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July 31

“You shall not spread a false report.”  Exodus 23:1

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:15

Transparency has become a buzzword on the public stage.  Leaders promise to be straightforward and honest.  We are challenged to know what to believe … fake news, conspiracy theories, coverups and accusations … We need fact checks.  Sometimes things are as bad as they seem. 

We say “It is what it is” to express acceptance of the truth, even as we live in denial.  We try to smooth out difficult situations and say things are fine, will get better, when we don’t feel that way at all.  “Talking the talk and walking the talk” are two different things.  We pretend to be someone other than our true self.  We aren’t happy with the model we have become.  I wish I had done this … I wish I hadn’t done that … could’ve, would’ve, should’ve … embarrassed by, ashamed of past mistakes.  Feeling at peace is more than saying so.

Thanks be to God, like Popeye we can say “I yam what I yam!”  God knows all about those skeletons heaped in the closet and loves us just the same.  Knowing I need forgiveness, truly repenting, accepting God’s grace and mercy, as a redeemed child of God I can humbly accept myself as God accepts and loves me.   Trusting the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we live as God’s ambassador to others, with kindness, hospitality, empathy and compassion, justice.  We do what we do in God’s name, gratefully acknowledging and using the gifts God has given us, for God’s glory.  (Micah 6:6-8)

“Just as I am thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;

Because thy promise I believe, o Lamb of God, I come.”  Amen

(prayer text Charlotte Elliott)

Verla Olson



July 30

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

“Let anyone with ears to hear listen.” Mark 4:9

Zephaniah is warning about the judgment of the Lord to all in Judah who have fallen away from God’s guidance. He also tells them what they need to do–listen to the Lord. Jesus, in the verse from Mark, has just told the parable of the sower. He wants his followers to listen and learn. In verses eleven and twelve Jesus told his disciples that to understand parables listeners had to also be believers.

These verses brought to mind a quote from Mother Teresa, the nun and saint who spent her life bringing love, peace, and comfort to thousands of the poor and suffering. She said, “If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you…Silence of the ears, by listening to the voice of God, and to the cry of the poor and needy, and closing them to all other voices that come from fallen human nature, such as gossip, tale bearing, and uncharitable words.”

We are bombarded by negativity in the news and, it seems some days, too much silence and isolation due to COVID19. Silence is different, though, when we talk to God in prayer and follow the examples that He has set before us.  He wants us to follow him and to love our neighbor. He is our guide in how to do so. 

I have often thought of how Mother Teresa, that tiny woman, could change the world, but she did. She lived in a dangerous area of Calcutta and still walked the streets helping anyone in need, usually the poorest of the poor. Of course, she had the assistance of the sisters in her order who worked as nurses and care givers to so many, but they could have been in danger also. God was her strength, her guide, her source of her purpose in life. 

What is your purpose in life? What would God have you to do? He told us: be silent and listen to him. Prayer is a comfort and source of strength even in the most trying of times.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thank you for being our unfailing source of trust and guidance at all times. Open our ears to always hear you even when silence surrounds us. Help us to listen to you even when the noise surrounding us tries to drown out your voice. Grant each one of us the wisdom to understand your plan for us. Thank you for your grace which passes all understanding. In your most precious name, Amen.

Florence Smallfield     

 



July 29

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”.    Job 1:21 (NIV)  

We brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.  

We come with nothing; we will leave with nothing. In between we have our life in this world. There is a story about a revered rabbi and a traveler. The traveler is searching for the rabbi who he has been told is scholarly and pious, one of the best. He searches and finds that he will find this rabbi teaching children. The traveler is astounded at the poverty all around. The rabbi’s house is ancient and rickety, the children are sitting at “desks” of planks on blocks of wood. The traveler can tell this is the rabbi he seeks; he is asked to come back later when the children are done learning. He returns to find the rabbi seated on the lone remaining block; the others being rearranged for his children’s beds. The traveler asks the rabbi how he can live like this, he himself is not wealthy but has chairs and tables and real beds. The rabbis responds: “Indeed? But why don’t I see your furniture? How do you manage without it?” The traveler responds asking if the rabbi thinks he schlepps his furniture whereever he goes, when he travels he makes do, but at home that is different. And Rabbi DovBer gently answers: “At home? Oh yes . . .at home it is a different matter altogether.”  (From Chabad.org, article entitled “The Traveler.”) 

The point isn’t that we should empty our houses of all except one place to sit and maybe one change of clothes. It is that we are to focus on what we can learn and do in this world without being encumbered by things. Job is lamenting the loss of all he had – wealth and livestock and children and health. He is able to say, much to the disappointment of Satan, that he came with nothing and leaves the world with nothing and Praise the Lord! His focus is on the Lord who created and cares for him.

Paul in his letter also says as long as we have food and clothing, we can be content. I would take that to mean adequate shelter and our basic needs met. Most of us here have lots more than that. We read books about how to unclutter our lives, how to throw out the stuff we really don’t need and rarely use. Some hire people to organize and help get rid of the extras. Some even get storage lockers to put all the extra things in, things they may not even look at or remember that they had. Anyone preparing for a move realizes how much they need to get rid of; at least we can donate the good stuff to those who are in need. 

Many do not have enough food, clothing or adequate shelter. Those of use with plenty, can share with them. And we can remember that we don’t carry furniture with us when we travel, we use what we find there. We are travelers in this world, we don’t need to accumulate stuff, rather we need to learn and share the Good News of our Lord.  

Lord, we are anxious and worry about our life and death. Help us to remember that we can’t even make a single hair on our head white or black (except by faking it.) Remind us that you provide for our needs and that there is no need for us to pile up treasures here on earth. Help us rest in the assurance that you will accomplish whatever concerns us, for we are your children. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Chris Gabel 



July 27

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

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.  James 1:5

My Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines wisdom as “knowledge, insight, good sense, judgment”.  Psychologist Robert Sternberg, writing for Psychology Today, states that wisdom is a “balance between oneself and others so that actions are directed at the common good”.  The Bible says that wisdom is a gift from God which he freely gives to those who ask for it.

There is much interest in wisdom today by psychologists.  I find it to be a complex subject so much so that to try to encapsulate it is difficult. Suffice it to say that for Christians, we need wisdom and we are to ask for it in our petitions to our maker.  I believe that God values wisdom for his children and that he wants us to use it.  We need to be open minded and humble in our knowledge.  We need to use our insight, our ability to discern, our discretion and our vision and our love.

A quote by Charles Spurgeon, a British minister in the Baptist church who became known for his preaching.  “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge.  To know is not to be wise.  There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool.  But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom”.

Knowing God,

In this uncertain and frustrating time in our world, we know that we must make good decisions to keep ourselves and our neighbors healthy and safe.  We ask for wisdom.  Make us wise Lord.  Thank you. Amen.

Joan Perlich



July 17

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”  Psalm 8:4

“We are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”  Ephesians 2:10

I am not a high jumper or a pole vaulter but I often say:  “Set a low bar and you won’t be disappointed.”  Said in jest of course, underachieving is not very satisfying.  My recall of Psalm 8 credits human beings as “a little lower than the angels” but the NRSV describes us as “a little lower than God!”  God has set a high bar for us.  We have dominion over God’s works … the air and sea.  We are appointed to take care of all God has made.  And God “saw that it was very good!”

Some years ago I was a Confirmation mentor.  I recall … along with “other young people” … painting on the walls of Christ the King:  “We are the hands and feet of God”, created in Christ Jesus for good works, to continue and live out God’s intentions.  I’m small, weak, afraid … I can’t jump!  These are poor excuses for apathy and inaction.  God does not leave us on our own but provides strength and courage, a support group of encouraging friends, to live out the plan of stewardship, compassion and peaceful coexistence.

We are God’s hired hands and we come with a steep price.  Not for reward of wealth and possessions though we have plenty of those, but redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  God is very mindful of us indeed. 

“I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”  (Psalm 139:14)

“Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love. 

Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.”   (Frances R. Havergal)  Amen

Verla Olson



July 16

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. Isaiah 55:1

Those who drink of the water that I will give them, will never be thirsty. John 4:14

We always long to accept and live in the fullness of life promised by God given to each of us in the waters of baptism. Sometimes the dry places in life give any one of us the feeling that God’s promise is far from us. We may cry out in our despair: “Where are you, Lord, when this pandemic goes on and on and on?” “Where are you, Lord, when I see the strife caused by timeless discrimination?” Where are you, Lord, when I see the anger and hatred brought on by the inequities of life?” “Where are you, Lord, when children starve?” 

God is there with living water when we see a boy playing the trumpet every day as the health workers from the hospital near his home change shifts. God is there when neighbors help neighbors clean up and repair after the destruction that rioting and looting out of control happens. God is there when sidewalk chalk brings messages of love and encouragement to all who pass by. God is there when someone reaches out with a phone call or a note letting the recipient know that someone cares. God is there when those whose hope is destroyed find and use the mental resources to restore that hope and bring a feeling of peace. I could go on and on.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thank you for the fullness of life you’ve made known in Jesus who suffered humiliation and death, only to rise again, thereby defeating the power of death. Jesus death and resurrection gives each one of us the living water of salvation. Help us to see your presence always and to spread the message of your love to all.  In Jesus most holy name we pray, Amen.

Florence Smallfield



July 15

The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established. Proverbs 19:21

 

Therefore, be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another for love covers a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:7-8

 

We certainly like to make plans. We plan what we are eating for the next meal, or even plan a week of meals. We plan activities, a movie to go see, a trip to take. We plan birthday and anniversary parties, and graduation celebrations. Somewhere in all that planning we probably planned what we were going to do for our life – job and career, marriage, maybe kids, and then retirement. Some of this planning has results, probably the parts where we really do take time and plan. Much does not. Some of our planning is more like dreaming of what we hope will happen. Of course, these last few months we all have had to change many of our plans. No gatherings, stay home, we can meet on Zoom at least. And make new plans for this new situation.

 

The Bible is clear that God has plans for us and for our world. In Jeremiah 29:11 we read that God said: “For I know the plans I have for you.” My Bible notes referred me to also look at Proverbs 16:1-9 where we can read “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” (verse 3)

 And “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (verse 9)

 

It is clear that as God created us and has a plan for us, we should listen to what it is we are to do. When we look at the words in I Peter we hear that we are to be serious – and disciplined — in our prayer life. Set aside time daily to pray and ask and praise and listen to God. Then we are to love. Love each other, love our neighbors, love the world we live in. It says “constant” love. That sounds awfully hard to do; after all we do get upset at people from time to time. But with God’s help, we can try to do this. We can pray daily for the strength to love all others. God loves all of us, we reflect His love back into His world.

 

Wise God of time and eternity, you make everything work together for our good and for your will to be established in earth as it is in heaven. Help us always to remember that your perfect plans give us hope and love for one another. You call us to live by faith in a larger world. Give us the courage of your love for the sake of everyone for whom we pray. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Chris Gabel



July 8

“Once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” Isaiah 29:14 (NIV) 

Many who heard Jesus were astounded They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!” Mark 6:2

What people are referred to in Isaiah? If you read back a few verses it becomes apparent that it is the hypocrites. As one commentator writes “the sure doom of hypocrisy would come upon the hypocrites: not loving the light, they would lose the light they had.” Those verses talk about those who come to God with words, just repeating a formula they have learned, yet their hearts are far from God. Now they will see wonders as God is getting their attention. Another translation of Isaiah 29:14 from the Good News translation: “So I will startle them with one unexpected blow after another. Those who are wise will turn out to be fools, and all their cleverness will be useless.”

Those who think they are wiser than God, who know better than Him what to do, and who think they are clever enough to do their own thing will be startled by God’s actions. He will finally get their attention with “wonders in judgment” as one note says, and they might now really listen. Isaiah goes on to tell of the good things that will happen to others:  the humble rejoicing in the Lord and the needy rejoicing in the Holy one of Israel (Isaiah 29:19.) The land will be restored and those “who have an eye for evil will be cut down.”

Now we move to the Newer Testament and read in Mark that Jesus, preaching in his hometown, was astounding His listeners. Astound – his listeners were amazed, astonished, surprised, shocked – by what they heard from Him and what they saw happening. There were miracles happening, people were healed, and raised from the dead among other wonders. Yet many of the people took offense because they knew Him so well – they knew his family, his mother, sisters and brothers and knew him as a carpenter. Mark says Jesus could not do miracles there, except laying on of hands to cure the sick, because of the lack of faith of many of the people. Their lack of faith was something that amazed Jesus!

God does astounding things every day – Creation itself, new life, growing plants, people inspired to help others in need. Young people organizing and leading marches to get justice for all. Healing and comfort for all. We need to listen and see what God is doing each and every day and see what He wants us to do in this world.  

We confess, Father, that we look without seeing, listen without hearing and consider your wonders without comprehending. Open our eyes and awaken our sleeping hearts to respond to the glories that surround us on every side. Hep us to learn from Jesus how to love you and all you have created. Help us follow Jesus’ example of humbleness as we serve those around us. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



July 6

As far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. Romans 5:20.

On a special anniversary, my husband and I decided to splurge and go to a pricey restaurant for dinner.  Our waitress asked if we were celebrating and we told her of the number of our years together.  Our dessert was fancy and had a sparkler in it. A gentleman across the room, dining with his wife and friends, asked the waitress what we were celebrating.  When we had finished eating, the waitress came and told us that we had no bill, the gentleman across the room had paid for our dinner!

What a grace filled moment for us.  And for that man, I hope.  What his motivation was is a mystery.  But I think maybe God had a hand in it.

That story is a dramatic example of someone bestowing grace on others.  (We did not earn this gift).  But grace abounds in many stories if we but open our eyes and our hearts and pay attention.  The present pandemic has brought us many stories of people showing grace to others.  Although I cannot thank God for this frightening, killer virus, I praise him for the love he has put into people’s hearts and minds enabling them to do remarkable and loving things.

We live in community made up of many selves.  It is in that community where we can lose ourselves and love our neighbors.  It’s not that easy to do but we are called to do it.  And in doing it, we find our true selves.

Don and I plan to “pay it forward”.  I pray that when we do, that person or persons feels as blessed as we do.

Good and gracious God, give us eyes to see where grace abounds in our lives and in the whole world.  Thank you.  Amen
 
Joan Perlich


July 1

Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. Jeremiah 23:24 

Anyone who loves God is known by him. I Corinthians 8:3

I was just listening to some summer pool safety tips. In grad school I learned a lot about the dangers of swimming pools (and swimming in lakes too) and the program reminded me that the number one cause of death for kids 1-4 is drowning. What can help prevent this? Some basic things like locked fences around pools, wearing proper flotation devices, teaching kids to swim.  But the main 3 things were: an adult must be watching all the time. For non-swimmers and the little kids, someone needs to be within arm’s length of the child. And, the one that reminded me of Jeremiah – remove the pool toys when the adult is not right there, maybe playing too. Kids cannot be seen behind some of these toys and they could go under and drown before anyone notices. They could be hidden from those watching.  Parents and other adults need to know the children, their abilities and to be continually on watch.

Our verses for today both talk about God knowing us, about Him seeing us; there is nowhere for us to hide. Some may see this continual watching by God as a scary thing. After all, we aren’t always acting the way we think we should. Isn’t this sort of like kids as Christmas nears? Santa is watching and looking for the naughty and nice. The nice, well-behaved child gets the good stuff; the naughty child gets the coal in their stockings. And Jeremiah tells us that God fills heaven and earth, there is nowhere to hide. No large pool toys to hide behind. So, maybe we have a scary vengeful God, just watching and waiting for us to disobey.

Luckily, that is not the situation. God’s watching is that of a caring parent. One who knows each and every one of us very well. He sees us wherever we are – but as a protective, loving God. One who is ready to listen to us, and to speak to us. Think of a shepherd who watches over the flock of sheep, keeping an eye on all of them since sheep are not the brightest animals around. Keeping them safe from danger and leading them to food and good water. Watching closely to protect them. Sometimes we may feel that God is not close to us. Jeremiah in verse 23:24 tells us that God is both near to us, and far away in that He is everywhere. This all powerful and all-knowing God actually has a personal relationship with all of His Creation. We can only thank Him for watching over us.

Merciful God, even when we feel that you are far away, help us to always remember your love and mercy. Help us feel the sound of you all around us in the wind in the trees, voices of others, and our own thoughts. Forgive us when our worries in this life overcome our reliance on you. May we always hear you with thankfulness when you call our names. Help us to do your will. In Jesus’ Name. Amen 

Chris Gabel