I was about a mile into my daily walk when the gentleman came out on his porch to greet me. Over the years, he and I have regularly greeted each other as I pass by his home. Our encounters have never been more than a “Good morning!” with a smile and a wave, perhaps a word about the weather. But this time he added, “I haven’t seen you in a while.” I explained how my schedule and route often change according to the seasons and weather, so we must have just missed each other.

Then he went on to say, “I asked my neighbor if he had seen you, because I was wondering if something had happened.”

His words were a tender blessing. This kind man, who doesn’t even know my name, cared enough to ask another neighbor about me. I was so surprised and touched by his concern – and by the new awareness that my presence mattered to him. This happened weeks ago, and yet the warm feelings remain.

I have found two insights from his gift.

~ We will never be aware of all the goodness around us…
Recently, my husband Jim was told by a friend that he had been in his daily prayers. The other day, I happened to see a runner stopping to pick up trash along her route. Right now, someone is lying in a hospital bed, unaware of the prayer vigil being kept for him outside the door. People are quietly making good differences all over the world. In every moment, someone somewhere is bringing goodness to another; we simply cannot observe it all.

~ With just a few moments and a few words, we can help others become more aware of this goodness surrounding them…
We can share with others any complimentary, appreciative words we have heard about them. We can let others know how often we have thought of them or prayed for them. We can remind others that they matter, why their lives have blessed ours, and of the gifts we have received in knowing and loving them. We can point out other acts of kindness and generosity we have noticed along the way.

When we become discouraged by the confusing ways of the world, grieved by the distressing headlines, or frustrated by the overwhelming challenges before us, we can turn our focus to the goodness we see and trust in the goodness we do not see. God is also and always working to bring about good.

When we pass along any of the goodness we have witnessed or received, we help to illuminate God’s goodness – and become beacons of peace and hope for others.

(Photo by Karen)


There’s a glow behind the foothills –
a new day is about to dawn,
but down here in the valley
we will keep our porch lights on.

For even as we sense the hope
of an ending to the night
we are essential keepers
and bearers of the light.

(Photo by Karen)


Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. (Matthew 14:28-29, NRSVUE)

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. ~ Andre Gide

I enjoy the practice of prayerfully choosing one word to help guide my decisions, purposes, and reflections each year. My word for 2023 feels a bit uncomfortable, and I hope it will stretch me in new ways. My guiding word will be VENTURE.

Venture – to make or embark upon a venture; dare to enter or go; to take a risk, dare, presume

As I wrote in an earlier post*, my days have been more protected, isolated, and comfortable in these recent years. I have largely followed my usual routines, mainly spent time with family and dear friends, and generally adhered to my usual writing formats and projects. In doing so, I may have neglected opportunities to try new ways of living and being, to become part of a community, or to expand creatively. I question whether I have been fully embracing this gift of the abundant life Jesus meant for us.

Venture serves as my invitation to be more daring, to challenge myself more often, to expand my horizons, to explore new ideas. Although I am not certain how this will unfold, my first steps will be to listen for inner inspirations, and to pay holy attention to outer invitations before accepting or declining them.

This passage about Peter beautifully guides my hope for the year. As he sees him walking on the water, Peter asks Jesus to command him to walk out there, too. And Jesus says, “Come.” Even though Peter eventually falters and fails, he earnestly wants to follow Jesus and is brave enough to take the first steps. And when he does not succeed, Jesus is there to help him up.

Peter’s example then becomes my daily prayer.

“Lord, if it is you…” to discern if the invitation I am sensing is holy and genuine,
“command me to come to you…” to discern where I am to go,
“and help me to be brave enough to take the first steps…” to ask for courage and trust.

Like Peter, I may falter and fail, but I will trust that Jesus is always here to take my hand.

The risk in reaching for great things is that they might elude our grasp. But have we considered that the ‘reaching’ might in fact have been the great thing? ~ Craig D. Lounsbrough

Thank you always, dear friends. May you notice many blessings in this new year!


(Photo by Karen)
Definition found at


Abundant: existing or occurring in large amounts; ample; marked by great plenty (as of resources); amply supplied; abounding

I imagine there could be a number of blog posts about what Jesus meant by his words, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 NRSVUE). His words encompass the many ways life can be lived richly and fully – in his love and because of his love. Through his words and his life, Jesus gives us new perspectives that make life abundant, such as the promise of eternity, the hope of new life in every day, the freedom from fear, the security of love, the sacredness of creation, the assurance of his guiding presence, and the joy of living because of these gifts.

In this time of reflection before the new year begins, while I consider resolutions and goals, this idea of abundant life keeps coming to mind. How will I live my days more abundantly? What will make 2023 an abundant year? How might I fully embrace this life that Jesus offers?

There is a subtle treasure in this word, abundant, in that its meaning can be understood and applied according to our unique perspectives and intentions. For example, some of us may serve an abundant number of people, while others may serve a few people abundantly. One person may make an abundant difference in our world, while another may share an abundant number of small kindnesses. Our days may be filled with abundant activities or abundant conversations, abundant productivity or abundant reflection. God’s love shown in Christ can help us to live abundantly – and guide each of us to determine how our unique “abundance” will look.

Abundant life also comes through seeking and finding more of the sacred in our daily living. We find abundance as we notice God’s loving presence in our everyday moments, glean deeper meanings and insights through ordinary experiences, savor and appreciate all of creation, hold gratitude for these precious days, and remain mindful how we live them. Finding God always and in everything, the insignificant moments become significant. The smallest incidents become meaningful. The random inspirations become profound. The menial tasks become gifts of grace. The simple joys become priceless. The ordinary days become divine.

This new year is an opportunity to recognize God’s abundance and to live in the freedom of that abundance. This year is an opportunity to live so that others will not only witness, but also benefit from, this abundant life we have been so graciously and generously given.

Our abundant life is a life filled with the abundant goodness of God.

Happy New Year, dear readers!

Definition found at
(Photo by Karen)


(Sunday, December 25th)

Present: something presented; gift; something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation

Presence: one that is present; something present of a visible or concrete nature; something (such as a spirit) felt or believed to be present


Mary clings to the tiny hand
and Hope wells deep inside.
She knows not what is yet in store
but she knows that by her side
is the One in whom the promise
that was made has now been kept,
so every challenge, every joy
she can now accept.


The Magi come to bear their gifts
and fall upon their knees
as they place their treasures and themselves
in surrender and release.
And Peace then comes upon them
and abides with them, as they
let go of their own plans and routes
to go another way.


The sheep begin to frolic
while the shepherds are amazed
at the news that comes before them
in jubilance and praise.
With Joy then jumping in their souls
they go to tell the story:
God is present in a baby
and we have seen his glory!


Joseph quietly stands beside
in humble, selfless Love.
He knows his role is minor
for the Father is above.
He then falls in adoration
when filled with reverent awe.
His story is a small one
but his impact is for all.


Thank you for these gifts, dear God,
of Hope and Joy and Peace,
and your greatest gift we have in Christ –
the Love that will not cease.
Like Mary, may we cling to you,
Like Joseph, may we fall,
Like shepherds, may we learn to jump,
Like Magi, surrender all ~
that we may feel your presence
more fully and more near,
and our lives become a present
for this world you hold so dear.

Happy Holidays, dear friends! I hope you have been blessed this Advent season. Thank you for your presence here.
Karen 🙂

http://Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash


(Saturday, December 24th)

Tenderhearted: easily moved to love, pity, or sorrow; compassionate, impressionable

I enjoyed my grandsons’ winter concert earlier this month, and as always, was impressed by the musical talents of the high school band. But my favorite piece was a medley of Christmas carols – in fact, tears began brimming at “Silent Night”, then overflowed as the band moved into “O Come all Ye Faithful”! My heart filled with emotion as I recalled the memories of previous Christmas celebrations, held gratitude for these present days, and felt such love and pride for my family. Christmas continues to deepen in meaning and significance with each passing year.

In my time of reflection this Advent season, one word has especially touched my soul: tenderheartedness.

The Christmas celebration of our faith tradition has been a tender connecting thread throughout my life. Each time I revisit the story of the birth of Jesus, there are beautiful assurances and meaningful messages held within it. Each time I sing Christmas carols, the memories of previous Christmas Eve services and family gatherings gently soften my spirit. I recall both joyful and sorrowful moments, but each memory holds the deep recognition that God in Christ has come to be with me through it all; to rejoice with me, comfort me, grieve with me, or simply hold me close. My heart then nearly aches with a combination of joy, sorrow, gratitude, and awe, for I know my years and moments are tied together in one tiny yet infinite bundle of love.

Perhaps that is how a heart becomes tender…

God’s tenderheartedness has been shown to us in the birth of Jesus, this tiny baby who has humbly brought God’s presence among and within us for all of life. May our hearts grow more tender toward others – as well as ourselves – as we once again rejoice at his birth, recognize his presence, recall the memories, remember his faithfulness, and receive his gifts of hope, peace joy, comfort, and love.

As we hear the stories and sing the carols, may we be grateful for the One who has been present in every Christmas, in every day between, for every year of our life, and through every future day – loving us all with gracious and tenderhearted love.

Christmas blessings, dear friends.

(Photo of Advent wreath by Karen, fingerprints in sand by my granddaughter 😉 )


(Friday, December 23rd)

Different: partly or totally unlike in nature, form, or quality; dissimilar; not the same; unusual, special

Divine: of, relating to, or proceeding directly from God; supremely good 

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.

(Isaiah 40:28)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

(Isaiah 55:8-9)

This week, our family Christmas gathering was postponed (for the third year) when our grandsons picked up the influenza virus. Life is filled with these disappointments. A gift doesn’t arrive on time. A winter storm impacts our travel plans. A power outage upsets our baking process. An expected guest has to cancel. We lament a bit, make new arrangements, and eventually regroup and recover.

But then there are those life-changing moments of anxiety and grief, when life is suddenly disrupted or uprooted. Tests reveal a serious health concern. The position has been filled. A loved one shares the news we had been dreading. An investment goes awry. We are heartbroken and distraught, knowing that life will never be the same.

We initially wonder, What will I do now? Where do I go from here? Will I be able to handle this?

We may then begin asking, Why did this happen to me? Why now? Why can’t life be easier? Will I ever get a break?

And finally, we may deeply question…
Where is God in all of this?

Advent Love is the way Jesus came to reveal God in all of this.

The world seems to teach us that for life to be good, it has to be a certain way – filled with successes, achievements, abundances, joyful days, and loving relationships – until the very end. And there are those whose faith in God is contingent on life going that certain way. When they experience hardship, they stop believing in God “who would allow this to happen.” But perhaps one of the most loving things God has done was to create and set this world in motion, allowing life to play out naturally, allowing us to live freely.

God might not intervene by changing circumstances or preventing hardships, but God can and does help us by changing our perspective, by revealing new ways of living and being in this (imperfect) world. Life becomes more bearable and beautiful when we understand that we do not and cannot know everything. Our perspective deepens when we realize that we cannot see the future, we cannot comprehend the bigger picture, we cannot know the size of God’s perfect, unfathomable love.

What we can know is that in everything, God will work to bring about good. Advent Love is seeing God in Christ endure all of human life, suffering, and death, then overcome it all with the incredible joy of resurrection. Advent Love is knowing that even in our darkest days, a brighter day has been promised. Advent Love is the kind grace that tells us that there is always something more, something significant, something sacred beyond our ordinary and sometimes terrible days.

Advent Love gives us the capacity to look beyond the different to discover the divine.

I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may perceive what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. (Ephesians 1:16-19 NRSVUE)

Definitions found at
Bible passages are the NRSVUE version, taken from
Photo by Karen


(Thursday, December 22nd)

Detach: to separate especially from a larger mass and usually without violence or damage; disengage; withdraw

Depend: to place reliance or trust

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other, but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. 
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NRSVUE)

I have a practice of choosing a word to describe my hopes and guide my actions for the year ahead, and for 2023, I am considering a few words that describe reentering community. Since the pandemic, my naturally introverted self has grown quite accustomed to isolating at home, away from crowds and parties and public spaces and worship services. Initially, the isolation was a necessity for protection; now the isolation has become my choice for comfort, convenience, familiarity, and at times, laziness. I enjoy my solitude, slower pace, and simpler living.

But I am missing the gifts of being in community – both the joys and the challenges. Love is best shared and strengthened, best tried and tested, best formed and fostered in relationship.

Our Advent Love today is the Love revealed by God becoming incarnate in Jesus – the desire of God to live and love in our community of humanity. God is not detached from us, but ever-present among and within us. God is here for us to depend on, and God invites us to depend on one another. Two are better than one…

We may be independent and self-sufficient, but we are called to serve one another. We may be introverted, but we are called to meet together. We may be comfortable, but we are called to look out for the needs of others. Love is softened when it is shared. Love is strengthened when it is stretched. Bonds of love are built when we learn to depend on God and one another, when we recognize how much we need God and one another.

May the Advent Love of God-with-us, God who will never detach from us, increase our desire for and our dependence on community.

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NRSVUE)

Definitions found at
Bible verses taken from
Photo by Karen


(Wednesday, December 21st)

Compete: to strive consciously or unconsciously for an objective (position, profit, prize); be in a state of rivalry

Commend: to entrust for care or preservation; to recommend as worthy of confidence or notice; praise

Have you ever felt as if you had the right talent or expertise for a certain position, but you were not hired? Or have you served well in a vocation and then felt as if the time was right to move on – but you hesitated to relinquish because no one else seemed as capable? There may be times when we feel as if we are the best qualified, that no one could do better than we would.

Our Advent Love reflection today invites us to rethink our tendency to compete and to recognize the times to commend.

Let’s look ahead to a Holy Week story. In the hours before his arrest and eventual crucifixion, Jesus gathered with his disciples to share final words of encouragement, instruction, and commendation. He gave the disciples many assuring promises, including this one…

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12 NRSVUE)

Jesus knew he would soon leave his friends, so he chose to teach and affirm them before entrusting his loving mission to them. Out of love for God and God’s people, Jesus relinquished his rightful leadership role and commended the future to these faithful ones. We now know how his death and resurrection have changed lives for centuries, but I wonder if Jesus wished he could have had a few more earthly years to make an even greater impact. When we read of the times he corrected or chastised his disciples, I also wonder if Jesus doubted their ability to further his message of God’s gracious love.

And yet, Jesus chose to bless his disciples and bestow his sacred mission upon them.

The Advent Love of Jesus is the selfless surrender of pride and plans. Out of our desire to please God, to not be deemed a quitter, we may be tempted to persevere, but the Advent Love of Jesus shows us that we do not need to compete or impress to receive God’s abundant love.

The Advent Love of Jesus is the generous gifting of roles and responsibilities. When we entrust others with something precious while affirming our confidence in them, they have an opportunity to grow and learn – and perhaps do greater works than these! God’s love flourishes when we enable others to flourish.

The Advent Love of Jesus is knowing when to set aside competition, and then to bless and bestow with our commendation.

Bible verses were taken from
Definitions were found at
Photo by Karen


(Tuesday, December 20th)

Defend: to drive danger or attack away from; to maintain or support in the face of argument or hostile criticism

Dignify: to give distinction to, confer dignity upon; the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed

I was serving as a youth director at an urban neighborhood church when I first met Beth. Beth suffered from a mental anguish that kept her homeless and often fearful. One day she stopped by the church office for a bit of money, and we began chatting. She soon began stopping by more often as our friendship developed. I was willing to give her a warm (or cool) place to rest for as long as she felt comfortable. There were times when the experience was rather difficult, when she would be especially anxious and unclean. But there were other times when she was quite delightful and insightful.

One evening Beth stopped by as our youth group was preparing an Advent dinner for the congregation, and I invited her to stay for dinner. She was visibly nervous, but she was also quite eager to have a warm meal.

While I was busy in the kitchen, Beth must have sensed some fear, and she began cursing in the dining room. Soon I was surprised to see her being escorted, wide-eyed, out of the building by one of our church members, a retired police officer who was trying to protect the people who had gathered for dinner. In a desperate moment, I wrapped my arms around Beth, explaining that she was my friend, asking him to let her stay, promising there would be no more problems. When he refused, I threatened, “If she leaves, then I am leaving, too!” With some harsh words as to how much that would please him, he took her out the door.

I was quite shaken. But I could not leave – I was responsible for leading the worship service that evening while our pastor was away!

My sermon message included thoughts about the love God holds for all of humanity. And during the sharing of Communion, I gave bread to the man who had upset me earlier, now kneeling at the railing.

“The Body of Christ, given for you.”

For all of us…

After the service, I was delighted to find Beth in the parking lot! She was laughing, seemingly carefree, despite the fact that she had been treated badly. I realized that by defending her in her helplessness, I was also dignifying her as my friend. Our unusual relationship was solidified when she realized it was mutual.

There were so many lessons in love that evening.

Advent Love is the love that defends.
Advent Love is the love of Jesus defending the woman caught in adultery (John 8).
Advent Love is the love that stands up for those who are being mistreated –
by protecting those who are being cursed,
and by embracing those who are being escorted out.

Advent Love is the love that dignifies.
Advent Love is the love of Jesus eating dinner with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2).
Advent Love is the love that respects and honors those who need it –
by claiming and naming one as a friend,
and by breaking bread with one who has been hurtful.

Advent Love defends. Advent Love dignifies. Advent Love sustains us through the unexpected encounters, strengthens us to defend the helpless, and stretches us to dignify the difficult.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-18, 21 NRSVUE)

Definitions found at
Bible verses taken from
Photo by Karen