Advent Devotion 5

Hoping for the Best

By Eugina Robertson

Hebrews 11:1    Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.


In an interview with Wes Moore, talking about his book; The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, he was shocked to discover that this other Wes Moore not only shared the same name but also lived in the same neighborhood as a child. This other Wes Moore, however, ended up in prison for armed robbery and murder. The author Wes Moore had a very different life as a college graduate and Rhodes scholar. He asked the other Wes Moore why their lives had taken such different paths, supposing perhaps we are simply products of our environment, since the author Wes Moore had moved out of the rough neighborhood as a teenager.  The prisoner said, we were not products of our environment but products of our expectations. The prisoner Wes Moore was told he would never amount to much as a young black man in a rough neighborhood, while the author Wes Moore, who is also black, was always told we expect you to go to college and do great things and be successful. "The tragedy, was not that we both did not live up to expectations but that we both did," said the prisoner Wes Moore.


Father, I pray, that the expectations of the hope of a Messiah during this Advent also remind us of the expectations you have for us. For you give us hope. Amen.

Advent Devotion 4

God Sees

By Bobbe Crouch


Mark 11:24    Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.


The darkest periods of my life have always been the most hope-filled. I can't pinpoint who taught me this or when, as I cannot recall a time this wasn't in my heart. The times I have been face down on the pavement of life, I've always had one eye focused on the love of God and the Blessing that's surely on the way.  

These are the times my heart whispers to me, "God will heal this. God sees you. God sees!"

I believe the Almighty does see, hear and feel everything I go through on this earth. Being the loving father He is to me; He waits for me to find the lesson of the experience; and when I do, He sends His grace.

That being said, it's a dark time for me right now. For days I've been up at five am succumbing to tears and lamentations. It's so hard to find the hope in a situation that keeps replaying itself in the exact same manner year after year. I keep telling myself, "God sees", yet for the moment, it isn't bringing me any resolution.

I do not know what to do in order to fix this. I don't know that it can be fixed. I know perfectly well that the definition of insanity is repeating the same action over and over again expecting a different result. However, in this case, I am not the one repeating the same action and I already feel I have tried every possible approach.

Still in all, I keep one eye open, knowing unequivocally that through every single period of darkness in my life, God has revealed Himself to me in miraculous ways.

And so I will pray again, believing God will heal this situation, and He will.

Dear God:

I can't. You can. Please Do.

Thank you in advance.

I love you.


Advent Devotion 3

Jacob and Us at the Jabbok

By L. Lee Whitlock


Genesis 32:26  Then he [Jacob] said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’


Jacob’s question saved my life. Saturday after Thanksgiving 1994, I faced the most extraordinary battle of my life. I was powerless. Early in my life, I became obsessed with Jacob’s Angel (G-d?)? Who believes in Angels? If they exist, why would you fight one? When I was a little boy, I wondered what I would do if I encountered an angel. I imagined that I would say, “Hello, Mr. Angel, what are you doing here?” Maturity and a theological education changed my approach, but the concept of Deity struggling never left.


On that November 5th, a friend suggested I talk with a Jesuit trained priest who lived in Washington, DC. He belonged to a chapter of a worldwide organization of which I was a member. I called him, left a message. Within half an hour, he called me. My fellowship of 22 years is like that. Members reach out quickly. I told him of my “Jacob at the Jabbok.” I ended my part of the conversation by saying, “Jacob was lucky. He walked away having received a limp and a new name, ‘Israel’. I’m still struggling. I feel like I’ve been in a bar fight my whole life. I’m beaten, bloody, bruised and battered from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. I demanded of this disguised G-d, ‘I’ll not let you go unless you bless me.’” I began to cry. After a few moments of holy silence, my Jesuit brother said, “Ah, but you ought to see the other Guy!”


I got it. Grace happened. The rest of the story, the part that the redactor left out was why this Angel stayed in the struggle. I heard the Angel saying, “I’ll not let you go until you accept my blessing.” I got it. Grace happened. I accepted grace. I read where a physician said, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” We do not just accept that we will face difficult problems at any time; it also means that we have to accept that G-d is in the fight with us.


Jesus, you said, “Come unto me all you that labor, that struggle, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We heard, “Wanna fight?” You said, “I will and I will stay in the struggle as long as it takes for you to receive My blessing. I want you just as you are, without one plea. My blood has already been shed for you. In the wonderful revival hymn, we hear the refrain six times “O Lamb of G-d, I come, I come.” We feel the urgency to come to You, and we learn slowly that You will continue to struggle with You until we come and receive Your welcome, Your pardon, Your cleansing, and Your relief. You have broken every barrier down. O Lamb of G-d, we come, we come. Amen.

Advent Devotion 2

Sunshine and Sisterhood

By Peggy Schmidt


John 8:12  Jesus spoke to them: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life."

On a long weekend in October -- I met my sisters in the Tulsa Airport and we headed to "the farm." This was the home where my parents were living when I was born. The current owners have restored it to its 1950's look and currently use it as a guest house. So, we rented it and moved back in for 3 days.

Through stories, shared photo albums, and walks in the grove -- the walls literally gave up memories. We shared and shared and came to a greater understanding and appreciation of who these parents were and how they nurtured us to become who we are today.

Saturday morning the sun broke over the fields -- in a sunrise I will never forget. The open landscape allowed a view of a long, beautifully streaked sky -- layered with pink, blue and yellow. The breaking of a glorious day!

That sky! The dark starry night and the glorious dawn, remind us of the breaking of day on that Christmas morn -- following the birth of Christ.

That light! The Hope of the world -- remains with us today. It behooves us to rise -- watch -- appreciate -- and take a walk down the path we are blessed to walk.

Thank you, God, for the light -- And for the Light of the WorldAmen.

Advent Devotion 1

Light Coming Into the World

By Dale Tucker


John 1:4-5  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood.

John 8:12 He said, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Matthew 5:14, 16  You are the light of the world...let your light shine before men

Take a close look at the half dome above the choir loft.  What appears to be simply decorative scroll work is actually an intricate display of candles.  Then let your eyes drop down a bit further and you will see a solid band of what seems at first to be grooves but is actually candles.

Candles have played an important role in our worship services.  The children or other designated party bring a lit taper down the aisle to light the candle at the front to symbolize the coming of Jesus into the worshiping community.  We utilize candles in our Advent wreath symbolizing the progress of His coming and our expectation of what that means in our lives. 

Have you ever been in a totally darkened room or cave and then someone lights a candle and the darkness is dispelled?  While we may wonder at our effectiveness as followers of Christ, remember the impact of one small light in a darkened space.  We are to let our lights shine, just as Jesus brought light into the world.

Some Christians light candles on All Souls Day in memory of a departed loved one.  Hospice often conducts services of remembrance during which friends and family light candles in memory of the loved one who is "gone from our sight."  The "cloud" of candles in the CHBC sanctuary may be significant in that regard, especially when one recognizes that two funeral urns stand atop columns at the front of the church.

Lord, may we let our light shine as Jesus taught us.  Amen

The Four…No, Five Reasons Why I am Committed to EmpoweRWest

Relationship. That’s the first R. I had only been to the West End a handful of times before my involvement with EmpoweRWest. I had acquaintances who lived in the West End, but not friends. Now, I find myself in the West End on a regular basis. Now, I call many people friends who reside in the West End. Because of EmpoweRWest the people of the West End are more fully in my heart, more often on my mind, and always in my prayers.

Relationships led to new Revelations. Relationships formed through EmpoweRWest served as the foundation upon which I received new Revelations as to how black people have been and continue to be oppressed and exploited by white people, like myself.

Relationships and new Revelations led to Reparations. I am now motivated and committed to help make the future more right after centuries of wrong. EmpoweRWest is a vehicle that has taught me how I can unleash the economic, educational, and spiritual power already present within West Louisville’s people. EmpoweRWest has shown me that by investing in black controlled institutions such as Simmons College of Kentucky and black-owned businesses in the West End I can help reverse the trade deficit between the West End and East End that sucks resources out the West End and perpetuates racial tension. Until money starts to flow from east to west, rather than west to east, then de facto segregation will persist. White people who care about racism and who have the means, must practice what they preach. We must put our money where our mouth is.  

Relationships that led to Revelation that led to Reparations then may, hopefully, lead to Reconciliation. EmpoweRWest has shown me that if we really want Reconciliation, three other Rs must precede it.

Upon further review, these four words that begin with a common letter are not the only reason why I am committed to EmpoweRWest. I have more selfish reasons as well. Racial Reconciliation is tied up with my Redemption. My Redemption as a white Christian is wrapped up with Reconcilation, Reparations, Revelations, Relations.

EmpoweRWest is working to making all these Rs, a Reality.

A Thanksgiving Prayer For These Difficult Days

What follows is a prayer offered at the Interfaith Paths to Peace organized Interfaith Thanksgiving Meal and Prayer Service by Jason Crosby at Temple Shalom on November 23, 2015. Along with this prayer from the Christian tradition, prayers from the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and other faith traditions were expressed.

At the onset of this week in which our nation sets aside a day for her people to give thanks, we pause to give our utmost thanksgiving and praise to the One from Whom all blessings flow.

For, as it has been said, life is gift and birth, birth is windfall. You, the Creator of the suns and moons and stars, by Your grace brought us into this world. You, who know us best, continues to love us most and sustain us daily. And You, through Your mysterious ways that defy our understanding, will one day redeem all creation and creatures.

Our blessings come in many shapes and forms such as: supportive parents, loving life-partners, caring friends, infectiously joyous children, meaningful work, illuminating education, nutritious food, clean water, and good health. As we count these blessings this week may we be mindful that all the goodness in life in which we delight begins and ends with You.

Yes, O God, we have much for which to be grateful and You call upon us to be ever mindful of our blessedness, and yet, O God, You yearn for us to be honest and authentic before You. You desire our whole hearts, not just our gratitude, but our woes and laments as well. You rejoice in our gratefulness unto You, and abide and weep with us in our sadness and despair.

O God, even the most faithful, steadfast, and hopeful among us felt twinges of fear in recent days. The reverberations, the deep booms, the sharp cracks of gunfire in Paris and in other parts of the world recently spread fear across this world, our nation, state, and city. From a place of fear many now look with suspicion upon those who may be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or humanists because they are outsiders, only exacerbating our woe and sorrow.

Yet, even in times such as these, we may be people of abundant gratitude unto You. For You not only give us all the good blessings that bring us joy and delight, but You extend unto us a constant hand of help and hope in times of worry and fear. The Apostle Paul wrote the following words to Christians in Philippi not during a season of joy and great blessedness, but while imprisoned. "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice...Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

Tonight, Your children, who call out to You by different names and through different customs, gather together, not only to give thanks unto You in our own ways for blessings that bring us delight and joy, we also come together to give You gratitude in a time of turmoil and fear because our different faith languages, I believe, all inspire us to cling to the belief that even in the midst of times such as these, You continue to offer us help and hope that a brighter, new day will soon dawn.

Help us to be people who sing your praises whether we find ourselves basking in the sun on the mountaintop, or stumbling through the darkness of the valley below. For constant gratitude breeds compassion and compassion brings forth a more loving, just, and peaceful world.

Help us be a people who remember the words of Dag Hammarskjokd who encouraged us to say “thank You,” always, for what has been and is, and “yes” to what will be.   

In the name of the One who guides and leads me to love, to love, above all else, my neighbor as You hath unconditionally loved me, I pray, AMEN.

Ashes and Ice Cream

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten Season.  We, a group of ministers in the Crescent Hill area, will be spending a part of that day at an ice cream parlor.  Why are we combining ashes and ice cream?

First, allow us to provide a little background on Ash Wednesday and Lent.  This is an important day and season during which we confront those aspects of our lives that deaden us, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  We engage in such introspection not to be morbid, but so that we might more fully see that our salvation comes from the God by way of the mystery of Jesus Christ's resurrection, which we will celebrate at the conclusion of Lent on Easter Sunday morning.  Throughout the ages, Christians have applied ashes in the form of a cross on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday as a visible reminder that all other paths lead us back to ash and dust, but the way of Jesus Christ leads to light and life. 

We do not believe it is just church folks who recognize that life is full of futile endeavors, dead ends, and hopelessness.  The fact that already this year so many people in our community have been murdered and that heroin addiction has reached epidemic proportions in Louisville are just two indicators that many people are searching for hope and salvation in our churches and community. 

In an effort to communicate that God sees our hurt and that God offers a hope that transcends our feelings of hopelessness to those who may not be interested in or are unable to darken the doors of a church, we will impose ashes next Wednesday afternoon from 1:30pm until 3:00p at the Comfy Cow located at 2221 Frankfort Avenue.  Note that this is not a service that will last from 1:30 until 3:00.  The imposition of ashes only takes a few moments.  We will be present at the Comfy Cow Frankfort Avenue location during this window of time. 

Finally, you need not understand yourself to be Christian to participate in the imposition of ashes.  All who wish to acknowledge that life can be tough, but that there is an enduring hope found in the good news of Jesus amid our sensations of hopelessness are welcome to join us.  Or, to put it another way, all those who wish acknowledge that so much of life tastes as dry and unsatisfying as dust and ashes, but who still believe that by the grace of God ultimately life tastes as sweet as ice cream are welcome.

Advent Devotion #9 - "Eternal Rest" by John Birkimer

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17 (NRSV)

In the summer of 1985 my 20 year-old son John Matthew was killed in a traffic accident. This followed by only a few months my own surgery for coronary heart disease. I had survived; he did not. This began a very dark time for me. A void had opened. I knew time would gradually let other activities fill the time he had spent with me; I doubted the ache in my heart would ever be soothed. Some mornings required a visit to his gravesite at Cave Hill. At Christmas, I placed a small ornament on the wreath on his grave, then recovered it as a remembrance to treasure.

Years passed. Visits to Cave Hill became less frequent but still quite painful. The feeling of loss remained. Then one beautiful October Sunday Sharleen and I were riding our bicycles in the neighborhood near the cemetery. The day was beautiful. Soft sunlight filtered through the leaves remaining on the trees. Other leaves rustled as our wheels disturbed them.

We pulled onto Grinstead Drive across from the cemetery and started coasting back toward Bardstown Road. And I realized then that this life remained good. Cave Hill was no longer so painful. My son was gone, but he was not in pain. He was at rest; as the Catholics say, “eternal rest”. And my heart, too, rested.

I cannot say with certainty that God was near that day. But the peace came then. And I will be eternally grateful.

Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Advent Devotion #8 - A Revelation in the Window by Eugina Robertson

In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. - John 1:4-5

During my first year at Seminary, I went home for Christmas, in Oklahoma, which would turn out to be the last time I saw my father alive. I was having a difficult time coping with the conflicting feeling of the joy of the Christmas season, and the grief I felt as I was reminded of that last Christmas I had before my father died in February.  I had been visiting Crescent Hill, and the litany for Advent for lighting the candles was, "We are reminded by the darkening of the days through winter that God has sent us a Great Light and the darkness could not overcome it." Throughout the service I was captivated by the window decorations of a lit candle, with a small dead branch and a small branch of holly at the base of the candle. This became a comforting image to me of the light in the darkness with the dead branch and the thorny leaves of the holly representing the paradox of Christ's suffering passion which gave us the joy of new life.  I later attended a bereavement service during Advent for those of us struggling with the grief of the joy of Christmas, which helped me to heal even more. I learned how to honor my feelings of  grief and loss with a richer depth of gratitude and joy. I identified with the melancholy longing and hope of the promised Messiah, along with the joyous celebration of the light that shineth in the dark Bethlehem streets.

Thank you, O God, for the everlasting light of the hopes and fears of all the years that were met in the dark streets of Bethlehem and the revelation of a new image of comfort and joy in a window in Louisville, Kentucky. Amen.

Advent Devotion #6 - "Thoughts for the Journey" By: Blake Ragsdell

Thoughts for the Journey

From the beginning, you were told that we must love each other.[A] Let us not love merely in theory or in speech but in practice and in sincerity.[B] For example, if you merely love those who love you, what quality of credit and thanks is that to you?[C] As hard as it is to practice, love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures without weakening.[D] Love forgives and disregards the offenses of others.[E] It is vitally important, that if you have anything against anyone, forgive them and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your own failings and shortcomings and let them drop.[F] By extension, love your enemies and be kind, considering nothing as lost and despairing of no one; and then your reward will be intense, and abundant.[G] It follows that, the one who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and the one who sows generously, that blessings may come to someone, will also reap generously and with blessings.[H]

-- [A] 1 John 3:11 CEV; [B] 1 John 3:18 AMP; [C] Luke 6:32 AMP; [D] 1 Corinthians 13:7 AMP; [E]  1 Peter 4:8 AMP; [F] Mark 11:25 AMP; [G] Luke 6:35 AMP; [H] 2 Corinthians 9:6 AMP

In this way,

If you want to be heard
truly deeply and completely,
truly deeply and completely

If you want to be understood
truly deeply and completely,
practice understanding
truly deeply and completely

If you want to be forgiven
truly deeply and completely,
truly deeply and completely

If you want to be loved
truly deeply and completely,
truly deeply and completely

If you want to be happy
truly deeply and completely,
create the conditions for other people to be
truly deeply and completely happy

Love now, forgive now,
create happiness in this moment,
there is no other time to do so;
no past, no future,
only this present moment
to love, forgive, listen, understand.

So, begin
then don't stop giving without reservation;
not the giving of miserly sacrifice
but from the abundance of one
to whom much has been given,
even if not fully realized.

This is the path to the peace
that passes understanding;
rooted in giving away what you cannot own,
sharing what you cannot possess;
spontaneously initiated
without waiting for the other person
or for the world to go first.

You are the other person,
you are the world.

Commit completely.

Commit now.



Please help me restore harmony to the world. Help me to act in accordance with my highest intentions to do the hard things and make difficult choices. Please forgive me when my unskillful actions bring suffering.



Advent Devotion #5 - "Are You Paying Attention?" by Dixon Martin

"Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper."

1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT)

How does God speak to you? Is it in the flash of lightening? The rumble of thunder? Howling wind? The reverberation of an earthquake? Or is it the gentle whisper of a loving parent? Are you listening?

God used a windstorm, an earthquake, a fire and a whisper to teach Elijah that sometimes the voice of God is found in quietness.

It is easy for us to let the frenetic pace of the holiday season drown out the voice of God. We are continually bombarded with loud messages: Buying this will mean a wonderful Christmas! Eating this will invoke the joy of Christmases past! Drinking this strengthens friendships! Doing this will bring back all of the delight of childhood Christmases! In order to celebrate Jesus and show your love, you must be merry! You must decorate more, buy better, and give more! There is so much pressure.

Take some time to listen to God’s whispers this holiday season. Get away from the hustle, bustle, noise and lights. Breathe deeply. Think about what is really important.

God, help us to not get too caught up in the noise and excitement of the Christmas season. Remind us to stop, look and listen for your still, small voice. Amen.

Advent Devotion #4 - "Until You Know How to Ask" by Benjamin Conver

For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:8 (NIV)

Advent is a wonderful time of year. For me, it conjures up many wonderful warm memories that center around the fellowship and love of family. But not everyone can share this type of memory, and personally I'd like for my Christian family to always feel they are family to me. But how do I ask for my Advent memories to be yours? Or better yet, how can I help someone who may not feel at home, or part of the family, feel differently this Advent season? For me, this is where one of the less desirable characteristics of my personality actually comes in quite handy. It's been my experience that sometimes even a selfish prayer, if specific enough, can be a very good prayer. The best way it's been explained to me is we can't get to know someone who loves us if we can't first get to know and love ourselves. 

This month has been a heavy month for me- I've been on crutches while several broken bones mended and have been trying to keep a blood clot under control. Being constrained by my brokenness has made it difficult for me to contribute anything more than just my presence at times. But I don't get to decide the times and places that God unfolds his marvelous mystery. The best I can hope for is to be alert and listening when this happens. So I've been very selfishly praying for specific guidance and understanding of how I can better help and contribute to his plan. I'd like to think this devotional is my answer. My thought is to inspire in you what was inspired in me, thus realizing that asking a selfish prayer can in fact be good. My hope is that you invite my prayer into your heart, and let this devotional open a door to enlarge your Christian family. You never know- someone may be praying just for you...

Merciful God, help me to see the reminders that assure me that it's ok to ask you this one request. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, allow me the wisdom to change the things that I can, and bless me with the strength so that my channel unto you may better serve more than just me, even if just for today. Amen

Advent Devotion #3 - "I Think That God Is Coming" by Quinn Chipley

"O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence-- as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil-- to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people." - Isaiah 64:1-9

Karen Blixen wrote of a time in Kenya:

“’Msabu,’he said again, ‘I think you had better get up. I think that God is coming.’  When I heard this I did get up, and asked him why he though so. He gravely led me into the dining-room which looked West, towards the hills. From the door-windows I now saw a strange phenomenon. There was a big grass-fire going on, out in the hills, and the grass was burning all the way from hill-top to the plains; when seen from the house it was a near vertical line. It did indeed look as if some gigantic figure was moving and coming towards us. I stood for some time and looked at it, with Kamante watching by my side, then I began to explain the thing to him. I meant to quiet him, for I thought he had been terribly frightened. But the explanation did not seem to make much impression on him one way or the other; he clearly took his mission to have been fulfilled when he called to me. ‘Well yes,’ he said, ‘It may be so. But I thought that you had better get up in case it was God coming.’ (Out of Africa, Modern Library, p. 41)

I also lived in Kenya for a few years, some sixty years after the event in Blixen’s vignette. I was sent by Baptists as a missionary, one to carry the Gospel. I taught some English, and I experienced many things I will always treasure.  But I wonder now how much more I had missed by making my explanations to a people who were still shocked by several generations of a white-skinned arrogance, a brutality that had too often carefully cloaked itself in Christian religion? How often had I dismissed God’s messenger?

God, keep us aware that when you come on us as Fire on the Mountain, you are always saving us from ourselves, that salvation is never safe, and You are never safely explained away. Amen.

Advent Devotion #2 - "Bless This House" by John Arnett

[Jesus] emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.
- Philippians 2:7-8 (NRSV)

Advent is that time of year when we turn toward the beginnings of the life of Jesus.  Granted, we can’t verify through other sources the events Luke and Matthew record, but Jesus came from some beginning, and the one we have seems to serve us well.  The main fact is that God decided to invest himself in the life of a person we could hear and see.  We call that incarnation.  It’s a creative act of God. 

The story of Jesus is much like the architect, owner, and builder of a new house or addition.  God “humbled” himself, “becoming as human beings are.”  He watched his son grow up and, like the patient builder, saw the project through to completion.  Unlike the construction of a building though, I’m not convinced that God had Jesus’ life mapped out like a blueprint.  I think there was some improvising along the way, and some collateral damage as well.  The angels had to intervene to save Joseph and his family, but couldn’t protect the “innocents” from Herod’s sword. A stable had to do when the inn was filled. And some thirty-three years later in the garden, Jesus was searching to know the will of the Father.

But the project was completed, and some 2014 years later we’re still here talking about the beginning.  We’re also reminded that our lives are also a building project, and God and the angels stand by ready to assist us with the plans, the construction, and, yes, the improvising.  Bless this house.

God, thanks for the creative energy that comes from you, and help us to act in positive ways in this world. Amen.

Advent Devotion #1 - "The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a S'more" by Rev. Brittani M. Bair

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12:28-29

Kingdom recipes… that’s how I’ve decided to interpret Advent this year, as a recipe-share. Perhaps this devotion booklet should be seen as a cookbook, a collection of the times we’ve gotten the conditions and ingredients close enough that the Kingdom of God has emerged warmly and deliciously from the cookie sheets and casserole dishes of our souls.

Food is just one potential ingredient in a Kingdom-recipe. It’s a good start, but it’s not mandatory. One recipe I’ve already written about was the “heaven sermon, communion table, fire alarm” recipe. Now I would like to write about the “sleeping bag, campfire, guitar” recipe. (This one has optional food ingredients: marshmallow, Hershey bar, graham cracker, FYI.)

This year I decided the youth needed to try this recipe out together in the middle of nowhere. While they found my actual food planning lack-luster, the Youth Retreat recipe still produced edible Kingdom-moments. Most of these happened around the campfire… which must be something that resonates with humanity on a primitive level.  Gathered around campfires for two nights, we sang songs, shared stories, made memories and communed with God.

On the first night, we had Darrell Adams with us. Darrell + guitar + campfire is one of the simplest and best-tasting Kingdom recipes I know. Like a no-bake cookie, when the ingredients get warm, they just stick together Holy.

On the second night, the youth just started telling stories about their grandparents, which for our American youth were love stories and for our Karen youth were ghost stories. Looking into the campfire flames they journeyed across time and space to bring forth these echoes of love, and of loss, mostly for the joy of screaming at the end and scaring each other. Silly as it may have been intended, there’s something Holy about sitting in a circle with friends around a fire. Whether we sing our praises up at the stars, scream our fears out into the darkness, of just howl joyfully at the moon, dancing by the flames of Heaven.

God, grant us a Holy fire, burning deep inside, that never burns out and smells faintly of marshmallow. Amen.

The Rest of The Story

I never imagined that I would find myself in the midst of what I have been in the midst of since Tuesday morning. Since the Kentucky Baptist Convention voted to dismiss Crescent Hill Baptist, I have been on the phone or in front of a camera. While those who know me know that I do not mind attention (and that is probably an understatement), at times I felt uncomfortable with it all. So many others have done so much more, given their lives in fact, for the full inclusion of LGBT individuals in church and society. I feel like a laborer who came to the vineyard late in the day and is getting paid for a full day of work.

Nonetheless, I and others at CHBC seized this moment in time to share our story. However, the story that has been told through the media is only a snippet of the story, and it just doesn't feel right not to share more of the story in this moment when it seems that people are listening. 

A Desire to Grow

I have said that homosexuality is not condemned by the Bible. Many applauded that statement. Many expressed their strong disagreement with it. Many others in the last few days and weeks have asked how it is that I have reached that conclusion.

The opportunity to engage in these conversations, and they have been plentiful, is one of the primary reasons I have been willing to speak out. It appears that many people want to grow in their understanding of what God and the Bible says about this matter. If you are interested in beginning some exploration of your own, let me direct you to a series of submissions recently posted by David Gushee, a professor at Mercer University ( In this 16 part series Gushee thoughtfully examines the biblical passages most often cited to condemn homosexuality, and does so in a well-balanced and respectful manner. Plus, at least for the moment, his work is easily accessible and available for free. 

Theology's Real Life Consequences

We are all theologians. By that, I believe we all construct understandings of God. Even if you do not believe there is a God, you are engaging in "God-thinking."  

Our theology ponders the heavens, but is also touches the earth in serious ways.  Theological constructs rooted in biblical interpretations that condemn homosexuality result in real-life disastrous consequences that I do not believe the loving God I see condones. Not only is homosexuality not a sin in the eyes of God, those that claim that it is are hurting and literally killing people. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that 40% of homeless youth are LGBT ( Furthermore, in recent weeks, I have heard from many LGBT individuals who were closeted by theology that condemned them. They shared that they had seriously pondered suicide. Tragically, many others have acted upon this impulse.  


In 1612 Thomas Helwys, one of our Baptist forefathers, wrote, “For men’s religion to God is between God and themselves. The king shall not answer for it. Neither may the king be judge between God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever; it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure. This is made evident to our lord the king by the scriptures.” Let’s just say that when King James received his copy of theses words sent to him by Helwys, he was not very pleased. Helwys was sent to prison where he soon died. From our inception, Baptists have fought for the ability of each individual to experience God for themselves, whoever they may be.  This notion has compelled Baptists to be a non-creedal, congregational self-governing bunch in which churches associate with one another. In other words, Baptists from the onset have been a bunch that have agreed to disagree.

That's why I was pleased that Crescent Hill Baptist chose not to step away from the Kentucky Baptist Convention, but rather, stick with the KBC until forced out. We believe, as our earliest Baptist forefathers and mothers did, that God speaks to us in different ways and only in part. In order to hear the larger story of what God is up to, we need to gather with others around God's table, even those with whom we disagree, and eat bread and drink from the cup in remembrance of Christ.  

Welcoming and Affirming - 2013

The church ship of Crescent Hill Baptist has nearly completed an amazing journey over the past year and a half as she has navigated the potentially stormy waters of a move toward full acceptance of persons in the LGBT community who have chosen to be part of our fellowship.  Crescent Hill began this journey toward inclusiveness in the 60's during the pastorate of John Claypool when the church opened the doors to persons of color and continued the journey in the 70's with the acceptance of women into the full ministries of the church including service as deacons; Andrea Woolley became a "co-pastor" in 2012.  During the pastorate of Ron Sisk in the late 90's the church developed associations with the American Baptist Convention and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and welcomed the first gays to serve on the board of deacons.  Several years ago the church joined the Alliance of Baptists.  

In May 2012 Jason Crosby preached the following sermon, "In Or Out", which set the stage for a series of Wednesday night sessions in the spring of 2013 during which several members were able to share their own stories of struggle about feeling accepted or excluded because of sexual identity issues. 

 "In Or Out" (May 2012)

 Jason W. Crosby, preaching   Acts 8:26-40 

At a June 12, 2013 called Ministry Forum the church voted to become a "welcoming and affirming" congregation* and at an October 2013 ministry forum Crescent Hill voted to join the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.  -- John Arnett, CHBC historian 

*"The vote clarifies that sexual orientation and identity will not be a factor when considering whether or not to extend rights, privileges, and blessings within the church's capacity to bestow.  The passage of this proposal also means that the church will not take into consideration sexual orientation or identity when determining whether or not a person is called to ministry [ordination] and that the church is willing to bless same-sex unions.  103 votes were cast.  94 votes favored the proposal, 7 disapproved, 2 abstentions."  -- from "Life Together", July 2013.

There is a saying...

By: William M. Johnson

There is a saying that goes something like this: “preach the Gospel, use
words only when necessary.” The Gospel was preached recently in my
office and not a word was uttered. Practicing the wise words of the
superb poet, Mary Oliver, I was paying attention and the Gospel was

Update - Prayer Request

By: Andrea Woolley

The last blog I posted in early January, I told of my friends’ trials at the end of her pregnancy and premature delivery.  I am happy to update you that right at 2 months later all are doing better.  Rachel (my friend, and now mother of 2) had severe eclampsia and was living in a small city in China was not able to get the medical intervention she needed. After an emergency C-section on January 3 to deliver baby Ann (who weighed just over 1 pound), Rachel and baby Ann were air-evacuated to Bangkok several days later. Baby Ann underwent a couple surgeries to repair her bowels, but has made remarkable progress.