December 31, 2012

Join our daily devotions conversation this year

By Rita Collett |

Disciplines: A Book of Daily Devotions is a longstanding—and beloved—resource published by Upper Room Books every year. Each week’s readings are reflections on scripture passages in the Lectionary for that period.

In 2013 you can not only read these daily devotions but also comment on them, ask the writer a question, and respond to others who are reading the same material each day. We are looking forward to building a community of Disciplines readers! Just sign in and add your comment in the Comments section following the Monday blog post.

Each Monday an introduction and the initial reading for the week will be posted. Come back to this Monday post throughout the week to continue the conversation about the week’s readings and prayers. How do they strike you? What insights or questions do these reflections raise in your mind and heart? Where do the scriptures this week intersect with what is happening in your world?

Tom Appel, a community organizer and writer in Nashville, Tennessee, offers the devotions for January 1–6. His theme is “Light in Darkness.”


January 1— Read Matthew 25:31-46

A good parable for a New Year with new resolutions. I’m struck by the fact that the sheep seem just as surprised as the goats by the way they have acquired their inheritance. Surely this equality of incredulity provides an important clue to understanding the way of both sheep and goats. The surprise of the sheep seems to rule out any idea that we can somehow discipline ourselves and strive our way into sheepishness; that we can wake up each morning and say, “Oh, you beautiful sheep, you are so good at blessing people! Now get out there and clothe naked Jesus, help stranger Jesus, and give food and drink to hungry and thirsty Jesus.” Neither do the goats (or so it would seem from their equally surprised response in this passage) go through life thinking, I am going to turn my nose up at dirty homeless Jesus, and I am certainly not going to visit murderer Jesus at the penitentiary.

If neither the sheep nor the goats went about intending to serve or neglect Jesus respectively, how can we choose to live as one or the other? I don’t imagine that my neighbors wake up desiring to snub those on the outskirts of society, and I know that I don’t have this sinister goal—yet I get a lump in my throat when I read this passage because I know that I am often rather goatish. What can we do? Surely we all want to line up with the sheep! Yet, it seems that despite our good resolve, the end result remains surprising.

What if the only way to see the lost and broken as Jesus did comes in getting to know Jesus so well that we can’t help but see the subtle and not-so-subtle glimpses of the divine even in the dirtiest of street people and those most broken?

Lord, apart from you I cannot see the world in love.
Thank you for this precious gift; please open my eyes each day
so that I become an instrument of your mercy and grace. Amen.

Photo courtesy of BrandX pictures


  • Loretta F Ross

    Oh, I have a feeling that we are off to a very good start here. Thanks, Tom

  • Susan Young Huckaby

    Your thoughtful commentaries have encouraged me, Tom. We recently moved. In Brentwood, I had my established places to shine God’s light but, now, I’m struggling to find those places in my new home. The Lord has spoken to me through your words to keep my “focus on God’s light and remain in it…”

    • Tom Appel

      Thank you for sharing this, Susan. I’m glad the Lord is encouraging you. I’ve had a lot of experience moving around and it can be jarring to say the least. My prayer for you is that God will bless you with a sense of contentment so deep that it surprises you. For me, I need to often remind myself to rest in the wonder of God’s large and holy perspective.

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