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

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Strength for Every Day

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Ephesians 6:10 NRSV 

Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Ephesians 6:10 New Living Version

God is our refuge and always ready to help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

From these scriptures, I know God will always be there for me. God is always waiting for me to come to him in prayer to seek God's strength. Recently, going through some health issues, Steve and I have used prayer to talk to God. Our prayers include sharing our need for my healing, the isolation from the virus, thanking God for a good day and other things that have happened, praying for others with medical issues, and racism issues. Praying to God has given us strength every day and God's strength and his power. I know God is always there for us. 

Prayer: Thank You God for being there for us. Thank you God for giving us strength to face each moment. Amen

Susan Taylor

Monday, June 29, 2020

You Are Faithful

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:12-24

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

At the end of the June 14 broadcasted service, Will’s song “Questions” really captured so many things I have been feeling these last few months that I had to find the lyrics and relisten to Will’s voice again.  For in the midst of COVID-19, unemployment, staying at home, face masks, physical distancing, racism, protests, cancelled plans and lack of hugs (especially lack of hugs), I must remember God is faithful.  

Matt Redman – “Questions” (You Are Faithful)

[Verse 1]
In all of our questions, all of our searching
When we are wrestling You don't let go
In all of our fears and doubts, all of our anxious thoughts
When we are restless, still we are held

Lord, I believe but help my unbelief

The questions come but You remain
The battles roar but still You reign
And I believe one thing will never change
'Cause You are faithful, You are faithful

[Verse 2]
In all of our chaos, You will be constant
You can be trusted above it all
All of our fears and doubts, all of our anxious thoughts
You are not absent within the storm

The questions come but You remain
The battles roar but still You reign
And I believe one thing will never change
'Cause You are faithful, You are faithful

Oh the questions come but You remain
The battles roar but still You reign
And I believe one thing will never change
'Cause You are faithful, 'cause You are faithful

Prayer: Dear God, in the midst of our fears, doubts, anxious thoughts and sadness, you are with us. You are faithful. Thank you for joy and laughter during this time; you are faithful.  When we are weary, you are faithful. Renew our spirit so we may continue to grow in faith and love. Amen.

Cathy Schapmann

Friday, June 26, 2020

An Unbroken Chain of Hope

Look at this passage from Romans 5 and imagine yourself connected to an unbroken chain of hope.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we* have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access* to this grace in which we stand; and we* boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we* also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Note how this strong link of hope connects us.  It begins with the faith in Christ Jesus Who has given us access to God.  That access gives us the strength to stand and boast in Christ. We are all linked together in hope.

Yes, it begins with suffering. But notice we grow in strength. We have heard we are all in this season of the virus together! We do go through a time of separation, distancing, and wearing masks. We see struggles of fellow citizens wanting to be heard for who they are as children of God. Their voice speaks of suffering. We hurt when they hurt. In the process, we pray that the suffering brings a renewed hope of health, safety and community where all are valued citizens.

But notice that this connection grows. The sufferings produce endurance; a confidence to say we can make this journey to the “new normal.” 

When we have that confidence to endure, then we have another connection – character. This is the best of who we can be in Christ Jesus. Yes, that can change depending on our mood. Each day is a new challenge to claim that unbroken connection of hope. We may feel we broke the connection by our attitude, but God has not broken it. That connection of hope continues and we claim it! That constant reminder of reclaiming that hope is God’s grace working daily in you and me. We have the strength to keep on trying and connecting, for that connection is real and powerful.

But, with the link of suffering we gain endurance. Endurance leads us to character which brings one to hope. It is a hope that does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured out into one’s heart through the strength and encouragement of God’s Holy Spirit.

We are in a need of hope and I pray that this connection of hope from God works in all of us as we embark each day toward the “new normal.”  The shining glory of God’s Spirit reveals the way!

Prayer: O God, let Your Spirit dwell in us that we may face any daily challenge which may cause suffering. But, may we all have the hope to endure and so gain strength of character that Your glory may shine hope into our future.  Each and every day is a new time for that connection of hope through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rev. Dr. John J. Duling, Parish Associate

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Our Father and Heavenly Father

Honor your father and mother. Exodus 20:12

...for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. Galatians 3:26 is that very spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Romans 8:16

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good help. 2 Thessalonians 2:16

This past Sunday all of us had the opportunity to honor and celebrate Father’s Day. Just as the Bible tells us: Honor your father and mother…it was a special day to honor, think about, and thank our fathers. Whether in person or in thought, important memories of what he means or has meant in our lives was remembered. Memories of the times when we needed him to provide protection, knowledge, support, encouragement, love and even punishment were easy to recall. Even though he might not be at our side today, we can still feel that security he provided in the past.

Fortunately, we also have the assurance of a Heavenly Father, a Savior, who loves us and can provide the comfort and assurance we might need today. Apostle Paul has taught us that we are the children of God. Therefore, we can also turn to our Heavenly Father. He too will provide the fatherly comfort and assurance that we need in our daily lives. Believe and rest assured in Him!

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, we are thankful for your presence in our daily lives. May we be comforted by the knowledge that you are always there for us if we will just turn to You and ask. In these troubling times, we are in need of your assurance in many ways as we deal with concerns in our daily lives. As Your children, we are comforted by Your fatherly care and concern. Amen.

Lauren Holcombe

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Word from Romans

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:25-27; 37-39

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Joy of Children

“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their parents.”  Proverbs 17:6

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, who he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 18:1-3

My grandmother lived in a care center in northeast Lincoln when she could no longer live alone. Sometimes I visited her by myself and sometimes I took our young daughter with me.  I noticed that when I took our young daughter, my grandmother seemed more alert. 

I learned about a rural church in southeast Nebraska that had a care center and also a day care for young children on the site.  The children and the care center adults did simple art projects and shared daily snack time together.  It was a special time that all looked forward to each day.

In my 25 years as a pre-school teacher and also a teacher in church settings, I learned so much from children. One time that I recall, I taught preschool children in vacation church school. Just before the last evening worship with the children and families, I took the children outside “to get the wiggles out”. We took our offering basket with us with coins given as children arrived that evening.

Outside the dandelions were blooming. The children asked if they could pick them.  I told them they could each pick one special one. As we paused a moment at the sanctuary door, each child gently placed their dandelion on top of the coins in the offering basket. 

Children add joy to our lives.  We can learn much about sharing joy from children.

Prayer: God, we are grateful for the gifts of joy that children add to our lives.  Remind us to learn from children and how they share joy.  Amen.

Lois Poppe

Monday, June 22, 2020

Refuge from the Storm

Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.  And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; truly, I would flee far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter for myself from the raging wind and tempest." Psalm 55:5-8 (NRSV)

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?" Matthew 14: 25-31 (NIV) 

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”... He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. ... If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. Psalm 91:1-2, 4, 9-10 (NIV)

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Psalm 46:1-2 (NIV) 

When the Coronavirus “storm” hit Lincoln full force this spring, strong gusts of fear began blowing my way. With my husband and my dad both being high risk, these gusts were rattling at my door...yelling about all the things that could go wrong. I became terrified! 

At first, I ran and “hid under the covers”, like a child afraid of a thunderstorm. I thought maybe I could just squeeze my eyes shut, curl up in a warm, comfy ball and wait for the storm to pass. This is a familiar scenario for me. I hide out inside myself, try to push aside my fears and hope they'll just go away.  But, unfortunately, this place of refuge only provides a brief respite. The fear comes blowing back and begins to overwhelm me once again.

Finally, I remember. Like Peter, I'm supposed to keep my eyes on Jesus, not on the wind and waves. As I do, I hear Him say, “Take courage, it is I. Don't be afraid.” So I hop out from under the covers, shoot up many heartfelt prayers and head to the refuge of God's sheltering wings. For when I decide to reside in Him, fully trusting in His faithfulness and protection, my fears will be quieted.  The “storm” may rage on, but I'll (put on my mask and) face it with the courage and strength He will provide. 

Prayer: God of Refuge and Strength, forgive us for running away and hiding when we're afraid. Help us remember, instead, to always run directly to the shelter of your wings. During this especially scary time, we thank you for the many ways you have provided us courage, comfort, peace, strength, love...everything we need. Amen.

Sharon Irvin  (photo below shared by Sharon, photo credit unknown)

Friday, June 19, 2020

Ask and Seek

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

The Nebraska constitution states that all children in the state shall receive 50% of their cost of education from the state of Nebraska. Over the years some schools have been reduced leaving some only receiving 6% of their schooling from the state.

This leaves the landowners in these communities paying the extra money needed for rural schools. Young farmers are leaving the farms because they cannot provide for their families.

These folks, myself included, have hired attorneys, attended meetings at the capitol and involved farm agencies to solve this inequity. However, in Thomas’s study of Matthew this morning, I realized we haven’t asked our Lord. Maybe it is time to have a prayer session.

Prayer: Dear Lord, when times are difficult and inequities seem to pull us down, help us to remember to return to you. We get caught up into thinking we can solve the problems and forget to ask, seek and knock on your door. Forgive us. Thank you for your words in Matthew. Guide us and help us to remember you can open doors. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Thursday, June 18, 2020

May 31, 2020 Sermon: Holy Wind

I can’t preach the sermon I had prepared.  Not today.  For weeks, we have been living under the immense tension and pressure caused by an uncontrollable evil that is sweeping around the world.  I’ve read, I’ve heard, I’ve even preached and prayed about how it knows no boundaries of rich or poor, religion, gender, station in life, and yes, race and ethnicity.  Our city, country, and yes, the world, has plunged into economic turmoil as millions have lost their jobs.  Just now, as we are beginning to tentatively step out in small ways, back into life, the tension and strife in our country has been building.  Medical advice has become politicized.  What began as an effort to love our neighbors…out of care and concern for the “at risk” communities, the vulnerable, those who are experiencing homelessness and living in poverty – that we would unite together to stay at home – has now become chaos and disunity.  It has become violence. 

The sermon I originally had prepared was one about the violent, disruptive power of the wind and the flame.  That sermon went something along these lines….
In the days following the betrayal, the violent death, the Saturday of  unknowing and grief, following the resurrection surprise – the shock, doubt, laughter, joy, and feasting, after they had witnessed the ascension, after Judas committed suicide, after they went back to the room upstairs where they were staying, when they were gathered altogether (this part is pretty important, that they were gathered altogether), the sound like the blowing of a violent wind (something we’re used to here in Nebraska) came from heaven and filled the house where they were staying – a wind, blowing inside the house (which we’re not used to) – and what seemed to be tongues of fire separated and rested on each one of them, and all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to speak in tongues, undoing the disunity of the tower of Babel in Genesis, and apparently there was a crowd there, from everywhere were diverse and united, all at once.  This is the birth of the church, in a violent wind and tongues of fire, the calling of the Holy Spirit to be united in our diversity, the hope for the future.  This, dear friends, that sermon went, is the violent disruption that has happened in our world.  Scholar Ronald Allen says, “Acts 2:5-13 pictures the Spirit demonstrating on Pentecost that the reunion of the scattered human family is beginning to take place.”[1]  We are united as we never have been before, united by our common humanity exposed by the threat of a new virus strain.  That sermon urged us to take these moments to pause and reflect on how to carry this new knowledge, the new reality into the unknown future.  That sermon said something like, we can change the arc of justice here, using this time to evaluate the inequities and divisions in our society of economics, religion, gender, identity, and race. 
That sermon doesn’t preach.  And it shouldn’t be preached. 

I’m not as excited about the connections between the violent wind and the tongues of flame.  That was the whole origination of that sermon.  After the strong winds of this past week, I was excited by the natural forces sweeping in with such a great sermon illustration.  I was excited to see what those winds might bring, in the way of change and upheaval – what violent disruption would follow.  As the events of the week unfolded, however, and then particularly the events of last night, with the rioting, looting, and tongues of fire coming from cars, buildings, and trash heaps, those images of violent wind and fire, the disruption they cause…I can’t just preach a sermon, the ‘usual’ Pentecost sermon about the birth of the church.

As a student of history, I know that the church has long been part of the problem.  The church has been an active force of oppression and injustice.  The church has either stood on the wrong side of justice, abusing power and trust, or sat in silence.  I know that I have benefited from those structures, in church and society, that today value my skin color and accent, if not my gender. 
So I don’t really know what to preach.  That’s just pure honesty right there.  I join in condemning the societal structures that teach us to value some more than others because of the color of their skin.  I condemn structures that have taught us to be afraid of each other.  I condemn the actions of people in positions of power and authority that abuse that power, to the point of death.  I condemn violence in our streets, looting, and setting our cities on fire. 
As I try to put it all together and make sense of it, I find myself honestly without spiritual resources to process all of it.  For weeks we’ve heard, “we’re all in this together,” clapped for the heroes who happen to hold “essential jobs,” creatively overcame challenges of celebrating birthdays, weddings, and graduations.  And all the while, the glaring reality of race in America was telling us that there are injustices and divides we have not dealt with as a country.  And every time it comes up again, we run, we march, we protest, we say we want to be better, do better.  But then we don’t.  Because the structure is broken, but it’s what we know.  As Walter Brueggemann writes in “The Prophetic Imagination,” the societal structure is broken, but it’s what we know, we’re used to it, so we get complacent, choosing what we know over what is right. 
Friends, I don’t have the answers today.  Like many of us, I’m overwhelmed by the weight of the task before us as we live in a time of pandemic, and as we once again face societal structures of privilege and racism.  So I will draw heavily from the points of Bible scholar and professor, Matthew Skinner, to break this account of the church’s birthday down. 
The crowd asks, “What does this mean?” and Peter replies, “the unleashing of God’s spirit indicates the beginning of a new day in human history.”[2]  After the disciples have gone back to the place where they have been staying in a time of uncertainty, a place where they are complacent if not comfortable, they are filled with the Holy Spirit, and Peter announces that the time has come.  This is a new thing, and in thinking about it in light of current events, I have to believe that they were no less uncertain and terrified than we are.  Their future, as well, was uncertain.  They had left everything they knew, everything they had, in order to follow their beloved teacher.  They had been through chaos, uncertainty, injustice, and violence.  They stuck together, and then were called out, they did not know for what. 
The crowd asks, “what does this mean?” and Peter replies, “the Spirit marks [all people – sons and daughters, old and young, men and women – each one – as belonging to God.”[3]  Those who are filled with the Spirit serve God and speak and work on God’s behalf.  I just want to step out here and say this is tricky, because history tells us that power and control are mighty sneaky motivators, often showing up as hidden or unknown agendas.  This is what Brueggemann meant when he said we grow complacent.  Why ever would you want to give up power and control, stability and comfort?  Especially if you were benefitting from it, knowingly or unknowingly?  This passage from Acts tells us we serve God and speak and work on God’s behalf.  I’m not sure if that’s meant as a charge – go have dreams and visions, and prophecy – or as a result of having the Spirit – that the Spirit will give us the words and actions.  Perhaps like most things its both/and – our work and the Spirit’s work together. 
The crowd asks, “what does this mean?” and Peter replies, “we are now a community of faith, a community of prophets called to speak, act, and interpret.”[4]  What we are interpreting is that God is here now.  Present here among us.  “[H]umanity’s existence and the life of God do not exist in separate planes; rather, they are intertwined, each a part of the other.”[5] As theologian Willie James Jennings says, “They may have asked for the Holy Spirit to come, but they did not ask for this. This is real grace, untamed grace. It is the grace that replaces our fantasies of power over people with God’s fantasy for desire for people.”[6] Now they must go out and live that real, untamed, amazing grace.
Friends, we can do better.  We can be better.  Because the core message of this passage is indeed, that the true church of God in Jesus Christ is diverse.  It is the Spirit that unites us.  And I know it’s hard, it’s really hard to take a look at what’s happening and understand all of the complexities of race in America, while fighting a pandemic.  But the time is now.  We must.  For our future’s sake.  For our children’s sake.  We can have a better future, for all people.  In order to get there though, we’re gonna have to step out of the me-first, individualistic mentality to realize that we are all connected, not by a virus, but by our common humanity.  It’s what we are called and equipped to do. 
And if we think we can’t, that it’s just too much, let us remember the words of that first Christian hymn, from Philippians 2: In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.”

Rev. Dr. Melodie Jones Pointon

[1] Allen, Ronald J.. Acts of the Apostles (Fortress Biblical Preaching Commentaries) (p. 29). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
[2] Disruptive Gospel, pg. 11.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Jennings, Willie James. Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible (Belief: a Theological Commentary on the Bible) (p. 28). Presbyterian Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

I Heard You!

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19 English Standard Version (ESV)

I heard you! Now stop protesting and go home.  I have heard enough about how you are discriminated against; that Black Lives Matter.  I am not discriminating so why are you still talking day after day?

I was discriminated and bullied in life; you forgive and go on with your life.  Not letting others’ actions that hurt me affect me.  I have my friends and family that listened and were there to comfort me when I was hurting and in pain. 

I thought the above, then thought, wait: when my friends and family are grieving or are hurting I listen and comfort them. If I take out all the violence and destruction and listen to the true protesters, not the ones that found an opportunity to kill, vandalize and destroy, but the true protesters: they are expressing their pain and grief. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, open my heart and soul to see the grief, the pain, the discrimination, and loss of others.  Teach me to listen with an open heart and mind.  Remind me that those that are hurtIng need my comfort too.  Help me to understand, listen and learn!  Lead us to create a world in your loving image. Amen

Lori Hood

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Psalms 119

Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. 
The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119: 129-130

Monday, June 15, 2020

Love Them Now

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another.  In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35 (The Message)

It was recently announced that the Rev. Richard Avery had passed away.  Rev. Avery and Donald Marsh, who passed away in 2010, wrote a number of Christian songs in the 1970s that were considered contemporary at the time.  One of their collections was called “Hymns Hot and Carols Cool.” One of my favorites that came to mind when I heard of Rev. Avery’s passing is “Love Them Now.” It has a powerful message that is timeless.  

“Love them now. Don’t wait till they’re gone away.  Love them now, while they’re around. Touch them, hold them, laugh and cry with them. Show them, tell them, don’t deny with them.  Honor them, give birth and die with them now.  Love them now before they’re just a guilty mem’ry.  Love them now.  Love them now.       

During this time of the pandemic, we hear about people who are sick and dying alone in the hospital because no visitors are allowed. Family members are only able, in some cases, to communicate electronically, but even that is not always possible. Those are extreme examples of needing to let people know we love them, but it should remind us that Jesus commanded us to love one another in the same way he loved us. He didn’t tell us to love others when it’s convenient or easy. We need to demonstrate that love for others now.

Prayer: Dear Lord, as Avery and Marsh wrote, we need to love others before they’re gone. Before someone is a guilty memory, we can demonstrate love the way you love us. Forgive us when we fail to remember our love for others and your love for us. Please be with us now and in the future when we can more easily demonstrate our love for others.  

Robin Hadfield

Friday, June 12, 2020

Act in Love

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything”, by Katherine and Jay Wolf, chronicles the life of a young stroke victim and her husband. There is one passage where Jay, Katherine’s caregiver, talks about the time he was arguing with her, but then, at the end of the day, had to help Katherine get ready for bed by putting eye drops in her eyes (as she cannot completely close her right eye because of the stroke). He needed to still “act in love” while he was fighting anger and what he calls a “negative emotional state”. What an apt description of what we may feel many times (in a day…a week?). We may just not feel like doing something…we may not necessarily be angry, but we’re not feeling positive, either. We're experiencing a negative emotional state.

Jay says we need to “act in love” even when we don’t feel like it. The acting part is what stands out…it reminds me of the suggestion to “smile even when you don’t feel like it” with the reminder that it will make you happier. Which is (mostly) true!

Remember the phrase “act in love” to help you remain loving even when you’re not feeling it. You’ll be following Christ’s example. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to show your love to others even when I feel angry, sad, or simply not loving. Remind me that by acting in love, I am showing your love to the world. Amen.

Donna Gustafson

Thursday, June 11, 2020


There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? James 2:2-4

And the second is like, namely this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:31

I never considered myself privileged. I was raised in a working class family. My dad, at times, worked 2-3 jobs, my mother worked outside the home. I and my siblings began working outside the home at young ages. I started at the age of 11 babysitting, cleaning houses, watching neighbors' elderly family members so they could go to town, get groceries or whatever they needed. In high school I waited tables working three nights a week and weekends during high school. My folks provided all the necessary needs; but anything additional I was to purchase on my own, including pep club uniforms, senior pictures, senior announcements, and entertainment like movies, etc. I did purchase my own car in high school. I remember thinking we were doing pretty well, but I do remember thinking or knowing that there were other families with more money and there was a definite separation.

I remember hearing comments about people of different colors. I was raised to treat all with respect and dignity. But I also know there was a fear that was built in during my youth of who to take extra precautions around. I don't ever remember it being said from my parents, but it was there amongst the groups I associated without anyone really saying anything. I remember hearing derogatory comments, but never felt responsible since I never said them. I am sure it was also the feelings of the time period in which I was raised or maybe even the location I lived.

Now in my adult life, I can't say that I have really taken into consideration the privileges I did have without even knowing; I may not have had everything but I never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from, there was a roof over my head, my parents were kind and loving and there whenever I needed them. I may have had to deal with discrimination as a woman when I first started my career, but nothing compared to what others have suffered.

I don't understand the feelings of discrimination that others have had to deal with all their lives. I am willing to listen, learn, and do better. I know that we must all treat each other as we ourselves want to be treated.

Prayer: Dear Father in Heaven, please help us to understand the fears, challenges, discrimination, pain and anger that is within those lives that have had to endure what we ourselves have not. Help us to forgive any acts of anger, destruction or behavior that has built up in those individuals that have not had the privileges that we ourselves have taken for granted. Please heal our hearts, our minds and this wonderful land you have provided for us. Help us to remember to pray for those who are hurting, those who are protecting us and our freedom, those who need to open their hearts and minds to learn and not judge. Father, we need you more now than we know. Father, heal us! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Lori Hood

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Opening the Church

You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. 1 Corinthians 12:27 (The Message)

The last week has included a great deal of discussion about reopening churches during the pandemic.  Many questions have been asked:  When is it safe for parishioners to return to church? What safeguards need to be taken to ensure everyone’s safety?  It’s even come down to a discussion of church-government relations and whether the government can direct a church to be open for worship.  

This isn’t a new discussion, although it’s more heated than it might have been in the past.  It has brought to mind a song I learned in the 1970s:  “We Are the Church,” written by the Rev. Richard Avery and Donald Marsh.  Avery and Marsh wrote a number of sons in the 1970s that were considered contemporary at the time.  This is one of my favorites.

                The verse begins:

                The church is not a building,

                The church is not a steeple,

                The church is not a resting place,

                The church is a people.

                And the refrain states:

                I am the church! You are the church!

                We are the church together!

                All who follow Jesus, all around the world,

                Yes, we’re the church together.

When the song was written, it was a fairly novel concept to think of church as something other than a building. There’s no denying that most churches are buildings, but they are so much more. As the scripture states, we are Christ’s body. We are called to serve others as Christ did, which cannot all be accomplished inside a building. As the conversation continues, let us remember that although we miss being in the physical presence of each other, we are still the church. We are the people of God. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, we are reminded that the church is much more than a building. All who follow Jesus all around the world are the church together. We ask for your forgiveness as we disagree about whether to open a building when we can “be” the church regardless of whether we are together. Amen.

Robin Hadfield

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Pandemic Strife

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. Acts 17:25

Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39 

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the beaten man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. Luke 10:33

And many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. John 11:19

Oh, the devil is so sly,

Oh Lord, help me to get by.

Acts tells you gave me life,

The pandemic gives me strife.

Jesus says love with your heart,

Government recommends six feet apart.

I am to be kind to a stranger

In that there is danger.

I walk with mask awhile,

How can they see my smile?

Gather to worship, go to church,

Staying at home is a curse.

Comfort those with losses,

Stay home say the bosses.

Sing songs of Thanksgiving,

Your droplets are unforgiving.

Work hard, go forth to serve,

Leaving home takes nerve.

We are not to hug our neighbor’s son

I accidentally did, it felt like I had won.

Prayer: Dear Father, bless our communication with others in this time, thank you for City Impact, Salvation Army, the Food Bank and others for serving in these times. Help us to follow your word when all is against us. Give us wisdom to love one another each day in some way. Care for the heroes that serve our sick and keep them safe. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Monday, June 8, 2020

Faith in God

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.  Psalm 31:24

This time of fear of this deadly virus is one of those very difficult experiences in our lives where our Faith in God gives us strength, courage, and hope. We must turn to God in prayer and read Scripture and listen to Christian music. He is our source of comfort. We can trust in Him. He is with us always, He will never forsake us. I need to leave space in my days for quiet contemplation with Him.  

For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death. Psalm 48:14

We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians: 8-9

We have had to cancel plans, stay separated from our beloved grandkids, other family, and friends; hold up at home, stay home from church, find creative ways to celebrate Easter, Mother’s Day, and birthdays, learn to use Zoom to connect with others, even for doctor visits.  But yet we persevere.  Thank you, God for the technology available to us so we can Face Time our loved ones, connect often via email and texts. We can check on those who are alone during this time often and cheer them up and make them feel loved, like my 98 year old mother living alone in her home in Iowa. We can take some of those leftovers from all that cooking, and extra baked goods to neighbors who live alone. We can channel our energies toward prayer for those who are alone during this time of social isolation, and for those struggling with financial difficulties due to loss of their jobs and may even be facing hardship for long periods of time. And, we can love our neighbors facing such difficulties with donations of food and money whenever possible. We can give to others as the Origin of Love has taught us.

Prayer: Father God, if we look to you for guidance during this uncertain and frightening period of time, which looks like it may last for sometime, we do not flounder as we know what to do:  We shall trust in you; turn to you for comfort, courage, and strength; love and care for others even if from afar, on a daily basis; and contemplate Scripture and meet with you in daily prayer. Let us turn to you for daily guidance!

Connie Barry 

Friday, June 5, 2020

Colossians 3

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord. Colossians 3: 1-4; 12-18; 23a