Archive for May, 2011

  “Also at your times of rejoicing…you are to sound the trumpets over your  

burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you     

before your God.  I am the LORD your God.”

Numbers 10:10

This week our nation will pause for a holiday—a three day weekend.  Memorial Day.  When I was a child, this day was a day for the communities across our nation to gather to celebrate our freedom and remember those men and women who fought to preserve that freedom. There would be parades, community picnics, ceremonies and services at the community cemetery where a service would be held—often led by veteran organizations—to honor those who served in the military, both living and dead.

Today for many, it is just viewed as an extra day off work or a chance to “go north”, “to the shore” or “to the cabin” for a long weekend.  Many don’t even know the basis for the celebration.  Children today are not often taught about this opportunity to reflect on the cost paid for freedom.

God calls us in His Word to create memorials and to honor significant events through time.  To read five Daily Devotionals entitled Memorials, focused on celebrating memorials of His goodness and grace, click here.  Today, however, let us pause to reflect on Memorial Day.  Below are links that you might want to investigate to learn more about this history of this wonderful day of honor.

God, lift the hearts of those
for whom this holiday is not just diversion,
but painful memory and continued deprivation.
Bless those whose dear ones have died
needlessly, wastefully [as it seems]
in accident or misadventure.


We remember with compassion those who have died
serving their countries in the futility of combat.
There is none of us but must come to bereavement and separation,
when all the answers we are offered
fail the question death asks of each of us.


We believe that you will provide for us
as others have been provided with the fulfillment of
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

By Rev. Dick Kozelka (ret), First Congregational Church of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.





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This month at Given the Time we are celebrating the way different cultures and traditions point us to a deeper relationship with God.  This week two ladies give us a glimpse of their experience growing up in an African American tradition.  Monday through Wednesday will be one lady’s story and Thursday and Friday the second lady will share her perspective.  A week just scratches the surface on the depth of the topic, but we hope you will join us for the  five Daily Devotionals as these two women share their hearts.  Let’s get started with our week:

Now that I’m in my fifties and looking back over my life, realizing just how important God is and was in the past, I would like to share with you this week some of the experiences that took place in my life from childhood to the adult woman I am today. Being an African American and attending an African American Church in some ways are different from the church I attend today. But, the good thing is to realize that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  (Hebrews 13:8) Now, sit back and relax as I give you a glimpse of my experiences with God.

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At Given the Time this month we are celebrating different cultures and how those traditions can point us to the things of God.  In our first two weeks we enjoyed hearing about Hispanic and Italian tradition, and this week we venture in to a sub-culture of American life as a woman with Southern roots shares her perspective.  Here is her introduction to the week:

From “Bless your heart” to a jug of sweet tea, the Southern culture embraces an ideal in the midst of a complicated world. For instance, I may not have ever been the belle of the ball, but I grew up knowing I was still precious in my daddy’s eyes. This idealism doesn’t mean I was taught to ignore the hard things in life, but rather life can still hold sweetness in the midst of challenges.  It is the conviction that hope and optimism can survive through even the hardest of times.  I hope you will join me on my journey this week as I think back on my southern roots and how some of those roots contributed to my spiritual life.

Many are the words written on Southern culture (and it’s hilarious stereotypes and jokes) For a week of  Daily Devotionals looking at how those roots and traditions  of the South can point us to the things of God and strengthen our relationship with Him, click here.  As you read, we encourage you  to take a minute and think about your own unique roots.  Your roots may encompass more than an ethnic heritage.  Did you grow up in a home where academic (athletic, etc.) achievement was focused on and that contributed to your world view? Perhaps you come from a family with a concern for the environment.  Look back on the traditions and values of your family and see how God has coordinated the great and even the not-so-positive aspects of your past to point you towards the ultimate goal of a personal relationship with Him. Celebrate your roots!

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This week, Given the Time continues our month long celebration of various cultures with the story of how Italian heritage shaped a woman’s spiritual walk.

I grew up in a first generational Italian-American home.  My parents were bi-lingual.  My grandparents lived with us and they only spoke Italian.  They tried to carry on as much traditions of their heritage as possible.  We ate the same foods as my cousins in Italy, we celebrated the same holidays and festivals, and we followed the same customs.  As I reflect back to my childhood, I can see the Lord using that up-bringing to shape me to serve Him today.

My life was shaped by a strong past.  Sometimes it even seemed embarrassing and different from those around me.  But God blessed me with that heritage to be used in my walk with Him.  He uses all things for His glory.  For our Daily Devotionals we will be looking at five different influences from the Italian culture that have had a lasting impact on my spiritual life.  I hope you will join the conversation…just click on the highlighted portion above to get to the correct Daily Devotional page.

And what about your heritage?  Maybe my story will inspire you to look back at your own family tree and see how the Lord has shaped your past for your good and for His future glory.

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During the month of May, Given the Time will be celebrating a taste of the wonderful variety and value of different cultures and traditions represented in our area.  With Cinco de Mayo approaching, we kick off this month-long celebration with the unique stories of two women of Mexican heritage.  This week, one lady will give us a picture of life in Mexico, the obstacles she personally overcame, and how her new life in America came about.  The other lady, born in the United States, will share how Christian outreach influenced her upbringing and life as she lives it today.  Go here for those Daily Devotionals.

So what is Cinco de Mayo? 

Cinco de Mayo, Spanish for fifth of May, is a holiday held on May 5 that observes the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.  The French, with an army of 8000 troops and better equipped to win the battle, set out to invade the much smaller Mexican army of 4000, but the French army was defeated.  This holiday is not to be confused with Mexico’s Independence Day, which is the most important national patriotic holiday.

Who Celebrates?

Cinco de Mayo is primarily celebrated by the people of Puebla and in the United States.  Surprisingly, Mexico sees little significance of the date and does not celebrate nationwide.  Many in the United States, however, observe Cinco de Mayo and celebrate Mexican heritage and pride.  The celebration is to honor Americans of Mexican ancestry and is much like the Oktoberfest is to the German American ancestry and St. Patrick’s Day is to the Irish American ancestry.  Regardless of ethnic origin, all are welcome to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

How do we celebrate?

Cinco de Mayo is mostly celebrated with live music, food and dancing.  Communities with a large Mexican population create a Cinco de Mayo event, sometimes held in a downtown area, and invite people from surrounding areas to participate.  Guests experience a “taste of Mexico” as many different authentic foods, desserts and drinks are available to eat, drink and enjoy.  If you love to dance you may just have the opportunity to learn how to dance to a Mexican number or to view dance performances given by professionals who display the many different traditional dances of Mexico in colorful costumes.

What does this have to do with me? 

The more we know about others in our circles of influences with backgrounds different from our own, the easier it is to “walk across the room” and reach out to our Hispanic neighbors or classmates and share our story.  We are all here in the Livingston County, USA, for a reason or a purpose.  Perhaps it is because we are in pursuit of the American Dream, a better life, good education, or professional work experiences.  Whatever our background or whatever our dreams and goals, we all have one thing in common:  we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We all can be part of the conversation!  Are you ready to walk across the room to reach out and share your story?  

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