Monday, March 19, 2018

Keeping it Real

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.  When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Selah Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.  Selah Psalm 32:1-5

The commentary in The CEB Study Bible points out that David’s penitential prayer in Psalm 32 clarifies “that true happiness derives not from being sinless but rather from being forgiven” and “the psalmist’s problems result not from divine wrath but rather from the failure to confess sin, and perhaps from the energy expended in pretending to be perfect.”  What a poignant reminder for us in the age of social media. The pressures created by hyper-competitive work or school environments are daunting, to say the least, and functioning in a culture that celebrates image above substance creates its own set of adversities.  Indeed, it is exhausting—and mentally unhealthy—to maintain a deceitful image of perfection.  As taxing as this deception is online, how much more so is it to struggle in a vain effort to withhold our most intimate failings and wrongdoings from God?


Creator God,

“This morning

and all mornings,

as we face the day

daunted by expectations

others place upon us,

weighed down by burdens,

unsure of outcomes,




remind us that you faced all this and more,

that we might loose

the chains that bind us,

rise above and beyond

the troubles of this world,

and know peace

in your embrace.”*


John Birch, 2016,


Barry and Alinda Stelk

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Bible Says

Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5

Billy Graham did just that! Franklin Graham said at Billy’s funeral this week that his dad always said when he gave a speech or whenever he counseled someone, “This is what the Bible says.” He always humbled himself and gave the Bible’s advice, not his advice. He loved the Lord with all his soul and all his strength. He spoke to millions in his long life and now is at his eternal home in heaven with our God. What a celebration must be happening there!

Franklin Graham and his siblings brought tears to my eyes as they spoke about their father. Many of their stories mirrored my family stories. Billy welcomed home his prodigal daughter. He forgave them when they sinned and loved them as Jesus loves us.

Our problems are simplified when we turn to our Lord. We can forgive others and we are truly able to love when we follow this one verse.  

Prayer: Dear Lord, open our hearts to your love. Thank you for the life of Billy Graham. Let our lives speak out your wisdom. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Call to me and I will answer you and  tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 1:22

When I first heard the story of Joan of Arc in my childhood, I wondered what God's voice must have sounded like to her. It was frightening to think of hearing something that no one else could hear. It was daunting to think that the voice would tell me things that would be hard for me to accept. I wondered why she was chosen for all this.
I have a friend whose daughter was having unusual vision issues when she was little, Because I was familiar with things my own daughter's neurologist examined for, I asked her about what she was seeing while I was visiting her and her mother. She matter-factly described the images of what she saw, and the filters through which she sometimes perceived the world.  There were voices, as well. She seemed unabashedly healthy and comfortable with all this.  Her doctor found nothing wrong with her either.  When I brought this up with other friends, some of them mentioned remembering hearing voices when they were little.  Some of them had known children who could draw auras they saw emitting from people. Like the ability to hear the sleigh bell in the book The Polar Express, this sense disappeared with maturation. 

I don't understand all this, but I know that children are often the ones who see and hear things acutely, and I wonder if it has to do with their openness and being in active learning mode. Selecting and editing that to which they choose to give attention is not yet a habit. 

Listening is a true skill, and we live in an age where communication output is highly encouraged. We are known by the extent of our facebook posts. We have the first President in history who communicates by twitter instead of fireside chats. The tower of babel is an ongoing environment for us. We receive emails daily to which we are expected to respond.  
When I truly listen, I am changed inside. Listening requires focus. It needs space and time. Lately I have preferred to have physical meetings in order to listen to the people closest to me. There is much to hear in the tone of voice, the placement of silence, the look on the face. When I am really listening, I am able to help the other person by relating something interesting about what I have heard, or to ask a question that takes the discussion below the surface. It is not about taking on burdens or jumping to solutions, both of which might stall the process. I am simply learning something. I am offering up the best of what I am and what I have to the effort.
In a recent move, I had to purge a loveseat that had moved with me every place I had lived with my children. It was difficult to let this piece of outmoded furniture go, because so many moments of their growth had happened while we sat, side by side, trying to get over life's hurdles, whether they were toddler tears or emotional adolescent conundrums. That loveseat was a good listener, and a comforting springboard to the next step. Similarly, every car I have driven has become an ally, not only in road trips and adventure, but also in providing that comforting environment for listening when it is hard for the person talking to have forced eye contact. I had a friend who was frustrated that she was too busy to have her normal daily prayer time, and she said she simply told God "Come on in the car, you're gonna have to go with me today".  There is always something fortifying about the idea of having your friends by your side. It is offering support while looking in the same direction.
During the Taize services I used to play and sing for, there was always a central time of meditation, about ten minutes long, during which I would play something to help slow the body into a receptive state, and then sit in silence.  Sometimes I would find that during this time I could have the luxury of a complete thought, and realized how much it was missing from my regimen of interruptions.  At other times, I filled it with unhurried prayer, unlike the frantic tweet-like prayers I often blurt throughout the day. But eventually I simply listened: to God, and in some cases, to the silent prayers of those in the room.  I tried to simply sit with those around me, witnessing their thoughts and inviting God's word to be felt. It was a vital state of being that I hadn't found in a lot of worship experiences.

I am a pianist working with students who are performing songs or musical theatre pieces, I usually try to tell them what I heard and saw from their presentations. In this way, we can work at getting closer to what their intent is.  We work together to make the artistic expression authentic. It helps to make both of us aware of many things, and we both explore and learn together.  

My indelible faith experience from my childhood came when I was 6 or 7, spending a sleepless night because of my active little brain. I was pondering how the world might end, and my fear was eating me up. Finally, I prayed in utter anguish to God about how scared I was. I must have actually listened to God then; I felt a blanket of peace covering me, and I lay back and simply rested in God's cradling for the rest of the night.  

Prayer: Listening God, you hear every word I stumble over and every speech I deliver. Beyond that, you hear my heart beating and my soul searching. Among and above the great sounds and music of your creation, let me  hear your voice for all and your words for me alone. Help my inner ears to listen and hear, to learn and to digest, to understand. Amen.

Mollie Manner

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Feelings of Joy

For the Lord God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. Deuteronomy 16:15b

In the NIV Compact Concordance there are three pages of tiny writing showing the places in the Bible where you find the word JOY. Intending to find a verse to explain the complete JOY I felt this week, I found this Deuteronomy verse listed first. I needed to go no further into the massive list.

A friend was touched by my first book “One Man and One Woman” on which our Hope Renewed group was based. She had not been through a divorce or separation but had to hug her husband after finishing the book in two days. She couldn’t put it down. She is going to take some photographs, so I can do a second publishing with a new cover. Then, as God always does, he sent a hurting friend to her who needed just this book. Her friend’s heart was breaking. The timing was unreal. We both realized God had her read the book quickly, so she could pass it on.

The joy I felt in being able to go through one friend and help another was extreme. It was the work of my hands that was harvested to help another.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for nudging me to journal, reach out to you, and write “One Man and One Woman.” I felt your great love in 2005 and feel it again today. When you show me my work helps another, I can hardly contain my joy; my joy is complete. Please keep giving me guidance as I need you every day. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Monday, March 12, 2018

Story of the birds

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:25

Sitting at the front desk at church as I do, I receive all kinds of visitors. People coming in for church repairs, church members on church-related business, pantry clients, people down on their luck and asking for something "extra", and people who just need to talk to someone.

One day last year during Lent, a woman came in after I had led our Lenten study, which called for a visual aid. I used something I had from home that I had just received as a birthday gift: a wooden tree with colorful wooden birds mounted on string (photo below). It was sitting in my window as I worked for the remainder of the day.

The woman had ostensibly come in to photograph stained glass windows, and was perhaps struggling with some mental health issues. She was persistent to wanting one of my birds. In fact, she came back twice to ask if I was sure that she couldn’t have her own bird. Not wanting to change the look of this gift I had received, I told her, no, the birds weren’t available. I suppose I also wanted her to realize you can’t just ask people for things.

Later, when relating the story to others, I realized that, of course I should have given this woman one of the birds. For one thing, there were more than enough to make the display look appropriate. And did giving away just one bird make a difference to me? No…and that is where I really begin to feel guilt. Even if the display needed that one extra bird to be the display it was meant to be, I maybe should have given it away. Sometimes we don’t fully understand things until later…and sometimes God gives us that extra insight when he wants us to realize where we fall short. Because, of course, we do fall short. All of us do.

About five month later, the woman returned. She explained that she was down on her luck and needed food. I recognized her right away as the “bird woman” and asked if she remembered as well. She did, and seemed pleased to be noticed. It was then that I realized I had transported the birds home all those months ago in my work bag, and that, often, things get left in the bottom of the bag. I told her, “you know, I may have one of those birds in my bag”, and proceeded to find not one, but two of the colorful little birds to give to her. Sometimes, redemption isn’t always redemption. I guess what I mean is: being able to share those two birds with this woman doesn’t mean that I can feel everything “worked out”. In fact, I still should feel guilty for not giving those birds to her in the first place…but sometimes God has a way of showing us how to be more like Him, even when we mess up the first time. And, in this case, someone has two little birds in her pocket.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for second chances. Thank you for showing us when and where we can be obedient to You, even in the small things in life. Amen.

Donna Gustafson


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Disagree Agreeably

If it be possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18

“Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” I Peter 3:8 

Do you feel a need for guidelines on how to disagree agreeably?  At the Joint Ordered Ministry training event for Ruling Elders and Deacons at Eastridge Presbyterian  on November 4, 2012, we received a tiny folder titled “In times of disagreement, we will:”  It was adapted from “Seeking to be Faithful:  Guidelines for Presbyterians in Times of Disagreement,” adopted by the 204th General Assembly (1992) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It is intended as guidelines in church situations.  I find it helpful in all relationships. See guidelines below.
In times of disagreement, we will:

ACT … in a spirit of truth and love;

RESPECT …each other, believing that all desire to be faithful to Jesus Christ;

LEARN…about the various positions on the topic;

RESPOND…after stating what we have heard and asking for any clarifications;

INDICATE…where we agree as well as disagree;

SHARE…our concerns directly with the individuals or group with whom we disagree;

SPEAK… from our personal experiences related to the subject of disagreement;

REFRAIN… from name calling or labeling of others;

FOCUS ON IDEAS… instead of questioning people’s motives, intelligence or integrity;

MAINTAIN COMMUNITY… with each other though our discussion may be tense; and

PRAY… seeking God’s grace to listen attentively, speak clearly, and remain open to the vision God holds for us all.

I find these ideas helpful in dealing with conflict.  As well-intended people we often respond based on our own perceptions.  We fail to take time to respect other viewpoints.  We give unhealthy responses:  “You’re wrong!”  Instead, our goal is to keep our emotions under control and respond with love and respect.  We need to be aware of our non-verbal communication as well.  Appropriate touch and humor can sometimes be a healthy response.

Each week during Lent this year, I plan to focus on two of the eleven thoughts of “In times of disagreement, we will:”  During Holy Week, I plan to conclude with a renewal of these guidelines through prayer.

Prayer: Dear God, it is easy to lash out in frustration and anger when we are confronted by persons who see things from a different perspective than what we do. Help us to follow your ways and listen attentively and respond with respect and love.  Amen.

Lois Poppe

Reprinted from 2013

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Passion with Compassion

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God, in Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” I Peter 3:8

At the Deacon Retreat, Pastor Melodie Jones Pointon asked us to share our passion related to our serving as deacons. I feel passion has many meanings and definitions. As deacons, the meaning that fit for me: to equip, encourage, and energize. We can share our vision for our role as individuals and as a church. We can have passion – a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for doing our work. At the same time, we can be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave us.

Thinking of Jesus and Passion Week, Jesus showed passion as he suffered, died and rose again so that we might receive eternal life if we repent and trust in him. How grateful I am for this magnificent gift.

Each of us can bring passion with compassion to our daily interactions with others. My mother, into her 90s, sent cards of encouragement and called persons on the phone to listen to their needs. I learned of a man, 99, who bakes pies and cakes to give away.

What talents and gifts can you share with passion and compassion? Perhaps you could prepare a meal and deliver to the home of a new parent who doesn’t have family nearby to help out. There are many needs that we can provide.

Prayer: God, help us to listen for your guidance. Give us confidence to use our talents and gifts with passion and compassion. Show us how to care for others and your world.  Amen

Lois Poppe

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. 3 John 1:2

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.  1 Corinthians 3:17

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.  Proverbs 11:17

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.  Hebrews 4:9-11

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. Romans 14:7-8

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  Luke 10:27

I came down with a terrible sinus infection,  and with all the other symptoms I became very tired, literally dragging myself to complete my daily tasks. Going to work because I felt obligated not to let other co-workers down, didn't want them to have to fill in or someone get called in on their day off to cover for me.  Oh, I have rescheduled my own schedule to cover for co-workers but for some reason I don't feel worthy of asking others to rearrange their plans for me.  I eventually ended up sitting in a doctor’s office and having my doctor say to me as I have heard different times before " you need to rest. You need rest!"  Leaving the office with prescription and instructions to drink plenty of fluids and REST.  Reluctantly I gave up cancelled commitments and called in to work.  I always blame my upbringing to become a reliable individual that I now sat at home feeling guilty for resting.  As I contemplated my mood and feelings I found myself looking up references in the bible that say it's okay to rest.  God rested on the seventh day, it's a day to keep holy and rest and refresh your soul.  I found several references that my body is God's and I am to treat it as a temple of the Holy Spirit.  So am I treating it with respect and giving it the care it needs?  

I remember a billboard that used to be posted on O Street, it always caught my attention; it read something like " take care of your body, where else are you going to live"!

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, help me to respect my body and give it the attention it deserves. Help me to remember I am yours and I should treasure and protect this precious gift you have given me. Help others to learn to respect their gift and give them the strength they need to follow your will.  Give me the strength to follow your instructions and continue in the path you have set forth! In Jesus name, Amen.

Lori Hood

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Present of God's Presence

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8 (NRSV)

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times.”  Psalm 91:14-15 (MSG)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17-18 (NIV)

My dear Mom recently passed away, and it was the hardest thing I've ever been through.  And yet...I was pleasantly surprised by the moments of peace and hope I was given during the time she was in hospice and at her memorial service. When I earnestly cried out to God, and surrendered to his guiding, comforting hands, my heart was filled with the present of God's presence. It was a feeling like no other.  I felt closer to Him than ever before. I still felt pain, but He made it so much easier to bear. As I lay in bed each night, the grief tried to wrap itself around me, but it wasn't long before His comforting arms wrapped around me instead. How nice it was to also have Him in my head, guiding my thoughts and trying to help me see things the way He does.

Now that I've returned home and tried to get back into the swing of things, I've found it difficult to remain in that place of fellowship with God. Grief's had a funny effect on my faith...making it rather fickle. Some days I feel so very close to God and other days so very far away.  Seems a bit like the late winter weather we get in Nebraska. One day it's sunny and pleasant...ahhh... and the next day, frigid and snowy...brrr. Although I have no control over the weather, I do have control over my relationship with God. I can cry out for help or I can stay silent. I can let Him in or keep Him out.  

Knowing how wonderful it is to feel God's presence, I wonder why I don't allow myself to be filled with this “present” more often. I'm guessing it has to do with lack of trust. Perhaps God's trying to heal me in a way that's too painful, so I find my own ways to cope. Some days it's been easier to stay numb and stay busy....anything to distract me from the pain. I know that when I stubbornly rely on my own ways, though, I'm only delaying the healing that God wants to bring my heart. So I'm hoping that my heart will soon be ready to more consistently surrender to the One who holds it dear.

Prayer: Precious Savior, forgive us for not trusting in the healing and guidance you're longing to send our aching hearts. Please give us the courage we need to ask for your help and place our trust in your ways every single day.  And thank you so much for the precious “present of your presence”, that can “fill us with all joy and peace” and  help us “overflow with hope”...if only we allow You in. Amen.

Sharon Irvin

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The "How-Tos" of Loving Others

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

We are God's Chosen.  He loves us deeply.  Each one of us is valuable to Him, and amazing!  Each one of us.  Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And the second is like it:  you shall love your neighbor as yourself".

These two commandments are interwoven.  As we love God, we want to be His servants, comply with his Word, and therefore show love toward others in our daily lives.

In this passage, Paul gives us the tools, the "how tos" of loving others.  As I write this devotion and contemplate Paul's words, I realize how very much I need to thoroughly examine each one of these, and grasp their true meaning so that I might grow in each one of these traits.  I will start with Compassion and next month turn to Kindness, and so on in my devotions of the next few months. 

Paul wants us to clothe ourselves with Compassion.  Compassion is the sympathetic concern for the sufferings of others.  It embodies empathy and understanding.  The word Compassion brings to my mind two mantras of my Mother growing up.  "You need to walk a mile in her shoes."  And, "There but for the grace of God walk I."   Having compassion leads to serving and helping those who are in need.  I am glad to be in a Church that advocates community service.  Examples of such service are the Food Pantry, our work at the Gathering Place, Hope Renewed's mission, members of our congregation doing ongoing service with Tabitha's Meals on Wheels.  When we serve others in these ways, we are serving the Lord and following Christ's example.

In my personal relationships, God also calls me to be loving and understanding when my loved ones are hurting.  He calls me to be a good listener, and to be nonjudgmental, and to pray for the needs of my friends and family.  It is always good and compassionate to send a card, make a call, take a casserole, lend a helping hand, be a present friend.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, Author of Love, thank you for your unconditional Love and Mercy!  I know that you want me to love others and serve others, in your Name.  Help me to grow in compassion and service to others, to give Honor to you.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Connie Barry

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

“Whatever you ask in prayer ……”

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:23-25

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:13-14

After my mom’s transition from this world to heaven in April 2007, we spent time contacting relatives and friends about her passing. Travel plans were made by those coming from a distance to be with us and arrangements were made for people needing transportation from the airport in Denver to Kimball, where her memorial service was to be held. Everything was going as well as could be expected, under the circumstances, and Roger and I eagerly anticipated the safe arrival of family members who were coming from various parts of the country.

As the two of us waited in our motel room in Kimball, we spent time watching the weather reports on TV and flight information on our computer. Those of us living in the Midwest know the weather can change within a heartbeat. The more we watched the weather reports, the more anxious we became as the sunny skies in the Denver area were being replaced with the elements of ice, snow and intense wind. We began to worry about whether flights would be able to land in Denver. And if they did, would the roads be passable for our loved ones to make the three hour trip from Denver to Kimball? 

My heart became extremely sad thinking those who meant the most to my mom would not be able to be in attendance to celebrate her life. And, as much as I wanted them there, we just couldn’t encourage them to get on the roads and take the chance of not making it to Kimball safely. I began to pray, asking God to move the storm away from the Denver area so we could be together, as a family, to pay honor to our loved one, His child. One whose life revolved around being the Lord’s servant, doing the will of her heavenly Father and exemplifying Christ’s love to everyone. I ended my prayer with “and in all things, Thy will be done”. I can still feel the sense of calm and peace that came upon me at that moment with God, knowing everything was going to be fine. Within the hour, Roger shared the storm was moving south and losing intensity over the Denver airport. Within the next 6 hours, all of our loved ones were sleeping safely in the motel in Kimball. The following day, we were together to celebrate a life well lived and to give thanks, to God, for answered prayer.

PRAYER: God of our life and Lord of our souls, we thank you for prayer and the opportunity to ask and receive. Help us to more readily realize the power of prayer and more heartily embrace and believe in this wonderful gift you have graciously given to us.  Amen

Patty Niemann

reprinted from 2013



Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Lean On Me

”Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

Bill Withers received his second gold disc for his lyrics to “Lean on Me” in 1972.  Over three million copies were sold and the track went to number one the week of July 8th, 1972.  (You can “Google” Bill Withers to read the lyrics.)  In 2007, “Lean on Me” was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame.  “Lean on Me” has been recorded by a number of artists and is still popular today.  (I heard it on a local radio station last week.)

As Bill Withers lyrics state, we all need someone to lean on.  Perhaps this universal need has contributed to this song’s popularity.  As I cautiously walk in winter’s ice and snow, I feel more secure when my husband reaches out in support with his arm.  Each of us can reach out with support, love, and care to those who need a helping hand.

Most of all, we need to remember that our loving Father is always available to each of us whenever we ask for his support and care.  It is up to us to seek his guidance and to trust in his loving care.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are grateful for your unconditional love and support.  We appreciate your loving care each day.  Help us to remember that you are always with us.  Amen.

Lois Poppe
(reprinted from 2011)

Monday, February 26, 2018

Birds of the Air

“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? Matthew 6:25-27

I was going out of town recently for a photography job: a wedding in February. Most weddings are not held in the winter, so there’s no need to worry about weather and travel. Since the wedding was in my former hometown, I had also planned to visit friends, amongst other things.

As the date approached, I kept watching the weather forecast. It looked like snow there Thursday, and then snow here Friday, making my departure time unpredictable. And, as many of us know, weather itself is unpredictable.

Two days prior to my planned departure, I stopped in our church sanctuary. The only light came from behind our stained glass windows, and I sat in the back pew. I thought I’d pray for peace and release from my anxiety. Even though it’s winter, as I sat down I heard birdsong.  A LOT of birdsong…the kind we often hear in April, signifying spring’s arrival. I immediately thought of the verse above. A sense of peace came over me, and I thanked God for his faithfulness in that moment.

Postscript: I traveled north without any weather-related concerns, and had a great weekend.

Prayer: Dear Lord, calm our anxieties when the future is unpredictable. Remind us that it’s always unpredictable, but that You are constant...constant in comfort, peace, and love. Amen.

Donna Gustafson


Thursday, February 22, 2018


I am like an olive tree growing in God’s house, and I can count on his love forever and ever. Psalm 50:8

This is the month of the year we claim as the “Love” month. Should we consider that every month should contain that Love and months be made up of Love.

Support Excerpt from Praise

How do you love someone you can’t see, hear, or touch? The same way you love an unborn child. You learn everything you can about what that child is like. You speak to the child, even though it can’t speak back. When you finally are able to see and hold that child, you find you are already in love with the child. Yes, you can love someone you cannot see. As for God, His love for us transcends eternity. We’re His child, whom He has loved since before there was time.

May we take these words and share more love and respect to those we hold so dear.

Prayer: Gracious Lord, thanks for the love you share with us and help us to share love with others and be thankful for family, friends and new friends out there we do not yet know.

Shirley Flynn-Bell


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Words for the Ages

The Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26 

Recently I have been reading the book—Rabbi Jesus, an Intimate Biography by Bruce Chilton. It focuses on the Jewish Life and Teaching that Inspired Christianity. The book notes that Jesus was probably born at the time of year that was cool and clear. Guests at Jesus’s circumcision would wear rough woolen cloaks over their basic flax tunics for warmth. Beside Jesus’s home, would be a central courtyard. Mary would give Joseph the baby who carried him into the courtyard reenacting Abraham’s willingness to circumcise Isaac on the eighth day and even, if necessary, to sacrifice his son. A skilled village dignitary would perform the circumcision and then carry away the unclean foreskin on a broken pottery shard and dispose of it in an abandoned spot outside the village. The wound was then dressed in a combination of wine and olive oil with balm from a terebinth tree and cumin. A drop of this same wine was given to Jesus to lessen the pain. Then the wine was given out for the celebration afterwards along with bread, meat, and lamb stew with leeks, lentils, and onions. The elders who joined in the ceremony were inspired that such rituals were needed for the survival and prosperity of Israel.  Jesus’s circumcision represented the endurance of the people of  God. Each elder had a role in this perpetuation, but only one elder, descended from the tribe of Levi, was authorized to give the infant the priestly blessing—

“The Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

This familiar blessing or benediction was very familiar for me—I’ve heard it all my life either from a pastor’s closing of worship, or sung as a response by a church choir. I had no idea how old it was. It was given to Moses from God when the Israelites were still wandering in the desert. It is ancient and still gives us the promise of God’s graciousness and peace.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for being with your people throughout the ages. Thank you that the rituals that we celebrate draw us closer to you. Help us remember that Jesus was a Jew and his life revolved around the practices of the Jewish communities. Help us to have your peace as we prepare for Lent. Amen.

Nancy Hall

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Strengthening our Faith

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Matthew 16:21 

We are about to enter a special time in our Christian calendar with the beginning of Lent. With these 40 days of celebration before Easter, we have an opportunity to really focus on those last days of Jesus' life. Lent provides a time for us to review what our personal relationship with God really is. It is a time of remembering the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.  As we again read and study the passages of scripture which focus on the events of Jesus' last days before His crucifixion, we can better understand the suffering, death, and resurrection He experienced for each of us.

At the beginning of Lent, I choose to review the events of this last period of Jesus' life as found in Luke chapters 22, 23, and 24. By doing so, the events of the disciples' last supper, Peter's denial, the betrayal, arrest, trial, death sentence, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection are relived.  I'm sure by rereading those chapters during this period of Lent, an excitement and strengthening of your Christian faith will occur for you, too.

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, help us to better recognize and understand the sacrifice that Your Son experienced for our sake.  Help us to be guided by the lessons we learn in the scripture to deepen and expand our faith.  Amen

Lauren Holcombe

Monday, February 19, 2018

President's Day

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:1-6

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The End of the Story

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

The ending of a story is arguably the most important part. I’m thinking of a couple of examples in movies. One, seen just recently, Mudbound, has an ending that was important to me to make other parts of the movie palatable. The movie’s ending may not have been realistic, but I needed it in order to feel all right at that point in the story. You’ll need to see the movie yourself to see what I mean!

In another favorite Christmas film, The Family Stone, the ending is sad, bittersweet, and totally realistic. Death is a part of life. In this case, I didn’t “need” the ending to be something redemptive in order to go forward feeling good about what I had seen.

With Christ we know how the story ends…He has promised us eternal life with Him. We don’t know what tomorrow may bring, just as certainly as we know that we will go through trials while here on earth. But knowing that God is with us, and knowing the “end of the story”, we have peace and comfort to go on.

Prayer: Dear Lord: Some days are easier than others, and sometimes it’s hard not knowing what our future holds. Calm us, reassure us, let us know that you’re with us. Thank you for your promise of eternal life. Amen.

Donna Gustafson

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Grief and Loss

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

For God so loved the world that he gave us he one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

We recently lost a member of our Red Hat group totally unexpectedly. One member said to me I can’t stop crying, she said I don’t know why but it feels like I lost an immediate family member and we were not that close. Another member said to me I am sad, but I haven’t shed a tear. Other members were busying themselves about arrangements and attending the funeral expressing their loss but avoiding the feeling. 

I remember a member of my previous church and every time she mentioned her mother she broke into tears for years as if it had just happened. A cousin who has lost her son to suicide seems obsessed and is constantly posting her memories and sorrow on Facebook. A walking friend lost her husband and she includes her grief in every gathering. The last two were told by their friends that they needed to get over it. It was time to move on. 

I have noticed that when a grief or loss of someone happens or if a way of life changes we seem to expect people to grieve for a few weeks and then move on as if nothing happened. Yet the loss was a part of their everyday lives. I have experienced from my own loss the fact that I would expect the person to come through the door as if they had just been gone on an errand.  I would think of something and then remember I couldn’t just tell them or call them to tell them.  A friend of mine, after losing his mother, said to me I can’t envision how to continue and when does the pain stop. From my own loss of my father, I said I don’t think you ever get over the pain, you just learn to live with the loss with the hope of seeing them in Heaven. Your days become busy again with family and friends making new memories. But the pain of loss is still there.

As I have gotten older, I realize that every person has to deal with their loss in their own way and in their own time frame. It is not up to someone else to tell a person it is time to move on. I even become frustrated when I hear someone tell a person grieving you need to get over it and live your life. I wish they would suggest they may want to seek assistance to learn to live with it. I also recognize that it is okay to add memories of the person or loss to a conversation and that is okay and is helpful to everyone.  

Prayer: Dear Father in Heaven, We pray for those who are grieving from the loss of a loved one or a loss of a way of life. We pray that we support them, help them and understand that their way and time of grieving is okay. Help us to understand that only you know the process or time frame for each of us in our grief. Help us remember that because you gave us your Son that we will have eternal life with those we miss here on earth. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Lori Hood