Are you sleeping?


Isaiah 64:1-12

Question for reflection:
When have you been awakened to the refining work of God?

Prayer for the day:
Lord, in our profession of faith we proclaim that you reign over all creation. Yet, we look about us and can only wonder how this can be the case. For we are a people who cry out “Peace, Peace” and there is no peace. As we wait, remember, and hope in this season, awaken us to the movements of your Spirit among us. Refine us with your love and transform our world by your grace. In the name of the one for whom we wait, Jesus the Christ, Amen.

~ Josh Brockway, Director for Spiritual Life & Discipleship

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Sandy Bosserman, a former district executive and an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Sandy’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

God’s grace

Blessed by God's grace at National Youth Conference 2014 . Photo by Nevin Dulabaum

Blessed by God’s grace at National Youth Conference 2014 .
Photo by Nevin Dulabaum

A reflection by Donna Kline

Minnie Mouse flew head first from the back seat to the front, accompanied by giggles and “Mommy, can I have Minnie back, please?” “No, I’m sorry, you can’t. Last time you threw her you promised to never do it again, so you made a bad choice. You can have her back when we get home.”

Both of our grandchildren have parents who try to give them choices whenever possible:  a couple of outfits to choose from when getting dressed; two or three different fruits or vegetables; whether or not to throw stuffed animals. Some choices simply give them a feeling of independence, that they have some control over their young lives; others have more “significant” consequences.

We spend our days making choices, and I daresay my grandchildren’s track records in making good ones are likely no better than yours or mine. But our God, like any good parent, also gives us second chances. And third. And so on. And that’s what I’m thankful for today, what I try to be thankful for—or at least mindful of—every day. In spite of the incredible number of bad choices I’ve made and continue to make, I almost always get another chance to make things right. That’s called grace.

Choices—and second chances—come in all sorts of flavors. We all regret certain fashion or hairstyle choices as we laugh over old family photos. More significant, certainly, are poor choices in the way we treat others, or how we choose to spend our time and energy and other resources. We all fall short; we all get another chance.

But what if we don’t take advantage of the opportunity to make a needed course correction? What if we refuse to see that our actions are hurtful? What if we continue to use our resources to better our own lives rather than seeing that we have more than enough and sharing the excess with those who have so little? What if we decide to throw the gift of grace back in God’s face and say, “Thanks, but I’ll continue down this comfortable path?” What happens then?

Then, God gives us yet another chance. God’s grace is endless. That grace is what I’m most thankful for, and my prayer is that each day I will need less.

Donna Kline is the former director of Deacon Ministries for the Church of the Brethren. Support the ministries of the Church today at .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Living the simple life?

By Ben Bear

Ben Bear with pumpkin

BVS volunteer Ben Bear decapitates an innocent pumpkin. Photo by Laura Whitman.

Being a volunteer through BVS can be a radically different experience from person to person. Some of us live in single apartments, plopped down in a city or town hundreds or thousands of miles from “home” and hit the ground running with their project. Others end up living in intentional communities where they are immediately connected to other volunteers and a hosting congregation with a well-established role for them.

In the weeks since I arrived in Elgin, I have struggled some with the concept of living a simple life. As volunteers, we have agreed to live simply, within our means, and without (too much) excess. Having heard stories from other volunteers and seen some of their sites, some of them take this challenge quite seriously. For example, the New Community Project in Harrisonburg, VA has a homemade table at which they eat their communal, second-hand gathered meals. The kicker: the table is made of warehouse pallets. The table’s creator ballparked the cost of the entire process of making the table at around $20. Check it out:

New Community Project table made of warehouse pallets

New Community Project table made of warehouse pallets

On the flip side, my new role as the BVS assistant recruiter has me traveling all over the country in the coming year. Recently I was in the great commonwealth of Virginia, mostly hanging out down in the Shenandoah Valley. Fast forward seven days after returning and I was already back on the road, this time in Pennsylvania. I’ll be pretty impressed if I manage to put together an entire month back at Elgin between trips the rest of my time here. Granted, I knew this would likely be the case when I agreed to come back into BVS. Still, I sometimes struggle with how simply I’m actually living when I jet-set around the country so much and end up with rental cars that look like this:

Red rental car


And this:

White rental car

Also shiny!

Driving around in these well-maintained, relatively new, kinda sporty-looking vehicles is, admittedly, a bit fun. It’s nice to not feel constantly concerned that the [random car part] might break. They do get pretty decent gas mileage, too. Still, there remains an internal struggle of what it really looks like to live simply and to what degree I’m being successful in that endeavor.

In the end, I don’t have an answer to the justification for the life I lead here or how to alter it for the better. For a guy who really likes having answers, this might be one that is left for pondering. To that end, here are a few quotes that seem to grasp at the concept of a simple existence:

“Live simply, so that others may simply live.” ~ St. Elizabeth Seton

“It is impossible to detach from the love of material things unless it is replaced by love for things unseen.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ~ Confucius

May the road rise with you…


Hope: See the unexpected

Participate in the Advent Offering today at . Photo by Mandy Garcia

Participate in the Advent Offering today at .
Photo by Mandy Garcia

A reflection by Tim Harvey

“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord”(Luke 1:39-45).

As a pastor, it is tempting to stay on the well-worn path of Jesus’ birth through the season of Advent. But in Luke 1, the author shows us a new perspective. He pulls back the curtain to reveal what people were doing “when no one was looking.” How did the ordinary people who encountered God respond to the invitation to serve? This is an important question because if people like Mary and Elizabeth can say “yes” to God, so can you and I.

Because we’re accustomed to the story, it is easy to miss the magnificent risks Mary took by becoming pregnant out of wedlock, or how uncommon it was for people to take trips in that time. Yet Mary, an unwed, pregnant teenager, took a several-days-long trip by herself.

Consider Mary’s risks and motivations for visiting Elizabeth. Why did she leave so quickly? Did she need a trusted friend? Had her father kicked her out? Were the judgmental stares of her neighbors too much to bear? There were so many possible answers to Elizabeth’s question, “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?”

One lesson from this story is to notice that saying yes to whatever God calls us to do may take us places we never imagined. Relationships may need to be reexamined, and the place where we live might even change as we respond to God in ways that deemed socially unacceptable.

A challenge of this tradition-rich time of year is to stop long enough to notice what God is doing around us. Fortunately, Luke gives us a snapshot to help us see what God can do in the midst of ordinary people. How might God break in to our lives this Advent season? What do we need to do differently that would make room for a fresh infusion of God’s grace? Where do we need to go, to whom do we need to speak, that our eyes might be opened to how God is bringing hope in unexpected places?

Tim Harvey is the pastor at Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va. He wrote this and several other worship resources for this year’s Advent Offering. Read them all, order bulletin inserts, or give now at .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)