Friday, September 28, 2018

Addition and Subtraction


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

I yearn for the lazy days of summer.  Not so long ago, we struggled with the cold and snow of winter.  Now, it is almost time for the fall schedule to “rev up”.  Where did summer go?

When I feel overwhelmed with demands on my time, I take time to add something to my schedule.

I add a thank you prayer: Thank you God, for each breath, each hour and each day.

I add a prayer for a friend or neighbor or a church member going through a rough time: God, give me empathy to feel and be with those who need your loving care.

I add a prayer for leaders in our church, in government, and of youth:  God, give your guidance to leaders who may feel alone and overwhelmed with their responsibilities.

I add a prayer for myself: God, I pray that you will guide me to be and do all that you have planned for me.

When I add these to my day, I subtract petty thoughts, irritations that don’t really matter, and selfish concerns. 

Isn’t it wonderful how God’s math works!

Prayer: Thank you, God for reminding us to live like butterflies. Butterflies count not months, but moments, and yet have time enough for what you have planned. Amen.

Lois Poppe (reprinted from 2010)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Reasons People are in Your Life


Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever.’

Lori Snyder Sloan provided this reflection and poem in her devotion book:

Throughout the Bible God provided friends and allies, sometimes in the least-likely combinations of people. In today’s world loneliness is one of the main fears, and realities, of people’s lives, but God still blesses us with friends.

Poem: A Reason, A Season, or a Lifetime

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are. 

When people come into your life for a SEASON, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

Prayer: God thank you for the gift of friends – some that come and stay for a long time, and some that pass through and touch our lives in very special ways, showing us your love and care with their words and actions. Thank you that though you sometimes use loneliness to bring us closer to you, it’s not your intent that we should walk alone through life. And thank you for the very special relationship that is ours with you through Christ. Amen.

Sandy Hilsabeck

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Doing the Best We Can


It seems frustration with others is the order of the day. At least, that’s what the media would have us believe. Or maybe it’s just me, trying to blame the media. I find myself becoming impatient with others when their personalities, behaviors, etc. don’t align with my own.

What helps me when I feel like being judgmental is thinking this: We're all just doing the best we can. And if I think someone isn't doing the best they can, it's not up to me to decide that they can or should be doing “better”. This way of thinking doesn’t ALWAYS work, but often if I just pause and remember that we all are unique in our sensibilities and ways that we respond to life, I may be able to give someone a break.

Here’s what the Bible says about it:

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. ~ Matthew 7:1-5

And:

So watch yourselves. "If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying 'I repent,' you must forgive them." Luke 17:3-4

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

We so easily find fault in others instead of seeing our own shortcomings; maybe the double standard stems from our strong sense of conviction that we’re right.

I know that I’ll still struggle with this, but asking God for help in my everyday interactions with others, both in person and online, will allow me to begin to see others as God sees them: worthy of love and compassion.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me when I start to judge others harshly. Help me remember that we’re all doing the best we can, with what we’ve been given. Amen.

Donna Gustafson   

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Walls


For it is by his grace you are saved, through trusting him, not your own doing. It is God’s gift, not a reward for work done. Ephesians 2:8

It’s interesting to me that so many of our figures of speech use the words, “the wall”. When runners are so overcome with exhaustion that they feel they cannot go another step, they say they have “hit the wall”. When there’s an obstacle in the way of some achievement, we say “I can’t get over the wall.” When there’s an escape from an institution, we say that the inmate went “over the wall” (or if someone leaves a troubled marriage, we may say the same thing). When as senior citizens we cannot think of some fact that we should know, we say, “There’s a wall in my mind that keeps me from remembering that." Taking another view, Mark Van Doren wrote, “Wit is the only wall/Between us and the dark.”

Walls, therefore, are stoppers. Although walls may fence out bad things (the dark), they can also keep us from either making progress or getting to something we desire. How comforting it is that there’s no wall between us and God – that grace is ours, unearned – and that access to salvation is ours for taking.

Prayer: Kind and loving Father, thank you for your gift of grace, the gift as large as to be nearly unknowable. Lest our own willfulness be a wall of our own construction between us, help us to always respond to your promise of salvation with our eternal love. Amen

Ruth Ann Lyness (reprinted from the Eastridge Daily Devotion Book, published in 2008)

Monday, September 24, 2018

Children are the Future


Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:3 

I have taken four names from the prayer board at church and they are visible several times during the day. What is unusual is I don’t know any of the four that I selected, but I pray for them as if they were my own grandkids. I wonder how they are doing in school, are they being bullied, are they happy, are they learning, are they being fed? I don’t have pictures of them, but I have the school card with their name and I look at them as if they were pictured in front of me. It is such a simple thing to do, it doesn’t cost anything, in my opinion not even time; as I am already talking to God about friends and family and these four children are added. I am surprised that there are any names left on the board. Pastor Thomas mentioned putting them/it on your car visor so that every time you get in your car you see it. I carry mine around in my purse. I am in my purse so many times during the day that I see them all the time. But I pray for them even when I don’t have the cards as I have become familiar with their first names enough, to pray just whenever. 

I have seen many comments on Facebook, and I hear comments about the youth of today usually negative. Could some of this be because as a community we don’t take the time to lead them? Do we take the time to show them activities that are constructive and learning? I had an Uncle Sherman; he was a kid at heart until he died in his nineties. He would show children how to play horseshoes, put up fence posts, talk about the birds and how to recognize what kind they were. He always had something for the youth that he met along his life, and most of the time it wasn’t an expensive venture, it was using whatever he had and what he could make out of it. Now my Uncle Bob was also a kid at heart, his skill was getting kids involved in playing together. He would be around a group of kids and if nothing else it was a water fight, not with the fancy toys they have now for water fights; but a bucket, pail, bottle, and yes even a hose. The kids were active, had fun, got to know each other and learned sportsmanship. 

Are we spending the time, effort and resources for our children of today, to be prepared for the future?

Prayer: Dear Father, please help us to remember to share our skills, time and talent with the children of today. Help us to remember to read a book, teach them crochet, teach them skills for their future. Please watch over our children and guide them in the path of righteousness. Guide them in the plan you have set aside for each and everyone of them. Bless the children with your comfort and strength to get through their struggles each day. Thank you, Father, for the wonderful children you have given us and may be always remember how blessed we are to have them in our lives. Amen
Lori Hood




Friday, September 21, 2018

Your Word is a Lamp for my Feet


Your word is a lamp for my feet,

    a light on my path.

I have taken an oath and confirmed it,

    that I will follow your righteous laws.

I have suffered much;

    preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.

Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,

    and teach me your laws.

Though I constantly take my life in my hands,

    I will not forget your law.

The wicked have set a snare for me,

    but I have not strayed from your precepts.

Your statutes are my heritage forever;

    they are the joy of my heart.

My heart is set on keeping your decrees

    to the very end. Psalm 119: 105-112


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Strawberry Tears


Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22). {God is glad to carry your burdens and give you the daily strength you need.}

Sometimes I find all I am hearing is bad news, not just from the TV, paper, Facebook, etc; but a call that a friend has cancer and not expected to live but a few months, another whose kidneys are failing or a friend who has lost their job. Today was one of those days I had taken my dog to be groomed and on the way home, I saw a funeral procession and a vehicle accident.  I went home telling myself to be thankful for all I have but the sadness was within me and I felt for those I couldn't help.  So I do what I do: chores to get my mind on something else. I cleaned the oven (darn salesman didn't tell us it wasn't self cleaning), I swept the driveway, vacuumed, did a few loads of laundry, and then decided the yard might be dry enough to mow. I mowed and then trimmed the bushes and pulled the weeds. Then I sat down on the front step for a break, and there in front of me in the front yard, was the tiniest but yet it was there: little wild strawberries. It may seem silly, but it cheered me up. It was the little plant growing as if from nowhere. It brought happy memories of times picking strawberries with my Dad. It also made me cry, I am but the little strawberry growing amongst the tall grasses, moss, and mushrooms growing after the rain. It made me stop and really thank God for all I do have, turn over to Him all that I have no control of and release my burdens and those of others to Him who created the tiny wild strawberries with their miniature details. He who has a plan and is the creator of all.

Prayer: Thank you Father for reminding me that You are the Creator of the Universe. Thank you for taking my burdens, and helping me find the peace that only You can provide. Amen

Lori Hood


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Jesus Comes to Seek Us

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner." But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the LORD, "Look, LORD! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." Luke 19:1-10
I am always amazed at the power of the gospel with its impact on me as if it was a fresh word today.  This scripture is no different.  I heard the story of Zacchaeus as a boy and sang the song of Zacchaeus “..a wee little man was he.”   Now as I read it I am drawn by another inspirational nudge of God’s Spirit.
In Luke 19:1-10, I am moved by the “sight” words – how Zacchaeus was seeking to “see”  who Jesus was.  But due to his short stature, Zacchaeus could not see that Jesus was coming through town because of the crowd that gathered in front of him.  Besides, Zacchaeus was not a very popular man – he was rich because of defrauding his town folk of money through collecting taxes.  But, Zacchaeus was going to see Jesus and so he climbs a sycamore tree to get perspective.
Now, Jesus comes along and “sees” Zacchaeus up in the tree.  Jesus tells Zacchaeus to climb down and receive him as his guest.  This thrills Zacchaeus, but the town folk “see” what is happening and grumble for Jesus is now being hosted by a notorious fraud and cheat.
But notice how the miracle happens.  Zacchaeus receives Jesus into his home and the impact is instantaneous.  Note the verbs that Luke uses – all present tense – suggesting an action is now taking place – an action of change.  Zacchaeus will make restitution fully and more so 4 or more times than what he took.  It is because of the power of the guest that Zacchaeus has received not only into his home, but into his life.
My encouragement is to take notice of Jesus.  See Him approaching your life and my life as Zacchaeus notices.  We may be hiding up a tree or in some corner someplace, but Jesus sees us and invites Himself into our home – our life and must take up residence with us.  God’s grace has found you and me and it’s impact is instantaneous.  Change will happen.  For when it does, Jesus will affirm you and me with the same grace that greets Zacchaeus:  Today, salvation has come to this house – your house and my house – your life and my life.  Thanks be to God!
Rev. Dr. John J. Duling

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Make Me an Instrument of thy Peace

Flee the evil desires of your youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call in the Lord out of a pure heart.  Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 2 Timothy 2:22-24.

Our nation is divided worse than I can ever remember. There is little or no peaceful and respectful listening going on between groups and individuals with opposing views. In its place are frightening displays of mean and hurtful rhetoric, petty behaviors, and even acts of violence. Hate is powerful, but I know love, especially that which springs from God's love, is more powerful.  True love for one's fellow man, true belief that we are all created equal and are deserving of respect, dignity, and kindness is the only path to a peaceful world.  We are each directed by Paul, in this scripture, to do our part.

This past weekend the news was filled with examples of that kind of love and peace both in Senator John McCain's funeral coverage and in the sharing of Mollie Tibbett's father's plea for a stop to associating his daughter's death with racist thoughts and hatred. Both Senator McCain and young Mollie strove to live lives of love and peace toward others. These events have renewed my hope for our nation and for our world. They also have renewed my commitment to do my part, in every way, every day, to bring peace and love to others.  

I know that goal will not always be easy, and even in my personal life, may involve swallowing my pride and certainly putting my ego on hold for the greater good of peace and harmony. I will not always succeed, but I have a revived and renewed commitment to this as my mantra. It brings to mind a Christian mantra that was very widespread ten to fifteen years ago. "What would Jesus do?"

My 97 year old Mother and I have both chosen the Prayer of St. Francis as a funeral hymn. This has been a favorite prayer and song of Catholics and other Faith denominations since its original publication in 1912. There is no evidence in St. Francis of Assisi's writings of him penning this, however. But it is a powerful reminder of God's direction for us to bring His love and peace to others.

Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy. 

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we are born to Eternal life.

Connie Barry

Monday, September 17, 2018

Entrust Loved Ones to God


The Lord replied: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus: 33:14

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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!  Amen. Ephesians 3:20

Our son has been waiting on a new job opportunity for two months.  Many hoops to go through and many delays.  Added to this is his decision to give notice and quit his then-current job without having the new one in place.  A life lesson for sure. During this time we have been praying for the right doors to open and his path to be made clear.  This week my Jesus Calling devotion for the day focused on the above scriptures and the word were so timely.

“When you release loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand. As you entrust others into My care, I am free to shower blessings on them. My presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest. This same Presence stays with you, as you relax and place your trust in Me. Watch and see what I will do.”

I should note this page was dog-eared as a favorite, so it has applied in years past.  I started jotting a note with year, so I remember what was occurring when Jesus so lovingly placed this devotion in front of me again.

This week our son officially has the new job. He looks forward to this new adventure and we are thankful the Lord is with him every step of the way.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for being in control and answering prayer in your time and in your way. Amen.

Cathy Schapmann

Friday, September 14, 2018

Reflect God's Love


“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the Day of Judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.” 1 John 4: 17 

Do you sometimes feel guilty because you don’t take time to share God’s love as often as you would like? I certainly do.

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I met someone who took an eight-week class with me. We visited briefly and continued our shopping. A few aisles later, I met a person who regularly exercised at Snap Fitness with me. I commented that I had not seen him lately.  He shared that he had some heart issues. I listened to him, expressed concern, and let him know that I hoped to see him back at Snap Fitness soon.  Before leaving the grocery store, I greeted a couple, members at Eastridge Presbyterian Church.  Each of these brief conversations brightened my day and hopefully theirs. A friendly greeting to the grocery store “checker” may be appreciated also.  Little things mean a lot!

A quote in the July, 2018 Guideposts Magazine suggests, “If God is love, the only way we can worship God is by loving others.”  John Shelby Spong from his book “Unbelievable”.

As the school year begins, we are encouraged to take a student’s name (or two) from the student board in the Welcome Center. We are asked to pray for them regularly. It is perhaps a small thing, yet important.

The Stephen Ministry bulletin board near M12 at Eastridge Presbyterian states, “Called by God to share His gift of love for others.”  We can all provide emotional and spiritual support to those we meet each day.

Eleanor Brownn in her book, “The Other Serenity Prayer” states, “God, grant me the serenity to stop beating myself up for not doing things perfectly, the courage to forgive myself because I’m working on doing better, and the wisdom to know that you already love me just the way I am.”
                       
Prayer: Dear God, help me to choose to reflect your love every day.  Guide me in finding time for what is truly important. Amen.

Lois Poppe

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Raise a Child


"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 

Lies, dishonesty, untruths: daily we hear of sports figures, political leaders, school teachers and principals and court cases with questions of truth and honesty. 

How do we teach children and youth the importance of honesty?  Where do we begin?  Do we start by welcoming children’s expressing their own thoughts and feelings?

When we catch a child in an untruth, do we listen to their story?  Do we try to understand what fears led the child to believe that he could not tell the truth? Do we give firm, fair consequences and limits so the child feels secure in knowing what he can count on?  Do we dialogue with the child in simple ways to help him understand the importance of honesty in trusting and relationships?

Do we model honesty in our words and behavior?  Do we admit that we are not perfect and admit our mistakes?  Our actions certainly do speak louder than our words.  The “Do as I say but not as I do” philosophy does not usually work. (Some of these ideas are gleaned from writings of Richard Bromfield, a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and author of “How to Unspoil Your Child Fast.”)

The most successful learning takes place when a child sees a positive example of what is being taught.  That is the method Jesus used with his disciples.  They probably learned more by watching Him, than by listening to Him.  He taught them to serve one another in humility and love.  He even assumed the role of a servant and washed their dirty feet.

A plaque poem, given to me long ago by one of my daughters, expresses this thought well. 

I Caught Your Faith
I saw you stand bravely for years
But saw no trace of senseless fears.
I saw you stand calmly through stress
But caught no glimpse of bitterness.
I saw you stand prayerful in grief
But saw no trace of unbelief.
Though you spoke well of Jesus Christ.
I caught your faith watching your life.  Anonymous

Prayer: God, you sent your Son, Jesus, to show us your ways.  Help us to follow the example shown to us.  Amen.

Lois Poppe (reprinted from 2011)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Diaspora Politics and Risky Hospitality (Sermon by Rev. Dr. Melodie Jones Pointon August 26)


Our text for this morning is likely one you’ve

never heard a sermon preached about…or a Bible

study focus on…in fact, while it’s one that I

certainly must’ve read before, it never stuck out to

me before. After all, why would it, sandwiched

between the text where the great Apostle Paul and

his faithful sidekick Silas display their faith

by…singing hymns in prison….

(You remember this story, about how Paul

and Silas are locked up in prison after preaching

the gospel at the synagogue. They are accused of

causing trouble – political unrest – and so are

imprisoned. While the are in prison, there is an

earthquake, and the doors of prison swing open.

All the prisoners leave, something the guards will

certainly pay for. All the prisoners except Paul

and Silas. They are the only prisoners to stay,

singing Psalms and praising God for what has

happened. The guards are so stunned that they

become followers of the way.)

…and the story of Paul in Athens, preaching at

the Areopagus. (Again, if you’ll remember, while

Paul is in Athens, he preaches in the synagogue, to

Jews and Gentiles, but he also widens his audience

by going to the marketplace. Athens is a place of

philosophy and learning, and Paul is soon taken to

a large rock by the Acropolis called the Areopagus

(or Mars Hill), where his message is engaging to

those learned philosophers in Athens. In fact, it

stands out today as the “sermon to the unknown

God,” where Paul is forced to leave the “proof” of

scripture behind as a way of explaining the Gospel.

Instead, he must translate the importance of the

Gospel using the Greek “unknown God” to explain

who Jesus is.)

So, you see, this story has some pretty tough

competition for our attention! And yet, when I

was reading it, I was intrigued. And after

spending the week studying and exploring it, I’ve

decided it may be my choice for our now

completed summer series, “I can’t believe that’s in

the Bible!” Or, rather, maybe it’s part of a new

series, “I didn’t know that’s in the Bible!”

In fact, my very (very) informal poll this week

revealed that no one I polled knew that Jason was

in the Bible. And, after learning that fact, three out

of four made jokes about horror movies. And one

Gen-Xer made a reference to a musician I’ve never

heard of.

Perhaps a better title for this sermon than the

thesis title you’ve got is a tale of two cities. That’s

really what this is…Luke here is telling how the

Gospel was received in the two cities of

Thessalonica and Beroea. A super short summary

is that it didn’t go well in Thessalonica, and it went

extremely well in Beroea. On the surface it’s a

“good day at work vs. bad day at work” kind of

story.

In both cities, Paul uses the same preaching

methods that the disciples have used to spread the

Gospel – pretty successfully, I might add!

Remember, this is the way the early church spread

so quickly…in Acts 2 we’re told that thousands

were being added to the church daily. The

message was new, the time was right, the Holy

Spirit powerful, and the Gospel spread. But here,

the great missionary, the Apostle Paul, struggles

(that’s right) in Thessalonica. Or at least that’s

what Luke wants us to believe.

Willie James Jennings, the late leading African

American theologian makes the case that Luke tips

his hand here, shows his prejudice. In

Thessalonica, the Jews become jealous and easily

find thugs in the marketplace. They form a mob

and attack a house church, in Jason’s home,

searching for Paul and Silas. “When they didn’t

find them (they’re not there!) they dragged Jason

and some believers before city officials. They

were shouting…. This provoked the crowd and

the city officials even more.” Thessalonica, it

seems, according to Luke, was a tough town.

But Beroea! Oh, things were much easier for

Paul and Silas to Beroea! Luke tells us that the

“Beroean Jews were more honorable…evident in

the great eagerness with which they accepted the

word and examined the scriptures each day.”

Fortunately, Luke ties it all together by

pointing out that in both places, men and women

mostly Greek God worshippers and prominent

women.

It’s an odd accounting here…this tale of two

cities.

I understand here, that when we step back, we

can see the importance of the story overall. Here

is where the Book of Acts takes a swing from

Paul’s missionary activity with the Jews to his

quest to win the gentiles. It’s completely

understandable that he would leave the

synagogues and go instead to the Areopagus!

But a little bit of digging here, and we can also

understand just why it is that Paul finds it

necessary to write not one, but two letters, to the

church in Thessalonica. In fact, as scholar

Matthew Skinner aruges, these are not only the

earliest letters of Paul we have, they are the most

pastoral. Paul really cares about this church and

these people in Thessalonica. A fun little exercise

this week or this afternoon would be to go back

through Thessalonians and see what evidence or

trace you can find that Paul is writing to a church

whose people are struggling, who are dealing with

difficult real life issues, and yet whose faith is

commendable and strong.

And it all began with rioting by ruffians.

Unfortunately, an all too familiar scene to us.

I have these images, in my mind. I only have

to go back one hundred years to name

unspeakable pain and struggle, all summed up by

simple words. World War II, the Holocaust,

Hiroshima; Korea and Viet Nam; apartheid, South

Africa, We are the World; Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran,

9-11; Lybia, Egypt, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria;

Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, the Freedom

Rides, and Charlottesville.

Willie James Jennings wants to defend the

rioters a little bit here, offer a little bit of humanity

and understanding. It’s important for us to

remember who the Jews are, as God’s people – to

remember their history as a people who are

displaced, in diaspora, spread all over the world.

Paul and Silas go to the safest place for them, the

one place where they can be unapologetically

Jewish, to the synagogue, and tries to replace their

God, YHWH, with a new God, Jesus. Jennings says

this, “We understand that this opposition does not

spring from pure evil or hatred of God, but for

Diaspora people it is rooted in perceived

theological insult, disrespect, and fear.”1 Big idea

– new God competes with old God. For three

weeks, Paul and Silas preach in the

synagogue…three weeks before they are run out

of town.

It leads me to wonder if some of their success in

Beroea is because of their struggles in

Thessalonica. If they learned something about

presenting the Gospel to a people whose identity

is so embedded in who they are as God’s people

that they can’t imagine a new God. Maybe it really

is easier to preach to people who’ve never heard

1 Jennings, 170.

the Gospel before than to people who are

suffering, and whose only hope comes from their

faith.

Duke professor Will Willimon, in his

commentary of Acts brings us hope by pointing

out, “Here is a new possibility of faithful life in

Diaspora where the risk of loss can be

overwhelming. This new possibility is a form of

discipleship that welcomes the reality of a new

word from God and examines the Scripture as

inseparable actions of faithfulness to the God of

Israel.”

I have to tell you, one of the major topics of

conversation in the office has been the work of

Sharon and Lynn Kandel, missionaries to South

Sudan, and the horn of Africa. She brought to us, I

think, a message about the suffering of South

Sudan, and many other places in the world. She

brought to us the reality of new governments

placed over tribal lines. She brought with her a

new term I hadn’t heard before - ….Dependence

Syndrome. Displaced persons, refugees, those

living in places other than their homes, in camps

mostly, suffer from post traumatic stress

syndrome, move to places where basic food,

shelter, and safety is provided for them, and are

left with a sense of childlike dependence on those

who provide it. What can we do? We asked?

Because we, as a church, want to be a part of the

world neighborhood. We want to love our

neighbors as ourselves. Yes, of course, those next

door. But also those in the next state, country, and

continent.

And I think, in this text, there’s an intriguing

message for us, one that Sharon Kandel shared

with us, and I think can apply to every headline in

our newspapers today, from the front page to the

back page, the top of the screen to the bottom.

I think we need to be trained to listen instead

of speak. Whether it’s a story of abuse, or neglect,

or violence, or prejudice, or injustice. What

Sharon really said was that the South Sudan needs

trained trauma counselors. It’s a theme I heard

echoed when our dear Catholic friend, Joe

McKeown, was interviewed on the BBC about the

Papal visit to Ireland in the midst of scandal in the

church. Joe responded by sharing his suffering,

and saying that suffering is suffering. Perhaps it’s

time for us, as members of the Christian church, to

go back to those places of suffering, and sit with

those who suffer.

I have to be completely honest this morning,

and confess that this text really troubled me. For

much of the week I carried it around, praying, and

thinking, what is the message here? What can we

learn from this? How can we apply it to our lives

today? And then it occurred to me…Paul, not only

learned from his experience in Thessalonica…the

people of Thessalonica stuck with him. He

couldn’t let them go. He wrote letters to them.

Lovely, wonderful, inspiring letters, to a people

immersed in Diaspora politics, in the throes of

displacement and all that means.

And I wonder…no, I’m convinced…that we are

called to do the same thing. For the neighbors

who live next door to us, and the neighbors who

live on the other side of the world from us. Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Practice the Lesson


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

When I was learning to play an instrument, I couldn't just go to class and listen to the teacher. I had to pick up my saxophone if I wanted to be able to make music with the band. When I took Driver’s Ed we learned the material and practiced on the simulator (fortunately), but I had to get behind the wheel of the car in order to drive somewhere. When I was in college learning to be a nurse my instructors taught us in the classroom, practiced with us in the Lab, and then we needed to go to the hospital to practice our skills with real patients if we were to help care for people. In all these things, it was never enough to just read about something. In all three instances I had to get out and do it in order to make it effective.

James tells us that our faith is like this too. We can certainly call ourselves Christians when we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior but in order to truly live the Christian life, in order to get the good out of our “lessons” we’re going to need to take the show on the road.

Prayer: Jesus, sometimes the things you taught us are just so much easier to read about than to do. But you showed us with your life that the work isn’t done with what’s in our head - it’s done with our hands and our mouths and our bodies. We can’t just hear about the Good News. We need to act on it and share it in order for the world to know that you are God and for us to receive the blessing that comes from working for you. Amen

Reprinted with permission from “Faithfully Devoted to God”, a devotional written by Lori Snyder-Sloan and family.

Friday, September 7, 2018

For Parents


Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

This message is so neat and it is still applicable today. First, we, the parents, are to love God with all our heart, soul and strength. God’s Word should be in our heart, not just in our brain (number one is a prerequisite for number two) Second, impress all this on our children. The church and Sunday school cannot take this entire responsibility from us. Third, live each day this way!  Our lives get busier all the time.  Yet, every day we can pray, read the Bible, or hey, read our devotion. Try to spend time with God in praise, not just when we are in need.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we praise you for your everlasting love. Help us to make You a part of everyday experience, personally and for our children. Amen

Mark Sunderman (reprinted from the Eastridge Daily Devotion book, published in 2008)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Expressing Gratitude in All Things


Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV)

I was moved by a story of a lady who felt the urge at a Starbuck’s drive-through to pay for the coffee of a single mom in the car behind her. It was a random act of kindness that had more impact than she would realize. 

The story continues with the mom who received the free coffee. She had recently lost her father who was the family baby sitter. They hired a baby sitter who would watch the kids while mom worked.  But, then the baby sitter got sick and mom had to take a day off work to be with the kids. She got her kids breakfast at a fast food place and she felt a need for coffee for which she got with a lot of guilt (her words underlined). Just then she gets this act of grace and free coffee. She breaks out with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. 

When the mom gets home, she sees her generous lady is a neighbor. Mom writes a note to her neighbor to express how grateful and thankful she is for the free coffee. It’s more than just that free cup of coffee, but an encouragement in what was a day full of set back and disappointment. Mom could express thanksgiving and gratitude in spite of the hardship she was facing. 

A spirit of gratitude is for the blessings God brings us daily in the gifts we see around us; in the surprises that wow us; and in the faith that saves us. May a spirit of gratitude be expressed by each of us when we do a kind deed of grace for another not knowing how it may be multiplied for the other. It will be a praise and gratitude to God and a blessing that will overflow in one’s heart.  Whose to know what the Lord may grace us with at any time and any day?  That is why we are thankful and expressing daily praise to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rev. Dr. John Duling

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Names


He who has an ear, let him listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.  Revelations 2:17

To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.  Isaiah 56:5

The Bible is known for being a record of many names, and for referencing God with many names and titles.  Many people can trace their names to a person from Biblical lore, or to a Biblical origin.

Some of us have been named before our birth, and some of us eventually acquire a nickname which overshadows our given name. How we are known is one of the most important things about us. When people use our names, we feel a deeper connection than simply being referred to as "hey, you", "miss", "ma'am", "sir", "soldier", or a demeaning word meant to belittle us. Our names are how we are acknowledged as equals, as friends, as loved ones. 

Recently I spent time with my brothers, which doesn't happen often because we all live far apart.  For a few days, I was called by my childhood (middle) name again.  It feels more personal than my first name, which was assigned to me to use in school, and stuck for the rest of what feels like my "public" life.  Friends who have spent a lot of time with me would often use both my first and middle names, and that became a more intimate way to be known.  It is nice to be called by a special name or nickname to just a few people; it makes us feel included and special. 

I have learned by experience that when a person stops calling me by name, there is a distance created.  It feels like I am not fully acknowledged, not worthy, not accepted.  I wonder what immigrants in the past felt like when the American officials, ignorant of how to spell foreign names, simply assigned new Americanized versions of people's names to their lives in their new country.  This not only disrupted their family heritage, it negated their worthiness as their true selves. 

For a few years, I was given a named parking space at the university where I work.  It began after I had hip surgery, and then the departments where I work part-time somehow kept the sign up so I could continue to park safely during all weather and late-night rehearsals.  Eventually, the maintenance department told me they would have to take the sign down unless I cleared it with the new human resources director.  It took me some time to actually track down who was perpetually renewing the sign each semester, and I discovered that many people honestly want to make sure I am taken care of.  As it is, I easily let go of the designated space because I can use a handicapped space nearby.  But I enjoyed so much the feeling that someone had set aside a space for me with my name on it.  I enjoy seeing my name on the staff directory inside one of the buildings, and I was so excited, years ago, to walk in on my first day of work to find my nameplate on the office door.  Putting a name on something is one way of telling someone "You belong here".

In the Bible, we read about many people whose given names were replaced by God later in life because they had become new in some way, and closer to God. Just as people close to us might have special names for us to let us know we are loved, God has something special to call us, to let us know we belong to Him.  We should always know that God calls us by a name that supersedes anything else we might be called, and certainly is powerful than any mocking name someone might try to use against us.  God's name always comes down to love and spirit, and, to us, God can be known by any name which honors his loving power.

Prayer: God, whose name is too vast to speak but can only be understood, please give me the name that helps me to know I belong to you.  When I use other people's names, help me to let them know that they are unique and special to me.  Let me always know that there is a name beyond the given name that each person wants to be called, by those who can truly love that person.  Help us all to respect each other's name and protect each other's sense of belonging. Amen.

Mollie Manner

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Finding Calm


Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

He restores my soul. Psalm 23:3

The theme of our work wellness program in August was “calm”. We were given this great adult coloring book and thoughts on how to find calm in our lives. I only completed two days of the challenge—obviously I failed at calm this month! What I discovered is that calm is elusive and is found in little bits of time here and there: restful sleep, listening to the rain, snuggling a baby, prayers at all times of the day/night. Calm works and feels the best when matched with the peace of our Savior. As my bible commentary says “Peace comes when we fix our minds on God and on his stability in our chaotic days. The unchangeable God is in charge of our days. Knowing that for a fact is peace.”

Prayer: Lord of Peace, we long for the calm and rest that only you can give.  Restore our souls. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10). Amen.

Cathy Schapmann