January 19

Sibs ~~ Quinn G. Caldwell

So his brothers were jealous of him… From Genesis 37:1 – 28.

The story of Joseph and his brothers reads like a textbook on birth order dynamics. There is Joseph, he of the famous coat, who’s effectively, though not literally, the youngest. He spends all day coming up with ways to annoy his older brothers, from tattling on them to having dreams in which he finally becomes the boss of the mall.

There are the middle brothers, always misbehaving and beating up on the youngest one – or selling them into slavery.

There's Reuben, the oldest and the responsible one, who calms the middle-child hellions down, tries to protect the baby, and is forever freaking out about what dad's going to say.

It will take a prison, a famine, a scheming minx, dreams, psychic powers, Pharaoh, and God to get his family back together. And you thought your family was screwed up.

God cares as much about your family is Joseph's. Got a sibling rivalry that's gone on long enough? A wound that's not going to heal till somebody says something important, like "I'm sorry" or "I forgive you"? Does somebody need to break out of his or her birth order? Perhaps today is the day to pray for God to intervene.

PRAYER: God, thank you for promising not to let separation and discord be the end of her family to love. And thank you that the youngest children always grow up to be more awesome than their to mean older sisters, which just serves them right for always calling her little brother names and never letting him play with her Barbies. Amen.

Just Believe


January 12

Just Believe ~~ Christina Villa

Then one said, "I will surely return you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed herself, saying, "after I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?" The Lord said to Abraham, "why did Sarah laugh, and say, "I shall indeed very child, now that I am old?" Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son." From Genesis 18:1-14

Sarah laughs when she hears that she supposedly going to have a baby. She's old lady – – you can practically hear her muttering behind the door, "yeah, right."

So this makes me wonder: how often have you been told that you just have to have faith in order for things to work out? How many motivational speakers and inspirational books boiled down to just this: just believe fiercely enough that something will happen, and… It will happen or it you make it happen: just believe.

But not in this story. Sarah doesn't believe. And it happens anyway. It is, apparently, a miracle. It's hard to believe in miracles, which are examples of the power of God. It's easier to believe in the power of me. Certainly there are plenty of books and speakers telling me to. But the story says that, sometimes, what I believe or don't believe just doesn't matter. The story says that something good can happen even if I don't believe it will. Something great can happen even if I'm convinced it won't. And when it does I can say in all truthfulness, "thank God."

PRAYER: here are my hopes and dreams. Please watch over them. Amen.

God Is Still Speaking: 365 Daily Devotionals, ed. Christina Villa (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2013), 13-14.

Distract Us

January 5

Distract Us ~~ Christina Villa

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground. Genesis 3:19

I was walking my dog around the local pond when I saw a father with his two small daughters riding along the bike path toward me. The dad was steering his bike one-handed while talking on his cell phone, using the tone of his voice I think of as “business pompous.” The two girls pedaled behind silently.

Just after they passed me, I spotted a mother duck and baby ducks swimming around in circles and squawking at the water’s edge. Exactly the kind of thing you take young children to the pond to see. What other spontaneous, kid-appropriate, free-of-charge mature sights would they miss before they went home? The big ugly carp circling under the footbridge? The flock of geese coming in for a water landing?

Maybe that father regularly takes his children on hikes and bike rides and walks, pointing things out to them, or just talking, and that day on the cell phone was not how it usually was. When my kids were young, I was certainly too distracted much of the time to notice plenty of great sights I could have pointed out to them. Everyone survived.

And I know every profession has its version of “business-pompous” that people are required to speak if they want to get ahead. There’s nothing wrong with working hard and doing what it takes to support yourself and your family.

But the Sunday bike-riding Dad on the cell phone reminded me of a term coined by Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. “Sunday neurosis,” he said, is “that kid of depression which afflicts people who become aware of the lack of content in their lives when the rush of the busy week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest.”

Frankl wrote in the 1940s; today, technology means we need never been freed from the work week. People complain about this, often with an undercurrent of self-congratulation: see how important I am? But sometimes there’s a less obvious undercurrent – one of relief. How much of our checking our various devices for the latest from work is really necessary, and how much is instead a rush to fill some emptiness?

PRAYER: Distract us from work, help us change the subject, show us that we are more than our jobs. Show us some ducks by the edge of a pond. Amen.


God Is Still Speaking: 365 Daily Devotionals, ed. Christina Villa (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2013), 6-7.