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

Love


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

 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hope


In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.  Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me.  Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.  Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men.  For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.  From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.  I will ever praise you. Psalm 71:1-6

 
When you were a kid, were you a pessimist or a worrier like me? Did frightening events or negative things said by others influence your perceptions or attitudes?  Granted, there are a lot of bad things happening in the world, and some people get more than their fair share of misery. But one of the many things about being in relationship with God is that there is always something to hope for. Christian faith is about being hopeful for the future. There is always something better coming around the corner. There is always something new and amazing that God is working to make happen.
 

Prayer: God who calls us into impossible optimism, I thank you for being a dreamer.  When I am in the midst of trials, please help me to remember you are there with me, not causing the pain, but hoping for a better day.  When things are going my way, help me to remember those who are not having a great day.  Amen

 
Barry and Alinda Stelk

Monday, February 12, 2018

Commitment, Communication, and Caring


“Jesus said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38 

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25 

A young couple asked our secret of success for 60 years of marriage. My husband and I listed the three C’s: commitment, communication, and caring. We stated that both of us need to be committed to our marriage. We explained that it is easy to be committed to our relationship when it is going well. When not going well, that’s the hard part.

I Kings 8:61  “Therefore devote yourselves completely to the Lord our God; walking in his statues and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

Communication needs to be more than, “Take out the garbage.” It involves listening and hearing what the other person is really saying.

James 1:19 “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”

Caring includes taking time to support and cherish each other every day.

Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

These three qualities can also be important in our faith journey. We need to be committed to our relationship to God. Commitment is an action on our part in response to God. Our communication with God needs to be more than prayer requests. It is important to search and study Scripture to discover God’s messages for us. It involves listening for God’s direction and guidance.
Caring is important for persons and the world. We need to take time to seek out those who may be lonely or troubled. These are ways for caring each day.

PRAYER:  God, help us to be committed to your commandments and to listen for your guidance.  Show us how to care for others and your world. Amen

Lois Poppe

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Charity


 “And now abides faith, hope, love, these three;  but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13 

February is the month of Valentine’s Day, when we can see the stores filled with hearts and flowers and candy and reminders to express our love to our family and friends. Decorations grace buildings and homes with red and pink hearts, cupids, cuddly stuffed animals and such. But the love in this scripture really means charity. In fact, my old King James version of the bible I received in 4th grade in my Presbyterian Church in St. Louis uses the word charity, not love.

There are many ways to express love/charity to our family, neighbors and neighborhood, the community, and the world at large. Giving of yourself to help another, be it a small thing or something large, follows the precepts that Jesus has taught us. It exemplifies the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. When we genuinely love and show our charity toward others we gain more than we give. We know that we are following Christ’s teachings and in doing so we increase our spiritual growth. Love/charity is an action that brings us closer to God and Jesus, and will provide us with joy and peace.

Prayer: Dear Father, during this month of love let us determine to choose to love and show charity to not only our family and friends, but to the many people who live in our community. Guide us on a path of genuine love, showing charity to all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Carolyn Brandle

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Grey Days


When the righteous call for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Psalms 34:17-20

The winter sky at dawn and dusk is often the most colorful part of the landscape all day.  When my daily drives take me past miles of tawny taupes and charcoals in the palette for the views, I crave a burst of color and a vivid plump flower or two. 

These hues saturate parts of my life, and I see them reflected in other people's moods as we struggle with the challenges of cold-weather months. Tasks can be wearying, and we are prone to experiencing drudgery.

The imagination is the precious gift that can keep us going when we feel oppressed by our surroundings or by the nature of the work ahead of us. It seems appropriate that Lent comes when we are struggling with external issues that seem to trigger internal issues.  There is often a feeling of loss at this time of year; an emptiness that indicates some kind of disconnect.

The challenges of Lent are many, but one I always try to focus on is what I can eliminate that is distancing me from God.  The flip side is exploring what I can add to encourage a closer relationship with God.  There is a switch in my brain that can take me from the process of letting go to the process of practicing discipline that will bring a fuller life. It becomes a cycle of cleansing and becoming involved. 

What I see very clearly is that time spent in front of a screen typing ideas from inspiring things I have read fills me up; and time spent in front of a screen scrolling down through selfies and memes and videos absolutely drains me.  There is a great resource in technology, and a great danger as well.

I am trying to be diligent about items on my to-do lists, but I find I really need to intersperse some moments of reading or looking at something beautiful while enjoying a cup of tea, in between digging for tax records and washing dishes and doing a load of laundry. These tasks are wearying to me because I sometimes let myself see the punitive nature of work rather than rejoicing in the sacrament of daily tasks. I need to practice remembering joy.

While scrolling down my Facebook feed today, I was entranced by this poetic prayer posted by a young pastor friend, and I know she would be happy to have it shared. I suppose this, and the photos my old friend has been posting of his trip around World War II memorials in France and Belgium, are the reasons I still look for something on Facebook.  But I do think that there are more worthy distractions that actually engage the soul and mind and body, and I mean to find them.

Prayer on the road of life, attributed to Augustine of Hippo:

God of life, there are days

when the burdens we carry are heavy on our shoulders

and weigh us down,

when the road seems dreary and endless,

the skies grey and threatening,

when our lives have no music in them,

our hearts lonely,

our souls losing their courage.

Flood the path with light.

Turn our eyes to where the skies are full of promise,

tune our hearts to brave music,

give us the sense of comeradeship

with heroes and saints of every age.

So quicken our spirits

that we may be able to encourage the souls of all

who journey with us on the road of life,

to your honor and glory.

Amen.

Mollie Manner

Monday, February 5, 2018

Stressful Days


I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore. Psalm 121

Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. Ephesians 3:20

It is my busy season at work. “Busy” doesn’t seem to capture it very well.  Stressful describes it better. Add in personal obligations and it is overwhelming at times. Can you relate?
 
In a previous devotion I shared where I have learned to ask Jesus “What is the next thing I need to do?” in the midst of being pulled in so many directions.  And He faithfully answers. And then I ask again and He answers. Like a child, I trust my Father to tell me what is best.
 
At particularly stressful times, I calm myself by taking a breath in while thinking “breathing in peace” and exhaling while thinking “breathing out grace”. Peace to calm me and grace to give others. Jesus brings me back to thinking clearly and stops (sometimes) my tongue. I keep doing this until my breathing becomes slow and calm.

When roadblocks hit (computer doesn’t cooperate, a project stalls without other information, a headache comes on), I now look at those moments as God saying “That’s enough for now; let’s deal with that later”. Be thankful for little things (a hot shower, ice cream, or my husband making dinner).

At night when you can’t shut off your brain of things to do or worry, I do two things:  1) I get up and write down the list of “to do” things in my head; and 2) I say the Lord’s Prayer in my head very, very slowly concentrating on each word. Say it again until you fall asleep.

Remember to show extra love to those closest to you as they often, unintentionally, receive less time and attention from you. Love brings you back to center.
 
Peace and grace to you.

Prayer: Dear Father, In the midst of trial and stress, thank you for your peaceful presence guiding us if only we would look to you to show us the way. We will keep trying to let you lead instead of trying to do it all on our own. Amen.


Cathy Schapmann
 

 


Thursday, February 1, 2018

"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he"


For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7 

This scripture, like all other scripture verses, is taken from the Word of God.  Therefore, it is true, believable. That is, it is a verse for me to read, understand, and use as a guide to my life. Okay, I have to say that when I think of some of the thoughts that pass through my brain on a daily basis, this truth is downright scary to me. I do not want to be selfish, small, negative, critical of others, a worrier, mean spirited, judgmental; yet, didn't I have some thoughts that reflected these character traits today and yesterday? 

As I reflect on my knowledge of human behavior from basic Psychology, I remember that what I think leads to my actions, which influences how I feel.  Our thoughts are so powerful, as they direct our actions and feelings and our very lives. 

My negative thinking about myself, a situation, another person, can so influence how I act toward myself, how I react to what is happening in my life, and how I treat or react to others. If I give into negative thoughts, worry, dwelling on the not so positive traits of others and of myself, I create a less than happy life for myself and for others. It is similar to the half empty or half full discussion. Life can be difficult without my thought patterns making it more so.

Prayer:  Father God, you are all loving, all good, and all forgiving.  If I spend time in prayer and reading Scripture, I can direct my daily thoughts to reflect your truth and goodness.  Please help me to think thoughts that will lead me to a life that honors you, your Word and your teachings.

Connie Barry