Adult Playlists 2021-2022

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.

May Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries & Missional Service



A couple of Saturday mornings ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee, and I heard something outside.  Is that a duck?  Do I hear a duck?  Since I live in a suburb outside of Phoenix, not on a pond in the woods, hearing a duck would be weird.  After a bit, I heard it again.  I went and looked out the front door.  There was, indeed, a duck frantically going back and forth between the two storm drains in front of the house next door.  Our neighbor was out front waiting for the fire department.  When they showed up, one got off the truck in full gear carrying a cardboard box.  Clearly they had done this before.  Turned out, one duckling had strayed from following the mama duck, and the rest of its siblings followed the wanderer into the storm drain.  There were six of them!  It didn’t take long for the firefighters to rescue them, load them in the box, and deliver them to a nearby park.

All of this reminded me of the image above.  Like the mama duck, there’s God leading the way.  As long as we stay close and follow, we’re in a good place, but sometimes we wander.  Sometimes we get off track and end up in the storm drain.  Again, like the mama duck, there’s God waiting . . . waiting for us to find our way back.  This month we’re exploring Follow in our Playlists.  Come along with us and find God leading as we follow.

Follow & Prayer

Use the prayer below as you work your way through the Follow Playlist this month.

Following Jesus
Prayer of Confession & Commitment
(based on Matthew 16: 21-28)

Merciful God,
You call us to follow;
to turn away from our own selfish interests,
and to take up our cross and follow after You,
even if the path is difficult to see,
or is heading in a direction we would never have chosen for ourselves.

Forgive us for being so quick to question
and so hesitant to follow.
Help us to see with the eyes of faith,
rather than from our own human point of view.

Teach us to follow without fear,
knowing that You are always with us,
leading the way.

Posted on re:Worship blog.  To explore more, use the link below.
Follow & Prayer

Follow & Scripture

Look up the following passages in the Bible.  Spend some time exploring them and what it means to follow.

Psalm 23:6
Matthew 4:19-22
Mark 8:34
John 8:12
John 10:27
John 12:26

Follow & The Road to Emmaus

“The Traveling Bible Study” by Ronald Byars, Professor Emeritus of Preaching and Worship at Union Presbyterian Seminary, tells us how the disciples learned to follow Jesus after the resurrection.  Click the link below to read the article.

Follow & The Road to Emmaus

Follow & The Bible Project

The Bible Project offers a podcast.  “The Cost of Following Jesus” episode explores Luke 14 and the call from Jesus to follow.  Click the link below to listen to it.

Follow & The Bible Project

Follow & Answering a Call

Matthew Aughtry felt called to be a pastor, but he also wanted to be a filmmaker.  He figured out how to follow both paths.  Click the link below to read his story shared by Fuller Studio, a project of Fuller Theological Seminary.

Follow & Answering a Call

Follow & Poetry

Click the link below to read a poem about a father and son titled “Follower” by Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet.

Follow & Poetry

Follow & Christian Music

Following Jesus is a theme in many hymns and songs.  Below you’ll find several to listen to this month as you explore following Jesus.

“Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus”

“Will You Come and Follow Me” (The Summons)

“Follow Me”

Follow & Music

While the word “follow” never appears in the lyrics of “Down the Hall” by Bonnie Raitt, it’s a powerful song about following a call to serve others.  Click the link below to listen to the song on Raitt’s new album.

Follow & Film

You guessed it!  “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” came to mind as I worked on this month’s Playlist.  Click the link below to watch a scene from The Wizard of Oz.

April Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries & Missional Service



Martin Luther said, “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.”  At first reading, this is a paradox.  How can we be both free and servant at the same time?  Yes, we are set free through Christ.  We are set free through the great sacrifice, through the great gift.  We, in turn, are then called to serve.  To serve and love others.  To share the love of Christ with all.  Our freedom is our call.  Our freedom is our duty to serve in Christ’s name.


Instead of providing a prayer this month, you’re encouraged to use the image above as you meditate and pray on what it means to be free.  When I was searching for an image for this month’s Free Playlist, I took a quick look at this one and wondered why it popped up when I searched for free.  Then I took a closer look.  I noticed the chain and saw the broken link.  Then I noticed how the links turned into birds.  Finally I noticed how the birds clearly became a dove, a sign of peace.  Refer back to this image as you work your way through the Free Playlist.  Each time you revisit the image think about the chain, the broken link, the birds, the dove.  What does each represent in your life?  What do you need to be freed from?  Where are you chained down?  When have you experienced that broken link?  How have you been made free like the birds?  When have you known the peace of the dove because of being set free?  Let the image and the questions guide your prayers.

Desert Cross

Pastor Thadd’s Playlist on Free

╬ David Lose, pastor and author, takes a look at freedom using the Reformation texts.  Click the link below to read his thoughts.

David Lose

╬ The Bible Project has a thought provoking podcast about being free in regards to Sabbath.  The speakers use the Greek word “aphesis” which we often translate to “freedom” or “release” to talk about our sense of rest.  Use the link below to listen to it.

The Bible Project

╬ Tim Smith, Bishop of the North Carolina Synod, wrote a reflection on being free as Christians and Americans.  You can read it using the link below.

North Carolina Synod

╬ One of Martin Luther’s most popular writings was The Freedom of a Christian where Luther presents the most important themes of the Christian faith. The entire document can be found using the link below.

The Freedom of a Christian

╬ A shorter explanation of Luther’s famous writing applying it to life today can be found in Living Lutheran using the link below.

The Freedom of a Christian–Living Lutheran

╬ On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the ELCA put together a study guide on The Freedom of a Christian that can be found using the link below.

The Freedom of a Christian–Study Guide

Free & ELCA

Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, wrote a couple of pieces for Living Lutheran on free.  You can check them out by using the links below.

Freed to Serve

Set Free

Free in Scripture

Look up the following passages on free in the Bible.  Spend some time exploring them and the Biblical meaning of free.

Psalm 116:15-17
Isaiah 61:1
Luke 4:18
John 8:36
Romans 6:20-23
Romans 8:2
Galatians 5:13

Free in Poetry

Click the link below to read a poem titled “Free” from “The Witness Stones Project” by Rhonda M. Ward.


Free in the News

We sometimes hear about prisoners being falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned.  One man’s story stuck with me after seeing it months ago.  He lost decades of his life, but he always believed that the truth would be known. Click the link below for a news report about his release.

Free in Film

One of the most powerful scenes in film is from Shawshank Redemption.  Andy, portrayed by Tim Robbins, escapes prison.  It’s a scene depicting a man driven for freedom and is reminiscent of baptism.  Please be aware that the scene contains offensive language.

Free in Music

Check out the index in a hymnal, and you’ll find many song titles listed under free or freedom.  Here are a couple for you to listen to.

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four is in New Orleans this month.  If you’ve been watching March Madness, you’ve seen a lot of clips of “Freedom” by Jon Batiste, a son of that great city.  Here’s your chance to watch the entire music video.

March Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries & Missional Service



The image above made me think of Abundance in new ways.  When we honor someone publically, sometimes we give them a Key to the City.  That’s actually a practice from medieval times when cities had walls around them for protection with a locked gate.  A key to the city was given to those who earned a high level of trust.  A Key Play in the Game is a turning point.  Often it results in a surprising outcome that we didn’t see coming.  The Key to my Heart is a phrase we use to describe our love for someone.  We use the phrase as a description when we’re fully and completely committing ourselves to a relationship.  Honoring.  Turning.  Committing.  These words apply as we enter into Lent.  Honoring God with our Lenten practices.  Turning to God during these forty days.  Committing ourselves to serve and love God in all that we do.  Abundance . . . a new way to look at Lent.


The following prayer was the post-communion prayer at a recent worship service at Desert Cross.  Use it as your guide this month as you work your way through the Abundance Playlist.

We give you thanks, gracious God,
for we have feasted on the abundance of your house.
Send us to bring good news
and to proclaim your favor to all,
strengthened with the richness of your grace
in your Son, Jesus Christ.

Desert Cross

Pastor Thadd shares some thoughts on Abundance along with a Playlist:

╬ Have you ever wondered why most news headlines are dire? Or why almost all news shows lead with tragedies? Or why so much of our idle conversation turns toward the difficult and dour rather than the hopeful and happy? I know I have, and I learned why in the following TedTalk by tech guru Peter Diamandis.  Daimandis argues that we are by nature programmed to pay attention to threats. While this made evolutionary sense at an earlier point in history when our species was beset by dangers, today it can cloud our view of the world so that we miss the incredible Abundance and potential that surrounds us. While I’m not quite as confident about technology’s ability to “save” us as he perhaps is, I nevertheless found his focus on Abundance both helpful and hopeful.  You will find the link below:

╬ In John’s gospel, Jesus says, “I came so that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). David Lose has a nice reflection on that text and what Jesus was trying to get at. You can find it here:

David Lose

╬ An article from Living Lutheran on Abundance:

Living Lutheran

╬ Lutheran World Relief Lenten reflection on Abundance:

Lutheran World Relief

╬ The Bible Project has a podcast series on Generosity. The first episode is about Abundance vs. scarcity.  You can listen to it using the link below:

The Bible Project

╬ Lutheran Women in Mission has an “Overflowing Abundance” Bible study.  You can explore by using the link below:

Lutheran Women in Mission

Abundance & Gratitude

In one of Pastor Andrea’s recent Weekly Updates, she asked us to focus on gratitude.  She challenged us to look for several things we felt grateful for each day.  Looking for gratitude can certainly change your mindset.  Try it.  Soon you’ll find yourself living with an Abundance of gratitude.  Click the link below to read a message from Eliza C. Jaremko, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Haddon Heights, New Jersey, who sees gratitude in daily bread.

Abundance & Gratitude

Abundance & Scripture

The link above cites several stories from scripture.  At first read, they may seem to be stories about scarcity, but try reading them with eyes that see Abundance.

Exodus 16—Bread from Heaven
John 2:1-11—Wedding at Cana
Mark 6:30-44—Feeding the Five Thousand

Abundance & Music

A message of God’s Abundant love is found in many hymns.  Click the links below to listen to two of them.

“Abundant Life”

“I am the Bread of Life”

Full to the Brim

Our Lenten theme this year at Desert Cross is Full to the Brim.  We often sing “Let the Vineyards be Fruitful” during the Offering.  It has a beautiful message in the lyrics:  Fill to the brim our cup of blessing.  Click the link below to listen to the hymn.  May you see Abundance and feel Full to the Brim this Lent!

February Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries & Missional Service



Thanks for listening. How many conversations end with those three very important words? If you have a good listener in your life, then you are truly blessed. If you’re a good listener, then you’re a gift to the people around you. We’ll be exploring Listening this month in our February Playlists . . . listening to each other, listening to God, trusting that God listens to us.


The following prayer, Grace to Receive the Word, comes from the Lutheran Book of Worship. Use it as your guide this month as you work your way through the Listen Playlist.

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures to be written for the nourishment of your people. Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, comforted by your promises we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life, which you have given us in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Desert Cross

Pastor Thadd has much to share with us on Listen.  Check out his Listen Playlist below:

One of the most famous and important prayers contained in the Bible is one we see the Hebrew people repeat over and over again throughout the Old Testament. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one, and as for you, you shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

It is a powerful prayer and one with a lot of meaning packed into just a few words. The Shema, which is the Hebrew word for “listen,” is the centerpiece of the last speech Moses gave to the Israelites before they went down into the Promised Land. After entering the Promised Land, the Shema became a prayer the Israelites prayed twice daily.

We read in scripture that God is the maker of our ability to shema.  God equates listening to God with keeping the covenants made by God. Listening then, according to the wisdom of God, is to listen AND to obey. In Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament, there is no distinct word for obey. In fact, according to Old Testament usage, to listen and to obey is the singular word of shema.

╬ The Bible Project has an interesting video on Shema/Listen

╬ A TED Talk on how we can listen better

╬ From the ELCA website on how we hear the word of God

Hear the Word of God

╬ Ten ways that help us to better listen for God’s voice

Listen for God’s Voice

╬ Top seven Bible verses about listening

Bible Verses about Listening

Listening Prayer

Jan Johnson is a writer, speaker, and spiritual director.  Click the link below to read her essay on Listening Prayer.  In it she describes how to just “be” with God.  Waiting.  Resting.  Delighting.

Listening Prayer

The Good Listening Project

The Good Listening Project is an unusual idea to bring healthcare workers and listening poets together.  Listening poets sit with typewriters (yes, typewriters!) and wait for folks to come and tell their stories.  Those stories become poems.  Click the link below to read about the origins of this project and the impact it has on the participants.

The Good Listening Project

Listening to Solve Conflict

I grew up in a house where we discussed current events and politics at the dinner table.  Not just sometimes . . . all the time.  Every night we discussed the news of the day.  Those dinner conversations produced four adult children who are across the spectrum politically.  One is liberal.  One is conservative.  One is independent.  And one, I’m not sure how to categorize.  The key was we discussed information, we formed opinions, and we listened to each other.  Today’s news makes me question if we’re listening to each other anymore.

Amanda Ripley is a journalist.  Through the political divide in our country, she realized that we’re not listening to each other.  She’s working on a project to train journalists to be better listeners.  She hopes her work will “bridge political and cultural divides and revive healthy democratic debate in the U.S.”  Click the link below to read about the project.

Listening to Solve Conflict

Faithful Listening

What is Faithful Listening?  How do you share your faith with your kids and then truly listen to what they think and what they believe?  Click the link below for an article from Living Lutheran.

Faithful Listening

Listening & “Seeing” Music

When I listen to a symphony perform a piece of music, I often “see” it as I hear it. Does that make any sense? Music can sound sad, funny, scary, exciting, etc. It can sound like rain or footsteps. Below you’ll find links to two well-known pieces of music. Give “seeing” music a try. Listen and picture the music in your mind.

Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”

Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”

Listening to Hymns

There are many hymns with listening as the theme. Some ask God to listen to us. Others tell us to listen to God. Below you’ll find links to two such hymns.

“Lord, Listen to your Children Praying”

“Listen, God is Calling”

January Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries & Missional Service



When our Faith Formation Team was discussing our Wonder Playlists, I said I think that over time we somehow “grow out” of Wonder.  Someone else said that as we age we “reign in” our Wonder.  Another person in the meeting said that as adults we live a kind of “tempered” Wonder.  All of this conversation made Pastor Thadd think of the book Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon.  He sent me an excerpt from the book, and you’ll find it below.  Pastor Thadd says it’s a coming of age story set in the South in 1964.

So, this month let’s be inspired to Wonder.  Let’s be inspired to dream, to imagine, to Wonder.

Excerpt from Boy’s Life:
“You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn’t realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.

After you go so far away from it, though, you can’t really get it back. You can have seconds of it. Just seconds of knowing and remembering. When people get weepy at movies, it’s because in that dark theater the golden pool of magic is touched, just briefly. Then they come out into the hard sun of logic and reason again and it dries up, and they’re left feeling a little heartsad and not knowing why. When a song stirs a memory, when motes of dust turning in a shaft of light takes your attention from the world, when you listen to a train passing on a track at night in the distance and wonder where it might be going, you step beyond who you are and where you are. For the briefest of instants, you have stepped into the magic realm.

That’s what I believe.

The truth of life is that every year we get farther away from the essence that is born within us. We get shouldered with burdens, some of them good, some of them not so good. Things happen to us. Loved ones die. People get in wrecks and get crippled. People lose their way, for one reason or another. It’s not hard to do, in this world of crazy mazes. Life itself does its best to take that memory of magic away from us. You don’t know it’s happening until one day you feel you’ve lost something but you’re not sure what it is. It’s like smiling at a pretty girl and she calls you “sir.” It just happens.

These memories of who I was and where I lived are important to me. They make up a large part of who I’m going to be when my journey winds down. I need the memory of magic if I am ever going to conjure magic again. I need to know and remember, and I want to tell you.”


Here’s a prayer to use as you work your way through the Wonder Playlist this month.

I glory in your handiwork, O God:
towering mountains and deep valleys,
dense forests and expansive deserts,
fathomless depths of blue below and immeasurable
heights of blue above.

When I peer into the universe of the telescope
and the universe of the microscope I stand in awe at:
the complexity and the simplicity,
the order and the chaos,
and the infinite variety of colors everywhere.

When I watch the little creatures that creep upon the earth
I marvel at:
such purpose,
such direction,
such design;
and yet
such freedom,
such openness,
such creativity.

O Lord God, Creator of the hummingbird and the
Milky Way, I am lost in wonder at your originality.

Richard Foster

Wonder in the Bible

Below you’ll find a link to readings from Genesis, Psalm 139, Luke and Revelation.  Each is followed by some study questions.  Use them to explore Wonder in the Bible.  Since there are four of them, maybe focus on one each week during the month of January.

Wonder in the Bible

Wonder & Prayer

The writer, Anne Lamott, writes about prayer in Help, Thanks, Wow.  She calls them the three essential prayers.  Click the link below to listen to an interview of Lamott describing the Wow Prayer or the Prayer of Wonder.

Wonder & Prayer

Wonder & Poetry

Annette Wynne was an American poet.  She was best known for writing for children.  Below you’ll find three of her poems.  They may be written for children, but they contain great wisdom.

“You Can Measure the Steeple”
You can measure the steeple that’s close to the sky,
You can burrow to where the gold grains lie,
But a little girl’s wonder is very big—
Too high to climb and too deep to dig.

“I Wonder Did Each Flower Know?”
I wonder did each flower know
As well as now just how to grow
In that far first early spring
When the world was made.

Or did they make mistakes as I
Make very often when I try
At first, and try again,–perhaps just so,
As you and I, they learned to grow.

“To a Bird”
O bird that darts now low, now high,
You know the streets across the sky:
You know where leafy lanes lie deep
And quiet nooks to go to sleep;
You know the place to build a nest,
What twigs to use, what shape is best;
I wonder how you found things out
That scholars never know about;
I’ve studied large books through and through,
But never can be wise as you!

Wonder in Living Lutheran

Do we ever let tradition get in the way of Wonder?  Are we so connected to How to do worship that we miss the Wonder of worship?  Want to Wonder more about this?  Click the link below for an article from Living Lutheran.

Wonder in Living Lutheran

The Capacity to Wonder

“The Capacity to Wonder” is the title of a blog post by Beau Denton.  He connects wonder to nature to Jesus to everyday life.  Click the link below to read it.

The Capacity to Wonder

The Wonder Years

Did you watch The Wonder Years on TV?  It aired 1988-1993.  My husband and I LOVED the show!  The show captured what it was like to be a kid in junior high.  Wondering if you’d make the team.  Wondering if you were wearing the “right” clothes.  Wondering and worrying about your all-important “image” at school.

When Mike taught a short story unit in his sophomore English class, he used an episode from the show.  If you’re familiar with the show, it’s the “Square Dance” episode with Margaret Farquhar.  Unforgettable to fans of the show.  If you have access to it, check out the series. Below you’ll find a link to some information about the series and a clip from the episode.  Enjoy!

By the way, there’s a remake of the show currently airing on ABC. It’s the same premise of the original show but based on the viewpoint of a Black family living in Montgomery, Alabama. It’s well worth watching.

The Wonder Years Series Information

Wonder & Music

Wonder at God’s creation is captured in many songs.  Check out some below.

“Earth and All Stars”

“God of Wonders”

“What a Wonderful World”

December Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries & Missional Service



My husband and I visited Canada a couple of months ago.  The driver who picked us up at the Vancouver airport made quite an impression on us.  He is a Hindu from India.  His wife is a Muslim from Iran.  They’ve lived in Iraq, Germany, France, and England.  They later moved to Montreal and settled in Vancouver.  They have two daughters, both live in the United States.  One lives in Texas and is married to a Black man.  They go to a nondenominational Christian church.  His other daughter lives in Massachusetts.  Her husband’s mother is from Korea, and his father is from Ireland.  They go to a Catholic church.  I jokingly said his family is its own United Nations!

As he drove, he told us about his life in India.  His childhood.  His parents.  His siblings.  His visits to India after he moved away.  We asked him how often he goes Home, and he said, “Canada is my Home now.”

When he and his wife moved to Vancouver, he said they knew they were Home.  He loves the city, the people, the food, the culture.  He is a retired professor from one of the universities in Vancouver.  When he was first offered the position, he worried that his language skills weren’t strong enough to teach.  His mentor told him not to be concerned.  He told him that you want to teach, and the students want to learn . . . you’ll all work it out.  He taught for twenty years there. He’s a proud Canadian.  And happy to call it Home.


The following is a Celtic house blessing prayer.  Use it as you work your way through the Home Playlist this month.

My Fortress
The Sacred Three
My fortress be
Encircling me
Come and be round
My hearth and my home.

Close to Home Image

Take a look at the Close to Home image at the top of our Home Playlist.  What do you see in the image?  Take a few minutes to ponder this before reading more . . .

Below you’ll find an explanation of the image from the creators.  Read through it and see how the ideas of Home and blueprints work their way through your thoughts this month.

From the image creators:

As we brainstormed imagery to convey this theme, we were drawn to architectural blueprints as a visual symbol and theological metaphor.  Blueprints are tangible glimpses of a vision actively and intentionally pursued.  They are precise and will inevitably be revised.  Blueprints give builders the information they need to bring a dream to life.  In many ways, the Advent scriptures are like blueprints—detailing the dreams of a God who makes a home with us.

The icon in our Close to Home logo conveys a theological concept of home.  The hands express our deep longing for connection, intimacy, and for God to come close.  As the hands—representing both God’s hands and the hands of humanity—draw closer to one another, they form a structure of home.  The home structure is not one dimensional; it expands outward, with a doorway offering an open invitation to us all.  The hands break through the house structure, centering human connection and mirroring the inbreaking of God in our lives.  The logo is both structural and personal, comforting and nostalgic—reminding us of the ways God’s home is close but not yet complete.

Home in the Bible

Do you recognize these words?

But Ruth said,
“Do not press me to leave you
     or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
     where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
     and your God my God.

The words come from the first chapter of Ruth.  The book is only four chapters and tells the story of Ruth and Naomi.  It’s a book about Home and family. Below you’ll find a link to Enter the Bible.  The link is to a free online course offered by Dr. Diane Jacobson.  Scroll down to Course Content to explore the course.  You can do this with or without a free account on the website.

Home in the Bible

Home in Living Lutheran

Want a picture of life in Martin Luther’s Home?  Click the link below for an article from Living Lutheran.  It shows us the early days of what we now call intergenerational faith formation.

Home in Living Lutheran

Letters Home: Letters from War

When people are serving in the military and away from Home, writing letters Home is a common practice . . . maybe today it’s more emails and text messages. About five years ago a man in Mesa, Arizona discovered hundreds of letters written by four brothers during World War II.  The Eyde brothers were from Rockford, Illinois, and they wrote letters back and forth as they served during the war.  The letters ended up at The Washington Post and became a podcast called Letters from War.

You’ll find two links below to access the podcast.  The first one is to the newspaper’s website and podcast.  The second one is to the podcast on YouTube.  On that page click the “show more” button, and you’ll find a link to the full podcast playlist on YouTube.

WARNING: These letters are written by men at war and include language we find offensive today. Some of the letters include slurs, pejorative language, and descriptions of battles.

Letters from War–Washington Post

Letters from War–YouTube

Home at the Movies

If you get a chance to see Belfast, see the movie.  It’s written and directed by Kenneth Branagh and based on his childhood experience in Belfast in the late 1960s at the beginning of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.  The movie explores the conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants, but it’s also a movie about family, love, neighborhood, and Home.  Click the link below to watch a trailer from the film.

Home in Music

Home is a theme in all kinds of music:  religious, Christmas, pop, and rock.  You’ll find a variety of selections below.  Enjoy!

“Softly and Tenderly” by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, Vince Gill, Ellie Holcomb, Sierra Hull, and Deborah Klemme

“Make Room” by Casting Crowns

“I’ll be Home for Christmas” by Bing Crosby

“This is My Home” by ‘Keb Mo’

“Two of Us” by The Beatles

November Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries & Missional Service



Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines trust as:

1 : firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something
2 : a person or thing in which confidence is placed
3 : confident hope

When I read the definition, I thought . . . that’s God.  We believe in God’s character, strength, and truth.  We have confidence that God is there for us and with us.  Our trust in God gives us hope.  How can we have such trust in God?  Because God gives us that trust by showing up again and again and again.  God’s presence and guidance are consistent and can be trusted . . . always.


The following prayer may sound familiar to you.  Pastor Andrea has shared it with Desert Cross throughout the pandemic.  I invite you to use it as your prayer this month as you work your way through the Trust Playlist.

O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Use the link below for a musical version of the prayer by the Martin Luther College Choir.

Desert Cross

Pastor Thadd on Biblical Trust . . .

Emet is the closest word for trust in scripture.

God is emet—God is trustworthy, faithful, and reliable. And God calls people to respond to God’s trustworthiness with trust.

The word emet is found all over the Old Testament.  Sometimes the word means truth, but it speaks more to relationship and covenant.  Even when people fail to remain faithful to God’s covenants, God remains faithful to God’s people. It’s the quality of a person who’s faithful and reliable.  When King Hezekiah prays to Yahweh in 2 Kings 20, he appeals to God on the grounds of his proven faithfulness. 

-“Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight. And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” (2 Kings 20:3)

In Psalm 31, the psalmist is declaring that God is trustworthy and faithful, a God on whom we can depend.

-“Into your hands I commit my very breath; save me, O God of emet.” (Psalm 31:6)

There’s a reciprocal nature to faith and faithfulness. It’s like the classic example of the chair: a chair is faithful (to be sat in and hold you up). You are faithful to sit in the chair, and you are demonstrating faith (that the chair will hold you up) when you do so.

Emet is also about stability or reliability. For example, when the Amalekites fight against Israel in Exodus 17, Moses holds his hands up to defeat their enemies.  When his hands get tired, Aaron and Hur support his hands, keeping them Emet.   We also see this language in the story of Abraham, who the Hebrew Bible sets apart as an ideal of what it looks like to trust God. Abraham and Hezekiah show us what trust really looks like.

God has proven Godself trustworthy through acts of faithfulness over time, specifically the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to Abraham and to David, in Jesus. Humanity is invited to trust in Jesus, despite any obstacles that might stand to hinder faith.

God promises Abraham that he will bless all the nations through his family. Abraham and Sarah have not been able to have children, but Abraham considers God trustworthy to open a way forward, no matter the obstacle.

Followers of Jesus are sometimes criticized for choosing belief without evidence. But emet is not blind trust. In the Bible, faithful people are constantly looking back on examples of God’s faithfulness in the past, and that becomes the basis for their present trust.

God makes covenants with Abraham, with the people of Israel, and with King David, and each time, he promises faithfulness to his people and asks that they be faithful in return. God’s relationship with David is a great example of covenantal emet.  God is saying David’s kingdom will endure (same root as emet) forever. And God doesn’t stop there. He promises that even if David’s descendants are unfaithful, God will make sure David always has a descendent on the throne. God himself will stabilize the covenant, even if David’s descendants don’t keep their end of the deal.

Despite facing significant obstacles to faith, the New Testament is full of men and women who demonstrated incredible trust in Jesus. 

– A Gentile centurion appeals to Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant (Matthew 8:5-10)

– A Jewish synagogue leader, whose daughter was dying, implores Jesus to come heal her (Mark 5:35-36, 41-42)

– A woman who had been deemed unclean by society reaches out to touch Jesus (Matthew 9:20-22)

– Two blind men “see” Jesus as the promised Davidic King and ask for his mercy (Matthew 9:27-31)

In all of these stories, Jesus heals the person because of their demonstration of faith and trust in him. A central theme of the Hebrew Bible is people trusting Yahweh despite all odds. The New Testament is centered on the theme of people trusting Jesus, Yahweh become human.

Relationships revolve around trust, whether we’re talking about our relationship with God or other humans. And that trust should never be blind; it should be based on the evidence of proven trustworthiness.

Throughout the story of the Bible, humans are repeatedly unfaithful, and God is repeatedly faithful. The pattern of God’s faithfulness in Scripture is something to which we can cling. As we see in the New Testament, even when we struggle to trust, Jesus is still trustworthy and responds to us with compassion.

Finding Trust in Psalm 23

Below you’ll find a link to Enter the Bible.  The link is to an essay and podcast featuring Kathryn M. Schifferdecker, Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary.  She discusses Psalm 23 and the message of trust and comfort in the verses.

Finding Trust in Psalm 23

Trust in Living Lutheran

The title—“Trust God without Understanding”—says it all.  Click the link below to read an essay by Pastor Delmar Chilton in Living Lutheran.

Trust in Living Lutheran

Trust (Distrust) in the Church

Research shows that trust in religious institutions has been declining over the last couple of decades.  A recent survey of Gen Z shows that trust decline to be steady, yet their faith is there.  To read about this report, click the link below.

Trust (Distrust) in the Church

Trust & Quotes

Ernest Hemingway.  Albert Einstein.  Abraham Lincoln.  Harper Lee.  Charles Barkley.  Winston Churchill.  Oprah Winfrey.  Richard Rohr.  Throughout history, people of all walks of life and professions have talked about trust.  The link below is to 115 trust quotes.  Take some time and scroll through them.  You won’t agree with all of them, but they’ll have you thinking.

Trust & Quotes

Trust Building and Rebuilding

Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School Professor, delivered a TED Talk about building and rebuilding trust.  The three key components she cites are authenticity, logic, and empathy.  Although her talk may be based in the business world, I think we all can take away something from her message.  Click the link below to check it out.

Trust & Music

When I asked for song suggestions about trust, Michael Lottes, our Director of Worship & Music Ministries – Gilbert, suggested this song.  I liked the version of “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” by Casting Crowns.

Daniel Decker, our Director of Worship & Music Ministries – Tempe, said the word “trust” is not in “Lord I Need You” but it’s all about trusting God.  Here’s Phil Wickham with Matt Maher sharing the song.

Just for fun . . .
I grew up in a house of music, specifically jazz and blues music.  In my dad’s younger days, he played drums in a jazz band.  When he woke up in the morning, he turned on the radio.  His favorite station was one from Canada we picked up at our house by Lake Erie.  It played jazz and blues 24/7.  He sang and whistled along to it all day long.

When he was visiting us in Arizona to see our new home years and years ago, Mike and I took him to a little club off of Mill Avenue in Tempe to hear Etta James.  He loved it!  I can still see his face, grinning through the whole show.  Below is a recording of her singing “Trust in Me.” I hope you’re smiling too!

October Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries & Missional Service



We all can find our own way to serve.  Some of us volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.  Some of us pray for others.  Some of us tend to the dying as hospice caregivers.  Some of us send loving cards and letters.  I’ve been donating blood since I was in high school.  I’ve taken breaks now and then, but I’ve always come back to serving in this way.  The last few years the blood center has asked me repeatedly to donate platelets.  They’ve asked again and again and again.  Apparently they like A+ blood for that!  Because that donation process takes two hours, I’ve always declined the request.  Until the pandemic.  With so many things shut down, not having the time didn’t seem like much of an excuse anymore.  So, I started donating platelets.  Most platelet donations go to cancer patients.  I know many people dealing with cancer, so this spoke to my heart.  I now roll up my sleeve and donate platelets regularly.  It’s my way of serving others.


The following prayer was Mother Teresa’s daily prayer.  Use it this month as you work your way through the Serve Playlist.

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen.

Desert Cross Serves

If you look at the top of this Serve Playlist, you’ll see our new Desert Cross Serves logo designed by Shannon Fossett. I especially like it because of the opening in the “walls” around the church. Desert Cross is looking for ways to serve outside the walls of our congregation. We have two upcoming Desert Cross Serves events. On Sunday, October 31 during the education time at both sites, all ages will gather together to pack food for those in need. On Saturday, November 6 at 9:00 am at Desert Cross Tempe, both sites will join together for our neighborhood CROP Walk. We’ll walk a four-mile route to draw attention to hunger issues around the world. Join us as Desert Cross Serves!

Service in the Bible

Below you’ll find a link to a list of verses from the Bible.  Each explores Service and includes questions to ponder.  There are four of them, so you might study one each week during the month of October.

Service in the Bible

Serving Refugees from Afghanistan

Chaplain Katie Osweiler was serving at Ramstein Air Base in Germany when evacuees from Afghanistan started to arrive.  She went out of her way to make them feel comfortable.  Click the link below to read about her work.

Serving Refugees from Afghanistan

Serve in Poetry

You probably read “No Man is an Island” by John Donne when you were in school.  You can read it again below.  If you’d like to explore the theme of Serve in more poems, use the link below.

“No Man is an Island”
by John Donne
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friends’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Serve in Poetry

Serving and Health Benefits

Did you know serving others is good for you?  Well, it is!  Studies show serving others lowers your blood pressure, increases your self-esteem, and makes you happier.  Read all about it by clicking the link below.

Serving and Health Benefits

Service and Make a Difference Day

October 23 is National Make a Difference Day.  It was established in 1992 as a “national day of doing good” to promote volunteering and serving in the community.  The Town of Gilbert has a list of projects happening throughout the month.  Click the link below to check it out and find one you can do!  All of the contact information is included on the their webpage.

Service and Make a Difference Day

Serve in Hymns

Look through a hymnal or songbook, and you’ll see Serve is a common topic for songs in the Church.  Below you’ll find links to two hymns.  Listen to the lyrics and listen for where God is calling you to serve.

“Servant Song”

“Here I am, Lord”

Serve in Modern Music

Serving is also a theme that shows up in modern music.  “You’ve Got a Friend” was made famous by James Taylor.  The song was written by Carole King.  Below you’ll find links to each of them performing this classic song.

James Taylor

Carole King

Learning Service from Opie

You’ll find two links from The Andy Griffith Show below.  In the episode Andy is upset with Opie because of his small donation to the children’s fund at school.  Andy assumes his son doesn’t know about serving others.  He quickly learns otherwise.  Enjoy!

Here Andy learns the full story . . .

Learning Service from Opie

September Playlist


Denise McClellan, Director of Adult Ministries & Missional Service



Mike and I recently visited my brother and sister-in-law in Texas.  Like a lot of us, we haven’t been together because of the pandemic. Once we were all vaccinated, we decided a visit was overdue. They are such good hosts.

My brother knows we missed going to baseball games, so he bought tickets to the Frisco RoughRiders Minor League Baseball Team.  Our seats were right behind home plate, and we spent the evening enjoying a hot dog, a cold beer, and some fun conversation.  My sister-in-law knows that Mike has a history degree, so she looked into local sites she thought he’d be interested in visiting.  We went to the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.  They planned meals they knew we would enjoy.  My brother can fit more meat on a grill than I thought was possible!  He even called ahead to find out what we like in our morning coffee.

Why do I tell you all of this?  Because we felt Welcome in their home.  They thought about us—what we like to drink, what we like to eat, what we like to do—and they planned ahead to Welcome us.  It makes me think of the Church.  How are we Welcoming each other back after being physically apart during the pandemic?  How do we Welcome visitors?  How do we plan ahead for their arrival?  How do we help folks feel included?  How do we receive people who aren’t familiar with our beliefs and our traditions?  As you work your way through this month’s Playlist, keep these questions in mind.  Let’s all practice being Welcoming in all areas of our lives.


The following prayer is from Father Thomas Keating. When I read it, I hear a prayer about being open to wherever God is leading. Return to it throughout the month as you explore our September theme of Welcome.  You’ll also find a link to a video version of the prayer below.

The Welcoming Prayer
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within.


Throughout the Bible, we read verses about Welcome. How to invite, how to show hospitality, how to include all. Below is a link to Bible stories about Welcome and hospitality. Each is followed by some questions to consider. There are four stories. You might choose one to explore each week during September. How are you being called to Welcome?


The Bible Project

We often think of The Prodigal Son story as a story about forgiveness, a story about the lost being found and coming home. It’s also a story about Welcoming. Jesus tells the story to the religious leaders as a way of demonstrating who should be included in God’s kingdom. Everyone should be Welcome. Everyone should be invited and included. Click the link below for a Bible Project video discussing this message from Jesus.

Welcome around the World

The link below is from a website for children. The Welcome customs are so interesting I thought you’d enjoy reading them. Welcome in some countries comes with a cup of tea or a cup of coffee. Other countries Welcome you with a toast or with flowers. One group Welcomes people by sticking out their tongues! Click the link below to read the variety of ways you might be Welcomed around the World.

Welcome around the World

Welcome in Living Lutheran

Many ELCA congregations around the country work with Lutheran Social Services and refugee families. Congregations will be called on soon to help families coming from Afghanistan. Click the link below to read how a Minnesota congregation serves in a program called Circle of Welcome.

Living Lutheran

Welcoming the Generations

Google articles about church attendance, and you’ll find that worship attendance is down across the the country and across denominations. People in the pews are asking why. This story from PBS NewsHour has some insight into why some are staying away and why some are coming back. We have some questions to ask ourselves on how we’re Welcoming all people into our congregations.

Welcome in Poetry

“Welcome to Church” by Chris Reif may not be the kind of Welcome you usually receive at worship on a Sunday morning, but his message is clear: We’re all Welcome. Click the link below to watch the video.

Welcome in Music

Below is a link to a recording of “All Are Welcome” by Marty Haugen. It’s a beautiful song with a beautiful message about Welcoming. Some of the lyrics are “Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live . . . here the love of Christ shall end division . . . a banquet hall on holy ground where peace and justice meet . . . here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face . . . all are welcome in this place.” Listen to the words throughout the month. Let its message seep into your heart.

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