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

Friday, July 31, 2020

Psalm 30

How Can I Keep from Singing
My life flows on in endless song

Above earth’s lamentation
I catch the sweet though far off hymn
That hails a new creation

No storm can shake my inmost calm

While to that rock I’m clinging
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear that music ringing
It finds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing

What though the joys

And comforts die
The Lord my Savior liveth
What though the darkness
Round me close
Songs in the night He giveth

The peace of Christ

Makes fresh my heart
A fountain ever springing
All things are mine since I am His
How can I keep from singing

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. Oh Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever. Psalm 30: 11-12

On a recent 95-degree day, upon exiting my car, I noticed a man leaning against the wall by the store front I was entering. I imagine he had limited access to a shower or washing machine. As I approached, I sensed desperation, as our eyes met. I was afraid of what he was going to ask. To my surprise, his request was one dollar. That’s it. One dollar…to buy some water. Oh, the things we take for granted! I can go to the tap in my house and get a drink of cool, clean water any time I want and add ice cubes, if it’s not cold enough! Here’s a person who doesn’t have the luxury of clean clothes or body but even more tragically, living on the streets makes it difficult to find water at all or one must have means to buy it. I don’t know his circumstances but the most basic of needs were apparent and he was appreciative of the water I offered him. I pray it satisfied his body for another day.

My next stop was the grocery store. As I exited my car this time, I noticed beautiful music playing! Where was this coming from? Near the entrance, under a tree, was a young family of four. The music coming from the speaker at their feet was accompanying a teenage boy playing the violin. As my curiosity led me closer to them, I noticed one of the parents holding a sign, explaining they had lost their jobs and any donations would be appreciated. Again, I don’t know their circumstances, but I know my job, which I sometimes complain about, provides for me to walk in to buy the groceries needed for the week. They are looking at some dark days but here they were, joyfully sharing music, brightening my day!

I don’t know about you but I have moments of being overwhelmed with the growing list of concerns in our world today. The list spans big issues affecting the world, our country, our state and cities to how very personally these big issues affect each of us or our neighbors.

This song, How Can I Keep from Singing, has a history of resurfacing for me, especially during trying times. I won’t think of it for a few years, and then, there it is again, when I need it most. By the grace of God, I haven’t personally experienced desperation as in these two instances, but I have had days of overwhelming fear, pain, anxiety, and concern with uncertainty, loss, and dark lamentation.

I pray this text and hear the beautiful melody and harmonies and wish I could share them with these neighbors in need. As God speaks to me through the Psalm and this song, I am reminded that no storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging. Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing. My wailing turns into dancing, my grief is removed and I’m filled with joy, that my heart would overflow with thankfulness and couldn’t possibly keep silent! When nothing else makes sense, when uncertainty overwhelms, the peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing; all things are mine since I am HIS, how can I keep from singing! We MUST keep singing!

Diane Worrell Eaton

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Revolution or Restoration?

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be  established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations far away; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. Micah 4:1-4 

A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Psalm 90:3 

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance 2 Peter 3:8-9 

I have been listening to a book about the making of the very popular hip-hop Broadway musical, “Hamilton: The Revolution”.  I was very surprised to hear that they included a phrase about, “the vine and the fig” from the prophet Micah, in the lyrics because it was in the favorite scripture of George Washington. I’ve never heard George Washington had a favorite scripture. I wondered what “sitting under the vine and fig tree” could mean. It turns out that during this period of war and strife, George Washington had a vision of providing a land where people could live out in the open in their own place of peace, as Micah prophesies in Micah 4:4. George Washington envisioned it occurring during his lifetime, and hoped to be able to help it to come true.  I don’t remember ever reading this passage from Micah, but found it to be a great promise.

When Micah made the prediction that President Washington loved, it was about times still to come, for them and for us. A time when the whole world will be at peace. It comes to pass in a world made by the Lord who established the highest of mountains.  It’s a time when all the people will flow to the house of the Lord. In the verses that follow this passage, Micah prophesies the Babylonian exile and the return, which have already happened.  I love the way the final phrase in this passage is translated in The Message, “The God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so, and he means what he says.” Our hope comes from knowing that the “God-of-the-Angel-Armies” has a plan for peace and in the end, all will worship Him together. God means what He says, and He keeps His word.

We feel so much division and divisiveness in our world. People are afraid and at war, physically and emotionally. We pray to God to do something. Now.  However, we are reminded many times in scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, that God’s time is not our time. As Peter explains, God isn’t slow. He’s patient. His patience is so that all can come to follow Him before the end. The time is coming, and we have work to do.  

Prayer: Dear Lord, You have always done what you’ve promised. And you will keep the promise made in Micah too.  Help me to do Your work in the world, so that when the time comes, there will be more people who enjoy your kingdom forever.  In this time of division and divisiveness, help me to remember that my hope is in You and that my true home is where You are.  Amen

Lori Snyder-Sloan, reprinted from 2017

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Psalm 23

Even though most of us would probably prefer the poetic and comforting words of either the King James Version of the 23rd Psalm or another well-read version, reading through this version from The Message makes "old" words new.

God, my shepherd!

    I don’t need a thing.

You have bedded me down in lush meadows,

    you find me quiet pools to drink from.

True to your word,

    you let me catch my breath

    and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through

    Death Valley,

I’m not afraid

    when you walk at my side.

Your trusty shepherd’s crook

    makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner

    right in front of my enemies.

You revive my drooping head;

    my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me

    every day of my life.

I’m back home in the house of God

    for the rest of my life.   ~ Psalm 23, The Message

Donna Gustafson

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A Word from Thessalonians

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-6

Monday, July 27, 2020

Love to Calm Fear

With his love, he will calm all your fears. Zephaniah 3:17

How comforting are these words! It seems in every Bible study I'm a part of, we debate the meaning of the word "fear" in the Bible. I am comforted to understand its meaning here is clear. Thank you, Lord, for your love and your peaceful presence in our lives.

Donna Gustafson

Friday, July 24, 2020

My To-Do List

The Lord is my shepherd,  I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul, He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Psalm 23: 1-3

On our way home from our recent vacation, we stopped for gas at a truck stop. While there, I saw a book entitled, “What if God Wrote Your To-Do List?” by Jay Payleitner. It made me stop and think about this question. The first thing on the list would be my daily devotion and prayer time with God. Second, I believe would be to eat a healthy breakfast—one that would agree with my diabetes and my nutrition needs. I should pass on the donuts. Third would be to prioritize my activities such as bake a loaf of bread for an extended family member with dental problems. Fourth might be to feed the birds (and squirrels) and water my flowers—praising God for these beautiful creations. God would probably include giving a sack of groceries for the Food Bank and being thankful that I have enough food to eat. These are all simple things for my daily life, but things that I think God would list.

Consider the above question as you start your new day. What is most important related to what God wants in your life? I am ordering the book and hope to read it soon. I note that the author has also written, ”What if God Wrote Your Bucket List”?—That will have to come later.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me consider myself as your servant while I go about my daily activities. May my choices be a reflection of you in my life. Help me to put you first on my list for the day. Amen

Nancy Hall

Thursday, July 23, 2020

For the Beauty of the Earth

In his hands are the depths of the earth and the mountain peaks belong to him.  The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Psalm 95:4-5

We enjoyed our annual trip to the North Woods this year even with the differences because of COVID 19. There were no sauna nights, no family potluck in the Yurt, no trips to the Wifi cabin to check e-mail (this was a good thing), no loud and raucous family game nights with cousins, and no watching small children while other family members spent a day on the lake. We accommodated these missing traditions with LOTS of time on the boat, outdoor visits (with plenty of bug spray) and more walks around camp to see each other for a quick hello. On our times boating around the lake we paid more attention to the water clarity, the beautiful water lilies, the tamarack trees, and the wildlife. We were delighted to see our first nesting loon, several deer, baby chickadees and lots of chipmunks, squirrels and Franklin’s ground squirrels. My husband and I have wondered before if we love this vacation destination because of the family reunion feel, or the closeness to nature, the absence of technology or just the sensation that we are stepping back in time. 

On the drive home I thought about how rejuvenated I felt with a week away, enjoying the beauty of the outdoors and paying attention to God’s creatures. I couldn’t help but think of Pierpoint’s 1863 hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth”. I remember singing this in church as a very small child, with my grandmother. I was amazed to find out this hymn is nearly 150 years old. In doing a little research I found that Pierpoint originally wrote this for use during communion and that the original lyrics were a “sacrifice of praise” instead of the now common refrain “this, our hymn of grateful praise”.  

This year I have worked more than ever before, and I really didn’t realize how badly I needed a break. Even though this is something we do every year, it was more special this year. More valuable. More interesting. More focused on recognizing the beauty. Relaxing in the wonder of wilderness. Splashing in the cold lake. Taking time for family. Being grateful.  

Prayer: God who created our world and has shared wisdom with man on the need to preserve it, thank you for a week in the beauty of northeast Minnesota.  Thank you for entertaining animals, time with family and a break from responsibility. Your world is so beautiful and we are so blessed to experience it. Amen.    

Christi Moock

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


He told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. 32 It’s the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches." Matthew 13:31-32 

I share this verse from Matthew because it was the text for ordination sermon when I was ordained 45 years ago (7/20/75). Many ministries, relationships, churches pastored, people called, marriages performed, baptisms celebrated, confirmations commissioned and more.  It was figured that I had preached over 4 thousand times I think, not to mention the countless hours of session meetings, committee meetings, deacon meetings, and presbytery, synod and General Assembly meetings.  I lost count of miles driven, walked, and journeyed over that time.

Over that time, what seeds have been planted from the service and witness that I have given – (not me alone but the Spirit of Him Who is within me!)  Could it have been the sermon I first preached?  Could it have been a summer camp at which I was a co-director with Chelli Olson over the last 15 plus years at Calvin Crest?  Could it have been one of the countless baptisms or confirmations, or even weddings I performed? (After one wedding, I had a father of the bride come up to me and said that he would begin coming back to church.  He did and has been faithful, long after I left that church.) 

So, yes, there may have been seeds planted.  It is a seed that our gospel lesson describes as very small but which grows into a large bush that can shelter the birds. 

It is a seed that grows without much of my effort.  In fact, the pastor who preached at my ordination said, “John, the Kingdom of God can get along without you!”  Boy, what a downer that was on such an auspicious event as my ordination!  No, the pastor went on to say that such a comment was to ease my stress – to liberate me from the tedium and anxiety of ministry, for the seed grows once it is planted by me and any other disciples of Jesus.  We plant.  God does the rest.  So, in ministry, I planted and I pray that God has done the rest and continues with seeds that are still growing and providing the shelter of ministry.  For each of us – we do the planting while God does the rest.  Then we see the miracle happening and continuing even as I look back over the last 45 years!  Praise be to God!

Prayer: Lord, may I be but a planter of mustard seeds so that I may delight in the work of Your Spirit in seeing what our Lord will grow for the building up of the Church of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Rev. Dr. John J. Duling, Parish Associate

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Please Fix It

“Depart from evil, and do good.  Seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14 

“Peace begins with a smile.”  I like this quote from Mother Teresa.

I also like the hymn, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

I thought of these phrases, specifically,

             “With God as our Father

              Brothers all are we.”

            “Let me walk with my brother

            In perfect harmony.”

I recently read the story of  Eleanora, an 8-year-old girl who shared her concerns to the Judiciary Committee of the Nebraska Legislature.  Reporter JoAnne Young wrote the story in the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper.

Eleanora and her mother watched the hearing at home on their television while they ate their lunch. Eleanora said to her mother, “I want to go talk.” She continued, “Leo is really important to me, and I want him to have a good life.”   Eleanora, her parents, her brother Leo and younger sister, Edda live in Omaha where the hearing was held.

Eleanora waited patiently, an hour and a half, at the hearing.  More than 90 people had approached the committee.  Few remained. The chair said it was long after 5 p.m. and he had to turn the Scott Center in Omaha back to the folks that run it.  Eleanora hurried to the microphone. She had to tell them about her 7-year-old brother. “My name is Eleanora Marinkovich.” - she spelled it for the record. “I hear you can make laws to make it better for him. My brother, Leo, is treated unfairly because his skin color is darker than mine. He was born in Africa and my parents adopted him. I think he should be able to wear his athletic hoodie and play with water guns as his white friends do without her parents worrying for his safety.”

Leo had soccer practice and didn’t attend the hearing. But he told his sister that he was happy about what she did. “He said thank you, like four times.” Eleanora said. “My legs were shaking, but otherwise, it was awesome.” she concluded.

What can each of us do to make things better for those treated unfairly? Those who are bullied or hurting?     

Prayer: God, you know how I am tempted to take the easy way and ignore those who need our support. Help me to listen for your guidance. Open our eyes and hearts to the hurting world. Amen.

Lois Poppe

Monday, July 20, 2020

Begged to Leave: artist's commentary on the drawing for July 19 sermon

Begged to Leave (Jesus heals Legion, a man possessed by demons)
by Hannah Garrity

inspired by mark 5:1-20 | acrylic & ink on canvas

Have you ever seen the illustration of equity vs. equality? There
is a young child standing next to a young teenager and an adult.
They all wish to see over a fence. In the description of equality,
they each get a box that is the same size. The adult now towers
over the fence, the teenager can see, but the child is still unable
to see what’s on the other side. In the depiction of equity, they
each get a different sized box. Now, all of their heads are peering

comfortably over the fence. Why are we afraid of equity?

In the land of the Gerasenes, Jesus shows us what it looks like. He provides healing for an outcast of society, the man shows gratitude, and he evangelizes. This sounds like a moment we would rejoice in. Instead the townspeople beg Jesus to leave. Do they fear scarcity? But we know that God provides in abundance. Do they fear grace? But we yearn for God’s grace. Do they fear for
their safety?

Why do humans fear the radical grace of God? Why did the people of Gerasene fear Jesus? We laud Jesus’ work in the gospel as the work we must replicate. We teach our children to think of what Jesus would do. However, time and again history shows us that when we truly work toward the embodiment of the gospel, humans interrupt the work. Humans killed Jesus.
                                                                                   - Hannah Garrity

Friday, July 17, 2020

My Grace is Sufficient for You

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Old Coffee Cans

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16  

Around Memorial Day, I often have the remembrance of my family putting together garden flowers like lilacs, peonies, tulips, and snowballs, and arranging them in old coffee cans covered with aluminum foil. We would then put a little water in the cans and head out to the cemeteries and the relative’s graves. The cans of flowers were perfect to set up by the tombstones. Another coffee can was used to haul water from nearby spickets to finish the water supplies in the cans of flowers—that was my job. The coffee can served other multiple purposes in my home. My mother carefully packed cookies in a coffee can for my dad to take on his long haul trips as a truck driver. My dad used the cans to sort nails and tools at his work bench. He also kept rags and used paint brushes in the cans. My dad had started an earthworm business for fishermen, and I frequently packed a dozen big worms in a coffee can with moist dirt. Even the girl scouts used the coffee cans tied to trees to wash their hands.  I do not have a single coffee can in my house anymore as I don’t drink coffee, but the smell of coffee and the coffee can always give me warm feelings.

Similar feelings occur when I remember scriptures that I memorized in Bible school, Sunday School, and confirmation class. Scriptures like John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 13, Psalms 100, and many others. I am so thankful to my church teachers for helping give me these gifts which are available anytime I need them. I smile whenever I hear “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer.” We ended every Sunday School class in the 5th grade with those words. These scriptures remind me of my beliefs, the creator God I trust in, Jesus his son, and the promise of believers in grace, forgiveness, and life evermore.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for my pleasant memories of my family and their love. Thank you  for your Holy Spirit and your assuring words from the Bible. Remind us all that our lives have been a huge investment from other Christians in learning about you, believing in you, and accepting you as our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Nancy Hall

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Isaiah 40

He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40: 29-31

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Squirrels and Robins

I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word. Psalm 119:15-16 

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8

Also take salvation as your helmet and the word of God as the sword that the Spirit supplies. Ephesians 6:17

I’ve been taking pictures for years (since childhood!), but more recently have focused on the beauty of our natural world. To meditate on this further, let’s look at some creatures we’re all familiar with: squirrels and robins. Squirrels and robins: we see them every day (well, most of us do, particularly in the summer months). Their commonality may cause us to miss out on their unique beauty. Do we also miss observing other things, like the beauty of our fellow human beings and the beauty of the world around us? Do we miss out on meaningful scripture, because it’s become so familiar?

The Wednesday morning bible study attendees were reminded of this as we studied the book of John. Comments made by some of us, including myself, reflected the fact that we may be familiar with oft-heard scripture passages, but we haven’t really explored them…we haven’t studied them. But when we do study these scriptures, they may take on a new meaning for us. We may see something we never noticed before. If we employ the Lectio Divina method of exploring scripture, something may appear to us that we hadn’t noticed previously.

What have you become so familiar with that you don’t “see” it anymore? What can you look at in a new light? What scripture can you explore further, to see what God has in store for you and your understanding?

Like robins and squirrels, it may be right in front of you, but you don’t appreciate its beauty.

Prayer: Dear God, help us to look at the world around us more closely. Show us what you’re revealing in scripture. Let us pay attention. Amen.

Donna Gustafson

(photos by Donna Gustafson)

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Way to Wonder: artist's commentary on the drawing for July 12 sermon

by Lisle Gwynn Garrity
inspired by job 28:12-28 | acrylic on canvas (shown below)

Everything Job holds dear—his property, his family, his wealth,
his physical health—has been taken from him. His life has
unraveled in every way imaginable. How can we possibly make
sense of the pain we endure, especially the pain we don’t cause
or deserve?
Much of Job’s journey requires him to untangle the punitive,
quid pro quo theology he has absorbed. If I do good things,
God will reward me. If I do bad things, God will punish me. On a
cerebral level, I disagree with the logic of these words. But I remember how easily I can fall into
the trap of feeling these words viscerally and bodily in moments of pain, especially in suffering
that is so awful and unfair.
When I first began this painting, I hoped to render Job’s hymn to wisdom visually. I imagined being
stuck in the deep, as if my body was anchored underwater and I was looking up to the surface.
I imagined textures and symbols emerging in the swirl of the dark to portray Job’s search for
meaning, his grasping to find a way out. But as the painting came together, it was all wrong. The
strokes and symbols were too literal, too formulaic. I almost scrapped the canvas altogether, but
decided to keep going, to add more layers, more depth, more gold.
A window, doorway, or portal emerged in the middle of the painting. I felt a release and realized
that, while I started with lament, I ended with awe. “To fear God is wisdom” (Job 28:28). The Hebrew
word for “fear,” yirah, literally translates to “awesome.” True wisdom lies in breathless reverence
for God’s mystery and expansiveness—for God’s presence that is beyond what we can control, or reason, or make far too small. - Lisle Gwynn Garrity

Friday, July 10, 2020

Psalm 46

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,

though its waters roar and foam

    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

    the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

    God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;

    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,

    the desolations he has brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease

    to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

    he burns the shields with fire.

 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth.”

 The Lord Almighty is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Present Suffering and Future Glory

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 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.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:18-30

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

God Alongside of Us

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. 1 Corinthians 1:3

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. Hebrews 11:1

In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So, don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?

                        My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,

                                    But don’t be crushed by it either.

                        It’s the child he loves that he disciplines,

                                    The child he embraces, he also corrects.

God is educating you, that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you are in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Hebrews 12:5-6

I recently read Lori Snyder Sloan’s devotion book and take these words from there now:

The Lord will lead us through all the unsure, unclear, doubtful,

hesitant, and questioning moments that are mine as I search to

find the right way in which to go.

I need to realize others around the world are going through this pandemic with me, my family and my friends. Many have it much worse than we do. We are fortunate to be here in the Midwest with open areas to be outside. It is good to know there are good times ahead of us as stated in 1 Corinthians. He will comfort us until that time. He is watching us and he is loving us as his children. Sometimes I wonder what I am to learn in this time. What is he training me to do? I do believe we will all find out in due time. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, creator of all, please guide and direct our lives at this time. We place our lives in your hands. Please lead to the path that will deepen and strengthen our relationship with you. Use us Lord to help others after we have had your training. Help us to move ahead and not feel sorry for ourselves in this coronavirus pandemic. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Fences and Signs

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy leaden and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 

Signs – originally by The 5 Man Electrical Band

And the sign said anybody caught trespassin’ would be shot on sight.

So I jumped on the fence and-a yelled at the house, “Hey! What gives you the right?”

“To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in”

“If God was here he’d tell you to your face, Man, you’re some kinda sinner”

We recently finished watching a documentary that was filmed in Louisiana.  During scenes in some of the more dangerous and drug afflicted neighborhoods, the churches were protected by fences.  Not a simple white picket fence, or a tasteful privacy fence, or even, like Eastridge, a fenced in playground to provide a safe place for young children, still learning about boundaries and safety.  No, these fences were chain link.  Some were 6 feet tall, and some were 10 feet tall.  They had heavy padlocks and chains on their gates. 

When our son and daughter-in-law were in Texas we often flew in and out of Love Field.  We never felt as though we weren’t safe when visiting there, but similarly, close to the airport there were 3 churches that we would pass with fences and chained gates.   

For the last week I have been thinking about the decision to fence a church. I thought about why we have a fenced in yard (to keep the dogs in). And what people in a church would be trying to keep out. It hasn’t been that long ago that Lincoln had a large number of church burglaries, with people stealing electronics, and cash. In some parts of the world, churches who have open disdain for others have been damaged with graffiti, or arson. But there are also hate groups, who damage unnecessarily those things that desire to spread love. And I wondered, how does that reflect God’s relationship with the world.  And how do we, as Christians work to share the message of God’s love. The God who asks us to bring all of our pain and sorrow and fear, for him to carry.  

As I considered all of this, I thought of The 5 Man Electric Band song – and wondered, what are we trying to accomplish?  Are we working to protect ourselves from the bad things? Selfishly restrict others from the good?  Preserve something that we have spent our earthly treasures to build up?  How does this match up with God’s goals for us?  

Prayer: Loving and compassionate God, I am so grateful to live in a place where churches are not wrapped up like prisons. Help me to share your word and your love. Help all Christians to remember that you are everywhere. Your love cannot be contained to a building or with a fence. Guide us to be a welcoming church for all people.  Amen. 
Christi Moock

Monday, July 6, 2020

Eternal Blessings

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled. Matthew 5:1-6 

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8 

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? Colossians 2:20-21 

It felt so good to be with people other than my household. We were outside without expectations. It was a golf tournament. Wait, your partner cannot play because of back problems. No big deal, someone said another gal could play and the club called her. Yes, she said from the bed, I will quickly get there. The tournament was held up until my new partner arrived. I had never met her.

Everyone waited patiently and cheered when my partner got there. Everyone was enjoying being outside and seeing people after the Coronavirus stay at home for two and a half months had occurred.

These things occurred:

We laughed and laughed, even at our bad shots

We became friends

We became a team

We started to play well; the bad shots were few

We made the chip off for the horserace

We survived the first hole

We survived the second hole

We were in the final

We felt we had fought the good fight, did what the people said by staying at home and social distancing with masks on our faces. We did not handle, did not taste food not ours and did not touch our faces. We followed the rules and so far, avoided the forces of the virus. Now we felt alive again. What we felt here is so tiny compared to what we will feel if we follow Christ to the kingdom of heaven.

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, help us to fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith, and see your crown of righteousness. We long for your son to reappear. We long to be filled by you. Help us to always remember to follow you to our final resting place. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Live Welcoming to All

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8

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

You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43-44

Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me. Matthew 25:40

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:10

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

While reading Firstlight, a collection of essays from Sue Monk Kidd, I was struck by similarities to what we’d been hearing in sermons and studies regarding compassion earlier this spring.

“How should one live?”



To all”

Sue shares an instance when she was on a train and the woman seated across from her was crying. This woman was a stranger, and Sue opted not to reach out in any way. She regretted it later, but reading the above words caused the image of that woman on the train to haunt her. Missed opportunity for compassion, connection, relief of others’ suffering.

How “available” are we to others? Are we wrapped up in our own problems? Sometimes I wonder the meaning of guilt in my life. Is it an admonition to do better? Is it me, not giving my self a “break”? Should I not be so hard on myself? Maybe, but I think guilt can be a bit of a prompt, helping us to ask ourselves tougher questions. Should I have reached out to---? What does that mean, to reach out? What can I do differently next time?

What would it take to “live welcoming to all”?

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to live more like the example you set for us. Sometimes we don’t know exactly what that means, so help us when we need to listen, share tears with someone, be a non-judgmental ear. Amen.

Donna Gustafson

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Peace and Love During the Pandemic

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 (NIV)

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12 (NIV)

When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13 (NLT)

Being an introverted personality type, and an Enneagram number that craves inner peace, this “social distancing” thing is easy for me.  As I've mentioned before, in times of stress, I like to curl up in a warm, comfortable ball and shut out anything that messes with my “inner sanctum”.  I've done lots of Netflix-watching, yard work and household projects to distract me from the chaos of this pandemic. This is a good coping a point. 

Unfortunately, sometimes I’m so distracted--or maybe a better word is numb--that I don't feel God nudging me to reach out and help others.  When I finally open my eyes, I see that maybe all this isolation and “social distancing” has not been so easy for some people.  It can take a mental and emotional toll--especially on those living alone. While it’s important to practice “physical distancing” right now, there are still many ways to safely reach calls, video calls, “Zoom”, texting, letters, a friendly "hello" and wave from the driveway, small gifts dropped on the porch and more. 

When God’s calling me to reach out to people during stressful times, I need to be listening, available and willing--not numb. The moment stress hits, I must ask God for peace and guidance. (Perhaps that means I’ll need to unroll from my warm, comfy ball and do something inconvenient.)  And yet, when I do finally follow God’s lead, here’s what’s awesome:  My heart finds joy in the blessings that flow--both from my heart and to it!  

Prayer: God of Peace and Love, forgive us for seeking peace that “the world gives”. It’s effect is a temporary numbing...which may make us miss out on opportunities to reach out to others. Help us remember, in times of stress, to find our peace IN YOU...and then to extend your peace and love to others.  And...thank you so much for your loving support during this pandemic. Amen. 

Sharon Irvin