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Am I the only one? It seems like lately I just don’t know what to pray. You see I’m working through some minor health problems. It’s nothing huge but it means appointments, tests, no that isn’t it, and more tests.

There are also changes on the horizon for my community. As I’ve admitted in the past, I’m not a big one for change especially when I’m not in charge. Whether things work out pretty well or really bad, change is coming. And it will likely be months and months or even a year before everything is settled.

What do you pray when you are feeling unsettled and uncertain? My first choice comes from Julian of Norwich.

I don’t know why I find this comforting, but I do. I guess it is simply the idea that things will settle.

My second choice for unsettled prayer is longer and more formal and I’m sure most of you are familiar with it.

This is the Presbyterian version with debtors instead of trespasses. You can read about the why and wherefore of the two here. But I really like the idea of turning things over to God. Admittedly, I’m not extremely good at it but it is a comforting thought.

What about you? Do you have a favorite prayer for times like this?


Photo by Brett Sayles on

When you volunteer to teach a Bible study lesson without looking at the book first, you never know exactly what you are going to end up teaching. When I saw my topic, I smiled. God’s gift of manna. The author of the study even discussed that most people fixate on what manna might be vs what is truly important. God provided exactly what the people needed.

Before I finished reading the lesson, I read the Bible passage. For those of you who don’t recall the details of Exodus 16, the people are bemoaning their situation. God has brought them out of Egypt where they had food aplenty. God sends quail and manna with very specific instructions on how much to gather and NO HOARDING. Anyone who tried to save extra would find it rotten and full of maggots before morning. Which, can I just say, ewww?

But the idea that God will provide? Without going into detail, both myself and my community could use a little heavenly help. This lesson? This is what I needed to hear. Deserving or not, grumbling at God or not, what we need will be provided.

When the Bible study group started the lesson, we all had a good laugh at God’s comment to Moses. “In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.” If you’ve read portions of the Old Testament, you know that they failed. Thus the rotten manna and the maggots.

But they weren’t the only ones that failed. Try as I might, I could not turn the discussion to how God provides. I could not get the group to contemplate for even a moment that we all hang on to more than we need. I’m not saying that everyone on Earth hangs on to more than they need, but we are all solidly middle class Americans with full basements.

Instead of discussing the lesson, we discussed our things – casserole dishes, blue jeans, dress slacks, high heels and more. Honestly, I suspect this was what it sounded like when God was issuing his instructions.

Maybe he’ll repeat himself one more time. This time I’m sure we’ll listen.


I’m going to make a confession here. I just wasn’t feeling it before New Years Eve. The thought of making resolutions . . . blah. Whatever. Why? If I’m lucky, I do really well with them for a few weeks. But before too long they’ve gone by the wayside.

Then on January 2, I read a post by one of my writing buddies, Nicole Pyles. In her post, Nicole wrote that she just wasn’t going to make resolutions yet. Why? Because making resolutions when she is off work and has all kinds of free time encourages her to set unrealistic goals. Instead, she would contemplate what she wanted to accomplish in 2023 when she got back to work.

How smart is that?!

So with Nicole’s permission, I didn’t make any huge overarching resolutions for the year. I’m not reading the Bible in one year. I’m not meditating for an hour every single day. Or praying every morning and evening.

Instead, I’m paying attention to right now. When an anthem at church sends a chill up my spine, I thank God for the composer and the singers.

The bird feeders need filling? Instead of rushing outside and doing it so that I can rush back in and do something off a massive to-do list, I spend a few minutes outdoors. I listen to the birds. I watch the dog that lives behind us running about an enjoying the sunshine. And I take a few minutes to enjoy the sunshine as well.

When I throw some craisins on top of the yogurt in my bowl, I say of prayer of thanks for cranberries which I do adore but also my husband who does the shopping.

What do I hope to accomplish with this mindset? Initially, I wasn’t sure. But then I realized. I’d love to work up what I think of as an Irish blessing mentality. It was probably over ten years ago when I helped teach a class on prayer.  One of the types of prayer that we learned about was the Irish blessing.  These simple prayers call down God’s blessing on the everyday. These blessings encourage us to thank God for the little things. Bless this task, bless this house, and bless those who reside within.  

And really, that’s not a bad way to live. So that’s what I’m attempting to do in 2023. To live mindfully, to thank God for what is before me, and to pause a moment in the sunshine.


Tomorrow is Epiphany. Growing up, we never discussed epiphany which celebrates when Christ appeared the Magi. But now we mark it annually and sing Christmas hymns right up until the Wise Men arrived.

Last Sunday, I shook my head as I saw a hymn listed in the weekly bulletin. The First Nowell.

Sigh. I miss Noel. Why mess around with this lovely French carol? But then I squinted at the bottom of the page in our hymnal. From Cornwall.


I’m not sure I can name 2 regions in France but I do know that Cornwall is part of Great Britain. So when I got home I did a Google search. “Nowell vs Noel.”

So much for my assumptions. First of all, the hymn is not French which is what I had believed because of the spelling Noel. It is . . . drum roll . . . Cornish.

Nowell is a celebratory shout associated with Christmas. And the spelling, nowell, can be traced right back to the time of Chaucer. In the mid-20th century, typographers decided that nowell looked to old-timey. It was archaic. It did not belong in the modern age. So they substituted Noel.

It wasn’t about theology. It wasn’t about belief. It was about appearances. But it made me sad. What about poor Noel? So I did a bit more research. Like Chaucer, Noel is from the 15th century. It is French for Christmas or carol.

So which do you use? Noel or Nowell? In the carol, the correct word is Nowell. Christmas cards can sport either. As a name? Noel is the way to go.

But I also know that I’ll have a whole list of questions for my minister. Don’t worry. He’s used to it and he’ll be sure to give me a list of things to read.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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