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

Monday, August 31, 2020

God’s Wonders

Stop and consider God’s wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge? You who swelter in your clothes when the land lies hushed under the south wind, can you join him in spreading out the skies….? Job 37:14-18

Man has traveled to the moon, moves the soil to make dams and lakes, makes roads across nations and travels hundreds of miles per hour in airplanes in the skies. But can man control the clouds? Can man make rain or spread out the skies? He has tried. There are limits to man’s control.

We made a trip out to see our farmland this week. We learned alfalfa roots can reach down to the aquifer during their 10-year productive life. Man wondered if our Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska or our Lake McConaughey would ever replenish after our drought? Some men said they never would. Within a few years the lake was filled. The rains came. God’s powers are not limited. This seemed like a miracle of Bible times to me.

Have you noticed the devotion you read often meets the need you are concerned about at the time you read it? How can God do that for all the people in the world at the same time? Yet, we find his faithfulness that exact when we pay attention. He says our prayers will be answered. It may be yes, or no, or wait, but he answers.

See how the kernels on the corn form and the moisture from the rain or the pivots in the field travels through the soil to give moisture to the kernels. God has no limits.

Prayer: Dear Father in Heaven, help us stop and consider your wonders. Thank you for your consistent controls of growing plants for the farmers. You control the sky, the seasons and the years. Your creation is awesome. Even during a pandemic the crops grow. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Beauty Around Us

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day. Genesis 1:11-13 

This hymn is one of my favorites: For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, For the love which from our birth over and around us lies, Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

These hardy hibiscus have been with me for 27 years. I moved them from my South Street home. Each year I get to enjoy them. These last two years they have been fantastic.

Prayer: Oh Lord, we thank you for the beauty you created. Amen

Sandy Hilsabeck (photo shared by Sandy)

Thursday, August 27, 2020


This past Sunday, after we worshipped with the Eastridge Church online, we saw an interview with Oprah Winfrey on her program, “Super Soul Sunday” of William P. Young, author of The Shack.  The book sold millions of copies and was made into a popular film of faith by the same title.  Mr. Young has written other books including a recent book, Lies We Believe About God. What was interesting about this interview was the life of Mr. Young and the transformation that has happened in him and his faith. He is very passionate about his faith and clear about who Jesus Christ is for him and humankind.  That transformation has taken years.

Essentially, Young had been fairly successful, but in his marriage, he slipped into an affair of which his wife discovered and confronted him.  It took years of total openness and honesty to clear the suspicion and mistrust that understandably took place.  To add more complication, Young experienced a major financial failure and had to sell his home and other possessions – essentially becoming bankrupt.  He and his family stuck it through. They ended up taking some small rental property on land that grew Christmas trees.  

One telling thing at this time was that Young had friends who could have written one check and cleared all debts! The opposite happened.  He went to his friends and asked them to not do a thing for him – that he would need them in more friendlier support of prayer and encouragement. But, Young’s wife said for her husband to write a poem or a story that would express his feelings and attitude for his children – it was all they could afford. In less than two hours, Young wrote what would become The Shack What a Christmas gift!

The interview asked a lot of questions of Young’s life, but more how he experienced his transformation and grew in his faith. That is quite complicated, but one take-a-way that I heard was this: to give up control and trust God. Easier said than done! I heard that Young took major risk every day to trust the grace of God to be with him – enough grace for one day.  Prayerfully, he continues to ask for that one day’s allotment of grace which he knows will go with him.  It helps to take the risks of trust; of letting go of control; and daring to risk investment in relationship with people. It is a daily risk accompanied by the power of that daily allotment of grace.

Young tells of a time when people had come to his home to demonstrate against him for what he had written in The Shack.  He went outside and asked them what they were concerned about and if any one of them had read the book.  No one had read it!  Then, he surprised them by acknowledging that he was the author.  I am not sure what the conversation was afterwards, but one thing stuck with me.  Young had brought many bottles of cold water to the crowd to drink since it was such a hot day.  It was a risk to show such grace and trust when needed.

Our take-a-way is to pray that we let go of our desire for security and control. We ask to be given a daily amount of grace to get us through each day. Then, we dare that God’s grace will fortify us through His Holy Spirit to show the love of Jesus Christ through the relationships we encounter each day. We will find it hard at times and a blessing at times, but God is with us every time.  

I share the verse my wife, Cathy has treasured in her life from Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Prayer: O God, take away my need to control. Grant me the bountiful gift of your grace this day and every day. Fortify me with Your Spirit in the risk to trust Your grace to be sufficient for every need and relationship I have. May You always guide and uphold me in Your Love through Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Rev. Dr. John J. Duling


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

God's in Control

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, beyond, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. Psalm 139: 1-6 

During these pandemic times, there are people who have too much time on their hands, and there are people who need to remind themselves to breathe.  I find myself in this second group.  In these moment when I breathe and notice the things around me, I am finding great comfort in seeing the ways that he God of the universe 1) knows what I need, and 2) is making Himself known to me through His Word, and through His world, through His beauty, and through His people. 

The new co-worker who has now become essential

The little piece of knowledge that makes all the difference

The unanticipated game-changing solution just as I am about to burst into tears

The daffodils that are coming up in my yard

The social distancing birthday party Jon threw for me and two friends on our driveway

The good night’s sleep without dreams about COVID-19

The blessing that virtual technology has been to everyone

The text from a friend at just the right time

The knowledge that my dad is living safely in a facility

The message from Melanie asking if we’d like to video chat and drink wine

The sidewalk chalked message

The photo of blooming flowers and blossoming trees Mitchell sent

The vendor who says, “yes, we have supplies”

The audio devotion that helps me to sleep at night

The 70 degree day and the walk in the sunshine

And the list goes on

I know that neither my need nor the surprise comes as any surprise to God.   And I find hope in the promise that God knows me, and He knows the world, and He has lost not lost control.

This song by JJ Heller made me smile last weekend.  It’s called You Already Know.

Everything around me seems uncertain

My weary heart can’t take much more surprise
I wish there was a point on the horizon
Something I could see with my own eyes

I need tell you that I’m scared
I feel completely unprepared
And nothing’s what it was two weeks ago

You already know
You already know
Everything I’m scared of
Everything I hope
You hold my tomorrow
And all tomorrow holds
You already know

I can’t seem to find the easy answers
Someday I hope the suffering makes sense
I just need to know that you are with me
Even if you keep me in suspense

And we talk so much these days
Because I have so much to say
You stay and listen to me closely even though
You already know

Whatever I’m feeling
Whatever is coming
Whenever the ending
You’re already there
You go before me
You go behind me
Wherever I’m going
You’re already there.

Prayer: Dear Lord of all the universe, I know that neither my need nor the surprise comes as any surprise to you.   And I find great hope in the promise that you know me, and you know the world, and although I am realizing just how little control I have, You never lose control. 

Lori Snyder-Sloan

Tuesday, August 25, 2020



"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“For there is a proper time and procedure for every delight, though a man’s trouble is heavy upon him.  If no one knows what will happen, who can tell him when it will happen?” Ecclesiastes 8:6-7

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

While reading Firstlight, a collection of essays from Sue Monk Kidd, I was moved by a particular passage in her essay titled: The Sacred Ordinary. In it, Sue details her struggles with finding the holy within the everyday. She had just returned from a retreat to a monastery, and was bogged down by the mundane tasks of motherhood. She shares a moment when her son, then three, asked her about the day of his birth (or, as he asked it, “the day I was borned”). A phrase that Sue shared will bring nostalgia familiar to all, not only mothers: Make the most of every day. Time does not stand still.

Thinking of the way it is referred to in the essay, the passage of time and how our children grow up, always brings a lump to my throat. Sometimes I try to “think” it away, reminding myself that everyone changes, that there are great moments ahead (as grandparents? Hopefully!). But I think maybe God wants me to live in that moment of vulnerability, that moment of sadness and grief for what has passed. And, perhaps, thankfulness that we experienced those moments at all! These moments are not just reserved for parents…many of us can recall moments from our past that we remember fondly. Maybe even more fondly as time passes. The phrase “rose-colored glasses” comes to mind, implying that we tend to remember an event as more fun/exciting/satisfying than it actually was as we were experiencing it. Nostalgia is powerful!

I also find that each season, the scent in the air and the feel of the sun and its position in the sky take me back to previous years (during that same time). Additionally, as I’ve taken many nature photos this spring and summer, I’ve noticed the migratory pattern of our Nebraska birds, not to mention those birds making their way through Nebraska from northern locales. It might make me sad to think my photo sessions with the dickcissels and blackbirds of the prairie are finished for another year, but I must remember that “to everything there is a season”.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to be thankful for the seasons in my life. Help me to be aware, each day, each moment, that you have been generous to me. Show me how to be "in the moment", to appreciate my life as it is unfolding. Let gratitude continue to be a part of my life. Amen.

Donna Gustafson (photo by Donna of a wren in the fading summer light)

Monday, August 24, 2020

Psalm 99

The Lord reigns,
    let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
    let the earth shake.

 Great is the Lord in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the nations.

Let them praise your great and awesome name—

    he is holy.

 The King is mighty, he loves justice—
    you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
    what is just and right.

 Exalt the Lord our God
    and worship at his footstool;
    he is holy.

  Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the Lord
    and he answered them.

 He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
    they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.

  Lord our God,
    you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
    though you punished their misdeeds.

Exalt the Lord our God

    and worship at his holy mountain,
    for the Lord our God is holy. Psalm 99

Friday, August 21, 2020

Charge and Benediction from Aug 16: Jonah - the Angry Prophet (Rev. Thomas Dummermuth)


From God we cannot hide.

And that is a fact.

Jonah tried,

Jonah failed.


Learning his lesson

may we go from here

relishing God’s presence in our lives,

noticing both:

what is going on in us and around us

letting God be our guide and a blessing.

May this be a week when you are fully aware

of God with you each step of the way.



May the One

who created you in God’s image

give you the grace to

turn your anger and outrage

to justice and compassion;

transform your pain

so that you may transmit love;

strengthen your bodies

and your minds and your hearts

for the long, hard, holy work

of reconciliation and justice.

May God use your whole being,

through the power of the Holy Spirit,

to bring about the Reign of God

In the name of Jesus Christ!


Thursday, August 20, 2020

A Word from Philippians 2

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature 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 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,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.  But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. Philippians 2: 1-18

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold  was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18: 21-35

Tuesday, August 18, 2020


Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

"But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." Romans 8:25

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ John 13:7

Yesterday on a walk I noticed a bird perched on a branch, insect in beak. She was sitting there: not moving, not eating the insect, and not attempting to fly off.

And then I saw a dead bird on the ground, wings splayed, probably hit by a car.

Of course, the dead bird was likely a family member of the perched bird. I’m not sure if the bird on the branch was the parent and the dead bird a fledgling, but I felt sadness noticing the perched bird not able to move forward with any type of action.

In humans, grief affects us all differently. While Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages of grief in her ground-breaking work, On Death and Dying, in 1969, we don’t all experience those stages in exactly the same way. In our current Wednesday morning bible study, we are studying the book Open the Door by Joyce Rupp, subtitled “A journey to the true self”. With the analogy of doors (closed, open, thresholds, etc.), Joyce explores how we can grow in our faith and spirituality. In one of the week’s sessions, she focuses on how “some doors open slowly”. In other words, don’t hurry the process of your spiritual growth along. Experience with patience the journey you’re meant to be on. Embrace the word “wait”. Grief is often one of those lessons in patience.

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes we want to hurry our spiritual maturity along. We want to skip over the “bad” parts, the difficulties, the struggles. Remind us that our journey with you is ever evolving, and is never done. Amen.

Donna Gustafson

Monday, August 17, 2020


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

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” Romans 12:12

Today, many of us are forced to be separated from our church family, friends, and others. Many are struggling and discouraged. We look for ways to connect with others as we are in our “cocoons” at home. Julia Noyes of Noyes Art Gallery found a way to help community members connect. She invited persons of all ages, including children, to paint butterflies on the south side of her gallery at 119 S. 9th St. You can view the mural in the alley. My youngest daughter and I participated by adding a butterfly to the wall.  Over a hundred have added butterflies as symbols of hope and connection. More are welcome.

If that isn’t your thing, there are other ideas for connecting. A friend shared that she calls one person each day that she has not talked to for a while. This friend keeps a log of the people she calls.

A number of organizations plan “calling trees” as each member calls another member according to a list. Many churches and other organizations use “Zoom” to communicate, worship, and conduct business.

Tom Barber of the People’s City Mission reached out to over 100 churches. Singers from Lincoln churches created a composite video of a blessing –  “The Lord bless you, and keep you” –.  Groups in other cities have done something similar.  Pastor Tom stated “It’s kind of united the churches. When you have Methodists and the Presbyterians and Lutherans talking to each other, that’s a good thing.”

We can connect with God through the power of scripture, prayer, hymns, and the Holy Spirit. It is hard for us to be patient and wait for “God’s time.” Sometimes we do not take time to listen and hear what God is saying to us. One day we can be transformed into a butterfly through spiritual growth and wisdom.

Prayer: Dear God, you are with us as we grieve and live with changes beyond our control. Thank you for being with us no matter what. Amen.  

Lois Poppe

Friday, August 14, 2020

Be Courageous

So Moses continued to speak these words to all Israel. And he said to them, “I am 120 years old today. I am no longer able to go out and come in. The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not go over this Jordan.’ The Lord your God himself will go over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them, and Joshua will go over at your head, as the Lord has spoken. And the Lord will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them. And the Lord will give them over to you, and you shall do to them according to the whole commandment that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:1-8

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Far More Than I Thought Possible

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. Psalm 37:5 (NLT)

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV) 

All my life, organization has been a struggle for me. It doesn't help that I'm a bit of a pack rat. Through the years, small piles of clutter have accumulated in almost every room and closet in our house. (And let's not even talk about the basement!)  From time to time, I've been able to tackle small bits of it. However, most often, I'm too overwhelmed to know where to start.   

Then recently, God gave me a gift: time—lots of it! Never before have I had so much time off from work, with very little on my schedule. This quarantine, while inconvenient in a lot of ways, has also given me a perfect opportunity to finally dig in and get the clutter under control—God's control. Knowing full well that I couldn't handle this project on my own, I prayed for the motivation and guidance I needed. 

With God's help, I've been able to take it one pile, one box, one table-top, one basket, and one closet shelf at a time. Sometimes the process has been difficult, and the progress slow, but when I look back, I'm truly amazed at all that God has helped me accomplish so far! Never, in a million years, did I think I could have this much success with organizing! 

Along the way, I discovered the benefits of decluttering go beyond making our house look nicer. I can find things better when I need them, and I don't have a dark cloud hanging over my head—making me feel guilty, frustrated and overwhelmed by my disorganization.  Decluttering my house declutters my mind! I feel more relaxed and “free”.  And in this better mental state, I'm better able to hear and follow God's call.

I'm far from being done with decluttering, but now I'm more motivated to keep going. Each and every little success has encouraged me and given me more confidence—both in myself and in God.  Together, we're able to accomplish far more than I thought possible.

Prayer: Almighty God, forgive us for letting our struggles—with organization, or whatever they may be—overwhelm us.  Help us remember to ask for, and trust in, your awesome and mighty power to help us.  And when we do, thank you for giving us just what we need—sometimes far beyond what we thought possible. Amen.

Sharon Irvin

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Keep on praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I received a mug as a gift that says "Dear God, Do You Ever Sit Around...Waiting For The Phone to Ring?" When I read that, it got me thinking and relating the phone to prayer and do we use the phone-prayer? God is always at work in our lives and he is always ready to answer the phone and listen to our prayer when we need help or when we want to thank God for his love. God is on the job all the time and is ready for our call. Prayer gives us God's peace in our lives.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for giving us prayer to talk to you. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Susan Taylor

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Isaiah 51

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
    and who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were cut
    and to the quarry from which you were hewn;

look to Abraham, your father,

    and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
When I called him he was only one man,
    and I blessed him and made him many.

 The Lord will surely comfort Zion
    and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
    her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

  “Listen to me, my people;
    hear me, my nation:
Instruction will go out from me;
    my justice will become a light to the nations.

  My righteousness draws near speedily,
    my salvation is on the way,
    and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
The islands will look to me
    and wait in hope for my arm.

  Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
    look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
    the earth will wear out like a garment
    and its inhabitants die like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
    my righteousness will never fail.

  “Hear me, you who know what is right,
    you people who have taken my instruction to heart:
Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals
    or be terrified by their insults.

  For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
    the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever,
    my salvation through all generations.” Isaiah 51:1-8

Monday, August 10, 2020

Did I say that right?

Know this, my beloved brothers; let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; James 1:19

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

As I sit to write some of my thoughts into devotion, sometimes I put it down in words after much thought. I know what I am trying to convey. I find that I struggle to use words that are not offensive to some or express it so it has the right meaning. I am always cautious with texts that I send on my phone as I know that they can be read and the person on the receiving side totally does not read what I thought I wrote. I know that punctuation, spelling and complete sentences help the conversation; but texts are to be short and concise. Text messages are not to be typed in all capitals because that means I am shouting. Abbreviations can be dangerous as some have several interpretations and some are dated to the age, gender and ethnicity of the person. I am not fond of phone conversations, because I can't see the person's expression and I find I can have a more clear understanding of the person I am talking to and what they are saying if I can see their expressions and gestures.

There is so much that is offensive to people in our current world. I find it hard to understand their expectations to eliminate everything. There are designs, artwork, statues, or writings that I find unacceptable or offensive; but I know that to some it is not. I don't expect everything I find offensive to be removed from my sight.  We need to learn from our history as to not repeat it or at least the horrific and harmful portions of history. I think we need to open our minds to change and learn from our mistakes.  

The problem is that too quickly people assume that something said or something done was meant to hurt someone. I don't think that is the case in most incidences, I think people struggle to know how to say or write something that all will understand. It's the communication and understanding of which each is saying but what does the other person hear?  

Reflecting and wondering what it was like for Jesus to reach out to express his love. The Bible talks of the struggles, each denomination of church has their own historical story of what it was to worship God and what they believe. 
Prayer: Dear Lord, Help us to open our hearts, open our minds, and open our temperaments to the ability to understand your teachings. Open our ears that we hear what you want us to hear and not what is leading us away from you. Fill our souls with calmness, empathy, and love for others.  Help us to listen for what others express in their feelings and give us the understanding even if the words are not the same as we would use.  Stop us from our negative receipt of other’s communications and accept that they may not use the right words, phrases or gestures. Guide us to spend more time with you and reading the Bible for the guidance to improve the world in your name.  Amen
Lori Hood

Friday, August 7, 2020

More like Christ, leading to Christ

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:14-29

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!...
The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalms 103:1, 6-8

Many things are broken in this world, and many good people are upset by injustice, cruelty, and suffering.  I’ve noticed that in many instances this awareness of injustice and cruelty then leads good people to become angry, cruel, and unjust to other people – lashing out with accusations and name-calling, and a spiral of anger, cruelty, and injustice perpetuates.  It makes my heart so sad.  I have to admit that BOTH the injustice AND the anger make me angry too.  I see many places in the Psalms where the Lord’s wonderful ways are extolled, and His ways look quite different from ours: merciful, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. As Christ’s disciple, I want to be more like God than like the angry mob, but I also know I am to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.  How can I do both? In my despair about this, I cried out to the Lord, and in one week was led to both these passages – through a sermon and in my wonderful Bible study class.

I was privileged to be able to hear the Stated Clerk of the PCUSA preach at our church, using the passage from Mark, above.   He used the passage to point out that Scripture teaches us not to lean on our own ways, for they are faulty – both as individuals and as the Church.  This passage teaches us that the faithful pray and lead others to Christ, and Christ heals.  Through Christ, we can make things happen that we can’t do through our own power, or by our own ways.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is helpful to me here, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understand;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes;  fear the Lord and shun evil.” (Proverbs 3: 5-7).  So when I find myself becoming angry at either the injustice OR the anger, I pray to God in trust and ask to become more like Him: merciful, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Does it always work?  No, but God isn’t finished with me yet.

Prayer: Lord of my life, please make me more like you - merciful, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love - and through this to point more people to you.  For you, alone, can solve the problems this world faces.  So many are hurting; so many are angry.  You died and rose again so that we could be restored to you and reconciled to one another.  Yet we throw that away in our anger.  Please reach down to this hurting world that needs Your love, and help us to reach up as well.  Amen 

Lori Snyder-Sloan, reprinted from 2017