January 4, 2021

I have a couple of squirrel-buster birdfeeders hung from a double shepherd’s crook pole outside the kitchen window. It’s one of the simple things that bring me joy when I see the birds in their avian pecking order taking turns at the feeders. I’m guessing the feeling is mutual. Occasionally squirrels will attempt to get at the food, but so far, the squirrel-busters have proofed impossible to breach.

New Year’s Day morning we had freezing rain here in Woodstock. The birds didn’t show up, but one sneaky squirrel showed up. The critter attempted to climb up the ice-slicked-pole, and each try got about half-way up before sliding back to the ground. I got a good laugh at the squirrel’s expense before the he/she gave up.

Earlier in the morning, I’d been reading two of the books I’m currently using for a means of settling my mind before praying. The word “beloved” appeared in both books, and captured my attention. It’s a word that’s been showing up often in the past month, from books to sermon prep podcasts, to appearing, unbidden on my tongue, when I remembered my sister, Jane. Beloved is an adjective, a word that modifies a noun. God uses the word “beloved” to modify “only Son” when Jesus was baptized. Beloved is much loved, dearly loved, dear, worthy of love.

That is also how God feels about us, hard as that is to believe. “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” says God in Jeremiah 31. Tolerate while hoping for the best, put up with us out of a commitment to agape? That makes sense with the messiness of our humanity, but beloved? Seriously? I’m more like the squirrel, trying again and again and not getting anywhere.

Beloved, maybe, just maybe, that is me, in the midst of this crazy season, one step forward, one step back. And beloved is the word I most need to hear. I have never picked a word for the year before, but this year that’s exactly what I am doing. Beloved.

Imagine what would happen if we believed it, for ourselves and for others. How might our world change if we were able to truly see everyone as a “beloved child of God”? Ephesians 1:4-5 puts it this way, “Long before God laid down earth’s foundations, God had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of God’s love, to be made whole and holy by God’s love. Long, long ago God decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. What pleasure he took in planning this!” (The Message)

Beloved – even as we slip and slide our way through this season. ~ Anne

During this season of COVID 19, St. Paul’s UCC Woodstock, VA offers these meditations as a service to the community.

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