Thursday, March 29, 2018

Judging Others

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. ... Matthew 7:1-29

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1-4

Many of us run into those who, in their daily lives, struggle for things we may take for granted: food, a home, lives that are not ruled by extreme ups and downs.

So, what do we do? We help them. We feel pity for them. We love them, in our Christian way. But we don’t necessarily want to spend time with them, or become friends with them. Something might rub off on us. We don’t have anything in common with them, or so we believe. We may have our own issues and weaknesses, but our particular problems and failings are “not as bad”. This attitude is dangerous. It turns our dealings into “us vs. them” mentality, when it should really be: all of us together, making our way in this world.

Recently I gave a ride to a woman whose life is hard right now…she’s far away from family, her health is failing, and she struggles to find work. It was on a particularly busy day for me, and she was late getting ready. I felt impatient, inconvenienced. She is close to my age, and was asking me about my family, even though her English is not good. One thing she said that was so simple, but has stayed with me: “you have a good life”. It made me realize that the little things like being late, being busy, are small problems to have. She’s right, I have a good life! I am blessed, and should share those blessings with others. It’s great that we give food, money, clothing…but let’s give our time and friendship, also.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to notice those with less. Help me to reach out and be a friend. Give me ears to hear, so that I may truly listen to the needs of others around me. Amen.

Donna Gustafson (reprinted from March 2017)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Deepening Prayer and Relationship

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16  

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thess. 5:16-18


The details are long forgotten, but the words of John 3:16 have been memorized in my head and heart since middle school. In Marion, Ohio I visited the church of my best friend since elementary school, Kathy, and all of the youth that day learned this verse.

The second verse, one of my favorites, I see every day on the mirror in our bathroom. I am trying to talk to God more each day, trying to see his wonders all around me, if only I would stop and take time for Him. My daily living would be so much more fulfilling and less stressful if I would be in communion with God continually. I want to learn how to discern God’s will and really listen for his voice; to be still instead of continuing my own words in prayer; and most importantly to deepen my daily personal relationship with Him. That is my Lenten focus this year.


Prayer: Dear Father, Forgive me for neglecting spending time with you. I use my busyness as an excuse. But as the patient and loving Father you are, you wait for me and I am truly thankful. The precious gift of your Son allows me this personal relationship with you and I so want our relationship to deepen and grow ever since my own baptism and memorizing John 3:16 many years ago. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. [Psalm 51:10] Amen.


Cathy Schapmann (reprinted from 2017)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Forgiveness

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”“No!” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!" Matthew 18:21-22  

Many years ago as I was walking the halls of the Sunday School rooms, I saw a large piece of paper on the wall. A class had written the word “forgive” on the sheet seventy times seven. The paper remained on the wall for many years and it caught my eye whenever I passed by. I hope it caught the eyes of others that passed by. Did Jesus mean that we should keep track of how many times we should forgive anyone? I think he meant we should forgive anyone who sins against us, no matter how many times.

We need to remember to never stop forgiving others. Keep that word, forgive in your head. You will have a new lease on life when you forgive others.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, help us to never stop forgiving others in our life, no matter how many times they sin against us. Amen.


Susan Taylor (reprinted from 2017)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Witness


But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31


We love to be around people who love Jesus. But I was thinking about the paper Pastor Melodie presented last Wednesday night. How can we help more people to know and love Jesus? What are some ways that God’s kingdom can come “through you”? How do we share our recognition and witnessing of God’s kingdom?


The authors of Eastridge’s devotions share several times a month the “sightings” of the kingdom in our midst. Writing books can be another way to share ways to come to know Jesus. Of course, not all of us are writers. And there are a lot who do not read devotions or books these days.


Let’s look at other ways to share the love of Jesus. Being truthful and trusting in your daily business is a great way. Refusing to participate in gossip, being a faithful church attender and participant and purposefully following the Ten Commandments show the world your faith.


We can bring others to the point of soaring on wings like eagles, so they may walk and not be faint. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful way to spend our lives? Praying each day for others may be the most powerful way to we bring others to God’s kingdom because God answers prayer.


Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, please help us to pray for others to know how you renew our strength. Lead us in our lives to be examples showing your love. Thank you for the service of our Leader, Pastor Melodie. Amen.


Sandra Hilsabeck

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Who is my neighbor?


And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law?” 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.” And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “ And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10: 25-29   


This scripture reminds me of a person I met while consulting at a rural nursing home in Iowa. This man was in his early 60’s and was put in the facility because his elderly father had died, and none of his siblings wanted to take him in. He was used to working hard on the family farm and served as the caregiver for his parents. The man had never been to school because his language was halting and mushy, and the family assumed he was intellectually challenged. We eventually learned that he was hard of hearing and very bright—especially when he got new hearing aides and could hear things properly. Anyway—when his father could no longer drive into town to get the mail, his son would walk into town on the gravel roads, stop at the post office , and then do any other errands that were needed. The postmaster noted that when there was no mail there for him, he cried as this was an important job for him. So the postmaster silently started putting aside junk mail that could not be delivered if someone had died or moved away. When the man did not have any mail for the day—the postmaster would take out the junk mail and hand it to him so he could proudly take it home. This went on quietly for several years until a substitute postmaster came in and learned of the secret—of course in a small town, it was no longer a secret. The postmaster could easily have scolded the man and called his father and said not to send the son to get the mail. But, instead, he quietly and lovingly helped the man be proud of himself and his jobs. Who is my neighbor? Who needs our love and caring?
 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the good neighbors around us. Help us to reflect your love by being a good neighbor for others. Thank you for your son, Jesus, who spoke to us in parables that challenge us to understand your word. Amen.
 

Nancy Hall

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Signs from God

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

In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Psalm 95 4-5

Have you heard someone say if I only had a sign from God? 

Have you ever looked up into the sky and noticed the clouds in the sky? It started as a child, we would look at the clouds and decide if that one looked like a dragon, or look, that one is shaped like a big submarine ship. I still enjoy looking in the sky and observing the unique shapes that each cloud presents.

While living at home many times we would take a Sunday drive after church, it was a tradition I frequently miss as an adult. Dad would drive into the country a different route each time; it was an adventure. We never knew where we would go, how far or what we would see. My father loved the outdoors and loved seeing the country. He would point out the different crops in the fields, animals, houses, fields and streams, you name it. We learned about the animals, plants and a farmer’s method of weather forecasting. My Dad loved the outdoors.  During his last few days of life he was bedridden and paralyzed. He could only see the outdoors through the windows. One day I was talking about the outdoors and what he could see. I asked him if he wanted to go outside; even in his weakened state his eyes perked up and he said yes. I called my brother (who was visiting at the time) to please come help me get Dad in his wheelchair and prepare him for a trip outdoors. He could only spend a few minutes outside, but you could see the happiness in his face as he stared out across the field, then he looked down at the flowers that were blooming alongside the fence. He said look at those beautiful yellow flowers. He made a point about the beautiful yellow color as if it was the first time he had seen yellow. To me it was as if God had sent him a message or sign through the beauty of a flower.

Since that time I probably notice the color in the trees, plants, sky and earth more than before. They are, to me, a sign from God that he gives us the beauty of the earth as his sign of love. What more wondrous sign do we need than God’s love for us?

Prayer: Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for the beauty of the earth and sky.  Thank you for the enormous collection of colors in your work.  Help us to enjoy your creation and treat it as the wondrous gift and sign of your love.  Help us to remember that thru these gifts you have given as a reminder that you hold us close and that you have a plan. Help us to trust in your plan and to walk in the faith.  Amen

Lori Hood

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"The turtledove is heard in our land"


For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:11-12


I love this verse! There’s such hope and promise in it, plus the turtledove image is lovely.

Since we’ve moved to Lincoln, each spring a mourning dove (technically not the same species as a turtle dove) perches on the top of our chimney, its cooing echoing down to where I sit on the couch in the mornings. Its sound is so melancholy (hence the name “mourning dove”, I'm sure) but soothing as well. Evidently it’s only the male mourning dove that sings the “cooooOOOOO-woo-woo-woo” as a mating call. Perhaps both male and female are responsible for the burbly-sounding coos that I hear some mornings, amplified down the chimney. Instead of mournful, I find it hopeful. (See below for images of the mourning dove family that lives in my yard...baby, and then older baby plus parents. Click on each to view larger)

I mention this today, as it's the first day of spring. Spring’s arrival is often synonymous with hope. I’ve just finished reading Maria Shriver’s book “I’ve Been Thinking…Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life” and in her essay on hope, she shares her view of finding it: she reaches into her back pocket and takes out some hope. I like this visual image, and the fact that it’s accessible to any of us, at any time. I don’t think this diminishes the view that our hope, as Christians, comes from God. God gives us hope, we store it in our “back pocket”, we pull it out when we need it. How’s that for a visual image?

Happy Spring! Here are some favorite verses on hope (for your back pocket!):

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 New International Version (NIV)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 New International Version (NIV)

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

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.” Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the four seasons. Thank you for the hopefulness of spring, the rain that turns the earth from brown to green, and the budding plants and warmer temperatures. Help us to rely on You, to turn to you when we feel hopeless. Grant us peace, hope, and love. Amen.

Donna Gustafson
 

 

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?

 
Prayer:

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,

opposed,

alone,

afraid,

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.”*

Amen


John Birch, 2016, www.faithandworship.com

 

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

Listening


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

Rest


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