"Early Sunday" by Betty Fletcher

I went kayaking at Leaburg before church last Sunday. The early morning beauty took my breath away—

sunbeams dancing across kaleidoscope water…

reflections of trees in glossy green…

wispy white clouds flirting with the bright blue sky…


vees of geese coming down river like the Blue Angels…

fat fish slapping into the water after catching their bug breakfast...

birds with their pre-coffee chatter, making plans for the brand-new day…


All for me! All for me! That’s what I was thinking. And I know God made it all for you too, but in the moment, all I could think was that he made it especially for me. And I just wanted to thank him with all of my heart.

It reminded me of an old hymn:

            For the beauty of the earth
            For the glory of the skies
            For the love which from our birth
            Over and around us lies
            Lord of all to Thee we raise
            This our hymn of grateful praise.

So I made the transition from experiencing the beauty of the earth to sitting (floating, actually, but that sounds pretty weird) in the love of God that has surrounded me since before I even knew what it was. I, you, all of us—God loves us. It’s as simple as that. With all of the evil stuff going on in the world, it’s good to just STOP and remember the most important thing. We are loved by God.

I’m going through the book of Luke these days, meditating on what it would have been like to have been present when Jesus was beginning his ministry. The first time we see Jesus interacting with people after his time in the desert is when he goes to the synagogue in his hometown. In this scene, he gives us the mission statement for his entire life. So listen up—this is what Jesus was about (and spoiler alert—it’s all good):

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…

to preach the good news to the poor
to heal the brokenhearted
to preach deliverance to the captives
recovering of sight to the blind
to set at liberty them that are bruised
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

People, it’s such good news. I hope you can find a minute this week to savor that and enjoy a few minutes in the presence of Love.


God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17

I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. John 17:26

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us. 1 John 4:1

"Grace" by Betty Fletcher

What do think of when you think of the word grace? Do you think of the effortless way a skater moves across the ice or a dancer across the floor? Or do you think of the prayer before dinner? Or do you imagine forgiveness—a friend overlooking an ill-timed word or a spouse not commenting on your morning breath...Isn’t grace wonderful?

Wouldn’t you like to live in a world that has more beauty and warmth and, yes, grace in it? In this Christmas season that can seem so frantic and so opposite of what we hope it will be. We long to experience moments of grace.

And here’s the good news: At its very core, Christmas is all about grace. Grace for all who will come, of course. But grace for you in particular. Listen to what the apostle John has to say…

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth…And of His fullness have we all received, and grace for grace.

Grace is unmerited favor. Grace warms the heart. Grace is what God gives to us in welcoming us into his family. He throws open the door, opens his arms wide, and invites to share his life with his Son. And he does this at his own expense. God’s character, his very being, is entirely, lavishly gracious. You may feel that you’ve been pushed to the limit or that you’ve pushed God to the limit. But God is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is gracious because he is love. And he loves you.

In this is love, not that we loved him, but that he loved us, and gave himself a sacrifice for us.

God so loved the world [and that includes you] that he gave his son.

Most of us start our Christian lives with this simple understanding of God’s love, but we can lose it along the way. We can become tired and numb and often just go through religious motions because we don’t know any other way to live. We have to find a way to rediscover the joy of being eternally accepted and loved.

So I’d like to offer one thing I’ve been doing that could make a difference in your Christmas season. Every day from now until Christmas, find a minute, 60 seconds, where you stop.  For heaven’s sake, just stop, and let God love you. God doesn’t want to wait until you’ve got everything fixed or everything finished this Christmas. He is the gift of grace for you in your loneliness, in your busyness, in your fear of not having enough or being enough.
So for a minute, let it be enough to just be with him. Shhhh…Don’t talk too much. Don’t fill up the seconds with your words because you’re uncomfortable. Just stop and let God love you for those few seconds.

Now if you do this, I can promise something new will happen in your life. I don’t know what. It might be something different for each of you.  But there will be something—some stirring in your soul—that will be your Christmas gift from above.

Imagine the Father’s joy as you receive his gracious gift of love with simplicity and gratefulness this advent season.

"More Than Shelter" by Betty Fletcher

Recently in my devotional reading, I ran across a passage from Henri Nouwen that touched something deep inside—a longing I didn’t know I had. He says, “Home is that place or space where we do not have to be afraid but can let go of our defenses and be free, free from worries, free from tensions, free from pressures. Home is where we can laugh and cry, embrace and dance, sleep long and dream quietly, eat, read, play, watch the fire, listen to music, and be with a friend. Home is where we can rest and be healed. The word ‘home’ gathers a wide range of feelings and emotions up into one image, the image of a house where it is good to be: the house of love.”

I’d never thought of home like that. A safe place, sure. Shelter? You bet. But a place where I could experience restoration, healing, relationship, laughter, and joy? That hasn’t really been on my radar. And if I’m honest, and I’m trying to be, it hasn’t always been my experience in my relationship with the Lord either. In John 14:23, Jesus says, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” When I spend time with the Lord, I don’t always feel “at home” with him. There’s an undercurrent of anxiety that I can’t quite put my finger on but that you may experience too—a feeling that the Lord may be a little disappointed with me.

When I’m walking in the woods, I sometimes come across snow shelters. These structures provide the bare minimum of protection and are a welcome refuge in stormy weather. That’s how I feel in my prayer life. But God isn’t hunkering down in a snow shelter in our hearts. He has built a whole house there, and he invites us to take off our boots, put down our packs (or purses or briefcases or diaper bags), leave them in the mudroom, and begin to explore the rest of the home with him. Father, Son, Holy Spirit—all are waiting with open arms to have long conversations by the fire, share a meal, read a book together, face fears with us, prepare us for battles, and most of all, help us grow in love. Thank you, Lord!

"Little Kindness" by Betty Fletcher

The past few weeks I’ve really wanted to be cared for. In hindsight, I was probably hoping for something huge and dramatic—something that would shout, “You’re SUPER IMPORTANT!” 
I bet you’ve wanted that too, haven’t you?

I’m here to report it didn’t happen. I didn’t meet the man of my dreams or get a big promotion or win the lottery. But here’s what did happen:

Sandy laid her hand on my back while we were praying one Sunday and left it there for quite a while. I hadn’t raised my hand for prayer or anything. It was so comforting. Wow. Thanks.
Sue invited me to brunch after a service. Nice.

Terry and Colby and Bill and Margaret went for a walk after church with me.
Heather caught my eye from across the gym and smiled when I came in last week. It was a full, welcoming smile—the best kind.

Margaret offered to bring the Bible I’d left at her house.

Sara and Kayla wished me a happy Mother’s Day.

Sally and Laura said they liked my necklace.

Darla and JoVone held my hands and prayed for me (granted, they had to because Dusty told us to pray for the person on our left and right, but it still counts).

I could go on, but here’s the point: Little kindnesses matter—a lot. Not one of those people would have known that a small kindness was part of God’s bigger plan to give me hope and encourage my spirit, inspire me trust a little longer and grow a little more. No one person would have thought to do all of those little things. But together—well, together all of those people were the body of Christ to me.

Here’s a verse that might be worth learning in the King James just because it sounds so cool:

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another (Romans 12:10).

Now let’s get out there and be nice!


"Everyday Prayers" by Betty Fletcher

I’m not a world-class pray-er. Maybe you aren’t either.
Sometimes I write my prayers out. It helps. You should try it.
When I write my prayers out, I find meaning in my day that I might not notice otherwise. Today I ran across a little evening prayer from a trip to the beach last winter:

O God. That’s the cry of my heart today. Just…O God. I hear the gale outside. I see your power in the wind and the rain. I walked against the blast for a mile, and then turned and set sail for home. What a feeling…to be given strength to reach a goal and then to be carried home, almost to fly! Direct, if you will, that same power into my soul as I sleep. 
Thank you for a day of being. If you give me tomorrow, let me wake with your song in my heart. Give me grace to open my spirit to yours. Thank you for taking care of me today—surprising me a little and helping me not to be frustrated or careless with those few hours. Thank you for letting me come to you again and again. Thank you.
O God, I love you. As lumpy and uneven as my love is, I love you. I’m sorry I don’t love people as well or as freely as you do. Why is that so hard? Forgive me. Help me.
You’ve scrubbed my world clean again. And you’ve scrubbed my soul too. Thank you.

See, just a little lesson learned, some odds and ends, a cry for help with a persistent problem, and a bunch of thank-yous. What would your prayer look like? Try writing one out this week. I’d love to see it.

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." (Ephesians 6:18)

"Forgiven and Forgiving" by Betty Fletcher

I just bought a shirt that says “Happy Camper” on it. I hope to be wearing it as you read this. Earlier this summer I was camping with friends. Every year we have a campfire conversation that centers on spiritual things. This year I asked the question, “How do you forgive?”  But I wasn’t asking the general question. I was asking “How do you forgive”—personally…when you’ve been wronged…when there’s no reason in the world to forgive but every reason in the kingdom to do so. I knew each person had been wounded, mostly by people in the church. So I wanted to know their experiences with the act of forgiving. I’d been blindsided by a situation that had devastated me, and I was struggling.

One woman said she prays every day for the person. Somehow in praying for the person who had wronged her, she reaches a point of surrender. One of the men said that twice he’d gone to the offenders and asked forgiveness for his own resentment.  Another said that the choice to forgive had come a long time before the experience of forgiveness. One by one they shared...

I came away from the evening with new ways of looking at forgiveness.  I realized again that forgiving is hard work, and often more of a process than we might hope. Even more, I was deeply touched and encouraged that each of these people were quietly pursuing forgiveness as an active part of his or her Christian life. I saw how making the choice to forgive had added depth and character to my friends’ lives. And I felt enriched and challenged, stirred up to love and good works (Hebrews 20:24) and ready to forgive again…and again.


"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Colossians 3:12-14 NIV)

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." (Matthew 18:21,22)