What’s Your Story? | Bill & Madeline B.

Telling your story—the story of your journey of faith—can change the world. It can bring light to the darkness. It can shine the light of hope in a weary world. This is Bill & Madeline’s story.


What’s Your Story? | Linda D.

Telling your story—the story of your journey of faith—can change the world. It can bring light to the darkness. It can shine the light of hope in a weary world. This is Linda’s story.


Nathanael and Me: The Seen and the Jealous

By: Sarah Dixon | Pastoral Intern

To be seen is ludicrous
Noticed among the crowd under the figs
How did he see me?
Did he see me when I sneezed?

     I’m so jealous of Nathanael.
     What is it like to be seen by Jesus?
     Would he like my fake nose ring?
     Would he like my peat brown eyes?

Jesus knows my name
He knows I’m smelly
The dirt under his nails match mine
I smile with giddy joy and my face flush.

     I wonder what he looks like so close.
     The Savior of the whole world,
     even of my anxious body and freckled face.
     I can only dream of the gap in his front teeth.

What should I tell him?
Is anything enough?
I dare to reach out to hug him
Is he a hugger?

     What should I tell him?
     Am I enough?
     What would it be like to hug Jesus?
     I bet he gives good hugs.


What’s Your Story? | Jonathan S.

Telling your story—the story of your journey of faith—can change the world. It can bring light to the darkness. It can shine the light of hope in a weary world. This is Jonathan’s story.


What’s Your Story? | Kimbol S. Extended Interview

Telling your story—the story of your journey of faith—can change the world. It can bring light to the darkness. It can shine the light of hope in a weary world.
This is Kimbol’s story.


What’s Your Story | Kimbol S.

Telling your story—the story of your journey of faith—can change the world. It can bring light to the darkness. It can shine the light of hope in a weary world.
This is Kimbol’s story.


The Wilderness is Somewhere We’ve Been Before

By Sarah Are | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org
I’m not the first.
That’s what I tell myself when I wake up in
     the wilderness—
Big sky, worried heart, wondering which way
     to start.
I have been here before.
We have been here before.
For as long as there has been creation,
There has been wilderness.
First it was an endless void,
Until God and God’s paintbrush painted the
     sky gold.  
And then it was all that lies east of Eden,
Which is everywhere that our story unfolds.
So like a child memorizing their home address,
You’d think I’d learn my way out of
     this wilderness. 
But like the Israelites who wandered for forty
     plus years,  
I think I’ll spend most of my day to day here.
For the wilderness is everywhere that I start
     to grow.
Cracks in the sidewalk, daisies take hold.
And the wilderness is every single place
     of unknown,  
Or when shame and fear move into my home.
And the wilderness is where dusty feet tread,
Familiar with the truth that we have days left.
So where is God, you ask?
God is in the big sky and in my worried heart.
God is the sidewalk cracks where new
     life starts. 
God is in the realization that I am not the first.
So may we take these limited days left  
And remember that we’ve been here before—
God and I and this untamed world.
God and the Israelites and the
     gathered assembly.  
God and the horizon and the new
     day beginning.


The Path to Peace

By: Rev. Dr. Leon Bloder
My wife Merideth has this awesome sign in her office that reads, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” That sign troubles me and excites me all at once. It excites me because I love the idea of it. I like the idea that I might be the kind of adventurous person who would actually do something scary every day for the purpose of overcoming fear and moving forward in confidence.  
But the message of the sign also troubles me because I know that deep down inside I’m probably not going to do anything that scares me every day. Instead, if left to my own devices, I’ll probably do a thousand things that are well within my comfort zone.  
How do I know this? I’ve got some empirical evidence. You see, I go to a physical trainer three to four times a week. She pushes me pretty hard, sometimes to the very limits of what I think I can do, and more often than not I leave my training sessions barely able to walk or lift my arms.  
I told her the other day, “I could easily go on the internet and learn how to do all of these exercises that you are showing me, and do them myself. But I wouldn’t. At least not to the extent you make me. What I’m paying you for is your will, because I don’t seem to have any.”  
I was reading an article by a woman who began experiencing a kind of peace that she never thought possible. She wrote, “I got to this point in my life by doing one thing: by living one day at a time. I focused on doing one thing each day that moved me a little closer to where I longed to be.” 

The path to peace is not one that we can sort of wander down aimlessly and comfortably until suddenly we find it.

It’s quite the opposite, actually. And the idea of finding peace sometimes clashes with our realities, and our own frailty and fears. The Apostle Paul wrote about this conflict in his letter to the Romans: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” 
Then he writes this, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  
Paul discovered that when we follow Jesus, when we go all in as His disciple we are going to be challenged each and every day to do more and be more than we ever dreamed we could be without Him. And when we accept those challenges, we will find ourselves closer to the true peace that can only be found in Christ himself.  
During this season of Advent, I encourage you to do one thing each day to move the needle in your life toward the peace you undoubtedly want.
Spend time in prayer. Be intentional about your family time, even if it means clearing your schedule. Take the time to encourage a friend in need. Give of yourself and what you have to feed the hungry, clothe the needy and give hope to the fainthearted. Tell the story of Christmas and what it means for the world by your good words and good deeds. 
May you be filled with the courage to stumble after Jesus even if the way seems scary and filled with challenge. May you discover that you are more than you ever imagined because of Christ and his continuing redeeming and reconciling work in the world.  

And may the grace and peace our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all both now and forever. Amen.


Follow the Star

By: Ellen Perkey, Member
In this time of year I spend a lot more time out of doors at night than I usually do. I walk down to the barn, make sure the horses in over night have blankets, hay and water, and walk back to the house. It’s often cold, I usually don’t feel like leaving the house again by that time of night, and I’m generally tired by the time 7:30 hits. But I get to see the stars.  
We live far enough out in the country that we have much less light pollution than even the suburbs of Austin. The first time I looked up and saw the Milky Way burning bright right overhead I just stopped and stared for a minute. Constellations are so clear and easy to find in the sky over our house; my two favorites, Orion and Cassiopia, are usually visible this time of year. Even in the coldest weather it’s hard not to pause and spend a moment looking up. I wish I could help you feel the same vast, breathtaking beauty I get to see on those nightly walks.
In the busy-ness of the Christmas season it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed by my task list, tired at the end of the day but with present wrapping still to do. I enjoy Christmas but the struggle for me each year is to take time to be overwhelmed by the meaning behind the season. It’s easier for me to plod through my daily chores and extra Christmas duties without ever looking up. If I can remember to look up occasionally, I might just be captured by the beauty of the Christmas star.

I’ll try to take a moment to look up in the next week or so, as we draw closer to Christmas and the birth of our savior. I’ll try to savor the time we spend with our traditions and to enjoy the reminders of God’s great gift to us. I want that to be my guiding star in this busy season. 


Present in the Proceedings

By: Chris Gordon, Senior Director of Family Ministries

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

– Luke 2:19

Sweet Mary: a young girl, with an unbelievable story around her pregnancy. What thoughts she must have had in those months leading up to the birth of the Savior of the world. Her experience—according to the Gospel writer—is a whirlwind of events. As modern-day readers, we get few opportunities to peek into her thoughts as the proceedings play out before her, just as the angel of the Lord said they would.
I love that Luke includes this small verse in his version of the story.
This one little note, reminding us of the amazing young woman Mary was. Post-childbirth–as the stable fills with visiting shepherds and those curious passersby who receive the Good News of the Messiah—Mary takes a moment to observe the proceedings. It conjures up images of a mother sitting back and surveying the landscape of all that has occurred…a promise, a journey, a birth, a celebration.
Mary is intentionally present in the midst of the miracle.

In the busy-ness of this season, may you find a moment to consider the here and now: to be present in the proceedings. May you find PEACE in a deep breath, or JOY in a memory in the making. Be intentional as you look for the miracles unfolding around you today, and may you celebrate them as they are revealed to you.