2021 Annual Conference Scheduled for July as Virtual Session
Continuing to keep the health and safety of clergy and lay members a top priority, the 2021 Northern Illinois Annual Conference will convene again as an all-virtual…
The Discipleship Task Force is launching this new webpage to provide an opportunity to join together in common prayer.
This webpage will host a weekly prayer calendar with a Bible verse and devotion by a NIC pastor along with some holy humor and other resources. It will encourage us to pray for a NIC church, pastor, events of the week, and more.
We encourage groups to gather for a short time of prayer starting with our NIC Prayer Network page, but individuals can join in privately from their computer.
~The Discipleship Task Force invites laity or clergy who enjoy writing to submit a devotion (250 words), including a Bible verse and prayer. Share what is on your heart with the NIC by emailing email@example.com.
A big thank you to joyfulnoisletter.com for giving us permission to use their material. You may visit the site and also sign up for a subscription.
Beginning in February 2021, the prayer network is switching to a monthly devotion with a weekly prayer focus.
by Pastor Seamus Enright, Ashton: Reynolds UMC
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4 “Lift up your eyes and look about you:
All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the hip.
5 Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.
6 Herds of camels will cover your land,
young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
bearing gold and incense
and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.
Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “it’s always darkest just before the dawn”. As the liturgical calendar changed to a new year, the days were still getting shorter, at least as far as daylight was concerned. Now that the everyday calendar has turned, that trend has reversed, but there are still several more weeks where night-time will exceed daytime to endure.
Many years ago, I regularly worked an overnight shift, loading and unloading trucks. One set of dock doors faced east, and I recall the simple joy of noticing, as trucks came and went, the way that the horizon would become visible long before the sun actually came up, the anticipation, and the inexpressible beauty of the sky, illuminated and radiant already, before dawn had actually broken.
Through Isaiah, God offers an epiphany – a revelation, an insight – of the manifestation of the Divine. The prophet can already see the horizon of salvation. The language moves from the “right now” to the “coming soon”, but the action begins in this very moment. In the midst of seasons of struggle and trial we’re invited into awareness of the Divine radiance that is already with us. Before the “dawn” comes, we still rise and reflect the Son, living into the promise of hope, peace, joy, and the supreme love that is born in us, and among us, every day. Lift up your eyes, and see; arise, and shine as God gives the glory.
Prayer: Glorious God, give us ears to hear your message of hope, eyes to see the beauty around us, and voices to share the story of your goodness. Strengthen us for the work of these days, that through our faithfulness others might come to know your love. Amen.
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New Year Devotional 2021 for Discipleship Task Force – Prayer Network
Bishop John L. Hopkins, Northern Illinois Conference
This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:33
I enjoy listening to stories of faith. When one of my church members told me a stewardship sermon changed her life, I must have looked surprised. She went on to tell me the sermon was about more than money. It was about what was important in her life. Her pastor said, “Do not give one dollar to this church until you have given your life to Jesus Christ!”
As she told me this, I could see she was committed to keeping first things first. God’s claim on her life deserved her faithful response. Every time she gave a dollar to the church, she must have asked herself, “Am I still giving my life to Jesus Christ?
In 1755 John Wesley introduced a Covenant Renewal or Watch Night service to help us reaffirm our covenant with God. It is a service to reflect on the past year, make confession, pray, and resolve to live for God. A Watch Night Service takes on special significance in the African American community after many slaves gathered in churches on New Year’s Eve in 1862 to await the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.
As we acknowledge those who came before us in faith, we must be freed from any bondage that would keep us from knowing, loving, and serving God. This is a time to set aside all that divides us from one another and from God. We acknowledge our plans need to change to follow God. If God is with us, we can be with God!
As I begin my service to the Northern Illinois Conference, I look forward to learning about God’s claim on your life. As this New Year begins, I have renewed my covenant with God and given my life to Jesus and His Church. Will you join me?
Prayer: O God, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
Prayer Focus for January 11-17, 2021
Grayslake: United Protestant
Lake Bluff: Grace
William L Hall
Rob A Hamilton
Anne Cowick Hampson
Sang Hun Han
Sandra E Harour
NIC District Leaders: Charlotte Musser, Elgin District UMW President
NIC Advance: Center for Changing Lives
December 21- 27, 2020
By Bishop Sally Dyck, Northern Illinois Conference
We long to hear the angels sing: “Be not afraid; for I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”
Still, our fear with your good news that Christ is born in the world through the presence and actions of people.
Like first responders who risk their lives;
Teachers who care about learning, not just for today’s test but to prepare students for an unknown future.
The angels sang when Jesus was born in a manger instead of a palace.
We long to hear the angels sing in our communities experiencing poverty, disease and racism
Because we bring help and hope through mercy and justice.
The angels sang when Joseph responded to his dreams and chose unexpected routes:
To go to Egypt and later to Nazareth.
Help us to respond to our dreams of a better world.
Help us to strengthen our discipleship through prayer and scripture;
Help us to take the “less traveled” routes that you set out for us—
To seek racial forgiveness and reconciliation, and with those with whom we disagree.
The angels did not sing when Jesus was crucified and laid in a tomb.
There was silence...until while it was yet dark,
Mary Magdalene went to the tomb in faithful service
Only to find her friend was now her risen savior!
So even when it is silent and while it is yet dark,
Let us hear the angels’ song—be not afraid!—
As we go forth to care and serve others!
Let the angels sing!
Red Oak (DeKalb)
Dean L Francis
Sharon Ann Frank
Corydon E. Friedrich
Victor Paul Furnish
Beth L. Galbreath
NIC District Leaders: Yvette Harris-Black
NIC Advance: Bridges Communities, Glen Ellyn
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December 14-20, 2020
By Lynne Heacock, laity, Dixon First UMC
THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS
Have you ever done something nice for someone and your heart felt really good? Have you ever thought back to the time when you helped someone out and you could feel your whole being filled with gladness? To me, that’s what everyday joy feels like. But the blessed Christmas joy we feel comes from Jesus, in fact, it is Jesus. That sacred joy comes from nothing we have done; it all comes from our loving Triune God.
The joy of Christmas was sent to the whole world. Joy came down from heaven that night in Bethlehem. God sent His dearly beloved Son, Jesus, down to earth to save the world. John 3:17…God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. God sent the joy of our Messiah, the anointed one, to all the world. The whole world was covered with holy joy that night a sweet, tiny babe was born in a manger. Reading from Luke 2:8-11…"That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!"
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” written by Charles Wesley tells of the angels announcing the birth of our King. Through this blessed child, God and humankind would be reunited and the joy of His birth will cover the earth.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies; With th’ angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!" Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!” Amen.
The joy of Christmas is for you and me. We are invited to receive Christmas joy in our hearts because this Christ child was born to save you and me. He was born to save every man, every woman, and every child. He came to save our souls. He came to save all humankind. Dr. Luke wrote in Luke 19:10…For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. And Paul wrote in Titus 2:11…For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. When you take Jesus into your heart you will receive the greatest joy ever. Keep Him in your heart always and His joy will fill every part of you.
As we anticipate the birth of our Messiah, let us think back to that day long ago when joy can down from heaven as a precious, baby boy. And He was joy…heavenly joy for you and for me. Let us remember Him and what He sacrificed for us.
Dear Abba Father, we thank You for Your precious Son born a sweet, baby boy. We thank You for the joy He brought to the world and to each one of us. Help us to live out the Christmas joy found in Your Son and to share His joy with others. In the power of Jesus’ perfect love we pray. Amen.
Maple Park: Grace
Diana Mason Facemyer
Richard M. Fassig
Peter R Ferguson
Scott Nelson Field
Carol R. Findon
Glenda S. Fish
Deborah Lee Fisher
NIC Leaders: Dawn Shires, Co-Lay Leader for Chicago Southern
NIC Advance: Wesley Willows Good Samaritan Program
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Devotion for Dec. 7 - 13
By Rev. Caleb Hong, Orland Park: Faith UMC
"Prepare the Way"
"Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him." - Luke 3:4
I spent much of yesterday and early today cleaning house with my family. We took down fall/Thanksgiving decorations. We said "hasta lavista" to all of our usual decor, and we put up Christmas decorations. Pictures, candles, cards, wreaths, lights, tins, books - you name it. If it has a Christmas connection - it's now present in every visible part of the parsonage.
The Church celebrates two major holidays each year. These "holy" days are significant enough that they require periods of preparation. Easter is the celebration of Christ's resurrection, and Christians are invited to prepare during the season of Lent. Christmas is the celebration of Christ's birth, and we're invited to prepare during the season of Advent. As we enter into this Advent season, let us prepare our homes (and our hearts) to welcome Christ.
How will you prepare?
PRAY - One of the earliest children's songs I learned was, "Read the Bible, Pray every day." Whenever I need to renew my discipline of daily devotion, I remember the words of this song. God invites us to start (and end) each day centered on God - to have prayer and Scriptures guiding our minds and guarding our thoughts. If you need to (re)start this spiritual discipline, start by setting aside 15 minutes each day for a daily devotion.
WORSHIP - As important as it is to pray/study Scripture on our own, it is just as important to worship God with the Church. Communal worship reminds us that there are two parts of the Great Commandment. Jesus teaches us to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength AND to Love our Neighbor as ourselves. God designed us for community - to need it, to desire it, to find joy in it. So, prioritize weekly worship as an essential part of life.
SERVE - In his parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25,) Jesus says, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me." Whenever we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, welcome the stranger - whenever we bless children, orphans, and widows - whenever we offer food/coats/compassion for the hurting - in all of these ways, we welcome Christ.
Another way to put it, Jesus lives among us today. Patiently and persistently, he pursues you and I. The question is not if God will show up this Christmas, but will we? Will we seek - will we search - will we slow down long enough - will we be still long enough - to hear the still small voice of our Lord who coos and cries, blesses and beckons us to worship?
With humble hearts, let's observe a holy Advent.
Cheryl R. Esbrook
Romir Reyes Esguerra
Mary Lou Eubanks
Daniel D. Facemyer
NIC Staff: Jacques Conway, Chicago Southern District DS
NIC Advance: United Methodist Homes and Services
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Devotion for Nov. 30 - Dec. 6
by Pastor Caleb Hong, Orland Park: Faith
"The gospel comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable."
Reading the Bible, especially The Gospel of Luke, is humbling. In the words of the writer, Finley Peter Dunne, who observed that newspapers "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," the same could be said for the gospel. Throughout his teachings, Jesus comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. Moreover, he reminded us all to be humble.
In Luke chapter 18, Jesus tells a parable about two individuals, who went to the Temple and prayed. This was the extent of the similarities. One person (a Pharisee) prayed while boasting and looking down on others.
"God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income." (v11-12)
The other person (a tax collector) prayed with a very different attitude. The tax collector refused to look up to heaven. With a heavy heart, this person prayed, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (v13)
In such clear and simple terms, Jesus teaches us the appropriate attitude for prayer. Jesus reminds us that if we pray with the mindset of the Pharisees, we might as well not even pray. There are no grounds for our boasting. There is no reason for spiritual snobbery..
"for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." (v14)
As we enter this new day, let's cling to the cross. Let's cherish God's love. Let's treasure the gift of each day because it's God's grace (not our goodness) that saves us. It's Christ's love (not our self-righteousness) that leads us in the way of eternal life.
Thanks be to God.
Neal F. Fisher
David K. Fison
Susan Lousie Flinn-Portee
Ralph Jones Sr, UMM President of Chicago Southern District
Wesley Woods Conference Center
Devotion for Oct. 26- Nov. 1
By Karen Bonnell, Steward UMC, DeKalb District
Methodists Sing of a Smiling Jesus
Luke 5:1-11 “…’Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break…Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.”
Discipleship is about following Jesus. And where Jesus is, there is joy. Can’t you see the twinkle in Jesus’ eyes when he tells Simon to let down the nets?
I was reading my new copy of The Joyful Noiseletter when this title caught my eye: “Methodists sing of a Smiling Jesus.” Many Methodists submit to the publication so I was curious what this one had to say. But let me backtrack. As a long time subscriber, I had emailed the publication, asking for permission to print their material here on the NIC Prayer Network. When Cal Samra himself (he’s founder and editor) answered, I replied with appreciation both for the use of his material and for his sharing his own story. Then I shared the hymn “Tú Has Venido a la Orilla” (“Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore” on page 344 UMH) as it was meaningful to me and has brought me to tender tears at least once because, well, sometimes people need to hear that Jesus smiles at them and calls their names.
Jesus is calling your name. And he is smiling.
And you may read the article “Methodist sing of a Smiling Jesus” for yourself, but probably you won’t be as dumbfounded as I! 😊
Thank you, Jesus, for smiling and calling our names. Thank you for loving us and taking us as we are. We offer ourselves to you for your work in the world. Amen
Gregory J Eaton
Edward (Eddie) Eddy
David Alan Eichelberger
Linda Lou Bacon Eller
Jane Cheema, Disaster Response Coordinator for Chicago Northwestern District
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Devotion for October 18-25
By Lynne Heacock, Dixon First UMC, DeKalb District
LOOKING TO JESUS
Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
“Yes, come,” Jesus said.
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Matthew 14:28-30
Peter’s faith changed as he walked on the Sea of Galilee. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus he was strong and confident, but as soon as he looked away from Jesus and saw the raging sea, his humanity took over. He thought “I can’t walk on this water!” and his faith weakened.
Just like most of us, there had been times when I’ve felt overwhelmed and the days ahead looked pretty dark. I felt weak and didn’t know how I was going to face the future. I was determined to keep my eyes on Jesus, knowing that He would carry me through this fire. I told Him that I couldn’t do this anymore…that I needed His help! Right then and there, I gave my burdens and my heart-break over to Him. Jesus reached out and held me close, I felt so much better. Somehow, I knew He was telling me,” It’s OK, Lynne, I’ve got it. I’ll take care of you!” The One, who took my sins upon Himself, saved me once again and filled me with His strength. I knew He would get me through this dark valley and He did!
Dear Lord, my Light and my Redeemer,
Alone I am nothing. Only through You am I able to face the storms of life. Dear Jesus, when I look to You my faith is strong, knowing You will guide me through the darkest valley. Please help me always to keep my eyes on You and not to look at what I am facing. Thank you Jesus for taking my sins, I love You so. I pray in Your powerful love. Amen.
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Devotion for October 12-18
Marcia Peddicord, Certified Lay Minister, Princeton First UMC, DeKalb District
Colossians 2: 2 - I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. (The Message)
Recently, I saw a comment on Facebook about braiding and it reminded me of a wedding that I attended in August. They performed a very moving braiding ceremony. It was fascinating to watch as they pledged to weave their lives together – husband, wife, God.
Having very short hair myself, which is certainly not conducive to braids, I began to research it. I found that the art of braiding goes back as much as 30,000 years.
From Wikipedia, I also found out that braiding is traditionally a social art. Because of the time it takes to braid hair, people often socialize while having their hair braided. It begins with the elders making simple knots and braids for younger children. Older children watch and start practicing on younger children, and eventually learn the traditional designs. This carries on a tradition of bonding between elders and the new generation.
So, that got me thinking about it. Could that social art of braiding be sort of like building a relationship with Jesus?
Many of us began our lives learning about Jesus from our family: in reading the Bible and taking us to church. We didn’t understand much at first. It was a beginning, as they showed us how to entwine our lives with Jesus. As we grew, we saw our parents and other adults socializing in potlucks or Bible studies around church services and watched curiously as we saw Jesus braided into their everyday lives. We saw and heard them pray at meals. They helped us form our nightly prayers. We may have enjoyed sitting with a family member as they read the Bible out loud.
Going through confirmation, we asked many questions and discovered in-depth how strong the braid with Jesus has been through our families’ lives to form a deep sense of connection. We may have felt the calling to braid Jesus into our lives too…so much so that we may have asked Jesus into our hearts then. As our family members, we saw how much better life is when that braid with Jesus is closely woven and tight. No, life is not a breeze and there are good times and bad times, but the braid with Jesus holds. When we married and started a family, we carried on the tradition of teaching our children how to braid their lives with Jesus.
Even John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement, encouraged his followers to keep the bond with Jesus strong. He knew that new Methodists needed to listen to and watch other believers see how they lived with Jesus braided into their lives. He formed them into small groups to keep their faith braided tight. He planned Love Feasts, where even the newest of believers could tell the story of how they were living a life that now included having Jesus braided in it. It was a powerf
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