Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Seek Wisdom


Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;

    teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

For through wisdom your days will be many,

    and years will be added to your life. Proverbs 9:9-11


Monday, July 30, 2018

Serving Chicken Salad

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”   Hebrews 6:10
“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Proverbs 11:25
“The greatest among you will be your servant.”   Matthew 23:11
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Luke 6:38
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45
Here at work (in the Eastridge office!) I have a working file folder on my computer of devotions-in-progress and other semi-personal documents. Some of these are just one sentence ideas that I’ve “jotted down” to come back to later. Close to the top of the folder isn’t a potential devotion, but a recipe for chicken salad. This handwritten recipe is courtesy of one of our church members who passed away in 2015. She was a wonderful volunteer who loved to serve: she was a deacon, she organized funeral luncheons, and she helped in the office on Fridays.  Julie Eyth’s chicken salad recipe is one that we continue to use for our funeral and memorial luncheons, one that draws raves when served.
Since the recipe was scanned (I’ve given the original to her daughter), the church has it for posterity. As we continue to step into Julie’s shoes and others who have gone before, we continue to not only honor their memory, but fulfill God’s expectation that we find in 1 Peter 4:10: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 
What can you do today to serve in your community? Your church? Your neighborhood? God is calling you to serve Him by serving others.
Prayer: Dear Lord, show me the needs in my world. Show me the ways in which I can serve You by sharing Your love with others. Show me how to best serve in my community, my church, my family. Be with me and strengthen me as I do the work that you have called me to do. Amen.
Donna Gustafson



Friday, July 27, 2018

Trust in the Lord


“Every word of God is flawless;

    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Do not add to his words,

    or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Two things I ask of you, Lord;

    do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;

    give me neither poverty nor riches,

    but give me only my daily bread." Proverbs 30: 5-8


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Be Holy


Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors,  but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  For,

“All people are like grass,

    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;

the grass withers and the flowers fall,

    but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.  1 Peter 1: 13-25

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Salad dressing


Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD. Then Haggai, the LORD's messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: "I am with you," declares the LORD. So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God. Haggai 1:12-14

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

The visual image of shaking up a bottle of salad dressing was mentioned in a recent session of our Wednesday morning Bible study. Upon the suggestion of another Bible study member, I decided to write a devotion on this theme. In delving further into this, I discovered there are several verses that use the word “stir” when referencing an attitude or action one needs to take. I’ve listed some of them above.

As mentioned in our study conversation, we allow God to “settle to the bottom”, like the ingredients in, for example, Italian salad dressing. The “good stuff” settles to the bottom. So, following this analogy, we need to “shake ourselves up”, getting the goodness of God back into our lives.

Shared by a friend in our study: Shake the bottle so that once again God is mixed up in everything you do. All your thoughts, all your words, all your entertainment, all your attitudes... everything that you do. And through this you are also sharing God with others.

So the next time you feel a bit sluggish in your faith, shake yourself up by stirring God back into your life… think of that jar of salad dressing sitting on the shelf with the seasoning settled to the bottom of the bottle. When you shake the bottle up, all the ingredients mix together and then the dressing can add flavor to a salad. In the same way, we can stir ourselves up and be useful in furthering God’s kingdom. That may mean prayer time you’ve neglected, fellowship with other Christians, reading God’s word, studying God’s word, sharing His love with others…I’m certain you can think of your own ways to “shake” God’s goodness into your life.

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes I’m just like the stagnant dressing on the shelf, my life separated by my own thoughts and pursuits, and your spiritual goodness. Help me to remember to stir your Word and teachings back into my life, so that I may share You with others. Amen.

Donna Gustafson (with the help of the Wednesday Bible study members!)



Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Breathe on Me, Breath of God


If we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:12

As I walk around the neighborhood, either with Sandy or just by myself, or work in our garden, I sing this song to myself. 

"Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew,
that I may love as thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.”

Repeating the words of this hymn brings me close to God and full of joy. The wonders of this earth become larger, more beautiful, and give me much to be thankful for. When I walk, I think of the people living in the houses I pass:  families with children, seniors, individuals who have chosen the Eastridge neighborhood because of the beauty and friendliness of those around them. I ask God to bring them to us at Eastridge Church, if they don’t have another church home. When I work in our garden, I think of the blessing of fruits and vegetables that we can grow, enjoy preparing and eating, and share with neighbors. This brings us closer to others, and allows us to show God’s love. 

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the divine blessing of your constant presence.  Let me take time to breathe in that presence as I go about my day and its many activities. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.  

Carolyn Brandle

Monday, July 23, 2018

Phones


But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the God. Matthew 4:4

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4

I just shared a picture on Facebook of a man jumping from his coffin, stating Oops! I forgot my phone. Oh how true it is, for some of us it has become our third hand. Another posting was “Tell those teachers, you do have a calculator everywhere you go”.  My first cellular phone was a phone in a bag, about the size of a planner, then I progressed to the larger handheld with antenna, then to the flip phones, then I stated numerous times I was not going to get a smart phone! Well, time progresses and I have a smart phone; I am lost without it now, and it has become a very dangerous item to lose. It has all my contacts, schedule, pictures, etc.  Has your phone ever become more important than the person you are with? Do you put your phone down to drive? Do you only text your friends? Do you find yourself playing games on it rather than engaging in the sermon at church? How old was your child before they became addicted to the phone, three? or four? Have you ever been to dinner with those who are on their phone and it has become difficult to have a conversation with them? 

What if the Bible was the item you took everywhere you went? What if you read it to others and had conversations about it at dinner? When I was younger I was taught not to deface books, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to read, highlight and even write your contacts in [the Bible] (if nothing else but to pray for them when you opened the Bible to read). Now change the caption on the picture, Oops! I forgot my Bible!

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us to remember what is important in life. Remind us to spend more time reading the Bible. Help us to remember to enjoy those individuals around us in conversation and personal contact rather than a quick text, or just a glance over our phones at dinner. Help us to look beyond our technical equipment to the glory of the beauty of your creations. Amen

Lori Hood

Friday, July 20, 2018

Rules for Living


“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:19-34



Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Loving the Unloved



As Jesus was coming near Jericho, there was a blind man sitting by the road, begging. When he heard the crowd passing by, he asked, "What is this?"

"Jesus of Nazereth is passing by," they told him.

He cried out, "Jesus!  Son of David!  Have mercy on me!"

The people in front scolded him and told him to be quiet.  But he shouted even more loudly, "Son of David!  Have mercy on me."

So Jesus stopped and ordered the blind man to be brought to him,  When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?"

"Sir," he answered, "I want to see again."

Jesus said to him, "Then see. Your faith has made you well." Luke 18: 35-42       
Just as with the blind beggar, Jesus reached out again and again to the helpless, the poor, the sick and the outcasts. When Jesus saw that Zacchaeus, the hated tax collector, had climbed  a sycamore tree just to catch a glimpse of him, Jesus immediately urged Zacchaeus to hurry down because he wanted to stay at his house. 

When Jesus' disciples and the bystanders saw Zacchaeus being welcomed and treated so well, they began grumbling and saying, "This man has gone as a guest to the home of a sinner." In the closing verses of Luke, chapter 19, Jesus answered them, saying, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."

In John, chapter 4, Jesus met with a Samaritan woman at a well, and asked her for a drink of water. Now the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other and Jews would not even use the same cups and bowls that Samaritans used.   Jesus then told her that he was the Messiah. And she went back to town and told everyone she met about him.

We see them all around us, on the streets, standing with a sign reading "WILL WORK FOR FOOD", at the Gathering Place.....the poor, the hungry and the outcasts of this wonderful city of Lincoln. It reminds me of a song by Avery and Marsh that we used to sing in the seventies.  It's called, "Love Them Now."  It goes like this:
"There are lots of lonely people, lots of strange, peculiar people, who need all the love--that anyone can give. We've been told: 'Don't speak to strangers and the ones who aren't approved of,' but perhaps we have forgot how Jesus lived.  Love them now. Don't wait till they're gone away.---Love them now, while they're around. Touch them, hold them, laugh and cry with them. Show them, tell them, don't deny--with them. Honor them, give birth and die--with them now.  Love them now--before they're just a guilty mem'ry. Love them now,--Love them now. There are lots and lots of people, who are hard to get along with, who demand and hate--and tear down everyone. But we're not to be their judges, not their wardens, not their masters, we're supposed to be their servants like God's son. Love them now."
               
Prayer: Dear God, help us to love each other. Help us not to be judgmental, and more forgiving.  Amen

Gerry Draney (reprinted with permission)



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Exclusion and Acceptance


“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

The sermon this Sunday (July 8) left me with many images, some different than the actual message and then of course the actual message. One of them brought to mind my attendance in a different church. I have had the opportunity to attend other church denominations since many weekends are spent out of town. Now this particular church left me with a sad prayerful feeling. Upon arrival at this church were several greeters making their presence known by stepping up and greeting all those attending. They were outside and inside, now I am not talking about one or two. I am talking ten or twenty. The entrance is is designed more like a theater entrance. As you enter what would be the sanctuary there are ropes closing off the back rows of seating and ushers guiding you to the next available front row. Once the service started the bright pink lights of the stage (instead of an altar) and the white lights flashing are joined with the sounds of a band and four singers. The big screens are filled with pictures and words to the song. After a few songs a gentleman is lead up front by two other men. He apparently is the pastor. He greets everyone explaining that the way they put their arms in the air and other actions are their way of recognizing the Holy Spirit. That all are welcome here, but enters into that if you come from another denomination or have never accepted the Holy Spirit then you are now in the right place. Unfortunately he proceeds to declare that other denominations are not connecting to the Living God. There was scripture reading and interpretation of those readings. At the end of Sermon the Pastor is led out by the same two men and more singing ends the service. The same greeters are there to thank you for attending. 

I felt like I had attended a concert or motivational speaking engagement. It was not the church for me.  Now I am glad that those attending are following Jesus.  But I pray for their exclusion to other denominations. I just read a posting on Facebook where they were debating the exclusion of non-Catholics taking communion. 

I am always thankful to be attending my church that I feel renewed for the week. That I feel all are welcome and accepted at our church. I pray that we greet all those new and faithful members in the way Jesus would. 

Prayer: In the name of Jesus I pray that we guide more to follow in the path to your kingdom.  I pray that exclusion of others is eliminated and we accept others with your open arms.  I thank you Father for guiding me to a church that gives me the renewal of my spirit and strength to live my life on your chosen path.  Help me to welcome and invite others to your loving arms Amen.

Lori Hood


Monday, July 16, 2018

Be Steadfast in the Lord


Do your best to win full approval in God's sight, as a worker who is not ashamed of his work, one who correctly teaches the message of God's truth. II Timothy 2:15. 

Do your best to come to me soon.  Demas fell in love with this present world and has deserted me, going off to Thessalonica. II Timothy 4:9-11. 


When I was a little girl, my dad wrote this first scripture in my autograph book.  He wanted me to know how important it was to always do your best; and he wanted me to know, also, that my work was a reflection of God's work.

In Paul's second letter to Timothy, he talks about steadfastness and loyalty.  He tells Timothy to do his best and not be ashamed of his work. Paul also says, in effect, come help me!  Demas has fallen in love with this present world, and has deserted me. 

This struck a chord with me.  I have lost count of the people I have known through the years who joined the church, gotten involved with the church, and suddenly, inexplicably, quit coming and just dropped out!  It leaves one wondering. "What happened?"  Did they feel they had to give up their church and their religion because they had taken on too much?  Or do we push people to get involved before they are ready?  I don't know the answers to these questions. But I do know, being involved in my church means everything to me.  

I think the old hymn fits what I am talking about:

"I love thy church, Oh, God,
The House of Thine abode”

Gerry Draney (reprinted from August 2012)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Faith and Freedom


In whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. Ephesians 3:12

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

My September 11 experience re-connected me with the important values in my life. My husband and I went to New York City to serve as Disaster Childcare volunteers following September 11, 2001. 

Arriving at Kennedy Airport, we noted U.S. flags everywhere. Pier 94, a warehouse where we did childcare, had U.S. flags hanging across the wide expanse. All workers had one purpose, assisting the survivors of the World Trade Center. 

Parents brought their children for us to care for while they dealt with the maze of agencies documenting their loss. The dividers were covered with pictures and letters from children all over the U.S.

As physically and emotionally draining as this experience was for those who lost so much, it was also uplifting. A special bond united us all, with a common purpose. Even in the aftermath of this tragic event, I felt a sense of hope for the future of the survivors and our country.

Most importantly, my experience in New York affirms for me the importance of faith and freedom. Faith – for me, faith is essential to having hope for our future.  The Rev. Mark J. Stewart, affirms, “There was a resiliency in the American spirit to see this tragic moment through. A new spiritual awakening, sense of being and purpose, and dedication to principles of freedom and life emerged from the carnage.  Out of the shadow of death, there is a new morn.”

Freedom – September 11, 2001, affirmed, for me, how fragile and how vital freedom is to our democracy. So what does September 11 have to do with voting and freedom? I loved seeing the flags flying everywhere.  I loved the enthusiastic singing of the National Anthem. However, I don’t think waving flags and other symbols of patriotism are enough. For our families today and our children and grandchildren tomorrow, we must find time and energy to insure our country’s freedom. Registering to vote, becoming an informed voter, and working to insure justice for all citizens in our country and around the world is essential to our democracy.

Many citizens do not vote. We can encourage our friends and neighbors to vote. For our democracy to continue as a vital force, we must do this.  As Erica Snyder, a student, stated, “I learned that to be great in a community, you don’t need to be famous, you don’t need to be wealthy.  You simply need to become a reliable source of good.”
                       
Prayer: God, we need your encouragement to insure freedom and justice for all citizens in our country and around the world. Lead and guide us. Amen.

Lois Poppe

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lily


...Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them....Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.   Matthew 6:25-34

I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon....    Hosea 14:5

His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs; his lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh.   Song of Solomon 5:13

My gardening efforts are more as an editor than as a creator; or perhaps I could claim that my gardening artistry is more as a sculptor than a painter.  Besides watering a few pots of herbs and flowers, my primary outdoor pursuits are weeding, mowing, and trimming.  

There is a wonderful John Singer Sargent painting of two girls in white dresses lighting paper lanterns among luxuriant blossoms, called "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose". It has always reminded me of summer gardens at dusk; even more so because I spent many a summer twilight watching my two daughters chasing fireflies. The lilies in the painting are white and pink, and very trumpet-like. They seem to gather around the girls, focused on the lanterns. They echo the ruffles on the girls' white dresses. I have never seen lilies blooming like that; they show up in beautiful florist shop bouquets, but they are far more exotic than the day-lilies that show up in gardens I have tended.

The lily referred to in Biblical writings could have been any variety of flowering plants similar to what we know as lilies, including tulips and irises. It was probably any brilliantly colored, somewhat cup-shaped blossom that would have been noticeably elegant in order to be compared to Solomon's robes. It was also one of the symbols for Christ.  

Myrrh is an aromatic oil from a resin that does not come from lily pollen, but the reference in Song of Solomon refers to the sweetness of the lily-like lips of the beloved. Myrrh was a prized, so it can be assumed that the lily too was a symbol for something very desirable.

The rains of late June coaxed all sorts of jungle-like greenery to take over half of my back yard. By the time I was able to get to it, it looked like a tangle of vines from Sleeping Beauty's castle, or some malevolent botanical species from Harry Potter stories.  

When I cleared a section of the garden of these epic monsters, I was rewarded with a lovely area full of day-lilies, with strong stalks and bursting buds. Two of them broke heroically into bloom later in the day, shaking out layers of bright orange ruffles that were easily visible from inside the house. They gave me the courage to keep attacking the suffocating overgrowth, and for the moment I have restored some measure of peace to the garden.  

Anyone with an appreciation for nature's glories is moved by the splendid variety of blooming things. We should look at ourselves with the same wonder, appreciating the miracles that make us what we are.  

I tend to be overloaded with clutter and the noise of the world. I try to tend the garden of my life so I can breathe and reveal what God is making of me. It requires powerful resistance in this world to simply be the beautiful creatures we are. It seems that anxiety is always making a fresh attack on us. I try to keep those triumphant lilies in my mind as I fight what I hope is the good fight.  

As usual, when a symbol or metaphor takes root in my consciousness, I become aware of other references from day to day. I have recently been re-reading a Harry Potter book, and his dead mother Lily is always revered in Harry's and other characters' memories. Her sister Petunia, who was a vain and punitive character, is aptly named as the more common, less revered flower.   

Recently I worked with a voice student in some musical theatre workshops. She was trying to prepare a good cut for an audition piece, and she needed a lot of assistance from the workshop presenters. I accompanied her on the piano as they worked with her, and we talked afterwards about her music. She was so grateful, and asked if she could hug me. It was so touching - not just to receive that sincere appreciation, but to watch her blossom as we all worked with her.  I was tickled that her name was Lillian. 

My grown daughter has a close friend she met in grade school named Lily. I saw her recently, and was struck again by her radiant smile and energy. I am aware of powerful community activities she is involved in. She has come through some immense personal challenges in her life, to be a person who guides and leads others with respect and a nurturing, positive attitude.  

Prayer: Wondrous Gardener, your lily is a beautiful reminder of your stunning creation and your ardent care for all of it; for all of us. Help me to revere your work, which is creating your world day after day. Help me to accept the care and nourishment that will make me continue to grow. When there is anxiety or other antagonists threatening the flourishing of your work, help me to prune those things from my life and my world. Thank you for the lily, and for the eyes to appreciate its infinite beauty. Amen.

Mollie Manner


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Father Revealed in the Son


At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:25-29



Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Animals




Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! Psalm 8:6-9 

I was raised with all types of animals in my childhood. Horses, pigs, cows, chickens (Indian, Silkie, Polish, etc). We sold green and pink eggs. We raised fryers and so we cleaned many a chicken coop and chickens. We had lambs, rabbits, peacocks, etc. We always had our dogs and cats. It built a love and companionship of animals. The bond between man and animals is the learning process of taking care of, loving, and, unfortunately, the grieving of the loss. 


My nephew and his family just lost their faithful companion Rebel. He was a rough collie. My nephew got him when he was still a bachelor and now he is married with three kids. When their first son was born Rebel took upon himself to guard the baby. He loved to sleep under the crib, or go and nudge mom or dad when baby needed them. He had an instinct of how to deal with children, he was a calm, forgiving dog when the little ones may have pulled a little too hard on his hair or when they tried to ride him. He would run circles around with their kids almost everyday.  


I always think of the Paul Harvey [essay], So God made a Dog


“And on the ninth day, God looked down on his children and said they need a companion. So God made a dog. ....”

Prayer: Thank you Father for the wonderful array of animals you have blessed us with, your creative hands in making animals with breathtaking colors, with all the different characteristics that amaze us. Each is created with uniqueness and purpose. Thank you Father for our many blessings. Amen

Lori Hood

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Workers Are Few

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:35-38


Friday, July 6, 2018

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand


When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

God's Creation


God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27


We received this photo from our grandson after his youngest boy was born this June. What an awesome God we have. My husband and I are amazed each time a new child is born into our family. The imagination God must have to give each of them so many specific talents is amazing. And we get to see those talents blossom as they grow.


Of course, this peaceful picture doesn’t represent the rest of the day. We also have a granddaughter with eleven-month-old twins and see how busy those parents are each day. We know this mother and father need to be attentive twenty-four hours a day. It is good to be the great grandparent because we can see so much of the joy children give us without having the daily duties.


Prayer: Thank you God for creating the human beings in your image and breathing life into us. We see the love of this little boy for his new brother and understand God’s love for us through his continuing creation. Thank you Lord for loaning us these precious children to love for our time on earth. Amen.


Sandra Hilsabeck



Wednesday, July 4, 2018

What Does the Bible Say About Refugees?


LOVE REFUGEES AS YOURSELF
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

LEAVE FOOD FOR THE POOR AND THE FOREIGNER
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)

GOD LOVES THE FOREIGNER RESIDING AMONG YOU
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

THE SIN OF SODOM: THEY DID NOT HELP THE POOR AND NEEDY
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)

DO NOT OPPRESS A FOREIGNER
Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

DO NOT DEPRIVE FOREIGNERS AMONG YOU OF JUSTICE
“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)

DO WHATEVER THE FOREIGNER ASKS OF YOU
“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name. (1 Kings 8:41-44)

LEAVE YOUR DOOR OPEN TO THE TRAVELER
No stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler (Job, discussing his devotion to God) (Job 31:32)

INVITE THE STRANGER IN
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

WE WERE ALL BAPTIZED BY ONE SPIRIT
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

HAVE MERCY ON YOUR NEIGHBOR
He asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:29-37)



Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Let Us Learn from Our Children


At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said:  "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:1-4 

There are some frightening things happening with immigrant children these days in our country and they are on my mind almost constantly. I am praying for their safety and well being and that they be reunited with their parents.   They are innocent children, children of parents who want to give them a better life and take them away from war, persecution, poverty, starvation, even death. Children depend on adults to take care of them and they need to remain bonded with their parents. 

Children are often on my mind. I adore children and young people. My career as a teacher brought me such joy and fulfillment. And my own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, other people's grandchildren, children in church or at the grocery store, children everywhere all are gifts of joy to me. And they are undoubtedly tools of learning for me. They teach me to be better. 

Children are full of joy and laughter, spontaneous. I certainly could use more of all of those most days. Children are happy, they strive to have fun. They are resilient; they emote when something happens that does not feel good, and then get over it, move on down the road. My Dad used to encourage his children and grandchildren to "holler their head off" and then be done. They are energetic and active. They are eager to learn and try and grasp new things.  They are adventurous. They are wise. My granddaughter, at 3, watched me try to shape too dry cookie dough over and over, and responded.  "Grams, this isn't working. Can we try something different?" And we moistened the dough with a little milk, and it worked! A grandchild of my sisters always assertively says, "I think, no thanks!" when he knows he does not want what a parent is offering (maybe a nap, more veggies, to come inside). Children are honest and assertive. They say what they mean.

And they are not at the top of the pecking order, they are instead humble.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, please help me to be more child-like, more humble, honest, joyful, playful, resilient.  We ask you to guide us to take care of and protect all children, as they are closest to you in nature.  May we love and nurture them just as you do all of your children.  Thank you for the gift of children.  Amen.

Connie Barry

Monday, July 2, 2018

Jesus is Tested in the Wilderness: Matthew 4


Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Matthew 4:1-11