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