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

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Call of Abram

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,

    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,

    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land. So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. Genesis 12: 1-9

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Open Unto Me

I’d like to share this prayer attributed to  Howard Thurman, pastor, theologian, and Civil Rights activist. 

Open unto me — light for my darkness.
Open unto me — courage for my fear.
Open unto me — hope for my despair.
Open unto me — peace for my turmoil.
Open unto me — joy for my sorrow.
Open unto me — strength for my weakness.
Open unto me — wisdom for my confusion.
Open unto me — forgiveness for my sins.
Open unto me — love for my hates.
Open unto me — thy Self for my self.

Lord, Lord, open unto me!
Rev. Dr. Melodie Jones Pointon

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Fasting With Prayer

So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. Daniel 9:3

The suffering of children named Suhroyal, Rainaugh, Kingston, Theodore, Thomas, Miles, Landon and Anna was heavy on my heart because of abuse and drugs. Our Friday Bible Study is studying Daniel now. I came upon this verse 3 of Daniel 9. I picked a day to fast and pray for them and struggling marriages in our family. We heard about a family losing their children in a crash. Oh Lord, I pleaded, You are aware of all these things.  

The day started out normal until I turned on my computer and everything was wiped out. I called Level Seven geeks who got into my computer and fixed it. They saw the devastation and told me to bring it in to their shop and with their tools they might be able to bring it back up. With my tax material needed soon, I rushed it to their store.

Upon returning I found out my husband needed to go to ER for observation. At the ER I got a call from Black Hills Energy saying they were going to turn off the gas at the new home we just finished building that was listed for sale. The temperature outside was six degrees. This would not be good.

My prayers had started in the night, I prayed instead of breakfast, was interrupted by the events above, prayed at the ER and in the hospital room assigned to us. With all this going on, my praying was not as constant as I had planned. Instead of lunch I prayed. Instead of dinner I prayed.

I received good news that evening for six of the children. God was listening. Everything was brought back up on my computer. My husband was doing well and was released. A family member took care of the problem at the gas company and I was able to be at home with a good night’s sleep. Thank you, Daniel, for telling us about the need to fast. You helped me through an unbelievable day and God is good. I will never know how much the fasting helped, but it is used in the Bible.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your wonderful word and the teachings in it. Please continue to bless these children and our family. Continue to forgive me and help me learn.  

Sandra Hilsabeck

Monday, January 27, 2020

Peter Sinks in the Water: follow up to Sunday's sermon

Read // MATTHEW 14:22-33

from the artist // LISLE GWYNN GARRITY

At the start of this chapter, John the Baptist is brutally
beheaded. Jesus withdraws from the crowds to a deserted
place, yet is followed by the masses—perhaps many of
them former followers of John the Baptist. Moved with
compassion, he heals the sick and miraculously generates
bounty from a meal of five loaves and two fish.

Then, he “immediately” rushes the disciples into a boat,
dismisses the crowds, and retreats to a mountain by himself.
Perhaps he needs space to grieve John and to grapple with
the gravity of his calling. The crowds and demands of his
ministry were surging; in the same way, the waves and the
wind begin to batter the boat that had drifted far from shore.
If you’ve ever been in open water during a storm or even
high winds, you know the shockwave of fear that pulses
through your veins. Yet, as dawn breaks, a mirage beckons
to them, casting out words to buoy them up: “Do not fear.”

What I find in Peter’s response is not a challenge or a
profession of doubt, but a willingness to step into the
swell, like a trust fall into the unknown. Perhaps in seasons
when our sense of certainty and security unravels, our
desperation is more likely to convert into courage. Is there

something about unraveling that makes us a bit less risk-
averse, a bit more willing to try what we wouldn’t have

dared when everything felt predictable and sure?

Imagine this same scene with no storm, no raging seas,
no ghostly glimpse of Jesus skimming the surface. Would
Peter have stepped in then? Would he have expanded his
definition of what’s possible? Would he have experienced
the divine so surprisingly, so surely? Would you step in?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

What is your Favorite Hymn?

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Psalm 96:1

What is your favorite hymn? I am sure we have all suffered through those that apparently no one knows. I am sure many don’t even try to sing, while others sing in a whisper; if you are lucky there is a choir to help or at least one or two members that are singing in tune to lead us through. Many times I have asked myself why do they select these {hymns}, but ultimately I know the meaning in the song connects with the season or sermon.  At times I have chuckled to myself when it seemed like the song was really dragging and I couldn’t imagine what the angels above must think.  

Oh, but when they pick the ones we know, the ones we can sing without hymnals or screen. Ones we know from childhood that you can feel bringing that comfort inside your soul as you sing it. The ones we sing out loud, we sing with our heads up for all to see.  

How true this is with new challenges or experiences in life. When faced with a change in a job, a financial situation, a death, meeting someone new; do we face it with a whisper, pretending to mouth our way through it then face it head on? Expecting others to carry us through it, rather than learning something new or changing our ways?  Why don’t we look for the meaning and ask for help?  

Trust in the Lord, you are here for a reason. Yes, it may feel like it’s dragging on, but maybe that is the plan. Listen to the accompanist ...feel the music. No, we may not perform perfectly but we will be following His path and the rewards may surpass those we have always found comfort in in the past. 

Lori Hood

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from their troubles. Psalm 34:17

While I generally spend most of my time and efforts at work on clinical projects, the last 10 months I have been working on two different financial projects. This is far outside my comfort zone and often leaves me feeling a little out of sorts.  Some of the team members that I have to work with are challenging. The rules for Medicare are difficult to interpret and often lead to arguments among team members. And most of all, at least for me, working in the healthcare industry has always been more about taking care of the patient, and less about making sure that we are reimbursed for that work.  

Before these meetings I have found myself pausing outside the door to pray.  Simple prayers like “God, a little help please” or “God, I can’t take it if we have another shouting match” or some days “God, I really like my job, except for this project”. While I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn about the rules and how they impact the physicians and nurses caring for our patients this work has felt like a tremendous burden and I find myself wanting to rush through the pain and break free from the troubles. Even though God hasn’t stepped in to rescue me, I feel better whispering to him in confidence before I take on this work.  And I continue to believe that he is with me while I facilitate difficult conversations, navigate solutions and help those involved make decisions and improve the process so that the care that we provide will be affordable to the community in need.  

Prayer: God who is always present, thank you for listening when I fuss, for comforting me when I am burdened, for giving me strength to fight for the right things. Thank you for all the opportunities in my life, both the hard and the easy.   

Christi Moock

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Life in the Spirit

As for me, this is my covenant with them, says the Lord. My spirit, which is upon you, and my words, which I have placed in your mouth won’t depart from your mouth, nor from the mouths of your descendants, nor from the mouths of your descendants’ children, says the Lord, forever and always Isaiah 59:21.

Protect this good thing that has been placed in your trust through the Holy Spirit who lives in us. 2 Timothy 1:14

It is hard sometimes to discern the Spirit inside us after we accept Christ as our Savior. We can get so busy we forget Jesus lives in us. We are free to act according to our will. We might even get nudges from the Spirit and fail to take time to follow through. I know I have thought of others that are having trouble but go about my more important business and forget to check on them. Below are some awesome thoughts in Christina Hergenrader’s book Family Trees & Olive Branches.  It is a great book available in Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Living as a child of God includes the experience of reading a Bible verse that your soul leaps at because, in your most tender places, you know it as truth.

Life in the Spirit is humbling; it’s recognizing the radical patience and kindness another person has shown you.

Life in the Spirit is praying to your Father and feeling the profound peace that comes from knowing He is taking care of you and has been caring for you.

Life in the Spirit is hearing an explanation of God’s expansive love for you that resonates so deeply that you feel whole.

Life in the spirit is receiving the underserved forgiveness of someone you have hurt.

Prayer: Dear Father, we readily forget that once we have accepted Jesus into our lives that we are different. Your Spirit is within us. The Bible is clear on this matter as 2 Timothy 1:14 says, the Holy Spirit lives in us. This is truly amazing and continually amazes me in the experiences I have. Help us to be continually aware of your Spirit. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Monday, January 20, 2020

Encouraging the Israelites in Exile to Plant Gardens and Build Houses: follow-up to Sunday's sermon

When Dreams Unravel

read // JEREMIAH 29:1-7

from the artist // LAUREN WRIGHT PITTMAN

I moved to a new state. As I write, I’m living out of boxes, the
trunk of my car, and a storage unit. It’s a jarring experience
to move, even when it’s a conscious choice. I’ve found
myself in a place that resembles almost nothing like what
I’d envisioned for my life. I left a city burgeoning with
opportunities and culture; now I’m in a small town where
I’d be thrilled to find one decent, local coffee shop. I’m
beginning to realize visions about the future I wasn’t even
aware of. These unrealized dreams took root in my being in a
way that feels defining to who I am.

Something happens deep in our core when we feel out of
place. The day I moved my immune system failed and I became
sick and disoriented. The Israelites were forced into exile,
ripped from their homes, places of worship, and way of life.
They find themselves in Babylon where they dream of the
day they’d return to where they belong. Jeremiah’s words are
comforting, yet painful. They are told to stay, plant gardens,
and allow their families to flourish in this strange land. I’m
sure this was disappointing, but when you hold onto the past,
you miss the richness of the present. "Seek the welfare of
the city where I have sent you” (Jer. 29:7). Maybe when our
lives unravel in transition, the loose ends of our dreams, the
friends we leave behind, and the paths untraveled can become
the roots that stabilize us in the new place where we find
ourselves. These threads can create grounding that nourishes
and transforms us into something new. This new place can be
a gift—a place of flourishing and a conduit for deep, authentic
connection with self and community.


Take a few moments to gaze upon the artwork. Breathe
deeply in quiet meditation as you observe the visual
qualities of what you see: color, line, texture, movement,
shape, form.
Now take a deeper look. What parts of the image are your
eyes most drawn to? What parts of the image did you
Now engage your imagination. What story do you imagine
for each of the figures?

- What has unraveled and/or is unraveling in this story?
- What kinds of dreams need to die in order for your
community to prosper?
- Where do you see social exile occuring in your
own city? What communities have been uprooted,
disempowered, and marginalized? What does it
look like to garden—literally and metaphorically—in these spaces?

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Game

Football isn’t the only game in this state! I, like many others, follow the nationally ranked, University of NE women’s volleyball team. Several weeks ago, my husband, Gregg, and I were settled in our family room, anxiously awaiting the much anticipated top 10 matchup. Gregg set up the DVR to record the game. We then viewed the game 15-30 minutes later so we could fast forward through the commercials and time-outs. The Huskers came out firing on all cylinders, and won the first two, best of five, sets. They’re looking good; I’m feeling good! The next set, they faltered a bit. “Ok, we’ll let the other team have one”, I said to my fidgeting self. The fourth set was even worse. Oh, no! Dread was setting in. The Huskers seemed to have lost their rhythm and the other team found theirs. Ugh! We had one final set to decide the match. The momentum was definitely swinging in favor of the opponent. My stomach was turned upside down, heart pounding, body tense, and emotions high! 

The fifth and final set begins. The score was tied 3-3. I’m thinking, “oh dear, I might have to go to bed. I can’t watch! My heart can’t take this anymore!” About that time, I received a text from my son, who had been watching the game in actual time (15 minutes ahead of us). I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read, “How bout those Huskers! Great come back and win, huh!” Well, I’ll be darned! With a smile coming across my face, I breathed a sigh of relief and watched until the end of the game. I felt myself relaxing into my chair, my breathing slowed, pulse returning to normal. I cheered and truly enjoyed the last points of the match…mostly because I knew the outcome. 

Wouldn’t that be nice if life was like that?! If we only knew how it was going to turn out; oh, the strain and stress we could save ourselves! In my humanness, I want control of my future and experiences (and everybody else’s!). I am impatient, prideful, and critical. I don’t understand the “whys” or the waiting for answers. Direction seems absent; the pain is never-ending; doubt, anger, and fear persist; with no end in sight. The struggle is exhausting. Where is my faith?

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately!), life isn’t like that. God says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God desires that we release the hold on our future, worries, and doubts and surrender them to him. Our faith will be deepened as we rest assured that He is walking with us every step and has our best interest in mind. We can live out a joyful life in praise, gratitude, and humility, when we trust in His plan and look forward to a hopeful future; no matter the outcome, what happens along the way, or how long it takes. Whether the score says it or not, we’ll still feel like winners when we see the fingerprints of God in our lives. 

Prayer: Jesus, our friend, thank you for your ever-steadfast love. We ask for your mercy in times when we flounder on our own. Thank you for bringing us back to you. Lift us, calm us, comfort and encourage us as we relinquish control to you. Help us keep our eyes on you, emotions in check, pride at bay, and feet on the ground. You are our trusted rock and redeemer! Amen

Diane Worrell Eaton

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Soul Shine

“Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16

Let your soul shine” was a quote I saw on a wall calendar.  I googled it and learned that “Soulshine” is a song written by Warren Haynes. It was originally recorded by Larry McCray on his 1993 album, “Delta Hurricane.”  It is famously known by the recording that Haynes’ band, The Allman Brothers Band, released on their 1994 album, “Where it All Begins.”  Gregg Allman sang lead vocals. The title, “Soulshine” originates from Hayne’s nickname, given by his father.

A few of the song’s words are quoted here:

“When you can’t find the light

That got you through the cloudy days.
He (daddy) used to say, soul shine,

It’s better than sunshine,

It’s better than moonshine.

You gotta let your soul shine,

Shine till the break of day.”

I recall a song we sang at church camps:

“Rise, Shine, Give God your glory, glory. (repeat)

Rise and shine, and give God your glory, glory,

Children of the Lord.”

How will we let our soul shine reflecting God’s love this day, this week, this year?

Prayer: God, remind us to let our soul shine in response to your love for us. Amen.

Lois Poppe

Wednesday, January 15, 2020


But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

As we sat at our New Year’s Eve dinner I read a post that said what was the highlight of 2019? The exciting moment of the year?  Hmm. I hate to admit it but the sad moments in my life came to mind first. My sister getting diagnosed with cancer, six months of chemo, the loss of my Aunt Leota, my cousin diagnosed with cancer, more cancer diagnosis then I can probably mention in friends and family, cousin with major surgery loss of leg, friends and family loss of their land and animals in the floods, etc., etc.  It all started running through my head! But after a prayer with God asking about the year, asking where was my highlight? I got my answer and so again I bow down to God and pray thank you, God for those highlights and thank you for reminding me of all these blessings in my life.

My highlights in my life if you are wondering was meeting so many new and wonderful people now in my life like Stephanie, Pam, Pam, Meghan, Sally, Sara, Adele, Jamie,Crystal, Chelsea and so many others. For the precious moments with my three grand niece and nephews, my niece and two nephews, my family. The highlights are the time and memories. The highlight was getting to see my cousins in the south that I haven’t seen in years. Getting time to spend with my cousin in Arizona before she passed. She is now in heaven with my other family angels. Thank you again for all these wonderful highlights you have brought into my life and thank you for ALL my friends and family!     

What was your highlight?   

Prayer: Dear Father in Heaven: Forgive me for not seeing the highlights in my life.  For not cherishing those moments that I took for granted. Help me to see all that you have given me and to be thankful for your gifts. Help me when I do look back on those difficult times to be thankful you were there beside me and that you held my hand through each and every moment. Amen

Lori Hood

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

God Has Us in His Hands

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3 

God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years. Genesis 1:14

God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” Genesis 1:20

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20

In the new year of 2020 let us look back at who created the world. 

This past weekend I had the experience of touring the ICR (Institution of Creation Research) in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Irshwin presented the scientific facts known that agree with our Bible. He was funny and demonstrated the details of many unbelievable creatures here on earth. He is a zoologist and biologist and presented the miniature beetle who has indescribable insides only an Electron microscope can see. 

We also got to view the sky from tilted seats while descriptions were made of all the planets. Details were given as to the exact position of the earth from the sun, the exact rotations of all planets, and the placement of the moon to protect the earth. All the time we watched the sky man’s scientific exploration devices were in view with explanations about their findings. If any of the exact details were to be changed, we would be unable to inhabit the earth.

The ICR has scientists speaking out from their photos on the wall throughout the centuries to truths they found and also provides an ark to walk through. 

After this experience I understand how our creator, God Almighty, has us in his hands.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to clearly see that you are the creator and you have us, even today, in your hands. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Conversion of Saul to Paul: followup to Sunday's sermon

Read ACTS 9:1-20

from the artist  LISLE GWYNN GARRITY

Saul doesn’t just persecute Jesus’ followers, he breathes
threats and murder. His hatred fumes out of him like fire,
perhaps a fire tended by fear—fear that his Jewish tradition
will become impure or distorted, fear that the walls he’s
built around who’s in and out will crumble, fear that his
own hard-earned piety will diminish. He’s a force of terror,
sculpted by self-sufficiency and self-righteousness. He’s a
religious extremist not so unlike the ones we know of today.

Until God smacks him down, pulling his sight and self-
reliance out from under him like a rug. God softens

Saul’s steely heart by forcing him to confront those
whom he harms, and by making him utterly dependent
on relationship and others to survive. Perhaps Saul’s
conversion is ultimately a radical healing—God soothes his

fear and hatred with empathy and intimacy.

But this isn’t just a story about Saul’s transformation.
His companions on the road to Damascus are changed
too, as they hear the voice of the risen Christ and escort a
stumbling Saul to the city. Ananias’ conversion is the most
courageous of them all. He risks everything, including his
own life, to come close to one with the power to have him
stoned. Only in the moments when Ananias’ fingers touch
Saul’s eyes, does Saul see, for the first time, the image of the
divine in one who is not his enemy, but his brother.

In this image, a halo hovers around the hand of Ananias,
nodding to the sacred courage required to melt the hatred
of his oppressor with intimacy and connection. Scales pour
out of Saul’s eyes, purging him, cleansing him, igniting him
with a new and particular mission: to pour out God’s grace
wherever humans try to limit it.


Discovering a New Path

Take a few moments to gaze upon the artwork. Breathe
deeply in quiet meditation as you observe the visual
qualities of what you see: color, line, texture, movement,

shape, form.

Now take a deeper look. What parts of the image are your
eyes most drawn to? What parts of the image did you

Now engage your imagination. What story do you imagine
for the figure?

- What has unraveled and/or is unraveling in this story?
- In this story, what events and elements fulfil Paul’s
- Throughout your life, what identities, beliefs, or
practices have you shed? How has unraveling from

former patterns and identities helped you to grow or become more whole?


Imagine you are Ananias. If God came to you in a vision and asked you to offer grace and belonging to someone you perceive as an enemy or threat, who would that person be and how would you respond? In the space
below, write a letter addressed to this person, practicing
the challenge of offering radical grace.

PRAY: Unravel my assumptions and animosities so that I might become a vessel of your radical grace. Amen.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Bye, Bye, Now...

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:1-3 ESV  

A couple of months ago a co-worker and I were discussing language (part-time anthropologists that we are) and the way we greet and say goodbye to others. The conversation was prompted by one of our church members, Anna Meier, often ending her phone calls with “bye, bye, now…”. I’ve only heard one other person use this form of farewell and we were speculating on the deeper meaning. Is it cultural? Passed down through families? Brian, my co-worker, suggested maybe “bye, bye, now” can mean “goodbye, for now, but I look forward to seeing you again”. We both agreed that it lent an air of warmth to the interaction.

Now that Anna is gone, I’ve been thinking about her form of farewell this week. I think of her service to Eastridge and its members, her service in the Lincoln community, and her devotion to her family. The affection and kindness conveyed in her “bye, bye, now” parting sentiment are fitting. And as Christians, our belief in the hope of the resurrection means that death isn’t the end. So, not “goodbye” but “bye, bye, now…”: until we meet again.

Prayer: Dear Lord, be with us in our grief. Help us to remember your promise of eternal life. Comfort those who are mourning the loss of loved ones today. Amen.

Donna Gustafson

Thursday, January 9, 2020

A Different Christmas Eve

In that day the wolf and the lamb will lie down together, and the leopard and goats will be at peace. Calves and fat cattle will be safe among lions, and a little child shall lead them all. The cows will graze among bears, cubs and calves will lie down together, and lions will eat grass like the cows. Babies will crawl safely among poisonous snakes, and a little child who puts his hand in a nest of deadly adders will pull it out unharmed. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so shall the earth be full of the knowledge of the Lord. Isaiah 11: 6-9

“Listen! The virgin shall conceive a child! She shall give birth to a Son, and he shall be called “Emmanuel” (meaning “God is with us”). Matthew 1:23

This Christmas was certainly different for me. For the first time in 30 years, I was not at Eastridge on Christmas Eve. Our family instead gathered in Des Moines with my grandson Erik and his new bride Dani in their new home to celebrate Christmas together. We went to a church nearby whose pastor had married Erik and Dani. There was no choir and no handbells. There was no singing of Silent Night in German. There was no candy given out to the children afterwards. There was no holding hands with a friend and silently remembering our mothers there from the past. There was no congregational choir traditionally singing “Still, Still, Still”. All were strangers to us there except for the pastor. Yet despite this, we were greeted warmly, the music by soloists and the organist was beautiful. The familiar carols warmed our hearts. The scriptures were old yet new again, and a young teen led the lighting of the candles using lovely spiritual dance. The sermon was about Christmas and love. It was a beautiful service which left me in awe with the wonder of a baby born to be the savior of the world. It reminded me that we are not alone in our faith, that God is not limited by denominations, and that there is hope for all who believe. 

May peace be with you in this New Year. 

Nancy Hall

Wednesday, January 8, 2020


Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin. Proverbs 13:3 

Recently I have been enjoying reading and meditating on Proverbs.  I am generally careful with words. In my job it is very important to set forth clear expectations (for example, a specific date is much more clear than “soon”). It is also important that I maintain myself as a calm captain of the ship. If I am always yelling, then when something is urgent, or concerning, or an emergency, it will be hard for people to see it as such because I only have one tone.  Conversely, if I am generally even tempered and careful, then the rare occasion when I raise my voice to sound the alarm my team knows that something is terribly wrong.  

We have all known someone who often speaks without thinking. They degrade others publicly, they offer inappropriate opinions when they were not asked for, or when the topic doesn’t involve them. We may see people who are unnecessarily nasty to those around them. A spouse or parent who is always correcting or coercing. Or a leader who says one thing in public and another in private.  It is hard to see others treated poorly with words. It hurts when someone is rash with us and we begin to question if a leader is genuine when they speak rashly to us or about others.

Even though we know that we want to treat others well and we know the example we want to set, sometimes we lose control of our tongue and we say something hurtful that we cannot take back. We then work to defend our words and actions saying things like “I was tired” or “You just kept pushing me” or “I had a bad day and this was the straw that broke the camels back”. What if in those moments we recognized the ruin and took accountability? Would it make a difference to the person on the receiving end if we simply said “I am so sorry, you didn’t deserve for me to speak to you that way”? Those moments of ruin, even with accountability and a genuine apology hold a permanent spot in our relationships and over time can do long term damage, even when that isn’t what we desire or intend. 

In a time when people say things without thinking, use words to intentionally hurt and are aggressive with faceless strangers on social media, I want to continue to work on guarding my lips, measuring my tone and focusing on the relationships I have with the people I interact with, and, for me, this verse was a wonderful reminder. 

Prayer: Creator God, who knows our words and intentions, all those things spoken and unspoken. Please help me to be careful with my words and genuine with my approach. 

Christi Moock

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Like a Child

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18: 2-4

After watching the video of my grandson, Callen, taking his first steps, I thought, there's a faith message here for us all! It really is amazing the process a baby goes through to be able to walk. They must first hold their head up, then roll over. They strengthen those tummy and back muscles to sit up. I remember how he'd just tip over until his balance was better. Next, developing the mechanics of coordinating getting up on his hands, arms straight, bottom in the air, knees under him to crawl after something in front of him. Now standing up, holding onto the couch or our hands, pushing his toy for balance and legs, back, and tummy supporting him upright...until he takes his first step without assistance!

Our lives are much like a baby! Whatever transition we find ourselves in: a new job, grief, adult children leaving, waiting for a relationship, in a new relationship, moving, aging, being alone, work stress, faith journey...we need to remember the baby. He is not impatient. He just allows the walking process to happen naturally, one step at a time. He doesn't worry or look too far in advance thinking about running. He falls down...a lot. He doesn't think of himself as a failure or let fear get the best of him. He gets back up and keeps trying. He trusts his parents and loved ones to be there, not judging him that he's not walking soon enough, but to catch him when he falls or give him a steady hand. When he falls, he doesn't see it as a mistake but learns and develops from it. He falls into our arms when he becomes weary. The parents don't chastise the child but give encouragement, love, and gentle guidance. They celebrate with him in the trying.

You see what I'm saying, don't you! Jesus says to have faith as a child. The love, grace, and mercy God offers is like that of a loving parent, grandparent, uncle, or friend! The baby has had little experience yet in things that cause fear, doubt, impatience, and pain; but God, the Father, has. He knows our struggles and desires a personal relationship with us where our hearts are humble, meek, and sincere; where we open ourselves to receive his grace and love and trust in Him alone. What a miracle that God would use a small child to express his love for us!

Prayer: Father, Adulting is hard sometimes! Thank you for forgiving us in our wanderings. Help us to remember the lesson of becoming like a child. As we humble ourselves and surrender our “mature” struggles and doubt to you, may we feel secure, comforted, accepted, and encouraged; trusting you are there to walk with, guide, and love us every day. Amen

Diane Worrell Eaton

Monday, January 6, 2020

Peace Came

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.  Psalm 29:11

He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace. Micah 5:4-5

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Every birth is a miracle, and every child is a gift from God. But nearly 20 centuries ago, there was the miracle of miracles. A baby was born, but he was the Son of God. The Gospels tell of this birth but Dr. Luke provides most of the details surrounding this awesome occasion. With divine Father and human mother, Jesus entered history - God in the flesh. The angel appeared to Mary. And Mary would conceive by the Holy Spirit and bear Jesus, the Son of God.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid."  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sigh to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."  Luke 2:8-14 
Peace - and we can have and accept this peace. It can be ours, and it is our choice. What a blessing for us. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the peace you brought to us. Let us accept it and live in your peace. Amen

Marilyn Albin (reprinted from 2016 Advent Devotional)

Friday, January 3, 2020

Grateful Thankful Blessed

and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:12

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Ephesians 3

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.  I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

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, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:1-21 NIV