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August 18

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  Isaiah 12:3

“Jesus said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’”  John 7:37-38

I enjoy pulling weeds, poking around between plants and flowers, down in the dirt.  But dirt is often a ‘dirty’ word:  dirty book, dirty joke, dirty look, dirty job, and so on.  For the most part we don’t want to be or feel dirty.  We routinely wash our children, pets, floors, cars, ourselves.  “Wash your face”, “Wash your hands” we say … and “Clean up your act!”  I think how good a shower and hair washing feel after a few days camping or a hospital stay.  I remember seeing my mother in in a nursing home following a massive stroke … for the most part incoherent and unresponsive, yet smiling when her hair was gently washed by a loving caretaker.  And how good water tastes after yardwork or physical activity!  Our bodies need water to survive – clean water.  More than 800,000 people die each year from drinking unsafe water and sanitation issues (WHO estimate).  Some speculate the problem of lack of available clean water will mushroom.

Our souls, too, crave refreshment – when we are feeling restless, lonely, downcast; when we simply take grace for granted and forget to resupply our need.  Then God’s presence pours out a lavish dose of refreshing, cleansing mercy and grace.  God’s grace is not meant to collect in and fill only my private pitcher.  Grace is not a faucet to be turned off when I am satisfied.  “Rivers of living water will flow from within …”  The water wash of God’s mercy and grace is to flow from within us, out and onward in a continuous river of compassion and generosity, the same mercy and grace so richly poured out upon us. 

“As pants the hart for cooling streams when heated in the chase,

So longs my soul, O God, for thee and thy refreshing grace.”

“For thee, my God, the living God, my thirsty soul doth pine.

Oh when shall I behold thy face, thou majesty divine?”

“Why restless, why cast down, my soul?  Hope still; and thou shalt sing

The praise of him who is thy God, thy health’s eternal spring.”  Amen  

(prayer text:  Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady)

Verla Olson



August 16

Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream Amos 5:24 

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 2 Corinthians 9:10

Justice – Merriam Webster defines this as “the quality of being just, impartial, or fair.”  The Thesaurus says justice is synonymous with fairness, impartiality, honesty, evenhandedness and uprightness. When we pledge allegiance to the US flag, we pledge with liberty and justice for all, perhaps inspired in part by this verse. Having justice roll down like waters sounds like a huge waterfall, lots of water cascading in a beautiful arc over the cliff to the river below. It is something that is generous, abundant, and has a power that cannot be resisted. Righteousness, defined as: “1: acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin. 2a: morally right or justifiable a righteous decision b: arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality. An ever flowing stream, just as plentiful clean water is needed for crops and animals to live, so are justice and righteousness needed for human life to be complete.

Our world is troubled by many incidents where it seems that justice “for all” and in abundance is not happening. The recent bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, white supremacist groups marching in hate, and many more incidents indicate we have a long way to go to see fairness and equitable treatment for all. It seems very easy for people to hate, and get in groups where that hate is supported and multiplied. What can we do?

I remember being 15 years old at the time of the civil rights/voting rights march in Selma, Alabama. My aunt and cousin were going and I wanted to go too; not old enough my mother said. Who would have thought that 52 years later there would still be a need for civil rights marches to affirm the equality and dignity of all people?  Seems like we have a long way to go.

We are told in Micah 6:8 that what God really wants us to do in this world is: “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” We need the God who gives us love and grace in abundance, who supplies seed for sowing, and multiplies it in the harvest. The God who wants all of His children to live in peace and harmony; in a world where love drives out hate and fear. 

Thank you, Lord, for the freedom privileges, and riches that we enjoy. Forgive us for taking your gifts for granted and for not considering those who not get the same privileges so many of us enjoy. Open our hearts to share generously, allowing your justice to roll down on those around us so that the harvest will increase. Help us stand up for the rights of all people, and work together with our neighbors in peace and love. Source of salvation, give us eyes that look for justice, ears that listen for peace, and voices of righteousness proclaiming Christ’s love. Amen 

Chris Gabel



August 15

We shall overcome, we shall overcome

We shall overcome someday

Here in my heart, I do believe

We shall overcome someday

 

We’ll walk hand in hand, we’ll walk hand in hand

We’ll walk hand in hand someday

Here in my heart, I do believe

We’ll walk hand in hand someday

 

We shall live in peace, we shall live in peace

We shall live in peace someday

Here in my heart, I do believe

We shall live in peace someday

 

We are not afraid, we are not afraid

We shall overcome someday

Here in my heart, I do believe

We shall overcome someday

 

We shall overcome, we shall overcome

We shall overcome someday

Here in my heart, I do believe

We shall overcome someday

 

We shall overcome someday

 

Songwriters: Pete Seeger, Frank Hamilton, Zelphia Horton, Guy Carawan

 

Peace,

Susan Hanson



August 10

O taste and see that the Lord is good : happy are those who take refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. John 6:51

God promised the Israelites that taking refuge in him would make them happy.  That promise extends to us too.  But are most people truly happy, even Christians?

My dictionary defines happiness as “a state of well-being and contentment, also pleasurable satisfaction.”  I especially like the word contentment.  I pray for contentment often.

There are many things in life that bring us pleasure.  I experience pleasure and even joy when my grandchildren call or when my house is clean or when I am lying on a raft with a clear blue sky above me.  But those pleasures are short lived.  Seeking pleasure as a goal in life is not what God wants for us.  It is a hedonistic way of living.

There are many factors in life which can interfere with our happiness.  Physical and mental issues, money issues, even how we think and express ourselves. But psychologists tell us that there are ways to promote our own happiness. One of these ways is to find meaning and purpose in life. Christians don’t have to look far to find those.  Our purpose is to love and serve God and others.  But sometimes God might say to us, using the words of a popular song, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.”  We can’t be happy all the time.

 We can also make ourselves happier by being grateful.  Every day, write down 5 things that you are grateful for. Cherish and nurture relationships, smile more, Love, love, love.  And pray.

The United Nations declared March 20th as The International Day of Happiness expressing the desire for all nations to value and achieve well-being for their people.

Lord God, you desire us to be happy, joyful and fulfilled.  We know we cannot do this on our own.  We also know that you know that we are imperfect human beings. And that you are there for us in all our down and up moments. Thank you for your promises, and help us to confess our sinfulness, accept your forgiveness, and love and serve you and others.  Amen.

Joan Perlich



August 9

The Lord gives wisdom from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. Luke 4:14-15

Our Lord God is the source of wisdom, as He is the source of everything. Since He is all-knowing He understands everything about the world and about us. The proverb says that this wisdom is given to us. So, how do we go about getting this wisdom? Most of us went to school for a number of years, some of us went for lots of years, and gained knowledge about a variety of subjects. Not sure if any of this was actually wisdom, I was always good at learning the “facts” and putting them back on the test to get a good grade. Wisdom is a bit different. It requires us to put together all those facts, useful for trivia games or if we are ever on Jeopardy, into a whole that gives us understanding.

1 Corinthians 12:8 tells us: To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit. “Knowledge is the facts. Understanding is the ability to lift the meaning out of the facts, and Wisdom is knowing what to do next. Since God rarely gives all three gifts to any person, we need to cooperate and assist each other with our particular gift–in this, as in every area.”*

Where can we get this wisdom that allow us to take the knowledge we have gained, the understanding we get and do something with it? We can look at the example of Jesus as related in Luke. Jesus is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit at His baptism and then is in the wilderness being tempted. He then returns to Galilee and begins teaching in the synagogues. People listen, people are amazed by His wisdom and praise Him to others.

We have access to this same Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We need to start out getting our knowledge, trying to understand. However, this is not something we can do totally on our own. Others can help, the fellowship of believers is powerful. Regular Bible reading, study and prayer are all there for us to use. Finding the time to do this – maybe not so easy, but the rewards are tremendous. Jesus said we should just ask and we will receive. Or from James, 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Thank you, Lord, for your knowledge and your understanding. Thank you for the wisdom available through your Word, Jesus Christ. When we are tempted to ignore your guidance and seek the world’s wisdom, send your Holy Spirit to convict our hearts. We so desire to know more of you. Gracious God, by the power of your Holy Spirit, show us the way of your Son, Jesus, our Savior, our teacher, and our friend. Guide our thoughts and deeds today, so our words and actions lift up Jesus.

Chris Gabel



August 8

I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to obey my ordinances. Ezekiel 36:27

God has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant. 2 Corinthians 3:6

“That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.” Albert Einstein

“Jump and I’ll catch you.” Have you ever heard a parent say that to a child perched on some high place? Can you remember one of your parents saying that to you when you were little? Did you do it? Did you jump? I think that in a sense, that is similar to what God says to us. God reaches out to us in love to make a covenant with us. He begins that process by making promises to us. God promises to be there for us and to love us, unconditionally and always. Hard to believe, that He would love us after some of the stupid things we do.

But in order to live in that covenant, that promise, we have to dare to live our lives as if we believe God will keep his promise. There is some risk involved in doing that. But unless we take that risk, we can never learn to live in the covenant that God wants to make with us. God says, “Jump and I’ll catch you.”

Father, thank you for assuring us that even if our faith is a tiny mustard seed, we have strength and power of the Father’s guidance within us. Forgive me for doubting or shrinking from your call. Hold me close to you as I go out to serve others in this new covenant life. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



August 2

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who by me spread out the earth. Isaiah 44:24 

The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands. Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all thing. Acts 17:24-25 

God identifies himself as our Redeemer. A redeemer is someone who delivers from peril. In the handy NIV study Bible note, redeemer is defined as coming from a Hebrew term that refers to an “obligated family protector” and thus shows us that God is the Family Protector of Israel. God is referred to as “Father” later in Isaiah 63:16, and as Husband in Isaiah 54:5. As a redeemer He redeems their property and regathers them to their Promised Land, gives them freedom, avenges them, and secures their posterity for the future (61:8-9). 

In Acts, Paul tells the people at a temple in Athens about God. He comments on how religious the people seem with the temple and the altars to all the gods, including one “to an unknown God.” Apparently the word he uses for religious can mean that in a good sense, which appears to be his intent here, or in a superstitious sense. Paul then goes on to tell them that he know who this “unknown” God is – the one God, the only God, the being who created everything including all of them.  This God does not need us to make fancy temples for a living place; He does not live in one shrine or in anything we humans can construct. 

Our God is alive! He is present with us as our Lord and Savior now, as He was in the past, and will be in the future. He really doesn’t need anything from us, since He created it all. However, we need to respond by caring for His creation, enjoying what we have been given, and giving thanks for all that God’s grace has given us. 

Thank you, Lord God, for the wonder of life in your expansive and beautiful creation. Forgive us when we take these life-giving gifts for granted instead of being a good steward. Help us to live today and every day with gratitude, joy, and amazement. Creator God, you are the giver of life and all things good. You created out of love, so may we in your likeness care for all that you have made. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



July 31

I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day.  Zechariah 3:9

Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness.  I Peter 2:24

I googled ” Lutherans and guilt” and came across two quotes from well known people which both expressed what I had been thinking about.  The first was from David Letterman, as we all know, a comedian. He said, “I am just a towering mass of Lutheran Midwestern guilt”.  The next quote was from a man with a very different kind of humor.  Garrison Keillor said in his book, LIFE AMONG the LUTHERANS,  ” Lutherans are a calm stoical, modest people, haunted by guilt – – -“.

These may have been “tongue in cheek” statements from both men, but is there a truthful ring to those words.  And if so, why?  Are Lutherans really full of guilt?

It is a good question to ask ourselves.  We know that Jesus died so that our sins would be forgiven but we still tend to feel guilty.  Jack Zapada, in his article “Living Free of Guilt “says that God’s new covenant with his people is a legal contract. In the Old Testament, people had to atone for their sins but not so with us. We are forgiven free and clear after an honest confession of our sin.

Zapada also says that our human selves think that forgiveness is too good to be true.  After all, don’t we have trouble sometimes forgiving others? And maybe a friend has not forgiven us for something.  However, none of us is God.  We are to take him at his word and to remember that our feelings can fool us. The fact is that just because we still feel guilty doesn’t mean that we are.

The subject of guilt is more complicated than the above words.  I think that as a child the guilt I felt helped to bring me to Christ. It was healthy guilt.  Victor Frankl , a holocaust survivor, said that ” healthy guilt is a gatekeeper and boundary maker.  It helps us to discover where we shouldn’t go in life, what we shouldn’t do. And it helps us make amends when we do cause others pain.  Guilt helps us find our way back toward what’s right – – -“.

 Merciful God,  help us to accept your words fully and completely.  Thank you for loving us.
Thank you for your spirit who helps us with our unbelief. We pray in the name of our Savior Jesus.  Amen.

Joan Perlich


July 28

Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food? Job 38:41

The Lord is generous to all who call on him. Romans 10:12

We know that the Lord is generous beyond all that we can imagine. Yet we often find it difficult to share our faith with others. In Mark 16:15, Jesus said to his disciples, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” We are his disciples also. He expects us to share him with all others, because he said to share the good news with all creation.

We are able to love as we ought, because he first loved us and showed us how to love one another. When we love as he taught us we often are rewarded as much or more than the person we help. Help can be in giving to someone in need, praying for someone even if they are unaware, sharing a story that brings good memories to someone who is in need of hearing them, being kind even if the recipient does not know who you are, etc. There are countless ways to show our faith and confess his name before others. He was raised from the dead to save us. We must try to tell others of this unfathomable gift.

Dear Lord,

Open my mouth to share my faith when you see the time is right. I am looking forward to seeing the amazing things you do in their lives as you draw them into a beautiful relationship with you. I am ready for you to use me to help them grow as faithful followers of you. In your precious name I pray, dear Lord. Amen.*

*From a prayer by Pastor Allen Werk, The Lutheran Prayerbook, p. 35, pub. 2013.

Florence Smallfield



July 27

 

Surely to obey is better than sacrifice. 1 Samuel 15:22

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it!  Luke 11:28

Obey.  That is a tough word.  It brings up a lot of connotations for sure.      And honestly in my mind, most of them are not good.    Maybe your mind went to the same place – the evil god creature in a movie shouting “obey or die” or just the rough sound of the word itself.  

Not only is that a hard word, but who really wants to obey all the time anyway.    What fun is doing everything you are told and not learning the value of why boundaries are the way they are?  And you know what they say about work – the best way to hose your boss is to do exactly what he/she tells you to do.   I doubt God intended that interpretation here, but nonetheless…

So is that really the idea?  Obey, listen to God, and everything will be great?   Hmm..  Maybe.  The Samuel verse lays it out as one or the other.  Obey or sacrifice.  Probably a good call to obey.   The Luke one..blessed and obey, yeah probably true.

But how do you apply that to real life? 

Hopefully we do our best to be good people and try and live our faith.   But we are human and we stumble.  We do things that are exactly contrary to God’s plan or our faith.  So even if we simply embraced the direction and proceeded we would still fail.  

So where does that leave us?  An impossible task from a loving God?

No.  I think the real life component here is more about how we approach life than some of the finer details of what we exactly do.      Approach life with the best intent of our Christian values in mind.  Stay on the high road and live our faith.  Do our best to be that positive example of living life with a loving God at your side.  I think that is the essence of obey here.  And yeah, I can do that.

Dear God, I know we often fall off the high road when we are living our daily lives.  We forget to embrace you and your word sometimes.  But your love is constant and we are grateful for your patience.

Al Rivers