The views expressed here are those of each individual devotion writer. Thank you to our writers for their contributions to this ministry!

Monday, October 31, 2016


Scripture: For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted Luke 14:11

As I was reflecting on this passage, it occurred to me that I am a compulsive list maker.  I make menu lists, shopping list, to do lists, appointment lists, etc.   I realized that in order to practice Christian humility that there were two things missing from my lists:

  • Every day acknowledging that God is in charge
  • In all I do following the golden rule                  

By putting these two at the top of our lists, whether they are written down (like I do) or just in our heads, there will be much more substance behind the phrase "have a great day".

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your written word and for reminding us that you are always at the top of our lists. In Jesus Name.  Amen

Kathy Kuehn


Due Season


I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.

2 Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.

4 One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.

5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty- and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

6 They tell of the power of your awesome works- and I will proclaim your great deeds.

7 They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

9 The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.

10 All your works praise you, LORD; your faithful people extol you.

11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might,

12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.

14 The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.

16 You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.

18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.

20 The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.

Psalm 145

This past summer, we drove from Lincoln to Idaho Falls, to visit my parents in Idaho. We packed ourselves, me and my husband, our two small children, my in-laws, and our dog, into our Ford Explorer and drove for two days. It was a long trip! So we brought with us pens and paper, coloring, stickers, movies and music. We played the license plate game, and the alphabet game. Or, rather, many different forms of the alphabet game. One of our favorites, predictably, is, "I'm going to the zoo and I see an Ape, Bear, Crocodile, etc...each person taking their turn with the next letter to name an animal. Another favorite version, "I'm going to the store to get an, Apple, Banana, Cookie, Donut..." As the trip progressed, more "points" were given for originality. Once something had been named, the trick became to name something else.

It's not a game I knew, or one of my devising. It comes from my mother-in-law, a former elementary school teacher, who also happened to be one of the first Reading Recovery teachers in Northern Ireland. Obviously, we weren't just playing a game. Anyone related to an educator knows that games aren't just for fun. They are helpful learning tools.

In some senses, this Psalm is just a really, really old version of the alphabet game. But its not only teaching us the Hebrew alephbet. It is also a catechism, or a learning tool to teach us about God. More specifically, it is teaching us how to pray to God.


I will extol you, my God and King,

and bless your name forever and ever.


Every day I will bless you,

and praise your name forever and ever.


Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;

his greatness is unsearchable.

...all the way to tav, the last letter. Symbolically, this is a hymn of praise, then that encompasses all of life, and all possibilities of life, not limited by the words, but unlimited in expression.

This Psalm is one of the central prayers of the people of God, repeated in some families and traditions three times a day. It reminds us of God's greatness and God's goodness, as well as our reliance on God. It takes us back to the days of manna and quail in the wilderness, that foundational experience that tells us God will not let us starve. God does provide. God will take care of our daily needs.

One of the other interesting things I learned about this Psalm in preparing to preach it is that it is often used before meals, three times a day, in many Jewish homes. In some senses, it is a prototype to the Lord's Prayer, a "pray in the way King David taught us...." In fact, some scholars have noted the similarities between Psalm 145 and the Lord's Prayer, suggesting that Jesus was once again using a well known prayer to teach a new way to pray.

Prayer: Lord of all Creation, teach us to pray in new and familiar way to you, O God. As we enter this season of considering our blessings, remind us that all our blessings are gifts from you. Amen.

Melodie Jones-Pointon
Sunday, October 23

Friday, October 28, 2016

Preparation for preachers: questions to guide biblical reading

Scripture:  "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" -Luke 18:13

When we preachers are at our best, we study a Bible passage thoroughly as we prepare for each sermon. We usually ask a series of questions about the passage, most of which help us discover what this text says to the people who will hear the sermon. Recently I heard a presentation that challenged me to bring new questions to the text, to help encourage my listeners to respond in a particular way.

These questions came at a fascinating consultation at Princeton Theological Seminary concerning a center for church planting and revitalization. Planters, professors, and denominational leaders joined together to dream about what this new ministry might look like, and how it might help support efforts to develop and renew congregations who more consistently join in God's mission to the world. These congregations seek to live in a way that the people who primarily benefit from the worshiping community's or church's ministry are not the members, but rather people in the community or world.

Lisa Marie Bowens, assistant professor of New Testament, helped lay the groundwork for the consultation with a presentation about the most faithful ways to approach a biblical passage in order to invite and challenge listeners to join God's mission. Drawing on the work of Michael Gorman in Elements of Biblical Exegesis, she presented a list of questions that had the room buzzing. In addition to my regular questions, I'm going to incorporate the ones she suggested the next time I prepare to preach a sermon.

             What does this text say, implicitly or explicitly, about the Missio Dei (Latin for "the mission of God") and the missional character of God?

             What does this text reveal about humanity and the world?

             What does this text say about the nature and mission of God's people in the world? About the church as an agent of divine mission rather than an institution or civic organization?

             How does this text relate to the larger scriptural witness in both testaments to the Missio Dei and the mission of God's people?

             How does this text call us to participate in God's mission?

             What powers that could deceive, seduce, and harm the world or the church does this text unveil and challenge and call us to unveil and challenge?

             How does this text call us as God's people to be both different from and involved in the world?

Whether you're studying the Bible as a preacher or as an individual, these questions are helpful. I look forward to seeing how they orient us outward in evangelism and service, to participate in the divine mission to the world.

Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick, Director, Theology, Formation, and Evangelism

Prayer:  Praise to you, abundant God who knows no scarcity! Praise to you, living God who makes all things possible and new! Amen.

From the Presbyterian Mission Yearbook of Prayer for October 28th. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Judging Others

Scripture: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. ... Matthew 7:1-29  

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1-4

Many of us run into those who, in their daily lives, struggle for things we may take for granted: food, a home, lives that are not ruled by extreme ups and downs.

So, what do we do? We help them. We feel pity for them. We love them, in our Christian way. But we don't necessarily want to spend time with them, or become friends with them. Something might rub off on us. We don't have anything in common with them, or so we believe. We may have our own issues and weaknesses, but our particular problems and failings are "not as bad". This attitude is dangerous. It turns our dealings into "us vs. them" mentality, when it should really be: all of us together, making our way in this world.

Recently I gave a ride to a woman whose life is hard right now...she's far away from family, her health is failing, and she struggles to find work. It was on a particularly busy day for me, and she was late getting ready. I felt impatient, inconvenienced. She is close to my age, and was asking me about my family, even though her English is not good. One thing she said that was so simple, but has stayed with me: "you have a good life". It made me realize that the little things like being late, being busy, are small problems to have. She's right, I have a good life! I am blessed, and should share those blessings with others. It's great that we give food, money, clothing...but let's give our time and friendship, also.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to notice those with less. Help me to reach out and be a friend. Give me ears to hear, so that I may truly listen to the needs of others around me. Amen. 

Donna Gustafson

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Rejection of the Lord, No Regard for the Lord

Scripture: Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore, the LORD'S anger burns against his people; his hand is raised and he strikes them down. Isaiah 5: 24-25a They have harps and lyres at their banquets, tambourines and flutes and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD, but they have no respect for the work of His hands. Isaiah 5:12 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Isaiah 5: 20 But the LORD Almighty will be exalted by His justice, and the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness. Isaiah 5:16

Isaiah, the prophet tells many times in chapter five about the people disregarding His deeds, building great mansions, living great lives and all the time rejecting His laws. Sound like the U.S.A. today?

God tells how the great houses will become desolate because of their rejection of Him. Our country has forgotten the laws. God tells us we will be humbled. The Ten Commandments are on the Hall of Justice in Washington D.C. It is time we regard them.

The Lord used imperfect people many times in the Bible such as Moses who said, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" Jonah ran away from God but God called him back.

Prayer: Oh LORD God Almighty, guide each and every one of us to turn back to your justice and be holy as you are holy. Help us to place high regard on your righteousness. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fret Not

Scripture: Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked; For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out. Proverbs 24:19-20 (Mark 13: 7, John 15:18, Hebrews 10:30, 1 Peter 5:8, Nehemiah 8:10, and Philippians 4:19)

We all remember September 11, 2001 and we see the terrorist attacks on multiple nations today. We forget the words in Mark about the wars and rumors of wars. In John it tells us that we will be hated and they hated Jesus first. But I love the words in Hebrews that the vengeance belongs to God alone.

Henry M. Morris III, D.Min. writes in Days of Praise, "The challenge for most of us is that we forget that the enemy is not merely this or that terrorist group (there have been countless such groups over the millennia), but 'the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour' as said in 1 Peter. If we are constantly in turmoil over the latest iteration of evil displayed in living color every day on our evening news, our souls will never gain peace. It is the 'joy of the LORD' that brings us strength" as in Nehemiah.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to remember that you are with us. Vengeance is yours, Lord. Give us wisdom to be on the lookout for the devil in our lives right here in Lincoln, Nebraska. Guide us to be thankful and delight in your words saying that you will supply what we need. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Spotlight on history: Presbyterians in Seattle

Scripture:  "I will be their God, and they shall be my people." -Jer. 31:33

Within two months of the chartering of the city of Seattle, seven Presbyterian men and women gathered in George Whitworth's home to organize themselves as the First Presbyterian Church of Seattle. Their session first met in 1873, as Whitworth preached alternate Sundays with a Methodist minister. Their first sanctuary was built at the corner of Third and Madison streets in 1877. The church grew rapidly, by 1894 boasting 643 members, and moving into a new building at the corner of Fourth and Spring.

In 1901, the congregation called Mark A. Matthews, a Georgian fundamentalist, to the pulpit. He described the congregation's religion as "thoroughly orthodox, fundamental to the core, premillennial, free from heretical tendencies, modernistic views" and his appeal resonated. By 1907 First Seattle was the third largest congregation in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. at 2,550 members. Their third building, erected that year for $5 million (more than $12 million in 2016 dollars), had a cinder track on the roof and audio apparatus in the pews for the hearing impaired. The congregation became the largest in the denomination in 1910, and owing to this influence, Matthews was elected moderator of the denomination in 1912.

Rev. Mark A. Matthews, First Seattle's longest-serving minister was known for his fiery rhetoric and for his espousal of Progressive-era causes, such as consumer safety, temperance, and abolition of prostitution. He was instrumental in the recall of Seattle Mayor Hiram Gill in 1911, served on the Seattle Milk Commission, hired a private detective to search out relationships between the businesses of Seattle's Tenderloin district and local politicians, and testified before Congress on behalf of Japanese immigrants. Matthews was at the same time an opponent of women's rights, a diehard enemy of organized labor, and an anti-Semite. A frequent visitor to Woodrow Wilson's White House, he advocated for the forced removal of recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, owing to their allegedly innate communism and anarchism.

By the time of his death in 1940, Matthews's church had 8,818 members in 26 branches, run by a session of 110. Gradually, most of its branches and Sunday schools became independent and still number among the largest and most diverse in the denomination.

David Staniunas, Presbyterian Historical Society

Prayer: God, we look to you this day and ask that the Holy Spirit would move in our lives, our neighborhoods, our churches, and our cities to make us one. Amen.

From the Presbyterian Mission Yearbook of Prayer

Friday, October 21, 2016


Scripture: When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests."  And as they went, they were cleansed.  One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising Godin a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him-and he was a Samaritan.  Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to ;God except this foreigner?"  Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."  Luke 17:14-19     

Few parental tasks are as challenging as that of teaching your children to say, "Thank you."  In spite of your best intentions, you will soon discover that ingratitude and thanklessness come naturally.  It is the rare child indeed who regularly and spontaneously says, "Thank you," after enjoying an act of kindness.  

Parents, take heart.  The problem is at least as old as the book of Luke.  In the scripture above Jesus heals ten lepers.  But upon finding themselves cleansed only one returns to offer thanks and worship.  Where were the other nine?  

 And what about us as adults?  When was the last time you told your spouse, your children, your minister, or your God “thank you" for a blessing that has recently come into your life?  Make today an unscheduled "thanksgiving day" for you. 

 Each day should be one of thanks. 

Prayer: Lord, we are thankful and let us always remember to express to others and especially to you.  Amen

Marilyn (Jones) Albin 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bread and Whine

Scripture: When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. Exodus 16:14-15

 It is hard to overestimate the importance that the time in the wilderness plays for Jewish believers. Week after week in the synagogues, the worshippers hear the Torah read, and so find themselves in the shoes (or sandals) of their wandering ancestors, walking through the desert for 40 year - chapter after chapter, week after week, until they climb with Moses on Mt. Nebo and get a peak view of the promised land. And the following week, the readings begin anew with the Creation... In a sense, they are always wandering!

Of course they know that this is not the whole story. There is the time of arrival: taking possession of the promised land, there is the Golden Age, with King David, and Salomon building the temple in Jerusalem. There is the disaster, the time of exile, and the time of rebuilding. There are stories about settling, about putting down roots, about coming home, and beginning a new life: as settlers, as farmers, as citizens...

And yet, from the very beginning, and throughout the history of God's people, there is this warning the prophets set before them: Do not forget where you come from! Do not forget when your ancestors were without a home. Do not forget when you were slaves in a foreign land - and then God freed you! And as much as you would want to jump right over that: do not forget the forty long years when you were wandering through the desert...

Do not forget the desert.

Bordering on the Promised land, Moses warns the people: "When the Lord your God brings you into this promised land... then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." (In Deuteronomy 6:10f)

Do not forget!


The desert may not be the most inviting place. But here is the thing:

Throughout Israel's journey with their God, the time in the desert wasn't just a time of hardship and deprivation, but, as the prophets later would remind them, also a time of courtship of a young Israel with God. At a time when they were nothing: mere possession, slaves, stuck in a dead end of history... God called them and freed them! And once they had crossed through the waters on the bottom of the abyss, and their own feet stepped on the desert ground, God started creating in them a new identity: Taking their old identity of abuse and hurt... and transforming them, giving them a new life: as people of God.

And the central lesson plan in God's school of a new life was this: the daily meal. Manna. Nothing fancy nor luxurious, but a basic sustenance. But through this simple gift, these former slaves learn a new way of life: they begin to learn... to trust. That God provides. That God cares for them. And gives them what they need.

Learning to trust is a hard lesson - particularly for former slaves, even more when you're in such a hostile surrounding. And so it is not surprising that their first reaction to the miraculous heavenly blessing is to collect some extra for the rainy day fund. However, as they soon come to see: manna is a gift that cannot be hoarded, rather, when they try to gather more than their share for the day, the extra becomes worm ridden and foul. But soon they have to learn: nothing can be put away for tomorrow.

The Israelites learn to trust that God provides for their daily need. Each and every day. Even in the desert.


Of course we're living in quite a different setting. Most of us do not share the background of former slaves. And also the poverty-level of wandering beduins through the desert is something rather foreign to us. And yet, what we do know all too well is the impulse of the Israelites to put something away for later. To put something to the side. Because you never know.

Some have called this a "culture of scarcity": that we grow up being told until we tell it to ourselves, that we never have enough or do enough... Or even worse:

That we are not enough.

And so we put something to the side. We collect stylish clothes, impressive titles, happy pictures... Because you never know. We invest in programs... sign our kids up to extra-curricular activities... after all we don't want them to miss out...

So that we can tell ourselves that we are decent people, that we can show to others that we are actually really blessed... while afraid that others could see right through us, and see us as how needy or imperfect we really are.

And there are constantly new books out there that teach us to do better and be better, gurus and authors who promise how to become rich or truly great… If only we did such-and-such, as a family, as a church, as a believer... we would get where we always longed for...

Except... maybe there is just manna in the desert.

I got to admit: The desert does not sound very attractive even as a metaphor just for our spiritual lives. Desert isn't really where I want to be. Desert sounds like hardship, austerity. Desert is someone going through a personal crisis, or grief, or depression, or bankruptcy...

The desert reminds us of what we would like to hide by all means from everybody else: that we, too, are vulnerable, that life at time is very hard, and that we, too, are just breath.

And yet we're told: "Do not forget..." Because we are still promised Manna: God's providence and lovingkindness, every day anew.

And so we are gathered here together with this Word, at this table, and we share each other’s hunger... And while everything in us is screaming: this can't be enough, somehow in breaking bread and sharing each other's hunger, he takes this bread again, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives it to us all...

And it will be enough.

And we are enough.

October 16, 2016    Thomas Dummermuth

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Shhh, It's a Secret!

Scripture: MARK 8:18 (NEB) You have eyes; can you not see? You have ears; can you not hear? Do you still not understand?

My friend, Anne, has the reputation of being an excellent story teller. She tells her stories at the museum where she volunteers and at various group meetings. She is also on the schedule to give the children's sermons several times a year at the church where she is a member.

Though Anne and I no longer live in the same city, we have remained friends and kept in touch via email. Frequently, she asks me to coauthor her children's sermons. Last summer when her pastor asked her to teach the children "The parable of the Mustard Seed" (Mark 4:30-32; Matthew 13:31-32; Luke 13:18-19), she asked me to help. Because Anne knows that I like to read about the plants of the Bible, she asked me If I knew and could write something about the mustard seed that is unique and would help the children remember the parable. I told her I did and I would write it as a secret message.

A few weeks before it was time to tell her story, Anne planted some mustard seeds in small containers. They grew to about 8 inches tall by the time she was scheduled to give her children's sermon.

After she read the "Parable of the Mustard Seed" and explained its meaning to the children, she gave a plant to each child. Then she asked the children if they knew that there was a secret message hidden in the mustard plant. She encouraged them to water and nurture their plants so the plants would bloom. Then she said she wanted to teach them a new word. The word is "cruciferous." The mustard plant is a member of the cruciferous vegetable plant family. Cruciferous means cross-bearing. Anne told them that when their plants bloom they would learn the secret message because the blossom of the mustard plant has two long petals and two short petals that form the shape of a cross. The cross is the symbol of our faith that reminds us of the unselfish love Our Savior has for us. 

Perhaps the next time you eat cauliflower or broccoli or any of the other cruciferous vegetables or maybe when you spread mustard on your favorite sandwich, you'll think of "The Parable of the Mustard Seed" and remember that the mustard seed's "secret message" is the message of the cross.  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You, show us in so many ways how much Your Son, Jesus, loved us when he died on the cross to save us from our sins. Give us we pray eyes to see and ears to hear so we will understand Your messages. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen

Judith Welch

Monday, October 17, 2016

Thanks for Pastors

Scripture: May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:14

This scripture is the verse of the day on, which I often use to look up Bible verses. The first part is familiar to us as it's similar to the words spoken by our pastors in the prayer before the sermon in worship services.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month and we're asked to take action to let our pastors know how important they are to us. It doesn't have to be much-just telling them we appreciate them can be enough. Any of us who are employed probably wish we were thanked more often for our work. We have the chance to let our pastors know we're grateful for them.

I found a poem by Judy Crowe for pastor appreciation month, and the first and last verses state (with a little editing):

Have you ever walked in our pastors' shoes,

And gone where their feet have trod?

Have you ever thought of what they mean to us,

And on your knees, given thanks to God?

Eastridge is blessed with three pastors who all have different gifts to share with us. Let us remember throughout the year to give thanks to God for their service with us.  

(And even though there is no staff appreciation month, let us remember and give thanks for the staff members who support the pastors.)

Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank you for sending Melodie, Thomas, and Mason to serve our church at this place and time. Help us to remember each day that they are here to guide us on our journey. And help us to let them know we are thankful for them. Amen.

Robin Hadfield

Friday, October 14, 2016

Detroit Restaurant

Scripture: Luke 14:12 He said also to the one who had invited him, 'When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'" 

It was one of those meals you remember for the rest of your life.

It was meant to be. I was interviewing for an Associate Pastor position at a church in the Detroit area. One of the members of the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee had a child in the Children's Hospital downtown. Her son was recovering from a brain tumor, if such a thing is possible, and she was eager to get out of the hospital for a little while and think about "other" things. I didn't have a lot of context or expectations for what the city of Detroit would be like. I knew the basic things - the Lions, the Tigers, the Pistons, and, of course, the Red Wings. I knew Detroit to be synonymous with cars. I knew it was one of cities sociologists find incredibly interesting: end of the Underground Railroad, birth of the production line and the workers' unions.

As we neared the Children's Hospital, I was struck by how green everything was. How well maintained!   A Ronald McDonald house, security guards, trees and benches - it all seemed normal for an area surrounding a well-known and respected hospital. We picked up the member of the APNC, and headed the two blocks to the restaurant. Immediately, the landscape changed. Two brown, burned out, empty blocks from the hospital to the restaurant parking lot, and not a soul in sight. We pulled into a well-lit parking lot with a security guard, walked around to the entrance "protected" by another security guard, and entered the restaurant.

Immediately, the smell of fresh baked bread overwhelmed my senses. The smell was so strong I could almost taste the bread before we sat down. When we were seated, we were taken to a quiet corner, right by the windows.

Warm bread appeared immediately on our table, with olive oil and spices for dipping. It tasted as heavenly as it smelled, and I enjoyed my first few bites.

The food was so good! It was THAT meal. I remember exactly what I had - I had salmon in a lemon dill sauce, garlic mashed potatoes topped with fried onion strings, and asparagus with hollandaise that was perfect - nice and light and airy, not a heavy cream.

The building next to the restaurant was old, dilapidated, and burned out. Clearly all the restaurant's security was meant to protect the upscale patrons from the squatters next door. Shortly after we started eating, a couple, clearly homeless and hungry, appeared at the window. They watched as we ate our meal, although not very long. As soon as the maitre d noticed them, he hurried quickly over and lowered the blinds. That way we could eat without being bothered by them.

I've often thought about that meal. It was memorable in so many ways. But what I think about so often is not the food, or the ambiance. I can't even remember the name of the restaurant, and doubt it's still there. What I think about is the challenge of this passage from Luke 14: 12 He said also to the one who had invited him, 'When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'" Amen.

Prayer: Take us deep into the heart of hospitality. Help us to understand that the generosity the world needs often demands sacrifice on our part. Be with those who have never known a table blessed by laughter and welcome, who have seldom heard affirmations and who do not know your abiding love.  Remind us, O God, that we are to set many tables, to speak blessings often and to be your love in the world. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen. ~ Prayer Copyright © 2011 Cynthia Langston Kirk. Posted on Piercing Stories.

October 9, 2016; Eastridge Presbyterian Church: Rev. Melodie Jones Pointon, Senior Pastor

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Scripture: Joshua 24:15 ...As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Matthew 25: 35 "For I was hungry and you gave me food"

Matthew 25: 40 And the King will answer them, "Truly I tell you just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me" NRSV

A week or so ago a group of us met with people from other local churches to participate in the Kids Against Hunger program by packing meals that will be shipped  all over the world.  The person who oriented us provided a little background information about the program, but I decided to learn more.  Here is what I found out.

Mission:  Kids Against Hunger is a humanitarian food-aid organization whose mission is to significantly reduce the number of hungry children in the USA and to feed starving children throughout the world.  It is not affiliated with or restricted to a particular religious group.  In order to achieve this goal the approach includes packaging highly nutritious, vitamin-fortified soy-rice casseroles.  They are distributed to people in over 60 countries through partnerships with humanitarian organizations through out the world.

The International Headquarters offices are located in Omaha, NE.  There are also offices in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri as well as 75 independent non-profit packaging satellites across the US and Canada.  Last year volunteers at Kids Against Hunger packaged forty million meals.

The vitamin formula is proprietary and is the "secret sauce" of 21 essential vitamins and minerals that goes into the food.   Food scientists have determined that this formula is the most easily digestible by a malnourished child.  To prepare the meals the contents just need to be boiled in water. The bags are specifically made from moisture-proof odor-proof material to prevent spoilage and insect or rodent problems.  Kids Against Hunger meals have a shelf life of at least three years.

As you enjoy your evening meals this week please remember all those who feed the hungry with the foremost being Jesus the Christ.

Prayer: Dear Lord,  Thank you for giving us Jesus's example of feeding the hungry.  Please remind us to reach out  to help those organizations who provide food for the needy here and around the world.  In Jesus Name, we pray, Amen.

Kathy Kuehn       

Originally posted 9/30/15

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:4-13.   Love is patient, love is kind....It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails....For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known....And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

It is wonderful to stop by the St. John's Bible on the way to my daughter's hospital room to see what words are illuminated at the moment. This was the chapter presented as I joined her after she got The Call three days ago for a liver transplant (just one week after she was listed).  It reminded me that we know only a fraction of the immensity of love. A family agreed to share the amazing gifts they had the power to give as they powerlessly lost a loved one. Because of that love, and a surgical team's miraculous skills, my daughter has been given restoration. We did indeed give ourselves over to trust,  perseverance, and hope in this journey. Her liver had been damaged by a blood clot and infection, and her only hope was a (fourth) liver transplant. A chaplain asked her yesterday about what gives her hope. She described the personal relationship with her faith that guides her. It is a combination of many elements, but it is distinctly void of fear. In this period of her illness during the last few months, I have always been able to find support from others to replace my fear with love. Fear can deplete us. Love restores us and keeps us open to miracles. I cannot fathom the wonders I am witnessing, but I can give thanks and try to honor them.

Prayer: God of all blessings, source of all life, giver of all grace: we thank you for the gift of life...for the love of family and friends without which there would be no life. We thank you for the mystery of creation...for the unknown that we cannot behold, filling the universe with wonder; for the expanse of space that draws us beyond the definitions of ourselves. We thank you...for families...for friends...who share our burdens and daily tasks, for strangers who welcome us into their midst, for people from other lands who call us to grow in understanding....We thank you for this day; for one more experience of your presence, for your promise: to be with us, to be our God.... Amen. (Vienna Cobbs Anderson)
Mollie Manner                 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3:2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot...

There is nothing more lovely than a blue October sky. There is nothing more beautiful than the last of the Monarch butterflies on the butterfly bush by my back door. But as Pastor Melodie attributed to Chaucer, "All good things must come to an end."

A book on the EPW reading list, What to Do When You Don't Know What To Do, quotes a poem "Time Paces" by Henry Twells. I repeat it now.

          When as a child, I laughed and wept-time crept.

          When as a youth, I waxed more bold-time walked.

          When older still I grew - time flew.

          When I became a full-grown man-time ran

          When older still I grew-time flew

          Soon I shall find in passing on-time gone.

Indeed, time for summer has gone but the promise of spring already lightens my heart and in between, we will welcome the birth of our beloved Savior.

Prayer: Thank you God for each day we are granted and help us to appreciate each changing season as we progress through the year and through our years. Amen

Carolyn F. Olsen    

Friday, October 7, 2016

Let It Go

Scripture: Colossians 3:12-14 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (NIV)

Psalm 103:8-10 The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. (NLT)

1 Peter 3:8-9,11 Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing...Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. (NLT)

Romans 12:17-21 Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it." Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he's thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. (MSG)

Having a major disagreement with a loved one gives me a big knot in my stomach. If possible, it's good to step away and take a few minutes (or hours, if needed) to let emotions cool down, to pray and to ponder. God can help me discern whether the disagreement needs to be dealt with soon, or whether it's worth being dealt with at all. (Sometimes I've found it's better to leave it alone.) Whichever way I choose, He can give me much-needed guidance and strength as I proceed.

The first thing I need to do is humbly repent--apologize to that person for anything I did wrong--even if I feel what they did was worse. Once I've done my best to reconcile, then it becomes necessary to "let it go" and "give it all to God". What I must let go of and give to Him, is any lingering negativity I may have. If I don't, I may end up holding a grudge or seeking revenge--potentially damaging or destroying the relationship. I need to trust that God will avenge, if necessary.

What does it look like to "let it go"? My heart needs to be ready to forgive the person if they repent. Each time I'm with them, I try to have a calm and gentle demeanor. Also, I try to be kind, patient and humble--letting them see that being at peace with them is more important to me than being "right". None of this is easy to do, but it helps to think about the way God treats me when I mess up--he's a God of unending mercy and love! My hope is that by trying to follow His example, relationships will not only be mended, but improved. But my greatest hope is that in loving as Christ does, others will be drawn to Him.

Prayer: Merciful Heavenly Father, forgive us for our part in the disagreements we have with others. Please give us the strength and guidance we need to reconcile and "let it go". And thank you for the amazing examples of mercy, compassion and unfailing love you give us every day. Amen.

Sharon Irvin



Thursday, October 6, 2016

Good Works / Faith Works

Scripture: James 2:1-17

Inspired by the many miracles of healing and feeding performed by Jesus Christ, the Christians James was writing to had taken to believing in miracles. So if anyone in their community had need - and James here picks on the two easiest needs to identify - the naked and the hungry - if anyone has a need, and you say, "Go in peace, keep warm and eat your fill," but do not give them clothing or food, what good have you done? Do you really believe? Do you really believe that the Lord will provide? Because James, who is well aware of Jesus' teachings, seems to remember him saying something along the lines of, "for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.... Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:31-40, selected verses).

Sara Miles, an Episcopalian deacon who started a food panty out of her church's sanctuary, writes of her conversion and calling in the book, "Take This Bread." As she explored the issues of hunger in her community of the Mission in San Francisco, she was shocked to learn that the problem really isn't food production. It's food distribution. And so she found ways to provide food to the neighborhood - for free. On Fridays, she and a small team of volunteers, set up food and monitored its distribution right out of the sanctuary, using the very table the community used to distribute the Lord's Supper. And what she found in distribution was just as shocking, "But the harder thing for me was listening to unreconciled difference, without thinking about that as a political problem-truly opening myself to people I would prefer to write off," she writes.

I'm grateful for her sharing of this insight into her own struggle. Because part of my struggle is that I don't often see the poor (that's who James is talking about).

We have to get over all those things that make us feel better about our faith, those things that we tell ourselves so we can sleep at night. In short, we need to stop being consumed by guilt over all the things we do not do, and start putting our faith into action. We need to let our lives be led by our faith.

You can't cover up a lack of faith with good works. "The life of the disciple is an intricate pattern of worship and work. We cannot love God without loving what God has created, and while Jesus showed clear partiality for the poor and marginalized, his grace-full love and salvation was offered for all." The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Blezard, ELCA pastor, who follows with an intriguing notion..., "What if," she says, "we lived as though 1% and 99% together made us 100%? And that's what made us whole?" Because the greater truth offered here in James is that we are all the same.

Good Works/Faith Works; October 2, 2016; Eastridge Presbyterian Church; Rev. Melodie Jones Pointon                    Senior Pastor