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June 5

The Lord waits to be be gracious to you. Isaiah 30:18

So it depends not on human will or exertion,  but on God who shows mercy. Romans 9:16

“May we not succumb to thoughts of violence and revenge today, but rather to thoughts of mercy and compassion. We are to love our enemies that they might be returned to their right minds.” Marianne Williamson

Our Father in heaven is rich in mercy, and though we don’t deserve it and cannot earn it, God forgives our sins. God’s gift of mercy comes to us purely out of his grace and great love for us.

It’s a big, bad world out there, full of day to day living, with jobs to worry about, school to pay for, cars that break down, and…..with all things that seem so important, we come to realize they are like chasing after the wind. The things of this world are destroyed by rust and corruption, and can be taken away in an instant; so maybe they are not quite as meaningful as we once thought.

And then, God reminds us he is still rich in mercy.  When we go off our path so long and so far, that we are almost starving to come back, God is still rich in mercy. God wants us in his kingdom, and He gives us to opportunity to return. We are God’s children and we will always be God’s children. Always.

I am grateful, Lord, that your love does not wait for me to present my good deeds and intentions.  Help me depend more on you and less on myself, remembering that your mercy is new every morning. As you raise me up to a new life, make my life today a blessing for others. Amen.

Sudan Hanson

May 31

I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy, and executes justice for the poor. Psalm 140:12

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Luke 6:20

God reaches everywhere. He does not discriminate according to the size of one’s bank account or of the influence one has among the powerful. I was struck by the news story this week of the migrant, Mamoudou Gassama, from Mali, who scaled the apartment building in Paris to save a young child dangling from a balcony. The point that interested me was that Mr. Gassama met with the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, at the president’s palace after the heroic rescue. President Macron stated that Mr. Gassama’s act will assure that Mr. Gassama’s papers would be in order as quickly as possible.

What really struck me was the statement that “Mr. Gassama will be one of a lucky few in a country with increasingly tight immigration rules and a generally skeptical attitude toward migrants who are seeking primarily economic benefits.” I would imagine that most migrants cannot scale tall buildings in Spiderman-like fashion to achieve acceptance. Of course, Mr. Gassama did not do so for such a reason either. He just saw a desperate need and thought he could help.

My point is, God tells us over and over through his word and example that we are to help the poor and all of those in need. Over and over, those in power seek ways to thwart the generosity and assistance which could be given to those most in need. The other migrants who came under similar circumstances as those of Mr. Gassama most likely will not have their papers in order as quickly as possible. It is ludicrous to think that one must perform an act of heroism beyond belief to be accepted! Of course, I am happy for Mr. Gassama; I am just thinking also, about the ones who are nice people who are turned back day after day in their desperate need for help in France, at our own borders, and many other places throughout the world.  

Where can we feel useful when we do not have the power of those who run our country? Prayer is always the conduit which offers relief that we may never understand or know. Other means of communication give each of us the opportunity to let officials know that every person is a child of God and should be treated with respect and dignity. God commands us to treat each other with respect. He says, “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Your children cover the earth. Those in poverty and desperate need are everywhere. Keep us from selfishness that precludes us from seeing needs in others and seeking to help our brothers and sisters wherever they may be. Help us to love with the unconditional love you have for each of us. Show us ways to act on your generous love. Amen. 

Florence Smallfield

May 30

Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion.  Bless the Lord, O my soul.  Psalm 103: 22 

Be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves,  Ephesians 5: 18-19 

I choose to write about joy today, although the scripture verses for today do not directly refer to that topic.  

My Webster dictionary defines joy as “1. A feeling of happiness that comes from success, good fortune, or a sense of well-being, and 2. A source of happiness. Can’t argue with those definitions, they certainly ring true.  My problem comes from the difference between that kind of joy and the joy that comes from the Lord. 

So how can we define the “joy of the Lord”?  I don’t believe that it comes from success or good fortune.  It might be connected to a sense of well-being but not always.  It maybe doesn’t always include a feeling of happiness.  My definition of the joy that comes from God is a deep seated knowledge that whatever happens in my life, the love and mercy of the Lord has saved me, blessed me, and will one day bring me home. 

How do we show that we have the joy of God in our hearts?  How can anyone look at us and see that joy?  That question troubles me.  Perhaps because I don’t always act as though I am joyful.  Circumstances challenge us, we may be angry, disappointed, distraught. But the fact remains that God is always with us and he will see us through. 

I don’t know why I wanted to write about joy today.  Maybe I needed to think it through for myself.  Whatever happens in your life or mine today, I wish us all joy. 

Most holy God, we know that your promises are real and true and that you wish for us abundant and joyful lives.  Thank you for planting in us that knowledge of your love and mercy.  Help us to show our joy to others.  Amen 

Joan Perlich

May 29

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

“A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations. Patricia Neal

I am going to guess that I am not the only one whose life didn’t turn out as expected. When I was 18, the whole world was a possibility. However, I never worked in my degree field, didn’t have kids, got divorced, and all of a sudden gotten old…..! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whining, it’s been a terrific ride. I’ve had fun, met great friends, worked at interesting places, and enjoyed almost every minute of it. Let’s just say that life can hand you all kinds of surprises, it can be unexpected and not always live up to our expectations.

It’s not hard to praise God when all is going well, but it’s harder when the bottom falls out. It’s not hard to sing songs of praise when all the bills are paid, but it’s a little harder to sing when we’re not sure where our next meal is coming from, or when our loved ones disappoint us, or when I our bodies are racked with pain. Often, when life doesn’t meet our expectations, it disrupts our relationship with God and we find ourselves asking what good does it do, what good is prayer if I don’t get what I ask for, why bother?

It’s hard sometimes to keep going when life falls short. But we are encouraged to stay anchored in God when we are disappointed,  because He knows and He cares. When we are in trouble, regardless of where the trouble came from, He is there to ease our troubled minds, He is there to calm our fears and He is there to help us meet those expectations.

Gracious Lord, I am grateful for my interesting and complicated life. Remind me that you have raised me too a new life in Christ. Help me to serve you by doing those things that you have equipped me to do. Amen.

Susan Hanson

May 25

The day of the Lord of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up – and it shall be brought low. Isaiah 2:12 NKJV 

Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not being to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor.” Luke 3:8 

At first reading of this verse from Isaiah, I thought of last Sunday, Pentecost, which is one of my favorite days of the church year. There’s something beautifully chaotic about the image of flames resting on their heads as people speak in the many different languages represented by the crowds, and though I prefer things to be orderly and organized and calm, it seems like the coming of the Holy Spirit should feel wild and frenetic and all the other terms for frenzied that I can think of. 

But this verse also puzzled me at first, in that same sense – the day of the Lord of hosts shall come, that’s awesome, but it shall come upon everything proud and lofty? That didn’t sound right. What happened to the last shall be first and the first shall be last (Matthew 20:16)?  I saw it as yet another opportunity for me to seek out different versions/translations of the Bible, which makes me wish I spoke other languages (especially Greek).  One version, the Amplified Bible, helped make it clearer for me:

For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning
Against all who are proud and arrogant
And against all who are lifted up,
That they may be degraded.  Isaiah 2:12 (AMP)

The website where I found this translation had italicized the words ‘of reckoning.’ It’s funny how just hearing one or two words emphasized when someone explains something to you that make it immediately more understandable. Don’t you wish, like I do, that everything (especially the word of God) could be that easy to have understanding?  Thankfully, we have so many places and people in our lives to help us comprehend, if we will only take the time and seek out the information.

The dictionary gives three sub-definitions for the word reckoning, and two seem especially appropriate.  A bill or account, or its settlement is one, which the dictionary says is archaic, but though it is old fashioned, still makes sense to me. Another definition is the avenging or punishing of past mistakes or misdeeds.

Against all who are proud and arrogant, I think to myself. That’s great. I can easily think of public figures who could stand to be brought down a notch. Then I think a little further, and try looking at that verse from someone else’s point of view. I don’t think of myself as rich, and I would not want to think of myself as proud, or arrogant, but the other day I was walking down a city street when a man sitting on the sidewalk asked if I had some cash to help the homeless. I was in a hurry, heading somewhere else, didn’t have time, and passed him by, calling back “Sorry, no” over my shoulder. I’ll bet I looked rich, and proud, and yes, arrogant as I hurried by. How many times have I driven past a homeless person by the side of the road with a sign, thought to myself I wish I had the rest of that sandwich that I threw away after lunch today, he looks hungry, or, I guess I’ve got a couple of dollars I could give her, but the stoplight is turning green already… 

The day is coming when God will judge us for our thoughts and actions, as well as our failure to think and to act.  I hope that God will see me and judge me more kindly than I have judged others, including not taking the time to see someone in need.

Generously loving Lord, forgive us when we are proud, thinking that because we are not as rich as some, that we are not among the richest people on Earth. You have given us hands so that we can give to others. Stop us before we can walk away, open our eyes to really see other people and not just look away, open our hearts so we can give generously without worrying whether we have enough for ourselves. We have all been given so much, and yet the people who have so little money seem to be the most generous. Inspire us to be like the widow in the book of Mark who gave all she had. Thank you God for everything. Amen
Lynda Tysdal

May 24

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Psalm 32:1

Her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. Luke 7:47

When Jesus was eating at the home of a Pharisee, a woman from the city brought ointment, bathed Jesus feet with her tears, applied ointment, and kissed his feet. The Pharisee, named Simon, questioned Jesus’ standing as a prophet, because Jesus let this woman, a sinner, minister to him in such a way. Jesus then told Simon of the creditor who had two debtors, one owing 500 denarii, the other 50 denarii. The creditor forgave the debts of both of these men. Jesus then asked Simon, “Now, which one of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” Jesus when went on to tell Simon that this woman had ministered to him, because of her love for Jesus. Jesus knew her many sins but forgave her, because she had shown great love.

Have you ever had to tell someone that you forgive him/her? I have. I may have thought that the transgression was great and may even have thought it would be difficult to talk to this person and tell that I was forgiving him/her. But, as soon as I let go of my frustration, resentment, anger, and told the person that I loved him/her no matter what, we both began anew and moved on in a positive spirit. Sometimes the other person isn’t ready to let go of harbored resentments; it is still better to tell him/her that you forgive and to feel this forgiveness in your heart.

That is Jesus’ way. He is always there waiting for us to confess our sins and come back into his fold. Because he died and rose again for each one of us, we have his assurance of forgiveness and salvation. He is the ultimate judge who has freed each one of us.

Dear Lord and Savior,

Thank you for always being there for us. There are times when the happenings in our lives overshadow the joy in knowing that we are your redeemed children. Forgive us for dwelling on such and forgetting that you are the merciful judge who has freed each one of us. Help us to live in the light of your merciful promises and to share the good news of your love with others. Amen.

Florence Smallfield      

May 23

One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city. Proverbs 16:32 

Another translation “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” (NIV) 

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building. Romans 14:19 

Anger is a very strong emotion.  We all know, or maybe we sometimes are, a person who goes from quiet conversation to immediate anger when they don’t agree with something.  It can take just a few words that someone hears to make their temper flare. Then there is no listening, no thinking about the other’s opinion, just anger that makes the situation worse. Proverbs says that we should focus on our own reaction, to remain in control of ourselves, even when that is difficult. Patience is certainly difficult to remember to have each and every day. 

This is not to say that anger is always wrong; there are things in this imperfect world that do make us angry. Things such as affordable housing (that is the lack of affordable housing,) institutional racism, children neglected or abused, and healthcare inequities are all things that can make us angry. However, the next step is to take that anger and focus it on to doing something about these issues. We can find or gather a group, express our anger constructively and use it to spur us on to action. Anger, once felt and controlled, can be a driving force to go and make changes.   

Paul tells us that we should look to things that make life peaceful, that we get along with others no matter if we agree with them or not. We are to actually pursue peace – not just stand by and wait for it to appear. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to enable the gift of patience and self-control.

The first verse of Chapter 14 of Romans says: “Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.” I would think this extends to non-believers and those we encounter in many other settings. Rather than argue or even “discuss” we need to listen, support and control our impatience.  Otherwise how can we share this wonderful message of love and peace that we find in the Gospel? 

God of peace, your word tells us we must not only seek peace, but pursue it. Grant us the faith to trust in you, so that we may lay down our arms. Give us the strength to make peace, so that we may be blessed. We thank you for all your faithful servants who have taught us the way of peace and justice, especially your son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen. 

Chris Gabel

May 22

The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to friend. Exodus 33:11

While two of the apostles were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them. Luke 24:15

Just before the death of actor W.C. Fields, a friend visited Fields’ hospital room and was surprised to find him thumbing through a Bible. Asked what he was doing with a Bible, Fields replied, “I’m looking for loopholes.”

These words appear in Latin on Carl Jung’s tombstone. In English, the words are, “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.”

Loopholes……looking for a way out…avoidance. We have a tendency to avoid God. But we can’t!

Whether we call upon God or not, God is present. Whether we acknowledge God or not, God is present. No matter how hard we try to run away, no matter how much we try not to listen, no matter how hard we pretend not to understand, God is present. No matter how much we hurl our anger and rage at God, like throwing a ball against a backstop, God is present. No matter how much we want to avoid God’s judgment, God is present. No matter how much we want to avoid God’s love, God is present. 

There is nowhere that we can be where God is not also. God is with us in the classroom and the kitchen, the boardroom and the bedroom, the office and the hospital. Bidden or not bidden, God is present.

If there is nowhere in the world that we can be where God is not also, there is also nowhere in our hearts and our very being where God is not as well. God is with us when our hearts are bursting with joy and tears run down our cheeks in gratitude. God is with us when our hearts are heavy with burdens or breaking with grief. God is with us in the dark night of the soul and with us when the morning light breaks onto the horizon of our heart.

Lord, thank you, for coming near to us even when we seek to avoid you. Jesus, our greatest friend, has stepped into the darkness of our sin to illuminate new paths for your new people. As Jesus comes near me today, help me be a friend who shows love to others as I receive it from you. Amen.


Susan Hanson

May 18

They have made themselves gods of gold. Please forgive their sin.  Exodus 32: 31-32 NIV 

Gods made with hands are not gods. Acts 19:26 

Like so many verses in the Bible, it’s all too easy to read Exodus and scoff at the Israelites for losing their faith in God and building a golden calf to worship. In their frustration for wandering in the desert and waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, it seems that they are trying to combine bull worship (Apis was a sacred bull in Egyptian mythology that was worshiped as a god) and worshipping God (after Aaron melts down the earrings that people are wearing to create the golden calf, he builds an altar before it and says “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord” (Exodus 32:5), though I’m uncertain if by “Lord” he means the Lord our God, or the lord their god. 

Either way, I say to myself, Moses is speaking with God personally on the mountain.  How can they not follow the instructions that Moses is giving them after that when he tells them to be patient and stay faithful to God? 

Then again, Matthew 7:5 reminds me: You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 

There are plenty of modern-day idols and idolatry, whether we choose to see it that way or not. Our lives seem full, or appear that way on the outside, but we find ourselves feeling empty inside. Instead of filling up the empty spaces with God, or with working to share God’s love by helping others, we try to fill up with things. Have you ever stood in a crowded place and felt lonely? Looking at all our belongings or at a big bank account (which somehow can never be big enough for us – if you won a million dollars, do you think would you be satisfied with it, or bemoan the fact that you didn’t win a billion dollars), can make us wonder why it still isn’t enough to fill us up. 

If it’s not money or belongings, our culture always seems to be looking to put someone up on a pedestal.  Being an excited fan of a singer or sports figure or movie star can be or seems like it should be harmless enough, but if they are overshadowing the role of God in your life, it’s idolatry.  Even how we view politicians can be idolatry – they make promises and we cheer, certain that they will solve all of our problems, turning our back on God and his laws to follow someone all too human who will change their mind or conveniently forget what they said. 

We should remember that the one who can always be trusted to solve our problems, even when they are caused by our own actions, and to stay true to His promises to love us, listen to us, and care for us unceasingly, is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for your patience and kindness with us when we go down the wrong path in life, choosing to follow money, fame, and things that will never fulfill us or make us as happy as you can.  We pray that you will give us the heart to turn against our sinful ways and look to you for guidance as we go about our daily lives. Amen
Lynda Tysdal

May 17

“He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their prayer.”  Psalm 102:17

“The tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but beating his breast, and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  I tell you, this man went down to his home justified.”  “Luke 18:13-14

Prayer is our very own conversation with GOD … a two-way street.  I recall a televised interview with Mother Teresa.  She was asked, “When you pray, what do you say?”  She answered, “I don’t say anything.  I listen.”  The interviewer asked, “What does God say to you?”  Mother Teresa answered, “He doesn’t say anything.  He listens.” 

Like the very air we breathe, God is all around us, talking … if we just listen.  Not just in the lessons of pastors and teachers and Bible study, but in the comfort and encouragement offered by family and friends.  The kindness of strangers might be bringing a message from God.  In the needs of others, God is calling us to love and act.

Like the very air we breathe, God is all around us, listening.  We joyfully sing praise and give thanks.  We quietly ask … plead.  We shamefully whine and seethe.  We think no one hears the cries silenced in our palms or smothered in our pillows, “sighs too deep for words” – God hears it all.  God reads our minds and hearts and knows when either/both is wandering.  Before words come, God hears.  When words don’t come at all, God hears.  Mother Teresa also wrote ”When the time comes and we cannot pray, it is very simple – let Jesus pray in us to the Father in the silence of our hearts.  If we cannot speak, he will speak.  If we cannot pray, he will pray.  So let us give him our inability and our nothingness.”  “Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.”  (Isaiah 65:24)

“Lord, teach a little child to pray, and oh accept my prayer;

Thou hearest all the words I say, for Thou art everywhere.”  Amen

(from “A Child’s Garden of Prayer”, Concordia Publishing House, presented to me September 5, 1954, in recognition of Sunday School attendance)

Verla Olson