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

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Because He Lives

Thank you to Eastridge church for sharing "Because He Lives" with Patty playing piano. In a former church, that gospel song was requested over and over. I had never understood the appeal when I was younger, but when many people are moved by a particular song, I started to realize that not every song or hymn had to be for me. The pastor and I decided finally to do it on Sunday morning.  We may have had to do an insert if it wasn't in the hymnal.

I'll never forget a young man in the congregation sharing of his best friend that week committing suicide. His friend was gay and his family had told him they never wanted to talk to or see him again. The young man from church shared he was so defeated feeling and almost depressed at his friend taking is own life, wishing he had done more. He said the message of the verse "and then one day...I'll fight life's final war with pain and as death gives way to victory..." Was just what he needed to hear. That though his friend had committed suicide, ultimately, God was in charge and he didn't need to guilt himself over what had happened. I was amazed at how the Holy Spirit had worked.

The summer after that, my husband Tom and I went to GA. My grandmother had a condition, very similar to Alzheimer's. Hardly responsive, she would sit in the living room while I played piano. I'll never forget, when I started playing "Because He lives" all of a sudden she SANG! Barely even coherent she sang out that refrain and smiled. My grandmother loved the Lord with all her heart. She would often call her church asking who she could pray for. Seeing her reduced to a state that seemed barely human was so difficult. I was so thankful that Tom, with tears in his own eyes, could see her spirit in that moment, and as a family, we could sing "I can face tomorrow just because He lives!"

Shortly after she went to be with the Lord. I'll never forget that moment we had together in my parents' living room, and how much a song I didn't use to understand, will always mean to me.

I listened with tears in my eyes just now to it again. Thank you to Patty for sharing it and Brian and Vince from Eastridge making it possible to share and experience it right now. It gives me hope for a hurting world and reminds me of the message of the gospel.

Brent Shaw

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

My Daffodils

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. All thy works shall give thanks to thee, O Lord, and all thy saints shall bless thee!   --Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endures throughout all generations. Psalms 145: 8-13

Since my retirement, I like to live a predictable life. I eat regular meals, cook my favorite things, have my quiet time, see my family and friends regularly, attend church and other meetings, go shopping for whatever, whenever I want, and plan my daily activities. These last few months have changed all that. Life is very unpredictable with Stay at Home orders and social distancing, businesses closing or adapting their services, hospitals and health care providers preparing for the worst. Churches are closed for Easter, the schools are closed, our plans to travel to see loved ones are cancelled, and I rely on my family to shop for groceries for me. There are no reliable predictions to when this will all end, and we will return the a “new normal”.  

Then I look outside and wonder at God’s predictability. My daffodils are blooming—as they have for the 30+ years since I planted them at my home in Lincoln. March 1st provided several colors of crocuses blooming joyfully despite a douse of snow and varying weather. Yes, even the short dandelions are there. The green leafy spears of other bulbs promise tulips, lilies, and spiderworts. My son in law has mowed my lawn for the first time and fertilized. Being a birdwatcher, I noted that the Turkey Vultures arrived on schedule around April 1st, and the chipping sparrows chipped happily in the trees and at my feeder. I’ve been inundated with black birds in their migration, but have enjoyed the red winged ones with their dash of yellow and red. I’ve enjoyed the return of the house finch, and the occasional purple finch. The juncos have disappeared north with the promise of warmer weather. The mourning doves are making courtship moves on my deck rail. The duck migration has begun at Holmes Lake. All these things remind me that God created us and that his dominion lasts throughout generations. Even in change, God is predictable. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us through these times of change. We thank you for your everlasting love that can see us through these times of unpredictability. Help us to remember in our prayers those around us who are suffering. Amen

Nancy Hall

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Kindness and Gentleness

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Colossians 3:12 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5

In February, I attended a Celebration of Life service for Richard, a relative of mine. Richard and I attended the same church in our youth. Both of us were baptized, confirmed and married there.

Richard served as one of the leaders of my youth group. Even though Richard was not that much older than most of our group, we respected him. He treated us with kindness and gentleness. Even though Richard endured many life challenges, he continued to reach out to others with kindness and gentleness throughout his whole life.

For his Celebration of Life service, family and friends came from many states to share stories of Richard, age 92. The church sanctuary and fellowship hall overflowed with people. Many arrived forty minutes ahead of the service. At the service, the pastor shared how Richard ministered to him when he visited Richard during the last years of his life.

Richard’s life is an example for all of us. We can share God’s kindness and gentleness with all those around us each day.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for your daily patience and kindness. Remind us to treat others with gentleness.  Amen.

Lois Poppe

Monday, April 27, 2020

A Different Kind of Battle


Together they will be like warriors in battle trampling their enemy into the mud of the streets.  They will fight because the Lord is with them, and they will put the enemy horsemen to shame. Zechariah 10:5

The last several weeks have been a blur.  Our communities and healthcare providers are preparing for a battle like nothing we have seen or experienced before.  Our most comparable experience occurred more than 100 years ago with the H1N1 influenza 1918-1919 pandemic. It is true that every organization has a pandemic plan in place. It is also true that our greatest imaginations and fears could not prepare us for the numbers we hear reported on the news, and a virus that targets all people. 

I am a part of the pandemic planning team for my organization.  From a healthcare planning perspective there are battle plans in place. We are preparing our armor (masks, gowns, gloves). We are mapping out a plan of attack (medications and ventilators) and our soldiers (doctors, nurses and support personnel) have been trained by some of the best programs in the world. Even though they have never seen an enemy of this caliber, they have fought many battles to support the human body through many illnesses. They will fight for our community and protect the public. They will turn to other scientists who are working on new and novel inventions and ask them for assistance. They will put themselves at risk to save the lives of others – like so many warriors before them. 

Prayer: All seeing God, be with those on the frontlines of this pandemic.  Help them to know you are with them during this time of uncertainty.  Support them as they care for your children.  Help us all to trample this enemy to the ground. Amen.

Christi Moock  

Friday, April 24, 2020

God's Faithfulness





No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Trip of Troubles, God Was There


For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Deuteronomy 23:14


We recently traveled to see an ailing brother. The trip was not planned and we hurriedly set it in motion. Eight times during the trip we came across a large NO, YOU CANNOT DO AS YOU WISH. However, as you will note in this devotion, God was bigger than the NOES.


NO-you are at the wrong airport. We asked for a ticket out of Omaha but found out after driving through rush hour traffic in OMA airport to find out they issued us a flight out of Lincoln, LNK. God delayed the plane out of Lincoln so we barely made the flight after another trip through Omaha rush hour and 80-mile-an-hour traffic to LNK. We only had time to carry our bags on and leave.                                                                              
NO-you didn’t make the connecting flight in Denver. You might be able to get on standby.


NO-although you have been waiting in the cold watching your breath for more than an hour, the ticket holders arrived and the plane is full. We will provide hotel and food for you. We had good lodging.


NO-there is no flight out of Denver before 3:15 pm tomorrow. While we waited in Denver, our brother was dismissed from the hospital and was brought to his retirement community Health Care center.


NO-in spite of the fact every rental car company was represented in the center at Albuquerque after taking a shuttle there, not one car was available to rent. 


NO-you can’t get your phone to load the Uber App to get a ride. You can only get the sign up to drive for Uber. A nice shuttle man took the two of us in his big empty shuttle back to the airport taxi lane.


NO-there is not enough time to find a hotel and you don’t have a car. A nice taxi man took us to the retirement community. God provided perfect timing. We could see our brother every day easily because they had a room at the center for $80 a night plus free food for as long as we stayed-in a great dining area. We didn’t need a car as our nephew and wife had a flight out of Albuquerque two hours ahead of ours and they took us back to the airport. God had provided again and saved us a lot of money.


NO-it is 9:30 at night, dark, and you cannot drive your car home from the airport. The left rear tire is flat. The filling station's kind attendants outside the airport couldn’t help us; the tire wouldn’t inflate. God provided a mechanic who was filling his car with gas who saw our situation. He came over, found the hidden jack and found the tool to drop the spare tire out from under the car (it had been there for 64,000 miles). He got under the car and kicked the stuck flat tire off and put the spare on. We were able to drive home and drop into our own bed. 


Prayer: Thank you precious Lord, who is able to do more than we can imagine and for protecting us on the Trip of Troubles. Thank you for providing a noisy busy room so I could talk to our brother about Jesus. He said,” I will accept him right now.” Thank you for stopping Satan from ruining our visit. We felt your presence all the way and never gave up because of your help. Amen.


Sandra Hilsabeck

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Earth God Created

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love. Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness. Psalm 48:9-10

The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all it contains, You have founded them. Psalm 89:11

One of the sections in Boundless Compassion by Joyce Rupp, our pastors’ resource during Lent, speaks about compassion for our earth. 

This spoke to me for several reasons, one of which is a connection I feel to the natural world, maybe more so as time passes. As my photography turns in to more of a hobby than a part-time business, I find myself wanting to document our natural world. If we can connect to the natural world, we will care about protecting it. Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. I hope some of you can take a walk outside today, or maybe look at some photos or watch a video of our beautiful world. (I've shared some photos below, taken this spring in Lincoln. Click on each photo to view larger.)

In one of the prayers from Prayers of Boundless Compassion, Joyce says: “The more humankind approaches creation with a sense of awe, respect, and appreciation for the beauty and bounty found there, the less suffering will be generated for creation.” 

Thank you, God, for creating this beautiful earth. Help us to take care of it. 

Donna Gustafson











Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.

 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.

 He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Blessed is the one

    who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
    to those who turn aside to false gods.


Many, Lord my God,

    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—

    but my ears you have opened—
    burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.

 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
    it is written about me in the scroll.
 I desire to do your will, my God;
    your law is within my heart.”
 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
    I do not seal my lips, Lord,
    as you know.

 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
    I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
    from the great assembly.
 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
    may your love and faithfulness always protect me.

For troubles without number surround me;

    my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
    and my heart fails within me.

 Be pleased to save me, Lord;
    come quickly, Lord, to help me.

May all who want to take my life

    be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
    be turned back in disgrace.

 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
    be appalled at their own shame.
 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”
 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    you are my God, do not delay. Psalm 40



Monday, April 20, 2020

God is in the World Today

Faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world-just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God's grace. Colossians 1:4-6

Beth Moore from Houston says:

We have no idea what unseen activity surrounds us! I can hardly wait until we sit at Christ’s feet in heaven and hear the behind-the-scene stories of historical events. No doubt about it. We will sit bug-eyed. God’s ways are unfathomable, His creativity untamable. Just when we think we’ve heard it all, God will tell His side of the story. Beloved, if you and I could see the whole picture surrounding our own historical events, we’d go face to the ground in startling amazement. Imagine Christ saying to you one day in glory, “Take a look at this scene with me, Child. I want you to see what was going on in the heavens when you were going through that crisis. Look at all that happened in your behalf. Gaze at that great cloud of witnesses cheering you on to victory. Now aren’t you glad you chose to walk by faith and believe Me?”

I hope God one day shows me what was happening behind the scenes after the worst time of despair in my adult life when I was absolutely certain I did not have the wherewithal to persevere. I know a war was going on in the heavens and that the devil was hitting me so hard that Christ alone could have gotten him off of me.  

My neighborhood bible study is on Chapter 10 of Daniel. We are learning that God and the angels Michael and Gabriel are busy working in the world today. What an awesome thought.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you are awesome, thank you for seeing us and being with us each day. Help us to understand and see some of what you are doing. I know we won’t fully see until we join you in heaven. Your love and grace are so amazing. We praise you Lord. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Friday, April 17, 2020

Markings

This one will say, “I am the Lord’s”, another will be called by the name of Jacob.  Yet another will write on the hand, “The Lord’s” and adopt the name of Israel. Isaiah 44:5

In my quest to read a book a week this year, I recently read a suspense novel in which the antagonist is killing victims by tattooing them with poison.  Throughout the book, there is interesting information about the history of tattooing and body modification. From scarification to piercing, tattooing and branding there is a significant human history associated with marking ourselves. 

As I was reading this book I paid much more attention to the tattoos and modifications we commonly see in public – pierced ears, ear disks, eyebrow rings, nose rings and more. At the basketball game I read the tattoo on the arms of the girl at the concession stand “Breath in the moment, breath out the past”.  At the grocery store I noticed the imprint of a baby’s foot on the forearm of a young mother.  At the gym a detailed cross on the back of a weightlifter.  And I started thinking about the reasons that we choose to permanently mark our bodies.

In the book, and in this article from the Biblical Archaeology Society https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/hebrew-bible/what-does-the-bible-say-about-tattoos/ there is mention of the practice of tattooing as a method of reflecting ownership. This horrible assault on humanity was seen in times of slavery in the United States, slave ownership in the ancient Near East and during the Holocaust in the marking of those held in concentration camps.  Beyond that we also see cultures with temporary markings – henna tattoos to celebrate a special event like a wedding, an ash cross for Christians on Ash Wednesday or the wearing of a bindi in Hindu and Jain cultures.  All of these are marks that we use for a short time, or may repeat multiple times, but they are not permanent like a tattoo. 

By definition, all of these modifications create some kind of scarring on the human body. They reflect things we are passionate about, or perhaps ways that we have been harmed. They mark a celebration. We use them to memorialize the people we have loved and lost. We may even use them to reflect our beliefs, with crosses, scriptures and prayers. Since they are only a marking on our human body and we believe that our soul is forever with Christ does it matter if we mark ourselves during our time here? 

Prayer: God who knows every inch of our human frame, help us to remember that our time on earth is short. We know that we are yours with or without any additional markings.  

Christi Moock

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Together

“When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there!” Matthew 18: 20 (The Message)

“Now this is what the Lord says. He created you, people of Jacob; he formed you, people of Israel. He says, “Don’t be afraid, because I have saved you. I have called you by name, and you are mine.” Isaiah 42: 1 (NCV)

We are all navigating these strange waters of physical distance. I have worshipped from the couch in my home by tuning in to the Live stream services with EPC. They have brought much encouragement and peace and a sense of connection. I am appreciative of the technology and individuals who have made it possible for this to occur. 

Until Easter Sunday, though, I hadn’t been in the EPC sanctuary to assist in leading worship. In my midst (but remaining six feet apart!), were Pastor Melodie, Brian, director of music, Vince, AV tech, and Brent, at the organ. That was it; just the five of us. As I stood to approach the microphone as I’ve done many times before, waves of emotion flooded my heart. This was not rehearsal. The pews were eerily empty. I had an overwhelming realization of how much joy it brings to me to praise God together in word and song, share God together in presence and love. I’m afraid I’ve taken that for granted in the past, now that it is not possible. This just didn’t feel “right”. I was quite humbled, to realize the honor and privilege it is to be welcomed into the precious, holy “sanctuaries” of your own homes. 

It was at that time, I sensed we weren’t alone. It wasn’t just the five of us there. The Holy Spirit was moving and soothed my unsettled heart! A sense of peace swept over me as I peered out at the pews and saw each of your faces; most of whom I know your name and which side or pew you usually sit; those faces who I’ve prayed for and have prayed for me; faces I might not know yet; those faces I miss when they’re absent and I worry about, hoping they’re ok; those faces who’ve worked beside me, led, inspired, and encouraged me. New faces, old faces, faces from the past…you were all there. Together, we will be, we are, even in physical distance!

It helped me to imagine the Holy Spirit and Living God was moving in our homes, in our worship and in our hearts, wherever we were! I prayed the risen Christ stirred us with the message of joy and hope in the words and music that were shared. I prayed God would offer protection and breathe comfort and peace for whatever is weighing heavy on our hearts. I prayed that while we are living in these uncertain and scary times, we release those fears and concern to His care and can live a life of gratitude to our Savior. It’s too heavy for us to carry. I prayed God would soothe the longing for connection, of belonging. I prayed that we can find security in knowing that God knows each of us by name and how much we are loved! We count; we belong to Him; we matter (to Jesus and to many others!) Social distancing does not equal absence! 

To God be the glory!

Diane Worrell Eaton


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Strength

"Our God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble." from Psalm 46

A family with young children in our church was having a rough time recently, trying to balance having everyone at home all the time with the coronavirus, trying to get work done around the house, school work, and still maintain some sense of order and sanity.

One day, when one of the parents was at his wits end, trying to balance laundry, cleaning the house, school work, and cooking dinner, the 5 year old of the family kept saying "dad, dad, dad!" Feeling guilty for being slightly annoyed, Dad stopped what he was doing, and knelt down to be eye to eye to the child. Taking a deep breath, he asked the child what was wrong.

"Please fix my book!" The child had become fixated on a small, beaten up book he was carrying around the house.

Dad took note of the book's title, "The Strength to Love" by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Convicted, the dad found some tape and fixed the book. With a smile, the child took the book in his hands and ran off to play with his sister.

It's amazing how God speaks to us at times we may least expect it.
The very next day, someone else in the Eastridge church family called this family. With love in her voice, she asked about the children and then just so happened to share a text of one of her favorite hymns from Martin Luther, MLK Jr.'s name sake: A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

She shared that beautiful verse "We shall NOT fear, for God hath willed, Christ's strength to triumph through us!"

Thanks be to God for continuing to speak to us in the power of the Holy Spirit...in the voice of a child...or a friend's call, quoting a hymn, even when we least expect it.

~from a church member


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

He Took Our Sins


Surely he took up our infirmities

 and carried our sorrows,

Yet we considered him stricken by God,

Smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our

transgressions, he was crushed

for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us

 peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

And the LORD has laid on him

The iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV



We thought he brought it on himself,

That God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,

that ripped and tore and crushed him – our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.

Through his bruises we get healed.

We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.

We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.

And GOD has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,

On him, on him. Isaiah 53:4-6 THE MESSAGE



Prayer: O Lord, forgive us for the sins Christ had to take from us onto the cross. God even turned away from him along with many of his people and friends. He was terribly alone, forsaken and hanging on the cross in pain for us. Guide us to be better, to pray for direction from You and totally love your son, Jesus. Amen.



Sandra Hilsabeck

Monday, April 13, 2020

A Different Easter


But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 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 14:26-27

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Easter looked a bit different this year. There was no sunrise service on the patio, attended by a stalwart few. There was no breakfast following, with talk of Easter dinner later in the day, or a nap. There was no gathering for coffee before or after worship, no choir singing, no handbells ringing, no scent of Easter lilies. 
  
But it was still Easter. We were still worshiping together, we still watched the sun rise on a spring day that was a bit cold. Like the chipped-ear bunny in the photo below, it was maybe imperfect and not quite right, but it was Easter all the same. We were connected by worship, in our own living rooms and kitchens and bedrooms, connected as we watched the service unfold from the sanctuary where only five were gathered. The celebration of the day was the same: Jesus rose from the grave!

Life over the past month has been that way…different, imperfect (if life can ever be considered perfect), not quite right. Maybe like the bunny below we can put on a brave face and carry on, even though we know life isn’t the way we may want it to be right now.

God is with us, through the uncertainty and worry, through the sadness and grief. Let us take that comfort that He offers.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for being with us today, and give us hope that carries us into tomorrow. Be with us in our doubt, and help us trust that your guiding hand will be with us always. Amen.

Donna Gustafson