Thursday, May 31, 2018

Perspective


I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word. Psalm 119:15-16


But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Matthew 4:4 


In a Lenten study we did recently, this was noted in one of the lessons:


The Lambeth Bible study is a way of encountering scripture as prayer, instead of as an objective text to be struggled with. Slowly and purposefully, someone reads the scripture. After a moment of silence, each person shares a word or phrase that stood out to them. A second person reads the scripture again. This time, after a moment of silence, each person shares where the passage touches their life today. Then a third person reads it again. After a moment of silence, each person shares where they hear God calling to them in this scripture to do or be something today.  


Each time the scripture is read, you may see something different. You may feel something different. A new perspective can edge into your consciousness, allowing you to understand the reading in a way you hadn’t before.

I was reminded of this as I was editing some newborn photos recently. As a photographer, I do more weddings, seniors, and families than I do newborns. Photographing a newborn is deceptively difficult. Typically, the newborn should be sleeping during the photo shoot as newborns cannot focus their eyes well at two weeks of age, and this is, unfortunately, evident in photos. A sleeping baby, what could be easier? It turns out, a lot of things.

In any case, I wasn’t as pleased with the way the shoot had turned out until I was working on the photos and accidently cropped one a bit too much, and shifted it slightly. Something my eye caught was obviously pleasing to me, so I saved a copy. It turns out these close crops just might be a style of newborn photography I’d like to cultivate, and I wouldn’t have seen it had my perspective not changed (albeit accidentally). In addition to looking at the baby in a different way, this just happened to be a shot where her eyes were open, and had I not cropped it this way, the photo wouldn’t have worked…would’ve ended up on the “cutting room floor”, so to speak. (I’ve included the shot below).

It also occurs to me that this is an excellent way to read the scriptures on our own. We may think we’re familiar with a certain passage, but reading it through several times and taking the time to read commentary (which has been an excellent source of new perspective in our Wednesday morning Bible studies) can be helpful in gaining new insights and understanding of what God may be telling us.

Try it!

Prayer: Dear Lord, we want to know your Word. Sometimes it’s hard for us to understand, and sometimes we think we “know it all”. Help us to look at your Word with new, clear eyes each time we read a passage. Help us lean into your teachings, even when it’s a teaching that we don’t initially understand. Guide us in our perspectives, and help us draw closer to you. Amen.
Donna Gustafson



Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Graduation


"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." 1 Corinthians 1:10

This Saturday I went to my niece’s graduation in Missouri.  We drove four hours and spent Friday night in a hotel one and a half hours away because most hotels in the area were filled with all the families traveling to attend this and other graduations in the area. On Saturday we drove to the college at around 11:00 as the gates to the stadium opened up and the crowds of families filled the stadium, the field with lawn chairs, blankets with family members selected their location to view their graduate as they walked in. This group of graduate supporters sat in the stadium until the ceremony started at 2:00 PM. The cool day in the morning had turned to a hot sunny day.  It was a happy, friendly, celebratory crowd sharing sunscreen, beverages and happy memories. 

Then the procession began, cheering and cameras snapping as you could hear, is that her? Is she wearing a white collar or red?  There he is, there he is! 

The ceremony proceeded to the guest speaker at which began a very positive encouraging speech to the graduates, then, as she stated, she snuck a Trojan horse in and began speaking on her own political agenda.  She stated she felt she needed to speak out on her agenda whenever she could.  The crowd was not pleased.  Unfortunately some couldn’t hold back on their opinions, booing and derogatory comments could be heard. I felt upset, sad, and disappointed that she chose to think only of her agenda instead of those graduates who had spent years working up to this moment.  Also, disappointed in those that began rebelling back at her. 

I felt upset, thinking that if it hadn’t been a special day for my niece I might have walked out of the stadium. I was feeling stressed and uncomfortable, then I told myself I was here for my niece, her friends and family members to share in this joyous event.  I turned to prayer.  I prayed for the graduates, the family members, the faculty, and all those who were a part of this occasion, yes, including the speaker. 

The speech was over and then we watched as all 1200+ students’ names were read and handed their degree.  At the end we left the stadium a little sunburned, a little tired for sitting in the sun for 5 hours; but the pride we felt was still there.

We went out to dinner with family and new friends.  It was a wonderful ending to a celebration of achievement.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray for those that are graduating, families of graduates, faculty and staff of those educating our youth.  I pray that even in those moments of stress, unexpected detours, disagreement of opinions in the world that we still remember to listen to your words.  Remind us to ask for your guidance in our own actions.  Remind us to ask your guidance in making our agenda not one of ours but one for all. Amen.

Lori Hood

Friday, May 25, 2018

A Doer of the Word


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

All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

As I study God’s Word, it speaks to my heart.  I know I should more often be a “Doer of the Word”, but unfortunately, I don’t always take that next necessary step.  It’s frustrating when I’m unable to apply what I’ve studied to a particular situation. Sometimes it’s fear that holds me back, but often it’s my memory.  I may have a vague sense of an appropriate scripture, but can’t get it quite right.  Or worse, I may not be able to think of any scripture at all to apply!

Since the Spirit can help me use His Word in many powerful and positive ways,  I must do my part and try to memorize it. Oh boy. How will I ever be able to memorize, when I  have trouble remembering even the simplest things—like the name of a person I’ve just met!?  To make this challenge seem less daunting, I decided to take it on in baby steps. I've tried to memorize a verse or two a day—using a scripture that has special meaning for me. It’s amazing how many I've been able to memorize with the Spirit’s help!

Memorizing keeps His Word handy in my brain—ready and waiting to be used at any moment.  This gives me such a feeling of confidence and strength.  And guess what? Since I started this challenge, I’ve been able to apply some of those scriptures in a few situations. Being a “Doer of the Word” feels so awesome!  I found His Word takes on a new, deeper meaning—and I can feel its power transforming me and making me a more effective servant.  I don’t think I appreciated just how powerful the Word of God was until I was able to feel it in action!

I may not always be able to keep up the pace of a verse a day—especially during busy times of the year.  Also, I know I still have a long ways to go before I can always be an effective “Doer of the Word”.  But I think as long as I keep trying my best—slowly but surely, God will be able to work in me and through me in powerful ways!

Prayer:  All-Knowing God, forgive us for being both afraid and forgetful when it comes to being “Doers of Your Word”.   Help us as we study Your Word, to not only understand, but also memorize what it says--so we may put it into action more effectively.  And thank you for all the amazing and powerful ways Your Word helps us each day. Amen.

Sharon Irvin (reprinted from 2006, revised for re-release in 2018)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

God's Time


“In His Time” by Diane Ball-
In His time, in His time, He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord please show me every day as you’re teaching me Your way,
That You do just what You say in Your time.
In Your time, in Your time, You make all things beautiful in Your time.
Lord, my life to You I bring; May each song I have to sing
Be to You a lovely thing in Your time.

And when I pay attention, I see that so many times, He has answered my prayers, big and small, In His time. And in His wisdom, he provides blessings and answers so much greater than what I even thought to ask for. How great is our God!

Prayer: Dear Lord, today, as I write this, I am aware that this is one of those days when you answer my prayers. And little by little, I am learning to trust that when I turn problems and situations over to you, “That You do just what You say in Your time.” I give you this day and pray that I will use it in the way you see fit. And I give you my impatience and pray that you will use it to show me your greatness. Amen.

Lori Snyder Sloan (reprinted)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Priority Mail - May 6, 2018 Sermon


Dear Paul,



I hope this note finds you well.



Thank you so much for your letter!

Now you are probably asking: Which letter. After all you wrote quite a few.

In case you are desperately trying to remember what you wrote to a 21st century congregation in the American midwest: I can relieve you. It’s not your memory playing tricks on you. There isn’t actually a letter like that.



No, i’m talking about the letter you sent to the congregation in Philippi.



Now: I don’t normally open mail addressed to other people. (And those mailing that include “or current resident” are usually not that interesting.) But this letter that you wrote some 1,950 years ago, has made it into our hands — together with a whole collections of other letters you wrote to different congregations. And, believe it or not, we are still reading them today — at the other end of the globe!



You probably never imagined that. And probably nobody would be quite as shocked as you to learn that they have become a part of Scripture. (Plus, theologians love to argue about them!)



From what I know from your writings, I imagine all this would make you feel a little embarrassed. After all your writing was never about you.  Your mission was driven by what you had experienced yourself: that God was indeed revealed in the same Jesus whom the authorities had crucified: he is the anointed ruler and king. Something you had to share with everyone to the end of the world — and that’s what you did, spreading glad tidings all across the then known world.



In that sense I imagine you wouldn’t mind after all that we we today, even as unintended audience, caught a glimpse of your letter to the saints in Philippi.



***



It’s a beautiful letter. I am so moved by your opening paragraph, by it’s beautiful tone, by the love for this particular congregation that shines through every line.



I love the lack of formalities: there is no pretentious flashing of credentials.



I love that you write this letter to an entire community. You could have addressed his letter just to the elders there. You could have written directly to the bishop, telling him what to say to his flock and what to do next. You could have exercised a top-down “chain of command” that everyone in the Roman world understood. And yet you don’t. You write “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi”.



One can tell you had a very special bond with all the saints in Philippi, not just the leaders. You even call them your partners in sharing the gospel. I sense that you deeply care about them, and they cared about you.



***



Having said that, what bothers me a little bit, (can I say this?) is this display of joy.



Now granted, we don’t know your exact predicament: whether you were in jail awaiting a court date,  or somewhere under house arrest. Granted also, you were no stranger to prison cells. And yet somehow I imagine Roman prisons not exactly to be vacation homes. Not wanting to be the grinch, Paul: you are in dire straits!



And so it really boggles my mind that you sound so… positive…

almost cheery. It’s a little bit on-the-nose. So I wonder: Is this for real,  or are you just putting on a brave face so your readers aren’t all too worried about you?

Or does your joy indeed have such deep roots that they even reach deeper than the dungeon you’re in?



What strikes me is what an important role memory plays for your joy. As one of my contemporary readers, the late Fred Craddock, puts it: “In circumstances which could understandably breed doubt, despair, even bitterness,” you remember — and are grateful.



Which is fascinating! Thinking how much I tend to remember only the things that went wrong. (We even pay therapists to talk about nothing but the bad memories). You don’t do that. But rather you recall the memories that bring you joy. I wonder what might happen if I did that, too. And if we honored these memories by living in a way so that they are become more than just a memory.



***



You point out how the Philippians have been your partners in ministry. You remember how they shared with their money, their suffering, their work, their faith, their prayers, their preaching the gospel… And yes: when you were in prison, they visited you.



There is something to be said about community that surrounds someone like this. One would never choose it: but getting sick in the midst of a christian community can be a wonderful thing. When one is surrounded by folks who provide food and visits and rides and support…: this fills you with gratitude and joy.



Maybe this is what is at the root of your joy: it’s not about silver lining, not about feeling better, but about becoming connected again.



And here you go: and write this letter. from the isolation of your prison cell. You speak in terms that are not fearful, not angry, not bitter... instead just filled with thankfulness, and the grace of God…

and doing so you witness to the power of the gospel!



***



As I am reading your letter this week, I am reminded of all the beautiful and powerful writings that have come out of prison.

I’m thinking of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”,
(smuggled out on scraps of newspaper), or Dietrich Bonhoeffer who in the darkness of a Nazi prison penned Letters and Papers to friends and family.



What strikes me them is that both their words are not just reactions to what is done to them. Their hope and faith are not suffocated, but rather, their words speak in the most life-affirming  way of love and justice and of a vision of a different world. It is as if in their dungeons they caught a glimpse of the One who brings a new creation even in the midst of the grave, who transforms even the tomb of the prison into a womb of the new world.



***



Dear Paul, I need to wrap this up. As you may have heard, our congregation celebrates their 65th anniversary next week. We feel it’s a good age! At the same time, in comparison with the story that traveled to us over some 2000 years, it may not be quite that impressive. And yet: We are very excited. You should join us!



As we look back,  I hope we will take the opportunity to practice joy and gratitude. And as we remember God’s faithfulness across the ages, we’ll also celebrate the connectedness: with you and many others across this planet who have partnered with us to proclaim the Good news of Jesus Christ.



In all this we know that God is not done with us, but as you say so confidently: “the one who began a good work among you
will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ”.



May it be so.



Grace and Peace,

- On behalf of Eastridge Presbyterian church

Thomas Dummermuth, Associate Pastor

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Thanks and Gratitude


We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.  We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1: 2-3  

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.  I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.  Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
Philemon 1:4-6

In October 2009, our youngest son, Joel, had the opportunity to spend four weeks in Ireland as part of his senior year studies at Hastings College. Much time was spent making plans, by Hastings College administrators, to insure the quality and safety of this trip for the five students selected as “guinea pigs” for this new program. Projects of interest were pondered and researched by the “Irish Fellows”, as the students were called, to determine what his or her course of study would be while in Ireland.  After much contemplation and prayer, Joel chose to study the concept of pilgrimage. He read several books and articles on pilgrimage along with checking out other people’s definitions of pilgrimage. He then began to “search” for his own personal definition by making plans to have such an experience himself while in Ireland.

Before leaving, the “Irish Fellows” took classes in Irish history, literature and religion. One of Joel’s requirements was to write a blog about his feelings and experiences as he prepared for this trip and then during his time in Ireland. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to read and share in the thoughts of our then 22 year old and be able, from far away, to experience his experiences, to share in his questioning, and to be in wonder at the way he could express himself and, at times, give clarity to some of my own personal frustrations and worries.

One day, as I was reading one of Joel’s blog entries, it became clear to me the vast amount of influence many of you at Eastridge Church had on his life, both personally and spiritually. Faces and names came to mind as I continued reading. It became very evident that I needed to express my thanks to our church family for the many ways you helped in his development as a young Christian. With that in mind, I’d like to express my deep and sincere gratitude to each of you who:
            - spent time planning Sunday School and Bible school lessons when you could have gone to the movies;
            - poured over vocal octavos and hand bell music when you really just wanted to sit down and listen to your favorite CDs;
            - made phone calls and sent emails to secure arrangements for mission trips when you could have been making plans for your own vacation;
            - traveled on these mission trips when you could have used this time for your own personal “get-aways”;
            - took the time to attend youth fund-raisers when shopping at Gateway might have been more appealing;
            - shared your time as a mentor or youth sponsor, officially or unofficially, when you could have chosen to spend that same time in quiet solitude;
            - accepted, and tried to answer, the “hard” questions that were asked when you could have pretended to not hear;
            - provided a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear when you could have turned and walked away;
            - showed your faith through your actions instead of “hiding it under a bushel”;
            - gave an encouraging smile when your own worries and troubles were overwhelming.

Prayer: Dear Lord: My thankfulness and gratitude runs deep for our Eastridge church family.  So many have been instrumental in the spiritual and personal development of our children and youth over the years. In both big and small ways, may each of us continue to see how we can share the talents you have given us to build up, encourage and support our own community of faith along with the various communities that reside outside our church’s walls. May our lives always be a testament to your love, grace and faithfulness.  Amen.

Patty Niemann (reprinted from January 2009)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Angels in Disguise


“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.  Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7  

“Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” Proverbs 22:6  


I received a T-shirt with this message, “Mothers are Just Angels in Disguise.” The T-shirt’s creator probably meant this to give moms a “pat on the back.” However, many moms may see it as raising expectations for mothers. One weary mother remarked, “I could be a good mom if it weren’t so daily.”


How do parents handle all the expectations and demands of everyday life?  Not alone!  “It takes a village to raise a child,” states an often-quoted proverb.  In a church community, we can support families as they face the challenges of too little time and resources. We can reach out to support community agencies and groups that help families with their many needs. We can offer daily prayers for children and parents in our church, community and around the world.


Sometimes parents become overwhelmed because they forget that children’s needs are really quite simple. As John Thompson writes, “What children are looking for is a hug, a lap, a kind word, a touch, someone to read them a story, somebody to smile and share with.”


A children’s book my daughter gave me, I Love My Mommy Because reminds, “I love my mommy because she reads me stories.  She listens when I talk.  She feeds me when I’m hungry.”  It continues with a few other simple thoughts ending with, “I love my mommy and my mommy loves me”.


Parents, grandparents and “a village” can raise each child following the example of the Great Teacher and the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31


Prayer: Dear God, remind us that we don’t need to know all the answers. Help us to be grateful for the children you have placed in our care. We desire to follow your example of unconditional love.  Guide us daily as we seek to love, forgive, and be in your Presence. Amen.


Lois Poppe (reprinted from May 2012)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Animals


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

My daughter was enchanted by animals from a very early age, and was curious to get to know them and communicate with them.  I tried to free myself of my inner fears of some animals and insects, and encourage her comfortable familiarity with the wild.  She was the zoo visitor who would always gladly let a snake have its way with her, or let bugs crawl all over her.  

She loved being on Zoo Crew, especially when she was able to help with the Critter Encounter area.  She brought her pet rats to 4H Pet Pals meetings and loved being at the animal exhibits at all the local fairs.  She participated in domestic rat rescue programs, and helped find homes for rats used in the Nebraska Wesleyan University behavioral psychology courses.  

She did not enjoy ideal health growing up, so she earned a GED rather than complete high school classes; then she took veterinary technician courses online.  Our vet allowed her to observe and assist with procedures and surgeries, including those on her own animals.  

This spring, a year and a half after a life-giving 4th liver transplant, she helped her husband open up his own veterinary clinic (he is a vet) in South Korea.  They serve both Koreans and English-speaking pet caretakers who need detailed communication.  Because there is no specific training for veterinary nurses in Korea, she has ample qualifications as an assistant because of her experience and her general knowledge of human medical treatment (as an observant and informed patient).  Her husband considers her to be his head nurse as well as assistant and office manager.  Her blog and word-of-mouth have publicized their clinic as specializing in "exotic animals" such as hamsters and rats, so they have many tiny patients.

I get the news every few days of some interesting patient, including the dog that escaped and led them on a several-blocks-long chase through their downtown area.  She and her husband spend many long hours day and night at their clinic, making use of a pull-out bed there.  Currently, they have three stray kittens they are treating, who will be offered to good homes eventually; one of them was separated too early from his mother and is having to be hand-fed and taught all the basics of elimination and hygiene.  These are the things my daughter handles with ease.  

This is all born of a tremendous love for all the things animals teach us about living in God's world, about companionship, about loyalty and love, and about taking care of one another.  Every day I am grateful for the people who helped my daughter to be well, or to feel better when she wasn't; but I am also grateful for the animals who shared their lives with her and cared for her.  The cat she was especially close to used to sit with her in bed and have what we called "the laying-on of paws".  

There is a beautiful Benjamin Britten vocal piece with lyrics from a poem by Christopher Smart, and I hope you will be able to base your prayer on a few of those words:

For I will consider my cat Jeoffry.

For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him...

For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him...

For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit...

For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire...

For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements...

For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.

Amen.
Mollie Manner

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Why are we so stupid?


Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  Matthew 7:7


So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10


Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…Ephesians 3:20


I don’t like the word stupid and forbid my children to use it. It is like the word fool which my mother disciplined me greatly for using. But it fits here.


We were in a meeting at church and the matter of asking God for little and great things came up. Several of us could think of problems we had that lasted years and we never thought of praying to God. When we finally did ask as he tells us to, the problem ended soon or was solved in a way we never could have imagined. The truth is, no problem is too small and no problem is too large for our omniscient Lord.


Prayer: Our Father in Heaven, even though we know you already know our request before we ask it, help us to remember to simply ask as you tell us to many times in the Bible. Amen.


Sandra Hilsabeck (reprinted from February 2013)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

God in My Heart

As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the person. Proverbs 27:19
And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  Colossians 3:15
I saw the Broadway Musical "The Color Purple" recently. Celie was a black Southern woman.  Celie experienced abuse with her Father and then she was sold into a life of servitude.  Through all this she expressed through a song that she survived because she carried God in her heart.
Are you too busy or overwhelmed in your life to not carry God in your heart? God made us to be with him but we need to make space in our lives and heart for him. We fill our lives with busyness and more things to do and forget about keeping God in our Hearts.  Our heart is restless until God rests in our heart. 
Prayer: Dear God, be in my heart as I journey through each Day and help me make room for you.  Amen
Susan Taylor      

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bird Family


So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that move about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:21
But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. Mark 10:6
The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you. John 14:26 

Families sometimes are very hard to navigate. We have such situations in our family. Having prayed to God for more than a year one of our prayers was answered.

Being in my usual place for study and prayer one morning, I felt the Holy Spirit blessing us with an answer for our family. Then God placed this beautiful male cardinal on the railing in front of me. Soon after, He placed a baby robin in the same place. Both of those beautiful birds just stood there for some time.  As I looked out another window I saw the female cardinal. It was like the spirit was reminding me that family is good and I should trust God in all.

Prayer: Dear Lord, continue to help me see all that you put before me and all that the Spirit reminds me about what you have told us. You made our families and you want us to live faithfully together as the birds do following your will which you declare is good. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Rain


Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.  Zechariah 10:1

May he be like rain falling on a mown field; like showers watering the earth. Psalms 72:6

There is such delight in being able to listen to a gentle spring rain, with only faint grumbles of thunder.  The sound of drops pattering on horizontal surfaces and trickling down vertical ones is like a soothing lullaby.  Seeing the mistiness making lights waver and bright spring greens shimmer is like enjoying a moving work of art, shifting in the changing cloudlight.  Birds send out their most joyful songs and seem to chuckle softly to themselves.  Puddles reflect the white sky, and seem to boil with bubbles as drops bounce into them.  The freshness of the air and the smells of the wet earth make everything feel clean and rinsed of dusty weariness.  Spring's growth is nourished just as the soul's thirst for comfort and healing is tended.  Memories of other times and places in this hypnotic kind of soft rainfall arise and pull this moment into a thread of continuity.  

Rain has many associations for Christians; in the Bible - and in agricultural states like the one where I live - rain is an important part of the planting and growing seasons.  Crops and livestock depend on adequate rain, and ultimately everyone's food supply is tied to it.  God provides all this, and it is a testament of his care when the rain falls; it is a gift that feeds all people. 

The rain can be threatening, and floods are a fearful event in Biblical lore.  Rain is sometimes symbolic of God's righteousness showering down on the earth.  

But the beneficial rain is inclusive; it falls on everyone and everything.  If we choose to shower blessings like this, we share them without exception to all within reach.  God is in the water that baptizes us, the water that cleans us and everything we use and touch and see, the water that is a habitat for countless amazing beings, the water that nourishes our food and the trees and plants that give us shade and joy.

The rain I am enjoying at this moment is one of the ways I can experience God's peace that surpasses understanding.  This same rain is making someone else feel soggy and chilled, so I have to hope that somehow God's comfort is felt by that person in some way as well.  I often work in the evenings, and I am fortunate enough to be home by an open door for this rainfall.  Someone else who planned an outdoor event for this evening has had to make a change in plans, and isn't feeling as fortunate.  

There is a Jewish prayer recited at the start of the rainy season in Israel.  This is an excerpt.  

May He send rain from the heavenly towers,

To soften the earth with its crystal showers.

You have named water the symbol of Your might,

All that breathes life in its drops to delight. 

O revive those who praise Your powers of rain....

For you are God, who causes the wind to blow 

and the rain to fall; 

for a blessing and not for a curse - Amen!

For life, and not for death - Amen!

For plenty, and not for scarcity - Amen!

Mollie Manner

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Scripture for Graduating Students


I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:7-11


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Words of Encouragement

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18



Monday, May 7, 2018

Mothers and those who have gone before us


Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 1 Thessalonians 4:9

On Facebook there was a picture of a button box which had 9,556,133 views at the time I looked at it. Now why? Is it because we remember a grandmother, aunt or other older relative that had a button box? Does that symbol remind us of their love for us?

Some of the comments were:

  • I have my moms or my grandmothers button box
  • The buttons remind me of the clothes my mother made me
  • The sculpture of these old buttons is more unique than today’s buttons
  • It took me 40 years to discover the masking tape on the bottom of the tin that said I made this for you with love
  • Mine not only has buttons but buckles, hooks & eyes, press, studs, zips, and suspender rubber attachments

I have two button boxes. Sadly, I don’t remember exactly their original owner. They could have been with some items I received from my husband’s great aunt or one of my grandmother’s or even my mom’s. I have received items from several generations before me. I do know that I loved each of them and these items are special to me.

The tin button box now has the old buttons. The delicate wicker one contains new buttons that came with clothes I bought, even one from a sweater bought in Australia. There are memories in those boxes, wonderful memories.

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, thank you for the ones who have gone before us. We remember their humbleness and their gentleness because we hold their buttons in our hands today. Thank you for their love and for you teaching them to love us. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck







Thursday, May 3, 2018

Getting the Dirt on Soil



In the course of time Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. Genesis 9:20
Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. Genesis 4:3
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19

Mari Lane Gewecke opened her article in the gardening section of L Magazine for May 2018, saying “When you stroll on the lawn and in the garden, you are walking on an interconnected web of life. The top several inches of soil is teeming with all manner of life, from worms to centipedes, from ants to slugs, from bacteria to fungi. There is a lot going on down there."

We don’t think about all the items we are stepping on, or how amazing soil really is in our lives. There is the joke about the guy telling God he could make a world too but asked God for some soil. God said, “Make your own dirt.” That stopped the man abruptly. I like dirt. I love to get my hands in the fresh turned up soil in the spring and plant flowers and vegetables. I put them in the dark moist stuff and they grow. Our food comes from the soil.

We all know this, but what about all the other things we do with soil. Of course, we walk on it and we are buried in it. These aren’t small things. We build our houses on it, contain our waters with dams of soil and our irrigation canal walls are soil. We build our roads and ramps with it and drive our cars on them. Our mountains have raised up from the soil, the bottoms of our oceans are soil, and the wind blows it from place to place. The trees are stabilized by it, our fences depend on the soil to stand straight and our trash is buried in it. Our cattle and all animals use it for their sewer and the soil is replenished by this abuse as the animal waste is used as fertilizer to grow more grass or food for us.

The gravity of the earth keeps us on the planet’s soil. The rain normally doesn’t flood our areas because the soil absorbs the moisture. Soil can be used to put out fires, pour our drinks in and put out cigarettes. The layers of soil filter our water to make it clean to drink again. When loaded into sacks soil can stabilize our patio umbrellas and a child can play in soil all day long. What would we do without it?

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, you put under our feet a miraculous material which we use every day and never thank you for it. Today, I thank you for dirt. Amen.
Sandra Hilsabeck




Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Good Day - Bad Day


“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 7:13  

“And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

When we receive a new license plate number, I look for a way to connect it with something that will help me remember it.  Our most recent one is VGD 099. I chose V (very) G (good) D (day) and 099 (99%). Each time I look for our license plate in a parking lot, it reminds me that it is a Very Good Day. The 99% reminds me that most days aren’t perfect but are mostly Very Good Days.

Even a large folk art clock right inside a mall shop reminds me, “Today is a good day for a good day”.

At the same time, I realize that there are days that are challenging.  I recall the popular children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Judith Viorst originally published the book in 1972.  It is still available today, probably because we can all relate to it.   A movie and also a musical were produced based on the book.

Most of the time when I find myself in a worrisome situation, family and friends are there to offer me comfort and support.  Above all, I know I can count on God’s promise to always walk with me both on good days and during challenging times. 

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for your assurance that you are always with us.  More than ever, in a world full of fears, dissent, and discord, we need your hope.  Amen. 

Lois Poppe



Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How Do I Practice Humility?


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

Today's devotion marks the third one I have written on this particular scripture. I have discussed kindness and compassion thus far. Those virtues were very straightforward, easy for me to grasp and strive to practice daily. When Paul states we need to love others with humility, I do not have as clear a picture of what that looks like. At the same time, I have come to think that humility is both a challenge for me and the most important love virtue of all.

I know arrogance and boastfulness are opposite behaviors of being humble.  And, it's relatively easy for me to keep those in check. I also can quickly pick those traits out in someone else. Of course I can!  Dictionary.com defines humility as having a modest opinion of one's own importance or rank; freedom of pride or arrogance. 

In Ephesians 4:2, Paul tells us to be completely humble and gentle. So, being humble and being gentle go together. A humble person has a gentle heart and demonstrates gentleness to others. True humility is being respectful of others.

In Philippians 2:3, Paul admonishes us:  "In humility, consider others better."   Wow! What about being self-confident and strong, which today's society touts as important personal goals? Paul is talking here about not acting out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. He is telling us to consider others needs. C. S. Lewis says that true humility is not thinking less of yourself but instead is thinking of yourself less. True humility then is both living with your ego in the back seat and serving others; and, finding true peace and joy in serving others.

In James 4:10, James writes to tell us how to act like Christians. James says to humble yourselves before the Lord. That's clear to me as God is all knowing, all omnipotent, all loving, all forgiving. I am clearly unworthy in the sight of God.  Before God, I am by my human nature humbled, yet do I always feel and act humble? Or does my own agenda include taking myself too seriously and/or putting myself first? And did Jesus not demonstrate total humility when he became man and was obedient to his Father by dying on the cross?

Matthew 18:4 says, "Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." A child is by nature submissive, meek, not haughty or prideful, dependent on others, trusting of others. A young child is characteristically humble and teachable. 

In Proverbs, 11:2, we are told that with humility comes wisdom and in 15:33, that humility comes before honor. It is more important to be humble than to be praised or honored.

My father was by nature a humble man. In 1915, he was born to new immigrants from Russia; they were Volga Germans to be exact. In this new country, they were migrant workers. My father had only a fourth grade education as he had to help his family in the beet fields. He worked very hard, served God and his family first, and strived to "not throw his weight around".  He was a great example of a humble, gentle, and strong man. He set a wonderful example of what humility looks like for his ten children.

Prayer: Jesus, son of God, who became Man at the will of your Father in the most perfect act of Humility, and died on the cross for our sins, help me to strive to practice humility in my life daily. I want to be humble, gentle, respectful of others, and find joy in serving others. Like my father, I long to be humble before you. Guide me to a greater place of true humility in my heart and in my life.

Connie Barry