Friday, August 31, 2018

Dare to be Happy


This is the day that the Lord has made;  let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24  (NRSV)

When I was in Virginia visiting my Dad recently, I looked through my Mom's desk-- and to my delight, I discovered that she had saved every single one of the Christmas letters she had written through the years.  As I read through them, I discovered not only a fascinating synopsis of the year's happenings, but also found many touching quotes, poems and sentiments.  Through many of them, her exceptional character shone through...especially in the poem below, quoted in her '92 letter.

Dare to be Happy”, by Helen Lowrie Marshall

Dare to be happy--don't shy away,
Reach out and capture the joy of Today!
Life is for living!  Give it a try;
Open your heart to that sun in the sky.
Dare to be loving, and trusting, and true;
Treasure the hours with those dear to you.
Dare to be kind--it's more fun than you know;
Give joy to others, and watch your own grow.
Dare to admit all your blessings, and then
Every day count them all over again.
Dare to be happy--don't be afraid--
This is the day which the Lord hath made!


This was the way Mom lived her life.  She was often smiling or laughing (and oh, how I loved her laugh!)--even when she was facing challenging times.  And, she always had a friendly or encouraging word for everyone she met.  Through my Mom's example, and this poem, I'm reminded to be thankful for every day that God gives me-- and to make the most of every moment!

Prayer: Creator of this Day, forgive us for those days when we're apathetic and unappreciative of our blessings...especially the blessing of Today, full of opportunities. Please give us the courage we need to seize those opportunities and “dare to be happy”...no matter what challenges we face. And thank you for the dear people you place in our lives to remind us of how to live this way. Amen.

Sharon Irvin

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Earth's Beauty


“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” Psalm 24:1

“All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” John 1:3 

“Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.”  Hebrews 13:15 

Poets, songwriters, and ordinary people appreciate the beauty of God’s world. The familiar hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth” expresses our feelings well.  In 1864, Folliot S. Pierpoint wrote the words to the hymn at age 29. 

Many of us look forward to summer travel where we seek God’s beauty and wonder across the United States and throughout the world.  Viewing God’s world from a fresh perspective can be beneficial and renewing.  My husband and I recently traveled to the Pacific Northwest.  The Portland Rose Gardens and Butchart Gardens visits prompted us to “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10a.   A fellow rose lover enthusiastically urged us to smell a rose that he had just discovered.  At the Sunken Gardens at Butchart Gardens, a “congregation” of viewers stood in awe and wonder.   

Even when we experience a “staycation,” we can become aware of the natural beauty and wildlife in our neighborhood.  I have been surprised at the wildlife present around our new townhouse – a mostly tree-less area.  This spring, I enjoyed watching a baby purple or house finch on our deck.  It’s parent, ready to protect its offspring, hovered nearby.  A robin’s nest and baby robin learning to fly were observed under the deck.  A parent robin loudly screeched to distract us away from its baby.  I also observed a plover teaching its baby survival skills.  These birds have learned how to adapt to a changing world.  Perhaps this can be a lesson for us humans.

If we are open to the wonders of God’s world, we can discover them all around us.  As a pre-school teacher, I gave each child a one-yard piece of string.  Outside, in the grass, each child formed a circle with their string.  Focusing on the space inside the circle, we were surprised to observe what was present – insects, a small pebble or rock, and growing plants.  God provides us with treasures daily.  Do we see them?

Prayer:  God, we thank you for the beauty that surrounds us in your world.  Remind us to be open to all you provide us each day.  Amen.

Lois Poppe (reprinted from 2012)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Smile

"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health.” Proverbs 15:30
“Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!” Psalm 31:16
“Many people say, “Who will show us better times?” Let your face smile on us, LORD.” Psalm 4:6
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
When I was new to the church it was the smiling faces and the greetings that led me to come back again. I remember a couple of different individuals (besides the ministers) that stood out to me. It was during the passing of the peace that I found myself shaking hands with the few individuals around me, when the organist came up beside me and greeted me with a smiling face and open hand. I was in awe that she took the effort to come all the way from up front to greet me. Another was one of the choir members that greeted me with a smiling face, and I have since seen her up front always with a smile on her face which even on my gloomiest days gives me a burst of happiness. It is amazing what a smile will do. I think I have stated before I am not at my most comfortable with one on one conversations and greetings. I would rather be giving a speech to a big group than stumbling through my words with one individual. I have never been comfortable with the passing of peace as a person struggling to be the first to speak. But it is those moments that have meant the most to me in deciding to join Eastridge.

I believe that a smile can change an individual's outlook on the day. I have heard it takes less muscle to smile than to frown. So if you are one of those individuals that have greeted and offered your hand, Thank you; not only from me but from the visitors and the new members. Your smile can be shared with someone who will then share a smile with someone else.  
Lori Hood

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Peacocks


For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  For just as each of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith, if it is serving, then serve, if it is teaching, then teach, if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously, if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.  Romans 12:3

This has always been one of my favorite verses and, over the years at Eastridge I have so enjoyed the Gallup program to live your strength and I think that model is beautifully represented in this verse. While we are encouraged to focus on our strengths and our successes we must also humble ourselves and not think more highly of ourselves. In a generation full of social media and nearly constant self-comparisons to those around us this can be daunting. I recently read an article about letting go of your ego and recognizing your imperfections.  A few of the statements that have really stuck with me are:

1)            God knows that we are imperfect and he wants us to know that he knows. He know that sometimes we are tired and we may not respond to a cry for help in a timely manner. He knows that sometimes we are ANNOYED by another person and we do everything in our power to avoid them. He knows that we spend money on frivolous things when others struggle to put food on the table or a roof over their head. We know that we make bad decisions and God knows too, and we can’t hide from those.

2)            God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (I Peter 5:5).  We must be willing to accept our shortfalls and acknowledge that we are human, remembering again that God loves us in spite of our flaws. While it can be hard to be humble, I try to remember stories of Jesus and his humility. In the gospels of Matthew and Luke we know that Jesus was a healer and he was relied upon by many to take away any variety of infirmity. With these gifts, it was not as though Jesus advertised himself as the top healer for the region. He didn’t follow the “get rich or die trying” compass of our current country and he didn’t run around bragging about his success. 

Those are both points I want to focus on in my life. Recognizing that I’m not perfect and God loves me anyway, and recognizing that I don’t have to be right, and I don’t have to tell people about the good things that I have done, because they can be reflected by my grace.

We all know a peacock – someone who prances about and brags over every success, every achievement, every possession. A person who is always busy telling you all the great things about them and their life. Research tells us that, from a psychological standpoint, people peacock because of a desire to be accepted, or in an effort to feel better about themselves by “one-upping” someone else. God knows that I’m not perfect, and He knows that I can barely stand to be around a peacock. Sometimes I think He puts them in front of me to help teach me patience and to exercise my grace. Other times I think that He uses them to force me to make a decision. As I think about the peacocks in my world and how hard I work to avoid them, I must also remember my own humility and imperfection and find a balance in the life that I live. There will always be peacocks, but I do not have to entertain their self-importance in my life.   

Prayer: Most holy God, please help me in my daily trials, help me to accept your love and guidance. Help us all to remember our imperfections and your love for us in spite of them. Give me patience with the peacocks! Amen
Christi Moock

Friday, August 24, 2018

Why Are We Here?


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches. 1 Corinthians 7:17

Have you ever felt called to do something? It may be something big, like relocate your family to a different city. Or it may seem small, like helping with Sunday school. Chances are, you have felt called. It’s hard to explain isn’t it? You know that you should do something, but you don’t quite know why.
Then the miracle happens. You follow your call. God starts working. You may not see it right away. In fact, you may come to doubt your calling. Slowly, over time, you may begin to see why God called you to do what He did. You find yourself growing closer to Him.

My husband and I moved here from Colorado a few years ago. I was not happy with my job in Colorado. It has taken me much struggling over the past few years to see why God sent us to Colorado. Slowly I am able to see what good has come out of that experience, and I can appreciate that God was trying to teach me something. I may never fully see God’s purpose in that experience, but I do know that I grew from my experience there.

God calls all of us. I believe He calls us to more than one thing in our lives. He calls us to move to certain cities, and even worship in certain churches. He knows that each of us has something to offer each place or situation we are called to. He also knows that each place or situation has something to offer us. We don’t always see his purpose for us in those places. It is at those times that our faith in Him has to be the greatest.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank you for the wonderful plan you have for our lives. We pray that we follow your calling for us, even when we don’t understand why. We know that you will be with us the entire journey. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Tamara Hepler (from the Eastridge Daily Devotional Book, published in 2008)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Sports Today


There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular. Luke 6:26

And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever. 1 John 2:17 

“Pay attention, all of Judah, every inhabitant of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat,” Jahaziel said. “This is what the Lord says to you: Don’t be afraid or discouraged by this great army because the battle isn’t yours. It belongs to God! 2 Chron 20:14-15

Okay, do you build up your children and your grandchildren, telling them what a good job they did today in their game? We want our kids to be good athletes. We want them to try their hardest and do their best in sports as well as in their classes at school.

The good athletes are very popular. Are we encouraging our kids to live only for the approval of others?

Sports are very important to me; I get my exercise and workouts from tennis and golf and love watching grandkids compete. Watching high school, college and pro sports are recreation for me because I coached at the collegiate level.
We know the cravings of this world are passing away. How do we do the will of God in teaching our children? We know from the Bible in 1 John that the person who does the will of God remains forever.

Sports participation today, as Melodie said once in her sermon, can be how we describe our children. Sports today is sometimes out of touch with reality as far as spending money. Sports today can take our children away from worship time. YET, sports can fight obesity, which is a problem with today’s children, especially if they are always tuned in to their screens.

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, we don’t have an answer to the questions here. We turn to you asking for your wisdom to guide us with temperance. Help us to understand that battles such as these can be won by you. Help us to turn them over to you. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

What Do You Treasure (or, Mary Ponders Facebook)


But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

Some of us like to share photos, thoughts, and ideas on Facebook. I sometimes think of the things I post as “treasures” that I can pull up by going to Facebook and “pondering” them again just by scrolling through my profile. Next up: a Facebook-generated scrapbook!

The thoughts, memories, feelings, and photos we have and share with others, on Facebook or by simply considering them in our own hearts, reveal our priorities. Some of us like to read. Some of us like to bake. Some of us like to relax by watching television. We are proud of our children. We are proud of our pets. We treasure our friends. We treasure our collections. Each of us, unique in our preferences and priorities, is a child of God. When we make God and our relationship with Him a priority, he can direct us in what we consider to be of importance in our lives. That’s not to say that we become different people, necessarily, but we should start to view things differently, in a different, Christ-filled light.

In the book of Matthew, we read: 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 (Matthew 6:20-21). And in Mark, Jesus tells “the rich man” what he must do to inherit eternal life. From the book of Mark:

As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God.  In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.
Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”
Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.
“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.” Mark 10:17-31 (NLT)

I’m not sure if we all need to become nomadic monks, but I think what Jesus is saying here is: Put me first. Glorify me in all that you do, and you will have “treasure in heaven”.  

Mary treasured the sights and experiences she had with her son, Jesus, not only because she knew who He truly was, but because she was His parent. As parents do, she valued and treasured her time with Jesus because she loved Him.

What do you ponder in your heart?  What thoughts do you share with others? How do you spend your free time? Let God guide you, and those treasured thoughts and priorities will become pleasing to Him, and will bless you and others in your time here on earth. In our Wednesday Bible study, the author of our current book, “Pauses for Pentecost”, tells of the transforming of the Holy Spirit in our lives: “From the inside out, the Lord who is Spirit wants to change us into ‘little Christs’.” He goes on to say that it is a renovation of our heart, will, thoughts, and feelings. I think that we need to continually ask for His help in this “renovation” in our lives, by the awareness of the Holy Spirit within us.

Prayer: Dear Lord, let me turn to you more often in my daily life. Help me make time for prayer, Bible study, Christian fellowship with others, serving You. Show me that by serving and honoring You, I’m “storing up treasure” in Heaven AND while I’m here on earth. Amen.

Donna Gustafson

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Embracing Change



By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:8.

As this scripture tells us, faith is a way of living, not just saying we believe in God. God called Abram to “go to a land I will show you.”  (Genesis 12:1). Even though Abraham did not know where he was going when he and his family left Ur of the Chaldeans, he demonstrated that his faith in God was real. At the age of 75, he embraced this change in his circumstances and obeyed by leaving the comforts of his homeland. He could only do this because he knew that God was in control and that God would guide him along the way.

Changes in personal circumstances often create uncertainties that make us very uncomfortable because we cannot see what lies ahead. Abraham’s story teaches us that we need to embrace those changes and place the future in God’s hands, trusting him for guidance.

Prayer: Lord, when changes in our life circumstances cause us to be uncomfortable and worry about the future, help us to have the faith of Abraham by embracing those changes and trusting in you.

Gary Heaston (from the Eastridge Daily Devotional Book, published in 2008)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Out of Chaos, Hope: Families, Children & the U.S./Mexico Border

From the Presbyterian Mission Handbook, shared at a recent Outreach Committee meeting:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, asking, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven? So Jesus called a child, had him stand in front of them, and said, “I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.  The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child.  And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me.” Matthew 18: 1-5 

Families and children from around the world, the majority from Central America, continue to arrive at the U.S. southern border to seek safety and hope.  Under the new “zero tolerance” policy, even people showing up at an official port of entry are being treated as if they are trying to sneak into the country.  The increase in people leaving El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in the past 6 years has been recognized as a humanitarian emergency in these home countries, rooted in decades of poverty, failed government policies, broken families, lack of protection for women and children, and violence that continues to plague the region.

Reports from our local church leaders share first hand accounts of families who have been separated by U.S. immigration authorities, the adults placed in one detention system and the children in another with no established communication or tracking between them.  Parents can be moved to a detention center in one state and their children to another.  In other cases, parents are ordered deported back to Mexico while their children are still in U.S. Custody.

Meanwhile, the border is almost closed off to those seeking protection from the U.S.  Border officials tell people that arrive at an official port of entry to seek asylum  (the only proper way to make such a request if you are outside the U.S.) are being told to “come back later.”  Such actions are creating a new humanitarian crisis for our Mexican neighbors.  The scene varies from one border section to another, in one area a large group is visibly waiting while in another, they scatter in search of shelter from the 101F weather. 

On June 20th Executive Order “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation” further criminalized migration through the expansion of family detention on military bases and other government property, potentially indefinitely.  The order codifies Attorney General Sessions’ zero-tolerance policy, instructing officials to continue to prosecute adults crossing the border as criminals—including those who are seeking asylum–, “but will seek to find or build facilities that can hold families—parents and children together—instead of separating them while their legal cases are considered by the courts.” The order also seeks to modify the 1997 Flores settlement, a legal agreement that bars the detention of migrant children for more than 20 days.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been responding in cooperation with mid-councils and congregations along the border, the Office of the General Assembly's Office of Immigration Issues, the Office of Public Witness and our ecumenical and interfaith partners working with refugees and immigrants.  PDA has already begun approving small grants to Presbyteries that are working with local non-profits to help families reunite and to provide “know your rights” orientations to those seeking asylum. PDA will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to families with basic needs, legal orientations and family reunification assistance even as we advocate for more humane treatment by the US Government.



Prayer for Unaccompanied Children
We pray…
For children from Central America who, seeking safety, make the dangerous journey to the U.S./Mexico border.
For parents who travel beside their children, for parents who must remain at home and for parents who have gone ahead.
For children being held in temporary immigration and Customs Enforcement shelters across this country.
For children who have been reunited with family in the United States.
For children who face deportation.
For children who return to the fear they tried to escape.
For grace and courage as we seek to live up to our nation’s heritage as a haven for the tired and poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
For generosity and creativity as we work with church and state to find places of grace, safety, and hope for children and families who are refugees.
For all who would help: for communities of welcome, for volunteers and visitors, for chaplains, social workers, immigration officials and border patrol, judges and health care workers who tend to the needs of frightened children and seek to balance urgent necessity with strained resources.
For a peaceful spirit as we work and serve among neighbors whose fearfulness prevents generosity from flowering in human hearts.
For the PC(USA) as we follow Jesus Christ who loved and honored children and who came to give abundant life to all.
Amen


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Words of My Mouth

From the fruit of the mouth one’s stomach is satisfied; the yield of the lips brings satisfaction. Death and life are the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:20,21
My brother-in-law sends us a thought for the day. Recently his thought was: “Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit-you choose!” Proverbs 18:20, 21. As I read it I thought how true.  Words can kill a friendship or lead one astray. When we say unkind words we are spreading a poison in our system and in the one of those that hear. Don’t we all remember unkind words that have been said to us.  We also remember when good words are spoken. When we hear good words we gather them into us as we would a harvest. Words of kindness can be like a sweet fruit. Words of Christ can bring about salvation.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help the words of my mouth to always be pleasing to you. Help them to be fruitful to your kingdom. Amen
Jan Mitchell (From the Eastridge Daily Devotional Book, published in 2008) 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Family


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:16-17

I just came back from a Family Reunion at Niobrara State Park with my Dad’s side of the family.  These reunions started back in 1937 when my Grandfather said he wanted his kids to know their Aunts, Uncles and cousins. It started off with just one Sunday in August meeting in the cemetery for lunch.  As family started to move and live farther apart it became a Saturday and Sunday and was a meeting in a park.  As the families grew and began living farther apart, their activities with school and fairs, it got moved to June and sometime along that it extended into Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Those traveling from far distances needed more time and it was Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  As those leaving to travel the distances everyone would get together at a restaurant and meet for breakfast before taking off to head home on Monday morning. This year 50 attended out of over 100, some stayed in cabins, some in RVs, some at motels, but each day we would gather and talk of new things in our lives, new adventures, updating on current events in our lives. But also there were adventures where a smaller group would go off to an activity; such as swimming, neighborhood garage sales, horseback riding (got cancelled due to rain), fishing, biking, etc. Then we always take our meals together.  The younger kids get to know their extended family.  The ages range from the oldest in their 80’s, youngest this year was 3. 

Our Sunday is always started with breakfast, then a church service by the host family.  The church service is a time for us to give thanks to God for our family, to pray for those that could not attend, those having health concerns, those expecting new family members and other concerns.  We remember those family members who have passed.  We sing (not always in tune), but songs to extend our love for God.  We are of all different denominations, yet we share our love for God and rejoice in the many gifts we have been given. It is a time of renewal, relaxation, fun and emotional support until the next year. 

Prayer: Dear Father, thank you for family. Prayers for those that are unfortunate not to have family in their lives; may they find friends that are as close to them as family. Prayers for those missing their family members who have passed on and help them find comfort in their loss. Prayers for the ability to take the time with those we love. May we remember to always take the time to praise you and thank you for all we have.

Lori Hood

Monday, August 13, 2018

Proverbs 16


Selected verses from Proverbs 16:

To humans belong the plans of the heart,

    but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.

All a person’s ways seem pure to them,

    but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,

    and he will establish your plans.

In their hearts humans plan their course,

    but the Lord establishes their steps.

Honest scales and balances belong to the Lord;

    all the weights in the bag are of his making.

    his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.

How much better to get wisdom than gold,

    to get insight rather than silver!

Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,

    and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.

The wise in heart are called discerning,

    and gracious words promote instruction.

Gracious words are a honeycomb,

    sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Gray hair is a crown of splendor;

    it is attained in the way of righteousness.


Friday, August 10, 2018

Proverbs 22


Selected verses from Proverbs 22: 
A good name is more desirable than great riches;

    to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Rich and poor have this in common:

    The Lord is the Maker of them all.

Humility is the fear of the Lord;

    its wages are riches and honor and life.

Start children off on the way they should go,

    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

The generous will themselves be blessed,

    for they share their food with the poor.

One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace

    will have the king for a friend.


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Be a Workman for Christ


Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words, it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:14-15

In this passage, Paul is writing to Timothy, reflecting on setting a high standard for ministry. Paul is calling Timothy to diligence as a worker or laborer. As a laborer, Timothy was being called to handle the Scriptures carefully and correctly, as a workman would handle the tools of his trade. Paul’s message to us is to be diligent to use God’s Word carefully and well in your ministry: that you will not be ashamed when you one day stand before Him.

Prayer: Dear Lord, Please give us the strength and assurance we need every day in order to present your word in ways that please you. Give us the words we need to share with others so that we may help them in ways that we may not even know. Amen

Laurie Schlitt (reprinted from the Daily Devotional Book, Eastridge Presbyterian Church, 2008)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Prodigal Son


Jesus said, “A certain man had two sons. The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ Then the father divided his estate between them. Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away. There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living Luke 15:11-32

In the book by Christina Hergenrader “Family Trees & Olive Branches” I was touched by her words:

Because of our pride, we freeze one another out and

ignore God’s commands and examples of how to

show grace to one another. On our own we can

never extend an olive branch of mercy to our siblings

or parents.

We would rather live isolated and angry than risk a real,

dynamic changing relationship that’s greased with grace.

So, many of us live like this forever—never joining the party

God throws for us. Never forgiving our reckless siblings.

Never feeling fully forgiven.

I am sure you can think of an instance in your family where people hesitate to join an event when certain family members are there. Sometimes it is the political environment of today and sometimes it is something childish that happened many years ago. We need the Lord to show us how to give grace.

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, we need you. Oh, how we need you. You showed us the ultimate grace by having your son, Jesus, suffer for our sins. The father in the Prodigal Son story showed the same grace to an undeserving son. Now help us show grace to those who need our grace. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Glorifying God

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness", made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

I used to accompany for a very gifted and hard-working singer, who accepted many compliments on her work, always acknowledging them with an expression of thanks and the phrase "To God be the glory". It was a selfless expression of gratitude for her gifts. It also reminded those around her of the source of all the miracles we celebrate. 

During a difficult period of my life, a friend who was a counselor listened to my thoughts about how I felt attacked and betrayed. She told me I had a lot to think about, and a lot to deal with. She then said she wanted me to do one thing in particular: "I want you to think about all the ways you can glorify God". 

My mind silenced in surprise at her words. I had expected something else entirely for an action plan, something grounded in the world that was swimming around me. In that silence, I rediscovered what really mattered to me. The noise in my head had almost stolen that.

Often the noise of the world's chaos can drown out what is at our core, what governs our being. To glorify God is a simple task reminder that opens up everything we are about. It brings us home, to a place of safety and belonging.  The world can be a challenging place, and it is up to each one of us to make it holy. But we carry that profound power inside of us, and can use it in everything we do. 

Glorifying God, I decided, was simply recognizing how everything that felt true in my life was something I could do with the consciousness of honoring God's hand and God's work in what was going on. I could help to advance God's presence in my life and in the world, just by my focus on what it meant to be aware of and a part of God. 

Prayer: God, help me to remember that to glorify you gives my life its meaning and wholeness. Help me to be open to you and help to give you to the world around me. The words on the wall of a concentration camp are like the faith I want to have: "I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. I believe in God even when he is silent." Help me continue to hear you in the silence that can itself be glorious.  Amen.

Mollie Manner

Monday, August 6, 2018

Dealing with Times of Pain and Suffering

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, Who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you surely, and strengthen and settle you. I Peter 5:10.  
Wait on the Lord, be of good courage. And He shall strengthen your heart, wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalm 27:14   
For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity. Proverbs 24:16 
Life has its down times, its times of pain and suffering.  I often think of those times in my life where I was burdened with uncertainty, sadness, and pain as endurance tests.
The older I get, the more I have learned that the less I give in to those emotions that accompany those difficult times, and try to keep calm, and keep my wits about me, sometimes taking it hour by hour, not just day by day, the better I fare.  The less awful the situation actually is for me.  I have learned to hone in on my bag of coping skills at such times also. 
And, my faith gives me hope!  And courage and comfort and love!  I can endure such hard times with God in my heart and by my side.  My daily prayers become a source of strength! 
My 97 year old Mother has set a great example for my 9 siblings and me in difficult times. She has very strong faith, the gift of acceptance and even stoicism. She often says, "It is what it is, you cannot change it".  Maya Angelou, the beloved American poet also said, "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." 
Prayer: Father God, source of all love and mercy and strength, thank you for sustaining me during my times of pain and suffering. Thank you for delivering me from those afflictions.  You are eternal hope and love.  I shall continue to grow strong and serene by your grace. Help me to trust you daily and to allow you to be in control. 
Connie Barry

Friday, August 3, 2018

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

He said to him,” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “ Matthew 22:37-39  

Recently I viewed the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”* at the Lincoln Grand Theater.  It brought back memories of when our youngest daughter and I watched Mister Rogers Neighborhood. We viewed it on PBS, when it first aired, beginning February 19, 1968. Our daughter, about 18 months old, decided she no longer needed a nap. As I held her, we relaxed and watched Mister Rogers instead of taking a nap.

With quiet simplicity and gentleness, Mister Rogers taught us how to be neighbors. As an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, Mister Rogers’ love of children led to his unique ministry. As stated in a Lincoln Journal Star review, “Fred Rogers made it his mission to teach children kindness, tolerance, love for others and love of oneself.” Puppets communicated difficult messages such as death and divorce. Mr. Rogers’ messages show empathy and acceptance for all ages – not just children.

A Lincoln Journal Star article tells of a Lincoln church pastor who explained Holy Communion’s sacrament’s significance. The communion servers said “you are special” as they picked up the bread and “just as you are” as they dipped it into a chalice of white grape juice. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood inspired their words.

In today’s world, there are many who need us to respond even when their question, ”Won’t you be my neighbor?” is unspoken. We can choose to avoid these persons or risk getting involved. Our neighbors may live next door or in a far-off location. Whose neighbor will we be?

*The documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” will be available on DVD on September 4, 2018.

Prayer: Dear God, we seek your daily guidance to determine whose neighbor we will be. Help us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Amen.

Lois Poppe

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Praise God Together


Glorify the lord with me; let us exalt his name together. Psalm 34:3

I was recently talking to a co-worker about personalized license plates and trying to decipher the message.  I drove in this morning behind a Jeep with the plate “PS34 VS3”.  I wondered immediately what it could be.  Initials?  A score from a sporting event?  A software version? (I do work in technology). 

Finally it hit me – PS = Psalm and VS = verse!  What a fun way to send a message on a license plate.  Then I wondered about how many people would get it.  Are they like me and after a while it will come to them?  If people aren’t familiar with the Bible would they have ever figured it out?  I am certainly curious about the occupation of the person who had this on their car.  Are they a minister?  A worship leader?  A choir director?  Why is this verse so special to them?

Retrospectively, I like to think of this as a secret message between Christians.  In between meetings I have found myself wondering, if I put a bible verse as my license plate what would it be?  What message would I want to send to others?  I always think about sharing the love of Christ with the world – how much harder would that be in 8 characters or less? 

Prayer: Blessed creator, thank you for placing messages of glory in unexpected places. Help me today to glorify your name!     

Christi Moock

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Revitalize and Refresh


“He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul.” Psalms 23: 2-3.

We are all overwhelmed, at times, with the demands on our time and energy.  We keep plugging away at our responsibilities, rather like the “Energizer Bunny”. However, we need to take time to refresh our inner spirits, inhaling God’s love while exhaling worry and anxiety. I am presently on vacation in Wisconsin, staying in a condo on the shore of Lake Michigan. I can sit and watch the waves, walk or swim in the water, walk along the beach, or just sit quietly and enjoy the sound of the waves. It refreshes me to be still, to be in tune to God and nature, to be relaxed and breathe in a replenished spirit. Jesus took time to refresh, pray, and enjoy solitude to revitalize himself. Likewise, we need to do the same. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to remember to take time for ourselves to refresh and revitalize our spirits. Be with us in our daily lives, so that we can achieve a balance that includes work and activities and time to replenish ourselves. In Jesus’ name, Amen.     

Carolyn Brandle