustinia.' Sorry about that!

A poustinia is a prayer room/hut, a place where one
can go to be truly isolated, truly alone, truly silent
in the presence of God. Think of what we would
call a hermitage - one of those beehives the monks
used in the British Isles, the place Thomas Merton
lived in at the Abbey of Gethsemane, a remote hut
on a Pacific atoll, or on the side of a mountain.

Poustinia is a common, ordinary word. In fact, in
its original Russian, it means 'desert'. The Sahara
Desert thus becomes Saharskaya Poustinia' - a
geographical location. But in the sense it was being
used in the devotional, it refers to a spiritual place,
a place set apart for silence, solitude, reading, and
prayer, so that one may draw closer to God.

I had read of poustinias for years, and when I went
on by sabbath renewal time some years ago, I actually
got to spend time in one. When I visited the residential
setting (Hetton Hall) of the Northumbria Community
in England, I discovered a marvelous poustinia on the
grounds, complete with a thatched roof! You go in,
shut the door, light a candle if light is needed, and
just sit, meditate, pray, rest in silence, and gradually,
softly, lovingly you become enveloped in the sacred
shawl of God. And like the abbey on Iona, the
hermitage of Thomas Merton, the Church of the
Reconciliation at Taize, Sainte Chappelle in Paris,
I had been enjoying a marvelous pilgrimage to
poustinias throughout the world.

So, when I got home I was determined that
I would recreate this place, this experience. I was
going to convert the storage shed in my backyard
to a poustinia. I was going to talk the church into
converting one of its meeting rooms into a prayer room
Of course, the shed still contains the snow shovels,
the old bikes, the left-overs of yard work, etc. that
it did when I came back home. We still continue
to sit in chairs around tables in that room at the
church. I continue to long for a return to all those
places where I felt so close to God.

That's when I need to hear from someone like
Haggai. Someone who gently taps me on the
shoulder and whispers, 'stop fretting. God's
Spirit is living deep within you. Through Jesus,
God planted the seed of the Spirit to create
that longing to be with God, to rest in silence,
to be still and know. Stop looking, stop
fretting, just stop and rest.'

And then I know the poustinia I really need
is there in my heart, where God has been
waiting, is waiting even now, and will be
waiting when I am finished typing these words,
simply waiting for me to stop and enter into
my poustinia.

As we walk the road to Bethlehem in this
Advent season, let's keep our eyes open for
those places of rest, those poustinias, God
has placed along the way, and in our hearts.

Prayer: Now, I will stop fretting. Now, I
will shut down the computer, turn off the
vacuum, set down the paper, and wander
into my heart where you are waiting to be
at rest with me, Hermitage of my soul. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, December 14, 2007

Along the way

(Read Haggai 1:1-15)

Admit it. You had to look at the table of
contents in the front of your Bible to find
where Haggai was located, didn't you?
(So did I!). Since we normally don't read
anything from him in church (a passage
from Haggai appears only once in the
entire 3-year cycle of the lectionary), it
is easy to overlook him.

And it seems like he doesn't have much
relevance for us, doesn't it? After all,
historically he only 'preached' for about
a three-and-a-half month period of time,
and only seemed to be concerned about
getting God's people up off their duffs
and started on rebuilding the temple in
Jerusalem after the return from exile.
So, his words have nothing to do with us.

But since Haggai has the word 'prophet'
in front of his name, we are called to take
him seriously. And because prophets are
really conduits for God's words, God's
concerns, God's hopes, God's dreams
for God's people, we really do need to
pay attention. And because, in the
wisdom of the church, Haggai is a part
of Scripture, we should read and listen
to what he has to say.

In a nutshell, Haggai is all about the
practical tasks we are given as God's
people. Yes, we are called to pray,
but we are also called to provide and
maintain those places where people
can go to pray. Be they monasteries,
sanctuaries, pousitinias, prayer rooms,
little roadside chapels, benches out
in a field - we can see that folks have
places where they can withdraw from
the world, where they can enter into
silence, where they can reconnect with

Yes, we are called to provide a home for
God. Not so much for God, but for us -
to have that special place, set apart simply
for the purpose of letting us connect with
the extraordinary God who continues to
surprise us, in the midst of our rather
ordinary days and lives. From tabernacles
in the wilderness to the tabernacle in
Salt Lake City, from cathedrals that
echo with the chants of the saints to
storefront churches that shake with
gospel songs, from the catacombs to
the church on the corner where we were
baptized and confirmed, we have these
special places that ground us in the faith
and in the presence of God, even when
the earth seems to be shifting under our
feet from day to day.

As we continue on our journey to Bethlehem,
let's be sure to take a break and pray at all
those places Haggai and Hannah, Phoebe
and Paul provide for us along the way, and
make sure they are places where others can
find rest and reconnection with God on
their journey.

Prayer: We think all we need is a good pair
of boots and a stout walking stick to make
it all the way to the manger, Rebuilder of
our hearts, but you offer us a place to stop,
to reflect, to become grounded once again
with your holy presence. Help us to be
willing to take a break, so we can be
refreshed by your love. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hurry up and wait

(Read Psalm 62)

Every day (well actually, several times a day!) Teddy calls. And, every day, he wants to know the same thing: has Sarah had her baby yet? Sarah is a young woman in the church, just a couple of years older than Teddy, who grew up with him - accepting him, loving him, seeing him as one of God's children just as she is. So, she is very special to him. And the fact that she married a fellow who spent some time as one of Teddy's caregivers in one of those times when he could live at home, makes it doubly special for Teddy (and for us).

And every day (actually, several times a day!) I have to tell him that, no, I haven't heard anything yet and reassure him that as soon as I hear, he will share in the good news. But it is hard on him, all this waiting to hear about his friends and their baby.

If anything, this is the season when we get repeated lessons on waiting. Waiting in line to make a purchase, to get a tree, to mail a package. Waiting for the email from the relatives letting us know when they plan to arrive. Waiting for the delivery truck to arrive (hopefully, NOT at a time when the kids are at home). Waiting to sing those beloved carols; waiting to gather in the quiet of the night on Christmas Eve to once more hear the Story.

And none of us, none of us, none of us are any good at waiting, are we? We're too busy, we're too frantic, we're too worried, we're too important to have to wait, to be put on hold, to have someone tell us, 'sorry, not today; maybe that toy/game/video/whatever will be on the shelves tomorrow.

It's not just a virtue we need to develop, it's not just a skill we learn, waiting is a spiritual discipline, which none of us are very disciplined at practicing!

Now, I can't begin to imagine what it was like for Mary to have to take that long, dusty, probably painful journey to Bethlehem. I can't begin to know what it is like for Sarah, and Chuck, to continue to wait - day after day - for little Evan to make his appearance.

But because I know Sarah, and Chuck, I have no doubt that as they walk the road to parenthood during this season, like Mary and the psalmist, they say,
'For God alone my soul waits
in silence,
for our hope is from God.'

Prayer: We hurry up and wait, often for things that have no lasting value. But you are worth waiting for, Deliverance of our hearts, so help us to be calm, to be silent, to be hopeful in this waiting time. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Good Company

(Read Amos 8:1-14; Matthew 23:1-12)

Ever notice how the prophets are never included in Christmas pageants? Oh, there might be a quote or two from Isaiah, but no one plays Amos, or Hosea, or any of the other folks who seem to take glee from holding our feet to the fire built from God's incendiary words.

It's not surprising. Who wants to spend any time with someone who is going to remind us - in this season of gifting and receiving, of parties and feasting - that there are those who, exploited by the world, keep down the costs of our gifts, our food, our travels? Who wants to invite a party-pooper like Amos to our Christmas dinner, if he is going to show up wearing sackcloth and a gloomy face?

We'd rather be with Jesus during this holy season. Jesus, sweet little baby boy; Jesus, meek and mild; Jesus, soft, cuddly, and who can be put down for a nap when the party really begins to crank up. After all, he is just this baby who depends on us for food, for warmth, for comfort. He may be the reason for the season, but we are the reasonable adults in charge of the season,
aren't we?

Unfortunately, when Jesus grows up, it becomes pretty clear that he has been spending time with folks like Amos, more time than is probably good for anyone. That's where he gets such outrageous ideas that people want to put on religion like a pair of pants, trying on different sizes until they find what fits their lifestyle. That's why he can see the kind of hypocrisy evidenced by those who talk a good game of faith, but are usually still sitting on the bench when the whistle blows. That's how he came to realize that in God's great scheme, things are usually turned upside down, until we get it right.

If we are going to go down the road to Bethlehem, we do indeed need to spend some time with Jesus. But, if we are going to reach the end of our journey, we need to keep Amos and all the other prophets at our side, so we know exactly how we are to live when we get there.

Prayer: With words we really don't want to hear, with jabs of justice we really do need, you send the prophets to us, Teacher of our souls. As much as we would like to leave them behind, help us to take their hands as they journey with us to Bethlehem. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Easy Street?

(Read Matthew 22:34-40)

No tricks, no hidden meanings, no theological puzzles which take centuries to unravel. Just two short verses, two commandments, two easy steps to follow through life. If only it were that easy!

It would be easy to love God, if God would answer every prayer, would turn a blind eye to some of the things we do, would be that jolly old fellow with a belly-deep laugh and a twinkle in his eye. But God has a funny way of thinking that we should be involved in solving prayers, that everything we do (good and bad) is part of our life-long struggle with faith, that God might just not slide easily into some picture frame we have designed out of our needs.

It would be easy to love our neighbors if they would just be a little bit more loveable. Think what it would be like to have Mother Theresa living next door, instead of the curmudgeon who grumbles every time kids play in their backyards. Or what if Brad Pitt moved onto our
street with his commitment and zeal to shaping a greener world, but we get saddled with the fellow who runs his sprinklers 12 hours a day in the hottest and driest part of the summer.

And it would be a whole lot easier to love ourselves if we were just someone else, wouldn't it!?!

Two short verses, two simple commandments, two easy steps on the path of love which we can walk to get to Bethlehem.

If only it were that easy!

When Eugene Peterson paraphrased this passage in The Message, he calls these commandments "pegs." I like that.

Because if we can love God, when we need that grace to forgive ourselves for the foolish words we speak, for the mean ways we can treat people, for the ease with which we slip off the path to the kingdom, we will find it hanging on that peg. And if we can learn to love ourselves as much as God loves us, then when we reach for that kindness, that joy, that peace which we know our neighbors need, we will find them hanging there as well. And if we can, day in and day out, chance after chance, love others as deeply as we love ourselves, than we will know we truly love God, as we walk the path of love..

Prayer: It probably isn't easy at times to love us, Advent's Heart, but you continue to persist in feeling that way and then living out that love in us. Help us to make the less than easy choice to be as loving as you are, towards our neighbors, ourselves, and especially you. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dig a Little Deeper, God!

(Read Psalm 40)

I can still remember the time when I went in for my annual physical. The doctor was doing the usual poking and prodding, and then he got out the little flashlight to look into my ears. He looked in one, and then the other. He stepped back with a quizzical look on his face, and went through the procedure a second time.

That's when he turned to the medical student who was assisting him, and said, "Take a look." The student took the light, and she looked at both my ears three times! "What is it?" she asked the doctor, with a worried look on her face. "Something we need to flush out," he said with a grim look. So they filled a syringe with warm water, and proceeded to flush out my ears. "No wonder you have some hearing problems," the doc said, "take a look at what we flushed out."

And sure enough, there they were. All those angry, mean-spirited words that people use on talk radio about those they don't like. All those loud commercials that were deafening me with their screaming about what I absolutely had to have, even if I didn't need it. All those profanities flooding the dialogue in movies, adding nothing to the story, but filling my ears, my heart, my soul with garbage. All those muttered-under-my-breath epithets about all those people I just cannot stand.

The psalmist says (40:6) that God doesn't want our sacrifices, but gives us open ears. Or, as the Hebrew more graphically puts it, God gives "ears you have dug for me."

God digs out all that garbage which has stuffed our ears and builds a path to Bethlehem on which we can walk, with our ears wide open, so we can hear the voices of the poor and the needy, so we hear the knock on the door from the young couple looking for a home in our hearts, so we can listen to the anthems the angels sing, so we can pay attention to the cries of the One just born, that we might have new life.

Prayer: You may have to dig a little deeper this year, Mining God, since the noise of the world seems to be so much greater. But by your persistent efforts, we may just be able to hear a little more clearly, and listen to the whisper of your heart in our ears. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Go Ahead and Point (it's okay, honest!)

(Read Matthew 3:1-12)

Every year, I look for him to show up in the manger scene set up in our narthex. And once more, I am disappointed. No ceramic figure dressed in camel's hair holding a handful of honey-covered locusts. Once again, I've scoured all the card shops, but not a single one has a card with John the Baptist on the front, with a message on the inside reading: "Merry Christmas, you brood of vipers!"

Yet, this year as in every year of the lectionary cycle, John the Baptist shows up in the gospel reading. Every year! Why? Why him, of all the people we could read about? Why him, of all the people to show up in church every year?

Maybe he comes on the scene each and every year as a model for what our role should be as followers of Jesus. Simply put, we are to speak to people about the One who has come, and is coming once again to set up house in our hearts. We are simply to trust that the promises made long ago to a prophet, to a pregnant teenager, to a bunch of shepherds will be fulfilled once again this year. We are simply to be filled with the hope that says our words, our actions, our prayers, our simple and ordinary lives are all a part of the story told at Christmas.

Like John, we stand in the midst of folks who can be hypocritical, who can be fairly shallow in their faith, who seem to have trouble putting their faith where their mouths are (in other words, folks just like you and me!). And what are we to do. Simply point.

Point to the one who is coming down the road, whose image we can barely see in the gathering dusk, whose head just appears over the top of the horizon. To point and say, "There! There is your hope; there is your joy; there is your peace; there is your life!"

To point - and then to step off the path so we don't get in the way of the reunion of the lost, the last, the little, the least with the One who knows them by name.

Prayer: If we would walk the way to Bethlehem, Brooding God, we need to stop pointing fingers at those who we believe are not bearing fruit as we think they should, and start pointing to the One who is coming to hear all those crying from the wildernesses of their lives, and to lead them home to life with you. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Running on empty

(Read Amos 5:18-27)

'The first Nowell
the angel did say
was to certain rich folk
in comfort as they lay . . .'

Well, that's not quite how the carol goes, is it? But it seems as if this is how most of society interprets it these days. That the reason for the season is to spend, to consume, to fill our homes and our lives with more and more.

Think I am being too much of a curmudgeon? Think I am being too negative? Think I have become a scrooge? Maybe so. But I look at the ads on TV here, in a time when a economic crisis is brewing in our midst, folks are being told 'maybe this is the time to buy a BMW' . . . a big hunk of jewelry, that chalet you've always dreamed about! It's tempting, isn't it? I admit that, if I had the money, there is that list of things that I would go out and buy, and a classic car is one of those items.

But then I read the Advent scriptures, then I read the Christmas story, and what happens? Amos comes knocking on my door wanting to collect a cup of justice for the people sleeping under the bridges; Gabriel and the angels come whispering to poor folks working the night shift to go look at what God has done for them; Mary comes caroling about the One who comes to fill the hungry with good things and to send me away empty.

The Christmas story is pretty explicit that God came down through (and for) the poor. And that's the part on the story we seem to always overlook. In our costly decorations, in our beautifully staged pageants, in our marketing of the message, we always seem to leave out the poor.

So, maybe it's time we remember them, and the justice we are called to share with them. Maybe, when we go and spend money on a present for a neighbor, we can send the same amount to a local shelter. Maybe, when we buy our Christmas feast, we can provide a feast for another family through a food pantry. Maybe, when we decide to go caroling, we will make sure we sing to the poor in our neighborhoods, not just the privileged. Maybe, just maybe, we can empty ourselves this year.

Because if I become empty then I, too, become poor. I, too, can hear the promises whispered by Gabriel. I, too, can open my heart to the way God wants to be incarnated in my soul. I, too, can be filled with those good things called grace, hope, peace, joy, reconciliation, justice. And then, I can go out and empty myself of these gifts, so I once more become empty enough to welcome God, once again.

The path of justice we are asked to take to Bethlehem is all downhill. How do we keep from putting roadblocks in the way so that justice can roll down to those who need it the most?

Prayer: Not a not a slow drip, not a trickle, not a gently flowing stream, but let your justice
rough-tumble through our lives, River of Righteousness, so it can sweep us along to all those places where we can serve and grow with all of your people. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, December 07, 2007


(Read Psalm 16)

Today is my day off, and so I face choices. Will I laze around in bed, warm and snug under the blankets, or will I get up, eat breakfast, put the laundry in, walk Dusty? Okay, when it comes to the dog, maybe I don't have a choice . . .

Will I go to a movie this afternoon, read a book, work on a book, take a nap, turn on the TV, turn on the vacuum, do a bit of shopping, surf the 'net, play a video game, call a friend, curse an enemy??? I could even choose NOT to do an Advent devotional today!

So many choices. And you will notice, since it is somewhat intentional, that there is nothing about God, or prayer, or any thing remotely spiritual (well, reading a book is always a spiritual discipline for me - as well as taking a nap!).

That's because, like so many people I know, when I am making lists of things to do, when I am deciding what will fill my time, when I make choices for the day - all too often, God doesn't make the cut.

Why? Why is it that I can choose to spend time with a friend, or not, but can't seem to do that with God? How can I choose to talk with the neighbor down the street, or keep walking Dusty, but not open my mouth to God? It often seems an almost automatic response as to whether or not to love a person, but I cannot seem to send a valentine to the One who gave me life and breath?

Now, in some ways I am a 'professional' Christian - I read the Bible, I pray, I can think deep theological thoughts, for that is my job. But as a pilgrim, as one who is struggling to walk the streets of the kingdom, I know that all too often I choose NOT to make God my chosen portion.

I am not sure if it is so much a matter of making the 'right' choice, but finding that path where I know that God is before me, and I want to run to catch up.

Prayer: In the midst of all the petty and pretentious choices I will make today, path-paving God, help me to make a portion of them with you. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. shuman

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Thesaurus for the Trinity?

(Read Psalm 18:1-20)

Take a moment and think of all those nicknames, those affectionate terms, those 'love' names you have for family members or friends. Sweetpea, Nana, GeePaw, Peanut, BeeJay, Punkin are some of the ones I have heard used for people over the years.

Now, think of all those nicknames, those affectionate terms, those 'love' names you use for God. C'mon, you say you love God, so what are the names, the images, the metaphors you have when you talk to or about God?

Could you pray to God as the Shawl of Holiness? Are you able to speak of Jesus as the Champion of the outcast? Would it be appropriate to call the 3rd person of the Trinity a 'sap-surging Spirit'?

Recognizing that our language - especially about God - is limited and limiting, why is it that so often God is only referred to as Father, Son, Holy Spirit; or Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer? Why. when we pray, is it a repetitive use of 'O God'? Where is the rich thesaurus for all the diverse, wonderful, beautiful, creative ways of speaking about the One who did not limit humanity to one mold, or trees to one model, or birds to one color?

The psalmists try to get us started building this rich and varied language. Embedded within the psalms are creative, evocative, emotional, tender words to describe God's presence, God's power, God's grace, God's hope. I still remember, as a young boy who felt alone and lost in a confusing world, the first time I heard about God being the rock where I could find refuge. What power, what liberation, what comfort was given to me in those words! And over the years, I have developed other creative, more contemporary, and (hopefully) more personal-to-me language for God.

As we take the path of words to Bethlehem, may we arrive with new ways of telling of our love for and to God.

Prayer: Cradle of our dreams, hear us as we tell you how much we love you, even if we fumble with the words. Gift us with fresh language, so we might tell others of how precious you are to us, using images that will draw them closer to you in this time in which you draw ever closer to us. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


(Read Psalm 147:1-11)

I don't know about you, but there are some days when I spend all my time muttering under my breath. Someone has forwarded an urban legend to me that I have seen a gazillion times. That curriculum outfit that just doesn't seem to understand the word 'no' calls again. A neighbor has taken MY parking space on the street. muttermuttermutter

Of course, I am pretty good at grumbling. A committee has to re-visit an issue that was already decided on months ago, even though everyone in the room knows nothing will change with another discussion. Politicians fill the airwaves with enough hot air to reduce my energy bill, if I could only plug my furnace into the TV. And my team did not make it into the big game! grumblegrumblegrumble

And, sad to say, there are those moments when I am downright churlish. "The light has changed, green means go, hello!?!" I have been in the grocery line for 10 minutes, and the lane next to me opens, and the clerk takes those folks who have gotten into line after me! And, of course, the telemarketers who dial a dozen numbers at once, and you are standing there saying, 'hello? hellO? HELLO???' while the caller decides if you are the lucky winner to listen to their spiel. churlchurlchurl

But when I go to bed and reflect back on the day, I always realize that I haven't done much praising, even when I had the chance. A 'v' of honking geese flew over me in the morning, and I was too busy muttering about how cold it was as I stooped down to get the paper, instead of lifting my face to watch them. A neighbor waved 'hello' as she pulled out to work, and I was grumbling about the ice on the windshield. Two squirrels were chasing each other around and around the oak tree outside my office window, and I was ranting at the computer for taking its sweet time to power up.

If I am lucky, maybe when I sweep the snow off the sidewalk before I go to work this morning, I will uncover the path of praise.

Praise God!
Praise God for Dusty racing around
in the snow and making dog angels!
Praise God for the sweet, soft silence
of snow that deadens the noises
of the world!
Praise God for this time of Advent,
so we can find our way
back home to Bethlehem!
Praise the LORD!

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Skatin' Down Memory Lane

(Read 2nd Peter 1:12-21)

Six or seven years ago, when Teddy was living in a residential facility in Kentucky, they took him roller skating. And he took to it like a duck does to water! For someone whom occupational therapists have always said has a balance problem, he can strap on those skates and glide around the floor, even doing all that crossover stuff and keeping in beat with whatever music was being played.

Of course, his passion for skating meant that he wanted Mom and Dad to share in it as well. I thought I would get off the hook, since most rinks don't have skates in my size. Unfortunately, the rink we went to did! Which meant that I had to strap those things on, and get out on the floor. Now, as much as I liked roller skating when I was I kid, it had to have been some 45 years since I had tried it. Yet, as I tentatively took those first steps, as I clung tenuously to the wall, it began to come back. I began to remember how to skate!

Peter tells us that one of the jobs he has been called to do is to help us remember - to refresh our memories of whose we are and what we are called to do in this life. To remember those moments when God whispered in our ears, 'I love you, Beloved.' To remember those times when we have stood on mountaintops, and felt a closeness to God that warms us in those wintry days in the valleys. To remember those people who have pointed the way when we get lost, who pick us up and dust us off when we trip over the untied laces of our sin, who keep patting us on the back and telling us, 'keep going; you can make it.'

As we continue on our journey to Bethlehem, may one of the paths we walk be that of remembering.

Prayer: How can we remember the way to your heart, O God, when our minds are crowded with the jingles, the cash registers ringing, the siren calls of the stores? Tie the string of your Spirit around our fingers, we pray, so our memories might be refreshed as to where we are going and how we long to reach our destination. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Path of Endurance

(Read 2 Peter 1:1-11)

Every parent of a teenager knows about endurance - passing those long moments in the night, waiting to hear the sound of the front door opening and closing, so you can finally go to sleep in peace and assurance that they are home.

Every kid knows about endurance during this time of year, as they struggle to be so good that it hurts, as they slowly 'x' out each day on the calendar leading up to the morning when they no longer have to keep their hands off the presents under the tree.

Every patient knows how to define endurance, as you wait out those days, which seem to last an eternity, from the time a test is taken until you hear back from the lab with the results.

Peter says that endurance is one of the foundational stones which supports our faith. And he certainly knew about that truth, didn't he? Impulsive to a fault, he had to learn that Jesus did indeed know what he was talking about. Graced with that all-too familiar faculty to open his mouth only to change feet, he had to find a way to keep his mouth shut at times, so his ears could be open. Eager to leap before he looked (and it didn't seem to matter what he was jumping into), he had to develop the ability to look down at his feet to make sure they were on the right path.

Endurance is one of those paths God would teach us to walk during this time of Advent. Hopefully, we can find the tenacity to learn.

Prayer: God-who-walks-with-us, you were willing to endure our foolish and willful disobedience, until the right time came to put on our flesh and to teach us your ways. Help us to have that faith that is grounded in endurance, especially in this season when we want to rush to Bethlehem. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Dangerous Journey

Read Isaiah 2:1-5

Once again, we begin our dangerous journey to Bethlehem.

Dangerous - for we are asked to leave all those comfortable shadows of life and welcome with open arms the Light that comes to us. Dangerous - because we will be challenged to quit ndulging in those life-long habits of quarreling, jealousy, putting down those around us,
so we can live in such a way that others will have no doubt about the love, the respect, the gratitude we have for them.

Dangerous - as we are asked (no, begged!) by God to take all those weapons of mass destruction (our sharp tongues, our turned backs, our angry looks) and turn them into whispers of grace, of welcoming hugs, of smiles that light up all creation.

Besides this, we are asked called to let go of all our mapquest and GPS gizmos, and find alternative paths to Bethlehem.

We know how to get to the mall with our eyes closed. Now, we are asked to go down those unfamiliar streets, to risk getting lost (and not worrying about it) as we look for the coming One. We bump our ways over the potholes of popularity, but God wants us to turn down the side alleys of faithful discipleship, looking for those who are sitting on the curb, their pockets full of poverty and their hearts emptied of hope, so we will stop and open our hearts and give them a ride to the kingdom.

That prophet of Advent, Isaiah, tells us that in this season of commercials, sales, and consumer debt, God longs to teach us different ways, to instruct us with a Word that can transform our very lives, to show us the paths of wisdom (and courage) which will lead us straight to Bethlehem.

For some, it will mean walking a path called patience, when we are so much more comfortable giving into the fatigue and stress which allows us to be extra crabby. Others are asked to walk down that path called faith, as neighbors and friends gently laugh at us for believing that old,
old story and for daring to let it guide our lives. Still others will find ourselves walking the cracked sidewalks which lead to the corner of Hunger and Hopelessness, where we might be able to change the street names to Grace and Joy.

Once again, we begin our dangerous journey to Bethlehem. Are you ready?

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman