Reading: Matthew 15: 21-28
I have to admit it-- I don't like brussel sprouts. I like all other vegetables, but I'd pass on brussel sprouts every time. I don't know why I don't like them; I like cabbage fixed other ways, but I don't like those sprouts.
Maybe my dislike comes from the evening I had to sit at the dinner table all by myself after everyone else left because I hadn't finished my brussel sprouts. My mom made me sit there until I ate every last bite. If I remember correctly, I lived out our Bible text for today by giving them to our dog. Unfortunately, I then told my mom that I had eaten them. (I did admit it years later!)
I was eating dinner once a young child and brussel sprouts were on the menu. I told his mother that I didn't like brussel sprouts (and I was not alone-- neither did her husband) but I encouraged the boy to try them. Maybe he would like the "casserole" as he called them. I knew I didn't! Since everyone has their own taste, I wanted him to try the sprouts-- even though I knew I didn't want to touch them.
At another point in my life, I was forced by my mother to eat a piece of fruit. She told me that if I ate a banana at supper, she buy me a roll of film for my new camera. (Yes, I know this story dates me in our digital age!) I'd just gotten that new Kodak and the deal sounded appealing. I was not a big fruit fan but I ate one so that I could get that roll of film. And, I liked it. Today, bananas remain my favorite fruit.
Two experiences, basically the same, being forced to do something with two different outcomes. I still don't like brussel sprouts, but I love bananas. Maybe if my mom would have promised me a roll of film if I ate my brussel sprouts, I'd like them more. But I doubt it!
Closing: Mediate on or discuss with one another this quote: "Faith is a belief in what you do not yet see, and the reward of faith is to see what you believe." (St. Augustine)
Reading: Matthew 2: 1-12
The twelve days of Christmas are over and we will have arrived at Epiphany. Epiphany marks when the wisemen came to visit the Christ Child. They were traveling through the desert, following a star that would lead them to a king.
The wisemen put great faith in that star. They trusted that it would show them the way. In the days of slavery in the United States, slaves would travel the underground railroad to freedom. They, too, followed a star– the constellation “The Big Dipper.” It showed them the way to the north.
Just like the wisemen and slaves trusted stars to lead them, we must trust God to lead us on our earthly journey. We must put our full faith in God to show us the straight and narrow path to take. Pray that God will guide you all the days of your life. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Watch this video of the songs, “When They Saw the Star They Rejoiced.”
Reading: Genesis 9: 8-17
One New Year’s Day, my family was traveling home from church and not far from our house, we saw a full rainbow. What a great way to start a new year! It reminded me of a human rainbow I was once a part of.
Imagine it. About sixty people, standing together in coordinated clothing with a row of people wearing red, a row wearing orange, a row wearing yellow, one row of green, one of blue, and one of purple. Sixty people standing together symbolizing God’s promise that He will never cover the earth with water again.
In a world with witches, devils, warlocks, and sin, it’s comforting to see a rainbow and remember God’s promise. God plays an important role in our daily lives. The symbol of a rainbow shows that God will play an important role in our future as well. We all have dreams, wishes, and desires. With the help of friends, relatives, family, and, of course, God, dreams can come true. Strive for those dreams. You never know when they might become reality. Remember, the Lord works in mysterious ways. The years may change, but God stays the same. -- Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Watch this video song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Reading: Matthew 11: 25-30
As we celebrate the tenth day of Christmas, let me tell you a story about a boy named Nathan. Nathan was a very special child. He came from a good family, had gone to grange camp, and was overcoming some medical problems. He indeed was very special, in his own special way.
I encountered Nathan my second summer of being a church camp counselor. He was in my cabin. I knew from the start that he would be an interesting boy to work with. He was slow and needed the extra time to get himself ready. Periodically, I’d have to remind him what he was doing. When he got one sock on, I’d remind him to put the other one on. When he got his socks on, I’d have to remind him to put his shoes on. After he got one shoe on, I’d have to remind him to put the other one on. Nathan was indeed special.
Nathan gave me the appreciation for little things– getting dressed, putting on my shoes, and the like. We often get caught up in our busy daily schedules and sometimes forget about the little things such as the small ant on the ground, the bird chirping in the tree, or the squirrel scurrying with a nut. They are a valuable part of creation and truly make the world a better place. Unfortunately, they get lost as we hurry from place to place, going about our daily routines. But, they are parts of our life that are even more valuable than our hair appointments, work deadlines, and car problems. They are the simple things which God made for us to care for, enjoy, and appreciate.
Did you feel rushed and overly busy this Advent and Christmas season? I’ve already been planning on how I can do things differently next year so that I can enjoy the season more. Perhaps I will try to do that all year round!
So, the next time you put on your shoes, think of Nathan. After you have one shoe on, remind yourself to put the other one on. Think about the small things in your daily life and appreciate them. Don’t just take them for granted.
Oh, by the way, Nathan, it’s time to put your left shoe on. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Watch this video rendition of the folk song, “Simple Gifts.”
Reading: Matthew 22: 1-14
I attended a pig roast once at the farm of one of my summer colleagues. She had invited us all over to her family's annual event. We had a good time playing games and eating together. It was a nice way to spend a summer evening.
The funniest thing that happened that day, though, happened when I was standing in line, getting my food from the buffet table. I was scooping up some roasted pig when I heard one of my friends say, "My, these people sure know how to throw a party. I wonder who they are, anyway?" I started laughing, because of course, she knew the hosts and was an invited guest. The look on the faces of the strangers around us was priceless. They thought she was serious and had crashed the pig roast. ,
The master invited many to his wedding feast but they did not come. They had other obligations and commitments. So, the master told his servants to go out and get whoever they could to attend the feast. He wanted to share the event even with those he didn't know. This parable was put to music in a song we sing at camp. I think the final verse sums it us pretty well:
"Now God has written a lesson for the rest of mankind,
If we're slow in responding He will leave us behind
He's preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day
When the Lord and Master calls we can be certain not to say, I cannot come!"
Closing: Watch this video of the camp song, “The Wedding Banquet,” a musical version of this parable.
Reading: Psalm 104: 34-35
A few people I know have taken yoga. I've never taken the time to learn that medication technique but I am told that it is very relaxing and good for the mind. I know at times my mind is constantly racing with thoughts and ideas. Sometimes I wish I could have a clear mind and not be thinking of anything.
As this passage from one of the Psalms says, we have to make our meditations with God meaningful. How do we do that? Here are some pointers I picked up from a good friend of mine. First, review your past. What have you learned from your experiences? How have you been helped by those events in your life? What has God taught you? Second, reflect on the greatness and goodness of God. Think of all the marvelous things God has done for you. Think of the awesome love and grace God gives to the chosen. Third, remember God's promises. The Bible is full of the many promises made by our Heavenly Father. Remember those promises. Finally, make requests to the Lord. As it says in Matthew, "Ask and it will be given to you."
Jesus frequently went to pray and gather His thoughts. We, too, should use our devotional time to meditate and pray. Then, we need to wait and see how the Lord Almighty answers our prayers. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Mediate on or discuss with one another this quote: "It's hard to stumble when you are on your knees!" (Author Unknown)
Reading: Ecclesiastes 3:17
When I was a bachelor, I had to learn how to cook for myself. I remember kidding with my mother that growing up, I always thought she was very talented in the kitchen. But, once I started cooking for myself, I learned that it really wasn't that hard. My mom shared many good recipes with me, most of which I found easy to make. I learned my way around the kitchen and think I turned into a pretty good cook.
Eating together is important. I have been blessed with friends and family who invite me to dinner for a meal and fellowship. I'm sure you have experienced the same thing. You, too, probably have people in your life who have no problem setting another place at the table and welcoming you into their home. It does a lot for the soul to know that you are loved by others.
It also does a lot for the soul to see how God loves you. And the best way to do that is by reading the Word of God. You can learn so much about God's awesome love by turning to the stories and words of wisdom in the Bible. One of the first songs I remember learning in Sunday School was "The B-I-B-L-E." Yes, that's the book for me!
I encourage you to set a place for God at your table each day. I know for many of us, our plates are extremely full with work or school, family obligations, charity activities and the like. But we should make time for God each day, spending some quality time reading God's Word and praying for our concerns and the concerns of others. What better way to show our love for our Creator than by welcoming God into our everyday lives, just as our loved ones welcome you into their homes for nourishment, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
We hope you will use this "First Light" devotional blog this year and "set another place at the table for God." May the Lord be with you on this journey! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Sing the song "The B-I-B-L-E" together. If you are using these as personal devotions, reflect on the words of the song and how you might use this song to remember to set a place at the table for God each day this year.
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