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October 31

Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed. Isaiah 1:17

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Hebrews 13:3

I have lived in downtown Minneapolis for many years and have watched the landscape change fast. New apartments, condos, and office buildings going up over-night. Old buildings being renovated into something new and hip. But the one thing I have noticed in particular is the begging downtown has increased. It is sad and disturbing.
Discussing their situation with others has provoked a variety of responses. Some tell me there is no need for people to beg and that there is welfare to help those in genuine need. That argument does not convince me. One does not live on welfare, assuming one is even eligible for it in the first place. By the end of the month, parents are barely feeding their kids, and not eating themselves. 
Now I do not rule out the possibility of there being people begging who don’t really need to beg, but they would be the exception rather than the rule. Likewise, there is the occasional person on the street that makes demands with menaces, but it would be very unfair of us to dismiss them all because of the misdeeds of a few. Most people I have seen had their heads bowed in shame. While some emotional states can be easily faked, it is very difficult to fake abject despair and humiliation. 
We need to remember we are all created in God’s image, and the gospel makes it clear that when we give food to the hungry, refresh the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit prisoners, we do this for Christ. 
If Jesus was in Minnesota this week, we would be lucky to see him in our churches. I think he might visit and make a few pithy observations, but he would not stay because he would have things to do elsewhere. You would be more likely to find Jesus on the fringes, ministering to the poor and the marginalized. You might see him at an AA meeting, at a soup kitchen, or sitting with the homeless on Nicollet Mall.

Lord God, you sought me, rescued me, and taught me. You joined me in my prison cell and helped me see life in your eyes. I am sorry that I can get caught in my own pain yet show no compassion for the pain of others. Teach me how to do good for others. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson

P.S. This is a repeat devotion. I find that we need constant reminding of our responsibilities to those less fortunate than us. Thank you. S.



October 30

“Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you.”  1 Chronicles 22:16

“Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.  Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’”  Luke 5:5

I need a loaf of bread.  I drive a car manufactured by workers to a store built, wired, plumbed, cleaned, carts returned … by workers.  Wheat was grown, processed, packaged, trucked, put on shelves … by workers.  A farmer drew milk for my butter.  A grower raised fruit for my jam.  A lot of work went into this piece of toast!  My running shoes, bike, golf clubs (though they don’t seem to work well) were made by workers.  Even the dollars I have earned were made – literally – by workers.  I need the work and services provided by others, and come to think of it, others need mine. 

Work is a gift, and each of us is gifted for work, and by the work of others … pouring concrete, performing surgery, shaping Communion ware and Baptism bowls.  Recent evening news told the story of Juanita.  She has retired after 30 years cashiering the cafeteria line at MNDot.  The reporter said her job was “simple” but she did it in a “profound way”, making everyone feel better than they had before.

Some say they can’t wait to retire.  Others wonder “What will I do with my time?”  Another recent news story … Lucille Lyons, at 102 greets patients and visitors one day each week at the VA Medical Center.  There is always work to do … a building and grounds to maintain, Wednesday night suppers to serve, quilts to sew.  There are lonely to comfort, food shelves to stock, children to read to … retired, but still working … low wages – rewards priceless.  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”  (Col 3:23).

“For all that we are called to, God, we give thanks this day.
For people, partners, places, at home, at work, at play.
You gift us for our calls as you make the world’s needs known.

Bless us with strength and courage to serve where we are shown.

For those who need our work, God, the ones that we’re called for.
We strive each day to serve them, to give and love them more.
Vocation is for others, lives given in exchange—

the good of all your children, our common hopes and dreams.”*  Amen

Verla Olson

 

*“A Hymn of Calling.” Tune: “The Church’s One Foundation.” Text: Copyright © 2013 Laura Kelly Fanucci, in

To Bless Our Callings: Prayers, Poems, and Hymns to Celebrate Vocation (Wipf & Stock, 2017).

 

https://collegevilleinstitute.org/bearings/prayers-and-hymns-of-calling-and-vocation/



October 27

Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! Isaiah 2:5

You are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 1 Thessalonians 5:5

Have you ever noticed how insects seek light after the sun goes down? They cover the screens outside a lighted window or will pursue the light of a light bulb until they burn themselves to a crisp. Sometimes we are just like those persistent insects. Our lives hurt much, and we can only see darkness and despair. We seek some form of light and hope from those around us–faith, family, friends, enjoyable pastimes, etc.

As his children we know there is one constant in all of our darkest times; our faith and dependence on God’s all-encompassing love for each one of us. That doesn’t mean it is always easy to feel the comfort of his love for us. Just knowing that he is there to guide our pathway and and to offer his wisdom and love can give a glimmer of hope in even the darkest of days. Often, God sends the spark most needed just when one thinks all is lost. It can be in the form of a kind word, a prayer offered, a visit, a gift of food, transportation to an appointment, offering to do a task to lighten the load of one who is too encumbered, a beautiful sunrise, or just what one seemed to need at that moment. We are never alone; He is always there; He uses countless ways and works through those around us to light our pathways in good times and bad.

God’s love can only be shared as others have shared their love and kindness with each one of us. He taught us to share his love with one another. In her book, Dare to Be Kind: How Extraordinary Compassion Can Transform Our World, Lizzie Valesquez says, “Sometimes we need someone to turn on the flashlight for us. Other times, we need to turn it on for others.”  We know that we are children of the light; our mission is to also help others come into the light.

Dear Lord an Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thank you for being there is our darkest times to lead us into the light of your wisdom and love. Shine on our pathways always as we walk with others today and every day. You are the light of the world; we are children of your light; praise be to your holy name. Amen.

Florence Smallfield



October 26

Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.  Isaiah 56:1

Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:4

The dictionary definition of justice is “to administer rewards or punishment”; also “fairness, righteousness.”

It seems to me that there is more injustice than justice in this world of ours.  The deeds of the Taliban and Isis and other terror groups are heartbreaking to hear about and for some people to experience.  We wonder how such unrighteousness and evil can exist in the hearts of men and women.  Our global world presents a horrid picture of humans who are essentially just like us, created by one God.  We feel impotent and helpless to affect change.

Justice stands at the center of true Christianity.  If we are believers, we are to walk with the Lord, do justice, love kindness, and live peaceably.  A tall order but it comes from the mouth of God and so it is our duty and our legacy to leave with the next generation.

How do we do this?  We work for the common good in our families, our work, our communities, as consumers, as citizens of not just our city or state or country but as citizens of the world.  We can make a difference.  We must pray for the Holy Spirit to help us.

CS Lewis, in one of his writings says ”justice means more than the sort of thing that goes on in law courts. It is the old name for everything we should now call “fairnness”. It includes honesty, give and take, truthfulness, keeping promises, and all that side of life.”

“He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8.

Righteous God, you have shown us the way to live.  Give us fortitude and strength and the will to do what is right and good.  Forgive us when we focus on ourselves rather than others, and when we feel so complacent in our small worlds that we forget about the injustices in the world.  Thank you for your mercy.  Amen.

Joan Perlich



October 25

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:26 

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

Patience is a good trait to have especially when we are waiting for something we really want. This time of year we hear kids anxious for Halloween and candy to arrive; for Christmas and the lights and festivity, and the presents. Besides being impatient while waiting for the fun things to come, most of us worry about a lot of things. Jobs, the economy, family problems, illness, and grief all occur. When we have worries we may focus on just those things that worry us, and forget that God has promised to be with us at all times.  So, we are to “wait quietly.”

It is really hard to just wait quietly. According to a study Bible note, quietly has the connotation of waiting silently. Not talking about it, or continually complaining; not distracting ourselves with other noises. Or as Psalm 46:10a says “Be still and know that I am God” Sometimes I wonder if God would like us to stop and just be quiet, take the time to just know Him.

Then, we wait. God has promised salvation, not necessarily to each and every problem we perceive at the time we want it, but in His own time. How do we know this? God keeps His promises. He brought Israel out of Egypt, was with them through exile and return, and He sent Jesus as our savior. In Hebrews we read that we are to hold fast – without doubt or hesitation – that sounds a little hard to do. Yet we have help. The Holy Spirit is there to help us with making changes in our lives.

From the T.R.I.P. form of prayer as noted in the Daily Texts, the “T” is for thanks, the ”R” for regret, and the “P” is for purpose. The “I” stands for intercession. As we pray we can “ask the Holy Spirit for help in some concrete way. . . It is one way of praying for the Holy Spirit’s power to help us with inner change. In this prayer we are asking for help for one specific need or issue.

Father, your word tells us that you will never leave us nor forsake us. Remind us at all times that you are with us. Help us to trust your promises to us. Remind us that we can ask you for anything and you will listen. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Chris Gabel



October 24

They shall come and join themselves to the Lord by an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten. Jeremiah 50:5

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ towards God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant. 2 Corinthians 3:4,6

Relationships are difficult, and can sometimes define us to the rest of the world. Our relationship with partners, with children, with parents, with friends and our relationship with God, can tell the rest of the world who we are, who we are as people, who we are as Christians. And……..I think to be a Christian is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m not sure everyone ‘gets’ that. Even Phillip, an apostle from the Gospel John, had a hard time figuring out his relationship with Christ. He said, “Lord, show us the Father and that is enough for us.” Jesus responded with surprise and said that merely hanging around with Him doesn’t mean we know Him. Just because you hang around a garage, doesn’t make you a car. Just because you hang around a church doesn’t make you a Christian. I hang around artists, but that doesn’t make me an artist. I think that Jesus was telling us that we need to have a personal relationship with Him, to have faith in Him. Jesus then asked, “Phillip, don’t you know me?” There it is, that’s the question. It’s all about the difference between knowing about God and knowing God. A faith that is a personal relationship with Jesus.

Father, I regret being so focused upon my daily practical tasks that I neglect my relationships, not only with other people but also with you. You call me away from old habits that drive me, and you guide me back again to see what gives me life and confidence………my relationship with you and with others.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



October 20

Male and female God created them, and he blessed them and named them “Humankind.” Genesis 5:2

Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

These verses rested on me like flickers of sunlight through the golden leaves we are seeing these lovely autumn days. In a time when the news of the world, including the suffering of our brothers and sisters trying to survive and recover from storms, massacres, and fires, it is beautiful to see the word, humankind.

Over and over we hear of the amazing acts of kindness to people who are suffering unbelievable disaster. M.J. Ryan said, “Presume goodwill.” in the book, Habit Changers. She expands on this and other mantras, as she calls them. She says, “True, people can be unkind, inconsiderate, or downright mean, but it’s rarely intentional.  Most people are too focused on themselves to intentionally try to provoke you.” She also says, “Many people I’ve given this phrase to have turned all kinds of relationship challenges around by simply presuming goodwill on the other person’s part.”

Think of the instant acts of bravery during the devastating Las Vegas shooting; of the firefighters who are fighting tirelessly to control California fires; of the thousands who help following the hurricanes. In such times people immediately recognize their similarities to each other and act out of what they would like to have done for them in a time of devastation. They bless others with their unique gifts to work in harmony to resolve disharmony. What better way could people be a testimony to the ways God would have us to go?  

Dear Lord and Savior,

When the world where we hear of intents on revenge, you teach us to surpass one another in honor and loving kindness. Help us to see similarities, not differences, in one another. Help us to always presume goodwill and to follow your ways. Amen.

Florence Smallfield



October 18

For we are aliens and transients before you, as were all our ancestors; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope.  I Chronicles 29:15

People who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.  Hebrews 11:14, 16

When I taught my epidemiology class about census data, the source of those population numbers we need when assessing rates of disease, we have a discussion as to who does not get counted.  They sometimes suggest college students, since they aren’t at home, or perhaps ignore the forms.  Some think of those that are in the process of moving at that time. Then, they often mention illegal aliens, and immigrants who don’t speak English very well, or who fear the government in any form.  Finally, we think about the homeless – as one student wrote on his exam “how can we count people that don’t have a home?”

We might feel that way occasionally, even though we do have a physical house or apartment.  Sometimes we feel alienated and as transients in the society we live in. As the people of Israel traveled from Egypt to Palestine; and back and forth from exile it must have seemed as though they were always transients.  Now, they are collecting to build a temple, to have a permanent place to worship God. David praises God for all He has given, and celebrates the people’s participation and generosity.

The verse from Hebrews follows the lists of all those who have been faithful that came before us – their hope is our hope; their “better country” is ours too.  God has truly given us everything, including a savior, and has prepared a city for us.  We do not need to feel alone, alienated even as we are transients on this earth.

Lord, we sometimes weary of this present world and all it demands.  It promises peace but so often delivers pain. We long for much more.  Thank you for being my God and for your promise of a hope beyond this present world.  Lord Jesus, come to us and all people today with a taste of things to come.  Amen.

Chris Gabel



October 17

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for her self, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Psalm 84:3

So then, a Sabbath rest still remains for people of God. Hebrews 4:9

I think it’s true that Americans don’t value rest and relaxation. I think we’ve made a virtue of unceasing labor; we brag about how busy we are, as if the hectic pace of our lives is proof that we’re important and significant. We feel guilty when we’re not working, and we’re suspicious of anyone else who removes their nose from the grindstone for too long. Take vacations, for example. In Europe, the standard is five or six weeks of time off per year. Sound good? In France, the whole country basically shuts down for the month of August, and everyone heads to the beach or the mountains. And while the number of public holidays in the U.S. is seven; in Europe it’s ten or eleven.

In fact, Japan, one of the most industrialized countries in the world takes less time off from work than we do. The Japanese work so hard that one of the most pressing health issues in Japan is “karoshi,” or “death by overwork”.

Why the discrepancy? I think there is a cultural difference. The Europeans simply have a different attitude as to the proper balance between work and leisure. Someone has said that while Europeans work to live, Americans live to work. This might be an overgeneralization, but we tend to be fairly materialistic, measuring success in terms of wealth and possessions. And you do have to work long and hard to accumulate all that stuff. While Europeans tend to view things more holistically, stressing the importance of intangible wealth – things like culture, and beauty, and having the time to enjoy life. The result of all this is that America has the strongest economy in the world, one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, the most advanced medical and health system in the world – and along with it, one of the highest rates of stress-related illness in the world.

But maybe, just maybe, the way we approach work and leisure is not the only way, and perhaps not the best way. Because, believe it or not, God is very interested in the topic of rest. To Him, rest is not just wasted time, time when we could be doing something useful and productive. No. Rest, properly understood, has value and worth and purpose. In fact, it’s essential to our physical and spiritual well-being. Maybe we need to examine the balance of work and rest in our life, and not only the quantity, but the quality of our rest, to see if it’s what you need; what you were designed for. And more importantly, whether the balance of work and rest that you are experiencing in your life is pleasing to God.

First of all, God himself rests. Anything that God does is by definition a good thing. No one would accuse God of being lazy or unproductive. Yet the Bible tells us clearly that both God the Father and God the Son took time for rest. The balance of work and rest that we see in God’s creative activity is intended to be a model for us. Whether or not you believe that we should literally set aside the seventh day of every week as a formal day of rest, it certainly shows that we should follow a regular pattern of ceasing from our labors. It tells us that a lifestyle of uninterrupted labor, day after day, is not good for us, nor pleasing to the Lord. In other words, if God chose to rest, then we should as well. We should follow His example.

Thank you, mighty Lord, for building places of rest. In my prayers yo u build an altar where I can leave my burdens. On the Sabbath you build an oasis where I can be refreshed by your Word. Help me to help others alight on your promises and rest securely there. Amen.

“Rest and be thankful.” William Wordsworth

Peace,

Susan Hanson



October 12

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

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

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

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

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

Joan Perlich