The views expressed here are those of each individual devotion writer. Thank you to our writers for their contributions to this ministry!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Do not judge, or you too will be judged. Matthew 7:1

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Matthew 7:1 The Message

The lesson for our confirmand class this past week was to not judge. The students were asked to tell of a time when they judged too quickly. One student brought up disliking a person in her new school and deciding she would never be her friend. Lo and behold, that person is now her best friend. We all agreed this type of first judgment can easily be wrong.

As leaders, we brought up the history of a city Councilwoman. Many people misjudged her. She was seen sleeping on the streets after running away from home. Her family had been dysfunctional with each parent having had four divorces. Surviving a divorce, myself, I feel her pain. She was a homeless person who hadn’t finished high school. Nobody thought she would finish school. This judgment was wrong. Nobody thought she would go to college; she got her undergraduate degree and became a lawyer. Not only did she become a lawyer and work in a very large firm, she opened her own firm. Nobody thought she would become a City Council member of a city, but she might even possibly run for mayor.

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, you know each one of us. You have placed us here in this city and in our families. You know our thoughts and how many hairs we have on our heads. As humans, we do not know these things, but we judge. Please help us move away from this sin. Help us to understand each of us has potential even when we do not see it. Keep us from picking on others and talking about others. We need your Spirit to guide us to not follow our natural thoughts. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

“Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” Philippians 2:5-11 (9-10 written here.)  

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16 

“We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19

Our fall Sunday worship and sermon’s focus on a section of The Apostles’ Creed.  The September 16 Sunday focus was, “and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord;” The day’s hymns and Scripture reflected this focus as well. See below a few details on some of the hymns that were part of worship that Sunday.

Although the contemporary song, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, There’s Just Something About That Name” may not be closely Biblically-based, it is one of those songs that continue to run through our head, all week long. The Bill and Gloria Gaither Vocal Band wrote and performed it starting in the 1960s.

In contrast, the popular hymn, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” lyrics were written in 1779 by Edward Perronet while a missionary in India. Its original eight verses were inspired by Philippians 2:5-11.

Neida Hearn, New Zealand housewife, doing laundry in 1974, composed “Jesus, Name Above All Names”. She had become interested in different Biblical names given to Jesus and their meanings. 

The hymn, “O’ How I Love Jesus” based on I John 4:19, reminds us that we love Jesus “because He first loved me”. It was written by Frederik Whitfeld in the 1800s.  “Fairest Lord Jesus,” another familiar hymn, continued with the Jesus theme.

The sermon, Scripture, and music helped us to understand the phrase of The Apostles’ Creed section, “and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord”.

Prayer: God, we confess that we sometimes say The Apostles’ Creed without understanding its meaning.  Remind us to focus on the words as we say it.  Amen.

Lois Poppe

Monday, October 29, 2018


“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
There are songs I hear and immediately emotional feelings take over; either from a happy or sad moment in my life. Old Rugged Cross brings memories from visiting my uncle in the country on different visits. I remember visiting my Great Uncle Willy and him playing a huge pipe organ brought over from Germany by his parents. My parent’s church had a song hour prior to church service where members could come early to request songs to sing. My mother said she found comfort in hearing certain songs from her past.  At our annual family reunion on Sunday mornings family members will gather and sing their favorite church hymns.   

Because He Lives has been a song of strength for me in many tragic and struggling moments in my life. Many times in my life this song has been sang and it is as if He is bringing a strong arm around me to support me in my sorrow. Many years ago my family was stranded in the snow and we were walking through deep blinding snow and for some reason the lyrics of “If we make it through December, everything’s going to be all right I know”.  Now that song had nothing to do with the time of year as it was April. Looking back on that now and I felt He was telling me in His own way, “Everything is going to be all right”.  Who doesn’t get the childlike comfort when you hear the song Jesus Loves Me? 

Horatio Spafford was a well-known and successful businessman in the 1800s.  He lost his son to illness and not long after he lost much of his wealth in a fire.  He lost 4 daughters in a shipwreck. Even after all this, he wrote the lyrics to It is Well With my Soul. To me, this song is a burst of release of burdens, concerns, and sadness as you feel the strength and comfort enter your soul. 

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Throughout my childhood we had music playing all the time, either through records, radio or just singing. It still brings joy to hear these songs. 

Prayer: Dear Father, Thank you for the beautiful music that is brought to us throughout our lives, thank you for the talented musicians, artist and song writers that throughout the years have brought us ways to express our thanks and love for your love. Thank you for the comfort we feel when we sing praise to your name. May we always be blessed with your comfort and love. In Jesus name we pray, Amen. 

Lori Hood

Friday, October 26, 2018


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13:4-7

The 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians in the New Testament is often referred to as the “Love Chapter.”  It is regularly used at weddings, intended as a description of the love between the bride and groom.  

But here’s a different way to think of this scripture.  I recently attended a meeting where a pastor used this chapter as part of a meditation. He asked us to substitute our individual names for the word “love.”  Try it.  Read the above passage and put in your own name each time the scripture uses “love” or “it.” 

How did it feel to say that you are patient and kind?  Can you honestly say that you do not dishonor others?  Are you not easily angered?  Do you rejoice with the truth?

If we substitute God’s name in the passage, we are reminded that God is patient and kind, and He always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. Whether we substitute our own name or God’s name in these verses, the meaning is clear--we are called to love one another as God loves us.   

Prayer: Dearest Lord, Thank you for sharing your love with us and for showing us how to share our love with others. Forgive us when we are envious, boastful, or proud. Help us to work toward becoming more like your son, Jesus Christ, in making our names synonymous with love.

Robin Hadfield

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness.   Job 29:3

The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one's inmost being.   Proverbs 20:27

For you will light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. Psalm 18:28

Yesterday the strange October snowfall arrested the day with its drenching intensity and power.  There was not much to do but watch the whiteness gather over all the vibrant green that had basked in the previous day's sunshine.

Electronics were laid aside as we were without power all afternoon and evening.  Candles and matches came out, and the room was filled with spicy autumnal scents.  The fireplace came alive with warmth and light.  Living with the restrictions inside, and the distractions of the scenery outside, made choices simpler.  That, in itself, was calming.

I was excited to find that I could put a rack on top of a 3-wick candle and heat an ovenproof bowl of soup.  It was an easy day for me, unlike those who must live without power all the time, or go without heat on cold days, or have no home or candles.  Or even soup.

When my children were little, we would go to story time at the public libraries.  At one of these, the librarian would turn on a special lantern when it was time to quiet down and listen to the story.  It lent an air of ritual to an already magical time, and we started to light a candle at story times at home. 

At Halloween, it was fun to light a jack-o-lantern inside when we read spooky stories.  When it got dark, I would light a jack-o-lantern on the table on the deck just outside our dining area, and we enjoyed this lively outdoor guest at our gatherings around our table inside.

At a church in Minnesota, we enjoyed the family celebration of All Saint's Day, where we wore costumes and carved ancient versions of crosses into pumpkins.  This culminated in a procession to the altar with our lit pumpkins, placing them on the steps and having a short service.  Seeing all those symbols flickering light into the darkness was very powerful and cheering.  Candles alone are a hallowed element of worship, but that light paired with the image of the cross was powerful. 

Prayer: Lord of light, shine your pure light to keep us safe and to help us see through your eyes. Help us to shine that light through your face to the world. Help us to give your light to others who feel lost.  Remind us through that light of the mystery and wonder behind it. Amen.
Mollie Manner

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Alive and Kicking

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

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 someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it--not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it--they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25 (NIV)

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead... You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. James 2:17 & 20-22 (NIV)

Though I try to daily hear God's “alive and active” word, my faith is barely surviving. How can this be?  Scripture reminds us that faith and actions work together...they depend on each other. They're only “alive” when they work together. Somewhere in the process between hearing God's word and putting it into action, I get stuck--and not always in the same place. To better understand what's happening, I broke down the parts of the process, and came up with these: hearing (this includes reading), listening (paying attention), pondering, understanding (comprehending), believing, trusting (having faith), being motivated and acting. It seems to me that all these parts--not necessarily in that exact order-- are important to the survival of my faith.

For example, I daily open the Bible app on my phone and either listen to a few chapters of scripture or read the verse of the day. I've been pretty proud of myself for sticking with that, but have realized that sometimes I'm hearing, but not listening...or maybe listening, but not always taking the time to ponder and better understand. Sometimes I do actually reach the point of trusting, but often lack the motivation to follow through. And if I do manage to act, it's sometimes more out of duty than love. 

It's frustrating that I'm often needing to revive my faith. I want it to not just survive, but thrive! But how do I get there? Prayer! First, I need to ask God what's causing me to get stuck. Is it selfishness, fear, insecurity, laziness or something else? Then I need to pray the message found in Philippians 2:13: “God, work in me to overcome these obstacles, by giving me the desire and the power to do what pleases you.”  The enemy will daily try to thwart my plans, but specific and persistent prayer will help me to resist. I look forward to one day having a faith that's “alive and kicking”!

Prayer: Infinitely wise God, forgive us for not doing everything we can to help our faith thrive. Please give us the desire and power to do what pleases you each and every day. And thank you for providing us with Your word-- an invaluable tool for doing your work in this world. Amen.

Sharon Irvin

Monday, October 22, 2018

Thanks for Pastors

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

This scripture is the verse of the day on, which I often use to look up Bible verses. The first part is familiar to us as it’s similar to the words spoken by our pastors in the prayer before the sermon in worship services. 

October is Pastor Appreciation Month and we’re asked to take action to let our pastors know how important they are to us. It doesn’t have to be much—just telling them we appreciate them can be enough. When we work, we often wish we were thanked more often or felt more appreciated. We have the chance to let our pastors know we’re grateful for them. 

I found a poem by Judy Crowe for pastor appreciation month, and the first and last verses state (with a little editing):

Have you ever walked in our pastors’ shoes,
And gone where their feet have trod?
Have you ever thought of what they mean to us,
And on your knees, given thanks to God?

Eastridge is blessed with pastors who have different gifts to share with us. Let us remember throughout the year to give thanks to God for their service with us. (And even though there is no staff appreciation month, let us remember and give thanks for the staff members who support the pastors.)

Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank you for sending Melodie and Thomas to serve our church at this place and time. Help us to remember each day that they are here to guide us on our journey. And help us to let them know we are thankful for them. Amen.

Robin Hadfield

Friday, October 19, 2018

Remembering Those Suffering

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

October is National Domestic Violence Month. For many years, Eastridge has participated in the Friendship Home Safe Quarters drive. This program asks teams in the community to gather and walk door to door collecting change for women in need of a safe place to stay. Statistically, women are at greatest risk of violence and death from their domestic partner within the first few weeks of leaving. 

Nearly all of us know someone who has been abused in a relationship. The good friend in high school whose boyfriend was jealous and paranoid and didn’t want her to be around anyone but him. The family member whose husband is overbearing, threatening and a bully. The colleague whose wife disrupts his work with screaming matches and threats. The woman at church who comes every week with her kids, sitting in a pew and begging God to protect her family. 

All of these people are scared, and all of them need your prayers, your support, your understanding. It seems so simple to tell someone to leave their abuser, but the person in that position knows, with all their heart, that this will be a dangerous, life changing decision. Do not discount their fear. They may be the only ones who truly know what their partner is capable of. If they leave and return, the abuser will have something new to bring to the fight and they will know that the victim will come back to them. If they leave and know that they will never go back, they are risking their life to be free. It’s not just a break-up, it’s not just a divorce, it is a plan to leave a hostage situation. 

This October, examine the relationships that you have. Are you being abused?  Do you have a good friend who is in a dangerous relationship? Do you know that someone is being abused? What can you do to help them be courageous?  What can you do to save someone else’s life? Certainly we can all give a little change for that… 

Prayer: God, who knows all our fears and pains, be with those who are abused and afraid.  Help us to be watchful and mindful of the experiences of those around us and to support and protect them.  Help us all find a place in our prayers for others who are suffering.    

Christi Moock

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Serve the Living God!

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.  Colossians 3:23-24   

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7   

You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. Deuteronomy 13:4  

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Politics Then and Now

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no accord of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

“Prairie Fires” by Caroline Fraser, about Laura Ingalls Wilder, was a choice for One Lincoln Book and is the book I just finished. “A Godly Hero” telling about The Life of William Jennings Bryan is the book I am reading now. Both of these well-known historic personalities were involved in the political scene of the day. Laura became more and more involved as her daughter became a well-known writer also. Michael Kazin who wrote the book about our Nebraska native Bryan said Bryan did more than anyone to transform the Democratic Party from a bulwark of laissez-faire to the citadel of liberalism we identify with Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was actually nominated for president in in 1896, 1900 and 1908. He fell short each time he tried to obtain the highest office in our country. There were some rough times detailed in the book.

This history made me realize our political system had some of the same good and bad personalities, arguments and difficulties as we do today. It is hard in today’s environment to be patient, not envy, boast or be proud. We certainly see a lot of rude folks.

Can we live giving God’s love rejoicing in the love talked about in 1 Corinthians which will protect us, give us faith and hope, and perseveres when all around us we see anger and wrongs?

Prayer: Our Father in Heaven, help us dig into your words and treat our families, neighbors and friends with the love you speak about.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Clear Thinking and Common Sense

Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life;
   don't for a minute lose sight of them.
They'll keep your soul alive and well,
   they'll keep you fit and attractive.
You'll travel safely,
   you'll neither tire nor trip.
You'll take afternoon naps without a worry,
   you'll enjoy a good night's sleep.
No need to panic over alarms or surprises,
   or predictions that doomsday's just around the corner,
Because God will be right there with you;
   he'll keep you safe and sound.                                                                        Proverbs 3:21-26 (The Message)

This has been a difficult period in our country as we have become more divided than ever over political issues. The media sometimes adds to the concerns we have when they discuss the issues. I’ve heard commentators use the words “fear” and “panic” when they discuss the public’s reactions to the news of the day.

This passage from Proverbs advises us to keep our sound judgment and use common sense, for they will help us on our travels. Especially appropriate is the section suggesting that we don’t need to panic over predictions about doomsday—because God is with us and will keep us safe and sound.

How appropriate it is to reconsider these words from thousands of years ago.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed when it seems all the news is bad and there doesn’t seem to be any hope. We worry about the political scene, climate change, the economy, health care, and education, to name a few. But worry doesn’t really get us anywhere. It merely diverts our attention from honoring God for our blessings.
Eastridge will soon be conducting its stewardship campaign, and it might be tempting to fall prey to all the negative news around us and think our church pledge is an item that can be moved to a lower priority. However, the next verses of the Proverbs chapter advise us not to take such action:

         Never walk away from someone who deserves help;
               your hand is God's hand for that person.
            Don't tell your neighbor "Maybe some other time"
               or "Try me tomorrow" when the money's right there in your pocket.

The church budget includes money to operate the church building and programs, but it also includes funding for local, national, and international mission projects. Prayerfully consider your situation when completing your pledge form. Remember that God is always there and will provide, and try not to succumb to the fear and panic that seems all around us. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, We thank you for giving us common sense and good judgment. We need your assistance to remember our blessings amidst the “fear” and “panic” that seems to be everywhere today.  We know you are always there and will keep us safe.  Help us to always understand that we can reach out to others, for our hands can be your hands.

Robin Hadfield

Monday, October 15, 2018


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

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

I have been thinking about the word “rest” lately. defines the word as: relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs. a period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquility: to go away for a rest. mental or spiritual calm; tranquility. the repose of death: eternal rest. cessation or absence of motion: to bring a machine to rest.

When we were children, my mom would have my siblings and I lay down for a “rest.” Not be confused or encouraged to take a nap, it was just time to be still for a bit. Naturally we usually fell asleep anyway. A much needed rest for rambunctious little bodies. Needless to say, I carried this over to my children too.  At Camp Calvin Crest, our kids had FOB time—Flat On Back—reflection and rest time.

When we awake from a very restful sleep, both our bodies and our minds are renewed. One can’t happen without the other: sleep is interrupted with a distracted mind (3:00 a.m. thoughts anyone?); and a relaxed mind is distracted with an uncomfortable body. When we combine physical and mental rest with spiritual rest in Jesus, that is the ultimate state of rest, calm and tranquility. Resting in Jesus, giving everything over to Him, is a lesson I keep relearning. Thankfully, He is a patient teacher.

Prayer: Dear Jesus , You offer rest to us at every turn if only we would come rest at your feet and let go of our burdens. Thank you for patiently waiting on us to talk to you, our faithful and loving Savior. Amen.

Cathy Schapmann

Friday, October 12, 2018

Boundaries #2

Set up a fence for the people all around and tell them, ‘Be careful not to go up the mountain or to touch any part of it.’ Anyone who even touches the mountain must be put to death.  Exodus 19:12 CEB
The king will say, “I did this with my own two powerful hands. I did this with my wisdom, because I am so clever. I’ve eliminated the boundaries of nations. I’ve looted treasuries. I’ve brought down people like a mighty man. Isaiah 10:13 God’s Word (GW)

We all need boundaries. When we eliminate boundaries in our relationships we lose our ability to think clearly. Author Christina Hergenrader tells about this in Family Trees & Olive Branches:

An aunt who gave $25,000 every Christmas to her niece expected her to come and visit her on Saturdays. While visiting the aunt the niece was derided and talked down to each time. When the niece had children and wanted to bring them along, the aunt said she didn’t want the children and still expected the niece to come regularly; and she never was nice to her. Finally, the niece decided she wanted to spend her Saturdays with her husband and family and told the aunt she was not coming. She expected the $25,000 gift to end and that was okay with her. Lo and behold the $25,000 came that Christmas just as always and the aunt started to be nice to the niece. The niece putting up boundaries was the right thing to do and helped the situation.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to know how to stay inside the boundaries you have set for us. Help us to love each person around us but be aware of those who have no boundaries. Guide us in all situations. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Boundaries #1

Set up a fence for the people all around and tell them, ‘Be careful not to go up the mountain or to touch any part of it.’ Anyone who even touches the mountain must be put to death.  Exodus 19:12 CEB
The king will say, “I did this with my own two powerful hands. I did this with my wisdom, because I am so clever. I’ve eliminated the boundaries of nations. I’ve looted treasuries. I’ve brought down people like a mighty man. Isaiah 10:13 God’s Word (GW)

We all need boundaries. When we eliminate boundaries in our relationships we lose our ability to think clearly. Author Christina Hergenrader tells about this in Family Trees & Olive Branches:

“When you’re doing life with a person with poor boundaries, you will often find yourself as part of their circus… Oftentimes (okay, almost every meal), one of them comes to the table with a bellyful of pain about something. One of our daughters is feeling hurt about some drama that went down at recess, and she will fling herself down to her pot roast with a scowl on her face. She will glare at her brother when he crunches his cauliflower too loudly. Then she will start with the, ‘Can you please chew with your mouth closed?’

When I’m tired and my boundaries are poor, I will totally get sucked into this kind of behavior. Yes, she is being ugly to other members of my family. But my desire to help her will cloud my judgment. Instead of telling her she can choose between being kind to us or eating her dinner in the dining room, I’ll ask everyone to chew more quietly for her. I’ll pour her a glass of her favorite juice. I’ll take her side in her story of the playground politics. Her bad mood has become my responsibility, and I will feel really bad right alongside her, in hopes that a compliant, bad-feeling mama might be a bright spot in her day.  I ask you, what kind of insane logic is this?”

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to know how to stay inside the boundaries you have set for us. Help us to love each person around us but be aware of those who have no boundaries. Guide us in all situations. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Bearing Witness

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19   
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
I recently finished a book called Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project, about the true story of a history day project, a Polish woman who rescued 2,500 children in Nazi-occupied Poland, and how the three girls who worked on the class project brought attention to Irena and her story. (Google it! Or, better yet, read the book.)
Several times the phrase "bear witness" comes up in the narrative. I started to think more about this phrase and all its implications, including those for us today. Online, the Merriam-Webster definition of “bear witness” is: to show that something exists or is true, or to make a statement saying that one saw or knows something.
In wartime Poland (and elsewhere in Europe during WW2 and just prior), bearing witness was, perhaps, all most people were brave enough to do. People like Irena Sendler and Oskar Schindler were the exceptions, people who risked their lives to save others. I can’t imagine their courage, and I’m thankful that there are people like them in our world.
However, we don’t need to be courageous to notice others. When we bear witness, we truly see them. Whether that’s their pain, their achievements, their trials…when we acknowledge them, they feel validated. Although this quote was more about noticing nature, I feel the same about Mary Oliver’s words below:
“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
Aside from astonishment, maybe we just need to listen to others. Listen when they share about their accomplishments, their stories, their worries. Bear witness.
Prayer: Dear Lord, often I am so wrapped up in my own problems that I fail to see others. Help me to truly see them, and help me listen when I want to speak. Amen.
Donna Gustafson

Tuesday, October 9, 2018


"Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24

I have only recently started writing devotions, and I have found myself jotting a few notes or ideas as the days and weeks go by. So many times it is in my daily activities in life that I find my topics. The writing has also become a form of prayer for me.  As I am writing I find recalling a particular event that inspired the topic and prayer I am again praying to God. I find myself praying that my writings inspire, comfort and yes, just even make sense to those who read them. I pray that I can find the right passage from the Bible. I even pray that my spelling and grammar is correct so as not to lose the meaning of my thoughts. I pray for inspiration. I thank God for being in my life not only at this time but during those events. 

Prayer: Thank you, God, for this opportunity, your guidance; and may my words and thoughts inspire others to share. May your many blessings continue to guide me, teach me, and help me spread your peace and love. Amen

Lori Hood

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Power of God in the Grand Canyon

Sometimes when I experience pain, loss, and suffering in my life, clear thoughts are fleeting.  Thus, I decided to share a blog my sister sent me, which has been very helpful and meaningful during this stage of my healing journey.

This excerpt/synopsis was taken from September 25th, 2018 and was written by a local doctor in a small town in Iowa that my sister Linda works with.

My Dad, my son, and I just finished a grueling hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This was an incredible challenge for us. For normal individuals, this hike is daunting at best, but for my father and son, it was miraculous.

You see, my father was struck by an out of control driver while changing his tire on the side of a highway. Both femurs were obliterated and he was left for dead. He was not expected to live, let alone walk again.  However, through strong faith, perseverance, and months of rehab, he began to walk again and at age 67, has logged thousands of miles. He has even trekked up and down the Grand Canyon four times.

My son, Beau, was diagnosed with Schizencephaly when he was 1 year old, and we thought he would never walk, run, ride a bike. Yet, at the age of 10, he had persevered through multiple braces, hours of PT/OT, and chronic pain. Most people do not realize that he has been plagued by this disease. And, Beau trained hours for this trip.

I tell you these stories to applaud the grace of our God, and the power of faith and reliance on him. They could have wallowed in self-pity, but instead they chose to "look to him who gives strength"(Isaiah 40:31), and day by day, put one foot in front of the other.

Paul says it best in James 1:2-4: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

In Romans 5:3-4, Paul says "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

Beau and my Dad would have never succeeded if it wasn't for their hours of hard work and training. I'm so proud of their physical accomplishments, but I'm even more proud of the spiritual insights, growth, and maturity they gained through this arduous process.

Prayer: As the author's Dad said, "Life's goal is character, not comfort.  If one could go down and back up the Grand Canyon on an escalator, it would not have the same impact on our mind, body, or soul.  The beauty would be seen, but we would fail to be molded by the experience.  The barriers are the blessing!"  

Father God, guide me with your grace, your Word, and your infinite Love, to be molded by the barriers I am facing so as to become stronger, wiser, and more like you. I want to work hard with your guidance, to heal and grow from this experience.  Thank you always for your unconditional love and direction.

Connie Barry

Thursday, October 4, 2018

God's Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

This was sent to me by a friend. He received it from another friend on the internet, and the original author is unknown.

Heaven's Grocery Store
As I was walking down life's
highway many years ago
I came upon a sign that read
Heaven's Grocery Store.

When I got a little closer
the doors swung open wide
And when I came to myself
I was standing inside.

I saw a host of angels.
They were standing everywhere
One handed me a basket and said
"My child shop with care."

Everything a human needed
was in that grocery store
And what you could not carry
you could come back for more.

First I got some Patience.
Love was in that same row.
Further down was Understanding,
you need that everywhere you go.

I got a box or two of Wisdom
and Faith a bag or two.
And Charity of course
I would need some of that too.

I couldn't miss the Holy Ghost
It was all over the place.
And then some Strength and Courage
to help me run this race.

My basket was getting full but
I remembered I needed Grace,
And then I chose Salvation for
Salvation was for free
I tried to get enough of that
to do for you and me.

Then I started to the counter
to pay my grocery bill,
For I thought I had everything
to do the Masters will.

As I went up the aisle I saw
Prayer and put that in,
For I knew when I stepped outside
I would run into sin.

Peace and Joy were plentiful,
the last things on the shelf.
Song and Praise were hanging near
so I just helped myself.

Then I said to the angel "Now how much do I owe?"
He smiled and said "Just take them everywhere you go."
Again I asked "Really now, How much do I owe?"
"My child " he said, "God paid your bill a long long time ago."

Prayer: My dearest Jesus, You paid the price for my sin and give me the grace I need but never deserved. If I gave all I had, it would never be enough.  Thank you for all the gifts you give, but especially for grace. Amen

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Guest Devotion: Thoughts from Stuart at Cold Wet Nose

Today we're featuring a devotion from Stuart at Cold Wet Nose, reprinted with permission. If you enjoy reading this, head over to his site at: 

Good morning from Cold Wet Nose!

Where I am, it APPEARS fall may have FINALLY pushed its way into our region, but we have been tricked once before.  We shall see . . .

Today, I was thanked for my heroism.  Heroism, I thought? Really?  I wore a uniform for 31 years, but I want to make something crystal clear:  I’m no hero. This guy - he was a hero. (photo below)

Outwardly, it would appear his heroism revolves around his service to his country, but his medals only tell half the story. A more complete picture of his heroism comes into focus when we include the lives he served when he returned home. 

Simply wearing a uniform does not make someone a hero. I am proud of my service, and while being thanked is fine, I would prefer something different.

While appreciated, I don't need a reserved parking stall, or to stand after the sixth inning, or to be recognized at a concert.  Instead, I have a different request.

I am calling on all of us to serve. In any capacity. Place the gratitude you have for the uniformed service I and so many others have performed into an actionable plan to pay it forward.

You are a hero in my eyes when you show compassion when you don’t have time. Or when you have the courage to confront injustice with your words, not your fists. Or when you give of your treasure willingly when you have little to give. Or when you have found that it is no longer a viable option to ignore a dream, and you allow it to lead. Or when you measure the greatness of a nation by the way in which it cares for those most vulnerable.

Heroism is defined by the actions taken, not the uniform worn. Heroes are all around us. The challenge I ask of everyone is to appreciate them by emulating them.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.  Thank you for being on this journey with me.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Taming the Tongue

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. James 3: 3-5

These words are a caution to any who are in positions of influence.  And, yes, the tongue is a force that can be as powerful as a ship’s rudder or the bridle on a horse.  I would also suggest that the tweet on twitter or a post on Facebook would have the same power to affirm, to education, to inspire, or possibly bully or intimidate in unchecked ways. 

I am more accustomed to Facebook. One can delete or re-edit a post if it seems inappropriate.  But, the speed of the social media may not always guarantee that an inappropriate post gets read.  So, what guards do we have to check our comments?  Just how do we tame the tongue let alone the social media post and tweet?

A colleague on a minister’s preaching website: Homiletics Online, suggests three simple strategies that may be a way to “tame the tweet”, post and tongue.

Be slow.  Be careful not to over react to what one has said, written, posted, or tweeted.  Check the facts, but also prayerfully think of what was said and what may be the motivation for sharing what was posted.  Yes, it could be inappropriate and may need to be confronted with fact checking.  But, the advice to take it with caution and prayer is consistent with the caution that James makes in James 3 about the tongue.

Be teachable.  I find this very helpful.  Perhaps it is an open opportunity for one to question the one who makes a brash statement, post, or tweet.  Ask respectfully with an inquiring desire to learn what thought is guiding the person who made the post, tweet, or comment.  One may learn something.  On the other hand, what one learns may be a word of caution to be respectful or careful of potential cyber bullying.  If in the latter, then confront and find those who will intervene when such inappropriate comments are made.

Finally, be honest. Speak with honesty and wisdom as you and I may have learned in life. In the same way, James shares these words worth hearing: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (v. 17). When we speak out of that wisdom, “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace” (v. 18).

May this help us in our daily relationships to be a positive example and model of our relationship with Jesus Christ.  In His grace and by His Spirit we can find the right thing to do and say which tames what we think, say, do, post or tweet.

Prayer: O God, help us to keep in check the words we speak, post, or tweet.  Give us open hearts and minds to be slow, teachable and honest.  Grant us the presence of Your Holy Spirit to guide us in following the example of Christ in all that we do.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Rev. Dr. John Duling

Monday, October 1, 2018

I am NOT okay!

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2
We spent our Saturday with my grandniece Ella (3 yrs. old) and my grandnephew Liam (4 months old).  We went to their brother Kaleb’s (7 years old) soccer game.  Then we went to the Artwalk in Aurora, NE.  After that we drove to pick up another friend and headed to the Hastings Museum Imax Theatre to see the Odyssey of the Turtle in 3D.  After all this we went out to have dinner.  We sat around the table.  Our drinks came Ella had ordered her usual chocolate milk.  As we sat waiting for the meals to arrive, Ella said "I need help" in her little voice.  She said, "I spilled."  The two around her looked at the table, saw no spill and looked at her clothes and did not see any spill.  As a comforting comment, they said you are okay, you didn’t spill.  To which Ella responded “I am not okay” in a very matter-of-fact way.  Upon further investigation, she had spilled milk on her chair. 

How many times have we responded to others in this same manner in life?  They ask for help, we glance see nothing visible to us; we offer comfort and words of encouragement, but don’t really look to see or hear what they are facing.  {During} national disasters we see the picture, see them being rescued, offer a quick comforting thought, but that is as far as it goes.  I recently read a posting on Facebook for a missing boy. It read, "Justice for Corey Haynes" and after 13 years there is not been any farther action. Are there individuals that have looked and moved on with their lives but really could offer more assistance?  Is there more we could be doing to help others?  Could we spend more time just listening to someone’s concerns?  There are so many diseases in which people suffer in silence, as their pain is not conveyed by a visible scar.  Those that suffer from depression, those that we need to spend more time with, listening (not talking), but listening to their needs. 

Prayer: Dear Father, please remind us to listen, comfort and spend time with those in need.  Let us pray for those that suffer in silence that we might somehow give them comfort. Let us look beyond to see the deeper needs of those around us. Help us to remember to give what we can to help others as you would guide us to do. Let us pray for those struggling and needing assistance on a daily basis. Help us to find the path you would want us to live. Amen
Lori Hood