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June 30

The Israelites said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you; but deliver us this day!” Judges 10:15

Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

In baptism we are sealed with the cross of Christ forever. Nothing separates us from God, because we are his forever. The book of Judges tells how the Israelites frequently departed from the Lord to serve idols, provoking God to chastise them. It tells of several accounts of the Israelites repeatedly turning to idols, being oppressed by enemies, crying to the Lord, and being delivered by God. God would tell them what he thought of their transgressions, but he always forgave and rescued the Israelites.

The Hebrews verse is part of telling again of the example Jesus was for us when he endured the cross in spite of its shame. His example helps each of us not to grow weary or lose heart. God lets us know when we have sinned, but he is always there to welcome us back into his loving arms.

We may fall short and have doubts about God’s plan for us. We may also feel resentments about our lots in life. As soon as we let go of these pains in our lives, God is there to forgive our negative thoughts and actions. He loves us unconditionally and never gives up on his plan for each one of us.

Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Thank you for forgiving us all of our sins so that nothing can separate us from you. Deliver us from our doubts, fears, and resentments. Also, keep us from hanging on to memories of past pains. Help us to always serve you with praise and thanksgiving. We thank you that your grace gives each of us the freedom to live with you as our guiding light. Amen.

Florence Smallfield



June 28

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? Psalm 22:1

Because Christ himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. Hebrews 2:18

Do you remember the old TV show Hee-Haw? I looked it up to see when we could have seen it; it was actually on for a long time from 1969-1992. There was a song That Buck Owens and Roy Clark sang each show, this is the chorus:

“Gloom, despair, and agony on me

Deep, dark depression, excessive misery

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all

Gloom, despair, and agony on me”

Of course the show was humorous and they went on to have jokes in the verses sung along with this wonderfully gloomy chorus. It helps to be able to laugh with others and see the humor when we feel badly, but often that takes a lot of time.

Yet, there are days where we feel sad and totally alone. Everything seems to be gloomy; we despair of seeing any improvement coming along for us.  We may be overwhelmed with grief, sadness, or maybe terror. We certainly have a lot occurring in our world recently to cause feelings like this. Then like David in the Psalm we may ask God where He is, why has He forsaken us right when we need Him the most?  Time to turn to God – and it seems He is not there paying any attention to us at all. I remember learning once that it is ok to be angry with God, and express that anger to Him. Nice that there are verses in the Psalms that we can use we when we fell like this.

Psalm 22:1 probably looks familiar to us. We hear these words from Jesus as He approaches death.  God’s one and only Son came into our world and experienced the same things we do. He suffered so He knows what that is like. Because of this, Jesus is able to help us as we go through trying times when we fell like we are all alone and even God has abandoned us. 

Keep on reading through the whole of Psalm 22. David goes on to acknowledge that God is there for us, listening to us and has not forsaken us. Psalm 22:24: “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. “ And, we also read that Jesus came to bring us joy – by living as we humans do, experiencing what we experience, He truly is our Savior. God is not far away, but right here with us when we call on Him.

Dear Lord, thank you for sending Jesus to go through the depths as we do. Heal us and help us trust in you in the midst of all of our life’s struggles. Be with us when we despair over the events we see around us and help us to remember that you are in charge and always with us. Amen

Chris Gabel



June 27

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Psalm 118:26

From the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” Matthew 17:5

I can still hear my Dad’s voice. Dad read to me when I was little, and he helped give me my love of books. If I’m real quiet and calm, and concentrate, I can hear him reading National Velvet, one of my favorite books as a kid. I remember sitting on my Dad’s lap, leaning back, feeling safe and loved. Maybe, just maybe, that’s what I hear, the love, not his actual voice.

How do I know if God is talking to me? I don’t have caller ID, maybe a memo of some kind, a few lines floating down from on high, or maybe an e-mail. But God doesn’t e-mail, and I am on a journey and I need guidance. But in order to receive guidance, I need not just to hear but to listen.

As a person of faith, I don’t think I can never be static. I need to hear God’s word for today. But I think I have fallen into thinking of prayer as being about talking to or even at God with my agenda. I need to realize that at the heart of prayer is my listening for God to speak to me about the things that I need to hear. I can never be a useful follower of Jesus if I block out his voice by my cacophonies of noise and busyness. I sometimes have the TV on in one room and the stereo on in another, and I live in a small one bedroom apartment . Way too much noise. How can I expect to hear God’s voice in all that? And then I am struck at how easily I fall into speaking when I should be silent. Again, way too much noise.

I am still earning to lean into God’s love and trust what God has planned. But I think we are all still learning how much God loves each one of us. It is this love that let’s us shout with Isaiah that God has given us strength and we will sing God’s praises for the wondrous things God has done! It is this love that God has for us that helps us to slowly learn to lean into God’s love, and learning to sit in God’s lap and listen to His love. 

Lord of mountaintop experience; let me feel your presence this day. I long to hear you speak to me as clearly as you spoke to the early disciples. Today, help me to be quiet and listen before I act. Thank you for your reassuring voice that both admonishes and encourages me. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



June 26

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Who gives speech to mortals?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.’”  Exodus 4:11, 12

“Jesus says, ‘I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.’”  Luke 21:15

Speaking up can be terrifying.  We might say something “stupid, or “step on someone’s toes”.  We may appear weak or nervous as we choke up and stumble over words.  People will know we are angry as our voices raise and bite, without thinking or control. 

In some countries speaking up can be deadly for those who dare to voice an opinion contrary to leadership.  Some time ago I was at a dinner with immigrants who stood up and told their stories.  One man commented that in his homeland, he would have been led outside to a waiting car for giving such a speech.

Words are powerful.  They become a weapon as we tease and taunt, accuse, and gossip.  The spoken word cannot be tossed into a fire, the evidence destroyed; but hangs in the air to be remembered, even when forgiven.  Words get people into trouble.  Eve coaxed Adam; Adam blamed Eve … and on we go. 

But words also have the power to heal with good conversation, a kind word, or an overdue phone call; with a confession, an apology; with saying “I love you.”

When we let the Holy Spirit work through us and empower us with the story and love of God’s grace, our words will have the power to heal, come together, comfort, and perhaps to save.

“God be in my mouth, and in my speaking.”  Give me courage to proclaim your love and confess my faith.   Let my words be kind and gentle and uplifting.  Remind me that you are with me everywhere.  Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight.  Amen       (Prayer quote John Ritter)

Verla Olson



June 22

When you have eaten your fill, take care that you do not forget the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:11-12

 

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

 

To think of the Lord in all that we say and do is never easy. He is always there for us, but we often stray, especially when we feel optimistic that our needs are being met. At such times we may even feel a sense of pride in what we have accomplished and may neglect to give God due credit.

 

Without God we can do little. It is in him that we live and move and have any being. Just think, when all else fails we know that he is in our corner. We just need to turn to him in prayer. Even when we cannot pray he is there to make intercession for each of us.  He is there to guide us, free us from worry, and to give us an inner peace that only he can provide.

 

That doesn’t mean that we will never have issues that seem too great to bear, but we know through his word and promise that we are never alone. To God be the glory for all that we are, all that we have, and all that we do.

Dear Lord,

We are assured by your word that you are there to help and guide us during both good and difficult times. We thank you for that. Let each of us find joy in doing everything for your glory and honor. Help us to share your word and assurance with others. Amen.

Florence Smallfield



June 21

Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.  Isaiah 60:18 

The one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

Doesn’t this passage from Isaiah sound like a wonderful thing? To not hear any more violence would be great. However, violence is certainly heard within the borders of our land. There have been a number of shootings and attacks on people in our own community of the Twin Cities (as well as many other places in our country). We have trials and jury decisions that don’t seem to get at the root of the violence around us. Around the world there are wars and conflicts and threats of war. Besides the violence, there are also a number of natural disasters, destruction from tornados, floods and wildfires.  The recent storms across Minnesota were some of the many this spring that brought great devastation. It is hard to imagine the complete loss of your home, possessions and to be without means to find new housing.  This sounds like we could use a land and a world where everything is safe.

Isaiah told people centuries ago that there is a future place where none of this will happen anymore.  They won’t have to worry about enemy attacks and destruction of their communities.  For us too, we won’t even hear about violence, much less experience it, in this place where salvation will surround all of us. Imagine a city where the gates will only hear praise, not warnings against enemies. This is not the land we have now, of course, but it is the one God intends for His people to have. Perhaps we can pray and work together toward a land with less violence to all people.

As God created everything in the first place, He promises to make all things new. Everything that was created was deemed “Good.” There will be “no more death, or mourning or crying or pain for the old order if things has passed away.”(Rev. 21:4).  No matter how fearful events may seem, we know that God is still in control and cares enough about all of us to have sent Jesus as our savior. While we work to lessen the violence in the world around us, we can also have the future hope of a world of peace as God intended.

Lord God of all creation, you created us and this world and called it good.  Forgive us as we have damaged your creation, and for the violence we cause.  Thank you for creating peace within us and your promise of peace within your city.  Take our hands so that, renewed by your Presence, we can enter through the gates of Praise.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen 

 Chris Gabel



June 20

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones. Isaiah 49:13

I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you.  2 Corinthians 2:3

I have often asked myself whether it’s right to experience joy in a world so ravaged. If we, as flawed human beings in a flawed world, have a right to joy? Because the world is filled with horrible dangers, and if dreaded things happened to people we love, would they forever after be doomed? If “this” or “that” were to take place, would joy forever be beyond my reach and I would just never, ever be truly happy again.

It took years of living and learning, and the personal experience of some of those dreaded devastating events, to find out that joy was not something God distributed as a reward to those who managed to live their lives avoiding pain. Joy was, instead, an integral part of our human spirit. I did not need to seek it, I only needed to stop fearing, and seeking, long enough to let it be. I learned that in my own life, as well as in the lives of those around me, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional, and moving beyond suffering and myself, by mindfully living fully in that moment………….. joy happens!

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Your joy in me Lord, is joy to me. Thank you for your comfort and compassion, which let me rest in you. The gift of your Creation both cradles me to sleep and wakes me into the day. Let confidence in your love be my companion as I follow you, especially through the pain of life and death. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



June 15

“We will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands.”  Hosea 14:3

“All belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”  1 Corinthians 3:22-23

We are given an assignment, we do our best, and we appreciate recognition for a job well done.  We need affirmation for healthy self-esteem and feeling of self- worth.  And we should affirm others, acknowledging their good work and the varied gifts we all have been given.  We applaud invention and innovation, organizational skills, creativity and art in all its forms.

I have enjoyed and felt inspired reading books about the early tycoons in our country, often described as self-made, born into humble households, and overachieved.   Some were rather ruthless in their drive to be the wealthiest, own the most, control.   We can name people alive today for whom success and even great wealth were not enough, mismanaging their businesses to unfairly acquire more. 

Employment is important.  We need what others can do – grow food and fix faucets, make music and paint, make us well and care for us if they can’t.  And others need us.  We work hard and hopefully plan wisely to support families, save, and hopefully share; not to accumulate as much material stuff as possible, but for the well-being of our communities and others.  

Jesus did not lead his disciples along a pathway of wealth and possessions.  Living our faith includes how we work and play – fairly.  Our power is not a big desk in a corner office but the presence of the Holy Spirit in all we do.  We use our gifts … they are just that – gifts … with gratitude to God for the benefit of others, to God’s glory.

“… Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of thy love … take my silver and my gold … take my intellect and use every power as thou shalt choose … take my will and make it thine … take my heart it is thine own.  It shall be thy royal throne.”  Amen     (Frances R. Havergal)

Verla Olson



June 14

When they call to me, I will answer them. Psalm 91:15

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Romans 8:26

“When all else fails, pray.” Have you heard this phrase? Sometimes we do manage to wait and try everything on our own, and then when really desperate, pray. Dreanna Watson writes in “The Praying Woman” that she overheard a conversation where one woman said she had tried everything from counseling to punishment to help with her son’s problems, and another said, “When all else fails, pray.”  She goes on to say that so often this is what we do. We pray “ONLY when things are going wrong or when we need God to handle something real quick for us. God is always there for us no matter what, but sometimes we wait until things have spiraled out of control or until we finally realize that we can’t make it on our own. After all, we are to pray without ceasing, I Thessalonians 5:17.

There are many times that are times to pray: when things are going well we could actually take a little time to thank and praise God; when others need help, that is a good time to pray too. She also lists the times that we need to make a decision, take some time to pray, and then finally, when we are burdened and feel helpless. We pray in the morning, at meals, at bedtime and anytime in between.

Wonder if there will be an answer? Jesus told us to ask and we will receive. Psalm 91 says that when those who love God call to Him, He will answer them. . Maybe not the answer we were expecting, or even one that we recognize. But an answer will be there if we take the time to wait and really continue the conversation.

Don’t know what words to use? Jesus’ disciples shared our confusion about how to pray. They ask Jesus to tell them how to pray; Jesus responds with the Lord’s Prayer. This can be used daily and gives a pattern for our more specific prayers. But maybe we are at the point where we just are saying “HELP.” We are assured that the Holy Spirit is there, right there with us, and will pray with and for us. What a wonderful God we have that wants to hear from us, will listen and even provides the means the words for us to do communicate with our Creator.

Thank you Lord, for hearing us and for providing the means for us to pray when we don’t know what to say or how to say it. Come into our wandering thoughts and guide us. Heavenly Father, we are always in a hurry as we approach your throne of grace, and because of this we are neither specific nor intentional in our conversations with you. We leave out some of the most important things as we pray. Forgive us, Lord, teach us how to pray. Amen.

 

Chris Gabel



June 13

Let all those rejoice who put their trust in you. Psalm 5:11

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. John 15:10-11

“I love mankind; it’s the people I can’t stand.” Sounds about right. People can be annoying. Loving people can be hard. Yet the Bible says that is what we are supposed to do. Loving your neighbor is not a grey area to be discussed and debated. It is a command. Clear and concise. And to the point.  

Jesus gave love priority over all other Christian virtues. Every thought, response, and act of goodwill must first pass through the fine filter of love, or it means nothing at all. In “Strength to Love”, Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraged us to realize that “our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives.” But why love? What makes it so important?
 
Why must we love the people who kill our children? Why must we love the neighbor who had an affair with our partner?

When Jesus spoke to the disciples regarding the first and second greatest commands, he explained that “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matt. 22:40).

To the people of Israel, as well as for many of us today, it would seem more logical for obedience to be the peg from which the Law hangs, since the point of writing a law is follow it. Paul tells us “Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10).

This may sound irrelevant to us in today’s world, because we depend on police departments, guns, and force to uphold and fulfill the law. Yet Jesus’ simple command requires greater strength than any of us naturally possess – more power than any man-made weapon.

The logic of Paul’s interpretation of Jesus’ command that love fulfills the Law seems simple. Well, relatively. For if one loves his neighbor, he will not commit adultery with his neighbor’s spouse. If he loves his coworker, he will not lie to him. And if loves his enemy, he will not kill him. Love fulfills the law,

because if we truly love every person because he is a person, we will not desire to hurt or violate him or her, thus never break the law. God established love as the impetus for obedience.

OK………so when we demonstrate Christian love, it should distinguishes us from the rest of the world. Jesus did not say that people will know that you are my disciples if you promote my agenda, or wear Christian T-shirts or a WWJD bracelet, or have a fish decal on your car, but rather if you love one another. A watching world will be persuaded not when our values are promoted but when they are

incarnated, when we become purveyors of love. It is as though Jesus has given the entire world the right to judge whether or not one is His follower simply on the basis of their love for fellow human beings. It is the vivacious virtue of love that distinguishes us.

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord

And we pray that all unity may one day be restored

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

They will know we are Christians by our love

We will work with each other, we will work side by side

We will work with each other, we will work side by side

And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

They will know we are Christians by our love

By our love, by our love

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

They will know we are Christians by our love”

Written by Peter Scholtes          Music by Carolyn Arends

Jesus, my joy, I rejoice in the promise of your abiding love. Thank you for loving me even when I am unlovable. I am sorry that I don’t love with the same love you have for me. Teach me how to abide in your love and to love others so that I might be part of your complete joy. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson