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March 16

The Lord your God has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. Deuteronomy 2:7 NASB
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.  John 8:12
It would not be an exaggeration to say that we are living in troubled times. Lately when I have been working my way through the Old Testament (as I’ve mentioned in previous devotions, it is not exactly light reading, at least, not for me), the chapters about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert feel awfully familiar to me. The trip is long and treacherous, they face danger along the way, wake up every morning wondering “what’s next?” And like the Israelites, we doubt and question our leaders, and ourselves, and most of all, God.
“What’s next, God?” they asked. “We have no food or water, Pharaoh and his armies are after us, there are snakes attacking us, and we’re dying out here! Do something to help us, or we’re going to go back!” No matter how many times God communicates an answer to the Israelites through Moses, there is always something for them to complain about. Moses and God must have been sympathetic to the people at first, but thinking of how long they walked in the desert and how much complaining they did, we can certainly understand how God and Moses ended up getting frustrated with them.
We are doing the same railing against God — “Another school shooting, God? Another story on the news about homelessness and hunger, or the threat of war, while world leaders sit and argue about who is right and who is wrong! What are you going to do about it, God?” 
We too travel in a wilderness, often failing to remember that even as we are crying out for God to fix it and make it all better for us, that God is with us, even (or especially) in the darkest places of our lives, and that he is the light of the world, guiding us, calling us to do what we can to make things better in His name.
God, as we travel through dark places, help us to not only look for and follow your light, but to show your light to others so that they we can all walk together in your way. We thank you for your light of hope and peace and love. Open our eyes to look for you when we would be tempted to close our eyes and curse the darkness.
Lynda Tysdal

March 15

The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.  Psalm 19:8
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
Today’s verses, from John, chapter 15, put me in mind of one of the ten commandments, honor your father and your mother. I would think (or at least hope), that if you asked my parents what I was like as a kid, they would say that I was a good kid, well behaved, quiet, and obedient. However, if I look back on my life with a more critical eye, I could tell you plenty of stories of my parents asking me to do something and how I either argued with them about it, or dragged my feet, sometimes until my father or mother were forced to do whatever chore it was themselves, just so it would be completed in time. Some things they wanted me to do didn’t even get done at all.
I know that we can’t be expected to compare our childhood with that of our savior, Jesus. We can’t possibly compare to his example. For our sake, he was born a mortal, so that he could show us how to live and make the ultimate sacrifice for us, but that’s where the similarity ends. He must have been the perfect child for Mary and Joseph, at least I imagine so. The only trouble he got into as a child (that is written about in the Bible) is when he went missing, frightening his parents until they finally found him at the temple, sitting with the teachers and amazing everyone with his understanding and his questions.
“Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Jesus asks his astonished parents (Luke 2).
I didn’t always want to do what my parents asked me to do. What child does? I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I look back now at the (few) chores I did around the house and the homework that they reminded (forced) me to do for school, and I’m grateful. They taught me the value of hard work (I thought it was hard at the time), they showed me that education was important to them and should be to me, too.
Even now, as an adult, I’m still not the perfect child that my parents deserve. I should call and visit more often than I do, and we still don’t agree about everything. 
I think of this now especially because we are midway through Lent, when Jesus demonstrates the ultimate sign of keeping his Father’s commandments and being both fully human and God’s own son. Soon will come the time when God will call on him to give up his human life and suffer death on the cross. He’ll pray to his Father in the garden, asking if there’s any way that this cup can be taken from him, but when he sees that it must be done, he goes willingly. And even as he gives his life for us, he is thinking of his mother, Mary, making sure that she has a home with John before he dies (John 19: 25-27).
God instructed Jesus to die for us because God loved him, and loves us, and Jesus died for us because he loved God, his Father, and out of love for us. 
Loving God, loving Christ, Holy Spirit, even when life seems so hard for us, we remember and are so grateful for your love and sacrifices for us so that we might live. Help us to share your love with others, that they too might walk in the light of your love. Amen.
Lynda Tysdal

March 14

The revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it. Habakkuk 2:3 

The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 

Waiting, one of the hardest things we have to do. We get so impatient and want things to happen now. Just like the kids on the Fourth of July asking over and over again when the fireworks are to start, never mind that there is still daylight. We often say we just can’t wait until  Christmas comes, or a birthday, or spring break or at least the end of the work week. 

What Habakkuk and the people are waiting for won’t happen for another 66 years. The prophecy is estimated to have been written about 605 BC, Babylon falls in 539. That is kind of a long wait – with Babylon being seen as evil they can’t understand why God let the Babylonians win over them. Why doesn’t God rescue them, right now? After all, they may not be such good people, but those Babylonians are even worse.  Habakkuk has at least twice made this argument to God – the headings in my NIV Bible call them “Habakkuk’s complaint” and “Habakkuk’s second complaint.”. He prays out of anguish and God does hear him. God has a revelation and tells him to write it on tablets and share it with the people. Yes, they will be released from this exile, but it is going to take a while. 

God promises it will come, and it will come at the appropriate time, part of God’s plan for His chosen people. So, they just need to be patient and wait. Waiting is annoying because we see it so often as a passive thing where we do nothing. What can we do but just sit and wait? Perhaps waiting can be thought of as an active process. Perhaps the waiting time can be used to turn to God and live the life He intended for them. They can behave properly, not like the Babylonians who apparently are stealing, and plundering among other things. Rather than just complain, they can take action to care for those around them. Yes, it is hard to wait, and we don’t seem to have a revelation written out for us on a table, but we can know that God is patient with us. He wants to give us all the time we need to come to faithful belief. 

Lord of day and night, your timing is perfect. Forgive us our impatience as we wait for you. You have proven yourself faithful time and time and again. Let us learn from your divine patience to be patient with ourselves and others. Help us to engage with those in need and see your face in those around us.  May our desires be shaped by your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen 

Chris Gabel

March 12

“Give us life, and we will call on your name.”  Psalm 80:18

“If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  John 14:14

Sounds like MY will be done … “Give us life.” … “… Ask me for anything, and I will do it.” 

But some say, “Why pray?  It doesn’t ‘work’.”  We have read about children dying of treatable illness when parents prayed without seeking medical help.  There is a saying “There are no atheists in foxholes”, yet many of those praying for deliverance suffered death, severe injuries, and loss of friends.

We ask God for very important, worthwhile things:  an end to war, oppression and corruption; homelessness and hunger.  These are big messes for human beings to take on and we pray that God will take care of them.

Jesus told his disciples that when he must physically leave them, he would send a comforter, the Spirit of truth, to dwell with them and in them, supporting them in the mission he had begun, and which we all are to continue.  Jesus commanded them/us to love, and said “the one who believes in me will do the works that I do.”  In a recent sermon we were told of our responsibility to not just pray, but to act.  People such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa acted. 

We are a living prayer … in constant touch with a loving God who knows our wishes and needs even before we ask, and our gifts and strengths to act where there are needs to be met.  Food shelf volunteers, visitors to the sick and lonely, affordable housing advocates are acting.  Jesus’ own disciples gathered to pray, but also acted.  Hours before he died Jesus prayed there might be a different, easier plan for him … but God acted. 

Lord, remind us always of your presence, and your commandment to love one another.  Show us how we can provide and share with others.  Give us courage to act and speak out against injustice and to be advocates for those in need. Amen

Verla Olson

March 9

O Lord, do your eyes not look for truth? Jeremiah 5:3

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” Luke 17:5

Driving home from work late Monday afternoon, it was snowing hard, and even more than that, the wind was blowing the snow from what seemed like every side, and I thought to myself, so this is where the term ‘blinding snow’ comes from! If it hadn’t been for having my headlights on, it would have been hard to see anything in front of me, and even so, there were other cars on the same street without their headlights on.

Because I never know what thoughts will pop into my head based on outside stimuli or even for no particular reason, I wasn’t all that surprised when the thought came to me: it’s like sin.

What is?

Blinding snow is like being blind to sin, it occurred to me as I considered the thought. Blinding snow could mean that you can’t see anything else because of the blowing snow, or you could take it to mean that you’re seeing so much of it, you’ve become blind to it, that I was trying so hard to focus on the roads, and the other cars around me, and the way home, that I wasn’t even looking at the snow, but it was still very much there, and piling up around me as I drove through it.

We’re surrounded by sin every day, but we’ve become so blinded by it that we either don’t see it, or refuse to believe that we are seeing it. When we do see sin in action, we (and I include myself in that we) are quick to notice it (and point it out) in someone else’s behavior, whether it’s the actions of someone we see on the news, harsh and hateful words we hear in passing, or the behavior of one person to another right in front of us that we refuse to call out, not wanting to take sides, even when we could be helping another by speaking up.

Like the headlights on the car lighting up what’s around us, including the snow, the words of God point out our sinful behaviors, in the things we have done, and what we have left undone, showing us that there are things we can help to change in our world, our country, our city, and in ourselves, if we will just take notice of what we need to speak up about and realize what is wrong.

In Jeremiah 5, we’re told to run through the streets of Jerusalem, to see if you might find one person who is without sin, just one who is righteous. God says if you can find even one, He will pardon the city. All right, we’ll look… but find none around here. We look for some kind of justification and decide well, these are just the poor people in this part of town, they’re not educated, they can’t be blamed for being sinners, we’ll go to the rich side of Jerusalem, and we search there, but no, everyone there is a sinner, too.

We are all sinners, of course, but we have to at least try to act justly, and seek truth, as Jeremiah says here. 

If only we could be like the disciples, following Jesus, I think. They have plenty of faith, they’re not sinners. Then we read Luke 17, and remember that Jesus was always teaching them, or reminding them of something that he has already told them, or rebuking them when they do something wrong. Jesus tells them, if we only have faith the size of a mustard seed, we too can aspire to great things! What a wonderful thing to know, what a beautiful reminder, that all is not lost.

We are sinners. But Jesus is the way. Jesus is our headlights in the blizzard, the flashlight that we carry in the darkness to light our path. I come back again and again to the words of Micah 6:8: And what does the Lord require of you, but to justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. So easy, and sometimes, so difficult. We must do it anyway.

Forgiving God, thank you for your generosity, loving us despite our human errors and sins. Help us to see our own faults – and to change – before pointing out the flaws of others. Amen.

Lynda Tysdal

March 7

I am going to gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company they shall return here. Jeremiah 31:8 

I do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. John 4:34-35 

Looking out the window, it looks like we have a bit more than four months until harvest. I got a flyer from a garden store which is having an “ outdoor winter seed planting” workshop this weekend. This workshop will let us put seeds into soil and figure out what we can actually start growing even though there is a foot of snow on the ground. It’s time to think about sowing seeds, preparing garden beds and planning what plants to put in the ground when it thaws out in a couple more months. But harvest? That seems a long way off. 

Jesus is addressing His disciples as they have returned from getting food. They, as usual, are focused on the actual food in front of them and want Jesus to eat, ignoring the conversation He is having.. What had He been doing? Talking to the Samaritan woman at the well! Rabbis didn’t talk to women, and certainly not those that were from Samaria. What was Jesus thinking? You can almost hear the disciples deciding to just ignore this weird behavior, have some lunch, and be on their way. But Jesus has other plans; He was sent to all people of the world, not just one small group. The woman goes back into her town, and brings a more people to hear Jesus. God has prepared this harvest, people who are ready to hear what Jesus has to say; they stay in the town a couple more days, and many people (Samaritans all) come to believe in the Gospel. The disciples learn, eventually, that they will be spreading the word farther and farther away from home. 

In Jeremiah we hear about all the people that are to be gathered together . not just the exiled tribes of Israel, but people from the farthest ends of the earth. And not just the healthy ones, those that can easily walk and travel to the new land. This invitation from God is addressed to all, those that are ill, that are blind, or lame, all groups that might be marginalized in their society. None of this matters, in God’s plan everyone from all the earth is to be reconciled to Him. These are the people the disciples will be taking the message to, not just their own people, but those they don’t even like or think are deserving of being part of the group. Jesus sends them out to heal, and to preach and to welcome. We too can serve God by including all people, no matter their circumstances, as we help out at food shelves, with health care, with caring, and as we share the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

God of compassion, pour into us today a new desire to notice the least, the last and the broken in our midst. Help us to see with renewed insight, the opportunities that abound to partner with you to help all who are in need. . Forgive us when we do not answer your call to harvest. Help us to be on the lookout for hearts you have ripened, especially including those we may not expect. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Chris Gabel

March 6

You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me in joy. Psalm 30:11 

When Jesus saw the crippled woman, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. Luke 13:12-13 

Pooh Bear is walking along the river bank. Eeyore, his stuffed donkey friend, suddenly appears floating downstream … on his back of all things, obviously troubled about the possibility of drowning.

Pooh calmly asks if Eeyore had fallen in. Trying to appear in complete control, the anguished donkey answers, “Silly of me, wasn’t it.” Pooh overlooks his friend’s pleading eyes and remarks that Eeyore really should have been more careful.

In greater need than ever, Eeyore politely thanks him for the advice (even though he needs action more than he needs advice). Almost with a yawn, Pooh Bear notices, “I think you are sinking.” With that as his only hint of hope, drowning Eeyore asks Pooh if he would mind rescuing him. So, Pooh pulls him from the river. Eeyore apologizes for being such a bother, and Pooh, still unconcerned, yet ever so courteous, responds, “Don’t be silly … you should have said something sooner.” 

Compassion! When that word is used, most folks don’t have any idea at all what it means. Some people think of weakness when they think of compassionate people. Men especially are guilty of viewing compassion as something “weak, soft people do”. In truth, expressing compassion towards others reveals strength of character that few people possess. 

When we read the Gospels, they tell us of Jesus and His great compassion for mankind. We see that our Savior was moved deeply in His inner being by the needs of those around Him. How could Jesus reach out to all the people He did? How could He care about so many different people with so many different problems? What motivated Him? Because that is who Jesus is. He is God in the flesh. He is not encumbered with a fallen nature. He is not selfish. He is not self-centered. He transcends all the faults and flaws that mark humanity. In truth, when we love others as we should, we will not wait to be asked. We will be moved with compassion for them and we will get busy helping them for Jesus’ sake. 

Gracious and merciful God, in the company of your people I experience healing and renewal over and over again. Show me how to share these gifts with others. Fill me with your compassion. Lord. Send me with good news to those around me who need your touch. Amen. 


Susan Hanson

February 23

The commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes. Psalm 19:8

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit of life. John 6:63

One of the glories of the Lord is that his word, spoken and recorded for us in the Bible, is relevant today even as it was when spoken and recorded generations ago. There are no other ancient writings that have the guidance, comfort, and redemptive promise of grace that his word continues to be to us. When our hearts, minds, and spirits are open to letting the spoken word guide our lives, we are lifted up from whatever weighs us down in our day-to-day world. We know that he also rejoices with us when we experience blessings. We can move on knowing that we have in him the spirit of life and the promise of life eternal.

We hear and read of tragedy and loss every day. We know that such happenings are sometimes beyond comprehension. For those who have enlightened eyes, there is hope. Sometime the hope, seems to be a small glimmer, but it is still there. It reaches beyond all loss and brings the hurting soul back to the presence of God whose arms are wide open waiting to bring all into his fold.

Dear and precious Lord and Savior,

Thank you for being the fount of every blessing. Glorious are the words you give to guide our hearts, minds, and souls. Whether your word comes to us in faint whispers or thunderous calls, may we be eager to listen to their comforting promise of grace. Amen.

Florence Smallfield 

February 22

Does God speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19 NIV
Jesus said to Peter: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31
Dear recipient of the CTK daily devotion,
I hope that this devotion will make sense, because right now the world doesn’t make much sense to me.
Every day there seems to be more bad news: another school shooting, a teenager reacting to their own pain by killing classmates and teachers, another world leader threatening nuclear war, and in our own neighborhoods, homelessness and hunger as well as home and food insecurity run rampant. I turn to my Bible readings, hoping for answers, or at least some way of sharing hope with others, but find myself wondering if finding answers should be left to someone with a greater understanding of what God is saying to us through His holy word. Maybe it’s just me, but finding meaning in the Bible can be confusing for me, especially in the early books of the Old Testament, with its lists of rules about what should be worn, and planted, and given to the Lord as offering, especially burnt offerings, and who is allowed to marry whom.
Still, I search, hoping to find words of instruction for what we can do to make the world right again. The Bible says we are supposed to love our enemies (Matthew 5), but the teenager who shot up a school in Florida is not my enemy, but a kid who did something terrible because he thought it was the only way of… what, getting help? Expressing his pent up anger? We might not ever know why, but we search for answers in hope of keeping it from happening again.
I feel angry at the people in power in our country and in the world, that they don’t do something to make things better, to change the laws, to bring peace to the world, but I know, even as I feel that way, that anger isn’t the right way to go about it.
In today’s Bible reading, Numbers 23, Balak is angry at his enemies, the Israelites, and calls on Balaam to tell God to curse the Israelites. Several times, Balaam has Balak build an altar to God and sacrifice bulls and rams on it, and each time, God refuses to curse the Israelites. Is that what we’re asking God to do, if we pray in anger to get rid of our enemies? But we’ve been told that vengeance is the Lord’s, and our place is to overcome evil with good (Romans 12).
It’s hard to give up our anger at what is going wrong in our world (trust me), but in the second reading for today (Matthew 14), Jesus tells Peter (and us) tells us to have faith in what He can do. I don’t believe God is telling us to give up or not to do anything to change our world. I think we need to speak up to our leaders, communicate with them, and pray for them, and encourage them to do what is right – feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take in the homeless, care for those who are ill in body and mind. God will direct us, and He will take care of us, but we should do what we can do. 
God of hope, God of peace, help us with our anger when the world seems so wrong. Help us direct our anger and frustration to your purpose, to use our energy to serve you by helping our neighbors, down the street and around the world.
Thank you for giving us your word, and the ability to read it, to read and study your word. Thank you for giving us leaders who know your word and can discern their meaning and make it clearer to us.
Forgive our feelings of helplessness and help us to get up and work to make our world – which you have given us – a place of hope and love for all. Amen. 
Lynda Tysdal

February 21

But you will not go out in haste, nor will you go as fugitives; The Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. Isaiah 52:12 

Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1

Ever have those days when things aren’t going so well? The news media reported today that, on average, we have 60 bad days each year. That is about 1 day each and every week. Now, there are days like that when we just want to move along into the next day and leave the current one behind, but one day a week? That must include bad hair days along with all the other problems that crop up in our lives. Bad days where we are perhaps ill, or lonely, or have fears and worries, and maybe feel far away from our friends and even from God.

Isaiah is speaking to the remnant of Israelites as they are to depart Babylon. They have probably had a whole lot of bad days, they are in exile, they are far from home, and far from the center of their religion. But now they have the hope of returning. They are told to get out of Babylon, take the Holy things, and know that The Lord is right there with them. In the translation from the Message Bible, Isaiah 52:12: “But you don’t have to be in a hurry, you’re not running from anybody! God is leading you out of here, and the God of Israel is also your rear guard.” Just like when they left Egypt and God sent a pillar of fire to follow, He again will lead the people where they are to go. And, He is watching behind them so that they will be safe.

We spend a lot of time worrying about what has happened in our lives, maybe dwell on those bad days, and fear what the future might hole. Somehow we tend to forget the here and now, the time we are in that is where we are in fellowship with each other in the presence of God and Jesus Christ. But God already knows all about us and our fears, He already planned our salvation through His Son. When we fear what is ahead, Lord, you say to trust you here and now. When we fear what is already past and gone, you say to trust you here and now.  We need to just remember that God goes everywhere we go and is with us always.

As you go on your way, may God go with you.
May God go before you to show you the way.
May God go behind you to encourage you,
beside you to befriend you,
above you to watch over,
within you to give you peace.                     (Lutheran Vespers blessing) 

Dear Lord, thank you for your Spirit and for your call to trust you right now where we are, for the past, the future, and all moments are in your strong hands.  With you by our side we shall have nothing to fear. Help us to boldly share this Good News with others. Amen.

Chris Gabel