An Advent Gift (Friday Five #16)

Friday Five is coming a little early this week…with a special gift for you!

Thanks to friends in our congregation, as well as CBF mission partners, we have a gift of an Advent Devotional Guide for you:

Please enjoy this book during the Advent season (Nov 29-December 24/25), and you’re welcome to share this with friends, family and neighbors. We also have several hard copies outside of the Galleria glass doors at church, if you’d like one.

This year’s Advent theme at Holmeswood Baptist is Advent: The Art of Waiting. The book is written around this theme, and our Sunday Worship during Advent will feature some incredible art pieces as we ponder four characters in the Bible who did a lot of waiting–Zechariah, Joseph, Mary and Jesus the Christ. We hope you’ll join us on for these special times.

And if you’re wondering if you say “devotion” or “devotional,” either is fine. Devotion tends to be the feeling or act attached to your relationship with God and others, while a devotional is an outward expression of this feeling (like a prayer, song, written poem or reflection, etc.). As a church, we use them interchangeably.

May we lean into the Hope, Peace, Love, Joy and -yes- even Waiting of this Advent Season. God is alive and working within us and between us, too. Let’s discover more of God’s work and love together.

Happy Thanksgiving. I’m grateful for you and to spend time together today.


Laurel W. Cluthe, Pastor of Families at Holmeswood Baptist Church, Kansas City, MO

Outdoorphins and Hygge (Friday #15)

Well, hello!

A couple of weeks ago, my cousin posted this article:

What Scandinavians Can Teach Us About Embracing Winter

In the pandemic, rather than feeling depressed that the arrival of cold weather will mean you’ll be isolated indoors, try adopting a positive winter mind-set.

It’s a fascinating read and, since then, I’ve come across several other articles with a similar theme.

Can we really embrace Winter in 2020/21???

Admittedly, I’m a summer person. I like 90-degree days, sunshine for 14 hours straight and walking everywhere in flip flops. During the summer, people are outside more, the produce choices are abundant and playgrounds and swimming pools are full of squeals and laughter. It is a good time. Never once did I think, “Wow, I’d really love to be outside and shivering for hours.” Okay, maybe no one thinks that, but the brave KC Chiefs fans who tailgate before a game or camp in January are at a level of bravery I’m not sure my body will ever master.

Yulelog in her backpack?

This article was a need-to-read for me…in this really difficult year of COVID, we each have the opportunity/option to choose hope. We can sit around and be miserable, or we can make the decision to embrace the cozy, the joy and the (new and old) Winter traditions that some cultures have mastered for centuries. As USAmericans, we tend to think independently and live self-sufficiently. While that is not all bad, I wonder if there is space this year to live in community while also physically distant…especially in the Winter…particularly during the holidays.

There are no rules of 2020–we can simultaneously grieve that we cannot be in the same room with loved ones and the control of a calendar that we had in 2019, while we also celebrate today and inject serious joy for all that is. Let’s get our “outdoorphins,” embrace the “hagge” and build a fire in the backyard [see the article above if you haven’t a clue what I”m talking about]. Embrace the glow of this season and all of the lessons we are living. We will look back on this time for years to come. Don’t regret how you used your Winter. (And I am talking to myself, too.)

  1. Check-in: How are you? How has your week been? How are you feeling about Thanksgiving next week? (Either write down, message me, or think about how you’re physically caring for yourself.)
  2. Action/Inaction: What is one thing you can serve your church/neighborhood/family this weekend?
  3. Chat with Christ: Jesus, you know what is going on with each of us. You know what keeps us awake at night, what takes over our thoughts and our peace. Highlight spaces and moments when we can stop everything, breathe deeply and sit in Your loving presence. Share your bravery with us as we step outside in the cold and tackle Winter. Most of all, show us how to minister better and care deeper. Amen.

I thank God for this opportunity to spend 5ish minutes of your precious time with you. And I thank God for you. Now go wrap up in a cozy blanket with a fire!

Happy weekend.


Kindness not Blindness (Friday Five, #14)

Happy World Kindness Day 2020!

World Kindness Day: a global day that promotes the importance of being kind to each other, to yourself, and to the world. This day, celebrated on November 13 of each year, has the purpose is to help everyone understand that compassion for others is what binds us all together. This understanding has the power to bridge the gap between nations.

Hello, and how are you really? Friends, it is not lost on me that we are still in the weird and wild of 2020 {the double pandemic}, and today is Friday the 13th, merely a week after a highly anticipated US election full of heightened emotions and polarizing perspectives.

Matthew 11:28…ish

{Insert 3 deep breaths and a short nap.} It’s exhausting just typing all of that!

How to start outdoor rock climbing: Angy Eiter's tips

With everything going on, what can I cling to? Where can I find my footing?

Simply put: go to your bookshelf and pull out a childhood favorite. Crack open your stain-filled family cookbook (or any website), and make your favorite comfort food. Call a longtime friend and reminisce about some really good days. Get a red-and-green decorated cup filled with comforting java from your favorite coffee shop. {i.e., take care of yourself.}

Then…practice kindness.

Being kind is not frivolous, a rainbow unicorn wrapped in a candy-coated blanket, 🦄 found frolicking through imaginary lands. Kindness is deep, gut-wrenchingly hard work. And, yet, it can be shown so simply…through a smile, tear-filled eyes, and a universal gaze at someone that says, “I see you. I care for you. You are loved.”
Let’s all up our kindness capacities…we’ve got this! ❤️

And it’s uncomfortable and challenging, and there’s a reason we don’t all practice it at all times—kindness takes vision, a willingness to admit where we are in our own lives, so that we can gaze across to another’s life and see them as they are. Not only do we need to consciously remove our own blinders (and self-obsessed temptations of mess), we also have to choose to reach across and be available for someone else’s mess.

When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people Abraham Joshua Heschel

Rabbi Heschel and many of us know of the power of kindness. When a person really sees us as an awkward 12 year old and takes an interest in our messy lives, we feel the deep, deep love of God. When someone really listens when you tell them about your woes or just the mediocre lunch you ate earlier, there is kindness attached. And when you are in your darkest moment, and you can cling to someone for support and presence, that trust shows the true power of genuine kindness. Reminds me of John 3:16, or something like that. = )

The life practice of kindness is just that…a work toward ultimately being a kind human. This is no dress rehearsal kind of practice…this is a life focus, needed and contagious.

Ephesians 4:32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

  1. Check-in: What was a time when you truly experienced kindness (by a stranger, close friend, co-worker) ? How are you extending kindness and your genuine presence right now? (Either write down your thoughts or share with a trusted one.)
  2. Action/Inaction: What are some ways you can practice kindness in your corner? What do you need to do to extend this kindness further?
  3. Time with God: God, thank you for the freedom to practice kindness. Wow, your heart is big, and you extend this contagious invention of kindness for all of your Creation to both experience and extend to others. Guide me in your gift of life and joy. In Your Son, Jesus’, name we pray, Amen.

I thank God for this opportunity to spend 5 minutes of your valuable time with you. May we continually extend our vision to see people and to experience the joy that comes with being truly kind.


Rising Hope (Friday Five, #13)

We Must All Be Part of a “Culture of Hope” - Aging with Dignity

Have you had any “God moments” lately? Those tiny moments where you feel God’s presence…through a sign on the road, or a smell that reminds you of someone long gone, or even a confirmation of a prayer you’ve whispered for months? I had a God moment last week that I’ve remembered to share with you. While looking through the Lectionary texts for this Sunday’s Worship and sermon direction, I saw Psalm 78:1-7 on the November 8 schedule. While reading it, I paused and reread the same verse a few times:

God established a decree in Jacob,
    and appointed a law in Israel,
which God commanded our ancestors
    to teach to their children;
that the next generation might know them,
    the children yet unborn,
and rise up and tell them to their children,
    so that they should set their hope in God,
and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments;

RORATE CÆLI: When the Yearly Biblical Readings of Immemorial Tradition Were  Cast Away

You see, I had just named off on all my fingers (and toes) all of the things I was concerned about. Do you ever do that? Sometimes I just have to name the things stressing me out loud to God, and this ultimately helps me de-stress but also diminish the power of these concerns. They were worries about COVID-19, the election, family, friends, juggling life, health, etc. And they were swirling in my head and bringing me DOWN. With a growing list, I was feeling hopelessness and negativity creep in.

When you’re overwhelmed, what is the easiest thing to do? Toss your worries to the floor and plop your body on a soft landing (chair, preferably). And breathe. Pause. Feel. Pray a lot (invite God in).

And my God moment was in that place…I had plopped down, had dropped my burdens in front of Christ, and I wearily looked up Psalm 78. And then God spoke clearly.

Rise up with hope.

We must put down our burdens and responsibilities and rest with God. Otherwise, we will spin out of control (and we all have our moments!). And, once I put DOWN the stresses and let God in to what is really going on inside of me, I was able to then Rise Up With Hope. The psalmist mentions the next generation rising up and setting our hope in God. The passage does not say to drop everything and ignore it, kick it across the room, or to go all “everything’s perfectly fine” smiling when it is not. The psalmist teaches us to 1) rise up and 2) set hope in God. For, only then, can we pick up the 37 things that are worrying/bothering/making us lose sleep at night and start to work through them with peace in our hearts and determination in our souls. That whole loving justice thing that Jesus did. So when we plop down, may we also seek God’s strength to rise in hope.

Pin on Family Reunion | Trees | Charts

The US election results have come, yet I write this while we’re still in October. And, while the election is very important for our country, it is not more important than the need to take care of yourself, rest, and rise in hope with Christ alongside you. Take comfort in Psalm 78, in the legacy of Christ’s light that each of us are invited to be a part of. Then, we get busy in living that out. We rise up in hope for today and tomorrow. Thanks be to God.

Happy Weekend, beloved hope risers!


Peace Talks (Friday Five, #12)

Peace Definition - Peace - Laptop Case | TeePublic

2020 has been full of experiences and events. Have you felt peace in any of it?

Peace is NOT the word I would associate with the last 7 months.

However, when we feel an absence of peace, we have a huge opportunity to invite peace into our spaces. That makes us peacemakers. The Bible mentions the word “peace” over 400 times throughout–and God not only provides peace but instructs all people to live a life that speaks peace. And it can start -easily- with our speech.

As with many things, we don’t know what we don’t know. Every day, we learn something new, and this can be very humbling. It is also very empowering as we consider the words/phrases we currently say. With each careful consideration (and sometimes a switch of a term or phrase), we are able to remove barriers for connecting with people from a myriad of backgrounds, experiences, cultures, genders, faith groups, ethnicities and perspectives.

For example, I have always used the term “bullet point” to describe the items on any given list. Thanks to a class with Rev. Dr. Dan Buttry, I might switch to his term of “olive pits.” It sounds silly, but it’s a serious way to remove language related to violence and weaponry (like bullets) from my everyday speech.

Peace has a PR Problem: How would you fix it? - From Poverty to Power

A peacemaker (or peacebuilder) invites peacemaking strategies into all parts of their life: mindset, goals, how time is spent, and how they relate & communicate with God, themselves, and others.

How can we speak peace?

-a few things to consider, next time we open our mouths-

Instead of saying…maybe say… {switch out}
bite the bulletgo for it
give it a shot, take a stab at itgive it a go, try it out
shoot an email overquickly send an email over
shoot the breezechat, talk
shot in the darkit’s a guess
that really bombedit failed, it didn’t work

How do you speak peace in your life? Is there a “switch out” that you could use moving forward, to promote peace?

Prayer: God, thank you for today . So, so much going on in this world, our country and in our own lives. Breathe peace into our souls, and may we speak your present peace in our lives through both our words and actions. We trust in the loving presence of you today and tomorrow. Amen.

Happy Weekend!! ~Laurel

Happy Halloween Puppet Show | Events | Pima County Public Library
Kids and youth should be receiving a little “hand of appreciation” on their doors. Happy weekend!

Monday Musings


I took a break for a couple of weeks and am back, bringing you a Monday morning special. The Alliance of Baptists is a group of people, churches and ministry partners passionate about social justice, ecumenism and life together. At their recent event, Alan H. Green (actor and singer with a long repertoire on Broadway and Law & Order, or course) sang this gorgeous song written by Andrew Osenga and Andrew Peterson. It was written ten or so years ago, but this song really fits 2020. I think we might need to hear it today. “After the Last Tear Falls” is hope-filled and full of lyrics to ponder. Please take a listen and let me know what you think! Happy Monday, Beloved child of God. ~Laurel

After the Last Tear Falls – click for video


After the last tear falls, after the last secret’s told
After the last bullet tears through flesh and bone
After the last child starves and the last girl walks the boulevard
After the last year that’s just too hardThere is love
Love, love, love
There is love
Love, love, love
There is loveAfter the last disgrace, after the last lie to save some face
After the last brutal jab from a poison tongue
After the last dirty politician, after the last meal down at the mission
After the last lonely night in prisonThere is love
Love, love, love

After the last tear falls there is love... And in the end, the end is  oceans and oceans of love and love again We… | Ocean quotes, Special words,  Praise and worship

There is love
Love, love, love
There is loveAnd in the end, the end is oceans and oceans of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales’Cause after the last plan fails, after the last siren wails
After the last young husband sails off to join the war
After the last, this marriage is over
After the last young girl’s innocence is stolen
After the last years of silence that won’t let a heart openThere is love
Love, love, love
There is loveAnd in the end, the end is oceans and oceans of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales

‘Cause after the last tear falls there is love

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