Adult Playlists 2020-2021

What’s a Playlist?

A Playlist is a set of activities exploring a topic.  The activities might include reading an article or scripture, listening to a podcast or sermon, watching a video or movie clip. Each month we’ll post three Playlists designed for Children, Youth, and Adults.  All of us will explore the same topic, but the Playlists will be designed for each age group.  You can work your way through the Playlists at your own pace throughout the month.

Remember you can always share your thoughts in the comment section at the bottom of this page.

Summer Playlists

Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries


Justice. Grace. Hope. Joy. Baptism. Mercy. Cross. Peace. Love. These are the themes we’ve explored in our monthly Playlists this year. We’re taking a summer break from posting Playlists, but you can explore the themes on your own. I recently read a book that shows our Playlist themes playing out in one man’s life. Jon Meacham’s His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope was on several Best Books of 2020 lists. It’s part history, part biography, and part theology. The book explores how the faith of Congressman John Lewis called him to join the Civil Rights Movement. He worked for justice by fighting for voting rights. He treated others with grace even during physical beatings. He always hoped change was possible. He felt joy when advances were made. He talked about baptism and being “called” to his work. He treated others with mercy, even meeting with and forgiving one of the men who beat him during a civil rights march. He looked to the cross to guide him in his life and in his life’s work. He called for peace and believed that all people should treat each other with love. Even if his politics aren’t your politics, you may find the book an interesting read that demonstrates how one man let his faith guide and direct him each day.

May Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries



Love.  The English language has one word for Love.  I love my husband.  I love our kids.  I love our grandkids.  I love my friends.  I love my sisters and my brother.  I loved my parents.  I love pizza!  All of those loves are different from each other.  God loves me.  God loves you.  God loves all of us.  All of us.  At our best . . . and at our worst.  Always and forever.  It’s truly beyond our human understanding.  Love.


The following prayer is from an unknown author.  Let it be a guide for you as you work your way through the Love Playlist.

God of Goodness,
I come into your presence so aware of my human frailty
and yet overwhelmed by your love for me.
I thank you that there is no human experience
that I might walk through where your love cannot reach me.
If I climb the highest mountain,
you are there
and yet if I find myself in the darkest valley of my life,
you are there.
Teach me today to love you more.
Help me to rest in that love
that asks nothing more than the
simple trusting heart of a child.


Desert Cross

Below you’ll find some thoughts from Pastor Thadd.  He discusses the different kinds of love shown in the Bible.

From Pastor Thadd:

The Bible uses three words for love.  First is eros, romantic, passionate love, from which we get our word “erotic”; phileo, the love of great friends and siblings, from which we get “Philadelphia,” the “city of brotherly love”; and agape, parental, self-sacrificing love that seeks only the welfare of the other. All three kinds of love are represented in the Bible, which means that all three are considered to be created and blessed by God.

Eros is the emotion we probably think of first when thinking of love, especially the love of Valentine’s Day and pop music. While the word itself is not present in the Greek New Testament, it depicts the passionate desire that unites lover and beloved praised in the Song of Solomon. Its presence in the Bible testifies not only that humans are moved by beauty and desire, but also that passion, romance, and sexual intimacy are an essential element of God’s good creation and the human experience.

Phileo, in contrast, is a more stable and constant emotion.  However, phileo is also a powerful emotion that captures the love of great friends. Jesus weeps for Lazarus, whom he loved (phileo) (John 11:35), while Jonathan and David share a bond so strong that it induces Jonathan to forsake allegiance to his father in support of his beloved friend. Phileo is ultimately not about passion as much as it is about commitment, the love that binds one to another in enduring friendship.

Agape dominates the New Testament but is not as common in contemporary literature of the Greek-speaking world of the first century. Scholars agree that it best captures what we might call “Christian love.” Agape depicts the self-sacrificing love of a parent for a child and describes both God’s love for the world as shown in Christ and the love Christians should show each other and all people. As to the former, think of the world’s favorite Bible verse: “For God so loved – agape – the world that he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16).  Think of Paul’s great hymn to love: “Love – agape – is patient and kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a). Our love of God is not possible without loving our neighbor as this wonderful article points out.

Two Loves

One of my favorite quotes about love: “Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” – author Louise Erdrich


The Greatest Commandment tells us to love God, and then Jesus tells us to love each other.  It sounds simple enough; yet, we struggle to love in this way.  Meditate on this passage throughout the month and see where the message leads you.  How are you being called to love God?  How are you being called to love your neighbor?

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

The Bible Project

The Bible Project has a Bible study on Love.  Click the link below to work your way through it.  Look for the audio message, the video link, the Bible passages, and the questions.

The Bible Project

Prodigal Son

When I read The Parable of the Prodigal Son, I hear a love story.  The son trusted in his father’s love and returned home.  The father loves his son and celebrates his return.  The brother loves his father and has served him well.

Read through Luke 15:11-32.  Think back on your life.  Have you ever behaved like the Prodigal Son?  Have you ever behaved like the father?  Have you ever behaved like the brother?  When we think about it, we may find times in our lives when we walked in the shoes of all three characters.

Click the link below to watch a modern day version of The Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Click the link below to watch Ry Cooder perform his version of “The Prodigal Son” in a studio recording.

Love in the News

The love between those who serve in the military is a special kind of love.  A powerful love.  A sacrificial love.  Click the link below for a story in the news showing the love and friendship between two Marines.

Love through the Pain

In her TED Talk, Caroline Catlin talks about her volunteer work photographing families at their time of greatest loss and pain.  She’s motivated to serve in this way from her own pain.  It’s an interesting story showing us that love ends in loss; yet, love’s power is what drives us.

Love in 100 Words

The New York Times runs a series called Modern Love.  Readers send in their stories of love summarized in 100 words or less.  Click the link below for a sample.  Maybe you’ll want to write your own story this month.  After you write it, why not share it with your subject?

Love in 100 Words

Love in Poetry

Richard Carver was an American poet and short story writer.  This is the last poem in his final publication, A New Path to the Waterfall.

“Late Fragment”

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

–Richard Carver

To read an interpretation of the poem, click the link below.

Love in Poetry

Love in Music

When you think of Love and music, you can’t help but think of “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles.  Click the link below to watch a video of the original performance on Our World, the first worldwide satellite broadcast.  Click the second link to read the inside story of the performance.

Love is All You Need

Click the link below to listen to “Unfailing Love” by Chris Tomlin.  It’s a song of thanks for God’s love.

Love in the Comics

Just for fun, here’s something to end our Love Playlist with a smile.

April Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries



When I think of Peace, it takes several directions.  There’s the desire for peace, a lack of conflict or a feeling of calm in life.  There’s the historic effort for world peace, a time when countries and people cooperate with each other consistently.  There’s God’s peace, a clear path that only God can provide.  Maybe all three directions are connected.  We’ll explore each of them in this month’s Peace Playlist.


The following prayer is from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Let it be a guide for you as you work your way through the Peace Playlist.

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you;
I can’t do this alone.
In me there’s darkness,
But with you there’s light;
I’m lonely, but you don’t leave me;
I’m feeble in heart, but with you there’s help;
I’m restless, but with you there’s peace.
In me there’s bitterness, but with you there’s patience;
I don’t understand your ways,
But you know the way for me.

Desert Cross

Below you’ll find some thoughts from Pastor Andrea.  She discusses Peace through prayer, scripture, history, and art.

From Pastor Andrea:

Peace is a theme and goal of all major world religions. For example,

A prayer of peace from St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

A prayer of peace from a Hindu monk in the early 20th century, Shāmi Bibekānondo:

Behold, it comes in might, The power that is not power, The light that is in darkness, The shade in dazzling light.

It is joy that never spoke, And grief unfelt, profound, Immortal life unlived, Eternal death unmourned.

It is not joy nor sorrow, But that which is between, It is not night nor morrow, But that which joins them in.

It is sweet rest in music; And pause in sacred art; The silence between speaking; Between two fits of passion – It is the calm of heart.

It is beauty never seen, And love that stands alone, It is song that lives un-sung, And knowledge never known.

It is death between two lives, And lull between two storms, The void whence rose creation, And that where it returns.

To it the tear-drop goes, To spread the smiling form, It is the Goal of Life, And Peace — its only home!

God’s greatest desire for creation is peace. On the night of the last supper before Jesus was betrayed and arrested, he prayed for peace. He prayed for unity among his followers. He also prayed for those who did not yet know him so that they would be brought to complete unity. Jesus’ prayer and desire was for unity and peace that we might be one.

Yet the world is still at war. Today in Jerusalem and in Bethlehem, the places of our savior’s birth, death, and resurrection, Christians, Muslims and Jews live together – but peace is far away from that holy place.

There is a wall built around the birthplace of our Savior, Bethlehem. The thousands of people who live in that city are more or less held captive to their situation. The Bethlehem wall is a concrete symbol of sad divisions that still exist between people.

Shalom is the Semitic term for peace, wholeness, and well being. It is the ideal human state and the ultimate gift from God. God’s dream for the world is Shalom = Complete and total peace on earth. Yet we’re so busy arguing and fighting about who is right that we are distracted from our peace keeping mission. Isaiah’s vision of shalom began with Jerusalem as the focus of God’s reign of justice and peace for the whole world.

My Palestinian Christian friend from seminary who is a pastor from Bethlehem, Rev. Saliba Rishmawi, always used to say, “We will not have peace until there is peace in the heart of the world, Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem is where three world religions intersect and share worship space: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In Hebrew, peace is “Shalom”. In Arabic, peace is “Salaam”. Jesus is our Shalom. He is our Salaam. He alone is our peace in a hostile world, and Jesus prayed for peace constantly.

As Jesus said to his disciples in John 14:27, “27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

As we live in and live out our faith, let us work and pray for peace in our lives. Let us work and pray for peace in the world, as we seek to understand our neighbors.

Swanson, John August. Peaceable Kingdom, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN – copyright 1994

This artwork by American artist, John August Swanson, paints a picture of the world peace shared by Isaiah chapter 11: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them…”

This serigraph created by Swanson in 1994 is a modern vision of God’s peace. It embodies one of the central themes of his art: the hope that people can live together in harmony basing their lives on the Christian values of kindness, love and peace.

John Swanson’s creative presentation of this peaceful vision enables us to see the story through new eyes and rediscover the power of the story for our own lives. He challenges us to look at our lives, to re-examine our world-view, and see if we’re living as God calls us to live: in peace, unity, and harmony.

This serigraph symbolizes God’s desire to put an end to violence and conflict and bring creation and humankind into harmony – It’s a picture of shalom. We are still waiting for that kind of peace – where we don’t fight or just look the other way, and where we value differences and work together to transform ways of violence to ways of love and peace.

The words of Isaiah that are the background of this art, were words of future peace for a nation in trouble. Isaiah’s ancient prophecy to the Israelites shined the light of promised peace and love of God in a dark time of chaos. The people were suffering because they had not been living in God’s ways of love and peace. They were living in exile.

In the past year, most people have felt they are living in some sort of exile with pandemic restrictions, social distancing, and fear. At the very same time, the exile of people of color who are in their own kind of exile of injustice have come to light in ways never seen before and the work of anti racism has just begun.

We must listen for a word from God that will set us to work for and pray for peace in our lives, neighborhoods, and the world, as we seek to understand our neighbors through interfaith and interracial initiatives. We are invited to be open to our brothers and sisters’ faith and work alongside them to usher in the peace that passes understanding. 

Our work toward peace is a joint project, and all are needed to participate in God’s vision for shalom.

May the peace of God guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Hicks, Edward, 1780-1849. Peaceable Kingdom, from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN

This is a more traditional 19th century artistic depiction of the Peaceable Kingdom from Isaiah 11 by Edward Hicks. He was a Quaker preacher in PA. He includes the ancient message of peace from scripture in Isaiah 11 along with a modern living out of that peace in the lower corner with a scene from the signing of the peace treaty between William Penn and the Delaware tribe.


You’re invited to spend some time reading and meditating on the following verses.  The verses are from the Psalms and the Gospels, but you can find many more verses mentioning peace.  As you work your way through the list, read the verses.  Close your eyes and meditate on what words or ideas stand out to you.  Read the verses again.  Close your eyes and meditate on the message of peace you hear.

Psalm 4:8
Psalm 29:11
Psalm 34:14
Psalm 85:10
Matthew 5:9
Mark 5:34
Mark 9:50
Luke 2:4
Luke 2:29
Luke 24:36
John 14:27
John 20:21

30 Bible Verses About Peace

If you’d like to explore more scripture, click the link below from Women’s Day.  It’s a collection of Bible verses, images, and brief interpretations.

30 Bible Verses

Bible Project

The following video link is to a BibleProject word study of Peace or Shalom.  It shows how Biblical Peace leads to Jesus.

Peace in Living Lutheran

In 2018, Living Lutheran did a series titled Lutheran Legacy of Peacemaking.  Below you’ll find a link to the magazine’s website listing all of the articles in the series.  Take some time this month to read your way through the series.

Living Lutheran

History of the Peace Corps

The Peace Corps was started sixty years ago.  The following video link is to a Nightly News Film by NBC.  It chronicles the beginning of the Peace Corps to the impact of the pandemic on the program.

Peace in Poetry

William Cowper was an English poet who lived in the late 1700’s.  He was one of the most popular poets of his time, writing about everyday life.

“Joy and Peace in Believing”
Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing on His wings;
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation,
And find it ever new;
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say,
E’en let the unknown to-morrow
Bring with it what it may!

It can bring with it nothing,
But He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing,
Will clothe His people too;
Beneath the spreading heavens
No creature but is fed;
And He who feeds the ravens
Will give His children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither
Their wonted fruit shall bear,
Though all the field should wither,
Nor flocks nor herds be there:
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice;
For, while in Him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.

Peace in Modern Literature

If you want a good book to read this month, try Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.  Below you’ll find a link to the writer’s website with a brief summary of the novel.  While you’re reading the story, keep the title in mind and think about its meaning and the author’s title choice.

Peace Like a River

Peace in Music

“It is Well with My Soul” also known as “When Peace Like a River” is a much-loved hymn.  The video link below is to a version performed by Anthem Lights.

“Common Ground” is a song by Frank Turner.  The word “peace” is not included in the lyrics, but the idea of finding common ground with others is certainly a step towards building peace in many, many ways and in many, many circumstances.  Click the link below to listen.

March Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries



Cross is the theme of our March Playlist.  We see crosses all around us. Sanctuaries.  On altars and hymnals.  Jewelry.  Some simple, some ornate.  Artwork.  In old cathedrals and modern museums.  We even see crosses in common, everyday things.  When I was growing up, we had a tv antennae attached to our roof with crisscrossing rods that formed crosses.  Many powerlines look like crosses.  Some road signs have a cross-like symbol on them.  At our home, we even have several flower pots in the yard with a design that looks like a cross.  Maybe we just need to open our eyes to see the cross all around us.  As you work your way through this month’s playlist, look for crosses.  You’ll see them in the mundane and in the spiritual.


The following prayers are from Luther’s Small Catechism.  Both prayers start with making the sign of the cross.  Try using these as part of your prayers this month.


In the morning, as soon as you get out of bed, you are to make the sign of the holy cross and say:

“God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit watch over me. Amen.”

Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you wish, you may in addition recite this little prayer as well: “I give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected me through the night from all harm and danger. I ask that you would also protect me today from sin and all evil, so that my life and actions may please you. Into your hands I commend myself: my body, my soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angel be with me, so that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.”

After singing a hymn perhaps (for example, one on the Ten Commandments) or whatever else may serve your devotion, you are to go to your work joyfully.


In the evening, when you go to bed, you are to make the sign of the holy cross and say:

“God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit watch over me. Amen.”

Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you wish, you may in addition recite this little prayer as well:

“I give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have graciously protected me today. I ask you to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously to protect me tonight. Into your hands I commend myself: my body, my soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angel be with me, so that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.” Then you are to go to sleep quickly and cheerfully.

Desert Cross

Below you’ll find some information from Pastor Thadd.  He gives us some history of the cross, includes reflections from Luther, and cites quotes from modern theologians.

From Pastor Thadd:
†For a long time the cross was seen as a symbol of Jesus gruesome death and execution so it is said that early Christians were reluctant to use the symbol.

-Many modern-day churches do not use the cross within their worship space because the cross is a symbol of torture and can be seen as offensive.

†Even the word cross was offensive to Romans.  One Roman would insult another by saying “May you be nailed to a cross” similar to “go to hell” in our vernacular.

-The Romans primarily reserved crucifixion for criminals and rebellious foreigners. Being crucified was meant to be a humiliating and painful experience.  These crucifixions often took place beside busy roads so that everyone could see the power of Rome, and it would also be sign to others that if they fell out of line, they would be next.

-Over time Christians began to wrestle with the paradox of the cross. The instrument of death and destruction on which the savior was crucified became the moment when everything changed.   

†Jesus’ death on a cross, according to Mark’s gospel, is not only necessary but an example of the service required for true discipleship (Mark 8:34-38).

-Paul continued this theme as he believed that Jesus death on a cross demonstrated his humility, selflessness, and abundant love for humanity.

†Paul often speaks about the paradox of the cross.  God is to be found in suffering and death instead of glory and earthly power.  The Bible Project has a good write up that speaks about this paradox specifically looking at 2 Corinthians.  Click the link below to read it.

Paradox of the Cross

†“A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.”  -Martin Luther from “Heidelberg Disputation”

-Allows us to name the difficult moments and remind others that God walks with them (especially so) in those places of brokenness and death.   

†The cross isn’t about punishment for sin (not Jesus or ours) but rather identification, solidarity and love.  Rather than imagine that God has to punish someone, and we are lucky that Jesus was around, we see how far God was willing to go to be with us and for us.  Even to the point of suffering unjustly and dying the death of a criminal. 

†Martin Luther spoke about a cross shaped life by describing the two relationships in which Christians live: before God (vertically) and before one another and the rest of creation (horizontally). Put horizontal and vertical together and you have a cross shaped (cruciform) life. 

Luther proclaimed that our worth before God is passive, on our end. It is received and defined by faith in the unconditional, undeserved, and unexpected love from the divine.

On the other hand, our worthiness before one another and the rest of creation is active and defined by service.

†Sometimes we think of the cross as a burden we carry with us or something we have to take up in order to become the person God calls us to be.  Anne Lamott describes this well when she writes about her own cross. She says, “Jealousy always has been my cross, the weakness and woundedness in me that has most often caused me to feel ugly and unlovable, like the Bad Seed. I’ve had many years of recovery and therapy, years filled with intimate and devoted friendships, yet I still struggle. I know that when someone gets a big slice of pie, it doesn’t mean there’s less for me. In fact, I know that there isn’t even a pie, that there’s plenty to go around, enough food and love and air.  But I don’t believe it for a second.  I secretly believe there’s a pie. I will go to my grave brandishing my fork.”

†Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).

-David Lose has a helpful reflection on this text.  He writes, “Suffering happens and whether you choose it, embrace it, or resist it, Christ is present with you in it. I think that sometimes we are so keenly aware of Jesus’ words of his impending suffering and death that we assume it was all part of some plan.  But what if, instead, God’s plan was to send Jesus to bear a word of redemption and grace and love and the cross happened as a result?  That is, it’s not that the only way by which God could conceive of redeeming humanity was for God’s son to be violently put to death, but rather that God in Jesus came amongst us bearing a vital message of love and acceptance even though Jesus knew that humanity’s likely response would be to reject the message and kill the messenger. In this sense, the cross was not Jesus’ goal, but rather the outcome of Jesus’ fidelity in the face of unfaithful people. He didn’t choose the cross but rather trusted God to work even through the extreme of the cross for the sake of the world God loves so much.  Similarly, the cross isn’t something we choose, but rather it is something that finds us. Sometimes what is redemptive in our suffering is obvious – the sacrifices we make for our family members and friends, foregoing individual ‘rights’ during a pandemic for the sake of community health – and sometimes it’s hard to tell if there is anything good at all, let alone redemptive, in the suffering we see and experience. And yet Christ identifies with all of our suffering, took it all on himself in his suffering, and promises to meet us in ours.”


You’re invited to spend some time reading and meditating on the following passages.  The passages are from the gospels and describe the crucifixion of Jesus.  Maybe focus on one gospel each week of March.  As you work your way through the list, read the verses.  Close your eyes and meditate on what words or ideas stand out to you.  Read the verses again.  Close your eyes and meditate on the gift given to each of us through Jesus and the cross.

Matthew 27

Mark 15

Luke 23

John 19

Bible Project

The BibleProject has a video that shows us the last days of Jesus, from his arrival in Jerusalem to the cross.  Click the link below to watch it.

Bible Project

History of the Cross

In the article link below, Joanne M. Pierce, Professor of Religious Studies at College of the Holy Cross, recounts the history of the cross.

History of the Cross

Types of Crosses

The cross is an ancient symbol.  Over the centuries, different types of crosses are seen in different settings.  Click the link below for an article discussing the symbol.  Within the article, you’ll see different types of crosses.  Click those images for more information on each type of cross.

Types of Crosses

Theology of the Cross

Angela Denker is a Lutheran pastor and journalist.  Click the link below to read about the Theology of the Cross and why the Lutheran faith is “home” for her.

Theology of the Cross

Cross in Living Lutheran

The following link is to an article from Living Lutheran.  Delmer Chilton, the writer, explores the idea of the “everyday cross” and what it means in our lives today.

Living Lutheran

Cross in Anglo-Saxon Literature

I wish I had Google when I was taking English Literature in college!  It would’ve been helpful in understanding “Dream of the Rood” and other writings from that time period.  A rood is a cross.  This poem is a dream poem in which the narrator dreams that the rood talks and tells the story of Christ’s crucifixion.  The link below includes history, a summary, and the poem.

Dream of the Rood

Cross in Modern Poetry

If the following poem sounds familiar, you may remember it from a ChristCare Retreat at Desert Cross led by Pastor Andrea.  “Blessing in the Shape of a Cross” is by Jan Richardson.  Click the link below to read her blog post, see her artwork, and read the poem.

Blessing in the Shape of a Cross

Cross in Music

The cross is a theme in many Christian songs.  We’re sharing several songs this month.

“Near the Cross” is performed by The Petersens, a bluegrass group popular in Branson.

“The Old Rugged Cross” is performed by country great Alan Jackson.

“This Crown of Thorns” is performed by Garrison Doles and includes artwork by Jan Richardson.

Coloring the Cross

During the pandemic, we’ve been sticking close to home and spending less time with our family.  So, we’ve been having FaceTime “playdates” with our grandkids.  Sometimes we just color while we talk and laugh together, stopping occasionally to show each other how our pictures are coming along.  I’ve found this time quite relaxing and a time of joy during this time apart.  When was the last time you spent some time coloring?  Give it a try!  Click the link below for a cross to print and color.

Coloring the Cross

Stations of the Cross

Some view the Stations of the Cross as a Catholic experience, but many denominations use the practice, especially during Lent.  Click the link below for an article connecting the Stations of the Cross to verses from the Bible.

Stations of the Cross Bible Verses

In the video link below from Catholicism in Focus, we get some history on the Stations of the Cross.

Virginia Theological Seminary released the following worship video for use during Lent.  It’s more than forty minutes in length, so set aside some time for worship at home.

If you’d prefer to work your way through the Stations of the Cross at a slower pace, click the link below for a station-by-station devotional experience offered by Pray As You Go.

Pray As You Go

February Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries


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The theme for our February Playlist is Mercy.  Webster’s Dictionary defines mercy in several ways.  Compassion shown to an offender.  A blessing from God.  Compassionate treatment of those in distress.  Amanda Gorman, the poet at the Inauguration last month, used the word to start the final section of her poem.  Her view of mercy connects love, hope, and light.  Read through the end of the poem “The Hill We Climb” and see what message you hear.

If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it


The following prayer is adapted from Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380).  Let it be a guide for you as you work your way through the Mercy Playlist.

Merciful Lord, it does not surprise me that you forget completely the sins of those who repent. I am not surprised that you remain faithful to those who hate and revile you. The mercy which pours forth from you fills the whole world. It was by your mercy that we were created, and by your mercy that you redeemed us by sending your Son. Your mercy is the light in which sinners find you and come back to you. Your mercy is everywhere, even in the depths of hell where you offer to forgive the tortured souls. Your justice is constantly tempered with mercy, so you refuse to punish us as we deserve. O mad Lover! It was not enough for you to take on our humanity; you had to die for us as well.

Desert Cross

Below you’ll find a portion of a sermon from Pastor Andrea previously shared with Desert Cross.  In it, she calls on us to become servants of God’s mercy.  As you explore mercy through the February Playlist, stop and reflect on mercy in your life.  When have you received it?  How have you shared it?  How can you be a servant of God’s mercy?

From Pastor Andrea:
Ten lepers. So . . . what is a leper, you may ask? Well, in biblical times it could refer to a number of diseases. The law in Leviticus says this, “The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’  As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.”

Lepers were Outcasts–Not Welcome–believed to be outside of God’s mercy. And then there is the one leper who returned, a Samaritan–a double outcast as a foreigner, a natural enemy of the Jewish people.

And then there is Jesus. On the way to Jerusalem. On the way to the cross. And these ten lepers . . . these outcasts . . . banned from living within the city walls . . . saw him and they saw the large crowds following Jesus–and they must have heard people talk about Jesus’ ministry and healings.  Jesus, Master! Have mercy . . . on us!

Who are the lepers today? The outcasts? The ones not included in our communities? The ones living with social stigma. The ones we say don’t deserve mercy?

Or maybe, in one way or another, we are all lepers –in need of acceptance and mercy. For as many people who are living on the streets wearing rags like the lepers, there are just as many of us in our homes wearing nice clothing–hiding our need. We don’t hang outside the city gates anymore crying out unclean, unclean! We hide it all–our failings, our diseases, our secrets, our needs, our sorrows, our need for mercy –we keep them hidden.

And what we have kept to ourselves . . . we have in common. Because we are all in need of God’s mercy. As Martin Luther would say, This is most certainly true. We, like those ten lepers, need to be healed, need to be saved.  

Be it a physical healing, a healing of our minds, a healing of our hearts, a healing of our memories, a healing of a situation or event. With the lepers we cry out, “Jesus, have mercy on us!”

And Jesus did.  Scripture records ten lepers made clean.  Their physical healing was a blessing.  A blessing given to all ten.

Can you imagine their feelings as they approached the city walls?   Now clean.  Now healed.  Now invited inside. 

Neighbors could be friends.  There would be food on their tables and clothes on their backs.  Ten lepers had asked for mercy, and ten lepers were made clean. One went back to praise God and give thanks.

But “Were not ten made clean?”  “Where are the other nine? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this Samaritan?” This foreigner?

We hear this story, and we hope that we are the one who returned. But surely we know how it is to be counted among the nine. So anxious to get back to the business of life and living that we just jump back in . . . try to pick up where we left off.  It’s not that we don’t appreciate God’s mercy.  It’s just that, once things are better . . . we’re anxious to get on with life.

“Were not ten made clean?  Where are the other nine?”

All ten were healed . . . were made physically whole . . . but only one was made wholly whole.   Filled with gratitude he turned back praising God with a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. Saying thank you meant acknowledging that you had no resources to repay the kindness.

It was in giving thanks that the one leper was doubly blessed, that Jesus’ mercy was complete. Jesus said, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” It was in giving thanks–responding to Jesus–that faith was unleashed in the one leper’s life . . . because now he knew Jesus as Savior. 

To receive mercy is a blessing.  To know and to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to be grateful . . . is to be doubly blessed.  Trusting Jesus . . . changes the way that we live.  Trusting Jesus . . . changes the way we treat other people.  Trusting Jesus . . . changes us into thankful servants of his mercy.

As servants of his mercy, do we see the needs of others? How do we respond? Jesus saw and acted immediately; He went near to them. He calls us to do the same. Not to hide. Not to ignore. No. To pass on his mercy. To see and to act. No one is outside of his mercy.


You’re invited to spend some time reading and meditating on these passages.  As you work your way through the list, read the verses.  Close your eyes and meditate on what words or ideas stand out to you.  Read the verses again.  Close your eyes and meditate on where God is guiding you.

Psalm 4:1
Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

Psalm 6:9
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.

Psalm 28:2
Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.

Psalm 51:1
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Matthew 5:7
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Mark 5:19
Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Luke 1:78-79
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Romans 12:1
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

2 Corinthians 4:1
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.

Hebrews 4:16
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

1 Peter 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, . . .

Jude 1:2
Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

Lord, Have Mercy

Click the link below to read an article by Fr. Richard Rohr.  He explains the power of this short prayer.

Lord, Have Mercy

Bible Project

You remember the story of Jonah and the whale.  As a child, you probably read it in Sunday School and grew up thinking it was a great story of God taking care of Jonah and saving him.  Take a closer look.  The full story is actually about a man angry at God for forgiving people.  Jonah is actually angry at God for granting mercy.  It’s an amazing story.  Click the link below to watch a video outlining the full story then read the book in your Bible.  What is God teaching us through Jonah’s story?


Desert Cross adopted #AdventWord for our Advent Devotional during Advent.  One of those devotions was about Mercy.  The meditation includes a message about the power and size of God’s mercy.  Click the link below to read it.


Mercy in Living Lutheran

The following link is to an article from Living Lutheran.  Peter Marty, the writer, asks God to “pour” mercy on all of us.

Mercy in Living Lutheran

Mercy in Literature

When I was a freshman in high school, my English teacher was Mrs. DeLong.  She was tiny, maybe five feet tall.  She had black hair, cut short.  She wore glasses, low on her nose.  She laughed heartily, but rarely.  She had a reputation as one of those teachers.  One of those tough teachers.  Yes, she was tough, but we learned a lot in her class.  One of her techniques for teaching writing was to make us memorize passages of literature.  One of those passages was Portia’s speech from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.  It’s a passage on mercy.  Read through it below and see what message you hear about mercy.

The quality of mercy is not strain’d.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the heart of kings;
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.

Mercy in the 21st Century

Click the link below to read an opinion piece titled “The Forgotten Radicalism of Jesus Christ” written by Peter Wehner.  Mr Wehner served in both Bush administrations and in the Reagan administration.  He challenges Christians to see how the teachings of Jesus apply to all people today.

Mercy in the 21st Century

Mercy in the News

Rais Bhuiyan was the victim of a hate crime shortly after 9/11.  He resisted the instinct to seek revenge and, instead, chose to act with mercy.  In the video below he tells his story and how it led to his life’s work.

Mercy in Film

Dead Man Walking, the non-fiction book by Sister Helen Prejean, was made into a film.  It tells the story of a man convicted of rape and murder on death row and the ministry of Sister Helen Prejean in the prison.  It’s a very difficult film to watch because of the offensive language and raw violence.  Below you’ll find a series of clips from the film moving from denial to confession to mercy.

Mercy in Music

We’re sharing two songs with you this month.  The first is a traditional hymn—“The Wideness in God’s Mercy”—performed by The Riverside Choir in New York.  The second is a one-man “choir”—“Lord, Have Mercy”—offered by David Wesley.

January Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries



The theme for our January Playlist is Baptism.  Baptism is a new life with Christ, a new life in God’s family, a new beginning.  What a great topic for the New Year!

When Pastor Andrea saw the image for this month’s playlist, this was her response, “It reminds me of the ripples of kindness and love that flow from the center: baptism!”  Our baptisms are at the center of everything, and there’s always something “new” for us in our baptisms, no matter how long ago we were baptized.  Join us this month and explore baptism and its new beginnings for you.


The following prayer is from the Service of Holy Baptism printed in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship Hymnal.  Let it be a guide for you as you work your way through the January Playlist.

We give you thanks, O God, for in the beginning your Spirit moved over the waters and by your Word you created the world, calling forth life in which you took delight. Through the waters of the flood you delivered Noah and his family, and through the sea you led your people Israel from slavery into freedom. At the river your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Holy Spirit. By the baptism of Jesus’ death and resurrection you set us free from the power of sin and death and raise us up to live in you.

Pour out your Holy Spirit, the power of your living Word, that those who are washed in the waters of baptism may be given new life. To you be given honor and praise through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever.


Desert Cross

Below you’ll find some words from Pastor Andrea previously shared with Desert Cross in a sermon.  As you explore baptism through the January Playlist, stop and reflect on your own baptism and how it guides your life today.

From Pastor Andrea:
I invite you when you come up for communion, to dip your fingers into the water in the baptismal font. Feel the water on your skin. Make the sign of the cross on your forehead, on your child’s forehead, on the one sitting by you who cannot come forward, be reminded of this promise:  “No matter what is happening around you or to you, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ . . . Forever.

It’s not something we think about every day, but maybe it’s time we start. In our baptism, each day we have a sanctuary as followers of Jesus. No matter what is changing in the world, no matter what is changing in our lives, one thing will never change. We are the beloved of God. Members of God’s family. That is our story, and we should definitely stick to it.

We tell ourselves lots of stories about ourselves. Others tell stories about us and about our world. But it is this Story, the story of God’s love for us, that we seek to live and serve and share. In the baptismal newness of each day, we can choose which story we will live out. The Holy Spirit invites us, opens us, and challenges us to live out our faith story, every day, not just on Sunday.

But Sunday is a good starting point, as we gather each week to share the peace of Christ with each other.  Like the dove that was sent out from the ark. The dove returned with an olive branch, giving Noah and his family assurance that the flood waters were retreating. Just as doves are symbols of peace and the presence of the Holy Spirit, may we be like doves. May we take the peace of Christ we receive here with us, as we are sent out into our daily lives. May we fly out from here like doves to be symbols of peace to our neighbors who desperately need it.


Spend some time reading and meditating on these passages. The passages are from the Gospels and tell the story of the Baptism of Jesus. As you work your way through the list, read the verses.  Close your eyes and meditate on what words or ideas stand out to you.  Read the verses again.  Close your eyes and meditate on where God is guiding you.

Matthew 3:13-17
Mark 1:9-13
Luke 3:21-38
John 1:29-34

Baptismal Promises

When adults bring children to be baptized in the Lutheran Church, the following are the promises made during the Service of Holy Baptism.  If you have brought a child for baptism, take some time to reflect on these responsibilities made by you at that time.

As you bring your children to receive the gift of baptism, you are entrusted with responsibilities:

to live with them among God’s faithful people,
bring them to the word of God and the holy supper,
teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments,
place in their hands the holy scriptures,
and nurture them in faith and prayer,
so that your children may learn to trust God,
proclaim Christ through word and deed,
care for others and the world God made,
and work for justice and peace.

Small Catechism of Martin Luther

Maybe it’s been a while since you studied Martin Luther’s teachings in the Small Catechism.  We encourage you to spend some time this month revisiting his teachings on baptism.



What is baptism?
Baptism is not simply plain water. Instead, it is water used according to God’s command and connected with God’s word.

What then is this word of God?
Where our Lord Christ says in Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”


What gifts or benefits does baptism grant?
It brings about forgiveness of sins, redeems from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe it, as the words and promise of God declare.

What are these words and promise of God?
Where our Lord Christ says in Mark 16, “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”


How can water do such great things?
Clearly the water does not do it, but the word of God, which is with and alongside the water, and faith, which trusts this word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is plain water and not a baptism, but with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a grace-filled water of life and a “bath of the new birth in the Holy Spirit,” as St. Paul says to Titus in chapter 3, “through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure.”


What then is the significance of such a baptism with water?
It signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance, and on the other hand that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?
St. Paul says in Romans 6, “We were buried with Christ through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”


Desert Cross adopted #AdventWord for our Advent Devotional during Advent.  One of those devotions was about Baptism.  The meditation includes a message about transformation and trust.  Click the link below to read it.


Baptism in Living Lutheran

The following link is to an article from Living Lutheran.  The writer explains how baptism changes us and sends us out into the world to do God’s work.

Living Lutheran

Baptism in Poetry

The following poem is by Wendell Berry.  I hear themes of baptism in it . . . maybe you will too.

“Like the Water”
Like the water
of a deep stream,
love is always too much.

We did not make it.

Though we drink till we burst,
we cannot have it all,
or want it all.

In its abundance
it survives our thirst.

In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill,
and sleep,
while it flows
through the regions of the dark.

It does not hold us,
except we keep returning to its rich waters

We enter,
willing to die,
into the commonwealth of its joy.

Baptism in Artwork

You’ll find the Baptism of Jesus presented in many pieces of art.  Piero della Francesca’s The Baptism of Christ is one such piece of art.  The following link is from Khan Academy, a nonprofit providing free online education tools.  The video discusses the geometry found in the artwork.  Click the link below for the discussion.

If you’d like to explore more artwork depicting baptism, use the link below to visit Art in the Christian Tradition offered by Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt University

Baptism in Film

There’s a baptism scene in Forrest Gump.  It’s not a traditional scene of baptism, but it shows transformation and new life for one of the characters.  If you know the film, you remember Lt. Dan. For much of the film, he’s angry about his experiences in Vietnam.  That anger manifests itself in rough living.  In the scene, Forrest tells us that Lt. Dan “made his peace with God” in a brief conversation between the two characters.  Click the link below to view the scene.  Watch for “baptism” scenes in other stories you’re watching or reading.

Baptism in the News

Michael Plummer’s story is a story of a new life, a transformed life, a “baptized” life.  He committed murder as a teenager and spent more than two decades in prison for that crime.  During that time, he changed.  Changed for the good.  Today he works and lives to show others another way.  Click the link below to watch his story.

Baptism in the News

Baptism in Music

“Down to the River to Pray” is a beautiful song performed here by a virtual choir.   Click the link below to listen.

Baptism in Nature

I find the sound of water relaxing.  Use the link below as a meditation tool this month.  Pray while you listen.  Read while you listen.  Let the waters wash over you and be renewed as you rediscover your baptism.

December Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries



The theme for our December Playlist is Joy.  Joy is difficult to define.  When you look it up in the dictionary, you’ll find words like happiness, pleasure, or gratitude, but it’s so much more than that.  We know it when we see it, but, more likely, we know it when we feel it.  I recently experienced it.

I’ve always had poor eyesight, and over the last several years it’s been further deteriorating because of cataracts and glaucoma.  I knew my vision was poor, but I didn’t know how poor until I had two eye surgeries earlier this year.  I went from 20/200 with glasses to 20/30 without glasses.  It was amazing!  Several weeks after the procedure, my husband I were driving through Colorado in the San Juan National Forest along the Dolores River in October.  The sky was brilliant blue.  The clouds were bright white.  The pine trees were deep green.  The aspens were golden yellow.  It was incredibly beautiful.  So beautiful that I started to cry.  Tears of joy.

Watch for joy this month.  You’ll see it, but, more likely, you’ll feel it.


Read Psalm 100 below.  Let it be a guide for you as you work your way through the December Playlist.

1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.  2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.  3 Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Desert Cross

Below you’ll find some thoughts from Pastor Andrea.  As you explore joy through the December Playlist, take note when you experience joy this month.  Stop and feel that joy fully and completely.  Then take time to pray and thank God for those moments of joy.

From Pastor Andrea:
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah

C.S. Lewis wrote in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy:
“…Joy, which is a technical term, must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted joy would ever exchange it for all the pleasure in the world.”

In Surprised by Joy Lewis made clear that he had finally found the object of real joy and it was Jesus. Joy was not found in a “religion” or a “philosophy,” but in a person, Jesus. True joy, found in Jesus, the child of Bethlehem, is amazing. And Joy changes everything! Joy is…indescribable. It is something that is beyond words or explanation or reason. The joy we have in Christ Jesus is truly beyond description. It is deep in our hearts. But our joy is also…invincible. Our joy in Christ cannot be subdued or overcome. No matter what we face in life, our joy cannot be taken away.  Our joy is also Overflowing. We are so filled with joy because of Christ’s joy. His joy runs over the brims of our lives into the lives of others.

The prophet Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would be a joy-bringer, that he would transform the world, that he would transform lives. Jesus addressed the subject of joy a number of times. When speaking of his second coming, Jesus reassured his followers in John 16:22: “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” He also told them, 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

When he comes again in his second advent, joy will fill our forever life in Christ. When Jesus, born in Bethlehem and crucified at Calvary, comes again in glory and power and majesty, joy eternal will be ours.

But joy is also ours today! Joy in Christ is not just a future reality. We have joy now! And many times that joy comes from loving others. From serving others and showing them the love of Christ that knows no boundaries. Until we see Jesus again at his Second Advent…Joy serves as strength for us in these days, for as Nehemiah says, the joy of the Lord is your strength.” We can draw on that strength at all times. The Joy of the Lord is our strength in all circumstances. Joy to the World, the Lord is come!!


Spend some time reading and meditating on these passages.  As you work your way through the list, read the verses.  Close your eyes and meditate on what words or ideas stand out to you.  Read the verses again.  Close your eyes and meditate on where God is guiding you.

Luke 2:10

Isaiah 51:11

Psalm 105:43

Acts 13:52

Philippians 3:1

Philippians 1:25

Corinthians 6:10

Luke 10:21

Biblical Joy

We’ve seen videos from The Bible Project in our Worship Services at Desert Cross.  The following video on joy is from an Advent series they put together.  Click the link below to watch it.

Choose Joy

We know there are stories of great suffering and stories of great joy in the Bible.  Sometimes those stories overlap.  Below you’ll find an article discussing Biblical people who chose joy under difficult circumstances.

Choose Joy

Joy & Health

Joy has an impact on your health.  It can improve our health both physically and mentally.  Joy is good medicine!  Click the links below to learn more.

Joy and The Body

Happiness & Joy

Joy & Music

“Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” is a long-loved hymn in the Church.  Below you’ll find links to two versions.  The first one is a traditional version from Carrie Underwood’s latest CD.  The second one is a contemporary version of the song based on a song from Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.  EnJOY!

Search for Joy

When I googled “joy” for this playlist, several articles popped up about recognizing joy in your life and adding joy to your life.  You’ll find links to some of them below.

8 Keys to Living a Joyful Life

33 Photos of “Moments of Joy”

40 Ways to Find Joy in your Everyday Life

50 Ways to Add Joy to your Day

Joy in Your Inbox

Do you want some joy in your inbox?  Check out our Stories of Joy blog by clicking the link below.  Sign up to follow it, and you’ll receive a couple of stories each week.  EnJOY!

Stories of Joy

November Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries



The theme for our November Playlist is Hope.  Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”  Finite:  Having limits or bounds.  Infinite:  Limitless or endless, impossible to measure or calculate.  Hope is what keeps us going in the dark.  Hope is knowing that something better is coming.  Hope is all around us.  I encourage you to look for it as you explore our Hope Playlist this month.


Read the prayer below.  It comes from Loyola Press.  Return to this prayer throughout the month.  Let it be a guide for you as you work your way through the November Playlist.

A Prayer for Hope and Peace
Heavenly father, I am your humble servant,
I come before you today in need of hope.
I need hope for a calm and joyful future.
I need hope for love and kindness.
I pray for peace and safety.
Some say that the sky is at its
darkest just before the light.
I pray that this is true, for today seems stormy and dim.
I need your light, Lord, in every way.
I pray to be filled with your light.
Help me to walk in your light,
and live my life in faith and service.
In your name I pray, Amen.

Desert Cross

Below you’ll find some thoughts from Pastor Andrea.  As you explore hope through the November Playlist, think about when you need hope, when you need to wait for hope, how you receive hope, and how you share hope.

From Pastor Andrea:
Scripture mentions the word hope almost two hundred times. Christian hope is a very specific kind of hope. In Matthew 12, Jesus quotes Isaiah about the coming Messiah, “In his name, the nations will hope.” What does Scripture tell us about the hope that we have while we wait?

       Paul tells us in Romans 15:4, For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through patience and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

       And he goes on to say, We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

       So hope is certain in all things, but we are still waiting. And the time we spend waiting is an opportunity to develop faith. You see, hope is simply faith directed toward the future. Christian hope is a living hope, because “the hope set before us,” is eternal life. We are waiting in expectation for Christ.

       In his meditation, Waiting for God, Henri Nouwen writes an excellent contemplation about hope and waiting. He writes that waiting in our culture seems like a waste of time but in the context of waiting on Christ, we wait with a sense of promise. So our waiting is active because we wait in faith.

That means being alert and attentive to hearing the Holy Spirit in our lives in the good times and the bad times. As Paul writes in Romans, Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

       So waiting and hope go together, and it’s hard to wait. And a lot of time we confuse hope with wishes. We have lots of wishes: I wish that I would have a job. I wish that the weather would be better. I wish that the pain would go away.

We are full of wishes, and we try to control the future by making our wishes come true. But Nouwen says that Jesus wants us to be filled with hope not wishes. Hope is different. Hope is trusting God’s promises in Jesus.

We must let go of our wishes and start hoping. Hope is about trusting so deeply that our waiting is open to all possibilities. Without our control. Hope asks us to let God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear.

       When Jesus speaks to the disciples about the coming of the Son of Man, he speaks about the importance of active waiting. Jesus says stand ready, stay tuned to the word of God, keep alert, so that you will not be distracted from me and be able to stand confidently in the presence of God when he comes.

Our faith and our lives are a journey guided by the Holy Spirit, just like the Wise Men who followed the star that shined so brightly over the manger in Bethlehem. Just like that star, the hope of Christ shines brightly into the darkness in our lives. When things feel hopeless, we need to open our hands to let go of control and to receive the hope of Christ. Our today and every single one of our tomorrows are in God’s hands. Many things in life are uncertain, but God gave us something sure and certain to trust: Jesus Christ in whom we put all of our hope.


Spend some time reading and meditating on these passages.  As you work your way through the list, read the verses.  Close your eyes and meditate on what words or ideas stand out to you.  Read the verses again.  Close your eyes and meditate on where God is guiding you.

Job 14:7
Psalm 9:18
Psalm 25:5
Psalm 31:24
Psalm 62:5
Isaiah 40:31
Micah 7:7
Romans 12:12
Romans 15:13

Biblical Hope

We’ve seen videos from The Bible Project in our Worship Services at Desert Cross.  The following video is a word study on hope.  Click the link below to watch it.

Bible Project

Hope on the Road to Emmaus

The following is to a podcast called Boldcafe.  It’s produced by the Women of the ELCA, but its message is for all—both women and men.  I don’t think the word “hope” is said during the podcast; yet, that’s the message I heard in it.  Click the link below to listen and let us know in the comment section below what message you hear.

Boldcafe Podcast

Hope in Literature

You probably read Emily Dickinson in your high school English class.  I know I did!  Maybe you haven’t read poetry since those days.  It’s not part of my regular reading.  Below you’ll find one of her poems on hope.  Take your time with it.  Read it slowly.  Line by line.  Read it again.  What do her words bring to mind?  What message do you hear about hope?  If you’d like to explore the poem in greater detail, click the link following the poem for an analysis.

“Hope is the Thing with Feathers”
Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Hope at the Movies

Scroll up to the top of this playlist and look at the image for this month’s topic.  When I first saw this picture, I thought of a deserted island.  When folks get stranded, they sometimes spell out “help” or “S.O.S” in whatever is available.  As my mind wandered looking at this image, I thought of the movie Cast Away.  I remembered all of the ways the man portrayed by Tom Hanks struggles to survive.  He searches for food.  He builds shelter.  He figures out how to make “tools” out of what’s available.  He even creates “Wilson” to have a companion.  Why do all of this?  Why?  Because of hope.  He hopes to survive.  He hopes to return to his fiancé.  He hopes to see another day.  I was stunned to discover that the movie is twenty years old!  So much of it stuck with me two decades later.  That’s a powerful message.  Click the link below for a discussion about hope in the film.

Cast Away

Hope in the News

When I heard this story on the morning news, I started to cry.  Mike and Becky McKenney brought Bob Van Sumeren hope during his darkest days.  Mike says, “We couldn’t let you do it alone.”  We’re called to show each other the light and point to hope.  Click the link below to listen to this beautiful story.


Hope in Music

Last year my husband and I planned our memorial services.  I know that may sound strange, but we thought it’d be helpful for our kids at a difficult time.  So, we selected readings, speakers, and music for our services.  I chose “Lord of All Hopefulness” as the last hymn at my service.  It’s a beautiful song with a message of hope about God’s presence throughout our lives.  I’m including the lyrics below along with an offering of the hymn by a virtual choir.

“Lord of All Hopefulness”
Jan Struther

Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
whose trust, ever child-like, no cares could destroy:
be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe:
be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,
your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace:
be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm:
be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

Now, if I have a chance to share a song by Bruce Springsteen, you know I’m going to do it!  Bruce’s music often has a thread of faith running through it.  Pastor Doris calls it the Theology of Bruce.  “Land of Hope and Dreams” has a beautiful message of hope and inclusion.  Here are the lyrics and a video of Bruce singing it in concert.  It even includes a sax solo by Clarence Clemons!  Enjoy!

“Land of Hope and Dreams”
Bruce Springsteen

Grab your ticket and your suitcase, thunder’s rolling down this track
Well, you don’t know where you’re going now, but you know you won’t be back
Well, darling, if you’re weary, lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry, yeah, and we’ll leave the rest

Well, big wheels roll through the fields where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

I will provide for you and I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now for this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past

Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams

Well, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Yes, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings thrown
This train, all aboard

I said, now this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Come on this train
People get ready
You don’t need no ticket
All you gotta do is
Just get onboard
Onboard this train (this train, now)
People get ready
You don’t need no ticket (oh now, no you don’t)
You don’t need no ticket
You just get onboard (people get ready)
You just thank the Lord (people get ready)
You just thank the Lord (people get ready)
You just thank the Lord (people get ready)
(Come on this train, people get ready)
(Come on this train, people get ready)

Hope in Advent

Advent begins Sunday, November 29.  Hope is a theme that runs throughout the upcoming season.  If you’d like to explore Hope in Advent, I’m including information about an online Advent retreat offered by Lifelong Learning through the Virginia Theological Seminary.  Click the link below for a description of the event and information on registration.

Advent Retreat

October Playlist

Amazing Grace

Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries



The theme of our October Playlist is Amazing Grace.  Grace is God’s gift to us.  A gift.  Nothing done to earn it.  Nothing done to deserve it.  Nothing.  A gift.  A gift we’re asked to share with others.  It’s as simple as that.  That’s what makes it so Amazing!


Read the prayer below.  It comes from God Pause, a daily devotion from Luther Seminary.  You’ll find a link to the devotion below the prayer.  Through that link you can sign up to receive God Pause in your email.  Return to this prayer throughout the month.  Let it be a guide for you as you work your way through the October Playlist.

Gracious God, source of all good, of all compassion, help us to reflect your love and forgiveness into this troubled time. Raise up leaders of strength and graciousness to guide us into the future you have planned for us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Josef Aalbue

God Pause

Desert Cross

Below you’ll find some thoughts from Pastor Andrea.  As you explore grace through the October Playlist, think about how you’ve received the gift of grace and how you can share it with others.

From Pastor Andrea:
Our founding father of the Lutheran faith, Martin Luther, developed our theology around grace. Grace is the cornerstone and foundation of our faith. Everything flows from grace. Martin Luther discovered grace by reading the New Testament. We think of ourselves as “saved by grace through faith.” Grace at its most simple form is God’s unconditional love for us in Jesus Christ. Grace is undeserved, unmerited love and forgiveness. It is love for the sake of love. Martin Luther says:

“The law says, ‘do this,’ and it is never done. Grace says, ‘believe in this,’ and everything is already done.”

“The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.”

 “God is a glowing oven, full of love, and we, by our faith in Jesus Christ, are personally baked together as a cake with our Savior.”

That gives me an image of us glowing in his love (grace.)

Theologian Anne Lamott says, “I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” The cross is where Jesus meets us just as we are.  God sent Jesus to show us his amazing love, to teach us how to love him, and how to see him in our restless lives. As Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” In Jesus…we see God’s heart of love.

We believe that God has come to us in Christ with grace, not that we earn God’s love. This grace then sets us free so we don’t live in fear but in freedom. We are freed by grace to share it with others. To share love, forgiveness, mercy. Freedom to serve and to love. I think of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet before the Last Supper of the bread and wine of forgiveness. And telling us to go make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The “means of grace” are our sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. They bring us forgiveness, new life, and salvation. Jesus’ grace is available to us through God’s word and through our Christian love for each other and the Holy Spirit. Grace frees us to love our neighbor as ourselves. To love as God first loved us and to serve those in need. And we have a fresh, new start each day with grace.

Martin Luther says we are Becoming: “Christian living does not mean to be good but to become good; Not to be well, but to get well; Not being but becoming; Not rest but training. We are not yet, but we shall be. It has not yet happened, but it is the way. Not everything shines and sparkles as yet, but everything is getting better.”

It is our goal to be like Christ in every way. It is a daily work that we do – washed in the water and marked by the cross, we are made new each day – living in a rhythm of confession and forgiveness, we resist the world’s selfish way, staying firm in the faith – planted and watered with prayer, scripture, mission, and love and community. We are each just one part of that body, doing our part to build up the body in love for God and neighbor. We are sustained by one faith, one Lord, one baptism. These gifts fill us with grace – enough grace for each new day. Embrace grace.


Pastor Andrea looks to the following verses as some key teachings about grace.  Spend some time reading and meditating on these passages.  As you work your way through the list, read the verses.  Close your eyes and meditate on what words or ideas stand out to you.  Read the verses again.  Close your eyes and meditate on where God is guiding you.

Ephesians 2:8

Ephesians 3:17

Romans 8:31-39

John 3:16-17

1 John 3:14

Romans 12:3-8

Ephesians 4:32

Galatians 2:21

Exodus 34:6

John 1:14, 16

Acts 20:24

Acts 20:32

Romans 5:1-5

2 Corinthians 12:9

Ephesians 3:7

2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17

Hebrews 4:16

1 Peter 4:10

Defining Grace

The article below is from Living Lutheran.  It offers definitions of grace as a way for us to better understand it and live it.

Defining Grace

Biblical Grace

We’ve seen videos from The Bible Project in our Worship Services at Desert Cross.  The following video teaches us about God’s Grace.  Click the link below to watch it.

Biblical Grace

Modern Grace

Stories of grace can be seen in our world today.  Some stories of grace make the news.  Why do such stories of grace and forgiveness make the news?  The people in the following stories are amazing to us.  Their ability to forgive such profound loss is sometimes beyond our ability to understand. Click the link below to watch a story about the Amish school shooting that occurred in Pennsylvania in 2006 and the forgiveness that followed.

Click the link below to read about Emanuel, a documentary about the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina in 2015.


Grace and Justice

The topic of our September Playlist was Justice.  This month we’re exploring Grace.  Pastor Andrea talked about the following podcast in her September 26/27 message.  It’s a story that combines justice and grace. Click the link below to hear Ray Hinton’s story of being wrongly convicted and his embrace of life today.  If you missed it, click the second link to watch the September 26/27 Desert Cross Worship Service and hear Pastor Andrea’s message on how Ray Hinton’s story demonstrates amazing grace.

Grace and Justice–Ray Hinton

Experiencing Grace through Music

“Amazing Grace” is a well-known hymn.  It’s often sung at worship services and at memorial services.  We’re offering two versions for you today.  One is a traditional version, and one is a contemporary version.

Experiencing Grace through Art

My husband’s favorite book is A River Runs through It.  It’s also his favorite film.  Throughout the story it’s clear that the family loves each other; yet, they struggle to understand each other.  They struggle to forgive; yet, they know God’s grace.  One scene sticks with me years after seeing the film.  It reminds us that sometimes forgiving those closest to us and offering them grace is the hardest thing to do.  Click the link below to watch.

Experiencing Grace through Apology

Offering an apology is learned.  Maybe you learned it early in life.  Maybe you learned it over time.  Maybe you’re like me and still learning.  The article below is an honest discussion of how difficult apologizing can be.  It also explains how an apology and sharing the peace in worship are connected.  Click the link below to read more. 

After you read the article, consider taking action.  Do you have someone in your life you should apologize to?  Do you have someone in your life you’d like to thank for grace given to you? 

Let experiencing grace be a blessing to you and to those around you.

Experiencing Grace through Apology

September Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries



The theme for our September Playlist is Justice. The struggle for justice can take many roads. Advocating for the homeless. Reforming immigration policies. Working for funding for education. Assisting seniors. The focus of the September Adult Playlist is social justice. It’s been in the news this summer, so let’s take a deeper dive into it with our eyes of faith.


Read the prayer below. Return to it throughout the month. Let it be a guide for you as you work your way through the September Playlist.

Ever present God, you called us to be in relationship with one another and promised to dwell wherever two or three are gathered. In our community, we are many different people; we come from many different places, have many different cultures. Open our hearts that we may be bold in finding the riches of inclusion and the treasures of diversity among us. We pray in faith.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Desert Cross

Below you’ll find some thoughts from Pastor Andrea.  As you explore justice through the September Playlist, think about how you can live justly and demonstrate justice to others.

From Pastor Andrea:
I’m thinking about justice as “social justice” which we enact by living out our faith. So it is God’s justice of defending and loving the needy that by our faith enacted we make real in the world. 

We do this by loving our neighbors as ourselves and caring about people around us, especially the needy, vulnerable, poor, and powerless. It is making sure all people are treated equally and righting inequalities in our world. It’s about making a difference where we can by living out our faith. 

When we do this, we show the nature of God shown to us by Jesus which is love and peace. It’s about how we treat each other and how we live as people of faith sharing God’s love. It can be shown as honesty, equity, generosity in every day dealings, as well. To try to live as Jesus lived, reaching out to those different from us, including all people to love, serve, and care for as well as giving our time and resources and engaging against unfair practices in our society.

I think of Mr. Rogers as being a good neighbor and being loving.


Pastor Andrea looks to the following verses as some key teachings about justice.  Spend some time reading and meditating on these passages.  As you work your way through the list, read the verses.  Close your eyes and meditate on what words or ideas stand out to you.  Read the verses again.  Close your eyes and meditate on where God is guiding you.

Micah 6:8

Isaiah 61:1-2 & Luke 4:16-21

Psalm 146:5-9

Matthew 22:34-40

Matthew 25:34-40

Romans 12:15-18

Biblical Justice

We’ve seen videos from The Bible Project in our Worship Services at Desert Cross.  The following video teaches us about Biblical justice.  Click the link below to watch it.

Biblical Justice


Desert Cross is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  What does our church leadership say about justice?  Click the link below to learn how we’re called to strive for justice and peace.



Does music help you experience God’s message in a special way?  Click the link below to listen to a hymn with a message on justice.


Representative John Lewis died in July.  He was a beautiful, peaceful, forgiving soul.  His work for justice and voting rights in Congress and as a Civil Rights Leader helped change our society.  Click the link below to watch his conversation with Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.  Bryan Stevenson’s work is featured in the film Just Mercy.  Desert Cross hosted a discussion of the film via Zoom a couple of months ago.  Part of the conversation includes how faith guides their work.

Music Video

Selma is a movie that portrays the fight for voting rights.  “Glory” is the theme song from the film written by Common and John Legend.  Click the link below to watch the music video with clips from the film.


How are you being called to respond?  How can you work for justice in our world?  Nita Mosby Tyler is an Equity Advocate.  In the following video, she talks about how the fight for justice needs unlikely allies.  Click the link below to hear her story.  Her message about a “consciousness of grace” is interesting.

Open Conversations

The Grand Canyon Synod is hosting Open Conversations on Race via Zoom.  The GCS website describes the conversations as “a safe and thoughtful space where you and others in the synod can wrestle with questions and talk with each other.”  Upcoming dates are September 8, October 13, and November 10, 6:30-8:00 p.m.  Click the link below and look for the sign up information by date on the News & Events Calendar page.

Open Conversations

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona

Check out Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona by clicking the link below to visit their website. Below you’ll find some information about the group from the website.

From LAMA:
LAMA joins with the most vulnerable of our society to voice our common needs in the public square, activating our faith in love.

The purpose of LAMA is to advocate for justice in the areas of hunger, poverty, and care of God’s creation by speaking with and for those who have little or no political power. LAMA will work with congregations in Arizona — ELCA Lutherans and others — to create and use networks for advocacy on these issues.

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona

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