Friday, September 21, 2018

Your Word is a Lamp for my Feet


Your word is a lamp for my feet,

    a light on my path.

I have taken an oath and confirmed it,

    that I will follow your righteous laws.

I have suffered much;

    preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.

Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,

    and teach me your laws.

Though I constantly take my life in my hands,

    I will not forget your law.

The wicked have set a snare for me,

    but I have not strayed from your precepts.

Your statutes are my heritage forever;

    they are the joy of my heart.

My heart is set on keeping your decrees

    to the very end. Psalm 119: 105-112


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Strawberry Tears


Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22). {God is glad to carry your burdens and give you the daily strength you need.}

Sometimes I find all I am hearing is bad news, not just from the TV, paper, Facebook, etc; but a call that a friend has cancer and not expected to live but a few months, another whose kidneys are failing or a friend who has lost their job. Today was one of those days I had taken my dog to be groomed and on the way home, I saw a funeral procession and a vehicle accident.  I went home telling myself to be thankful for all I have but the sadness was within me and I felt for those I couldn't help.  So I do what I do: chores to get my mind on something else. I cleaned the oven (darn salesman didn't tell us it wasn't self cleaning), I swept the driveway, vacuumed, did a few loads of laundry, and then decided the yard might be dry enough to mow. I mowed and then trimmed the bushes and pulled the weeds. Then I sat down on the front step for a break, and there in front of me in the front yard, was the tiniest but yet it was there: little wild strawberries. It may seem silly, but it cheered me up. It was the little plant growing as if from nowhere. It brought happy memories of times picking strawberries with my Dad. It also made me cry, I am but the little strawberry growing amongst the tall grasses, moss, and mushrooms growing after the rain. It made me stop and really thank God for all I do have, turn over to Him all that I have no control of and release my burdens and those of others to Him who created the tiny wild strawberries with their miniature details. He who has a plan and is the creator of all.

Prayer: Thank you Father for reminding me that You are the Creator of the Universe. Thank you for taking my burdens, and helping me find the peace that only You can provide. Amen

Lori Hood


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Jesus Comes to Seek Us

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner." But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the LORD, "Look, LORD! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." Luke 19:1-10
I am always amazed at the power of the gospel with its impact on me as if it was a fresh word today.  This scripture is no different.  I heard the story of Zacchaeus as a boy and sang the song of Zacchaeus “..a wee little man was he.”   Now as I read it I am drawn by another inspirational nudge of God’s Spirit.
In Luke 19:1-10, I am moved by the “sight” words – how Zacchaeus was seeking to “see”  who Jesus was.  But due to his short stature, Zacchaeus could not see that Jesus was coming through town because of the crowd that gathered in front of him.  Besides, Zacchaeus was not a very popular man – he was rich because of defrauding his town folk of money through collecting taxes.  But, Zacchaeus was going to see Jesus and so he climbs a sycamore tree to get perspective.
Now, Jesus comes along and “sees” Zacchaeus up in the tree.  Jesus tells Zacchaeus to climb down and receive him as his guest.  This thrills Zacchaeus, but the town folk “see” what is happening and grumble for Jesus is now being hosted by a notorious fraud and cheat.
But notice how the miracle happens.  Zacchaeus receives Jesus into his home and the impact is instantaneous.  Note the verbs that Luke uses – all present tense – suggesting an action is now taking place – an action of change.  Zacchaeus will make restitution fully and more so 4 or more times than what he took.  It is because of the power of the guest that Zacchaeus has received not only into his home, but into his life.
My encouragement is to take notice of Jesus.  See Him approaching your life and my life as Zacchaeus notices.  We may be hiding up a tree or in some corner someplace, but Jesus sees us and invites Himself into our home – our life and must take up residence with us.  God’s grace has found you and me and it’s impact is instantaneous.  Change will happen.  For when it does, Jesus will affirm you and me with the same grace that greets Zacchaeus:  Today, salvation has come to this house – your house and my house – your life and my life.  Thanks be to God!
Rev. Dr. John J. Duling

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Make Me an Instrument of thy Peace

Flee the evil desires of your youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call in the Lord out of a pure heart.  Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 2 Timothy 2:22-24.

Our nation is divided worse than I can ever remember. There is little or no peaceful and respectful listening going on between groups and individuals with opposing views. In its place are frightening displays of mean and hurtful rhetoric, petty behaviors, and even acts of violence. Hate is powerful, but I know love, especially that which springs from God's love, is more powerful.  True love for one's fellow man, true belief that we are all created equal and are deserving of respect, dignity, and kindness is the only path to a peaceful world.  We are each directed by Paul, in this scripture, to do our part.

This past weekend the news was filled with examples of that kind of love and peace both in Senator John McCain's funeral coverage and in the sharing of Mollie Tibbett's father's plea for a stop to associating his daughter's death with racist thoughts and hatred. Both Senator McCain and young Mollie strove to live lives of love and peace toward others. These events have renewed my hope for our nation and for our world. They also have renewed my commitment to do my part, in every way, every day, to bring peace and love to others.  

I know that goal will not always be easy, and even in my personal life, may involve swallowing my pride and certainly putting my ego on hold for the greater good of peace and harmony. I will not always succeed, but I have a revived and renewed commitment to this as my mantra. It brings to mind a Christian mantra that was very widespread ten to fifteen years ago. "What would Jesus do?"

My 97 year old Mother and I have both chosen the Prayer of St. Francis as a funeral hymn. This has been a favorite prayer and song of Catholics and other Faith denominations since its original publication in 1912. There is no evidence in St. Francis of Assisi's writings of him penning this, however. But it is a powerful reminder of God's direction for us to bring His love and peace to others.

Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy. 

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we are born to Eternal life.

Connie Barry

Monday, September 17, 2018

Entrust Loved Ones to God


The Lord replied: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus: 33:14

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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!  Amen. Ephesians 3:20

Our son has been waiting on a new job opportunity for two months.  Many hoops to go through and many delays.  Added to this is his decision to give notice and quit his then-current job without having the new one in place.  A life lesson for sure. During this time we have been praying for the right doors to open and his path to be made clear.  This week my Jesus Calling devotion for the day focused on the above scriptures and the word were so timely.

“When you release loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand. As you entrust others into My care, I am free to shower blessings on them. My presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest. This same Presence stays with you, as you relax and place your trust in Me. Watch and see what I will do.”

I should note this page was dog-eared as a favorite, so it has applied in years past.  I started jotting a note with year, so I remember what was occurring when Jesus so lovingly placed this devotion in front of me again.

This week our son officially has the new job. He looks forward to this new adventure and we are thankful the Lord is with him every step of the way.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for being in control and answering prayer in your time and in your way. Amen.

Cathy Schapmann

Friday, September 14, 2018

Reflect God's Love


“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the Day of Judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.” 1 John 4: 17 

Do you sometimes feel guilty because you don’t take time to share God’s love as often as you would like? I certainly do.

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I met someone who took an eight-week class with me. We visited briefly and continued our shopping. A few aisles later, I met a person who regularly exercised at Snap Fitness with me. I commented that I had not seen him lately.  He shared that he had some heart issues. I listened to him, expressed concern, and let him know that I hoped to see him back at Snap Fitness soon.  Before leaving the grocery store, I greeted a couple, members at Eastridge Presbyterian Church.  Each of these brief conversations brightened my day and hopefully theirs. A friendly greeting to the grocery store “checker” may be appreciated also.  Little things mean a lot!

A quote in the July, 2018 Guideposts Magazine suggests, “If God is love, the only way we can worship God is by loving others.”  John Shelby Spong from his book “Unbelievable”.

As the school year begins, we are encouraged to take a student’s name (or two) from the student board in the Welcome Center. We are asked to pray for them regularly. It is perhaps a small thing, yet important.

The Stephen Ministry bulletin board near M12 at Eastridge Presbyterian states, “Called by God to share His gift of love for others.”  We can all provide emotional and spiritual support to those we meet each day.

Eleanor Brownn in her book, “The Other Serenity Prayer” states, “God, grant me the serenity to stop beating myself up for not doing things perfectly, the courage to forgive myself because I’m working on doing better, and the wisdom to know that you already love me just the way I am.”
                       
Prayer: Dear God, help me to choose to reflect your love every day.  Guide me in finding time for what is truly important. Amen.

Lois Poppe

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Raise a Child


"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 

Lies, dishonesty, untruths: daily we hear of sports figures, political leaders, school teachers and principals and court cases with questions of truth and honesty. 

How do we teach children and youth the importance of honesty?  Where do we begin?  Do we start by welcoming children’s expressing their own thoughts and feelings?

When we catch a child in an untruth, do we listen to their story?  Do we try to understand what fears led the child to believe that he could not tell the truth? Do we give firm, fair consequences and limits so the child feels secure in knowing what he can count on?  Do we dialogue with the child in simple ways to help him understand the importance of honesty in trusting and relationships?

Do we model honesty in our words and behavior?  Do we admit that we are not perfect and admit our mistakes?  Our actions certainly do speak louder than our words.  The “Do as I say but not as I do” philosophy does not usually work. (Some of these ideas are gleaned from writings of Richard Bromfield, a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and author of “How to Unspoil Your Child Fast.”)

The most successful learning takes place when a child sees a positive example of what is being taught.  That is the method Jesus used with his disciples.  They probably learned more by watching Him, than by listening to Him.  He taught them to serve one another in humility and love.  He even assumed the role of a servant and washed their dirty feet.

A plaque poem, given to me long ago by one of my daughters, expresses this thought well. 

I Caught Your Faith
I saw you stand bravely for years
But saw no trace of senseless fears.
I saw you stand calmly through stress
But caught no glimpse of bitterness.
I saw you stand prayerful in grief
But saw no trace of unbelief.
Though you spoke well of Jesus Christ.
I caught your faith watching your life.  Anonymous

Prayer: God, you sent your Son, Jesus, to show us your ways.  Help us to follow the example shown to us.  Amen.

Lois Poppe (reprinted from 2011)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Diaspora Politics and Risky Hospitality (Sermon by Rev. Dr. Melodie Jones Pointon August 26)


Our text for this morning is likely one you’ve

never heard a sermon preached about…or a Bible

study focus on…in fact, while it’s one that I

certainly must’ve read before, it never stuck out to

me before. After all, why would it, sandwiched

between the text where the great Apostle Paul and

his faithful sidekick Silas display their faith

by…singing hymns in prison….

(You remember this story, about how Paul

and Silas are locked up in prison after preaching

the gospel at the synagogue. They are accused of

causing trouble – political unrest – and so are

imprisoned. While the are in prison, there is an

earthquake, and the doors of prison swing open.

All the prisoners leave, something the guards will

certainly pay for. All the prisoners except Paul

and Silas. They are the only prisoners to stay,

singing Psalms and praising God for what has

happened. The guards are so stunned that they

become followers of the way.)

…and the story of Paul in Athens, preaching at

the Areopagus. (Again, if you’ll remember, while

Paul is in Athens, he preaches in the synagogue, to

Jews and Gentiles, but he also widens his audience

by going to the marketplace. Athens is a place of

philosophy and learning, and Paul is soon taken to

a large rock by the Acropolis called the Areopagus

(or Mars Hill), where his message is engaging to

those learned philosophers in Athens. In fact, it

stands out today as the “sermon to the unknown

God,” where Paul is forced to leave the “proof” of

scripture behind as a way of explaining the Gospel.

Instead, he must translate the importance of the

Gospel using the Greek “unknown God” to explain

who Jesus is.)

So, you see, this story has some pretty tough

competition for our attention! And yet, when I

was reading it, I was intrigued. And after

spending the week studying and exploring it, I’ve

decided it may be my choice for our now

completed summer series, “I can’t believe that’s in

the Bible!” Or, rather, maybe it’s part of a new

series, “I didn’t know that’s in the Bible!”

In fact, my very (very) informal poll this week

revealed that no one I polled knew that Jason was

in the Bible. And, after learning that fact, three out

of four made jokes about horror movies. And one

Gen-Xer made a reference to a musician I’ve never

heard of.

Perhaps a better title for this sermon than the

thesis title you’ve got is a tale of two cities. That’s

really what this is…Luke here is telling how the

Gospel was received in the two cities of

Thessalonica and Beroea. A super short summary

is that it didn’t go well in Thessalonica, and it went

extremely well in Beroea. On the surface it’s a

“good day at work vs. bad day at work” kind of

story.

In both cities, Paul uses the same preaching

methods that the disciples have used to spread the

Gospel – pretty successfully, I might add!

Remember, this is the way the early church spread

so quickly…in Acts 2 we’re told that thousands

were being added to the church daily. The

message was new, the time was right, the Holy

Spirit powerful, and the Gospel spread. But here,

the great missionary, the Apostle Paul, struggles

(that’s right) in Thessalonica. Or at least that’s

what Luke wants us to believe.

Willie James Jennings, the late leading African

American theologian makes the case that Luke tips

his hand here, shows his prejudice. In

Thessalonica, the Jews become jealous and easily

find thugs in the marketplace. They form a mob

and attack a house church, in Jason’s home,

searching for Paul and Silas. “When they didn’t

find them (they’re not there!) they dragged Jason

and some believers before city officials. They

were shouting…. This provoked the crowd and

the city officials even more.” Thessalonica, it

seems, according to Luke, was a tough town.

But Beroea! Oh, things were much easier for

Paul and Silas to Beroea! Luke tells us that the

“Beroean Jews were more honorable…evident in

the great eagerness with which they accepted the

word and examined the scriptures each day.”

Fortunately, Luke ties it all together by

pointing out that in both places, men and women

mostly Greek God worshippers and prominent

women.

It’s an odd accounting here…this tale of two

cities.

I understand here, that when we step back, we

can see the importance of the story overall. Here

is where the Book of Acts takes a swing from

Paul’s missionary activity with the Jews to his

quest to win the gentiles. It’s completely

understandable that he would leave the

synagogues and go instead to the Areopagus!

But a little bit of digging here, and we can also

understand just why it is that Paul finds it

necessary to write not one, but two letters, to the

church in Thessalonica. In fact, as scholar

Matthew Skinner aruges, these are not only the

earliest letters of Paul we have, they are the most

pastoral. Paul really cares about this church and

these people in Thessalonica. A fun little exercise

this week or this afternoon would be to go back

through Thessalonians and see what evidence or

trace you can find that Paul is writing to a church

whose people are struggling, who are dealing with

difficult real life issues, and yet whose faith is

commendable and strong.

And it all began with rioting by ruffians.

Unfortunately, an all too familiar scene to us.

I have these images, in my mind. I only have

to go back one hundred years to name

unspeakable pain and struggle, all summed up by

simple words. World War II, the Holocaust,

Hiroshima; Korea and Viet Nam; apartheid, South

Africa, We are the World; Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran,

9-11; Lybia, Egypt, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria;

Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, the Freedom

Rides, and Charlottesville.

Willie James Jennings wants to defend the

rioters a little bit here, offer a little bit of humanity

and understanding. It’s important for us to

remember who the Jews are, as God’s people – to

remember their history as a people who are

displaced, in diaspora, spread all over the world.

Paul and Silas go to the safest place for them, the

one place where they can be unapologetically

Jewish, to the synagogue, and tries to replace their

God, YHWH, with a new God, Jesus. Jennings says

this, “We understand that this opposition does not

spring from pure evil or hatred of God, but for

Diaspora people it is rooted in perceived

theological insult, disrespect, and fear.”1 Big idea

– new God competes with old God. For three

weeks, Paul and Silas preach in the

synagogue…three weeks before they are run out

of town.

It leads me to wonder if some of their success in

Beroea is because of their struggles in

Thessalonica. If they learned something about

presenting the Gospel to a people whose identity

is so embedded in who they are as God’s people

that they can’t imagine a new God. Maybe it really

is easier to preach to people who’ve never heard

1 Jennings, 170.

the Gospel before than to people who are

suffering, and whose only hope comes from their

faith.

Duke professor Will Willimon, in his

commentary of Acts brings us hope by pointing

out, “Here is a new possibility of faithful life in

Diaspora where the risk of loss can be

overwhelming. This new possibility is a form of

discipleship that welcomes the reality of a new

word from God and examines the Scripture as

inseparable actions of faithfulness to the God of

Israel.”

I have to tell you, one of the major topics of

conversation in the office has been the work of

Sharon and Lynn Kandel, missionaries to South

Sudan, and the horn of Africa. She brought to us, I

think, a message about the suffering of South

Sudan, and many other places in the world. She

brought to us the reality of new governments

placed over tribal lines. She brought with her a

new term I hadn’t heard before - ….Dependence

Syndrome. Displaced persons, refugees, those

living in places other than their homes, in camps

mostly, suffer from post traumatic stress

syndrome, move to places where basic food,

shelter, and safety is provided for them, and are

left with a sense of childlike dependence on those

who provide it. What can we do? We asked?

Because we, as a church, want to be a part of the

world neighborhood. We want to love our

neighbors as ourselves. Yes, of course, those next

door. But also those in the next state, country, and

continent.

And I think, in this text, there’s an intriguing

message for us, one that Sharon Kandel shared

with us, and I think can apply to every headline in

our newspapers today, from the front page to the

back page, the top of the screen to the bottom.

I think we need to be trained to listen instead

of speak. Whether it’s a story of abuse, or neglect,

or violence, or prejudice, or injustice. What

Sharon really said was that the South Sudan needs

trained trauma counselors. It’s a theme I heard

echoed when our dear Catholic friend, Joe

McKeown, was interviewed on the BBC about the

Papal visit to Ireland in the midst of scandal in the

church. Joe responded by sharing his suffering,

and saying that suffering is suffering. Perhaps it’s

time for us, as members of the Christian church, to

go back to those places of suffering, and sit with

those who suffer.

I have to be completely honest this morning,

and confess that this text really troubled me. For

much of the week I carried it around, praying, and

thinking, what is the message here? What can we

learn from this? How can we apply it to our lives

today? And then it occurred to me…Paul, not only

learned from his experience in Thessalonica…the

people of Thessalonica stuck with him. He

couldn’t let them go. He wrote letters to them.

Lovely, wonderful, inspiring letters, to a people

immersed in Diaspora politics, in the throes of

displacement and all that means.

And I wonder…no, I’m convinced…that we are

called to do the same thing. For the neighbors

who live next door to us, and the neighbors who

live on the other side of the world from us. Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Practice the Lesson


Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it. he will be blessed in what he does. James 1: 22-25

When I was learning to play an instrument, I couldn't just go to class and listen to the teacher. I had to pick up my saxophone if I wanted to be able to make music with the band. When I took Driver’s Ed we learned the material and practiced on the simulator (fortunately), but I had to get behind the wheel of the car in order to drive somewhere. When I was in college learning to be a nurse my instructors taught us in the classroom, practiced with us in the Lab, and then we needed to go to the hospital to practice our skills with real patients if we were to help care for people. In all these things, it was never enough to just read about something. In all three instances I had to get out and do it in order to make it effective.

James tells us that our faith is like this too. We can certainly call ourselves Christians when we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior but in order to truly live the Christian life, in order to get the good out of our “lessons” we’re going to need to take the show on the road.

Prayer: Jesus, sometimes the things you taught us are just so much easier to read about than to do. But you showed us with your life that the work isn’t done with what’s in our head - it’s done with our hands and our mouths and our bodies. We can’t just hear about the Good News. We need to act on it and share it in order for the world to know that you are God and for us to receive the blessing that comes from working for you. Amen

Reprinted with permission from “Faithfully Devoted to God”, a devotional written by Lori Snyder-Sloan and family.

Friday, September 7, 2018

For Parents


Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

This message is so neat and it is still applicable today. First, we, the parents, are to love God with all our heart, soul and strength. God’s Word should be in our heart, not just in our brain (number one is a prerequisite for number two) Second, impress all this on our children. The church and Sunday school cannot take this entire responsibility from us. Third, live each day this way!  Our lives get busier all the time.  Yet, every day we can pray, read the Bible, or hey, read our devotion. Try to spend time with God in praise, not just when we are in need.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we praise you for your everlasting love. Help us to make You a part of everyday experience, personally and for our children. Amen

Mark Sunderman (reprinted from the Eastridge Daily Devotion book, published in 2008)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Expressing Gratitude in All Things


Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV)

I was moved by a story of a lady who felt the urge at a Starbuck’s drive-through to pay for the coffee of a single mom in the car behind her. It was a random act of kindness that had more impact than she would realize. 

The story continues with the mom who received the free coffee. She had recently lost her father who was the family baby sitter. They hired a baby sitter who would watch the kids while mom worked.  But, then the baby sitter got sick and mom had to take a day off work to be with the kids. She got her kids breakfast at a fast food place and she felt a need for coffee for which she got with a lot of guilt (her words underlined). Just then she gets this act of grace and free coffee. She breaks out with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. 

When the mom gets home, she sees her generous lady is a neighbor. Mom writes a note to her neighbor to express how grateful and thankful she is for the free coffee. It’s more than just that free cup of coffee, but an encouragement in what was a day full of set back and disappointment. Mom could express thanksgiving and gratitude in spite of the hardship she was facing. 

A spirit of gratitude is for the blessings God brings us daily in the gifts we see around us; in the surprises that wow us; and in the faith that saves us. May a spirit of gratitude be expressed by each of us when we do a kind deed of grace for another not knowing how it may be multiplied for the other. It will be a praise and gratitude to God and a blessing that will overflow in one’s heart.  Whose to know what the Lord may grace us with at any time and any day?  That is why we are thankful and expressing daily praise to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rev. Dr. John Duling

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Names


He who has an ear, let him listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.  Revelations 2:17

To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.  Isaiah 56:5

The Bible is known for being a record of many names, and for referencing God with many names and titles.  Many people can trace their names to a person from Biblical lore, or to a Biblical origin.

Some of us have been named before our birth, and some of us eventually acquire a nickname which overshadows our given name. How we are known is one of the most important things about us. When people use our names, we feel a deeper connection than simply being referred to as "hey, you", "miss", "ma'am", "sir", "soldier", or a demeaning word meant to belittle us. Our names are how we are acknowledged as equals, as friends, as loved ones. 

Recently I spent time with my brothers, which doesn't happen often because we all live far apart.  For a few days, I was called by my childhood (middle) name again.  It feels more personal than my first name, which was assigned to me to use in school, and stuck for the rest of what feels like my "public" life.  Friends who have spent a lot of time with me would often use both my first and middle names, and that became a more intimate way to be known.  It is nice to be called by a special name or nickname to just a few people; it makes us feel included and special. 

I have learned by experience that when a person stops calling me by name, there is a distance created.  It feels like I am not fully acknowledged, not worthy, not accepted.  I wonder what immigrants in the past felt like when the American officials, ignorant of how to spell foreign names, simply assigned new Americanized versions of people's names to their lives in their new country.  This not only disrupted their family heritage, it negated their worthiness as their true selves. 

For a few years, I was given a named parking space at the university where I work.  It began after I had hip surgery, and then the departments where I work part-time somehow kept the sign up so I could continue to park safely during all weather and late-night rehearsals.  Eventually, the maintenance department told me they would have to take the sign down unless I cleared it with the new human resources director.  It took me some time to actually track down who was perpetually renewing the sign each semester, and I discovered that many people honestly want to make sure I am taken care of.  As it is, I easily let go of the designated space because I can use a handicapped space nearby.  But I enjoyed so much the feeling that someone had set aside a space for me with my name on it.  I enjoy seeing my name on the staff directory inside one of the buildings, and I was so excited, years ago, to walk in on my first day of work to find my nameplate on the office door.  Putting a name on something is one way of telling someone "You belong here".

In the Bible, we read about many people whose given names were replaced by God later in life because they had become new in some way, and closer to God. Just as people close to us might have special names for us to let us know we are loved, God has something special to call us, to let us know we belong to Him.  We should always know that God calls us by a name that supersedes anything else we might be called, and certainly is powerful than any mocking name someone might try to use against us.  God's name always comes down to love and spirit, and, to us, God can be known by any name which honors his loving power.

Prayer: God, whose name is too vast to speak but can only be understood, please give me the name that helps me to know I belong to you.  When I use other people's names, help me to let them know that they are unique and special to me.  Let me always know that there is a name beyond the given name that each person wants to be called, by those who can truly love that person.  Help us all to respect each other's name and protect each other's sense of belonging. Amen.

Mollie Manner

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Finding Calm


Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

He restores my soul. Psalm 23:3

The theme of our work wellness program in August was “calm”. We were given this great adult coloring book and thoughts on how to find calm in our lives. I only completed two days of the challenge—obviously I failed at calm this month! What I discovered is that calm is elusive and is found in little bits of time here and there: restful sleep, listening to the rain, snuggling a baby, prayers at all times of the day/night. Calm works and feels the best when matched with the peace of our Savior. As my bible commentary says “Peace comes when we fix our minds on God and on his stability in our chaotic days. The unchangeable God is in charge of our days. Knowing that for a fact is peace.”

Prayer: Lord of Peace, we long for the calm and rest that only you can give.  Restore our souls. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10). Amen.

Cathy Schapmann

Friday, August 31, 2018

Dare to be Happy


This is the day that the Lord has made;  let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24  (NRSV)

When I was in Virginia visiting my Dad recently, I looked through my Mom's desk-- and to my delight, I discovered that she had saved every single one of the Christmas letters she had written through the years.  As I read through them, I discovered not only a fascinating synopsis of the year's happenings, but also found many touching quotes, poems and sentiments.  Through many of them, her exceptional character shone through...especially in the poem below, quoted in her '92 letter.

Dare to be Happy”, by Helen Lowrie Marshall

Dare to be happy--don't shy away,
Reach out and capture the joy of Today!
Life is for living!  Give it a try;
Open your heart to that sun in the sky.
Dare to be loving, and trusting, and true;
Treasure the hours with those dear to you.
Dare to be kind--it's more fun than you know;
Give joy to others, and watch your own grow.
Dare to admit all your blessings, and then
Every day count them all over again.
Dare to be happy--don't be afraid--
This is the day which the Lord hath made!


This was the way Mom lived her life.  She was often smiling or laughing (and oh, how I loved her laugh!)--even when she was facing challenging times.  And, she always had a friendly or encouraging word for everyone she met.  Through my Mom's example, and this poem, I'm reminded to be thankful for every day that God gives me-- and to make the most of every moment!

Prayer: Creator of this Day, forgive us for those days when we're apathetic and unappreciative of our blessings...especially the blessing of Today, full of opportunities. Please give us the courage we need to seize those opportunities and “dare to be happy”...no matter what challenges we face. And thank you for the dear people you place in our lives to remind us of how to live this way. Amen.

Sharon Irvin

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Earth's Beauty


“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” Psalm 24:1

“All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” John 1:3 

“Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.”  Hebrews 13:15 

Poets, songwriters, and ordinary people appreciate the beauty of God’s world. The familiar hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth” expresses our feelings well.  In 1864, Folliot S. Pierpoint wrote the words to the hymn at age 29. 

Many of us look forward to summer travel where we seek God’s beauty and wonder across the United States and throughout the world.  Viewing God’s world from a fresh perspective can be beneficial and renewing.  My husband and I recently traveled to the Pacific Northwest.  The Portland Rose Gardens and Butchart Gardens visits prompted us to “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10a.   A fellow rose lover enthusiastically urged us to smell a rose that he had just discovered.  At the Sunken Gardens at Butchart Gardens, a “congregation” of viewers stood in awe and wonder.   

Even when we experience a “staycation,” we can become aware of the natural beauty and wildlife in our neighborhood.  I have been surprised at the wildlife present around our new townhouse – a mostly tree-less area.  This spring, I enjoyed watching a baby purple or house finch on our deck.  It’s parent, ready to protect its offspring, hovered nearby.  A robin’s nest and baby robin learning to fly were observed under the deck.  A parent robin loudly screeched to distract us away from its baby.  I also observed a plover teaching its baby survival skills.  These birds have learned how to adapt to a changing world.  Perhaps this can be a lesson for us humans.

If we are open to the wonders of God’s world, we can discover them all around us.  As a pre-school teacher, I gave each child a one-yard piece of string.  Outside, in the grass, each child formed a circle with their string.  Focusing on the space inside the circle, we were surprised to observe what was present – insects, a small pebble or rock, and growing plants.  God provides us with treasures daily.  Do we see them?

Prayer:  God, we thank you for the beauty that surrounds us in your world.  Remind us to be open to all you provide us each day.  Amen.

Lois Poppe (reprinted from 2012)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Smile

"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health.” Proverbs 15:30
“Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!” Psalm 31:16
“Many people say, “Who will show us better times?” Let your face smile on us, LORD.” Psalm 4:6
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
When I was new to the church it was the smiling faces and the greetings that led me to come back again. I remember a couple of different individuals (besides the ministers) that stood out to me. It was during the passing of the peace that I found myself shaking hands with the few individuals around me, when the organist came up beside me and greeted me with a smiling face and open hand. I was in awe that she took the effort to come all the way from up front to greet me. Another was one of the choir members that greeted me with a smiling face, and I have since seen her up front always with a smile on her face which even on my gloomiest days gives me a burst of happiness. It is amazing what a smile will do. I think I have stated before I am not at my most comfortable with one on one conversations and greetings. I would rather be giving a speech to a big group than stumbling through my words with one individual. I have never been comfortable with the passing of peace as a person struggling to be the first to speak. But it is those moments that have meant the most to me in deciding to join Eastridge.

I believe that a smile can change an individual's outlook on the day. I have heard it takes less muscle to smile than to frown. So if you are one of those individuals that have greeted and offered your hand, Thank you; not only from me but from the visitors and the new members. Your smile can be shared with someone who will then share a smile with someone else.  
Lori Hood

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Peacocks


For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  For just as each of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith, if it is serving, then serve, if it is teaching, then teach, if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously, if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.  Romans 12:3

This has always been one of my favorite verses and, over the years at Eastridge I have so enjoyed the Gallup program to live your strength and I think that model is beautifully represented in this verse. While we are encouraged to focus on our strengths and our successes we must also humble ourselves and not think more highly of ourselves. In a generation full of social media and nearly constant self-comparisons to those around us this can be daunting. I recently read an article about letting go of your ego and recognizing your imperfections.  A few of the statements that have really stuck with me are:

1)            God knows that we are imperfect and he wants us to know that he knows. He know that sometimes we are tired and we may not respond to a cry for help in a timely manner. He knows that sometimes we are ANNOYED by another person and we do everything in our power to avoid them. He knows that we spend money on frivolous things when others struggle to put food on the table or a roof over their head. We know that we make bad decisions and God knows too, and we can’t hide from those.

2)            God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (I Peter 5:5).  We must be willing to accept our shortfalls and acknowledge that we are human, remembering again that God loves us in spite of our flaws. While it can be hard to be humble, I try to remember stories of Jesus and his humility. In the gospels of Matthew and Luke we know that Jesus was a healer and he was relied upon by many to take away any variety of infirmity. With these gifts, it was not as though Jesus advertised himself as the top healer for the region. He didn’t follow the “get rich or die trying” compass of our current country and he didn’t run around bragging about his success. 

Those are both points I want to focus on in my life. Recognizing that I’m not perfect and God loves me anyway, and recognizing that I don’t have to be right, and I don’t have to tell people about the good things that I have done, because they can be reflected by my grace.

We all know a peacock – someone who prances about and brags over every success, every achievement, every possession. A person who is always busy telling you all the great things about them and their life. Research tells us that, from a psychological standpoint, people peacock because of a desire to be accepted, or in an effort to feel better about themselves by “one-upping” someone else. God knows that I’m not perfect, and He knows that I can barely stand to be around a peacock. Sometimes I think He puts them in front of me to help teach me patience and to exercise my grace. Other times I think that He uses them to force me to make a decision. As I think about the peacocks in my world and how hard I work to avoid them, I must also remember my own humility and imperfection and find a balance in the life that I live. There will always be peacocks, but I do not have to entertain their self-importance in my life.   

Prayer: Most holy God, please help me in my daily trials, help me to accept your love and guidance. Help us all to remember our imperfections and your love for us in spite of them. Give me patience with the peacocks! Amen
Christi Moock