Monday, December 24, 2007

Tuesday, December 25

O God return to us—let your face smile on us, and we will be saved!
(Psalm 80:3)

Dr. Allen Lee
General Secretary of the Disciples' World Convention
(1924 – 2004)

Allen Lee was born in Yakima, Washington, and grew up as an active member of the Yakima First Christian Church. As an ordained minister, he served seven Disciples congregations, and in 1971 was called to be the General Secretary of the World Convention of Churches of Christ, with headquarters in New York City.

In that position for more than two decades, he traveled all over the globe--a truly worldwide pastor. Wherever he went, which might be to a struggling little congregation meeting in Poland one day and to the Vatican for an audience with the Pope the next, Dr. Lee moved among people as though God were smiling on them all--and his faith and joy were infectious.

In 1999, when King Hussein of Jordan died of cancer and was being eulogized as a beloved ruler and a calm force for peace in a turbulent region, Allan Lee recalled how he had been on a trip to the Holy Land in 1960 while serving as pastor of Seattle First Christian Church.

At a passport check on the Syrian border, he and his fellow travelers paused, and an official with the Jordan tourist bureau came in and asked if anyone was from Seattle. The official asked Dr. Lee to help a Jordanian student get to America. Allan Lee promised his assistance, and, true to his word, helped the student eventually enroll in the University of Washington.

Dr. Lee later included a chapter about him in his book, Under the Shadow of Nine Dragons, a copy of which he sent to King Hussein. In response, Dr. Lee received a letter of gratitude on behalf of the palace, stating that they were "encouraged by the efforts and support of people such as your good self."

After that, Dr. Lee began receiving an annual holiday card signed by King Hussein himself. Because of that simple gesture, Dr. Lee thought of the King as a "warm-hearted leader" and a great stabilizer in the world's least stable region.

O God, my world parish is SO big and needs SO much care.
My prayers, letters, calls and cards go out to churches and people around the globe . . . .
Oh, that I might have the vitality to listen to her cries, to heed her prayers,
to bind up her wounds, to encompass her with the ties of fellowship and faith.
God, give me strength to serve my parish. Amen.
(Dr. Allan W. Lee, 1974)

- Doug Dornhecker

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Monday, December 24

O God return to us—let your face smile on us, and we will be saved!
(Psalm 80:3)

St. Nicholas
Bishop of Myra
(4th Century)

Admired beyond the power of words, patron of Russia and Greece, of children, sailors,pawnbrokers, and prostitutes, it is hard to reconcile the influence and appeal of St.Nicholas with the scarcity of facts about his life.

His transfiguration into Santa Claus has been traced to Dutch Protestants in New Amsterdam. In America and England, whereon Christmas Eve young ears are attentive for the sound of reindeer’s hooves, we are further removed from the original bishop. However,linking the hopes of children with the memory of St. Nicholas does echo ancient stories.The image of childhood reflected in them has little to do with “sugar plums”.

In one story St. Nicholas rescued three young girls whose father, for want of a dowry, was about to sell them into prostitution. He tossed three bags of gold through an open window, enough to pay the dowry of each. In another story, these three bags of gold became the heads of three little boys who were murdered. The bishop uncovered the crime and restored the boys to life.

He might be remembered not only as the jolly source of toys but also as the protector of those whose lives and innocence remain threatened today by violence, poverty, and exploitation. Well does he deserve to be the patron of children.

On this eve of the Christ child’s birth the stars collect themselves,
inhale the hopes and fears of our small and precious lives,
and breathe light into the dark corners of the world.
Glory and Amen.
We pray for children everywhere.
Deliver them from evil.

- Joan Dennehy

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sunday, December 23

O God return to us—let your face smile on us, and we will be saved!
(Psalm 80:3)

Wangari Maathai
(1940 –

Growing up in Nyeri, Wangari Maathai was able to pursue higher education in the United States, a rarity for girls in rural areas of Kenya.When she returned to Kenya, Wangari Maathai worked in veterinary medicine research at the University of Nairobi, and despite the skepticism and even opposition of the male students and faculty, was able to earn a Ph.D. becoming head of the veterinary medicine faculty, a first for a woman at any department at that university.

She started the Green Belt grassroots movement after planting seeds for nine trees in her back yard. In 30 years the movement planted 30 million trees in Kenya and 12 other countries in Africa, empowering women in the process.

A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 Wangari says, “When our resources become scarce, we fight over them. In managing our resources and in sustainable development, we plant the seeds of peace.”

Wangari observes, “All of us have a God in us, and that God is the spirit that unites all life, everything that is on this planet. . . . It's the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees. . . . We can work together for a better world with men and women of goodwill, those who radiate the intrinsic goodness of humankind.”

O God, help us see the little things right in front of us.
Through your Spirit give us courage to move forward
that peace and goodwill might flourish on earth.

- Laurie Rudel

Friday, December 21, 2007

Saturday, December 22

Say to those of faint heart: Take courage! Do not be afraid. (Isaiah 35:4)

Eliza Davies
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Lay Leader
(1820 – 1880)

"There comes the great Mr. Campbell,” the man beside her said to Eliza Davies as she sat in the church in Paisley, Scotland. She had attended out of sheer curiosity. Most of the Christianity she had experienced in both her native Australia and in Scotland had been unpleasant and unhappy. Departing from his usual practice, Alexander Campbell preached on one verse that day, 'So faith, hope, love, abide . . . but the greatest of these is love' (I Corinthians 13:13).

He made no gestures and never raised his voice, but Eliza had never heard a sermon like it. She said, I saw creation in a new light. God's love permeated the universe. I felt a great desire to do something for my fellow-beings, to show my appreciation of God's love for me. This sermon was a pivot on which my destiny turned. Eliza followed Campbell back to America.

Mrs. Campbell and the girls called her Our Little Dove as she nursed the sisters through their terminal illnesses. When a school for orphans was opened in Kentucky, she went there as dean of women. Later, at the pleas of her family, she returned to Australia and operated schools in the most primitive districts and gave the Bible to the people. Eliza Davies was not ordained, and no one commissioned her as a missionary. Yet everywhere she went, education flourished, the church of Christ grew, and the Bible was distributed.

An independent woman, she is honored each year as two women at Midway (Kentucky) College receive the scholarships she endowed from her meager means."

Gracious Spirit, give us eyes
to see creation in a new light,
to see your love permeating the universe,
and to see in the faces of those whose needs are great,
your smile reflected in theirs.
Through Christ our Savior, Amen.

- Doug Dornhecker

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Friday, December 21

Say to those of faint heart: Take courage! Do not be afraid. (Isaiah 35:4)

Thomas Merton
Monk and Author
(1915 – 1968)

After a rambunctious youth and adolescence,Merton converted to Roman Catholicism while at Columbia University, and on December 10th, 1941 entered the Abbey of Gethsemani, a community of Trappist monks. The twenty-seven years he spent in Gethsemani brought about profound changes in his self-understanding which impelled him into the political arena, where he became the conscience of the 1960’s peace movement.

Referring to race and peace as the two most urgent issues of our time, Merton was a strong supporter of the nonviolent civil rights movement, which he called “certainly the greatest example of Christian faith in action in the social history of the United States.” For his social activism Merton endured severe criticism, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who assailed his political writings as unbecoming of a monk.

During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism, and in promoting East-West dialogue. After several meetings with Merton during the American monk’s trip to the Far East in 1968, the Dali Lama praised him as having a more profound understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known.

It was during this trip to a conference on East-West monastic dialogue that Merton died, in Bangkok on December 10, 1968, the victim of an accidental electrocution. The date marked the twenty-seventh anniversary of his entrance to Gethsemani.

Be good,
keep your feet dry,
your eyes open,
your heart at peace
and your soul in the joy of Christ.
(Thomas Merton)

- Laurie Rudel
Thursday, December 20

Say to those of faint heart: Take courage! Do not be afraid. (Isaiah 35:4)

St. Agnes
Virgin and Martyr
(d. 304)

It is said that Agnes was born to a rich and noble family of Rome, and that at a young age her beauty attracted the interest of many prosperous suitors which she rebuffed. Her suitors, denouncing her choice to be a Christian, brought her before a magistrate.

He tried various forms of persuasion, ranging from mild entreaty to displaying instruments of torture, but nothing would compel her to worship other gods. She was condemned to a house of prostitution where every man might have free use of her. It is said no one could lay a finger on her because she exuded a powerful aura of purity. The judge then ordered her to be beheaded.

If she would not be one man’s wife, she might as well be every man’s whore—failing these options, she might as well be dead. At the time of her death she was thirteen years old. This is a conflict between a young woman’s power in Christ to define her own identity versus a patriarchal culture’s claim to identify her in terms of her sexuality.

Agnes did not choose death. She chose not to worship the gods of her culture. The God she worshiped set an altogether different value on her body and her human worth. Espoused to God she was beyond the power of any man to have his way with her. Virgin in this case is another
way of saying free woman.

We pray today for young women and men who are coming of age.
We pray for those who are defiant in the face of oppression and violence.
Help us, Holy One, to have the courage of our convictions.

- Joan Dennehy

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wednesday, December 19

Say to those of faint heart: Take courage! Do not be afraid. (Isaiah 35:4)

Clara Celestia Hale Babcock
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Minister
(1850 – 1924)

Born in 1850 in Fitchville, Ohio, Clara Hale Babcock "was reared in the Methodist Church, an eager, faithful, and willing worker in that tradition. When Disciples evangelist George F. Adams conducted a series of meetings in Sterling, Illinois, Clara, age twenty-five, attended some of them. She was so impressed with the teachings and method of baptism practiced by the Christian Church that she decided she wanted to be baptized by immersion like her Savior. Clara and her husband, Ira, were baptized . . . [and] united with the Sterling congregation.

In 1888 she was ordained into the Christian ministry, being the first woman in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to have that honor. She served the Erie, Illinois, congregation for fifteen years, was very active in the WCTU in Illinois, and served as county president in the Sterling area. Clara was a good evangelist as well. By 1917 she had conducted twenty-eight very successful meetings, made 1,400 converts, and baptized 1,000 of them herself.

Clara's mission in this life ended in 1924. Her faith was strong and through her long labor of preaching and evangelizing, she won many to Christ and helped organize several new congregations—truly led by the Spirit of God."

O Gentle God,
when I am afraid
to move outside the boundaries of my own expectations,
or tempted to remain inside the barriers of my own fear,
pour out your Spirit upon me
and lead me into a life of fearless obedience to Christ.

- Doug Dornhecker

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tuesday, December 18

Say to those of faint heart: Take courage! Do not be afraid. (Isaiah 35:4)

Desmond Tutu
(1931 –

Bishop Desmond Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, Transvaal. Following his schooling he taught high school for three years and then began to study theology, being ordained as a priest in 1960.

Desmond Tutu was Bishop of Lesotho from 1976 until 1978, when he became Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches. From this position, he was able to continue his work against apartheid with agreement from nearly all churches. Tutu consistently advocated reconciliation between all parties involved in apartheid through his writings and lectures at home and abroad.

In 1984, Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize citing his “role as a unifying leader figure in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa.” After the fall of apartheid, he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Tutu has written: “When missionaries came to South Africa, we had the land, they had the Bible. Then they told us, ‘Let’s close our eyes and pray.’ When we opened our eyes we saw that we have the Bible, they have the land.”

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Good is stronger than evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours, through him who loves us.
(Desmond Tutu)

- Laurie Rudel

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Monday, December 17

Say to those of faint heart: Take courage! Do not be afraid. (Isaiah 35:4)

Etty Hillesum
Mystic of the Holocaust
(1914 – 1943)

From the day the Dutch Jews were ordered to wear a yellow star to the day she boarded a cattle car bound for Poland, Etty bore witness to the power of love. She kept a diary of her experiences and the unfolding of her interior life. This book is now one of the great moral documents of our time.

When a friend commented that her love of enemies sounded like Christianity, she responded Yes, Christianity, why ever not? Her determination to affirm the goodness and beauty of existence was nothing short of miraculous. I must try to live a good and faithful life to my last breath, so that those who come after me do not have to start all over again.

The greatest task any person can perform is to preserve a spirit of love and forgiveness in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This was her vocation. She was called to be present at the heart of suffering, to become the thinking heart of the concentration camp. From the window of the train she tossed out a card that read we have left the camp singing. She died in Auschwitz at the age of twenty nine.

God Incarnate, help us to find life beautiful and meaningful
even in the face of suffering.
In a time when so much is being swept away,
may we hold fast to what endures—
an encounter with you in our own soul and in others.
May we spread our warmth, our genuine love for others,
wherever we go.

- Joan Dennehy

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sunday, December 16

Say to those of faint heart: Take courage! Do not be afraid. (Isaiah 35:4)

Rosa Page Welch
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Musical Ambassador
(1900 – 1994)

A descendant of African-American slaves, Rosa Page Welch was born in Port Gibson, Mississippi in 1900. As a teenager she was admitted to the Disciples' Southern Christian Institute in Edwards, Mississippi. She recalled her mother saying, as she boarded the train to go to school, "Don't hold hatred in your heart. You are going out into a world where you may not even be treated as a human being, but remember the words of Jesus, Treat other folks like you wish they'd treat you,--not like they do sometimes."

Rosa became a singer of remarkable giftedness--but she used that gift always, not to enhance her own reputation, but in service to Christ and the church. For example, Disciples missionaries Drs. Aigi and Kiyo Kamikawa stated: "In September, 1952, Rosa made a trip to Japan, alone. Her visit in the early life of Japan's recovery from World War II . . . made a great contribution. She sang her heart to the Japanese youth; many heard a Negro singer for the first time. She was an ambassador for Christ, a missionary at heart."

In 1976, she wrote that the "predominantly white, middle, and upper income church and community . . . is where freedom is most lacking, powerlessness is most evident, irresponsibility is most devastating, self determination is least to be found. What is already taking place in the black ghetto must also take place in the church and in the white community: Rebellion! Rebellion against all that imprisons us and keeps us from acting as responsible children of God."

O Lord Jesus Christ,
help the church to be able to see and describe itself
as the source of freedom and power,
so that it can communicate with the world
and participate in the revolutionary changes that are taking place.
And help it to find the joy which comes through involvement, with your help,
in making all people free. (Rosa Page Welch, 1976)

- Doug Dornhecker

Friday, December 14, 2007

Saturday, December 15

You will treat poor people with fairness and will uphold the rights of the land’s downtrodden.
(Isaiah 11:4)

Oscar Romero
Archbishop of El Salvador and Martyr
(1917 – 1980)

Oscar Romero was born in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador. From his early years he preferred to pray and study rather than learn the skill of carpentry to which he was apprenticed. At thirteen he began to study for the priesthood.

He grew in commitment and became a hard nosed traditionalist who opposed any effort to “modernize” the church. As archbishop, Oscar Romero initially worked against priests engaged in the struggle to better the life of the people of El Salvador. He believed that the church ought to transcend the world not intervene in it.

No one knows what changed in Oscar Romero but over time he awoke to the violence that surrounded him and the injustice that trampled over the rights of the people. He called the people of San Salvador to gather in worship as a demonstration of solidarity. Meanwhile the rich waged million-dollar campaigns designed to break his spirit and the government taunted him.

He wrote: “If they ever take our radio, suspend our newspaper, silence us, put to death all of us priests, bishop included, and you are left alone – a people without priests – then each of you will have to be a messenger, a prophet. The church will always exist as long as even one baptized person is left alive!” On the evening of March 24, 1980 he was shot while delivering a homily.

God of grace, open our hearts to the injustice that surrounds us;
open our minds to your expansive realm;
open our hands in caring for others.

- Laurie Rudel

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Friday, December 14

You will treat poor people with fairness and will uphold the rights of the land’s downtrodden.
(Isaiah 11:4)

St. Francis of Assisi
Founder of the Friars Minor
(1182 – 1226)

Wealthy, attracted to adventure, frivolity, and romance, he went off to war at age twenty, was captured and spent a year in prison. A serious illness followed from which he recovered slowly.

These experiences provoked a spiritual crisis. A fastidious person, Francis was repulsed by paupers and the sick. As he was riding one day he saw a leper. Dismounting he shared his cloak with the leper and then kissed the poor man’s ravaged face. Life now took shape around a new agenda, contrary to the values of his family and the world.

While praying in a dilapidated chapel he heard a voice speak to him: Francis, repair my church, which has fallen into disrepair, as you can see. At first he took this assignment literally, physically restoring the ruined building. Only later did he understand his mission in a wider sense. His vocation was to recall the church to the radical simplicity of the gospel.

In an age of crusades and other expressions of “sacred violence” he lived a radical commitment to nonviolence. Everything living or inanimate reflected God’s love and in this spirit he wrote his famous Canticle of Creation singing the praises of Brother Sun and Sister Moon.

His identification with Christ was so intense that while praying he received the “stigmata,” the physical marks of Christ’s passion on his hand and feet. On his deathbed he said, I have done my part. May Christ teach you to do yours.

Shape us around your will, O God.
May we embody in our life the message we speak.
Open for us the heart of the gospel, the preferential option for the poor.

- Joan Dennehy

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thursday, December 13

You will treat poor people with fairness and will uphold the rights of the land’s downtrodden.
(Isaiah 11:4)

Mattie Younkin
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Activist
(d. 1908)

The little prayer band of six women who met in the church basement that cold February night were uncertain what they could do. But they were certain that they and the Disciples of Christ must do something about the growing numbers of homeless persons, especially children and women, in America's cities.

Gradually the answer came: They must galvanize the energies of the whole denomination in a ministry of caring for the needy. With pitiful resources, great faith, and a strong sense of sisterhood, they opened St. Louis Orphans' Home . . . Soon they had to have a mothers’ and babies' home, then a home for the indigent elderly. And so it grew. The moving spirit was Mattie Hart Younkin.

Orphaned in her early teens, she had married her college sweetheart. Deeply moved by Jesus' words, As you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40), she called the band together. She traveled over the heartland raising funds for the home.

The first woman ordained to the ministry in Missouri, she endured the convention catcalls and the frequent rejections. She died of cancer six days before the convention accepted the women's association as its own ministry, the first denomination-wide benevolent association in America.

Mothering God,
we believe you appointed us to bring glad tidings to the afflicted,
and to proclaim the time of God's favor.
Give us the courage to help others when we ourselves feel overwhelmed,
so that we may truly understand sadness and loss,
and more fully offer your love.

- Doug Dornhecker

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wednesday, December 12

You will treat poor people with fairness and will uphold the rights of the land’s downtrodden. (Isaiah 11:4)

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Feast Day of Mary,
Mother of God

In 1531 a “Lady from Heaven”—Mary, the mother of Jesus—appeared to a humble Native American, Juan Diego, at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of what is now Mexico City.

The story is told that Mary first appeared to the bishop in the area requesting that he build a church on the hill. The bishop asked for a sign.

So it was that on a winter day Mary appeared to Juan. She filled his “tilma” (a rough cactus cloth that fits over one’s head somewhat like a poncho) with roses as a sign for the bishop. She identified herself as “the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth.”

As a celebration of this feast day people get up before dawn and meet outside the church. Accompanied by mariachi bands they sing together and remember Mary who sang a song about God’s love for the poor: God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:52-53)

After the singing everyone enters the church for prayer and then celebrates with breakfast of hot chocolate and sweet rolls.

Mary, Mother of God, unclench our fingers that long to cling;
loosen our heart-strings that we might give freely out of abundance;
open our eyes that we might never loose sight
of the miraculous all around us.

-Laurie Rudel

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tuesday, December 11

You will treat poor people with fairness and will uphold the rights of the land’s downtrodden. (Isaiah 11:4)

Felipe and Mary Barreda
Lay Apostles and Martyrs
(d. 1983)

Felipe was a watchmaker, Mary was a hairdresser, and together they had raised six children and had fifteen grandchildren. Leaders in the base community movement in Nicaragua their lives came to center around the Gospel as expressed in service to the poor.

Living under the notorious dictatorship of Somoza, the base communities provided strongsupport to the growing Sandinista revolutionary struggle. When victory came, the Barredas threw themselves into the work of reconstruction and support for the new government programs. This revolution was unprecedented in the degree of Christian participation, but not all agreed. The church came to be bitterly divided.

Political opposition was joined by the military campaign of the contras, a rebel army sponsored by the United States. Operating out of bases in Honduras the contras waged a war of terror. Because the Sandinista government depended heavily on the sale of coffee, the contras focused terror against coffee harvesters.

In a letter Mary said the opportunity to go and pick coffee will be converted into health,clothing, homes, roads, and food. For this, I am going to pick coffee with all the love andenthusiasm of which I am capable.

In December Felipe and Mary were kidnapped by contra rebels while picking coffee, forced to march to a camp in Honduras, subjected to beatings and torture, then executed. To the end they responded with prayers and affirmations of their Christian faith.

Help us, God, to accept that faith is not expecting that you will give us whatever we ask and everything will turn out as we want. We put ourselves in your hands, whatever happens, good or bad. You will help us somehow.

- Joan Dennehy

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Monday, December 10

You will treat poor people with fairness and will uphold the rights of the land’s downtrodden.
(Isaiah 11:4)

Dorothy Day
Social Activist
(1897 – 1980)

Dorothy Day dedicated her life to serving others; however, that was not how her life began. As a young adult she completely dropped out of life living as a bohemian in Greenwich Village. An unwed mother, she lived a life of poverty and unemployment.

She said: “I see only too clearly how bad people are. It’s my own sins that give me such clarity.”Yet something else stirred within her. She converted to Catholicism coming to believe in“the church of the poor Christ who came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

With her awakening she opened soup kitchens and began houses of hospitality in New York City. She inspired hundreds of thousands of people through The Catholic Worker movement.

She summed up her life-work in this way: “The spiritual works of mercy are to admonish the sinner, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive all injuries, and to pray for the living and the dead. The corporal works are to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to ransom the captive, to harbor the harbor-less, to visit the sick and to bury the dead.” She said, “People want peace, but not the things that make for peace.”

Today and tomorrow, O God, guide our hands in acts of service and prayer that we might practice the ways of peace with our lives. Amen.

-Laurie Rudel

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sunday, December 9

You will treat poor people with fairness and will uphold the rights of the land’s downtrodden. (Isaiah 11:4)

Barton Warren Stone
Disciples Founder
(1772 – 1844)

In the story of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), few names are better-known than that of Barton Warren Stone. Stone was born into a wealthy and influential Maryland family with "sizable holdings of land."

He was a descendant of the first Protestant governor of Maryland, and the cousin of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Stone's father died when Barton, his youngest child, was only three years old. As Barton grew, "intent on achieving wealth and status," he invested his inheritance in a liberal education. But, unlike his classmates who went on to greater wealth and prominence as attorneys and politicians, Barton Stone chose to become a Presbyterian minister.

When his mother died, he inherited two of his father's original sixteen slaves, but believing that "slavery is inconsistent with the principles of Christianity as well as civil liberty," he freed them and provided for their education.

As his religious sensibilities grew, he gave up a comfortable salary, which had provided for his wife and young family, so that he could withdraw from the Synod of Kentucky and pursue his ideals for Christian reformation. His life from then on was a process of "downward mobility," using whatever meager resources were available to carry on his pastoral, publishing, and reformatory ministries.

Known for his generous hospitality to strangers and travelers and those in need, he shared whatever was placed on the family table, however meager, with any who came. He died in virtual poverty, having literally given his life away, a beloved friend of both his reforming allies and his religious opponents.

O Christ of the narrow way,
teach us how to treat other people with lavish generosity,
that having cleared our paths of excess, we might walk with you.

-Doug Dornhecker
Saturday, December 8

Come, let us walk in the light of God. (Isaiah 2:5)

St. Hildegard of Bingen
Abbess and Visionary
(1098 – 1179)

Born the tenth child in a German province, at age eight she was given to an abbey to be raised. At the age of eighteen she put on the habit of a Benedictine nun.

From the age of three she had visions neither in sleep nor dreaming, nor in madness, nor with bodily eyes or ears, nor in hidden places, but wakeful and alert with the eyes of the spirit and inward ears.

Her major work, Scivias, is a record of visions concerning the relations between God, humanity, and the cosmos, accompanied by extraordinary paintings. She shows humans as living sparks of God’s love. She shows the effects of sin and the drama of redemption that ultimately restores the world. Human beings are the universe in microcosm, called to be co-creators with God in shaping the world. She refers to God as “Living Light” and employs a remarkable word—greenness—to describe the energy or grace of God that shines forth in all living things.

She avidly studied the use of medicinal herbs and seems to have anticipated the principles of homeopathy. She composed religious music of haunting beauty and originality.

For eight hundred years this author, theologian, prophet, preacher, musician, composer, poet, artist, doctor and pharmacist remained in obscurity. Only in recent decades has she emerged into the light, partly due to the contemporary interest in the role of women in history. Her ecological and holistic spirituality speaks to our time.

Like a flame that is hot without burning, may our hearts burn with original blessing.
Make known to us an understanding of the world and our place in it.
Open the eyes of our Spirit.

- Joan Dennehy

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Friday, December 7

Come, let us walk in the light of God. (Isaiah 2:5)

Clarence Jordan
Farmer and Scholar
(1912 – 1969)

Clarence Jordan was one the founders of Koinonia Farm, a small but influential interracial Christian farming community near Americus, Georgia. He authored the Cotton Patch translations of the New Testament and was instrumental in the founding of Habitat for Humanity.

With a radical commitment to embodying the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, the Koinonia partners bound themselves to the equality of all persons, rejection of violence, ecological stewardship, and common ownership of possessions. For several years the residents of Koinonia lived in relative peace alongside their neighbors. But as the civil rights movement progressed, white citizens of the area increasingly perceived Koinonia’s commitment to racial equality as a threat.

In the 1950s and early ’60s, Koinonia became the target of a stifling economic boycott, repeated violence, and several bombings. When Mr. Jordan sought help from President Eisenhower, he refused to intervene and referred the matter to the governor of Georgia, a staunch supporter of racial segregation. The governor responded by ordering the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate Koinonia’s supporters for purported Communist ties.

Upon death his body was placed in a shipping crate from a local casket manufacturer and was buried in an unmarked grave on Koinonia property. The citizens of southwest Georgia treated him in death as they had in life: his funeral was attended only by his family, the Koinonia partners, and the poor of the community. “He be gone now,” reflected a neighbor in 1980, “but his footprint still here.”

God, help us to live out the radical good news of Jesus.

- Laurie Rudel

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Thursday, December 6

Come, let us walk in the light of God. (Isaiah 2:5)

David Kagiwada
Minister in the Christan Church (Disciples of Christ
(1929 – 1985)

In 1908 a group of Japanese Christians in Los Angeles organized a Japanese Christian Church. By 1942, there were nine rapidly growing Japanese Christian Churches in Southern California. That year they were all forced to close when Japanese Americans were sent to concentration camps.

David Tamotsu Kagiwada, born in Los Angeles, was a second-generation Disciple. His mother had graduated from a Disciples sponsored mission school in Tokyo. As a youth, David and his family were sent to an Arizona internment camp, an injustice that inspired David to channel his Christian faith into fighting injustice of this and every kind.

After the war, he pursued studies at the University of Chicago and was ordained a Disciples minister. The focus of his ministry, serving five different congregations in California and Indiana, was always to reconcile and heal antagonism among all people; to support and be an advocate for racial/ethnic minorities and women; and to help the church recognize and appreciate the gifts of people of Asian heritage.

When I was attending my first Disciples General Assembly as a young minister in 1979, David, whom I had never met, introduced himself to me because he knew I had been recently hired to serve a congregation in California near one of his former parishes. To have been sought out and found by this palpably kind, enthusiastic, and generous human being in the busy corridors of the St. Louis Convention Center will always remain with me as a singular experience of having walked together in the light of God.

David Kagiwada died in 1985, having served as the first Convener of what is now called NAPAD—North American Pacific/Asian Disciples.

Shining Spirit in whom all are one,
where each of us is known and everyone is cherished,
seep through the spaces that separate us.
Weave us together and make us whole.

- Doug Dornhecker
Wednesday, December 5

Come, let us walk in the light of God. (Isaiah 2:5)

Pierre Teilhard deChardin
Mystic and Scientist
(1881 – 1955)

The volcanic hills that surrounded his home stimulated a lifelong fascination with rocks and fossils. He was a Jesuit prophet who labored to reconcile the language of science and the language of religion. Afire with a vision of the divine mystery at the heart of the cosmos, he worked to integrate evolution with Christianity, yet little of this was recognized in his life. His religious superiors denied him permission to publish his theological writings or lecture publicly. This caused him severe frustration and suffering, yet he submitted, thinking his function akin to John the Baptist: one who points to what is to come.

He called the final terminus of evolution the Omega Point, where spirit and matter must eventually converge. He spent twenty three years doing research and field work in China, sent there to keep him out of the theological limelight of Europe. His last “exile” was to the United States. “I should like to die on the day of the Resurrection,” he said. And so it came to pass, a heart attack on Easter Sunday.

His vision was at last released to the world: The day will come, when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

God of the Cosmos, we see you everywhere,
in all that is most hidden, most solid,
and most ultimate in the world.
We pray for those who are denied the right
to give their gifts to the world
and for those who find a way to do it
regardless of all obstacles.

- Joan Dennehy

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tuesday, December 4

Come, let us walk in the light of God. (Isaiah 2:5)

Saint Thecla of Iconium
Evangelist and Healer
(1st century)

Saint Thecla was a saint of the early Christian Church, (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) and a follower of Paul. The earliest record of her comes from the Acts of Paul and Thecla. These writings are part of a Pauline tradition that provided apostolic blessing for women’s leadership roles in the church. According to tradition, Thecla was a young noble virgin who listened to Paul’s “discourse on virginity” and became a follower.

Thecla’s mother and fiancĂ©e became concerned that Thecla would follow Paul’s demand “that one must fear only one God and live in chastity,”and punished both Paul and Thecla. Saved from being burned at the stake by a storm, she traveled with Paul to Antioch. There a nobleman who desired Thecla attempted to take her by force. Thecla fought, assaulting him in the process. She was put on trial and sentenced to be eaten by wild beasts. Again she was saved by a miracle.

Tradition holds that Thecla lived a long life outside Seleucia where she offered healing and teaching in the name of Christ. Santa Tecla is the patron saint of Tarragona, Spain, where her feast day is the major fiesta of the city and the cathedral is dedicated to her. In Spain, she is sometimes facetiously referred to as the patron saint of computers (teclado means

Just as you have freed the most blessed Thecla . . . from three cruel
torments, so also may you deign to free the soul of your servant.
(Prayer for St. Thecla’s Feast Day)

-Laurie Rudel

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Monday, December 3

Come let us walk in the light of God. (Isaiah 2:5)

Cynthia Pearl Maus
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Educator and Author
(1880 – 1970)

Cynthia Pearl Maus believed in Christian Education because she believed that young people and adults could learn from each other and walk together in the light of God. She was born on a farm in Iowa. She went to a teachers' college in Kansas, then to university in Illinois, and at the age of 30, began developing church school literature for Disciples of Christ.

By 1919, she had helped invent "graded lessons," Vacation Bible Schools, weekday Bible schools, and summer camps and conferences. She organized the first national convention for Disciples youth in 1926. She wrote voluminously to assist teachers and published a series of widely-read
devotional anthologies. During her long life, Cynthia Pearl Maus' scholarship and devotion gave thousands of people, young and old, an opportunity to walk in the light of God.

She is often quoted as saying: “You may have tangible wealth untold, caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you could never be; I know someone who told stories to me.” Thewonderful stories she told were stories of God at work in the world. They were "light" to be shared with others.

It's Advent. Are we telling stories? Are we listening to others tell them?

O God, joy of the young that see you,
peace of the old that love you,
and strength of all that seek you,
help us walk this day in the light of your presence,
speaking gently as we go,
listening to others in true community,
through Jesus our teacher, our friend, and our light. Amen.

- Doug Dornhecker

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sunday, December 2

Come, let us walk in the light of God. (Isaiah 2:5)

Brother Lawrence
Carmelite Lay Brother
(1611 – 1691)

One day in his early life he was standing outdoors on a cold midwinter day in the presence of a gaunt and leafless tree. The thought that in a little time the bare branches would again be covered with leaves filled him with the power and care of God.

From a humble background and little formal education Brother Lawrence spent forty years in a monastery kitchen in Paris scrubbing pots and chopping vegetables. In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, he wrote, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees in church.

Were it not for the impression he made on a visitor he would be one of the anonymous saints of everyday life who, for all we know, are secretly at work redeeming the world. His conversations with the visitor were published under the title The Practice of the Presence of God. His method was to be mindful at all times of the presence of God, making all his activities hallowed. God regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.

We take time this day, God of Presence, to notice a part of your creation, to see you in it. We pray that in our life the time of business will not differ from the time of prayer. Whatever task we perform we will do it mindful of you. Then shall we be in a state of continuous conversation with you, our soul’s yearning.

- Joan Dennehy
An Advent Daybook - 2007

Anatole France said that when he was a little boy he read the story of the life of St. Simeon Sylites, that strange gentleman of ancient times who lived for thirty years on a small platform atop a sixty-foot pillar in Syria.

By means of a ladder, visitors were able to ascend. For some reason Anatole decided he was called to perform a similar act of saintly heroism. So he went into the kitchen, climbed up on the kitchen cabinet, and stayed there all morning.

At lunchtime he got down. His mother, who understood what was happening, said: “Now you mustn’t feel bad about this. You have at least made the attempt, which is more than most people have done.”

This year Joan Dennehy, Doug Dornhecker, and I set about to chronicle the lives of those who have made a difference in the world. Some we might call saints. Others might be known as holy people. This year we imagine them lighting the Advent path, showing us another way to live.

We hope you enjoy these daily meditations.

blessings + peace, Laurie Rudel