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Listen to this week’s Devotional here.


Author: Nicole Speer

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other, but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

My 2022 star word* was flame. What a word to receive in the weeks after the Marshall Fire, which I watched from my neighborhood. Pastor Chris offered for me to take a different word, but I was determined to find the meaning in the word I was given, so it sat on my bulletin board for a couple of months until I could think about more than its literal definition.

As we moved further into 2022 and my thinking about flame started to expand beyond “fire,” I began to think of the word in the context of our Christian commitment to shine light into the darkness, that seemed to be growing.

A cruel and corrupt autocrat invaded Ukraine and started a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more. Women in the U.S. lost their right to control our own bodies due in large part to decades of organizing from people who share our faith. Women and young people in Iran started a revolution for freedom and democracy. Millions of people in Africa are facing starvation, hurricanes hit already vulnerable communities, and residents of the capital city of Mississippi faced a months-long lack of clean water due to climate-change related disasters.

Meanwhile, the COVID pandemic continued. Racism continued. Poverty continued. Gun violence continued. The climate crisis worsened.

In all this darkness, flame suggested a need for something more than light. Flames are powerful and intense bursts of light that actively consume the darkness. So, I tried my best to be a flame, especially in my role as an elected official. But the harder I worked to shine love and justice into our community, the more the darkness seemed to push back and threaten my flame.

Over the past few weeks, I have realized that flames also burn out unless they have a steady source of fuel. And in this realization, finally, I found the spiritual guidance in my star word: Flames need fuel.

How many of us who have spent our lives pushing boundaries have done so with the idea that asking for help and leaning on others is a sign of weakness? That we can’t let people see the toll it takes on us to simply exist at the margins of society, let alone to fight for our God-given right to thrive? Our society teaches us that rugged individualism is a sign of strength, but when we follow a faith rooted in love, we find a different message.

Love is based in interpersonal connection. As Christians, we are told repeatedly that we are not meant to do this work of spreading love and justice alone. Even in our most basic commandments we are reminded that it is in our relationships with each other where we will realize God’s love (Mark 12:31). Matthew reminds us that Jesus is with us whenever two or more of us gather (Matthew 18:20). And the passage on friendship from Ecclesiastes speaks to the importance of togetherness at all times, and especially at times when we are struggling and threatened.

My 2021 star word taught me that we are plenty. This year I learned that while each of us is plenty for the work that needs to be done, we need each other more than ever to keep our Christ-flames going. We need to be flames to shine light into the darkness, and we need to fuel our flames through our friendships, community, and connections with each other.

I do not know what lesson my 2023 star word will bring, but I am closing out 2022 with gratitude for our church community, and with a commitment to reach for the fuel of togetherness that will keep my flame burning brightly.

Gracious God, thank you for the people in our lives who fuel the flames of your love. In this season of anticipation and waiting, may we open our hearts and minds to the love that is already here in the togetherness of our congregation. Amen.

*For those who are new to our community or who inadvertently buried your star word under a pile of papers earlier in the year, star words are the paper stars with a single word printed in the middle that our church has sent out to us in January for the past couple of years. The star words are meant to give an opportunity for reflection and spiritual connection throughout the year.


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