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Friday, January 22, 2021

Spreading Kindness

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. Luke 6:31 

I have a former co-worker who has started a church in our community, the focus of this church is on being a good neighbor. You might have seen this church on the local news when they started meeting at an apartment complex clubhouse.  Or heard about this church when the Mister Rogers movie with Tom Hanks came out last year. As I have mentioned before, with virtual church, we sometimes attend more than one church service in a week, sometimes more than one in a single day.  At that church’s service this week, the musician sang a song called Revolutionary by Josh Wilson. If you keep up with current Christian music maybe you have heard it. The music is lovely and the lyrics really lead to introspection.  The chorus of the song returns to “Why does kindness seem revolutionary, when did we let hate get so ordinary”. The artist wrote it to document all of the turmoil we experienced in 2020 and efforts for us to overcome this through kindness, collaboration and perspective.  

We have a lovely and eccentric gentleman who lives down the street from us. He is single, retired, served more than 40 years in the national guard and has been deployed many times. He always has older cars that seem to be in jeopardy of falling apart. When they will cost more to repair than what he paid for them he leaves them where they die. Monday very early as I pulled out of our driveway this neighbor was pulling into the neighborhood and his car was shooting flames out the back (imagine Back to the Future). As he turned onto his street he realized that the car was on fire. I yelled to him to park and get out while I called 911. He ran into his home to get the fire extinguisher but by then the car was too far engulfed. We stood together in our driveway as we waited for the Fire Department to arrive and we hoped that they could maybe salvage his belongings, even if the car was no longer drivable. Sadly, the car and virtually everything in it was a total loss. The fire investigator found that he had driven oven a sign post on the highway that someone else had hit and it punctured his gas tank. The post created the spark for the gas and he was lucky to escape when he did. 

Our neighborhood is amazing. People came to make sure he was ok, one of our neighbors has an older vehicle they will be selling (exactly the kind of on-its-last-legs cars that he likes) and people were quick to help with clean-up. They also shared with him how glad they were that he was ok. As Brian and I talked about this throughout the last few days we mentioned this song and the fact that our experience, even in this terrible event, reflects the kind of Nebraska that we want to live in.  And the kind of country that we want to live in. A place where when a tragedy strikes people call for help, and they support each other. A place where we tell our neighbors – I’m glad you are safe. A place where a police officer gently asks questions of an older gentleman moments after a shocking event and commiserates with him about the wallet that was on the front seat of the car – and is now burned up. A place where kindness isn’t that unusual.  

Prayer: Creator God, thank you for watching over us. Thank you for helping us spread your love and your kindness to our families, friends, neighbors and strangers. Help us to increase the spread of kindness everywhere that we go. Amen    

Christi Moock          

Thursday, January 21, 2021

A Word from Jeremiah

 

I will put My law within them and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

They shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Jeremiah 31: 33b-34


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

 


One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins,  for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’  I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: 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; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:1-13

Monday, January 18, 2021

A New Baby

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born; and she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn. Luke 2: 6-7

They (the shepherds) ran to the village and found their way to Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby lying in a manger. The shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds story expressed astonishment, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and often thought about them. Luke 2:16-19

December twenty-fifth I had the privilege of seeing a little baby –the new niece of my grandson and his wife. As so often happens, when a baby is brought into the room—all eyes focus on the baby. There is a wondrous appreciation of the miracle of new life. I counted ten little toes on the feet that had worked hard to get rid of her socks. She had ten beautiful fingers which reached for her father when he cooed for her. Her eyes followed her parents whenever they moved. Her legs were in almost constant motion—an extension of her emotions between being happy and crying—which she could do well, very loudly. Of course, there was also the knowledge that she could eat and would need a diaper change—everything was working. I’m sure Mary, the mother of Jesus, felt these same things as she looked at her baby boy. Ten little toes, ten little fingers, eyes that followed her movements, little kicks that were now free of the womb. When the shepherds came , they were in awe of this miracle of birth—a beloved new baby, but also the future that had been told to them while they were out with their sheep. This was the joy of the savior’s birth. 

Christmas is over, but the vision of the tiny baby and the love it brings to the world lives on.  In these harried times, keep in mind the peace and joy of the baby and the hope he brings to us all throughout the ages.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for letting us witness the miracle of birth. The perfectness of your creation.  Thank you for your promise of salvation brought to us in the form of a baby. Thank you for the awe that still exists with new life. Amen 

Nancy Hall

Friday, January 15, 2021

Psalm 29

              

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,

    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

    worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. 

 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

    the God of glory thunders,

    the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.

 The voice of the Lord is powerful;

    the voice of the Lord is majestic.

 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;

    the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,

    Sirion like a young wild ox.

 The voice of the Lord strikes

    with flashes of lightning.

 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;

    the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks

    and strips the forests bare.

And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;

    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.

The Lord gives strength to his people;

    the Lord blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29

Thursday, January 14, 2021

"It's not about me, it's about us"

"...that all of them may be one.." John 17:21

Have you heard rhetoric from friends or families or even leaders in organizations or our country making things all about them lately? Have you been to a family reunion before and someone makes the event all about them instead of the whole group?

One thing I LOVE about the church and more specifically the church choir is how that message is challenged and a different example is set, the one set by our Savior. When coming to worship at Eastridge, I love that people saw a diverse group of people at front helping lead worship! We sang as a community, as a family, worshipping together. I saw young and old, rich and poor, black and white, all coming together to lead worship. I'm SO thankful for Brian and the pastors working so hard to make sure we don't lose that important message and example during this time. 

A very special thing about our church choir is that they continue the tradition of wearing robes. When someone sings in the church choir, we don't see fancy clothes or someone wearing the same shirt for the 50th time...we just see part of our church family, helping lead worship, inviting us to be a part! Again, it's not about me and my personality and what I wear, it's about us all, in Christ. I grieve the loss of the church choir leading worship every week right now. That constant message that it's not about YOU, it's about US. 

I thank the Lord for churches like Eastridge that have a choir helping lead worship every week that just by their being there say "It's not about me, it's about us" AND "ALL are welcome, all are children of God and ALL have a place here." What a message and example, following in the footsteps of our Savior, that goes against the message of the world. 

Brent Shaw

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Hope in the New Year

I tell you then, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours. Mark 11:24

On the decorative pear trees outside our window hang a few leaves.  As though to celebrate the ending of the year, they turned bright red. Each morning, I look for them and they still hang on in defiance of the cold winds. They lean close to the trunks of the trees like a small child hides in his/her mother's legs.

It cheers me to see them for we have been hanging on now for over half of a year in face of a pandemic. Finally a new year is here, and still we hang on. Isolated, cold, without hugs or much laughter, we chose to stay in touch with friends and family by zoom, telephone, Facebook, and frequent texts and pictures.

In our church life, we will listen to the Gospel of Mark in the coming weeks and wonder at the teachings of Jesus. The disciples will be called and once again we will journey to the cross.

Just now, I pulled the curtain to look for my red leaves but they are gone. We don't need them anymore for a new year has come with hope just as the tree will bring new leaves of green when spring comes.

Prayer:  Thank you God for all that we have and let us continue to be content with our lives. In your son's name, we pray.  Amen

Carolyn Olsen

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Hope

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. Psalm 9:18

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:20-22

I have been a part of the Pandemic Planning Team for my hospital since March of 2020. As part of this, I have done work that I could never have imagined. Since March, we have talked about what our medical community can do to fight the pandemic. What it will take to eradicate this virus. We have considered the miracles of modern medicine, and compared this virus to the influenza pandemic of 1918, physicians have expressed their fears, and considered how patients will be managed in the event of an infection surge. We have imagined a hospital with beds in hallways, with testing in tents, with patients in procedure rooms, with nurses from around the country coming to help us care for those impacted. And we have prayed, and hoped and dreamed of a vaccine. 

On December 10th, the FDA recommended approval of the first COVID vaccine in the United States. I felt GIDDY with hope. Even though the vaccination process will take MONTHS and will be a tremendous amount of work, this will give us a line of defense against a virus that has taken more than 300,000 lives in the United States. On December 14th the hospital that I work at started the vaccine clinic less than 4 hours after our supplies were received. During our pandemic call that afternoon you could hear the JOY in the voices of our clinicians, providers and organizational leaders. By the end of the day we had vaccinated more than 400 health care providers. 

The night following our first day of vaccinations my hope brought tears to my eyes. I was so relieved to be moving to the next phase of battle against this terrible virus. I was able to let go of some of the fear that I have spent so many months carrying. Fear for my family, myself, my community, the physicians and nurses and other health care professionals that I cherish deeply in my day to day work. Having those fears replaced with hope was one of the most earth shattering experiences I have ever had. 

Prayer: God of hope, thank you for guiding the scientists who have worked tirelessly toward a defense again this infection. Thank you for supporting and watching over the health care professionals who are providing care to your children. Amen     

Christi Moock

Monday, January 11, 2021

God’s Hand in Life

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55: 8-9

When I had a young family, we had 11 foster kids over several years. One was only 6 weeks old while his parents were in jail. Kelly was 2 years old and his brother, Aaron, was 1 year old at the time we had these boys. My second child, Christopher, was 2 years old and my daughter 10 years old at that time. When I first tried to pick these boys up they leaned away. It was like they were afraid of what I was going to do. When I held Aaron up to show him what I was cooking for dinner, he pushed away from my chest. I had just convinced them it was good when I picked them up and they started to lean into me when they left our home. They were returned to their parents which was hard for me. 

Jean was a 16-year-old when we had her for a few months. I don’t know if we helped her or made an impression on her because she stayed within herself. Dorothy and Sherrie were sisters. Dorothy was a couple of years older than our daughter, Tracey age 8 or 9, and Sherrie was only a kindergartner. We had these girls for almost a year. Dorothy was a little chubby and lost weight while living with us. One of the reasons is because she learned to play and be active as our daughter, Tracey, taught her activities instead of watching TV all the time. I wish we could have kept Dorothy until she was grown up as she became happier while living with us. Sherrie was a different story. She was afraid of my 6-foot-6- inch husband. This fear never left her as we had rules around our house. She also felt we had taken her from her daddy. Their dad visited a few times and we could tell the girls loved him. He was in his 80s and was incapable of raising the girls. He had no idea they were behind in school. There were other reasons they had been taken from his care. I felt badly they couldn’t be returned to his home, but the system was able to have them adopted by a pastor and his wife. This was good. 

Sheryl was 18 years old when she came to live with us. She had to spend part of the time in Bryan Hospital’s mental ward. However, she was with us over six months. At one point I noticed we were losing towels. I decided to check in her room and found them folded into the bottom drawer of her chest. She was honest with me and said she felt she would need them when she left our home. The joy I have now is that Sheryl, physically incapacitated and living on Washington State welfare, with help coming several days a week, continues to call me. She remembers my kids and the time she spent with us. She has lost two sisters to cancer and many other relatives have passed on and some not speaking to her at this time. We always talk and send each other presents. I am glad I can be someone to talk to when she is lonely.

The last children we had in our home included four of whom had three different fathers. One was a boy named Scott whom we would have adopted if the courts had not sent him to live with the father of his older sister. We had taken him in for a blood test and the courts knew this person was not his father. Scott was 4 years old and was older than our youngest child, Spencer. Scott would have fit into our family well. Scott had an older half-sister who was 2 years younger than our daughter who was 9. His younger half-sister was 2, same age as Spencer, and his youngest half- brother, Nasario, was a year old. Since we had three children when we added these 4 siblings, we had 7 children in our home of 1100 square feet. We couldn’t afford to buy as much milk as they wanted to drink, so we limited them to one glass at each meal. If they wanted more, we gave them water. You should have seen Payless Shoe Store when we showed up to buy shoes. Nasario had come to us with only one shoe and it was wintertime. We had to buy boots for everyone. 

I had been a legal secretary but decided to stay home when we had the two boys and that allowed me to be a foster parent, which I loved. I can think of ways I could have been better at it but did the best I could at the time. Then, one day, my husband said we should quit having extra children. My heart sank as I felt this was what I could do to help others while being at home with my own kids. I decided I would talk to him into letting me continue to do foster care. Then it hit me. What child would benefit by being in our home where one of the parents in the home didn’t want the child there? 

I can remember wondering what I should do while still being at home for our three children. Thankfully, my husband was bringing in a good salary. I became a part-time assistant to a neighbor who sold insurance. He bought a computer for $10,000 and I learned how to load his business onto it which had much less capacity than your cell phone does now. This computer knowledge has helped me as I wrote and published three books. Who knew this skill was needed before I did? God did. 

Then I met my good friend on the tennis ladder at Woods Tennis Courts. We moved from playing on the ladder to teaching tennis, running regional tournaments and umpiring around the country. We participated as partners in regional and national tournaments across the U.S. Sadly, she was killed in a small plane crash in 1993. Later in 1993 I was invited to assist coaching the women’s tennis team at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Who knew the present coach would leave and I would be asked to be head coach for the men and women on Wesleyan’s team? God did. He saw to it that I had the abilities to accept a position and coach for 10 years. This was my favorite job ever other than raising kids. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for knowing what I needed, when I needed it throughout my life. You prepared me each time so I was ready to take on more than I ever believed I could. As our Almighty God, you can do this for me while you are doing it for so many others at the same time. I wonder at your love for me and others. In Jesus name, Amen. 

Sandra Hilsabeck-Hastings (photos below shared by Sandra)




Friday, January 8, 2021

New Traditions

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11

At our house, the Christmas spirit has been alive and well. Brian is usually on the road most of the 4th quarter. Banks are spending the last of their budget dollars, year-end conversions to the new system have tight timelines, and everyone wants a little family time so he supports his team to make sure they get a break during the rush. This year with extremely limited travel and many customers spending less he has been home. This is one of our pandemic silver linings. 

With being home, Brian really wanted to make the most of the holiday season.  Lots of decorating, lots of treats, meaningful gifts, holiday movies, holiday music, and time spent with those we love, in whatever way we can achieve it. We celebrated Thanksgiving with a Webex and delivered smoked turkey with no-contact porch drop offs to all the family members that we usually see in the middle of the day on Thanksgiving. For Christmas we spent a weekend baking and took a day off work to deliver cookie plates throughout our neighborhood and to extended family in the area. 

It was heartwarming to put together something special for friends and neighbors during the holidays and we have had the most amazing feedback. A neighbor who has had a tough holiday season with a recent unexpected loss and geographically distant loved ones. A neighbor whose husband has a new and frightening diagnosis. A neighbor with a child with serious medical needs. Family members who were able to enjoy a family recipe and think about those we have lost, whose recipes bring back warm and loving memories. A cousin who is immobile and has felt isolated during the pandemic. 

As we have heard how much people enjoyed this gesture we have decided that this will be an ongoing family tradition at our house. We felt grateful for the stability of our jobs and our good fortune to have the time to make things and incredibly blessed to have friends and family to share with. 

Prayer: God who shares with us, thank you for your generosity and the model of your son Jesus Christ to share our love with others. Help us to take time to share on every occasion with those around us.  Amen. 

Christi Moock     

Thursday, January 7, 2021

The New Year

 


Your rod and your staff-they comfort me. Psalm 27:4

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear. Psalm 27:11

I received this poem from a 91-year-old friend in her Christmas card. It spoke to me because of the year 2020 and our new year 2021. I have read the poem many times and every part makes me think and gives me strength and peace in God and His Son, Jesus. We need to face the new year and walk with the Lord.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, help us walk in the new year with You and your son, Jesus. Amen

Susan Taylor

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

What About the Children?


Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. Mark 10:13-16

This posting (photo shown above) got me thinking “What about the Children?”

I can remember during my childhood all the traditions and lessons my parents taught me.

It wasn’t “if it’s a good day on Sunday, let’s go to church”.  It was Sunday is a day of worship.  We said grace at the table and prayers at night before bed. It’s probably why I am such a traditionalist and creature of habit. There was a schedule of what to do each day and only on special occasions was this changed.  

All through my life the good and the bad: these teachings led me to a closer relationship with God.  It has been a life of many daily conversations and prayers asking and thanking God for walking with me each day. 

Facing this year as I have faced many trials in my life: I know with God, all is what it should be and He is still beside me.  But what about the children: what do they have to help them through the tough times or to rejoice in the good?   Have we led them to follow Jesus?  Have we taught them to believe and pray?  What will hold them in their daily lives? 

Christmas is every day of every year.  As God gave us His only Son for eternity not just one day of the year. Praise God!

Prayer: Thank you Father for always walking with me.  Please guide us to teach your children to walk in your guiding light.  Amen 

Lori Hood

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Great is His Unfailing Love

 


 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

    for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

    great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

    therefore I will wait for him.”

 

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

    to the one who seeks him;

 it is good to wait quietly

    for the salvation of the Lord.

 It is good for a man to bear the yoke

    while he is young.

 

Let him sit alone in silence,

    for the Lord has laid it on him.

Let him bury his face in the dust—

    there may yet be hope.

Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,

    and let him be filled with disgrace.

 

For no one is cast off

    by the Lord forever.

 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,

    so great is his unfailing love.

 For he does not willingly bring affliction

    or grief to anyone. Lamentations 3:22-33

Monday, January 4, 2021

Feeding the People

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:13-21 NIV

Reading a devotion in the Upper Room recently, I was reminded of a poem by Mary Oliver. Mary’s poem, Logos, begins:

Why wonder about the loaves and the fishes?

If you say the right words, the wine expands.

If you say them with love

And the felt ferocity of that love

And the felt necessity of that love

The fish explode into many.

And at the end of the poem, she says:

Accept the miracle,

Accept, too, each spoken word

Spoken with love.

The devotion from The Upper Room, titled “Feed the Hungry”, discussed how those of us who help to feed the hungry are living out Jesus’ message “bring the hungry to me, and I will feed them”. We may not be able to multiply food the way that Jesus did, but we can share in His example by doing what we can to feed those with less.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for Food Banks. We are thankful for those people in our midst who donate food, who volunteer and/or work at Food Banks, and we ask that you open our hearts to those in need. Amen.

Donna Gustafson

Friday, January 1, 2021

Welcoming a New Year

 


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

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