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August 29, 2017

The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not disobedient. Nor did I turn back. Isaiah 50:5

Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. Luke 10:39

“Man’s inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively.” Carl Rogers

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill

I have a couple of friends who are Quakers, The Religious Society of Friends. Quakers teach that there is that of God in each of us, we just need to listen. They have a saying, ”Let your life speak”.

A question worth exploring is just how we are going to listen to our lives, our souls, God. Sometimes, the soul speaks the truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions. Sometimes the message will come in the silence.

But, there are other times when the soul is shouting at us. It is demanding, full of the injustice of our neglect. The message might come midst the storm. We need to pay attention and wait for the message. Some people call it pilgrimage. Some call it meditation. Some call it therapy. Some call it retreat and solitude. Some call it journaling. Sometimes it is all or any combination of the above.

It does take some work. It takes observation, reflection, and action.

The authentic self is a gift to be received not a goal to be achieved; it comes from a voice within calling us to be the person we were born to be. It comes from God.

Faithful God, thank you for continuing to call me into fellowship with you by the prompting of the Holy Spirit within me. Without your divine guidance, my life would be out of control. Help me retreat into a quiet space and slow me down so that I can listen to your Word today. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



August 23

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe. Deuteronomy 10:17 

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Matthew 28:18

“All authority” has been given to Jesus; He has the power to do anything in heaven and on this earth. He was there as the Word in creation, on earth with the disciples, Earlier in Matthew we read .that Jesus gave the disciples the power to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons. The authority for these disciples to raise the dead is remarkable; yet the later fulfillment of it was recorded in both Acts 9 and 20.

God truly has the power of life and death. He created us and animals and plants and everything in this world. He provides rain and sunshine and even eclipses for us to enjoy. We have a God and a savior who is all powerful – just look at the words used to describe Him:  “mighty” and “awesome” with all the authority to answer prayers, and pass judgment on us humans. And notice what a good judge God is; He is not partial but is fair in dealing with us. Plus, apparently God is not open to bribes. What a thought! Who is silly enough to offer you bribes, Lord? Surely not us! How could we have anything that would work as a bribe for an all-powerful God? No amount of money would work, why would God need money? Or things such as were sacrificed to idols? God looks at our hearts, our faith; and sent us a Savior before we were even born.

So, God must want something from us for all this great creation, and our eventual salvation. What is it than that we are to do as we worship God and follow Jesus? We can look at the very next verse that Jesus says to His disciples; right after saying that He has all authority, there is something that we can do. Just follow the instructions in Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Dear God, cure us of our need for bargaining and help us open ourselves to all you have provided for us. Remind us that you are the Lord of all and the Lord of our lives. Almighty God, the intricate beauties of your creation speak of your goodness. We want to spend time with you today, noticing the mighty works of your hands. Amen 

Chris Gabel



August 21

The Lord will not reject forever.  Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.  Lamentations 3:31.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  I Peter 5:10.

“Suffering, what suffering”? said a woman in a bible study I attended years ago.  That remark has stayed with me for years.  My thought now is that woman must have been having a really good life. But truthfully, I don’t remember experiencing any suffering by that time in my life either.  However, I am older now and have suffered some deep, heartfelt losses.  The fact is, life involves some suffering and perhaps especially so for the Christian.

What does it mean to suffer for Christ’s sake?  A hard question to answer.  Perhaps it means dying to self in order to be a follower of Christ.  Dying produces death and death is painful.  C.S. Lewis said that we must remember that the crown is not promised without the cross. (THE JOYFUL CHRISTIAN)

As individuals, we all suffer differently.  As Christians, we are to be with others in their suffering, just as Jesus promises to be with us in our suffering.  Is their value in suffering?  The writer of Romans says,” suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope.” Romans 5:3-5 And our hope does not disappoint us.

Suffering, tribulation, whatever we wish to name it, is also an opportunity for growth.  There are stories every day of people who overcome great hardships only to do amazing things in their lives.

Carrie Ten Boom, Christian writer, wrote from a Nazi death camp, “no matter how deep our darkness, he is deeper still.”   Would that we all would have such great faith!

Redeemer and comforter God, release us from the darkness of our suffering times.  Thank you for your promises and the hope that lives within us.  Amen

Joan Perlich



August 18

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  Isaiah 12:3

“Jesus said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’”  John 7:37-38

I enjoy pulling weeds, poking around between plants and flowers, down in the dirt.  But dirt is often a ‘dirty’ word:  dirty book, dirty joke, dirty look, dirty job, and so on.  For the most part we don’t want to be or feel dirty.  We routinely wash our children, pets, floors, cars, ourselves.  “Wash your face”, “Wash your hands” we say … and “Clean up your act!”  I think how good a shower and hair washing feel after a few days camping or a hospital stay.  I remember seeing my mother in in a nursing home following a massive stroke … for the most part incoherent and unresponsive, yet smiling when her hair was gently washed by a loving caretaker.  And how good water tastes after yardwork or physical activity!  Our bodies need water to survive – clean water.  More than 800,000 people die each year from drinking unsafe water and sanitation issues (WHO estimate).  Some speculate the problem of lack of available clean water will mushroom.

Our souls, too, crave refreshment – when we are feeling restless, lonely, downcast; when we simply take grace for granted and forget to resupply our need.  Then God’s presence pours out a lavish dose of refreshing, cleansing mercy and grace.  God’s grace is not meant to collect in and fill only my private pitcher.  Grace is not a faucet to be turned off when I am satisfied.  “Rivers of living water will flow from within …”  The water wash of God’s mercy and grace is to flow from within us, out and onward in a continuous river of compassion and generosity, the same mercy and grace so richly poured out upon us. 

“As pants the hart for cooling streams when heated in the chase,

So longs my soul, O God, for thee and thy refreshing grace.”

“For thee, my God, the living God, my thirsty soul doth pine.

Oh when shall I behold thy face, thou majesty divine?”

“Why restless, why cast down, my soul?  Hope still; and thou shalt sing

The praise of him who is thy God, thy health’s eternal spring.”  Amen  

(prayer text:  Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady)

Verla Olson



August 16

Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream Amos 5:24 

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 2 Corinthians 9:10

Justice – Merriam Webster defines this as “the quality of being just, impartial, or fair.”  The Thesaurus says justice is synonymous with fairness, impartiality, honesty, evenhandedness and uprightness. When we pledge allegiance to the US flag, we pledge with liberty and justice for all, perhaps inspired in part by this verse. Having justice roll down like waters sounds like a huge waterfall, lots of water cascading in a beautiful arc over the cliff to the river below. It is something that is generous, abundant, and has a power that cannot be resisted. Righteousness, defined as: “1: acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin. 2a: morally right or justifiable a righteous decision b: arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality. An ever flowing stream, just as plentiful clean water is needed for crops and animals to live, so are justice and righteousness needed for human life to be complete.

Our world is troubled by many incidents where it seems that justice “for all” and in abundance is not happening. The recent bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, white supremacist groups marching in hate, and many more incidents indicate we have a long way to go to see fairness and equitable treatment for all. It seems very easy for people to hate, and get in groups where that hate is supported and multiplied. What can we do?

I remember being 15 years old at the time of the civil rights/voting rights march in Selma, Alabama. My aunt and cousin were going and I wanted to go too; not old enough my mother said. Who would have thought that 52 years later there would still be a need for civil rights marches to affirm the equality and dignity of all people?  Seems like we have a long way to go.

We are told in Micah 6:8 that what God really wants us to do in this world is: “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” We need the God who gives us love and grace in abundance, who supplies seed for sowing, and multiplies it in the harvest. The God who wants all of His children to live in peace and harmony; in a world where love drives out hate and fear. 

Thank you, Lord, for the freedom privileges, and riches that we enjoy. Forgive us for taking your gifts for granted and for not considering those who not get the same privileges so many of us enjoy. Open our hearts to share generously, allowing your justice to roll down on those around us so that the harvest will increase. Help us stand up for the rights of all people, and work together with our neighbors in peace and love. Source of salvation, give us eyes that look for justice, ears that listen for peace, and voices of righteousness proclaiming Christ’s love. Amen 

Chris Gabel



August 15

We shall overcome, we shall overcome

We shall overcome someday

Here in my heart, I do believe

We shall overcome someday

 

We’ll walk hand in hand, we’ll walk hand in hand

We’ll walk hand in hand someday

Here in my heart, I do believe

We’ll walk hand in hand someday

 

We shall live in peace, we shall live in peace

We shall live in peace someday

Here in my heart, I do believe

We shall live in peace someday

 

We are not afraid, we are not afraid

We shall overcome someday

Here in my heart, I do believe

We shall overcome someday

 

We shall overcome, we shall overcome

We shall overcome someday

Here in my heart, I do believe

We shall overcome someday

 

We shall overcome someday

 

Songwriters: Pete Seeger, Frank Hamilton, Zelphia Horton, Guy Carawan

 

Peace,

Susan Hanson



August 10

O taste and see that the Lord is good : happy are those who take refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. John 6:51

God promised the Israelites that taking refuge in him would make them happy.  That promise extends to us too.  But are most people truly happy, even Christians?

My dictionary defines happiness as “a state of well-being and contentment, also pleasurable satisfaction.”  I especially like the word contentment.  I pray for contentment often.

There are many things in life that bring us pleasure.  I experience pleasure and even joy when my grandchildren call or when my house is clean or when I am lying on a raft with a clear blue sky above me.  But those pleasures are short lived.  Seeking pleasure as a goal in life is not what God wants for us.  It is a hedonistic way of living.

There are many factors in life which can interfere with our happiness.  Physical and mental issues, money issues, even how we think and express ourselves. But psychologists tell us that there are ways to promote our own happiness. One of these ways is to find meaning and purpose in life. Christians don’t have to look far to find those.  Our purpose is to love and serve God and others.  But sometimes God might say to us, using the words of a popular song, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.”  We can’t be happy all the time.

 We can also make ourselves happier by being grateful.  Every day, write down 5 things that you are grateful for. Cherish and nurture relationships, smile more, Love, love, love.  And pray.

The United Nations declared March 20th as The International Day of Happiness expressing the desire for all nations to value and achieve well-being for their people.

Lord God, you desire us to be happy, joyful and fulfilled.  We know we cannot do this on our own.  We also know that you know that we are imperfect human beings. And that you are there for us in all our down and up moments. Thank you for your promises, and help us to confess our sinfulness, accept your forgiveness, and love and serve you and others.  Amen.

Joan Perlich



August 9

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

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. Luke 4:14-15

Our Lord God is the source of wisdom, as He is the source of everything. Since He is all-knowing He understands everything about the world and about us. The proverb says that this wisdom is given to us. So, how do we go about getting this wisdom? Most of us went to school for a number of years, some of us went for lots of years, and gained knowledge about a variety of subjects. Not sure if any of this was actually wisdom, I was always good at learning the “facts” and putting them back on the test to get a good grade. Wisdom is a bit different. It requires us to put together all those facts, useful for trivia games or if we are ever on Jeopardy, into a whole that gives us understanding.

1 Corinthians 12:8 tells us: To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit. “Knowledge is the facts. Understanding is the ability to lift the meaning out of the facts, and Wisdom is knowing what to do next. Since God rarely gives all three gifts to any person, we need to cooperate and assist each other with our particular gift–in this, as in every area.”*

Where can we get this wisdom that allow us to take the knowledge we have gained, the understanding we get and do something with it? We can look at the example of Jesus as related in Luke. Jesus is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit at His baptism and then is in the wilderness being tempted. He then returns to Galilee and begins teaching in the synagogues. People listen, people are amazed by His wisdom and praise Him to others.

We have access to this same Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We need to start out getting our knowledge, trying to understand. However, this is not something we can do totally on our own. Others can help, the fellowship of believers is powerful. Regular Bible reading, study and prayer are all there for us to use. Finding the time to do this – maybe not so easy, but the rewards are tremendous. Jesus said we should just ask and we will receive. Or from James, 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Thank you, Lord, for your knowledge and your understanding. Thank you for the wisdom available through your Word, Jesus Christ. When we are tempted to ignore your guidance and seek the world’s wisdom, send your Holy Spirit to convict our hearts. We so desire to know more of you. Gracious God, by the power of your Holy Spirit, show us the way of your Son, Jesus, our Savior, our teacher, and our friend. Guide our thoughts and deeds today, so our words and actions lift up Jesus.

Chris Gabel



August 8

I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to obey my ordinances. Ezekiel 36:27

God has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant. 2 Corinthians 3:6

“That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.” Albert Einstein

“Jump and I’ll catch you.” Have you ever heard a parent say that to a child perched on some high place? Can you remember one of your parents saying that to you when you were little? Did you do it? Did you jump? I think that in a sense, that is similar to what God says to us. God reaches out to us in love to make a covenant with us. He begins that process by making promises to us. God promises to be there for us and to love us, unconditionally and always. Hard to believe, that He would love us after some of the stupid things we do.

But in order to live in that covenant, that promise, we have to dare to live our lives as if we believe God will keep his promise. There is some risk involved in doing that. But unless we take that risk, we can never learn to live in the covenant that God wants to make with us. God says, “Jump and I’ll catch you.”

Father, thank you for assuring us that even if our faith is a tiny mustard seed, we have strength and power of the Father’s guidance within us. Forgive me for doubting or shrinking from your call. Hold me close to you as I go out to serve others in this new covenant life. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



August 2

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who by me spread out the earth. Isaiah 44:24 

The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands. Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all thing. Acts 17:24-25 

God identifies himself as our Redeemer. A redeemer is someone who delivers from peril. In the handy NIV study Bible note, redeemer is defined as coming from a Hebrew term that refers to an “obligated family protector” and thus shows us that God is the Family Protector of Israel. God is referred to as “Father” later in Isaiah 63:16, and as Husband in Isaiah 54:5. As a redeemer He redeems their property and regathers them to their Promised Land, gives them freedom, avenges them, and secures their posterity for the future (61:8-9). 

In Acts, Paul tells the people at a temple in Athens about God. He comments on how religious the people seem with the temple and the altars to all the gods, including one “to an unknown God.” Apparently the word he uses for religious can mean that in a good sense, which appears to be his intent here, or in a superstitious sense. Paul then goes on to tell them that he know who this “unknown” God is – the one God, the only God, the being who created everything including all of them.  This God does not need us to make fancy temples for a living place; He does not live in one shrine or in anything we humans can construct. 

Our God is alive! He is present with us as our Lord and Savior now, as He was in the past, and will be in the future. He really doesn’t need anything from us, since He created it all. However, we need to respond by caring for His creation, enjoying what we have been given, and giving thanks for all that God’s grace has given us. 

Thank you, Lord God, for the wonder of life in your expansive and beautiful creation. Forgive us when we take these life-giving gifts for granted instead of being a good steward. Help us to live today and every day with gratitude, joy, and amazement. Creator God, you are the giver of life and all things good. You created out of love, so may we in your likeness care for all that you have made. Amen. 

Chris Gabel