Thursday, May 17, 2018

Animals


But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.  Job 12:7-10

My daughter was enchanted by animals from a very early age, and was curious to get to know them and communicate with them.  I tried to free myself of my inner fears of some animals and insects, and encourage her comfortable familiarity with the wild.  She was the zoo visitor who would always gladly let a snake have its way with her, or let bugs crawl all over her.  

She loved being on Zoo Crew, especially when she was able to help with the Critter Encounter area.  She brought her pet rats to 4H Pet Pals meetings and loved being at the animal exhibits at all the local fairs.  She participated in domestic rat rescue programs, and helped find homes for rats used in the Nebraska Wesleyan University behavioral psychology courses.  

She did not enjoy ideal health growing up, so she earned a GED rather than complete high school classes; then she took veterinary technician courses online.  Our vet allowed her to observe and assist with procedures and surgeries, including those on her own animals.  

This spring, a year and a half after a life-giving 4th liver transplant, she helped her husband open up his own veterinary clinic (he is a vet) in South Korea.  They serve both Koreans and English-speaking pet caretakers who need detailed communication.  Because there is no specific training for veterinary nurses in Korea, she has ample qualifications as an assistant because of her experience and her general knowledge of human medical treatment (as an observant and informed patient).  Her husband considers her to be his head nurse as well as assistant and office manager.  Her blog and word-of-mouth have publicized their clinic as specializing in "exotic animals" such as hamsters and rats, so they have many tiny patients.

I get the news every few days of some interesting patient, including the dog that escaped and led them on a several-blocks-long chase through their downtown area.  She and her husband spend many long hours day and night at their clinic, making use of a pull-out bed there.  Currently, they have three stray kittens they are treating, who will be offered to good homes eventually; one of them was separated too early from his mother and is having to be hand-fed and taught all the basics of elimination and hygiene.  These are the things my daughter handles with ease.  

This is all born of a tremendous love for all the things animals teach us about living in God's world, about companionship, about loyalty and love, and about taking care of one another.  Every day I am grateful for the people who helped my daughter to be well, or to feel better when she wasn't; but I am also grateful for the animals who shared their lives with her and cared for her.  The cat she was especially close to used to sit with her in bed and have what we called "the laying-on of paws".  

There is a beautiful Benjamin Britten vocal piece with lyrics from a poem by Christopher Smart, and I hope you will be able to base your prayer on a few of those words:

For I will consider my cat Jeoffry.

For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him...

For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him...

For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit...

For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire...

For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements...

For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.

Amen.
Mollie Manner

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Why are we so stupid?


Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  Matthew 7:7


So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10


Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…Ephesians 3:20


I don’t like the word stupid and forbid my children to use it. It is like the word fool which my mother disciplined me greatly for using. But it fits here.


We were in a meeting at church and the matter of asking God for little and great things came up. Several of us could think of problems we had that lasted years and we never thought of praying to God. When we finally did ask as he tells us to, the problem ended soon or was solved in a way we never could have imagined. The truth is, no problem is too small and no problem is too large for our omniscient Lord.


Prayer: Our Father in Heaven, even though we know you already know our request before we ask it, help us to remember to simply ask as you tell us to many times in the Bible. Amen.


Sandra Hilsabeck (reprinted from February 2013)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

God in My Heart

As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the person. Proverbs 27:19
And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  Colossians 3:15
I saw the Broadway Musical "The Color Purple" recently. Celie was a black Southern woman.  Celie experienced abuse with her Father and then she was sold into a life of servitude.  Through all this she expressed through a song that she survived because she carried God in her heart.
Are you too busy or overwhelmed in your life to not carry God in your heart? God made us to be with him but we need to make space in our lives and heart for him. We fill our lives with busyness and more things to do and forget about keeping God in our Hearts.  Our heart is restless until God rests in our heart. 
Prayer: Dear God, be in my heart as I journey through each Day and help me make room for you.  Amen
Susan Taylor      

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bird Family


So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that move about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:21
But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. Mark 10:6
The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you. John 14:26 

Families sometimes are very hard to navigate. We have such situations in our family. Having prayed to God for more than a year one of our prayers was answered.

Being in my usual place for study and prayer one morning, I felt the Holy Spirit blessing us with an answer for our family. Then God placed this beautiful male cardinal on the railing in front of me. Soon after, He placed a baby robin in the same place. Both of those beautiful birds just stood there for some time.  As I looked out another window I saw the female cardinal. It was like the spirit was reminding me that family is good and I should trust God in all.

Prayer: Dear Lord, continue to help me see all that you put before me and all that the Spirit reminds me about what you have told us. You made our families and you want us to live faithfully together as the birds do following your will which you declare is good. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Rain


Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.  Zechariah 10:1

May he be like rain falling on a mown field; like showers watering the earth. Psalms 72:6

There is such delight in being able to listen to a gentle spring rain, with only faint grumbles of thunder.  The sound of drops pattering on horizontal surfaces and trickling down vertical ones is like a soothing lullaby.  Seeing the mistiness making lights waver and bright spring greens shimmer is like enjoying a moving work of art, shifting in the changing cloudlight.  Birds send out their most joyful songs and seem to chuckle softly to themselves.  Puddles reflect the white sky, and seem to boil with bubbles as drops bounce into them.  The freshness of the air and the smells of the wet earth make everything feel clean and rinsed of dusty weariness.  Spring's growth is nourished just as the soul's thirst for comfort and healing is tended.  Memories of other times and places in this hypnotic kind of soft rainfall arise and pull this moment into a thread of continuity.  

Rain has many associations for Christians; in the Bible - and in agricultural states like the one where I live - rain is an important part of the planting and growing seasons.  Crops and livestock depend on adequate rain, and ultimately everyone's food supply is tied to it.  God provides all this, and it is a testament of his care when the rain falls; it is a gift that feeds all people. 

The rain can be threatening, and floods are a fearful event in Biblical lore.  Rain is sometimes symbolic of God's righteousness showering down on the earth.  

But the beneficial rain is inclusive; it falls on everyone and everything.  If we choose to shower blessings like this, we share them without exception to all within reach.  God is in the water that baptizes us, the water that cleans us and everything we use and touch and see, the water that is a habitat for countless amazing beings, the water that nourishes our food and the trees and plants that give us shade and joy.

The rain I am enjoying at this moment is one of the ways I can experience God's peace that surpasses understanding.  This same rain is making someone else feel soggy and chilled, so I have to hope that somehow God's comfort is felt by that person in some way as well.  I often work in the evenings, and I am fortunate enough to be home by an open door for this rainfall.  Someone else who planned an outdoor event for this evening has had to make a change in plans, and isn't feeling as fortunate.  

There is a Jewish prayer recited at the start of the rainy season in Israel.  This is an excerpt.  

May He send rain from the heavenly towers,

To soften the earth with its crystal showers.

You have named water the symbol of Your might,

All that breathes life in its drops to delight. 

O revive those who praise Your powers of rain....

For you are God, who causes the wind to blow 

and the rain to fall; 

for a blessing and not for a curse - Amen!

For life, and not for death - Amen!

For plenty, and not for scarcity - Amen!

Mollie Manner

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Scripture for Graduating Students


I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:7-11


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Words of Encouragement

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18



Monday, May 7, 2018

Mothers and those who have gone before us


Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 1 Thessalonians 4:9

On Facebook there was a picture of a button box which had 9,556,133 views at the time I looked at it. Now why? Is it because we remember a grandmother, aunt or other older relative that had a button box? Does that symbol remind us of their love for us?

Some of the comments were:

  • I have my moms or my grandmothers button box
  • The buttons remind me of the clothes my mother made me
  • The sculpture of these old buttons is more unique than today’s buttons
  • It took me 40 years to discover the masking tape on the bottom of the tin that said I made this for you with love
  • Mine not only has buttons but buckles, hooks & eyes, press, studs, zips, and suspender rubber attachments

I have two button boxes. Sadly, I don’t remember exactly their original owner. They could have been with some items I received from my husband’s great aunt or one of my grandmother’s or even my mom’s. I have received items from several generations before me. I do know that I loved each of them and these items are special to me.

The tin button box now has the old buttons. The delicate wicker one contains new buttons that came with clothes I bought, even one from a sweater bought in Australia. There are memories in those boxes, wonderful memories.

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, thank you for the ones who have gone before us. We remember their humbleness and their gentleness because we hold their buttons in our hands today. Thank you for their love and for you teaching them to love us. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck







Thursday, May 3, 2018

Getting the Dirt on Soil



In the course of time Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. Genesis 9:20
Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. Genesis 4:3
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19

Mari Lane Gewecke opened her article in the gardening section of L Magazine for May 2018, saying “When you stroll on the lawn and in the garden, you are walking on an interconnected web of life. The top several inches of soil is teeming with all manner of life, from worms to centipedes, from ants to slugs, from bacteria to fungi. There is a lot going on down there."

We don’t think about all the items we are stepping on, or how amazing soil really is in our lives. There is the joke about the guy telling God he could make a world too but asked God for some soil. God said, “Make your own dirt.” That stopped the man abruptly. I like dirt. I love to get my hands in the fresh turned up soil in the spring and plant flowers and vegetables. I put them in the dark moist stuff and they grow. Our food comes from the soil.

We all know this, but what about all the other things we do with soil. Of course, we walk on it and we are buried in it. These aren’t small things. We build our houses on it, contain our waters with dams of soil and our irrigation canal walls are soil. We build our roads and ramps with it and drive our cars on them. Our mountains have raised up from the soil, the bottoms of our oceans are soil, and the wind blows it from place to place. The trees are stabilized by it, our fences depend on the soil to stand straight and our trash is buried in it. Our cattle and all animals use it for their sewer and the soil is replenished by this abuse as the animal waste is used as fertilizer to grow more grass or food for us.

The gravity of the earth keeps us on the planet’s soil. The rain normally doesn’t flood our areas because the soil absorbs the moisture. Soil can be used to put out fires, pour our drinks in and put out cigarettes. The layers of soil filter our water to make it clean to drink again. When loaded into sacks soil can stabilize our patio umbrellas and a child can play in soil all day long. What would we do without it?

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, you put under our feet a miraculous material which we use every day and never thank you for it. Today, I thank you for dirt. Amen.
Sandra Hilsabeck




Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Good Day - Bad Day


“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 7:13  

“And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

When we receive a new license plate number, I look for a way to connect it with something that will help me remember it.  Our most recent one is VGD 099. I chose V (very) G (good) D (day) and 099 (99%). Each time I look for our license plate in a parking lot, it reminds me that it is a Very Good Day. The 99% reminds me that most days aren’t perfect but are mostly Very Good Days.

Even a large folk art clock right inside a mall shop reminds me, “Today is a good day for a good day”.

At the same time, I realize that there are days that are challenging.  I recall the popular children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Judith Viorst originally published the book in 1972.  It is still available today, probably because we can all relate to it.   A movie and also a musical were produced based on the book.

Most of the time when I find myself in a worrisome situation, family and friends are there to offer me comfort and support.  Above all, I know I can count on God’s promise to always walk with me both on good days and during challenging times. 

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for your assurance that you are always with us.  More than ever, in a world full of fears, dissent, and discord, we need your hope.  Amen. 

Lois Poppe



Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How Do I Practice Humility?


"As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, and patience" Colossians 3:12.

Today's devotion marks the third one I have written on this particular scripture. I have discussed kindness and compassion thus far. Those virtues were very straightforward, easy for me to grasp and strive to practice daily. When Paul states we need to love others with humility, I do not have as clear a picture of what that looks like. At the same time, I have come to think that humility is both a challenge for me and the most important love virtue of all.

I know arrogance and boastfulness are opposite behaviors of being humble.  And, it's relatively easy for me to keep those in check. I also can quickly pick those traits out in someone else. Of course I can!  Dictionary.com defines humility as having a modest opinion of one's own importance or rank; freedom of pride or arrogance. 

In Ephesians 4:2, Paul tells us to be completely humble and gentle. So, being humble and being gentle go together. A humble person has a gentle heart and demonstrates gentleness to others. True humility is being respectful of others.

In Philippians 2:3, Paul admonishes us:  "In humility, consider others better."   Wow! What about being self-confident and strong, which today's society touts as important personal goals? Paul is talking here about not acting out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. He is telling us to consider others needs. C. S. Lewis says that true humility is not thinking less of yourself but instead is thinking of yourself less. True humility then is both living with your ego in the back seat and serving others; and, finding true peace and joy in serving others.

In James 4:10, James writes to tell us how to act like Christians. James says to humble yourselves before the Lord. That's clear to me as God is all knowing, all omnipotent, all loving, all forgiving. I am clearly unworthy in the sight of God.  Before God, I am by my human nature humbled, yet do I always feel and act humble? Or does my own agenda include taking myself too seriously and/or putting myself first? And did Jesus not demonstrate total humility when he became man and was obedient to his Father by dying on the cross?

Matthew 18:4 says, "Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." A child is by nature submissive, meek, not haughty or prideful, dependent on others, trusting of others. A young child is characteristically humble and teachable. 

In Proverbs, 11:2, we are told that with humility comes wisdom and in 15:33, that humility comes before honor. It is more important to be humble than to be praised or honored.

My father was by nature a humble man. In 1915, he was born to new immigrants from Russia; they were Volga Germans to be exact. In this new country, they were migrant workers. My father had only a fourth grade education as he had to help his family in the beet fields. He worked very hard, served God and his family first, and strived to "not throw his weight around".  He was a great example of a humble, gentle, and strong man. He set a wonderful example of what humility looks like for his ten children.

Prayer: Jesus, son of God, who became Man at the will of your Father in the most perfect act of Humility, and died on the cross for our sins, help me to strive to practice humility in my life daily. I want to be humble, gentle, respectful of others, and find joy in serving others. Like my father, I long to be humble before you. Guide me to a greater place of true humility in my heart and in my life.

Connie Barry

Monday, April 30, 2018

On the Road to Emmaus


As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24: 28-32

Friday, April 27, 2018

Easter Matters


Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.  She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping.  But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.  After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.  And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Mark 16:9-13. 

We have just celebrated Easter Sunday.  It was a grand and glorious day!  The sanctuary of our church was filled with worshippers.  The atmosphere was enthusiastic for the event.  The music and message of the Word emphasized and led us through our worship.  We again heard the account of the resurrection.  We celebrated with joy that it is real.  Hallelujah!  Christ has risen!

However, it was a troubling event for the first disciples.  It seemed impossible for them to imagine.  Things, like a resurrection, just don't happen.  Even after the resurrection as Jesus was walking with two of His followers, they were so focused on the crucifixion and events of Jesus' death that they didn't recognize who was walking with them.  Even Mary Magdalene failed to recognize Jesus when He was standing right in front of her.  It took a while for all of them to accept what had happened as truth-- Jesus Christ, their Master had risen from the dead.  He was alive.

What kind of effect will all of this have on us?  A writer of religious studies has summarized the value of Easter in this way:

     Easter says that Jesus' death and resurrection matter

     to us because--

           it makes sense out of living

           it gives purpose to our life

           it means our life has a future

           it means death is not the end of life

           it means you will live forever

           it means that God offers all of this because of

           His grace in Christ Jesus. 

The events of study and review of Holy Week with the Easter Sunday good news will continue to build our faith so as to reach our Christian goal!

BELIEVE that Christ is risen.  Easter is TRUE.

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the strength of faith that we have gained as we worshipped and studied the events of Holy Week.  Now we pray that you will guide and direct us so that our Christian faith will continue to help us grow closer to You and the ultimate goal You have for us.  In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen

Lauren Holcombe

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Wisdom


My son, do not forget my teaching,

    but keep my commands in your heart,

for they will prolong your life many years

    and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;

    bind them around your neck,

    write them on the tablet of your heart.

Then you will win favor and a good name

    in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

    fear the Lord and shun evil.

This will bring health to your body

    and nourishment to your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth,

    with the first fruits of all your crops;

then your barns will be filled to overflowing,

    and your vats will brim over with new wine.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,

    and do not resent his rebuke,

because the Lord disciplines those he loves,

    as a father the son he delights in.

Blessed are those who find wisdom,

    those who gain understanding,

for she is more profitable than silver

    and yields better returns than gold.

She is more precious than rubies;

    nothing you desire can compare with her.

Long life is in her right hand;

    in her left hand are riches and honor.

Her ways are pleasant ways,

    and all her paths are peace.

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;

    those who hold her fast will be blessed.

By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,

    by understanding he set the heavens in place;

by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,

    and the clouds let drop the dew.

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,

    preserve sound judgment and discretion;

they will be life for you,

    an ornament to grace your neck. Proverbs 3:1-22

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Holy Spirit


If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your human bodies also, through his Spirit that lives in you. Romans 8:11

Christina Hergenrader wrote Family Trees & Olive Branches which I recommend highly and is available at bookstores and online services. Sometimes we forget about the Spirit that lives inside us, given to us when we accept Christ as our savior. We go around doing our free will and tend to our busy lives. These are some words from Christina’s book that touched me deeply:

Living as a child of God includes the experience of reading a Bible verse that your soul leaps at because, in your most tender places, you know it as truth.

Life in the Spirit is humbling; it’s recognizing the radical patience and kindness another person has shown you.

Life in the Spirit is praying to your Father and feeling the profound peace that comes from knowing He is taking care of you and has been caring for you.

Life in the Spirit is hearing an explanation of God’s expansive love for you that resonates so deeply that you feel whole. Life in the spirit is receiving the underserved forgiveness of someone you have hurt .

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, we humbly come to you and thank you for your Holy Spirit which helps us understand so much. Amen.
Sandra Hilsabeck



Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Teach Me Your Ways


Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart—they do no wrong but follow his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees;do not utterly forsake me. Psalm 119: 1-8


Monday, April 23, 2018

God's Blue Marble


Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:3

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10

We celebrated Earth Day yesterday (April 22). In a recent issue of National Geographic, astronauts who have been fortunate enough to be able to view the earth from space tried to put into words what they observed. It seems just about everyone experiences timelessness, and a sense of responsibility toward the planet after viewing it as the blue marble that it appears to be from afar. Another observation is how one never seems to tire of viewing our earth from space.

Most of these astronauts have made it their mission to bring attention to what they saw. For example, Leland Melvin was inspired by the earth’s oceans as viewed from above, the many shades of blue, and focuses his efforts on inspiring people, especially children, to preserve the planet. Samantha Cristoforetti says, "You’ve got this planet beneath you, and a lot of what you see, especially during the day, does not necessarily point to a human presence. If you look at it on a geologic timescale, it’s almost like we are this flimsy presence, and we really have to stick together as a human family to make sure we are a permanent presence on this planet and not just this blink of an eye.”

Two thoughts occurred to me as I prepared this devotion after reading the article: one, our mortality and what God promises for us in eternity, and two, how we should make it our responsibility to care for the planet while we’re living here, for future generations. While God promises us an eternity in heaven, we should also care for this earth that we make our home while we’re here!

Here are scripture passages that address both:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Genesis 2:15

The heavens are the Lord's heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. Psalm 115:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to do my part in caring for the earth that is our temporary home, that you have created. Show me new ways to care for nature and all living things. Thank you for Your promise of eternal life with You. Amen.

Donna Gustafson

Friday, April 20, 2018

Where Do You Want to Go?


So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
Then God said, “I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food.” Genesis 1:29
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20
So many times family and friends get together and the decision making or non-decision making begins as to where to go eat. If staying home it can become another conversation of what to cook or eat that is prepared or easy. I am sure we have all been through these conversations, what do we want to eat, Italian, Mexican, American, buffet, fast food, eat there or take home. It becomes a sometime lengthy decision making, usually works its way through an elimination process to arrive at a final agreement. But the choices are plentiful, the options are enormous, the actual eating process has become a form of entertainment rather than a way of sustaining nourishment to our bodies. I know I am guilty of enjoying the many different flavors of foods. I also have my favorites and those that I know I dislike.  

But these are not the circumstances for so many others in the world; just in the United States, or in Lincoln, there are those that are happy just to have a meal once a day. Their selection is not where to eat, or what to eat but to how to get a meal. There are so many programs that help and struggle to meet the needs of those in hunger.  

I pray that I become more aware of what I eat and that I look at it as a form of nourishment rather than a form of entertainment. I feel the meal time of family and friends is almost a lost form of communication or comfort. I pray that while we nourish our bodies, that we also nourish our relationships and spend the time to sit down and enjoy the meal with family and friends.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us to remember to be thankful for the food that you provide, help us to remember that we need the food for nourishment. We pray for those that work hard to provide us with this nourishment. Help us to remember those that may not be as fortunate as ourselves and we help those in need. Guide us to take time to spend with our family and friends every day, not just on special occasions. Thank you for all you provide us. Amen
Lori Hood

Thursday, April 19, 2018

He is Faithful

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (NRSV) Lamentations 3:21-26   
Trust [rely on and have confidence] in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed [securely] on His faithfulness. (AMP) Psalm 37:3

The songs “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” touch my soul. Their verses remind me how loyal and faithful God has been to me throughout my life. Even when I wander, even when I doubt...He's STILL there. No matter how much I sin, He forgives me every time I ask. He faithfully loves me, guides me, strengthens me, provides for my needs, gives me peace and gives me hope. And as I mourn the loss of my mom, He's been there to dry every tear. It's so amazing having such an immensely loving and faithful friend--especially when I'm not always a good friend to Him.

At the top of my lungs, I sing these verses from “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)” by Chris Tomlin: 
Whom shall I fear?
I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

I picture God “before me...behind me...by my side”--at all times surrounded by His powerful love. Wow! That gives me such comfort, such confidence. 

In times when I'm feeling far away from God, and full of fears and doubts; I need to remember the many ways He's been faithful--both in my life and in the lives of others. I also need to call to mind the promises found in His Word, resting assured that He'll faithfully keep every one. It's not always easy to focus on these things in the middle of hard times; but when I do, I find my heart swells with thankfulness. And each time my heart is thankful, I find I'm better able to “hope in Him” and “wait for Him” like I should.

Prayer: Ever-Faithful Father, forgive us for our doubting, wandering hearts.  Open our eyes to see--and our hearts to appreciate--your immense love and faithfulness.  And thank you so much for surrounding us with your powerful love every day. Amen.

Sharon Irvin

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"My Words Will Never Pass Away."


But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. Mark 13:24-31


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Hidden Message


There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?  John 6:9 NKJV

When my friend, Anne, asked me to coauthor her children’s sermon on the topic of unleavened bread, I started to read about barley because I knew it to be the grain of the common (poor) people in the Bible. It was purely an economic decision on their part because wheat was three times the price of barley. 

The number of stories in the OT having barley at the heart of them was surprising to me. I read several of them and found that the destruction of the barley fields was part of the 7th plague (Ex. 9:31-32); Ruth met Boaz because she and Naomi returned to Bethlehem during barley harvest (Ruth 1:22); and it made me smile when I read that Gideon interpreted the dream of a man who told of seeing a loaf of barley bread roll down a hill and flatten a tent to mean that he would have victory in battle against the Midianites (Judges 7:13).

But how does one find the hidden message in the miracle of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000?  According to one bible scholar you have to compare Elijah’s feeding of the poor widow and her son by keeping her flour bin full after she had used her last handful of flour to feed Elijah (1Kings 7:15-16) and Elisha’s feeding 100 men with 20 loaves of barley bread (2 Kings 4:42-44) to Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 with 5 loaves. The people that Jesus was teaching thought Jesus to be a prophet. They would have known both Elijah’s and Elisha’s stories. By comparison, when Jesus fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves, He was showing Himself to be greater than the prophets. 

Without the prompting to make this comparison, I would have completely missed that hidden message! Did you miss it, too? 

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for the scriptures which reveal the glory of Your Son, Jesus’, miracles and for showing us that sometimes we just need to read between the lines to get Your message. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Judy Welch

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Birds of the Air


And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them , saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day. Genesis 1: 20-23

As a birdwatcher, I continue to be amazed at the diversity of the birds both in the Midwest and the country. From the tiny, but feisty hummingbirds, to the majestic eagles, the birds come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. The turkey vultures have returned to Lincoln around April 1st every year since I moved here 30 years ago. The large streams of blackbirds fly in ever-weaving forms toward the end of March, and the sandhill cranes, all half a million of them, gather on the Platte River in mid- March. Everyone sees the return of the robins as a harbinger of spring. The shorebirds who funnel their way through Nebraska and then go onto the shores of the Atlantic and Pacific, cover thousand of miles. From the tiny ruddy ducks to the snow geese, the wetlands of Nebraska provide a resting place on their long journeys north. The bluebirds return in early spring, start their nests when it is still cold, lay their pretty little sky blue eggs, and manage to fledge 2 sets of babies before they leave in late July. Each bird has its own characteristics, its habitats, its time line for travel, and its special song. God has given us a blessing with the birds of the air. Take time to thank God for the birds he has given to us and their evidence of his ongoing love and creation.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you are a great and powerful God. Thank you for your creatures here on earth. Help us to respect the environment for all who occupy it. Amen.

Nancy Hall

Friday, April 13, 2018

Storm Insurance


God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1-3


“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46: 10-11


As we Midwesterners think about the storms in our lives, we may conjure up thoughts or images of severe weather—especially this time of year.  Lightning, thunder, floods, hail, and high winds frequently threaten destruction to our crops, property, or sometimes, our lives.  We often take assurance from the idea that we can and will be able to recover from these misfortunes by rationalizing, “After all, we do have insurance, right?”  What happens to us when we face storms and damages that are not necessarily alleviated by this monetary safety net?  We often reach out to those displaced by natural disasters through financial relief efforts, but how do we muster the spiritual strength to bounce back from deeper storms and scars left by physical injuries, debilitating diseases, broken relationships, or even loss of loved ones?  It is tempting to believe that we have protected ourselves from harm by covering our financial bases, but the Lord is truly the one we must rely on.


Prayer: Creator God, in the quiet stillness of this hour and in the midst of life’s storms, help us to find comfort in laying down our concerns and troubles before you.  We humbly ask for your help to strengthen us and give us hope as we navigate each day.  Thank you for the knowledge and assurance that you are always with us.  Amen.

Barry and Alinda Stelk

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Home Sweet Home

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” 
John 14:2-4


Last week in February and the first week of March, I took a vacation to stay with friends in southern Texas and visit Mexico. The second week I stayed with my sister out of town. I had great accommodations and the hospitality was fantastic. My dog Hastings had stayed with my nephew during the first week and I picked her up and she greeted me with that happy puppy energy and excitement. She still seemed hesitant staying at my sister’s home. After the two weeks we went home and you could tell she was home. She ran all around the house checking all the corners to make sure things were in their proper place, every dog toy had to come out of the basket and be examined to make sure they were all there. She took each toy for a run around the house. You could tell she knew she was home. After the return home ritual, she climbed into her bed, relaxed and fell asleep. I too retired to my bed after the late night drive home and I too was excited to be in my own bed in my own accommodations. I was home sweet home.

Recently I saw a picture of Jesus with a person wrapped around him.  Their feet were wrapped around his waist and their arms around his neck as tight as possible. A hug beyond imagination. Their face had the biggest grin as if they were greeting a long lost friend. That is what I imagine when I see my loved ones in Heaven. That they too were greeted and got a huge hug welcoming them home. The warm embrace filled with love and comfort.   

Lori Hood  



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Light and Love


Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” John 12: 35-36  

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12  

At the February Trailblazers group meeting, we all shared something that has meaning for us. My husband and I shared a photo of a wall-hanging that has hung in our homes since our children were young. As a family, we together created it using tissue paper (in shades of brown, yellow, and orange) and glued it on fiber board panels. Our family members saw varying things – sunrise, sunset, for example. I saw the darkness of our world driven away by God’s light of love.

There are many kinds of darkness. Some describe being in the darkness of depression. Some struggle with physical pain or other health issues as a kind of darkness. Worries of conflict in our country and world can darken our views.

The song, “I Am the Light of the World” reminds us how we can follow and love today.

Chorus:

            “I am the Light of the World.

            You people come and follow me.

            If you follow and love,
           
            You’ll learn the mystery,
                       
            Of what you are meant to do and be.”

I reflect on how I can be a part of dispelling the world’s darkness each day.

Prayer: God of light and love, show me how I can reflect your presence in our world today. Amen.


Lois Poppe