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June 22

When you have eaten your fill, take care that you do not forget the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:11-12

 

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

 

To think of the Lord in all that we say and do is never easy. He is always there for us, but we often stray, especially when we feel optimistic that our needs are being met. At such times we may even feel a sense of pride in what we have accomplished and may neglect to give God due credit.

 

Without God we can do little. It is in him that we live and move and have any being. Just think, when all else fails we know that he is in our corner. We just need to turn to him in prayer. Even when we cannot pray he is there to make intercession for each of us.  He is there to guide us, free us from worry, and to give us an inner peace that only he can provide.

 

That doesn’t mean that we will never have issues that seem too great to bear, but we know through his word and promise that we are never alone. To God be the glory for all that we are, all that we have, and all that we do.

Dear Lord,

We are assured by your word that you are there to help and guide us during both good and difficult times. We thank you for that. Let each of us find joy in doing everything for your glory and honor. Help us to share your word and assurance with others. Amen.

Florence Smallfield



June 21

Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.  Isaiah 60:18 

The one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

Doesn’t this passage from Isaiah sound like a wonderful thing? To not hear any more violence would be great. However, violence is certainly heard within the borders of our land. There have been a number of shootings and attacks on people in our own community of the Twin Cities (as well as many other places in our country). We have trials and jury decisions that don’t seem to get at the root of the violence around us. Around the world there are wars and conflicts and threats of war. Besides the violence, there are also a number of natural disasters, destruction from tornados, floods and wildfires.  The recent storms across Minnesota were some of the many this spring that brought great devastation. It is hard to imagine the complete loss of your home, possessions and to be without means to find new housing.  This sounds like we could use a land and a world where everything is safe.

Isaiah told people centuries ago that there is a future place where none of this will happen anymore.  They won’t have to worry about enemy attacks and destruction of their communities.  For us too, we won’t even hear about violence, much less experience it, in this place where salvation will surround all of us. Imagine a city where the gates will only hear praise, not warnings against enemies. This is not the land we have now, of course, but it is the one God intends for His people to have. Perhaps we can pray and work together toward a land with less violence to all people.

As God created everything in the first place, He promises to make all things new. Everything that was created was deemed “Good.” There will be “no more death, or mourning or crying or pain for the old order if things has passed away.”(Rev. 21:4).  No matter how fearful events may seem, we know that God is still in control and cares enough about all of us to have sent Jesus as our savior. While we work to lessen the violence in the world around us, we can also have the future hope of a world of peace as God intended.

Lord God of all creation, you created us and this world and called it good.  Forgive us as we have damaged your creation, and for the violence we cause.  Thank you for creating peace within us and your promise of peace within your city.  Take our hands so that, renewed by your Presence, we can enter through the gates of Praise.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen 

 Chris Gabel



June 20

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones. Isaiah 49:13

I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you.  2 Corinthians 2:3

I have often asked myself whether it’s right to experience joy in a world so ravaged. If we, as flawed human beings in a flawed world, have a right to joy? Because the world is filled with horrible dangers, and if dreaded things happened to people we love, would they forever after be doomed? If “this” or “that” were to take place, would joy forever be beyond my reach and I would just never, ever be truly happy again.

It took years of living and learning, and the personal experience of some of those dreaded devastating events, to find out that joy was not something God distributed as a reward to those who managed to live their lives avoiding pain. Joy was, instead, an integral part of our human spirit. I did not need to seek it, I only needed to stop fearing, and seeking, long enough to let it be. I learned that in my own life, as well as in the lives of those around me, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional, and moving beyond suffering and myself, by mindfully living fully in that moment………….. joy happens!

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Your joy in me Lord, is joy to me. Thank you for your comfort and compassion, which let me rest in you. The gift of your Creation both cradles me to sleep and wakes me into the day. Let confidence in your love be my companion as I follow you, especially through the pain of life and death. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



June 15

“We will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands.”  Hosea 14:3

“All belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”  1 Corinthians 3:22-23

We are given an assignment, we do our best, and we appreciate recognition for a job well done.  We need affirmation for healthy self-esteem and feeling of self- worth.  And we should affirm others, acknowledging their good work and the varied gifts we all have been given.  We applaud invention and innovation, organizational skills, creativity and art in all its forms.

I have enjoyed and felt inspired reading books about the early tycoons in our country, often described as self-made, born into humble households, and overachieved.   Some were rather ruthless in their drive to be the wealthiest, own the most, control.   We can name people alive today for whom success and even great wealth were not enough, mismanaging their businesses to unfairly acquire more. 

Employment is important.  We need what others can do – grow food and fix faucets, make music and paint, make us well and care for us if they can’t.  And others need us.  We work hard and hopefully plan wisely to support families, save, and hopefully share; not to accumulate as much material stuff as possible, but for the well-being of our communities and others.  

Jesus did not lead his disciples along a pathway of wealth and possessions.  Living our faith includes how we work and play – fairly.  Our power is not a big desk in a corner office but the presence of the Holy Spirit in all we do.  We use our gifts … they are just that – gifts … with gratitude to God for the benefit of others, to God’s glory.

“… Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of thy love … take my silver and my gold … take my intellect and use every power as thou shalt choose … take my will and make it thine … take my heart it is thine own.  It shall be thy royal throne.”  Amen     (Frances R. Havergal)

Verla Olson



June 14

When they call to me, I will answer them. Psalm 91:15

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Romans 8:26

“When all else fails, pray.” Have you heard this phrase? Sometimes we do manage to wait and try everything on our own, and then when really desperate, pray. Dreanna Watson writes in “The Praying Woman” that she overheard a conversation where one woman said she had tried everything from counseling to punishment to help with her son’s problems, and another said, “When all else fails, pray.”  She goes on to say that so often this is what we do. We pray “ONLY when things are going wrong or when we need God to handle something real quick for us. God is always there for us no matter what, but sometimes we wait until things have spiraled out of control or until we finally realize that we can’t make it on our own. After all, we are to pray without ceasing, I Thessalonians 5:17.

There are many times that are times to pray: when things are going well we could actually take a little time to thank and praise God; when others need help, that is a good time to pray too. She also lists the times that we need to make a decision, take some time to pray, and then finally, when we are burdened and feel helpless. We pray in the morning, at meals, at bedtime and anytime in between.

Wonder if there will be an answer? Jesus told us to ask and we will receive. Psalm 91 says that when those who love God call to Him, He will answer them. . Maybe not the answer we were expecting, or even one that we recognize. But an answer will be there if we take the time to wait and really continue the conversation.

Don’t know what words to use? Jesus’ disciples shared our confusion about how to pray. They ask Jesus to tell them how to pray; Jesus responds with the Lord’s Prayer. This can be used daily and gives a pattern for our more specific prayers. But maybe we are at the point where we just are saying “HELP.” We are assured that the Holy Spirit is there, right there with us, and will pray with and for us. What a wonderful God we have that wants to hear from us, will listen and even provides the means the words for us to do communicate with our Creator.

Thank you Lord, for hearing us and for providing the means for us to pray when we don’t know what to say or how to say it. Come into our wandering thoughts and guide us. Heavenly Father, we are always in a hurry as we approach your throne of grace, and because of this we are neither specific nor intentional in our conversations with you. We leave out some of the most important things as we pray. Forgive us, Lord, teach us how to pray. Amen.

 

Chris Gabel



June 13

Let all those rejoice who put their trust in you. Psalm 5:11

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. John 15:10-11

“I love mankind; it’s the people I can’t stand.” Sounds about right. People can be annoying. Loving people can be hard. Yet the Bible says that is what we are supposed to do. Loving your neighbor is not a grey area to be discussed and debated. It is a command. Clear and concise. And to the point.  

Jesus gave love priority over all other Christian virtues. Every thought, response, and act of goodwill must first pass through the fine filter of love, or it means nothing at all. In “Strength to Love”, Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraged us to realize that “our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives.” But why love? What makes it so important?
 
Why must we love the people who kill our children? Why must we love the neighbor who had an affair with our partner?

When Jesus spoke to the disciples regarding the first and second greatest commands, he explained that “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matt. 22:40).

To the people of Israel, as well as for many of us today, it would seem more logical for obedience to be the peg from which the Law hangs, since the point of writing a law is follow it. Paul tells us “Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10).

This may sound irrelevant to us in today’s world, because we depend on police departments, guns, and force to uphold and fulfill the law. Yet Jesus’ simple command requires greater strength than any of us naturally possess – more power than any man-made weapon.

The logic of Paul’s interpretation of Jesus’ command that love fulfills the Law seems simple. Well, relatively. For if one loves his neighbor, he will not commit adultery with his neighbor’s spouse. If he loves his coworker, he will not lie to him. And if loves his enemy, he will not kill him. Love fulfills the law,

because if we truly love every person because he is a person, we will not desire to hurt or violate him or her, thus never break the law. God established love as the impetus for obedience.

OK………so when we demonstrate Christian love, it should distinguishes us from the rest of the world. Jesus did not say that people will know that you are my disciples if you promote my agenda, or wear Christian T-shirts or a WWJD bracelet, or have a fish decal on your car, but rather if you love one another. A watching world will be persuaded not when our values are promoted but when they are

incarnated, when we become purveyors of love. It is as though Jesus has given the entire world the right to judge whether or not one is His follower simply on the basis of their love for fellow human beings. It is the vivacious virtue of love that distinguishes us.

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord

And we pray that all unity may one day be restored

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

They will know we are Christians by our love

We will work with each other, we will work side by side

We will work with each other, we will work side by side

And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

They will know we are Christians by our love

By our love, by our love

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

They will know we are Christians by our love”

Written by Peter Scholtes          Music by Carolyn Arends

Jesus, my joy, I rejoice in the promise of your abiding love. Thank you for loving me even when I am unlovable. I am sorry that I don’t love with the same love you have for me. Teach me how to abide in your love and to love others so that I might be part of your complete joy. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



June 9

They rejoice before you as joy to the harvest.  Isaiah 9:3 

The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul and no one claimed ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common  Acts 4:32

Graduation season is upon us.  There are graduations and parties and celebrations that touch many of us.  How exciting for everyone involved! 

I often think the parties and ceremonies of these events should remind us to do some reflection.   For those leaving high school or college, the world is truly their oyster and there is so much future yet to be written.  What does the future hold for the graduates?  Where will they be in five years?  What will they have accomplished?    Graduations are truly special events and the results of very hard work and commitment.

But reflection isn’t just about them, it is about each of us.  What is our future?  What will we accomplish? 

I bring this up, because sometimes I think we forget to take that step back and see where we are at, see how well things are going for us and frankly to ponder the excitement of an unknown future.  It is easy for us to think of those things in a positive way for the eighteen year old who is graduating from high school but it is much more difficult to do it for ourselves especially the older we get. 

But outside of having a few more years under our belts we have the same situation in front of us.   We have a loving God who cares for each of us and has crafted a future that only he knows.   This is the same answer if you are 18 or 38 or 68 and so on.

So as we go through this graduation time, maybe take a moment and reflect and rejoice on your own future and the certainty that God has you safe in his hands.

God, as I live my daily life, please help remind me that the future is not known to me or any of us and that is part of your plan.  God, also please help me remember the excitement of the unknown that is safe under you watch.

Al Rivers



June 7

Let the righteous be joyful; let them exult before God; let them be jubilant with joy. Psalm 68:3

The kingdom of God is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17

I am reading a book by Rick Steves, “Travel as a Political Act.”  In the introduction he tells about a time when he was 14 – and knew his parents really loved and cared for him; in fact their world revolved around him! They took him on a trip to Norway, to a park and there he saw lots of other parents and kids. He realized that all those parents loved their kids, it wasn’t just his family. He realized that “this planet is home to billions of equally lovable children of God.”

We have a God who cares for the afflicted, whether from physical disease, mental illness, those in trouble and all of us all the time. The joy referred to by the Psalmist is there for all those billions of lovable children of God. Yet, it is such a worrisome world we live in. So many things seem to be going on to make life not so joyful. If we read a paper or look at the news on TV or online we see lots of problems from famine, to drought, to wars and terrorism. Within our own community we have illness, death, lack of employment and money difficulties.  Of course there are lots of good times too, but we often tend to emphasize the negative. Even when things are going well, do we actually feel joyful? Or as the Psalmist states it “be jubilant with joy.”

It is the righteous who are joyful, exulting before God; who get to be so jubilant. This sounds good, so what do we have to do to be righteous? How do we earn the right to celebrate with all this joy?  Maybe there is some formula we can follow, a list of items to tick off as we progress along our way.

Well, as we all know this is not something that we can earn by our own efforts. Through His grace and love in sending Jesus as our Savior, we do become righteous through the help of the Holy Spirit.

Peace, joy and jubilation – all the things that God wants us to have – are there for us daily through the grace of God.

Lord, in spite of our aches and pains, our disappointments and setbacks, we can still experience a joy and peace which no one can take away from us. Thanks for your abiding presence and care. May your peace that passes understanding permeate our lives. Let your Holy Spirit fill our lives. In the peace of Christ, Amen.

Chris Gabel



June 6

I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord. Ezekiel 37:14

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:26

The fable is told of a Bagdad merchant who sent his servant to the market to pick up some goods for him. While the servant was making the purchases in the market place he found himself face to face with Death! In great fear he returned to his master and told him that Death had given him a menacing look and that he must have a horse so he could escape to Samara, a city some distance away. The master quickly gave his servant a horse, and then went to the market place to find Death. When he found him he asked, “Why did you give my servant a menacing look?” Death replied, “I wasn’t looking at him menacingly, I was merely surprised to see him here in Bagdad; for, you see, I have an appointment with him tonight in Samara.”

Dying is part of living.

Death is not an exception, but the norm. Faith recognizes that living and dying is what all of God’s creatures do. Dying is part of living. That we will die is not open to question. What is open to question is how we die. Dying is part of living, but that doesn’t mean we don’t fear death. 

Woody Allen said, “I don’t fear death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Dying is the most universal of human customs. And wanting to not talk about dying, wanting to not even think about dying is almost as universal as well. We are sad when a loved one dies. We are afraid when we think about our dying. Dying leads us into unknown territory. Fearing death is a natural, normal human response. It is even healthy to be afraid of dying – our fear leads us away from dangerous situations. It is in dying that we glimpse the humanity of God, who enters human life and human suffering, living and suffering with us. And it is in dying that we grasp the divine destiny of humankind created in the likeness and image of God.
How mistaken we are about death. We think that we are going from the land of the living to the land of the dying. Not so. We are going from the land of the dying to the land of the living. Jesus Christ has said it, and it is so.
 
Father, when I imagine that I can secure my own safe place in this world, call me out of that foolish fantasy and into your land of promise. When enemies threaten to attack me, show me that your nail-pierced hands are stronger. Help me to learn your song of victory over death so I can sing it for others. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



June 5

God stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.  He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.  Job 9:8-9.

Worship God who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.  Revelation 14:7

Reading the above passages caused me to think about the Seven Wonders of the World.  Since my memory of them was very dim (it’s been a long time since Ancient History class), I googled and learned that only one of those Wonders was still standing. Most were destroyed by fire or earthquake.

 I don’t know of a list of more modern wonders, although I can’t help but think that such a list would be  long.  God created the world and there are wondrous things all around us.  I made my own personal list and it looks like this.

            A newborn baby

            A sunset over water

            Springtime green on the trees

            A cold clear lake

            My cell phone

Our days are pretty ordinary most of the time and it’s difficult to see the wonders in our world. But God is wonder-full and He has set us in the midst of his awesome handiwork Of course some days our eyes are dimmed by the worries and cares of our lives, but this too will pass and God will once again open our eyes to the beauty of his creation. Trust in the wonder. Make your own list and add to it every day. Creator God, we worship you and thank you for our amazing world. Amen

Joan Perlich