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October 12

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  It is he whom we proclaim.  Colossians 1:27-28

No matter how assured we feel about the fact that God has a plan for us, we are still impatient about our lives. Depending on the circumstance, we may ask “how long Oh Lord? When will this be over?” Or perhaps we cannot clearly see the path and we wonder if we are on the right road. We want specifics, guarantees that all will be well.  Does the problem lie in our not trusting enough?

Christians are not excluded from experiencing the “dark night of the soul,” when God seems far away and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.  But God does promise us a future with hope.  And he promises that if we truly seek him, he will find us and deliver us from the unbelief which keeps us captive.

God, thank you for your plans, Use us to display the riches of your glory.  Help us to be aware of your presence with us on our paths and to believe in your promises.  Thank you for being our savior, our deliverer, our comforter, our all.  Amen

Joan Perlich



October 11

Some went down to the sea in ships, and saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to human kind. Psalm 107:23-34, 31 

Indeed he is not far from each one of us. Acts 17:27

Storms, tempests, and sudden deliverances from them are the “wondrous works” especially meant according to one commentary. The people that went to sea saw potential disasters, and then deliverance from the Lord. They could see Him as one who had power over the winds, the waves, and the storms.

Isn’t this God one we too can thank? We have a God who has power over the storms and tempests of our lives. With the many violent storms occurring recently, there are many who were able to help, and restore people’s lives. To supply food, and potable water, get the electricity running again, and make passable roads. In Puerto Rico there is still a ways to go to get communications restored, and electricity to outlying areas. As humans, we can work together and go step by step. But God is with us in the midst of whatever storms we are facing.

Then on to verse 31 in the Psalm – we also need to thank the Lord for His continual presence, His steadfast love.  It might not be as dramatic as being saved from a storm while out in a small fishing boat, but if we look and listen we too can see these wonderful works.

In Acts Paul is telling the Athenian crowd about the power of the one God, how He created human kind, and that He intends for us to seek Him out. He goes on to say that this is not too hard to do, after all, God is not far from each one of us. Any distance we feel is one we put there; God is patiently waiting for us to see all that He has done, from creation to our final salvation, and then thank Him for all His wonderful works. 

O Lord, how profound is the depth of your reach into all the caverns of human life! Your works bring wonder to any who experience your hand.  Father of all creation, may we acknowledge the revelation of your presence wherever we go today. May we know you in the flowers that bloom, the child that cries and faith expressed. Help us open ourselves up to the power of your loving, extended hands, not only for us but for all those whose lives you want us to encourage today.  Amen

Chris Gabel



October 9

For everytime there is season and a time for every matter under heaven, Ecclesiastes 3:1

Peter said to Jesus “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” not knowing what he said.   Luke 9:33

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine where we were discussing the what if’s of life.    Or more accurately I was discussing career choices I have made and they were listening.   I had been in a reflective mood and my friend was being patient.  When I was finished they merely looked at me and said “You do realize you are where you are supposed to be, right?  God has you where you are on purpose.”

Hmm.  Is that true? We are where we are supposed to be?  The easy answer is “yes, of course.  God has a plan.  And this must be the plan.” 

But let’s try that again a little slower.  So, when real life is stuck in our craw – whether it is reality or self induced mind wandering we are just supposed to take a deep breath and say  “This is God’s plan.  Whew.  I can breathe now.”   And then we just move on – with the confidence of everytime there is a season and so on.   Right?   Well, I’m glad that’s all cleared up.   Pretty easy.  Next issue….. 

If that works for you, great.   Sometimes it works for me too, but other times I need more.   Sort of depends on the situation.    

When we need to make a choice – is it this path or that path, it generally works out.  But sometimes it is obvious we made a bad or dumb decision or other times we make fine decisions but then we fall to the temptation of what if.     Both are a slippery slope of second guessing.   So where’s God in this?   He has a plan right?

I don’t think God’s plan is necessarily to have us make bad choices or doubt ourselves. 

Life is a series of choices and chances.   God gives us those choices and chances to help us learn and grow.  He does not abandon us.    That’s thing about a bad decision or even lack of confidence in a good decision.   God has a plan that is bigger than all of us, and if we second guess or just flat out blow it, we always get another chance to learn and grow.  And while choices don’t always work out (sometimes we mess up good things too) we always get another chance to try again.    Maybe God’s plan is to help us grow and learn.  To help us be the people we can be.   With each misstep – perceived or real – we get a chance to try again.     And again.  And again, with a loving God that is with us each step of the way.

So are we where we are supposed to be?  Yes.  We are.  With confidence that God has a plan.  A good one too.

Dear Lord, Thank you for giving us the opportunities to grow in faith and life through your love and your eternal forgiveness.

 

Al Rivers



October 4

We have heard with our ears, O God, our ancestors have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old. Psalm 44:1 

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets – who thought faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness. Hebrews 11:32-34

“We have heard,” how else do we ever find out anything? We need to have others with knowledge talk to us and we need to listen. This Psalm starts with praise for what God has done, and then asks for help in their present danger. They know they can ask God for help since they have heard how he helped their ancestors. These stories were passed down through generations as part of oral tradition.

We can also read what our ancestors and teachers have written, but languages change and we would have some difficulty reading the Hebrew and Greek that the Bible was written in. According to a report on the radio today, this is the anniversary of the “first” translation of the Bible into English. There had been partial translations before, but Tyndale in 1535 was the first to translate much of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English, and have access to the printing press. In part he was following Martin Luther who had translated the Bible into German around 1522. The announcer also mentioned the many languages the Bible is now available in, which apparently even includes Klingon. That means anyone can read the Bible stories and learn about what God has done for us.

Just look at the list of things in Hebrews that the heroes of the faith have done as recorded in the Old Testament. The writer of Hebrews is not just saying, yay, look at this great history, but is related these stories to illustrate the presence of God with their ancestors that continues to the present day. These are not just nice stories, something, to read or make into a movie maybe; they are examples of living out the faith that we have in God and Christ Jesus our Savior. Now, we know and can follow their example.

God, you promise to meet us in every circumstance and inspired your people to write scripture filled with stories of your faithfulness. Holy Father, may the witness of your faithful followers of old inspire us to boldly live out the faith we own. May we be challenged to serve those in need, no matter how difficult it may seem. May we remember your Son’s sacrifice and remember our need to serve you. Amen.

Chris Gabel



September 29

“Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart.”  Deuteronomy 8:2

“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

“This is boring.”  “When will we be there?”  “There’s nothing to eat.”  Not Biblical quotes … or are they?  Forty years of seemingly aimless wandering, feeling lost, eating the same food, tested and brought on grumbling and longing for greener pastures … even returning to bondage in Egypt.  But it wasn’t aimless wandering.  God was leading the journey. 

There is a saying “All who wander are not lost.”  We like to hike … pack a lunch and spend the day on trails – in the woods, mountains, and wilderness areas.  My husband likes to say, “We’re lost but we’re making good time.”  We frequently remind each other to pause and look around, to take time to see small wonders in the big picture.  I recently walked with a friend along Minnehaha Creek to its confluence with the Mississippi River.  She told me that her dad used to take her family on walks and would often stop to call attention to natural surroundings.  The mundane takes on meaning as we take time to notice the wonders of nature, especially now as seasons change;  when we pay attention to people … their individuality, and their needs; as we sense the constant presence of God’s grace(s)in our lives.  All these are truly “making good time”.

The journey can feel long.  Some wander the wilderness of low self-esteem, poverty, and fear; the unknowns of aging, waning health, and loneliness … the “valley of the shadow of death”. But “all who wander are not lost.”  God still leads our journey to the “promised land”; a lifelong journey of faith, awareness and relationships, and gratitude.

“May the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil 4:7) Amen

Verla Olson



September 28

The Lord reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:12

We did not try to get praise from anyone, whether from you or from others, though we made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a mother taking care of her children–because you have become very dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:6-8

Excitement, thankfulness, and pride are words that describe almost all parents and other family members as they announce that there is a new baby in the family. Immediately, this new person is wrapped, not only in baby clothes and blankets, but also in indescribable love.

Is this love enough to raise the child in the way s/he should go? Of course not. Just as is stated in the verses for today, those who are dear to us sometimes need direction and correction. There are endless cautions for a little one to learn: do not get close enough to fire to get burned; be aware of the differences between loved ones and strangers; do not run out in the street; etc. I could go on and on.

How parents and others set the tone is what we learn from God’s word here. His love for us is boundless. He wants us to treat others with the same consideration and love he has for us. I enjoy watching and listening as parents interact with their children around the Y where I go to work out. One day a preschooler said as her dad was picking her up from the nursery, “Daddy, are you happy? I’m happy.” Another day a mom said, “Let’s count the steps and see how far you can count?” And one more, “We need to hold hands when we get to the parking lot.”

These are so simple, but they show how to teach and work with children and others with respect and love just as our Lord taught us to do by his example.

Dear Lord and Savior,

As our loving father teach us your ways. Forgive us when we go astray and need to be reminded to do what is best. May we help others to come to know the joy of you, our heavenly Father. Give us a spirit of tenderness as we care for those around us. Give hope and help to our brothers and sisters who are struggling with the aftermath of hurricanes and earthquakes. In your precious name, Amen.

Florence Smallfield



September 27

I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. Ecclesiastes 3:14 

Jesus said, “The true one has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” Revelation 3:7

There was an article in Sunday’s paper about the Great Wall of China. This magnificent construction has lasted for thousands of years. Initial portions were built around the 7th century before Christ, with additions made over the next 500 years. Did it last? Little of the wall built around 200 BC remains. And the whole thing was rebuilt and redone in many places during the period from about 1350 to 1650. This is one of the most enduring things that humans have built. Yet, it now has many portions in disrepair. You can still travel there and walk on part of it, and apparently slide on part too, but it is not a solid barrier any more.

Can it be seen from space? I thought I was told that it could be, but apparently not. The pictures that seemed to show it from orbiting satellites turned out to be pictures of rivers, not this Great Wall. Interesting, one of the biggest things we humans have ever made doesn’t last even a thousand years without parts of it crumbling. Big as it is, we can’t see it once we are very far off this globe. Yet, things in God’s creation, like rivers, are visible. From space the beautiful blue sphere that is earth is remarked on by astronauts.

As the writer in Ecclesiastes says, “whatever God does endures forever.” He is the Creator of us and all that we see, He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us always as we live on this earth. And, He sent His son, Jesus as our savior so we can live with Him forever. Even if the earth that we live on ends someday, the reign of God will not.

 

From Psalm 121:

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come?

My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul.

The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.

God of eternity, the works of your hand endure forever. Ho sin or shortcoming on our part can take away from your amazing plan of salvation. Lord, let our ears be open to those who ask for our help; let our hearts be open to those who need love; and when we need help, let us not be afraid to ask others. Amen.

Chris Gabel



September 26

Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand. Zephaniah 1:7

Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes. Luke 12:37

Our lives are so full of noise that we have to be intentional about creating space in our lives for God. We are afraid of silence. We’d rather have some mindless TV show that we’re not even watching blaring in the background rather than face silence. Moments of silence feel like eternities to us, because we are so used to having noise in our lives. The silence, as they say, is deafening.

Why are we so afraid of silence? The irony is that it is in the silence where we are mostly likely to hear God. And yet, our lives are absolutely overflowing with noise. Maybe we are afraid to be quiet because when we are, it means we are not speaking. And when we are not speaking, that means we are not in control of the conversation.

And if you’re like me, you like to be in control. There’s a name for people like us: control freaks. That sounds so negative! But I think in reality we are all have a little control freak inside of us. Who likes to be out of control? We all want a hand in what is going to happen. And when we’re quiet, when we create space in our lives for Go d to speak, we don’t have the floor.

And that feels strange to us because our world is built around control. So much control in our lives is put right at our fingertips. We control what channels we watch, the exact temperature of our surroundings, the seconds it takes to nuke our dinners, and the exact moment the sprinklers come on to water our lawn. We can pay bills, order Christmas presents, and make plans for dinner, all with the click of the mouse. We are in control……..

Almost. OK, not even almost.

In other words, we can get our MBA from Harvard, have over-achieving kids, drive cars that cost more than our first house, wear clothes that cost more than our first car, but when we walk our dog, we still have to carry a pooper scooper. We can try to trick ourselves into believing we’re in control, but in the end, we’re not in control.

If we want to go deeper spiritually, the first thing we have to do is relinquish our illusion of control and turn that over to God. David Goetz says, “In true spirituality the first act is a decision not to act, which goes against all we believe. Shouldn’t we be doing something for Jesus? But before we do, we must be: to listen and wait for God, to make space for God.”

At first, that sounds scary: listen, wait, make space. We’re used to speaking, acting, taking up space. What would it be like if we followed Jesus’ example? Mark tells us, “Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Go off alone? I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be alone. When I’m with other people, I feel needed, loved, important. But when I’m alone, I’m reminded of just how small I am and how big God is. Being alone can feel so…lonely.

But if we’re willing to try, the rewards can be renewing. Eric Sandras gives this advice: “In the morning, or in the evening, take five minutes and refuse to turn on any noise-making device (that can include family members). The regular exercise of silence can flush our minds clean of unwanted noise.” Just sit. Just be. Breathe. Listen. Give up your control. Be still. Look, the noise will still be waiting for you when you’re done. I promise. But for those few moments, remind yourself who is really the Lord in your life. Be still, and know that God is God – and you are not.

Lord God, keep me awake and alert to your powerful presence. Thank you for the many ways I see Jesus in the midst of daily life. Show yourself to those who have yet to experience your grace. Send me to be an instrument of your forgiveness and love. Keep my eyes open to see your grace in service today. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



September 25

By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.  Ephesians 2:8

As it is towards the end of the baseball season and our local Twins are in the hunt for playoffs, I was thinking about streaks.  Winning streaks and losing streaks in particular.

I have a theory about streaks.  One that is fairly obvious, but I think rather over looked.  And that is that every streak starts with “one”.   Right?  To win two games in a row, you need to win the first one first!  When two are won (or lost), we call it “two in a row”.    Why don’t we call one win – one in a row? 

You may be thinking, that while this is a (hopefully) interesting line of reasoning, why am I mentioning it in the context of God.  At least I am thinking that for myself as I write this.

The reason I bring this up, is because every streak starts with one in a row.  Every one.    Think about that in terms of God for a moment.

We worship a God who is forgiving and loving.  A God who wants us to the best we can be, but forgives us when we misstep or make a mistake.   A God who is always there and waiting with open arms.

Switching back to us for a moment.  Maybe today didn’t go the way you wanted it too.  Or perhaps you weren’t the person you wanted to be in a fit of frustration moments ago or you are embarrassed or disappointed or whatever about something you did or was done to you.   We worship a God who says “Come to me.  Let me carry your burden with you.”  And it doesn’t matter what happened.  What only matters is what is going to happen. 

So you weren’t the best, or you are in a serious pickle or whatever.  But you get a chance every minute to be that person you want to be or to get another chance.     You get to start a new streak.  You get to start with “one in a row” with a God that loves you for who you are and who you will be.

Thank you God for being there for us with open and loving arms.  For being the giver of the greatest gift – the gift of love and hope.

Al Rivers



September 22

The hearing ear and the seeing eye – the Lord has made them both.  Proverbs 20:12

Test everything; hold fast to what is good.  I Thessalonians 5:21 

Our creator God, in his infinite wisdom, has fashioned within us amazing tools to help us interpret our environment.  These tools are called the five senses, hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching. We take these senses for granted, not questioning how we are able to function safely, sociably and pleasurably during our day to day lives.

Consider how we are affected by these senses; able to enjoy the beauty of a landscape, the sound of wonderful music, the smell and taste of a roasted turkey on Thanksgiving Day, the feel of a warm blanket or a baby’s silky skin.  Even those with impairments to certain senses are able to function because of heightened awareness in other senses.  I watched a young man who was hearing impaired as he snorkled underwater and was afraid for him. When I mentioned this to his mother, she said “not to worry, he can feel the vibrations of boat motors.”

Much research and writing has been done about the five senses.  A famous painting by a 17th century artist is entitled Allegory of the Five Senses.  In the painting there are five people, each depicting a different sense.

What a marvelous creator we have.  He has knit us together so wonderfully and completely. And we are reminded that we are precious in his sight.  With our eyes and our ears and all our senses combined with our intellect and judgment, let us listen and make decisions which are acceptable in his sight.

Creator God,  help us to use what you have given us, bodies and minds designed for good purpose, in ways that are helpful to others as well as to ourselves. We are blessed.  Thank you for creating us.   Amen

Joan Perlich