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December 3

I have often heard and read that serious illness or severe or chronic pain can change one’s perspective on life. It can also send one into a dark night of the soul where God is absent and light is a dim memory. On the other hand, perhaps it will prompt one to open one’s bible more often, pray for courage and strength to endure and fall to ones knees in supplication.

The devotion which I read for today in CHRIST IN OUR HOME asked me to pray for those with chronic illness and also, I suppose, urged me to write this devotion.  Our hearts are stirred with compassion for those who are afflicted in this way.  We long for Gods mercy and peace to touch them whether they are asking for him or not.  And as we say in Sunday prayers, we pray, “God hear our prayer.”

A verse from Hosea, which was also included in today’s devotion heartened me. “He will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.”  Hosea 1:3

For some, God comes to them like this.  But for others, the struggle goes on and on, brown and barren days, pain and more pain, lonely nights.  How can we help to bring a spring to them?  With our heartfelt prayers to God.

Most holy God, we weep for those who cannot feel your love and mercy.  Thank you for putting your love, your compassion into our hearts so that we can sincerely pray for them.  Bring forth your peace for all the world.  Bless our path on this way to Christmas.  Lord God, hear our prayer.   Amen

Joan Perlich

December 2

In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to me, “Flee like a bird to the mountains.” Psalm 11:1  

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:27 

Pax vobiscum, shalom aleichem, as-salaam alaykum, Peace be with you. This is a common greeting in the Mediterranean world, Latin, Hebrew, or Arabic. It is a phrase we are very familiar with as it occurs often in the Bible and in our liturgy. The early Christians used the phrase to greet each other. Looking up the background and meaning of peace as used in this phrase, I found a reference to the original Greek word, “Eirene” meaning peace. Eirene refers to a “very particular kind of peace that is the product of a proper administration of both justice and goods.” It is also associated with springtime, “eiarinos” in Greek.  

In Psalm 11, a psalm attributed to David, he is proclaiming the protection he has from God. The people are not quite so sure about this, and are worried about attacks from enemies, they want him to flee. But David know that the Lord is in control and is a place of refuge for all of them. Similarly, the Lord is our refuge, Jesus tells us to not let our hearts be troubled, and that we should not be afraid. His peace is so much more than what we think of as peace in the world. Peace is more than the absence of war or conflict. The peace that Jesus left with the disciples and all His followers is not what we see in the world. It is much more than a “Hey, I hope your find some peace.” It is fairness, sharing with all, justice for all.  

Harmony and peace are not just something to hope for, but something that needs some effort on our part. This can be difficult, but we are assured that Jesus, the Prince of Peace is present with us and will fulfill all His promises. We don’t have to this all on our own.  

Peace be with you. 

Prince of Peace, within the chaos and turmoil of our lives, guide us to your presence. Fill us with shalom that only comes from you.  When we are afraid, troubled, or anxious, draw us into the shelter of your presence. With you we find strength, peace, and the confidence to face the present and the future. Guide us in sharing your peace, one of fairness and justice, with all. In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

Chris Gabel 

November 30

Thus said the Lord of hosts:…Truly, one who touches you touches the apple of my eye. Zechariah 2:8

Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Romans 8:33

The verses today come from the prophet Zechariah and the disciple Paul. What reassurance their words bring. Both of these men spoke the word of God, often to ears that did not want to hear God speaking through them. I think of the trials that Paul had to endure, and that he always felt abundant consolation through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5). No matter what, Paul always knew that he was among God’s elect, and he wanted others to understand that they were precious to God also.

Each of us is the apple of God’s eye. He wants us to know that he is our greatest encourager. This pandemic, the recent wild fires, tornadoes etc. have brought untold heartache to thousands, and, at least, discouraging inconveniences to all. Yet, we see people reaching out to help each other in countless ways, sometimes at considerable risk to themselves. I remember the fire fighters lying down on a road to sleep after spending hours fighting wild fires. Then, there are the health-care workers working beyond their believed endurance to treat COVID-19 victims. Also, when a storm has struck, people come from all over to clean up the devastation. 

When people recognize a need and help others, God is reaching out through these people’s goodness to let others know that they count and are worthwhile. Those who help are precious, and those who are helped are precious; all are among God’s elect.

Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Thank you for always sticking up for us. Help us to always remember that you are in our corner, and that each of us is chosen by you. Let us be confident in your care for us, but not confident in our own abilities. Help us always to help others as you would have us to do. Amen.

Florence Smallfield   

November 25

And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name. I Chronicles 29:13  

Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. Give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20  

Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving. A time to gather and cook lots of food and share it as we celebrate what we are thankful for. Even on this day, we sometimes have trouble remembering to be thankful and grateful for what we have. This year there is probably more anxiety than thankfulness unless we take the time to focus on gratitude. Job loss, small business failures or lockdowns for another month, anxiety about disease and healthcare workers, worry about family and friends. It can be easy to lose focus on what God has given us. In early morning Tai chi this morning, the instructor mentioned the difficulty of keeping stray thoughts out of our mind while doing the tai chi form. She said to do this we need to focus on one aspect of our practice to keep us meditating in motion. That is what we need to do to be thankful as well, focus on gratitude.   

In Ephesians Paul tells us to sing, make music, and praise the Lord. [Note this can be in our hearts for those worried about having to sing in public.] We are to thank Him at all times. It is hard to remember to thank God at all, much less to do so at all times. Yet we can do this, even in a year where it seems there is less to be thankful for. Most of us have plenty of food, shelter, clothing. We have technology that allow us to Zoom and see and talk with each other. We can continue church virtually, work from home in many cases.  Distance learning is possible for children and students at all levels. Food is distributed from many schools to replace the school lunches and breakfasts that many need.  

Ephesians 5, Verse 14 adds: “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” We have so much reason to thank our Creator and Savior for everything that we have even at the end of life. In I Chronicles David has come to the end of his reign and gives his money to the temple rebuilding fund, encouraging the people to do so as well. Then he prays a prayer of thankfulness to God as the people do give generously. Their thanks is shown in their prayers of praise and their willingness to build the temple. This will be a constant reminder of God’s presence among them, something to focus on to remember to be thankful.  

This Thanksgiving Day and every day, let us all remember to Give thanks to the Lord at all times! 

Father, remind us that we can always find a reason to thank you. We have been blessed, help us to share those blessings with others in humility. Help us express our gratitude as we receive and share your love today. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Chris Gabel 

November 23

“I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”  Isaiah 57:15

“Jesus saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”  Mark 6:34

Ummmm … the Thanksgiving feast is on the “front burner”.  Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, squash, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie …..… it’s going to be a lot for two people.  The spoon in my mouth may not be silver but it is certainly full!  Lord Jesus will be with us of course.  We will ask him to come and be our guest

Hmmmm … I wonder what the rest of the world will eat.  Some will stand in line at Union Gospel Mission downtown.  Some will visit food shelves today, tomorrow, Wednesday for whatever is available.  Some will have a MannaPack (rice, soy protein, dehydrated vegetables) packed by volunteers at Feed My Starving Children.  And our own neighbors might eat arroz con pollo or falafel or pho.  Lord Jesus will come and be their guest too … wherever he is invited, whether eating at a full table, from a chipped bowl, waiting with others in a line that is (too) long.  He will be there, even with those at the end of the line, the starving children, even where he isn’t invited, because he happens to be everywhere and cares about everyone.

The hungry are a great crowd … 821 million around the world, including 40 million in the United States.  Worldwide 736 million people live in poverty including 39.7 million in the U.S. (numbers found on the ELCA web site).

We are God’s hands and feet.  The eyes of all are waiting on US.  God is depending on US to have compassion, to open our hands and help satisfy the needs of others.

“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.  Let these gifts to us be blessed.

Blessed be God who is our bread.  May all the world be clothed and fed.”  Amen

Verla Olson

November 20

He changes times and seasons, deposes kings and sets up kings. Daniel 2:21 

“Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name?” Revelation 15:3-4 

As Christians our way of living demonstrates our faith in God. We hear and believe that God loves us. We try to live in ways that show our belief; we have confidence because we know that God is caring for us. We may not be excited about changes that occur, but we are able to risk and embrace change, because God is always in charge. We who live in faith tend to know that God will take care of us no matter what. 

I think of a young friend who recently lost her employment due to the pandemic. She is working three part-time jobs as she tries to piece her financial life together. Then her car needed tires. As she was told that her tires were no longer safe to drive on, she felt only dread and panic. A lady near her sensed my friend’s dilemma and said, “I’ll pay for your tires. I’ve been there and know what it’s like. Now I can help someone out. Order the tires that you need.” My friend’s relief and gratitude were evident even as she related the incident some time later. 

God is always here just waiting for us to turn to him as we acknowledge that he is ever present bringing his kingdom into our world. We may not feel his presence as obviously as my friend did when a stranger paid for her tires, but he is there. He knows our every need. He loves us more than we can even comprehend. He is ever present.     

Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

You are always present no matter what happens, and you bring your kingdom into our world. Help us to always recognize your presence and to trust in your plan for each one of us. Your hand provides. Your truth is in, with, and under all of creation. Praise be your name forevermore. Amen. 

Florence Smallfield

November 18

O Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but we acknowledge your name alone. Isaiah 26:13  

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” Acts 5:29  

How many lords do we have ruling over us? We might think that there really aren’t any since we don’t live in a place where there are rulers and subjects. We have a democracy where we can elect our leaders and have some influence on the laws and statutes that are passed. There are some laws, however, that are not just, and maybe there is a lack of some laws that would be of benefit.   

In Acts, the disciples are called before the authorities. They have been preaching about Jesus and the Gospel after being told not to do that. When asked why they persist in this activity, Peter replies for all of them that they must obey God, not human authority. That would certainly upset those in authority. Of course, we need to follow the rules and laws of our societies that are there to protect all of us. Those laws that are fair and enforced with justice. However there sometimes are laws and rules that conflict with what God intends. There are laws that result in bias and discrimination against certain groups. Laws that attempt to restrict free and fair elections; that try to take away voting rights. Laws that are needed to protect the wonderful creation God has made in this world.   

With the disciples we too need to obey God. We need to feed the hungry, supply clothing to those in need, find shelter for the homeless and welcome the stranger. We need to speak out when we see this not happening, and advocate for justice for our fellow human beings. We need to proclaim Jesus is Lord! by our actions and sharing  

Lord our God, it is you and you alone we look to for calm in the midst of the clamor of a busy and anxious day. We look to you for joy in the peace of nature, for rest in the middle of a sleepless night, for comfort in our grief after a loss of someone.  Remind us of your saving work, so that we may remember your name and declare our allegiance to you alone. Thank you for continuing to tell us the story and help us to share it with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Chris Gabel 

November 13

“I will pour water upon the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring.”  Isaiah 44:3

“Peter said, ‘The promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’”  Acts 2:39

“Live in the moment” we’re told.  Dwelling on the past, worrying about the future, can rob us of enjoyment today.  I do believe we should make good use of time, be aware of what is happening around us, and look for goodness at all times.  But we should acknowledge with gratitude the legacy of past generations.  And we must beware … how we live today will affect others, and for generations to come. 

I am repeating myself, expressing my respect for Native American reverence for the earth and her resources which sustained them … and us … in so many ways, for life itself.  They taught we owe gratitude to 7 generations before … and duty toward 7 generations after.  And that when we drink water, we are drinking something sacred.  Water warmed and comforted us before we were born.  A stream brought us into the world.  Now, living in a global pandemic, we humbly realize the privilege to have clean water, not just for drinking, but for thoroughly washing our hands, cleansing our bodies, clothing … masks.  Clean water should be a right for all.  We have a responsibility to nurture and preserve the Earth, and to share. 

Sacred … Scripture uses water in beautiful imagery.  The Holy Spirit is poured upon us, like streams of water on thirsty, dry ground.  Last Sunday we heard the words of Amos:  justice rolling down like water, and righteousness like an everlasting stream.  In our very Baptism we are washed with the holy water that is God’s grace … for all time and for all people.

Gracious God,

Drench us, may we soak up, the love and grace of your Spirit.  Motivate us to be thoughtful, caring conservative consumers of Earth’s resources; but spend freely your love and grace.  Amen

Verla Olson

November 11

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and troubles with it. Proverbs 15:16  

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”  Mark 8:36 (NIV) 

The world we live in puts great emphasis on possessions, on acquiring things. We have all heard about keeping up with the Joneses or the next-door neighbor. It seems as if there is competition to who has earned the most and has acquired the most stuff.  We hear about people who rent storage units to store all the extras — perhaps things they never get to use, but they have acquired it. Too often there is a focus on what we have and fretting that we need more. 

Of course, we need certain things to live – we need food and shelter, clothing, and transportation. It is prudent to have extras for those times that we may be stuck inside in a blizzard or quarantined for COVID-19. Yet we also need other things that have no price. Friendship, family, and a relationship with God are things that are free. Perhaps because they are free we don’t think as much about acquiring these things in our focus on getting ahead. 

Proverbs advice is to live with less. We are told that having great treasure can bring great trouble. A person’s focus goes to protecting the treasure, worrying about losing it, trying to get more. Jesus tells us in the verse from Mark that there is more for us than just this world. We could gain everything we ever wanted in this world, but what good is that in the world to come? Keeping our focus on things often means we pay no attention to Jesus. This comes from a section in Mark where Jesus is telling His disciples about His impending death and urging them to follow His teachings no matter what. They are to boldly confess and not be fearful or embarrassed to speak of Jesus. Theirs is an example for us to follow. 

Lord of our lives, you have called us to live a life of sacrifice and service. Help us to balance our lives and turn our focus from having things to a focus on You.  Today give us the courage we need to step out in faith and speak your name to the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen 

Chris Gabel 

November 4

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgements against you. Zephaniah 3:14-15   

Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. I John 2:2 

If you start out reading the third chapter of Zephaniah, it sounds like things are not going to go well for God’s people. All kinds of trouble will happen, because of their failure to follow the Lord. Verse one says woe to the city rebellious and defiled. They were not obeying anyone, not accepting correction. They were not trusting in the Lord.  The consequences would not be good if this continued, but God doesn’t wash His hands of these (once again) rebellious people. The chapter goes on to say that God waits for them, purifies them. The people and Jerusalem will be restored.  

The people are now able and encouraged to rejoice! They rejoice with their whole being, with all their hearts. No more awful judgement from an angry God, rather they rejoice in a God who has waited for them and brought them back into a relationship with Him. The judgements are taken away, they are not there anymore, they are gone as the people return to listening to and obeying the Lord. 

We, of course, would never be so disobedient, or would we? God knows we are just as rebellious as the people of Israel were. We fail to listen to God’s word and manage to break a few commandments most days.. Fortunately for us, God had a plan in place long before we were even born.  Just like the Israelites we can’t do enough to be safe from God’s judgement. Just like the Israelites God will take away the judgements against us. By sending Jesus Christ as our savior, we gain atonement for our sins. This forgiveness is not just for a special group of people rather it is for the whole world. Everyone is eligible as God shows no partiality to any of the people He has created. Belief in the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ is all we need to do – yes our behavior should improve, but we will still sin. And, God will continue to forgive. 

With the people of Zephaniah’s time we too can sing aloud, rejoice, and exult with all our heart.  

O Loving Savior you suffered and died for this broken world. Gracious Lord, with joy and a grateful heart we recall the sacrifice made for us. Let us forgive and love our neighbors. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen. 

Chris Gabel