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April 1, 2020

I will delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in Jerusalem, or the cry of distress. Isaiah 65:19 

(Jesus said to the disciples) “So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:22

It is so comforting to read that God delights in His people. To know that we are not just a creation He made and forgot about, but a creation that He is actively involved with each and every day. Just think, God actually delights in us! When Jerusalem fell and people were exiled, God was with them. He heard their weeping and cries of distress. But then there is the promise: no more weeping will be heard in God’s kingdom.

Somehow these verses seem very appropriate for the situation we all find ourselves in these days. For many these can be days of sorrow and weeping. There are families that cannot visit or see each other. There are many in nursing homes and care centers that are not allowed to have any visitors. For some families, having to stay home together is quite stressful, and victims of domestic violence are trapped often with their abusers. All of us are feeling some anxiety and isolation from people we would normally interact with. God assures us that He is there with all, even though we don’t always recognize that presence.

Then we have the words from Jesus: “I will see you again.” The disciples surely needed to hear these words. They were hearing Jesus’ final words, His farewell discourse, and they were certainly worried about what was to come.  And, they did see Jesus again! They saw Him after the resurrection! The promise again for everyone to rejoice and that no one can take our joy away.  In this time we can only do what we can, to interact with others virtually, to call and text and maybe write a card of letter.  We know that God is in charge, delighting in us, and promising us a joy that no one can take away.

A verse from “O Word of God Incarnate”

“Oh, make your church, dear Savior,
a lamp of burnished gold

To bear before the nations your
true light, as of old.

Oh, teach your wandering pilgrims
by this their path to trace,

Till, clouds and darkness ended,
they see you face to face.”

Dear Lord, thank you for bringing your redeeming promise of joy and delight to this world of pain and sorrow. We cannot grasp the depth of such a love. Comforting and restoring God we pray that you help us keep our eyes fixed on your divinity. Let us be joyful for the coming reconciliation and let us share that joy with all. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



March 31

Those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord.  Zechariah 6:15

In Christ Jesus you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. Ephesians 2:22

We are the church, members of the priesthood, servants of our Lord Jesus Christ and brought together by a God who dwells within our hearts.  Separated by distance, we are joined together in love and concern for each other.

Pastor Maria talked about lament in her sermon on Sunday.  It’s true, most of us are grieving because of our losses during this time.  Loss of freedom to do what we want, loss of being without families and friends, loss of confidence in our environment and our actions. Some may wail and moan which is OK.  Everyone handles it differently.

Walking in the sunshine yesterday, I noticed daffodil stems rising from the soil, some with yellow on their tips.  Next, heartened by the new growth, I spied three young robins in the same tree, as though they were siblings having a get together.

All signs of spring, renewal and hope.  A brief spot of joy.

God is in his heaven but all is definitely not right with the world.  And yet, He is in control.  Our saving grace is trust in Him.

Faithful God, hear us as we cry to you in our distress. We feel helpless, hopeless, angry.  Days are long and tedious.  Outcomes are uncertain.  Help us to be diligent in protecting ourselves and others.  Thank you for the gift of faith.  Increase in us your love.  Bless us everyone.  Amen

Joan Perlich.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,”



March 30

When people fall, do they not get up again? If they go astray, do they not turn back? Jeremiah 8:4

Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away. John 6:37 

Even when we feel the angst that the worldwide pandemic brings to each of us, we need to remember that God is the same today, tomorrow, and always. We are the ones who change in how we feel. God always loves us. No matter how, if, or when we turn from him we are still his beloved children. We are all in God’s care, and we need to recognize that. We will not escape the trials of this life, but He will always be there to enfold us in his loving arms as he brings us peace.

The awareness of God’s presence, faith, hope, love, gratitude and openness to grace, repentance and humility, and a sense of being in community with all God’s other children and with all of mankind are the sign’s of God’s grace in each of our lives. Can we stray from feeling any one of these signs in our lives? Of course. But the wonder of it all is that God is there granting us the free flow of his grace and love and welcomes us no matter what. 

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thank you for the assurance that you are there for us always. No matter how or when we stray you welcome us back. Thank you for your steadfast love when we turn away. Help us to turn from all that confronts us in this world and to keep our focus on you and your unconditional love. Help us to share this good news with others. Amen.

Florence Smallfield 



March 27

“When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way.”  Psalm 142:3

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

We enjoy roaming, noticing the countryside, people and places, neighborhoods new to us.  Now our journey is leading us down an unfamiliar road, with unforeseen hazards, and not much of a map.  This “new neighborhood” is nothing we could have imagined.  Let’s just get out of here.  But there is no U-turn … we must see it through, if just putting one foot in front of the other.

We trust God has packed the necessary supplies into our spiritual “survival kit”, that God has left care packages along the way to revive us.  We need and remain connected with one another, with our church, and prayer.  Next door God has provided our neighborhood with two young “spiritual advisors”, B (10 years old) and J (7).   Early this week they rang our doorbell and pointed out “love letters” they had left around the neighborhood.  At the end of each driveway they chalked words of encouragement – “Love”, “Choose joy”, “Stay positive”, “Focus on the good”, and a big one – “Be the reason someone smiles today”.  J explained to me that people are afraid and their love notes might help.  Yesterday on my early morning jaunt I was served another helping of their soul food.  In their front window was a large cross set in stained glass (tissue paper I presume). 

We are now seeing several such “care package” stories in the news – reasons to smile, and I feel revived.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  (Galatians 6:2)

“I fear in the dark and the doubt of my journey;

but courage will come with the sound of your steps by my side.

And with all of the family you saved by your love, we’ll sing to your dawn at the end of our journey.”  Amen 

(Hymn prayer composed by “Les petites soeurs de Jésus”, France)

Verla Olson



March 26

I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.  Psalm 38:18

Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret. 2 Corinthians 7:10

In every Bible reading I do, there seems to be at least one verse that jumps out at me as being so perfect, so destined for how I am feeling at that moment. Sometimes it’s one of the verses selected for that day, but this, as with so many other readings and devotions, was from the verses around it. 

In this chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul is pleased with the people at the church in Corinth. It seems that Titus has written to him that the people have truly repented their sins and Paul is taking great pride in how they are doing. He might be having a hard time where he is currently staying at the time, but says “in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds” (2 Corinthians 7:4b).

I can only imagine how hard it would be for that congregation, for Paul to have come to them, started that congregation, spent time with them, been a great leader to them, and then have left. They must be missing him greatly, but when you’re far away, how nice it is to hear that you are missed and being prayed for, because in the second half of verse 7, Paul says, “He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.”    

I think a lot of people must be missing each other right now, with the social distancing due to the pandemic. I am an introvert myself, and usually happy to spend time alone, but I am missing greeting people in person at church, and at work, now that I am able to work from home. It’s a blessing to be able to still experience church services through live streaming and videos posted to Facebook and YouTube, thanks to the wonderful people of Christ the King (and other churches in Bloomington and around the world), but I’m praying for the days to come when we can greet each other again with handshakes and warm hugs in person.  Until then, let’s continue to hold one another in prayer, in concern for one another’s safety and health, and in joy and gratitude for those who are holding us together.

Loving and forgiving God, thank you for the leadership of our church, of the pastors and staff who are working to bring your words and love to all of us in whatever ways they can. Thank you for the strength that you give each of us. Encourage us all to do whatever we can to help someone else, whether it be a phone call or a text or a note in the mail to offer words of hope during a difficult time.  Forgive us for our selfishness in taking more than we need and leaving others with empty cupboards. Keep us together in your love, I pray. Amen.

Peace,

Lynda Tysdal



March 25

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay? Shall the thing made say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of the one who formed it, “He has no understanding”? Isaiah 29:16 

All of you must clothe yourselves with humility. I Peter 5:5

When I first read this verse from Isaiah, I thought it referred to the work of God, turning things upside down with new revelations and new ways of thinking. Then I realized it was not Isaiah speaking, but rather God who was speaking through him and saying the people had turned things upside down from what they should be. Things turned upside down, that may be how many of us are feeling these days. In our case it is the precautions we are taking to keep the spread of disease under control.  Staying home, keeping apart from people when we do go out to shop or take a walk are certainly different. For Isaiah, however, this turning upside down has occurred among God’s people.  He relays God’s message:  The people have turned upside down the ways things really are.  God is the potter and the people are the clay which He molded into His creations. Yet, many people are acting as though they are the ones in charge.

In Romans 9:20 we read: Who are you O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” quoting from Isaiah. Paul does not mean we can’t question God, or even express some anger, but rather to those who want to make God answerable to humans.  Just like the clay pot can’t say to the potter that he has no understanding, we too need to be humble and realize that God does understand us.

In I Peter we also see an admonition to be humble. One text note says the reference to clothing oneself with humility may refer to the foot washing scene in which Peter figured prominently. Peter at first was rebellious and full of pride; then he realized that Jesus was actually humble and expected humbleness from His disciples. Now he understands that one group of people is not above another, and none are to place themselves above God.

God is the potter, the Creator, and we are the clay, the created. God is in control and we “merely” need to trust in His mercy and grace. No matter how crazy and upside down our world appears to be, we still can serve each other and be humble before our God.

Thank you, Maker of all things, for creating us to forever be your servants. Forgive us for past and future times when our pride overshadows any humility. Help us to remember always that you are in control. You are our potter. We praise you for forming us into your unique children whom you love immeasurably. Humble Master, there is nothing we can do to earn salvation. Therefore, take away our pride and false securities so that we may humbly trust in your guidance and care. Shape us into who you would have us be. In Jesus’ name, Amen 

Chris Gabel



March 20

The Lord will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent. Psalm 27:5

Therefore, I am content with the weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10

Psalm 27 feels like the welcome that a sunshiny day brings after a time of inclement weather. Psalm 27 begins, “The Lord is my Light and salvation; whom shall I fear: The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Paul tells the Corinthians that God has told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for the power is made perfect in weakness.” What beautiful words of love and hope to lift one up no matter the difficulties one faces.

These words offer hope during these days of consternation over the threat of the coronavirus and the unwelcome changes its threat has caused throughout the world. God is steadfast in his love for us and is with us no matter what.

Recently, the Trinity Choir sang the beautiful hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul.” The words were written by Horatio Spafford. In 1871 he was a prosperous lawyer and devout Presbyterian church elder who lived with his wife and four daughters in Chicago. Much of the family business and investments were lost in the great Chicago fire of 1871. 

In 1873 Spafford planned an extended stay in Europe for his family. At the last moment Spafford was detained by real estate business, but Anna and the four girls sailed to Paris on the steamer Ville du Havre. Within twelve minutes on November 21, 1873, the luxury steamer sank in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean after being rammed by a British iron sailing ship the Lochearn.

Anna was picked up unconscious by the crew of the Lochearn, but the four daughters perished. After Horatio received Anna’s telegram telling of the tragedy, he left immediately to bring his wife home. On the Atlantic crossing, the captain of his ship called Horatio to his cabin to tell him that they were passing over the spot where his four daughters perished. Horatio wrote “It Is Well with My Soul” as he passed over his daughters’ watery grave. 

As we pray the words of this wonderful hymn, let us remember that God will lead the way no matter the storms that assail any one of us.

Dear Lord and Master,

When peace like a river, attendeth my way;

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot; thou hast taught me to say,

“It is well, it is well with my soul.”
 

Though Satan should buffet though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

 

My sin, oh the bliss of that glorious thought;

My sin, not in part, but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, 

and I bear it no more.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

 

And the Lord haste the day when our faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,

The trumpet shall resound and the Lord shall descend;

Even so it is well with my soul.

 

It is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul.

It is well, it is well, it is well with my soul!

Amen.

Florence Smallfield



March 18

All look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. Psalm 104:27-28 

You have tasted that the Lord is good. I Peter 2:3 

Anybody else have food and food shopping on their minds these past couple of weeks? Many people are currently focused on where to get food and how much to get to have on hand. Some buy up great quantities of everything, others are buying for their needs for a couple weeks. Many cannot afford to buy in quantity or have no place to store the food if they could.  I went food shopping this morning. Cub stores (and others) asked that the hour from 6-7 AM be limited to us “older” people and many of us were there. Most shoppers looked to be doing their weekly shopping, not getting large amounts of anything. 

Where does our food really come from? Psalm 104 is a hymn to the Creator; it lists practically everything that God has created from birds and grass, to supplying water and caring for sea creatures. It reminds us that all food comes from our Lord and the world He created. I can imagine the creatures gathering what is provided and using all that they gather. There is also the powerful image of God’s hand opening and sending good things. These good things will fill us up. Not only fill us up as this translation says, but we will be “satisfied” with good things.  (NIV) We don’t have to keep eating after we have had our fill, we can be satisfied.  There is enough for all, if we share. 

In I Peter we read of a “taste.” The author is seemingly referring to the “first taste” of the salvation we have from God. The note in the NIV Bible says “Since this taste has proved satisfactory, the believers are urged to long for additional spiritual food.” This is not the actual food that we can eat, but maybe there is some relationship here. As we grow into our spiritual life we are to become more like what God intended us to be, following the example of Jesus. We see our neighbor’s needs and help fill them. We listen and communicate with those who are in need of a friendly voice, or just some conversation. 

One example: Yesterday I received an email from Beacon, the organization that our Families Moving Forward is part of, about the needs of the homeless. More money will be needed each week as they support the shelters they run. Today, not even 24 hours later, there was a second e-mail thanking the many people that had responded with funds, many within minutes of the request.  We can all share the taste of goodness and salvation that we have received with those around us. 

Faithful Provider, you give food to us in such abundance. Body and soul are fed and renewed daily. We are grateful for your provisions, and your love for the hungry. You know our needs even before we ask for anything. Forgive our obsession with saving for tomorrow and ignoring our neighbor’s needs today. May we find peace and joy in sharing your generous gifts with others now. Amen 

Chris Gabel



March 16

I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.  Psalm 57:2.

The one who endures to the end will be saved.  Mark 13:12

What a scarey time this is.  Unsettled, uncertain, unprecedented.  We are captives of a foe unseen and unknown.  What does the future hold?

Our leaders are making hard decisions which are in our best interests.  We are told again and again what we are to do. Stay home, wash your hands, cancel travel plans, you know all the rest.  Protect ourselves and others from this new enemy.

Perhaps my thoughts are a bit dramatic.  But this is a reality which we have not experienced before in our lifetimes.  Who ever imagined that we could not sit in our pews on a Sunday morning?  Already we are hearing of people who are trying to make money in fraudulent ways during this emergency.

Two words stand out to me in the above scripture verses.  “Purpose”and “endures”.

Our faithful God has a purpose for us.   I believe that in our present situation, he wants us to hold his love in our hearts and in our hands.  Besides caring for ourselves,  we are to care for our neighbors.  We need God in our eyes and ears,

We need to be alert for signs that all is not well in another’s life. This is not really new.  It is our charge for every day as we follow in Christ’s steps.

Endurance is the ability to hold on, to persist, to withstand adversity.  If we look around, there are examples of endurance every where.  Our God, in his unknowable way, has given us the will and the ability to endure what this life on earth gives us.

Although we don’t know what’s around the corner, we can hold on to hope and love and peace. 

May all be well with you!  Thanks be to God.

Joan Perlich



March 12

Lord, plead my cause and redeem me; revive me according to your word.  Psalm 119:154 NKJV

So Philip ran up to it and heard an Ethiopian reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.  Acts 8:30-31

How wonderful to have someone to sit beside you and explain the word of the Lord as Philip did for the Ethiopian man! In considering these readings before I started to write this devotion, it occurred to me that I could write a lot of devotions (if not whole books!) about the people who have done for me what the apostle Philip did for this man. I could tell you (and you could tell me) about all the men, women, and young people who have stood in the pulpit or at the lectern and made a verse clearer to me, either by preaching for twenty minutes or by reading from photocopied papers, sometimes struggling with the pronunciation of names and places that seem very far away to us. 

Or I could tell you about a Stephen’s Minister, or my friends who’ve sat with me in Bible studies, or books that I’ve read, Sunday school teachers, confirmation teachers, and the words of the kids sitting at the front of the church during the children’s sermon, in their replies to Brittany’s questions. I feel like I have learned much more as I have come to help with writing devotions, and I hope it is because I have opened myself up more to the endless amounts of interpretation available to us in God’s word. 

I was sharing these thoughts with a friend at work who had noticed my book of Daily Texts that we use in writing these devotions and asked about it.

“Don’t forget the Holy Spirit,” she pointed out, “that’s who guides us in our paths of learning, that’s who impresses on us what the scripture is trying to say.” 

Sure enough, as I read through the surrounding verses of Acts 8, I saw that it was the spirit that directed Philip to the Ethiopian’s chariot, telling him, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” (Acts 8:29).  I feel that an important message to us today is that the Holy Spirit is guiding our lives in ways that we can’t foresee, if we will only leave our hearts and minds open to the possibilities.

The spirit sends us forth to serve,

We go in Jesus’ name

To bring glad tidings to the poor,

God’s favor to proclaim.  **

Heavenly father, we thank you for sending your spirit to lead us to better things, both in our own lives and in the lives of others. Thank you also for your forgiveness when we do not go where we are being led, and when we allow the good things that need doing in the world to go undone, expecting others to do the lifting. Amen

** Hymn by Sr. Delores Dufner

Lynda Tysdal