Friday, July 20, 2018

Rules for Living

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:19-34

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Loving the Unloved

As Jesus was coming near Jericho, there was a blind man sitting by the road, begging. When he heard the crowd passing by, he asked, "What is this?"

"Jesus of Nazereth is passing by," they told him.

He cried out, "Jesus!  Son of David!  Have mercy on me!"

The people in front scolded him and told him to be quiet.  But he shouted even more loudly, "Son of David!  Have mercy on me."

So Jesus stopped and ordered the blind man to be brought to him,  When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?"

"Sir," he answered, "I want to see again."

Jesus said to him, "Then see. Your faith has made you well." Luke 18: 35-42       
Just as with the blind beggar, Jesus reached out again and again to the helpless, the poor, the sick and the outcasts. When Jesus saw that Zacchaeus, the hated tax collector, had climbed  a sycamore tree just to catch a glimpse of him, Jesus immediately urged Zacchaeus to hurry down because he wanted to stay at his house. 

When Jesus' disciples and the bystanders saw Zacchaeus being welcomed and treated so well, they began grumbling and saying, "This man has gone as a guest to the home of a sinner." In the closing verses of Luke, chapter 19, Jesus answered them, saying, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."

In John, chapter 4, Jesus met with a Samaritan woman at a well, and asked her for a drink of water. Now the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other and Jews would not even use the same cups and bowls that Samaritans used.   Jesus then told her that he was the Messiah. And she went back to town and told everyone she met about him.

We see them all around us, on the streets, standing with a sign reading "WILL WORK FOR FOOD", at the Gathering Place.....the poor, the hungry and the outcasts of this wonderful city of Lincoln. It reminds me of a song by Avery and Marsh that we used to sing in the seventies.  It's called, "Love Them Now."  It goes like this:
"There are lots of lonely people, lots of strange, peculiar people, who need all the love--that anyone can give. We've been told: 'Don't speak to strangers and the ones who aren't approved of,' but perhaps we have forgot how Jesus lived.  Love them now. Don't wait till they're gone away.---Love them now, while they're around. Touch them, hold them, laugh and cry with them. Show them, tell them, don't deny--with them. Honor them, give birth and die--with them now.  Love them now--before they're just a guilty mem'ry. Love them now,--Love them now. There are lots and lots of people, who are hard to get along with, who demand and hate--and tear down everyone. But we're not to be their judges, not their wardens, not their masters, we're supposed to be their servants like God's son. Love them now."
Prayer: Dear God, help us to love each other. Help us not to be judgmental, and more forgiving.  Amen

Gerry Draney (reprinted with permission)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Exclusion and Acceptance

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

The sermon this Sunday (July 8) left me with many images, some different than the actual message and then of course the actual message. One of them brought to mind my attendance in a different church. I have had the opportunity to attend other church denominations since many weekends are spent out of town. Now this particular church left me with a sad prayerful feeling. Upon arrival at this church were several greeters making their presence known by stepping up and greeting all those attending. They were outside and inside, now I am not talking about one or two. I am talking ten or twenty. The entrance is is designed more like a theater entrance. As you enter what would be the sanctuary there are ropes closing off the back rows of seating and ushers guiding you to the next available front row. Once the service started the bright pink lights of the stage (instead of an altar) and the white lights flashing are joined with the sounds of a band and four singers. The big screens are filled with pictures and words to the song. After a few songs a gentleman is lead up front by two other men. He apparently is the pastor. He greets everyone explaining that the way they put their arms in the air and other actions are their way of recognizing the Holy Spirit. That all are welcome here, but enters into that if you come from another denomination or have never accepted the Holy Spirit then you are now in the right place. Unfortunately he proceeds to declare that other denominations are not connecting to the Living God. There was scripture reading and interpretation of those readings. At the end of Sermon the Pastor is led out by the same two men and more singing ends the service. The same greeters are there to thank you for attending. 

I felt like I had attended a concert or motivational speaking engagement. It was not the church for me.  Now I am glad that those attending are following Jesus.  But I pray for their exclusion to other denominations. I just read a posting on Facebook where they were debating the exclusion of non-Catholics taking communion. 

I am always thankful to be attending my church that I feel renewed for the week. That I feel all are welcome and accepted at our church. I pray that we greet all those new and faithful members in the way Jesus would. 

Prayer: In the name of Jesus I pray that we guide more to follow in the path to your kingdom.  I pray that exclusion of others is eliminated and we accept others with your open arms.  I thank you Father for guiding me to a church that gives me the renewal of my spirit and strength to live my life on your chosen path.  Help me to welcome and invite others to your loving arms Amen.

Lori Hood

Monday, July 16, 2018

Be Steadfast in the Lord

Do your best to win full approval in God's sight, as a worker who is not ashamed of his work, one who correctly teaches the message of God's truth. II Timothy 2:15. 

Do your best to come to me soon.  Demas fell in love with this present world and has deserted me, going off to Thessalonica. II Timothy 4:9-11. 

When I was a little girl, my dad wrote this first scripture in my autograph book.  He wanted me to know how important it was to always do your best; and he wanted me to know, also, that my work was a reflection of God's work.

In Paul's second letter to Timothy, he talks about steadfastness and loyalty.  He tells Timothy to do his best and not be ashamed of his work. Paul also says, in effect, come help me!  Demas has fallen in love with this present world, and has deserted me. 

This struck a chord with me.  I have lost count of the people I have known through the years who joined the church, gotten involved with the church, and suddenly, inexplicably, quit coming and just dropped out!  It leaves one wondering. "What happened?"  Did they feel they had to give up their church and their religion because they had taken on too much?  Or do we push people to get involved before they are ready?  I don't know the answers to these questions. But I do know, being involved in my church means everything to me.  

I think the old hymn fits what I am talking about:

"I love thy church, Oh, God,
The House of Thine abode”

Gerry Draney (reprinted from August 2012)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Faith and Freedom

In whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. Ephesians 3:12

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

My September 11 experience re-connected me with the important values in my life. My husband and I went to New York City to serve as Disaster Childcare volunteers following September 11, 2001. 

Arriving at Kennedy Airport, we noted U.S. flags everywhere. Pier 94, a warehouse where we did childcare, had U.S. flags hanging across the wide expanse. All workers had one purpose, assisting the survivors of the World Trade Center. 

Parents brought their children for us to care for while they dealt with the maze of agencies documenting their loss. The dividers were covered with pictures and letters from children all over the U.S.

As physically and emotionally draining as this experience was for those who lost so much, it was also uplifting. A special bond united us all, with a common purpose. Even in the aftermath of this tragic event, I felt a sense of hope for the future of the survivors and our country.

Most importantly, my experience in New York affirms for me the importance of faith and freedom. Faith – for me, faith is essential to having hope for our future.  The Rev. Mark J. Stewart, affirms, “There was a resiliency in the American spirit to see this tragic moment through. A new spiritual awakening, sense of being and purpose, and dedication to principles of freedom and life emerged from the carnage.  Out of the shadow of death, there is a new morn.”

Freedom – September 11, 2001, affirmed, for me, how fragile and how vital freedom is to our democracy. So what does September 11 have to do with voting and freedom? I loved seeing the flags flying everywhere.  I loved the enthusiastic singing of the National Anthem. However, I don’t think waving flags and other symbols of patriotism are enough. For our families today and our children and grandchildren tomorrow, we must find time and energy to insure our country’s freedom. Registering to vote, becoming an informed voter, and working to insure justice for all citizens in our country and around the world is essential to our democracy.

Many citizens do not vote. We can encourage our friends and neighbors to vote. For our democracy to continue as a vital force, we must do this.  As Erica Snyder, a student, stated, “I learned that to be great in a community, you don’t need to be famous, you don’t need to be wealthy.  You simply need to become a reliable source of good.”
Prayer: God, we need your encouragement to insure freedom and justice for all citizens in our country and around the world. Lead and guide us. Amen.

Lois Poppe

Thursday, July 12, 2018


...Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them....Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.   Matthew 6:25-34

I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon....    Hosea 14:5

His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs; his lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh.   Song of Solomon 5:13

My gardening efforts are more as an editor than as a creator; or perhaps I could claim that my gardening artistry is more as a sculptor than a painter.  Besides watering a few pots of herbs and flowers, my primary outdoor pursuits are weeding, mowing, and trimming.  

There is a wonderful John Singer Sargent painting of two girls in white dresses lighting paper lanterns among luxuriant blossoms, called "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose". It has always reminded me of summer gardens at dusk; even more so because I spent many a summer twilight watching my two daughters chasing fireflies. The lilies in the painting are white and pink, and very trumpet-like. They seem to gather around the girls, focused on the lanterns. They echo the ruffles on the girls' white dresses. I have never seen lilies blooming like that; they show up in beautiful florist shop bouquets, but they are far more exotic than the day-lilies that show up in gardens I have tended.

The lily referred to in Biblical writings could have been any variety of flowering plants similar to what we know as lilies, including tulips and irises. It was probably any brilliantly colored, somewhat cup-shaped blossom that would have been noticeably elegant in order to be compared to Solomon's robes. It was also one of the symbols for Christ.  

Myrrh is an aromatic oil from a resin that does not come from lily pollen, but the reference in Song of Solomon refers to the sweetness of the lily-like lips of the beloved. Myrrh was a prized, so it can be assumed that the lily too was a symbol for something very desirable.

The rains of late June coaxed all sorts of jungle-like greenery to take over half of my back yard. By the time I was able to get to it, it looked like a tangle of vines from Sleeping Beauty's castle, or some malevolent botanical species from Harry Potter stories.  

When I cleared a section of the garden of these epic monsters, I was rewarded with a lovely area full of day-lilies, with strong stalks and bursting buds. Two of them broke heroically into bloom later in the day, shaking out layers of bright orange ruffles that were easily visible from inside the house. They gave me the courage to keep attacking the suffocating overgrowth, and for the moment I have restored some measure of peace to the garden.  

Anyone with an appreciation for nature's glories is moved by the splendid variety of blooming things. We should look at ourselves with the same wonder, appreciating the miracles that make us what we are.  

I tend to be overloaded with clutter and the noise of the world. I try to tend the garden of my life so I can breathe and reveal what God is making of me. It requires powerful resistance in this world to simply be the beautiful creatures we are. It seems that anxiety is always making a fresh attack on us. I try to keep those triumphant lilies in my mind as I fight what I hope is the good fight.  

As usual, when a symbol or metaphor takes root in my consciousness, I become aware of other references from day to day. I have recently been re-reading a Harry Potter book, and his dead mother Lily is always revered in Harry's and other characters' memories. Her sister Petunia, who was a vain and punitive character, is aptly named as the more common, less revered flower.   

Recently I worked with a voice student in some musical theatre workshops. She was trying to prepare a good cut for an audition piece, and she needed a lot of assistance from the workshop presenters. I accompanied her on the piano as they worked with her, and we talked afterwards about her music. She was so grateful, and asked if she could hug me. It was so touching - not just to receive that sincere appreciation, but to watch her blossom as we all worked with her.  I was tickled that her name was Lillian. 

My grown daughter has a close friend she met in grade school named Lily. I saw her recently, and was struck again by her radiant smile and energy. I am aware of powerful community activities she is involved in. She has come through some immense personal challenges in her life, to be a person who guides and leads others with respect and a nurturing, positive attitude.  

Prayer: Wondrous Gardener, your lily is a beautiful reminder of your stunning creation and your ardent care for all of it; for all of us. Help me to revere your work, which is creating your world day after day. Help me to accept the care and nourishment that will make me continue to grow. When there is anxiety or other antagonists threatening the flourishing of your work, help me to prune those things from my life and my world. Thank you for the lily, and for the eyes to appreciate its infinite beauty. Amen.

Mollie Manner

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Father Revealed in the Son

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:25-29

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! Psalm 8:6-9 

I was raised with all types of animals in my childhood. Horses, pigs, cows, chickens (Indian, Silkie, Polish, etc). We sold green and pink eggs. We raised fryers and so we cleaned many a chicken coop and chickens. We had lambs, rabbits, peacocks, etc. We always had our dogs and cats. It built a love and companionship of animals. The bond between man and animals is the learning process of taking care of, loving, and, unfortunately, the grieving of the loss. 

My nephew and his family just lost their faithful companion Rebel. He was a rough collie. My nephew got him when he was still a bachelor and now he is married with three kids. When their first son was born Rebel took upon himself to guard the baby. He loved to sleep under the crib, or go and nudge mom or dad when baby needed them. He had an instinct of how to deal with children, he was a calm, forgiving dog when the little ones may have pulled a little too hard on his hair or when they tried to ride him. He would run circles around with their kids almost everyday.  

I always think of the Paul Harvey [essay], So God made a Dog

“And on the ninth day, God looked down on his children and said they need a companion. So God made a dog. ....”

Prayer: Thank you Father for the wonderful array of animals you have blessed us with, your creative hands in making animals with breathtaking colors, with all the different characteristics that amaze us. Each is created with uniqueness and purpose. Thank you Father for our many blessings. Amen

Lori Hood

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Workers Are Few

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:35-38

Friday, July 6, 2018

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

God's Creation

God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

We received this photo from our grandson after his youngest boy was born this June. What an awesome God we have. My husband and I are amazed each time a new child is born into our family. The imagination God must have to give each of them so many specific talents is amazing. And we get to see those talents blossom as they grow.

Of course, this peaceful picture doesn’t represent the rest of the day. We also have a granddaughter with eleven-month-old twins and see how busy those parents are each day. We know this mother and father need to be attentive twenty-four hours a day. It is good to be the great grandparent because we can see so much of the joy children give us without having the daily duties.

Prayer: Thank you God for creating the human beings in your image and breathing life into us. We see the love of this little boy for his new brother and understand God’s love for us through his continuing creation. Thank you Lord for loaning us these precious children to love for our time on earth. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

What Does the Bible Say About Refugees?

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)

“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name. (1 Kings 8:41-44)

No stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler (Job, discussing his devotion to God) (Job 31:32)

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

He asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:29-37)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Let Us Learn from Our Children

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said:  "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:1-4 

There are some frightening things happening with immigrant children these days in our country and they are on my mind almost constantly. I am praying for their safety and well being and that they be reunited with their parents.   They are innocent children, children of parents who want to give them a better life and take them away from war, persecution, poverty, starvation, even death. Children depend on adults to take care of them and they need to remain bonded with their parents. 

Children are often on my mind. I adore children and young people. My career as a teacher brought me such joy and fulfillment. And my own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, other people's grandchildren, children in church or at the grocery store, children everywhere all are gifts of joy to me. And they are undoubtedly tools of learning for me. They teach me to be better. 

Children are full of joy and laughter, spontaneous. I certainly could use more of all of those most days. Children are happy, they strive to have fun. They are resilient; they emote when something happens that does not feel good, and then get over it, move on down the road. My Dad used to encourage his children and grandchildren to "holler their head off" and then be done. They are energetic and active. They are eager to learn and try and grasp new things.  They are adventurous. They are wise. My granddaughter, at 3, watched me try to shape too dry cookie dough over and over, and responded.  "Grams, this isn't working. Can we try something different?" And we moistened the dough with a little milk, and it worked! A grandchild of my sisters always assertively says, "I think, no thanks!" when he knows he does not want what a parent is offering (maybe a nap, more veggies, to come inside). Children are honest and assertive. They say what they mean.

And they are not at the top of the pecking order, they are instead humble.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, please help me to be more child-like, more humble, honest, joyful, playful, resilient.  We ask you to guide us to take care of and protect all children, as they are closest to you in nature.  May we love and nurture them just as you do all of your children.  Thank you for the gift of children.  Amen.

Connie Barry

Monday, July 2, 2018

Jesus is Tested in the Wilderness: Matthew 4

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Matthew 4:1-11

Friday, June 29, 2018


In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. Genesis 1

I have loved to take pictures from a very young age.  Years ago while I was in high school, I was on the yearbook committee. In my second year our sponsor asked if I would be interested in taking pictures for the yearbook. I loved taking pictures but had never used a professional camera. She gave me the school’s square box camera, I don’t remember the brand but it was not digital!  Every shot counted as there was no preview, no second chances, and film was expensive so there was not taking multiple shots. The film had to be loaded through spools and loaded correctly or you could ruin the film. Taking pictures was interesting, you looked down the top of the camera, no automatic focus, no automatic shutter speeds. To help me the school sent me to Hastings College for two weeks in the summer. There I learned how to take pictures, develop film and choose your shot. I spent the remainder of my high school years attending all the activities, sport events, plays, etc as there was only one photographer and one camera. All my pictures were in black and white. The picture had to tell a story without the beauty of yellow, green, blue...I love the contrast in black and white pictures, but it made me notice the brilliant array of colors. The distinctive shapes of each leaf, rock and creation. 

God's creation is so amazing, breathtaking and it is impossible to capture the complete picture as only God can do. I think that’s why I love taking pictures to share the view I see through God’s work.  

Prayer: Thank you Father for the breathtaking beauty on this earth. Only you can create such divine beauty. Thank you for the colors, shapes, aroma, and feel of all the earth and seas. Amen

Lori Hood

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Turn my Heart toward Your Statutes

Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
    that I may follow it to the end.

Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
    and obey it with all my heart.

Direct me in the path of your commands,
    for there I find delight.

Turn my heart toward your statutes
    and not toward selfish gain.

Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
    preserve my life according to your word.

Fulfill your promise to your servant,
    so that you may be feared.

Take away the disgrace I dread,
    for your laws are good.

How I long for your precepts!
    In your righteousness preserve my life.

                                       Psalm 119: 33-40

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Road Map to Happiness

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29: 11-13

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Matthew 16: 24-26

Ever notice how many books have been written about Happiness?  Just in my Nook library I have two – The Happiness Project and Delivering Happiness.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story of the development of the online business Zappos in Delivering Happiness.  At the close of the book, the author, Tony Hsieh, writes “I learned that one of the consistent findings from the research was that people are very bad at predicting what will actually bring them sustained happiness.  Most people go through their lives thinking ‘When I get ___, I will be happy, or When I achieve ____, I will be happy.’…but the happiness they thought they would achieve fades fairly quickly.”  He then writes about three types of happiness – Pleasure, Passion, and Higher Purpose.  Research has shown that of the three types of happiness, the longest lasting is Higher Purpose.  He defines this as “…about being part of something bigger than yourself that has meaning to you” and says, “Many people go through life chasing after the pleasure type of happiness, thinking that once they are able to sustain that, then they will worry about the passion, and if they get around to it, look for their higher purpose.”

Jesus wrote this story a long time ago – “…whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Isn’t it wonderful that in Christianity, we have the opportunity, indeed the command, to build our lives on the foundation that ultimately leads to the longest lasting happiness?  This has been God’s hope and plan throughout the Bible.  This prosperity is not to be confused with pleasure in every moment, not even happiness in every moment, but the kind of happiness that lasts through time.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, You wrote the book so long ago and we, as humans, keep trying to improve upon it.  Thank you for providing not only the road map to happiness, through devotion to you, but the Holy Spirit to help me stick to the road.  Forgive me for the times I try to develop my own road to happiness and thank you for welcoming me back to Your road when I realize how futile mine is.  Most of all, thank you for the lasting happiness that comes from following You.  Amen

Lori Snyder-Sloan (reprinted with permission from her devotional book, Faithfully Devoted to God)