Tag Archives: Family

Karen Bates ~ Praying Power

Years ago when I joined Facebook, many Christians didn’t know what to make of the new social media platform. One of my mentors swore off Facebook, explaining to me the dangers of connecting with people through the Internet. She was trying to convince me that the platform had no redemptive value.

 “You can be friends with people you don’t even know. That is not safe,” she warned.  

She wasn’t the only one sounding alarms, but I was in graduate school and viewed it as a way to connect to people beyond the classroom.

After the “tsk, tsk, tsk,” my goal was to use social media for something more than looking at status updates and pictures. I started to pray for people on their birthdays, when they showed up randomly on my feed, or when they updated their statuses. I didn’t always tell them, but I prayed.

I love to pray. I do not always understand the mystery of prayer, but I know its power. I know from my own experiences and from what I have read in the Scriptures; talking to God is essential for me. It helps activate my faith, restores my hope when it wanes, and reminds me that God is always with me. 

In some of the darkest days of my life, I prayed for God to bring light to my situation. I can remember writing in my journal this wisdom from James 5:13a: “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray,” and then from Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Some days, I don’t always know the words to pray. When I was distressed in the middle of a difficult transition, I found consolation in what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:26: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

It was great comfort to me to know the Spirit was interceding on my behalf on days when I had prayed all the words I knew to pray.

When the photo app on my devices started providing collages of events and Facebook started providing memories, I was annoyed. Some of the pictures were good memories I wanted to relive; some of the memories included people and situations I wanted to forget.

“Really Facebook, a picture from when I played volleyball in seminary 13 years ago? Is there nothing more recent or flattering you have?”

However, I looked at the people in the pictures and wondered where they were and what they were doing. I couldn’t remember all of their names, but I remembered things about them. Some I looked up. Some I still knew because we were Facebook friends.

Then I wondered: what would happen if I began praying for the people who popped up in collages and memories? What would the prayers be — especially for the collages showing people I hadn’t spoken to in years?

I realized I could thank God for the seasons these people were in my life.

I could thank God for what they meant to me at that time and pray for healing in situations where our separations were less than amicable. What if I prayed for them in their current circumstances, or for whatever they are doing now?

I didn’t have to tell them. I could just pray. So I did, and I do.

I am from a lineage of praying people.

Many mornings, I would wake up to the rhythmic sound of my mother praying — crying out to God on behalf of people, places, and situations. She has a prayer room and a prayer wall. She puts up pictures of people she is praying for.

Rev. Arlene Bates prays over her great-great grandson, Dallas White, on the day of his birth.
Photo Credit: Tonyka Thomas

When my mother celebrated a milestone birthday last year, she prayed over each one of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And when her first great-great grandson was born mid-June, one of the first pictures to emerge was of her praying over him. He is the start of our family’s fifth living generation.

Often, my mother would take us to visit my maternal great-grandmother, Lelia Mincy White. My four sisters and I would scatter throughout the living room of the one-bedroom apartment while my mother and her grandmother would study Scriptures and pray. I remember one particular visit when my great-grandmother left the table and came into the living room. She laid her hands on each one of us and prayed over us.

When my great-grandmother died, she was found kneeling at her bedside, most likely praying.

After my maternal grandmother died, notebooks full of prayers she had written were shared. She prayed about many things in writing, but often reminded God about who he is and how much more powerful he is than a president, who at the time of one prayer, was messing up the economy.

I do not claim to know everything I need to know about praying. I don’t understand or know why some prayers are answered and seemingly, some aren’t. I don’t know why some answers come swiftly and some slowly.

But I do know that God hears and answers prayers. God allows people to pray for you even when you don’t know it. I’ve come to understand that even in my moments of doubt and questioning, God is still listening — and still answering prayers — and that God’s timing is perfect.

Aaron Perry ~ A Grief in Birth

I’ve never been pregnant. I watched my wife, a complete champion, bear three children with heroic efforts. Bearing a child means to carry the child through pregnancy to birth, when the child is born. Leading up to the birth, there are contractions. Contractions prepare the body to deliver the baby by shortening uterine muscles and dilating the cervix. As the uterus contracts and the cervix expands, the baby passes through the birth canal. But that description is deceptively simple. Like I said, it took heroic efforts.

And a midwife. By no means could I keep my wits through the process to support my wife to any great extent. I was able to boil water (stereotypes to the wind!), rub her back, cheer her on, and grab towels. But a midwife helped keep me together and coached my wife along. I’ll come back to this point.

My Dad died on October 17, 2018. It was about 30 months after a terminal liver cancer diagnosis. My Dad taught me many things; he was teaching us until the day he died. My brother, Tim, summed it well: He taught us to die slowly. By God’s grace, most of my Dad’s final 30 months were quite enjoyable. He had a good quality and quantity of life post-diagnosis. A doctor helped us to frame the situation: Dad refused to surrender to death easily and fought in such a way that he won many battles, though it was a losing war.

I am now learning to grieve. And my Dad isn’t here to teach me. I watched grief and experienced grief after the deaths of grandparents. But, like pregnancies, deaths and their grieving are unique. My Dad’s grief for his own parents was different from my own. C.S. Lewis noted after the death of his wife that he didn’t know grief felt so much like fear. The fear I have is that I won’t grieve – or that I won’t grieve well. I have had my tears, but what is grief supposed to look like? How will I know I’ve grieved?

Every pregnancy was different. My children were all carried differently. They sat in different positions and they liked different foods; they rested and played at different times, all within my wife’s body. I recall one time when my unborn daughter (though I didn’t know the child was a girl at the time) was awake but my wife was asleep. We played a little game of tag. I would tap my wife’s abdomen and wait for the response: a kick. I would wait just a bit and then tap again. Another brief pause and then another kick. There was a little life inside my wife, completely dependent on her to survive yet with a life and will of her own.

I’m taught and I teach that grief comes in waves. It’s true; I don’t deny it. Grief often comes in force and then recedes. But (so far) not for me. I wait for the waves, but they don’t come. There are only brief laps at the beach’s edge, laps that dissipate without foam, even, into the sand. I want more.

Back to the midwife. My wife learned to handle contractions in waves: accept them as they come, breathing and staying as relaxed as possible, and, finally, letting them go. I don’t know what a contraction feels like and I don’t know what grieving—this grieving, at least—is supposed to feel like. This unique grieving has taken the form of irritability, temptation, weariness, flashes of drive and energy.

I take these experiences as contractions. You can’t stop contractions and you can’t speed them up. They come and they go. Contractions prepare the body to birth a baby. They intensify and bring urges to push; the body wants to deliver the baby. In a similar way, I want to control my grief. I want to speed up the waves. I want to be delivered of my grief.

“Heather, on the next contraction, you are going to want to push. You are going to want to push very, very badly, but I need you not to push. If you push, you are going to blast that baby right out of you.” That was some of the most memorable support the midwife gave my wife. The contractions were working, but the body was not yet ready to be delivered of the baby.

I want to blast this grief right out of me. But I can’t. At least, it will be harmful if I do. I need to hold on and let the grief come; let these grieving moments do their work until the grief is fully delivered. I need to do this without breaking trust—without giving into the irritability, the temptation, the manic drive. C.S. Lewis didn’t know grief felt so much like fear; I didn’t know grief took so much faith. 

Note from the Editor: the featured image is from the painting “Grief” by
Morteza Katouzian, 1983.

Michelle Bauer ~ Celebrating Advent as a Family: Las Posadas

Many families enjoy re-telling the events that happened around the time that someone was born – the mad dash to the hospital, nervous pacing in the waiting room, funny names that your parents almost gave you.

Luke begins his gospel by telling the story surrounding Jesus’ birth. Did you know that Jesus was born next to animals? That’s unusual isn’t it?! Where were you born? Jesus was born next to animals because his parents had to travel out-of-town and the extra spaces were full.

Over 400 years ago in Mexico, the tradition of celebrating Las Posadas began.  La Posada is the Spanish word for lodging or inn.  Every year in December, Mexican children reenact Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem.

This year for two nights we are going to talk about Mary and Joseph’s journey, too!

If you like, you can put a few items in a basket to accompany your family storytelling time: objects like cloth, a Mary figure, a baby Jesus figure, a Joseph figure, barnyard animals, and a candle. Families in your church or small group can take turns hosting Jesus in their homes and then pass it to the next family.

Let’s consider the realities of Jesus as a baby – a real, live, crying baby with demands to be fed and comforted.  Let’s enter into the challenges and mysteries that faced Mary and Joseph as they prepared for and welcomed their son – God’s son.

Sometime this December, enjoy a few quiet moments together with your loved ones as you invite Jesus to be born in your home, in your family and in our community.


GATHER your family around a table or other flat surface.

INVITE the children to arrange the figures and other items in the basket (and even the basket itself) into a scene.

LIGHT the candle.

READ Luke 1:26-35, 38 and Luke 2:1-7


  • What are the things that families do to get ready for a baby?
  • Any preparations Mary and Joseph made were interrupted by their need to travel. Mary might have brought along the cloths that she used to wrap Jesus; they used an animal feeding trough as his crib. Do you think Jesus’ birth happened in a way that Mary and Joseph expected? How does it feel when things don’t happen the way we expect them to?
  • God’s Son, Jesus, did not come in the way anyone expected him to. What might the people in Bethlehem have done differently if they had known it was Jesus, the Messiah, about to be born in their town?

SING a verse of a favorite Christmas carol together.


Dear Jesus,

We welcome you into our home tonight. We want to make room for you in our hearts and in our lives every day. Sometimes time goes by so quickly and there is so much to get done each day. Help us to recognize you when you show up at our door of our hearts asking if there is room. Help us to see that it is you, especially when you come in a way, or at a time, that is unexpected.


CLOSE this time by extinguishing the candle or leaving it lit throughout a meal or the evening’s activities. Leave the figurines displayed if possible.

Additional questions to ponder with older children and adults:

  • Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men were all away from home when they experienced Jesus’ birth. How can being away from home open us to encountering God in new ways? Has there been a time when you have seen God in a new way away from home? Share these stories.
  • Imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt as they found there wasn’t room for them. What kind of pressure was Joseph under? What fears might Mary have had?
  • Moms and Dads, what is it like to wait 40 weeks for a baby to be born? What are the hard parts? What are the fun parts? Think of a time when you have waited for Jesus to arrive in a situation. What was the waiting like? Are you waiting now? What comforts you in your waiting?


GATHER your family around the scene that was created the previous day.

LIGHT the candle.

READ Luke 1:26-35, 38 and Luke 2:1-7


  • Have you ever gotten to see or hold a brand new baby? What are they like? What do they need? What would it have been like to hold a brand new baby with animals nearby?
  • The Christmas carol Away in a Manger makes it sound like baby Jesus didn’t cry:“But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” But Jesus was a real baby and he did what all babies do.  What kinds of things do babies do?
  • It’s hard to describe how a mom and dad feel when their baby is finally born. It’s a mix of happy and relieved, with a little nervous thrown in. Take a few moments and share about the day the children in your family were born. What were your thoughts, how did you feel? Mary and Joseph must have felt all of those things, too. What do you think they said to Jesus and to each other as they huddled together that first night?

SING a verse from a favorite Christmas carol together.


Dear Jesus,

Thank you for being our guest. You are always welcome in our home. Like Mary and Joseph, we feel all sorts of things when you come into our lives. But most of all we are grateful. Teach us to look for your arrival, help us to wait with anticipation and show us what it means to make room for you.


CLOSE this time by extinguishing the candle or leaving it lit throughout a meal or the evening’s activities.

INVITE the children to pack the figurines and other items back into the basket and offer a prayer for the next family who will host them.

Additional questions to talk about with older children and adults:

  • Read Philippians 2:5-11. Verse 8 tells us that Jesus “humbled himself”. What did Jesus give up when he became not only a human but a baby? What do we learn from this example about what humility looks like?
  • Tonight we asked the question, “What kinds of things do babies do?” I’m sure the list included some pretty “earthy” things.  For every stage of Jesus’ life we could make a similar list. He got tired, hurt, sick, and sad.  What is your gut reaction to this list? In what ways does it fit or not fit with your ideas about who Jesus is?
  • Moms and dads, take a moment to remember bringing your first child home. What was that first night like? Re-orienting a babies’ days and nights can take us to the limits of what’s humanly possible! What do you think Mary and Joseph’s first days and nights with Jesus were like?

Carolyn Moore ~ One Thing God Said Was Not Good

Over the last 75 years, researchers at Harvard have tracked the lives of 724 men.* These men were children when the study began. For 75 years, they’ve been tracking these lives to record the state of their home life, work, health, outlook.

Some men in the study became rich and famous. One became President of the United States. Others fared poorly. Boiling all this time, life and data down to its most basic lesson, this is what Robert Waldinger (current director of the study) labels the clearest message to emerge from this effort: “The message has nothing to do with fame or wealth or working harder. The real lesson from these lives is this: ‘Good relationships keep us happier and healthier … Over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned in to relationships, with family, with friends, with community.”

It took 75 years and 724 men to prove Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  

Seven times in the creation story, God makes things and calls them good. The seas are good. The sun and moon are good. The plants and fish and animals are good. People are good. But then after seven scenes of goodness, God finds a flaw — one thing that isn’t quite right.

It is not good that the man should be alone.

This isn’t God adjusting a piece of furniture to get the right effect. This is God instilling in the pinnacle of his creation his most essential quality. He is a God who loves, even within himself.

God has infused his creation with his own personality. Creation will not be defined by independence. It will not be one toddler saying to the universe, “I can do it myself.” Creation will be defined by the same love that defines the Trinity. The first creation story in Genesis emphasizes the partnership between a man and a woman. The second creation story emphasizes the man’s need for relationship.

God’s brand of love only happens in community. It is the pre-fall answer to the sin of autonomous solitude — the state of believing I am all I need. Solitude is not good when solitude leads us to believe that one person alone — without community — can somehow image the God who created us.This is not good.

We are not islands unto ourselves.

This is why we join churches and go to movie theaters and happily pay $4 at Starbucks for coffee that costs less than ten cents to make at home. It is because we are designed for relationship. We are made for community, because we are made in the image of God.

And this is why the enemy of our souls would like to attract us into solitude with things like porn and video games. The enemy of our souls is working against our design. Likewise, the enemy would prefer that we view marriage as a tool primarily for fulfilling our own needs. This popular view saps the glory out of it. It fails to point to something beyond itself. Marriage is not designed primarily to get my sexual needs fulfilled. When we reduce it to a mechanical solution that meets a primal need, we miss it … completely.

Here is the real shame of what our culture has done to marriage. It isn’t that we’ve made it disposable or that we’ve made too much of the wedding and not enough of the relationship.  The real shame for the Church is that we’ve failed to teach the rich and relationship-rooting theology beneath it. We have focused more on mechanics or “chain of command” than on submission to something bigger than us. A covenantal marriage paints a picture of the love between Christ and his Church and of the covenant between God and his people. Marriage tells the Easter story — Jesus lays down his life for us — and marriage points to the glorious conclusion of the creation story, when all things will find their fulfillment not in getting our needs met cheaply but in the rich-beyond-measure love, cover and hope of a good and faithful God.


* “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness” is a TED talk. Watch here.

Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ #notwithoutmychild

Today’s post is written alongside others delving into the moral, ethical, and biblical ramifications of the current practice in the United States of separating immigrant parents from their children. In it, we include reflections on the plight of children in the Old Testament; the plight of families in the Western hemisphere; and the ways in which Jesus, a Messiah who saw the suffering of families, stretched his followers’ moral imaginations.

It is also written with consciousness that this is not the first time parents and children in the United States have been separated from each other, as the history of Native Americans and the Black slave trade demonstrate.

Please feel free to share today’s post with the hashtags #notwithoutmychild and #familiesbelongtogether.

Children Adrift: The Old Testament

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. – Exodus 2:1-6

I do not think I’ve ever heard someone preach on the compassion of Pharoah’s daughter. She also strikes me as a savvy woman. She came face to face with a squalling infant who was suffering because of her father’s decree to kill the Hebrew infants and toddlers who could potentially pose a future threat to the Egyptian way of life. She probably surmised precisely who the young girl was half-hidden in the reeds near the basket. She knew it was a Hebrew baby; here was a nearby young girl. Not only did Moses’ birth mother get to raise him while he was young, she was now paid to do so. Yes, Pharoah’s daughter was compassionate, and savvy.

I don’t know if she was able to intervene in the fate of other little baby boys; maybe she saved the one she could. Maybe she was haunted by the fates of the ones she couldn’t.


Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob.

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid;God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. – Genesis 21:14-20

Hagar didn’t ask to sleep with Abraham. She was a servant, and Sarah, impatient and distrustful of God’s promise, lent her to Abraham. But Sarah couldn’t put away her jealousy of Hagar’s son, even after having her own. She wanted Hagar to go. Hagar didn’t get autonomy over her own body, and once she had a son, the injustices continued. With no secure future, she was sent away.

Yet what a tender passage we encounter: she is sobbing, she cannot bear the notion of watching her son die. And this little slave woman and her beloved son do not escape God’s notice. What’s the matter, Hagar? Don’t be afraid.

Later, Pharoah’s daughter will hear a young one crying and feel sorry for him. Here, God hears a young one crying under a bush, and responds as well.


The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel. When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” he replied.

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” 

 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet. – II Samuel 9:3-13

Mephibosheth was five years old when the news about his dad and granddad came. While David was mourning the loss of his best friend, Jonathan, Jonathan’s son was being spirited away by his nurse, to protect him in the political upheaval; but in her hurry, Mephibosheth fell and was disabled the rest of his life: the little boy’s feet would never work again. On top of the tragedy of his father dying, he would equate receiving the news with the loss of being able to properly run, jump, and play.

Mephibosheth was a child of tragedy and grief, through no fault of his own. He didn’t ask to be in the middle of political upheaval; he didn’t choose his family, he wasn’t old enough to weigh in on their decisions.

But David wants to “show God’s kindness” to any lingering survivors of Saul’s line. He restores property; he ensures income and livelihood; he bestows honor by issuing a standing invitation to supper, any time. David can’t erase Mephibosheth’s past, but he can ensure a future of dignity and safety. And he can make sure that Mephibosheth’s family is provided for.

The cries of other sons had been heard by God, had been heard by a Pharoah’s daughter. David went searching for a child whose cries had faded, if the injuries to spirit and body had not.

In a basket; under a bush; in the arms of a nurse.

The lost children of the Old Testament were not overlooked by God.

Children Adrift: The Western Hemisphere

Currently in the United States of America, immigrant parents are being separated from their children. No law requires this.

It can be difficult for American citizens with quick access to WiFi to imagine life with dubious communication connections; frequently immigrants to the United States have incomplete or inaccurate information about what lies ahead, what policies they will face, how much money they’ll have to pay to whom.

Some parents are trying to get their kids away from cartel violence, food shortages, and political upheaval. In Venezuela, children are starving to death. In Guatemala, the raid of one workplace in the U.S. can directly affect the sustenance of an entire village.

Children Adrift: A Messiah for Families

In a time when Americans often suffer compassion fatigue, seeing footage of wildfires and hurricanes, volcano eruptions and war, school shootings and tragedy, we are called to step back and reflect. Frequently in the Gospels we read of a Messiah gone AWOL: frustrated disciples search high and low, scout around town, attempting to find Jesus. In these moments, he had always withdrawn to pray in quiet away from the frequent chaos that surrounded him.

When Jesus encountered people swept up in debate or confusion about ethics or religious laws or the will of God, he invited them into the insight and truth he centered on in those times of prayer. Often, he met their questions with stories.

“Who is my neighbor?”

“Once, a man was traveling…”

In these teaching moments, Jesus was stretching the moral imaginations of his hearers. He took them from a narrow question to a broad principle, by way of illustrating vivid characters. Jesus’ responses may as well have been prefaced with the phrase, “imagine this…”

Over on First Things, Jonathan Jones describes the strengths and virtues of moral imagination: “a uniquely human ability to conceive of fellow humanity as moral beings and as persons, not as objects whose value rests in utility or usefulness.” This is a profound challenge: to conceive of other humans as persons, not as objects useful or unuseful to us. Neighbor implies valuable personhood, not just asset or liability. To be fully human, Jones posits, is, “to embrace the duties and obligations toward a purpose of security and endurance for, first and foremost, the family and the local community.”

This personhood is woven in the most essential fabric of human existence, the family. To deny family is to deny personhood. To deny personhood is to relegate people to existence as asset or liability in a ledger. But to deny recognition of personhood to another is also to undermine our own humanity, because, as Jones asserts, moral imagination is a uniquely human ability.

Jesus was a Messiah who saw families: frantic parents like Jairus asked him to heal their children; young kids offered their fish Happy Meals to him, which he happily multiplied and fed the masses with. When the disciples tried to remind parents how important Jesus was, he stopped them, and said, “let the little kids come over.” To stuffy adults, he sternly reminded them that to enter the Kingdom of God, one had to become like a child.

Jesus constantly reframed the questions his followers threw at him. He challenged the edges of their imagination, coaxing them to a place of empathy. Imagine this, he’d say: your neighbor is the Samaritan you fear who saves you from robbers on a barren road and pays for your recovery; maybe the person you distrust will be the means of your survival. Maybe the dynamic between you will be turned upside-down and you’ll end up receiving, not just sacrificing and giving.

Today, what do we as Christians believe about who God is?

We see that God cares about moms and children who have had an unfair life and are left out in the cold without resources.

We see that God allowed a savvy, compassionate woman and a completely vulnerable infant to encounter each other in a river in ancient Egypt, restoring the baby to his worried mama and preparing him for leadership later.

We see that God intersected David’s life in such a way that David knew and trusted God’s kindness and wanted to show God’s kindness to the devastated survivors of warfare, a family ripped apart at the seams.

We see that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, valued the personhood of sons and daughters, moms and dads, and saw their lives as valuable and worth intervention.

We see that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, constantly pivoted questions away from the concerns of the asker and toward the concerns of those being asked about. Jesus Christ celebrated the humanity, the personhood, of those who were deemed a liability.

In continuity with God-who-heard-a-child-crying-under-a-bush, in continuity with God-who-made-his-way-to-the-dying-daughter-of-Jairus, today, we affirm that families matter to God; that children have personhood and value, and that to willfully separate parents from their children and children from their parents is to deface our own “uniquely human ability to conceive of fellow humanity as moral beings and as persons, not as objects whose value rests in utility or usefulness.”

We affirm the beauty of parenthood, the value of childhood, and the imperative to honor both. We appreciate the parenthood of Mary and Joseph, the childhood of the toddler Jesus, and the care Jesus extended to his mother while he was dying by crucifixion.

We grieve violence, food shortage, corruption of leaders, and lack of infrastructure that places families in the impossible scenario of weighing whether their children will be safer in their home towns or migrating to a new place. We agree with Jesus that it would be better to have a millstone around the neck and to be thrown into the sea than to deliberately hurt and harm a child.

We pray that a robust vision of the value of human life will prevail over short-term practices that separate kids from their dads and moms. We pray that a holistic value of human life will stretch from dangerous school hallways to full social services for impoverished pregnant women, from holistic crisis pregnancy centers to bleak nursing home hallways, from law enforcement encounters with people of color to immigrant detention centers.

We reject notions that ease us into giving up our moral imaginations, like the necessity of evil “for the greater good,” the necessity of social “collateral damage,” the necessity of inflicting damage on others’ families in order to prevent potential future harm on our own.

We condemn the use of human lives as pawns in political maneuvering when done by any portion of the political spectrum. We celebrate expressions of immigration policy that maintain the dignity and God-given value of every individual human life.

We know that the government of the United States is separate from any one religious body. But we pray that current and future government officials and representatives will recall the ethical principles at work in many world religions and that often guide our common life together in the public square of our democratic republic. Our grand experiment in the United States cannot succeed without a robust appreciation of individual personhood existing in the fabric of family.

And so, we stand, sit, and kneel with those who are crying for their children and their parents; we pray for peace, stability, and opportunity in their home countries; and we pray for wisdom for the leaders who have the power and the moment to create humane policies, if they will only have the imagination to do so.


Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ Scripture You Forgot You Knew

It happens to all of us.

An old song or movie comes on, and somewhere, out of the depths of your dusty brain, a reflex kicks in. Before you know it, you’re singing words you didn’t know you remembered, or you’re quoting a line right before the actor says it. It’s like muscle memory, hidden deep beneath years of doctor appointments and oil changes, underneath coworker extension numbers and how far Abraham Lincoln was in the line of U.S. Presidents (he was 16th).

It’s startling to remember something you’d forgotten you knew. It comes like an unexpected flash, a glimpse into the mysterious world of the subconscious. Therapists are familiar with the phenomenon when a person accidentally spills into a verbalized assumption they’ve only ever tacitly held.

It’s amazing what our brain soaks up and “learns” even – or especially – when we’re not particularly trying to learn anything at all.

A few years back during a dark night of the soul, I rediscovered this truth. Hymns I’d long forgotten popped up unbidden in my thoughts. Scripture verses I’d forgotten I’d memorized as a child emerged out of nowhere. Prayers I’d learned, spoken by thousands of Christians over centuries, rooted my thoughts when I didn’t have the words.

I was remembering Scripture I’d forgotten I knew. To make domestic allusions, it was like finding pre-prepared dinners tucked in the bottom of the chest freezer; it was like finding a savings account put aside and forgotten; it was like finding just what you needed, right when you needed it.

These gifts of grace were just that: gifts, and grace. Teachers, VBS leaders, pastors, evangelists, my mom – they’d patiently told Bible stories, reviewed memory verses, repeated sermon texts. These were gifts to my soul, and they seeped down into my incredibly flexible, sponge-like little kid and adolescent brain. And they were grace: tokens of truth, strength, clarity, and peace, pointing to who God is, who God says we are, and how we can live on this planet. They were grace: mending broken times, calming troubled thoughts, infusing confusion with direction, sharing Divine love in human lack.

In my early years, when difficulties were relatively minor, by the grace of God and the kindness of many people, my mind was tucked with notes for later. When later came, and I didn’t have the mental energy to flip open my Bible and read for myself, Scripture was already buried deep in my mind, and it sprang up as if it had been waiting for just this moment.

Recently another Wesleyan Accent writer wrote, “Old Dogs, New Tricks: Neuroplasticity and the Renewing of Your Mind.”

Carrie Carter wrote,

Up until the 1970’s, scientists thought that certain functions in a brain were hard-wired. Any changes that occurred were the exception. However, as technology advanced and our ability increased to study areas of the body that were previously a mystery, it was discovered that our brains have the capacity to change their connections and behavior in response to new information, sensory stimulation, development, damage, or dysfunction.

So are the concepts of being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” and neuroplasticity intertwined? I think so, and here’s how: 

Paul’s exhortation is clear. After doing a quick word study on “renew,” the word means…exactly that. There are no other substitutions in the Greek for his use of “renew.”

In the culture Paul addressed – a culture fraught with immorality, the celebration of violence, and slavery, that crossed every line – how were these new Christ-followers to actually follow Christ? Up until that point, they knew no different lifestyle. How were they to change such embedded behavioral patterns and thought processes? Why would Paul even ask this of them? 

Because Paul knew it could be doneWith the help of God’s brilliance in forming the brain with capacities to change, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and years of reconditioning and retraining, Paul himself was transformed by the renewing of his mind and did a 180-degree turn in his way of living.

Wow. Carter gives us hope: those times when we have energy and flexibility to engage deeply with our faith are enormously impactful. You don’t have to have a childhood in which memory verses are soaked up in order for God’s Word to work grace in your life: your brain can still adapt, refashion and reform new pathways and neural impulses that will serve you well, both now and later.

In other words, it’s never too late to reshape your thoughts; it’s never too late to memorize a passage of Scripture; you’re never too old, even if your brain feels flabby and less quick-witted than it used to.

In fact, engaging with Scripture now may be a saving grace later that you can’t imagine.

At one point I worked in a nursing home, where pastors rarely tread. One resident mourned her inability to simply read her own Bible: a stroke had impaired her vision, and she couldn’t turn the thin pages. When I had spare moments I would slip into her room and read to her. She was so hungry for it. I’d ask, “what would you like to hear today?” “Any of it – it’s all good,” she would mumble through her impaired speech. Tears would roll down her cheeks as she heard Scripture read to her.

On a different hallway, I once entered the room of a woman I thought was completely mentally absent. Even though I always tried to assume residents could comprehend more than they were able to communicate, I just knew this woman wasn’t communicating and was slipping into the twilight on the borders of death. But I went anyway and began to read from a Psalm.

Tears rolled down my cheeks in shock as she opened her eyes and spoke the words, long hidden in her brain, along with me. I thought I had chosen a Psalm at random. I tried to talk with her when the Psalm was done, but as soon as it was finished, she receded back into the twilight and said no more.

Have you remembered anything you forgot you knew? Has some long-buried truth emerged after years in the dark at just the right moment? It is grace. It is a gift.

The Word of God for the people of God…

Thanks be to God.

Carrie Carter ~ Living Alive

I’ve seen a lot of death. Not just because my husband has a full-time pastoral calling, but also because my parents never shielded me from the reality of death. Many parents today hesitate to take their children to funerals because, “they wouldn’t understand,” and that is true, but only to an extent. As a parent, it is my duty (privilege?) to explain the mystery of death.

At the viewing of my grandfather many years ago with my own son…

“Yes, you may touch the cheek of Poppy. Gently, now.”

“Why does he feel weird? Wait! I think I saw him breathe!”

“No, baby, it’s your eyes playing tricks on you.”

A few weeks following…

“Look, it’s heaven!”

Trying to decipher small boy’s exclamation.


Pointing to the cemetery.

“Over there! You said that’s where Poppy was going, and we took him there, so that must be heaven.”

Insert awkward explanation to a literal-thinking three-year-old about the vague timeline between resting and eternal destination.

Over the next couple of years…

“No, you may not touch the cheek of ‘insert-random-deceased’s- name.’”

“Can I ask ‘grieving-relative’ if I can touch him/her?”

“No, this is not an appropriate time for that.”

Unfortunately, my son didn’t always ask me before he asked the grieving loved one. Grace was always extended and always resolved with a hearty chuckle.

He had such a fascination with death and a deeply sympathetic heart for the grieving at such a young age, that I wouldn’t have been surprised had he grown up to be a funeral director. It still wouldn’t surprise me.

It is this exposure to death and the traditional ceremonies that follow that calms the fear of the unknown. In fact, in most cases, I welcome the re-orientation that a funeral brings to me. There is a shift of perspective, a reminder that my priorities again need to be realigned. It makes me very aware that sympathy can only reach so far, and it is only empathy that can touch a heart. I have never lost an immediate family member or close friend, so I am always conscious of my lack of understanding of the intensity of pain those losses bring under normal circumstances.

Last month, my family suffered a loss and a near-loss that awakened me—not just to the familiarity of death, but also to the foreignness of life.

Foreign? How could something so natural, so normal, be characterized as foreign?

Unless you have seen over the edge of life’s precipice, it is difficult to grasp the magnitude of life itself. When you sense the fingers of death brush over your shoulder and realize that it has rested its hand on one close to you, life holds a value not recognized before – a value prompting gratitude that emanates out of the heart.

How then, shall life be lived? How do we step back from our story as a stranger and embrace our lives as our own?

Life, as it should be lived, is far more than a bucket list, more than another experience to cross off.

Life is being aware.

It is absorbing the sights and sounds around you. Feeling the peace as well as the pain. Life is allowing God to overflow you until he spills out on everyone around you. It is speaking for those who have no voice, standing for those beaten down. It is taking every opportunity to reach out a hand to someone in need. Life is treating your marriage as sacred, treasuring your children as a gift. Life pauses to hear context rather than anger; it speaks a gentle word instead of driving the blade deep.

Life begs to be viewed through new eyes.

Do you make an effort to appreciate gestures of kindness, even the smallest ones? Do you have the ability to recognize when someone is having a rough day? Can you sense a need without it being spoken? Can you say you’ve made others’ lives better as you walk out of the room?

Life is being aware. All in.

I feel it fading, this reality of life that always comes when I am faced with death. Aliveness lasts for two or three weeks. I write notes of appreciation to those who have contributed to my life. I send “thinking of you” texts. Suppers actually have love sprinkled into them rather than impatience and frustration. I’m on top of making sure everyone has clean clothes.

Then the mundane sets in. Routine, pressures, and conflict pull my focus away and I find myself distracting my mind with Tsum Tsum rather than reorienting myself with God’s gift of simply being alive.

Last year, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to live every day as if it were New Year’s Day—fresh, hopeful, and anticipating a bright future.

I lasted until about April.

This year, within the first two weeks of 2018, my mother-in-law passed away, and a friend faced a life-threatening medical emergency with a poor prognosis. Both were unexpected. One was released from life and one was given a new lease on life.

Death breathed on my cheek and with a whisper, reminded me to live alive.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”    -2 Corinthians 3:5 (NASB)

Carrie Carter ~ Find Your Wings

I didn’t cry when our boys went to kindergarten. 

I didn’t cry when our boys went to high school. 

I didn’t even cry when our oldest graduated from high school. 

Maybe that’s why the flood of emotion that washed over me a couple days before we took our oldest to college completely caught me off guard. Even now, as we’re back home, the wave swells, tears rise and threaten to spill over. 

Why now?  

I’ve always known before that he will invariably be home at the end of each day. 

No longer. 

And yet 

A tiny word filled with purpose. Yet. The tiny word that reminds me why we do what we do. It keeps me focused, goal-oriented, intentional. 

We raise them to the best of our ability so they can spread their wings and fly away. It’s biblical. 

“If anyone comes to me but does not hate [or loves more than me; Jesus is using hyperbole to emphasize his point] his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters—or even ·life [life itself; or his own life]—he cannot be my ·follower [disciple].”  Luke 14:26 (Expanded Bible)  

So a man will leave his fatherandmother [in the sense of a new primary loyalty] and be united with his wife, and the two will become one ·body [flesh].” Genesis 2:24 (Expanded Bible) 

We haven’t reached the applicability of the second verse, but it’s biblical that I open my palms and graciously release him to leave. 

This first step of releasing is new territory for me. As my husband wisely said, “We’re stepping back from coaching and allowing him to be the team captain. He’ll be calling his own plays.” This means lessons learned the hard way. We will be there to support and advise, but only when it’s asked for. This is probably the most difficult of all, given that I cut my teeth on “Dear Abby.” No comics for this girl. 

Did we do enough? 

The answer is yes, though it falters a little. We did what we knew to do. Maybe it’s not enough, maybe we could have done better – know there were areas in which we could’ve done better – but we did what we knew to do in the best way we knew how. 

Is he ready? 

The answer is yes, a hearty yes. The boy has been trying to set off on his own his entire life. Twice at the age of three and again at the age of eight. He has hitchhiked with strangers twice, he’s been brought home by police. He has been an observer of navigating the world. His spiritual footing is solid for a guy his age. Will he stumble? Yes. Will he question? Yes. Does he have weaknesses that need purified? Yes. But he is ready to work out his own salvation and make it his own. 

The yes’s don’t make the letting go easier, but they magnify the yet 

Many parents have asked me, “How can you let him go so far away? Why can’t he stay around here?” 

The yet is what prompts me to answer the questions with my own. 

How can I not let him go so far away? How could I force him to stay here? 

Seven hours away is exactly where God wants him. God so graciously closed all other doors in order to make the decision very clear. Who am I, his mother, to stand in the way of God’s path for his life? He is suited for a purpose far above anything I could dream for him. 

So the tears may fall, yet we have reached the goal line in raising him. I now have a piece of my heart in Illinois, yet our purpose has been fulfilled.  

There is an area of my nest that is vacant, yet I’m so proud to see him fly. 

Find your wings. We’re so proud of you. 

Celtic Clues to Feeding Body and Soul

“What’s for dinner?” It might be the most dreaded daily question an adult can be asked. If only there was a simple answer that did not hinge on a barrage of underlying questions: Who’s making dinner? What time are we eating? How many for dinner? Will there be any dislikes or allergies represented at the table? What’s in the cupboard? Is the shopping done? What will be done with leftovers? What’s quick and easy to make? How long since we had that meal? Should we do take-out? And after all the responses are in and the meal is hopefully declared a success, the questions are all relevant again the next day and the next and the next. Menu planning, shopping and meal prep require a tenacity that can try even the most creative and skilled among us.

Enter the meal delivery kit or boxed meal services. Begun in Sweden in 2008, companies such as Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Purple Carrot don’t just answer the age-old question but deliver fresh ingredients and detailed recipes to the subscriber’s kitchen door each week. All that is needed is dinner preparation, or as one company calls itself, Just Add Cooking. Designed for working couples and their households, food industry consultants predict this booming market has the potential to become a five billion dollar business before the decade’s end.

What’s the attraction? I asked a few friends who are subscribers, “why go with the meal service and not just do take-out?” Their answers were revealing. Beyond the simplicity of having the decision made about menus and the convenience of having everything delivered with no worries about how to use leftover exotic ingredients is the fun, enjoyment and satisfaction gained from preparing and eating a home-cooked meal. Though often tired at the end of a long work day, people reported that they found satisfaction in sharpening – and in several cases, learning – culinary skills in order to make the labeled and pre-measured ingredients become a tasty, nutritious meal for the whole family. And even though food prep could sometimes be longer than if they made a standby from their normal rotation of meals, they found the preparation and cooking to be valuable time spent with their spouse and families. What had been a thankless job was something they now found enjoyable thanks to their meal delivery service.

But can satisfaction with menu-planning and food preparation only be found through a meal delivery service? Of course not. Though for many families already subject to the demands of extended work hours, exhausting commutes and the conflicting competing schedules of all the various family members, the idea of cooking together, let alone sitting down to eat as a family is more likely to be a well-intentioned thought than an actual lived event.

I doubt the medieval Celtic woman found daily meal preparation to be a complete joy that she eagerly looked forward to either. But for her, and yes, I am being gender-specific per the time period, food preparation constituted much of her regular work. Bread and butter weren’t staples she conveniently picked up at the market, but laborious, time consuming tasks that required her regular attention if she was going to provide the basics for her family. Baking the bread not only required kneading and proofing the dough for each individual loaf, but also keeping the starter from going rancid to provide the family with a regular supply of bread. Churning the butter meant an hour or two of physical labor that had been preceded by carefully skimming the cream off the milk which sat for a day or two previously in order to separate. She had to be as strategic as any of her contemporary equivalents are today—just at very different tasks, ones we often consider to be old-fashioned and obsolete as a result of technological advances.

But how did she do it without losing her religion?

By understanding her chores as part of the wholeness and fabric of life. Specifically, by inviting God to be a part of her daily work. She understood her efforts provided the essential food and nourishment on which her family depended and she asked God’s blessing upon it. The sign of the cross was slashed into the top of bread loaves and a traditional prayer that accompanied her butter churning chore actually sought its success so she might help sustain those less fortunate, as represented by St Peter in the following refrain:

Come butter come

Come butter come

Peter stands at the gate

Waiting for a buttered cake

The plea and blessing she sought from God wasn’t just hers alone. Guests and visitors who arrived to a home in which the daily chores were being tended greeted their hosts with the Gaelic blessing Bail o Dhia which translates to, ‘God’s blessing on the work!’ The declaration of such a blessing expressed the implicit knowledge that the monotonous backbreaking work was not simply the laborer’s alone but a joint effort blessed by God upon which all of society depended. Daily food preparation was streamlined into the weekly chores that made up everyday life.

Inviting God into her work wasn’t some magical incantation that made the work any less onerous, mundane or exhausting. But inviting God’s blessing and receiving the encouragement of others kept her tasks in perspective – it was done for the glory of God, as an act of love for God that showed God’s love to others. How many of us have that kind of awareness today when we face the daily task of dinner preparation? Or are we blinded from seeing how we participate in the greater good for all, simply because we are confounded and frustrated in figuring out what to serve our own families for dinner?

Despite the fact that most of contemporary society is freed from the backbreaking daily chores of food growth, harvest, storage and food preparation, there is a deep disconnection we have from our food and the source that provides it. Food is an easily accessible resource, stocked on shelves in grocery stores with plenty of reserves in warehouses ready to re-fill the shelves even before they are fully emptied. We take food for granted and our frustration with daily dinner prep might stem from the fact that we have too much choice. We want things made simple—but not so simple we must give up the conveniences of modern life.

Ultimately, I believe, we yearn for the connection experienced by early Celtic Christians: to their food, to its sources and to God who is the source of all food and nourishment—physical and spiritual.

So is it necessary to subscribe to a meal kit delivery system to understand the many connections and the community that goes into preparing our meals? No – though for some families, it is a step towards simplicity and in coming to a greater awareness that the meal they are able to make and enjoy with their family is because someone has helped them prep the meal. Regardless of whether your meal is made from scratch or assembled with some pre-made ingredients, it can be an eye-opening exercise for the whole family to consider the preparation that has gone into making the food on the dinner plate.

Being mindful our of meal and its greater purpose is just one initial step to recapturing the spirit of Celtic Christianity in our cooking and dining. Retrieving the practice of saying grace before each meal is a simple and concrete way of understanding the many ways in which we are nourished at mealtime. One advantage to keeping a prayer book with short simple graces handy at the table is that it allows anyone, even a guest, to choose a grace to say before the meal. Thanking God for the hands that have helped make the meal and to bless those who receive it, we begin to practice our awareness of just how far our dinner table extends. And as a recent video celebrating the 150 years of confederation of Canada suggests, overcoming the challenges of eating dinner in our insular homes might be worth it as we begin to know our neighbors and enjoy the community with which God has surrounded us.

Dinnertime dilemmas will not likely go away anytime soon, but practicing an awareness of how God has blessed us and intends us to bless others might be one way in helping make a thankless job something for which we are truly thankful.

A Traditional Celtic Grace

Bless, O Lord, this food we are about to eat; and we pray you, O God, that it may be good for our body and soul; and if there is any poor creature hungry or thirsty walking the road, may God send them in to us so that we can share the food with them, just as Christ shares His gifts with all of us.  Amen. 


Resources for Saying Grace:

Blease, Kathleen. Mealtime Blessings: Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations for Saying Grace. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012.

Kelly, Marcia M and Jack Kelly. 100 Graces: Mealtime Blessings Harmony Publishing, 1997.

McElwain, Sarah. Saying Grace: Blessings for the Family Table. Chronicle Books, 2003.

Faith and Worship http://www.faithandworship.com/Celtic_Blessings_and_Prayers.htm

Daily Prayer Ministries http://dailyprayer.us/before_meals_prayer.php

Living Prayers: Contemporary Prayers for Today http://www.living-prayers.com/events/ prayer_for_food.html


Featured image courtesy Vicky Ng on Unsplash.

Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ Aging & Keeping Covenant

“When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not!”
-Yoda, “The Empire Strikes Back”

For followers of Jesus Christ, aging comes as a season of compelling and vital new purpose.

Just what if there is extraordinary promise hidden in the age of doctors’ appointments, retirement, loss of loved ones and colleagues as well as physical challenges? What if aging doesn’t make you disposable, but rather indispensible? What if you ask Father, Son and Holy Spirit to sweep away the voices that call into question your relevance, your purpose and your gifts? What if you asked for grace to believe that God has a purpose for you, here, now?

There is great power in aging. The body may feel feeble; the soul may feel sapped of strength; but the accumulation of years is an extraordinary gift that can produce unimaginable impact – if wielded well. People often miss the power of their own age.

Sometimes we do not prepare ourselves for aging; we are uncomfortable, perhaps, thinking about the unknown, or fearing it. We fear a picture of aging that we paint for ourselves in which we look unrecognizable in the mirror, face an obsolete existence and are marginalized from the “real action” of living. But that great inspirer of John Wesley, Bishop Jeremy Taylor, counsels us: “let us prepare our minds against changes, always expecting them, that we be not surprised when they come.” Curiously, this excellent advice comes in the middle of his discussion on contentedness.

Let’s look at some lives that found profound purpose when they had reached profound age. These simple people found keeping covenant as an indispensable aspect of aging with purpose, on purpose. What priceless value there is in keeping covenant!

If you have a moment, read Genesis 17. Have you ever noticed that other than a general sketch of his extended family, where they settled, and whom he married, we do not get any stories of Abraham’s childhood or young adult years? Of all the great stories and colorful experiences that the book of Genesis tells us about Abraham, all that action picks up when he moves away in response to God’s promise at the age of 75.

God invites Abram into covenant by promising descendents – descendents that would outnumber the stars. This nation would inherit land; they would be blessed, and be a blessing, if they, too, chose to keep covenant with God; and from this nation would sprout the Messiah.

But for now, Abram is old, and he and Sarai have no children or grandchildren.

God establishes a covenant, full to the brim with promises, marks it by giving Abram and Sarai new names to reflect the coming reality of these promises, and commands Abraham to keep the covenant. Keeping the covenant, of course, doesn’t mean to avoid losing it, as you keep a receipt in your wallet. Keeping covenant is illustrated by the newly-reformed Ebenezer Scrooge’s promise to “keep Christmas” – to preserve, to maintain, to fulfill, to be faithful to.

Happily, we can skim ahead and see that Sarah gives birth to Isaac. Abraham did not get to skim ahead. Abraham kept covenant by acting on faith in a reality that was not yet: painfully so! He circumcised all the men of his household; he himself was circumcised before Sarah ever felt the fluttering of a baby in her womb; before he held his newborn son in his arms. He believed God’s promise that there was yet purpose in his age, and he acted on faith in God before he ever witnessed the screaming infant-proof.

This covenant between God and Abraham was vital, not just for Abraham’s self-interest in his desire to have a child, to have grandkids; this covenant was for the redemption of the world. And every generation had to decide for itself whether it would keep covenant with God, and we read those stories over and over again in the Old Testament.

How are you like Abraham? How are you like Sarah?

Keeping covenant may sometimes look a lot like Richard Foster’s A Celebration of Discipline: fulfilling and maintaining the practices of our faith in life together. But keeping covenant has a richer dimension when it’s in the context of seasoned age, in the same way that marriage has a richer dimension at a 50th wedding anniversary. By the time you are “aged,” your faith has weathered many years; and because of the accumulated experiences of a lifetime, or the challenging experiences associated with aging itself, you may find your faith tired, or tested, or perhaps a bit brittle and cynical.

That is why, above and beyond the practice of personal faith, keeping covenant matters so much as you age: because there is the temptation not to. And your faithful keeping of the covenant, even through years of struggle, or deep loss, or physical pain, does not go unnoticed.

And now let’s look at a lesser-known pair of aged covenant-keepers: Lois and Eunice, found in 2 Timothy 1:3-7.

Paul’s words at the beginning of his letter to the young pastor Timothy are fascinating: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” While the writer of Hebrews reminds us that “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,” Paul reminds Timothy of the covenant keepers in his own immediate family tree – Grandma Lois and Mama Eunice. Keeping faith – the kind that was “accounted” to Abraham for righteousness; the kind that inspired the hall of faith in Hebrews 11; keeping this covenant with God by faith made a difference in Timothy’s life. Because of those women Paul called out by name, Timothy witnessed the faith of covenant-keepers. And when Timothy decided also to keep faith, he ministered to bodies of believers in the early church. And to encourage him in ministry, Paul wrote to him, and we have these letters to inspire, guide and encourage our own faith today. That’s right: Grandma Lois’ faithfulness in keeping covenant got a shout-out in the Bible.

Your children, your children’s children, or your nieces and nephews – they witness the ways you keep covenant with God and with the church.

There is a kind woman named Eleanor who lives in the Midwest. She quietly keeps covenant – living a life infused with prayer and a gentle love of Scripture. And when she was in her 70’s, she decided to become a youth group sponsor. That’s right! She stayed up with the youth at all-night lock-ins. She went spelunking in caves with them on their camping trip. Instead of being with the adults during Wednesday night services, she sat and met with the youth group, occasionally offering comment or reflection. Her life uncovered one of the secrets of aging with purpose: keeping covenant. And in a time in which technology moves at lightning pace, the church is called to practice counter-cultural values of celebrating the value of ordinary, everyday covenant keepers, especially those seasoned with age.

So how can you renew your vision of yourself as a valued, valuable covenant-keeper?

Let’s consider engaging in what may seem a rather surprising suggestion. In order to refresh and renew your sense of purpose in aging; in order to reflect on your own role as a covenant keeper, and the value of simply not giving up; in order to embrace God’s covenant with you; in order to remind yourself regularly of God’s promises – what if you celebrated Holy Communion weekly?

It is in the ritual of the Lord’s Supper, after all, that God’s offer of covenant through Jesus Christ is acted out, regularly receiving the promise of the new covenant: “In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:20). As Bishop Jeremy Taylor described long ago: “it is sufficient to thee that Christ shall be present to thy soul as an instrument of grace, as a pledge of the resurrection, as the earnest [guarantee] of glory and immortality, and a means of many blessings, even all such as are necessary for thee, and are in order to thy salvation.”

And remember this wisdom that Taylor wrote and Wesley read: “for that life is not best which is longest: and when they are descended into the grave it shall not be inquired how long they have lived, but how well.”

May you keep the covenant well.