Focal verse

“We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the encourager, in encouragement; the giver, in sincerity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8). 


I enter the elementary gym to the sound of kids’ conversations. A hum of excitement fills the air. The students sit on the floor, waving to their parents. We’ve all gathered to celebrate student achievements at the second-quarter assembly, where awards are passed out, one by one, to students for their learning and growth.

With every award announced, cheers erupt. I zoom in my camera on my 9-year-old daughter, watching her arms wave in the air and giving high-fives to her friends as they come forward to be recognized. It’s the same for every child named—applause and excitement. For a moment in time I see the embodiment of community, lifting one another up and caring for one another.

At every assembly it’s the same enthusiasm for celebrating each student. Similar to our lives of faith, these assemblies highlight the truth that when we lift up the strengths and gifts of others, we strengthen the body of Christ. As Valentine’s Day approaches, love and gifts are on my mind but not necessarily the tangible gifts of heart-shaped candies and flowers. Rather, they are gifts that can sometimes go under the radar. Gifts of noticing, gifts of offering a kind word to the grocery cashier or mail carrier, holding the door for a stranger, sitting in the waiting room with a friend, dropping off dinner, or sitting in silence with a friend in pain.

What would it look like for your family to celebrate the gifts of others this month? To truly notice the people in your community, at work and in your church? To not necessarily cheer out loud but go out of your way to thank someone or send a handwritten note?

Your family could write a note to the man who’s the first to arrive and last to leave each Sunday, preparing and closing the church. Or tell the woman who bakes communion bread how much you enjoy her baked goods. You could ask a young person in your congregation what they enjoy doing and perhaps invite them to share that gift in worship. And who knows—maybe over this month, as you’re on the lookout for the ways others are shining their light and building up the body of Christ, you may find your own gifts to share too.


  • Grab stationery and write thank-you notes as a family. Think about the people whom you interact with daily who may need a word of encouragement (e.g., bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teachers, restaurant servers, librarians, etc.).
  • Leave random and anonymous love notes around your town. Make hearts with messages of encouragement—“You are loved,” “Have a great day,” “You’re doing great”—and leave them where someone can find them.

Prayer practice

Memorize together a verse of Scripture reflecting on God’s love. Post it where you can easily see it throughout the day, on a door or at the dining room table. Use it as your prayer before meals or as a blessing as you go on your various ways. (Some possibilities: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, John 3:16 or John 13:34.)

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, spouse of an ELCA pastor and co-author of The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is

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