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June 9

They rejoice before you as joy to the harvest.  Isaiah 9:3 

The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul and no one claimed ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common  Acts 4:32

Graduation season is upon us.  There are graduations and parties and celebrations that touch many of us.  How exciting for everyone involved! 

I often think the parties and ceremonies of these events should remind us to do some reflection.   For those leaving high school or college, the world is truly their oyster and there is so much future yet to be written.  What does the future hold for the graduates?  Where will they be in five years?  What will they have accomplished?    Graduations are truly special events and the results of very hard work and commitment.

But reflection isn’t just about them, it is about each of us.  What is our future?  What will we accomplish? 

I bring this up, because sometimes I think we forget to take that step back and see where we are at, see how well things are going for us and frankly to ponder the excitement of an unknown future.  It is easy for us to think of those things in a positive way for the eighteen year old who is graduating from high school but it is much more difficult to do it for ourselves especially the older we get. 

But outside of having a few more years under our belts we have the same situation in front of us.   We have a loving God who cares for each of us and has crafted a future that only he knows.   This is the same answer if you are 18 or 38 or 68 and so on.

So as we go through this graduation time, maybe take a moment and reflect and rejoice on your own future and the certainty that God has you safe in his hands.

God, as I live my daily life, please help remind me that the future is not known to me or any of us and that is part of your plan.  God, also please help me remember the excitement of the unknown that is safe under you watch.

Al Rivers



June 7

Let the righteous be joyful; let them exult before God; let them be jubilant with joy. Psalm 68:3

The kingdom of God is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17

I am reading a book by Rick Steves, “Travel as a Political Act.”  In the introduction he tells about a time when he was 14 – and knew his parents really loved and cared for him; in fact their world revolved around him! They took him on a trip to Norway, to a park and there he saw lots of other parents and kids. He realized that all those parents loved their kids, it wasn’t just his family. He realized that “this planet is home to billions of equally lovable children of God.”

We have a God who cares for the afflicted, whether from physical disease, mental illness, those in trouble and all of us all the time. The joy referred to by the Psalmist is there for all those billions of lovable children of God. Yet, it is such a worrisome world we live in. So many things seem to be going on to make life not so joyful. If we read a paper or look at the news on TV or online we see lots of problems from famine, to drought, to wars and terrorism. Within our own community we have illness, death, lack of employment and money difficulties.  Of course there are lots of good times too, but we often tend to emphasize the negative. Even when things are going well, do we actually feel joyful? Or as the Psalmist states it “be jubilant with joy.”

It is the righteous who are joyful, exulting before God; who get to be so jubilant. This sounds good, so what do we have to do to be righteous? How do we earn the right to celebrate with all this joy?  Maybe there is some formula we can follow, a list of items to tick off as we progress along our way.

Well, as we all know this is not something that we can earn by our own efforts. Through His grace and love in sending Jesus as our Savior, we do become righteous through the help of the Holy Spirit.

Peace, joy and jubilation – all the things that God wants us to have – are there for us daily through the grace of God.

Lord, in spite of our aches and pains, our disappointments and setbacks, we can still experience a joy and peace which no one can take away from us. Thanks for your abiding presence and care. May your peace that passes understanding permeate our lives. Let your Holy Spirit fill our lives. In the peace of Christ, Amen.

Chris Gabel



June 6

I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord. Ezekiel 37:14

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:26

The fable is told of a Bagdad merchant who sent his servant to the market to pick up some goods for him. While the servant was making the purchases in the market place he found himself face to face with Death! In great fear he returned to his master and told him that Death had given him a menacing look and that he must have a horse so he could escape to Samara, a city some distance away. The master quickly gave his servant a horse, and then went to the market place to find Death. When he found him he asked, “Why did you give my servant a menacing look?” Death replied, “I wasn’t looking at him menacingly, I was merely surprised to see him here in Bagdad; for, you see, I have an appointment with him tonight in Samara.”

Dying is part of living.

Death is not an exception, but the norm. Faith recognizes that living and dying is what all of God’s creatures do. Dying is part of living. That we will die is not open to question. What is open to question is how we die. Dying is part of living, but that doesn’t mean we don’t fear death. 

Woody Allen said, “I don’t fear death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Dying is the most universal of human customs. And wanting to not talk about dying, wanting to not even think about dying is almost as universal as well. We are sad when a loved one dies. We are afraid when we think about our dying. Dying leads us into unknown territory. Fearing death is a natural, normal human response. It is even healthy to be afraid of dying – our fear leads us away from dangerous situations. It is in dying that we glimpse the humanity of God, who enters human life and human suffering, living and suffering with us. And it is in dying that we grasp the divine destiny of humankind created in the likeness and image of God.
How mistaken we are about death. We think that we are going from the land of the living to the land of the dying. Not so. We are going from the land of the dying to the land of the living. Jesus Christ has said it, and it is so.
 
Father, when I imagine that I can secure my own safe place in this world, call me out of that foolish fantasy and into your land of promise. When enemies threaten to attack me, show me that your nail-pierced hands are stronger. Help me to learn your song of victory over death so I can sing it for others. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



June 5

God stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.  He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.  Job 9:8-9.

Worship God who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.  Revelation 14:7

Reading the above passages caused me to think about the Seven Wonders of the World.  Since my memory of them was very dim (it’s been a long time since Ancient History class), I googled and learned that only one of those Wonders was still standing. Most were destroyed by fire or earthquake.

 I don’t know of a list of more modern wonders, although I can’t help but think that such a list would be  long.  God created the world and there are wondrous things all around us.  I made my own personal list and it looks like this.

            A newborn baby

            A sunset over water

            Springtime green on the trees

            A cold clear lake

            My cell phone

Our days are pretty ordinary most of the time and it’s difficult to see the wonders in our world. But God is wonder-full and He has set us in the midst of his awesome handiwork Of course some days our eyes are dimmed by the worries and cares of our lives, but this too will pass and God will once again open our eyes to the beauty of his creation. Trust in the wonder. Make your own list and add to it every day. Creator God, we worship you and thank you for our amazing world. Amen

Joan Perlich



May 30

Let no one lose heart. Samuel 17:32

Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:5

While hunting, Ole’ and Lena got lost in the woods. Trying to reassure his wife, Ole’ said, “Don’t worry. All we have to do is shoot into the air 3 times, stay where we are, and someone will find us.” They shot in the air 3 times, but no one came. After a while, they tried again. Still no response. When they decided to try once more, Lena said, “I hope it works this time. We’re down to our last 3 arrows.”

Ole’ and Len were hoping someone would rescue them……I hope so also.

I Corinthians 13 tell us that one of the three greatest gifts God gives us is “hope.” Hope is such a valuable gift from God…… I want that kind of Hope. So what kind of hope are we talking about? We all desire and imagine a life and a world where everything is as it ought to be — a world where marriages never fail; a world where families never fight; where jobs are always secure; where the bills are always paid; a world where friends are always faithful; a world where Christians always love; where race is never an issue; where everyone is accepted; a world where everyone gets along; where loved ones don’t suffer and die; where everyone has value and respect; a world that doesn’t go to war; a world where children and women are protected from abuse, and I could go on and on. Though we may want this, life reminds us that this world doesn’t exist on planet earth. But we do have hope, not hope in the glory of human life on planet earth; but hope in the glory of God. The glory of God is something that is superior to all of us for we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. The glory of God is the superior excellence of His person. The words and imagination of poets and writers fail to describe that superior majesty which far exceeds the beauty of a starlit sky or the blinding awe of a gorgeous sunset.

Hope is sometimes the last thing that is there to guide us when sorrow and setbacks seem overwhelming. For many of us, it is our faith that is a source of hope, because we believe that God will truly never give us more adversity than we can handle, and if we handle it as well as we can we will be rewarded in the end, with hope, the Glory of God and eternal life.

“Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.”  George Iles

“When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.”  Charles L. Allen

God of hope, we know that we are justified through the Holy Spirit. Without hope and assurance of eternal life, our days would be dismal and filled with doubt. Thank you for rescuing us from despair and lifting us to experience a life of joy and gladness. Let us share your love with enthusiasm – for it is astonishingly good. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



May 26

You are my hope; O Lord God, you are my confidence from my youth.  Psalm 71:5

So we do not lose hope. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  2 Corinthians 4:16

Is not springtime in Minnesota the most beautiful time in the year?  I am in awe as I drive down the street and see once again the beauty of God’s creation. The greenest grass, the budding and blossoming trees, the tulips standing tall in their red and yellow jackets.

Spring, a time for poets.  William Wadsworth writes of the wealth brought to him by seeing a host of golden daffodils. Joyce Kilmer in her famous poem, TREES, writes, “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” and “only God can make a tree.” And I think to myself that only God can paint the trees in that wonderful springtime green.

Our confidence that spring will come is a gift from our God who has also ordered the seasons .We don’t need to hope that spring will come because we know that spring follows winter just as surely as night follows day.  In the same way, we have confidence that God will keep his promises.  We know that one day we will be at home with him and that beauty such as we have never seen awaits us. Thanks be to God.

Most holy God, Thank you for the wonders of creation. Thank you for sending Jesus to us that we may be renewed day by day and know that we are your beloved children and will one day be at home with you.  May we be empowered to tell others that they too may have hope and confidence in you. Amen.

Joan Perlich



May 24

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. Deuteronomy 7:9

This is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3

God did not pick Israel as the chosen people because they were more numerous than other nations; in fact they were among the smallest. But He kept the covenant agreement that was established with their ancestors. They were brought safely out of Egypt and now had their own land where they could safely live and continue for follow God’s commandments. It would seem that now everything was fine, just continue to love the Lord God, worship Him as their God, and follow the rules. We all know what happens next.

Why couldn’t they just do this? Soon they are off worshiping idols, forgetting who saved them from Egypt. They seem to quickly forget the one who has not forgotten them and is patiently waiting to keep His promises even as the people get a bit unfaithful. Yet, God says that He will keep the promises of his covenant for countless generations.

We certainly wouldn’t do that would we? Construct some idols, worship those and ignore the commandments of the Lord who sent His Son to save us? Well, yes, it seems that we are pretty good at doing this as well. We may not have idols made out of gold, but we do have many other things that absorb us and take our attention away from God. The Israelites were told to destroy the idols and not covet the gold and silver they were made from. We too may have a focus on things we want, that may not even be good for us, and focus on the dollars we need to get stuff.

Fortunately, God is very patient, He knows us all too well. By the grace of God, we can continue to have a relationship with Him, to reflect and remember that we can truly know our savior, the one and only true God.

We love you, Lord God, and yet we fail every day to keep your commands. We are sorry for this and ask your forgiveness. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus, as our Savior.  Draw us into a deeper relationship with Jesus so that our lives may be more reflective of your love and help us to be better witnesses to your children.

Chris Gabel



May 22

“Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.”  Jeremiah 4:3

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:2

We recently joined the throng at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to see the results of a “labor of love” – 32,000 tulip bulbs planted last fall.  Gardeners longing for the feel of dirt plant seeds and “starters”, looking forward to colorful flowers and fresh vegetables.  Farmers plant acres of crops which will not only provide a livelihood for their families, but also food for others.  Those who plant look for the right places for best results.  They consider sunlight, type of soil and drainage.  They tend and take care of their charge – weeding and watering.  God planted the earth and left us in charge of the garden.  As appointed, trusted caretakers we are expected to treat it gently and use it wisely for the good of all.

We are God’s garden.  God plants the seeds of faith and compassion in each of us.  God continually sustains us with The Water, Bread and Wine; and provides the means for growth through study and learning, fellowship and service.  We in turn are also farmers, scattering those same seeds of God’s love around us through our words and actions, sharing God’s bounty with others.

Exploring outdoors, we have marveled at plants growing in tough places:  flowers and trees somehow rooted and growing out of rock crevasses; a tiny leaf of air fern on the forest floor; desert flowers.  Even those beloved tulip bulbs not only survived Minnesota’s frozen winter ground, they thrived.  Sometimes conditions freeze our hearts and minds and the seeds of mercy and peace struggle to emerge.  Then the Holy Spirit comes, warming our hearts, “cropping and pruning”, transforming our minds to the will of God, good and acceptable, if not perfect.

“Lord, let my heart be good soil, open to the seed of your Word.
Lord, let my heart be good soil, where love can grow and peace is understood.
When my heart is hard, break the stone away.  When my heart is cold, warm it with the day.

When my heart is lost, lead me on your way … Lord, let my heart be good soil.”  Amen     (Handt Hanson)

Verla Olson