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Urgent messages for Chaplain John, during his travels, can be left with the

Assistant for University Advancement   (Susan @ 248-2331)

 

Chapel Scheduling should be routed to the

University Facilities Scheduling Manager  (Sydnee @ 248-2312)

 

Fundraising activities, related to faith, should be cleared with the

Annual Giving & Social Media Manager  (Garrett @ 248-2335)

 

Services Availible through the University Chaplain's Office

||| Please note: We are currently taking financial applications for June. |||

For Current Students:

  • Medical or prescription assistance (we will need a copy of your insurance to assist.)
  • Unlimited visits to the food pantry and clothing bank (all household members.)
  • Textbook and school supplies (for labs, choir, etc)
  • Rental Assistance (not to exceed $700 per household, per semester.)
  • Dental Care
  • Host family or Room Mate brokering
  • Car repairs, fuel assistance and vehicle insurance (not to exceed $500 per household, per semester.)
  • Emergency Assistance (TBD)
  • Work study or stipend placements to assist with cashflow (Students must find available time in their schedule for required hours or tasks)
  •  
  • Monetary  assistance is limited by what funds are available to spend each month.                                                                                                    
  • A student committee helps to prioritize requests and we fund as much as we can.                                                                                                         
  • Additional funding for students impacted by the COVID crisis is exhausted...(applications closed 01/20/2021)    These were funds NOT related to the CARES Act, but raised through donations.     CARES reporting
                                                                         
  • Click here with questions, prayer requests or to get a assistance request form or email campus.ministries@ottawa.edu for a more immediate response from Chaplain John or his assistant, Keith Shrimpton.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

The assistance fund for Current/past OU staff impacted by the COVID 19 crises is now closed,  (applications acceptance closed on 01/20/2021

Unfunded requests will carry over to the next month, in hopes that they will be funded then (but carry-over requests will still need to go through the next month's prioritization process and committee recommendation protocols.)

     Braves Support App vrzn41320.docx (Current and past staff members)

Recent video broadcasts

Our Lenten Journey 2021

Lenten Devotionals 2021

Lenten Daily Devotionals 

 

 

Saturday, April 3, 2021 Easter Vigil

Saving the Best for Last

Isaiah 53.12

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,

and he will divide the spoils with the strong,

because he poured out his life unto death,

and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many,

and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53.12

An interesting question to ask when reading Scripture is, what is the therefore…. there for? By definition, the term therefore means “as a result.” In today’s verse alerts readers to significance of the Suffering Servant’s actions of justifying many (see 53.11).

The unpromising root out of dry ground (53.2) is presented as the victorious warrior who overcame all to take his rightful place at the right hand of God. The first eleven verses of Isaiah 53 have been words attributed to the prophet Isaiah. But today’s verse takes on a special quality because it is God speaking about vindicating the one despised and rejected by all, even to point of considering him punished by God. Yet in all of this we discover that his suffering was not because of his guilt and sin but because of ours.

Because Jesus bore our sin, he is our Great High Priest. As Paul tells us Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for us in the presence of the Father, making petitions on our behalf (Romans 8.34), for we are sinful and unworthy to come before the Father on our own. In short, our verse for today is summed up elegantly by Paul when he says of Christ:

“Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2.6-11)

 

 “When we confess that Jesus Christ is ‘Lord’, we are affirming him to have that name which is above every name, namely ‘Yahweh’. That is as high as it gets” (R. T. Kendall, Why Jesus Died, p.182).

Prayer: Dear Servant, you suffered that we might have all that you wanted us to have. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I thank you. Amen.

 __________________________________________

Friday, April 2, 2021 Good Friday

Let Go and Let God Have His Way

Psalms 94:17-19

Rev. Dr. Dorothy Smith

 

“Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.

When I said, My foot slippeth, thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. In the

multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.” Psalm 94:17-19 KJV

 

 

If we didn't have mountains to climb we would not have victory. We would not have a testimony of the goodness of God. When we become overcomers we realize that we are much stronger than we think we are, but sometimes we forget that we are never alone, we have the Holy Spirit to accompany us through life. As we near the end of the season of Lent, we must always remember, what Jesus did for us and why He did it. 

 

Jesus came to earth with a purpose in mind, reconnecting us with God, the Father. One of the hardest things to understand and accept is: Jesus was born of  a virgin, lived without sin, loved us so much that He died in our place for our sins, was buried, rose on the third day and this was what reconnected us with God. This is why we need to let go of control of all our problems and let God be in control of our life. We need to allow God to order our steps in His Word, the Bible. If we are obedient and allow God to lead us we shall have peace, love, hope and joy in the midst of whatever we are going through. Always remember we are going through life this is not our destination. Our destination is Heaven not earth. Now it is up to each of us to personally make a decision to accept what Jesus has done for us and gain eternal life.

 

Let us pray,

 

Thank you Jesus for what you have done for me, for your life, death and resurrection. I accept all that you have done for me and I accept your salvation. I make you my Savior and my Lord. I wait patiently for your return. Help me to live a life you will be proud of saying, "This is my beloved, in whom I am well pleased." 

 

In Jesus name and for His sake I pray,

 

Amen.

 __________________________________________

Thursday, April 1, 2021 Holy Week

Ever Flowing Grace

John 7:37b-38

Dr. Paula Artac

 

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”  John 7:37b-38.

 

“O Lord,

One tiny bit of water rests on the palm of my hand.

I bring it to you and with it I bring the whole ocean.

This tiny drop has the power to ease the burning thirst of men,

When spread on the earth, to give life to the seed and the future harvest,

When poured on the fire to quench the blaze

A tiny drop of water

Can cleanse the whole of my impurity when blessed by your forgiveness.

But, O Lord,

More than all this, this tiny drop of water passed over my head is the symbol of my birth in You.”                     Ishpriya R. S. C. J.

(Sister Ishpriya, R. S. C. J. is an English member of an international Catholic religious congregation, the Society of the Sacred Heart. She left Europe for India in 1971 and since 1974 she has lived in the foothills of the Himalayas, a Christian presence among Hindu Sanyasis, committed to Inter-faith dialogue in a spirit of mutual understanding and common search).

 

Imagine being there…standing on the banks of the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.  What do you see around you?  Who do you recognize?  What do you hear?  What does the water of the Jordan River feel like running through your fingers?  Jesus emerges from the water of the Jordan filled with the Holy Spirit.  Do you stand there wondering in amazement?

 

Water is a rich symbol filled with spiritual meaning. Water is rebirth.

Water is life.  All living things are dependent upon water for sustaining life. We can go for a few weeks without food, but without water, we will die in a matter of days.

 

We are all familiar with the use of water in many religious rituals and sacred rites like baptism, because water symbolizes the Giver and Sustainer of Life.  In two instances in the Bible, Jesus uses the term “living water.” A Samaritan woman came to draw water at the well, and Jesus asked her for a drink.  She was surprised that He had asked her for water, and says that he would give her living water.  In the second mention of living water, Jesus is in the temple and exclaims, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:37b-38.

 

Jesus can bring us to the water of Life eternal.  The reference Jesus makes to Living Water is the grace of the Holy Spirit ever flowing to us and through us with the gifts of precious cleansing, sustaining, reviving, filling and healing life for us. 

 

Prayer: Giver and Sustainer God, we offer our grateful hearts, thirsting for and welcoming your Son.  May we make use of the ever flowing grace of your Holy Spirit as we continue our Lenten journey.  Amen

 

 __________________________________________

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 Holy Week

Reading the Ending First

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

After he has suffered,

he will see the light of life and be satisfied;

by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,

and he will bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 53.11

 

The thought that Jesus would resurrect, and reign forever is repeated in today’s verse (see 53.10).  The Suffering Servant will see the light of life, he will return to the land of the living. Though he was treated brutally and killed, he will defeat death, a death required because of our iniquities.

Furthermore, he will be satisfied; he will have completed the task before him and will receive the fruits of his effort. In John 19.30 we are told that just before he died Jesus declared, “It is finished.” This was a cry of victory, a declaration that all had been paid in full: “The travail and anguish of his soul was worth it all! He had dreaded the cross. But in the physical [and spiritual] torture of it all he had inner peace that he pleased the Father” (R. T. Kendall, Why Jesus Died, p.176).

Such achievement was undergirded by his knowledge that he was the Son who knew the cross was part of the Father’s will. Jesus understood his mission, his Father’s love, and his plan to raise his Son to live and rule forever as king (Isaiah 9.7). He acted wisely (52.13), as seen in that many were justified. The doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone means we have ceased being God’s enemy and been brought into a loving relationship with him solely because of Christ’s death (Romans 5.8). Those who have accepted Christ as the true Savior of the world have been adopted into his family (8.15-17). We don’t have to have great faith to receive salvation, for we have a faithful Savior and what is asked of us is that we “simply rely on what Jesus did, not on what [we] have done—and rest [our] case with him!” (R. T. Kendall, Why Jesus Died, p.180).

Even greater is the truth that when we are justified and reconciled to God, we are remade and become his masterpiece, “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2.10). We show our gratitude to God by living as his hands and heart and mouth to witness to others and in the process become channels for them to discover God’s Righteous Servant. What a great God we serve!

Prayer: Dear Savior, we praise you because you, the Righteous One, suffered that we, the unrighteous ones, might be given your righteousness. Amen.

 __________________________________________

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 Holy Week

Renew

Psalm 51: 10-12

Fredrikson Center Team

 

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51: 10-12

 

The cycle of lent comes toward the end.  In Psalm 51, we seek God’s mercy and the gift of renewal. So it is as we near the Passion and the Empty Tomb.  How has Lent transformed you?  What remains in need of God’s mercy; what must we struggle through?  Have you discovered your spirit willing?  Are you steadfast, rooted in Christ?   Let Psalm 51 give voice to these questions, bring your heart to God and open yourself to God’s renewal. 

 

Prayer: Restoring God, bringer of life, grant us the courage to return to you, to ask your mercy, to seek your renewal; let us rejoice in your salvation with willing spirit, and sustain us as we bravely work to become renewed through this Lenten season.  Amen.

 __________________________________________

 

 

Monday, March 29, 2021 HOLY WEEK

Renegotiating Lenten Commitments

(One Way to be Redeemed is to Learn From Our Mistakes)

Luke 23: 24

Rev. Justin D. Gnanamuthu, C.S.C.,

 

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”(Luke 23:24)  

Before we plunge into Holy Week, I want both to encourage and challenge all of us we come into the “home stretch” of our Lenten experiences. The big lesson He taught us on the cross is that inner peace and world peace depend upon our willingness to forgive others, and ourselves, too.

 

Regarding forgiving ourselves, how has your Lenten experience gone so far?  How well have you done with your Lenten sacrifices and commitment? (Even if by chance you did not make a commitment, it does not matter, read on)  Whether you have done well or not, the results can be redeemed or augmented.  That is, there is great potential for making it a graceful learning experience out of it all. For instance, if you have not done well, God might be calling you to recognize some of the following:

  1. Maybe I did not try hard enough.
  2. Maybe I chose something I was incapable of accomplishing.
  3. Possibly I neglected to consult God when making a decision.

                I may be called to renegotiate –even at this late date

  4. We cannot make ourselves holy; we need God’s grace to become holy.
  5. There may be something else God is calling me to recognize. What might that be?

    If you have done well with your commitment, what are you learning from that? 

  1. Did I choose something too easy?
  2. Have I become a little too self-satisfied, forgetting that my success is mainly due to God’s grace?
  3. Have I forgotten to thank God for helping me succeed?

No matter what, the bottom line is that Lent is all about developing a more intimate relationship with God and learning something about oneself, about life and love. God can redeem our worst failures. He can soften the hardest ground as He did with St. Paul. That is the nature of God. What a wonderful God we have!

 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for giving us this season of Lent for our reflection and the evaluation of our commitments. Thank you also for challenging us through your holy word and giving us the courage to rededicate ourselves to you and to the values of your Kingdom. 

__________________________________________

Saturday, March 27, 2021

All’s Well That Ends Well

Isaiah 53.10

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,

and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,

he will see his offspring and prolong his days,

and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.”

Isaiah 53.10

 

If I had any doubts about who was responsible for Jesus’ death, they were eliminated about five years ago while teaching at Ottawa University. I had read Isaiah 53 numerous times but never had the opening words of today’s verse hit me like they did when preparing to teach a course on the Book of Isaiah. It was like I was reading them for the first time! In fact, I simply stopped when reading them; I was stunned by the thought God was solely responsible for Christ’s death. Not me or you or Pontius Pilate or the Roman soldiers or the Jewish leaders.

 

My thoughts went quickly to the trial of Jesus when he stood before Pontius Pilate. The Roman governor was irritated that Jesus wouldn’t answer his questions when asked. In his frustration he asked Jesus if he didn’t realize as governor he had the power to release him or have him crucified. To this Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19.11). In light of this reply and the words of today’s verse, I acknowledged that the Father was responsible for the events of Good Friday.

 

But in the same breath, we notice something new in this chapter. The thought that the Suffering Servant will survive all that was placed upon him and all that he was destined to endure is (finally!) introduced. His resurrection and future reign as Lord are also presented as part of God’s will.

 

He will see us, his spiritual descendants (Isaiah 53.8), because his days are prolonged. His reign will have no end (9.7) and he will be exalted (52.13), as was fulfilled in his ascension (Acts 1.9). He now sits at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1.20-23) and has raised us up with him (2.6). Even greater, “the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand,” for he will continue to walk with us as God marches on the to victory; this will be realized by all when the new heavens and new earth become reality (Revelation 21.1-4). “The atonement of Jesus Christ has given us everything we need. God’s will to crush him has been vindicated” (R. T. Kendall, Why Jesus Died, p.169). Praise be to God!

 

Prayer: Dear Lord, may we take to heart the lessons of our verse for today. “Have faith in your journey. Everything had to happen exactly as it did to get you where you’re going next” (Mandy Hale). Amen.

 

__________________________________________

Friday, March 26, 2021

Psalm 130: 5-6--Waiting on the Lord

Chaplain John Holzhüter

 

It is snowing outside and colder than it’s been in a decade.  I must be up early, but I got stuck waiting. The snow was supposed to subside, the temperature bottom out, and so I waited to gauge the accumulation-totals and to check the final low temperature.  I waited…waited…on snow that would not stop and temperature that continued to drop. On edge from waiting, I grudgingly decided to give up and shutdown until tomorrow. Now, wakeful in bed, I am keenly aware of the slow pace of the wee hours of the morning. I am decidedly sick and tired of waiting… for the coming of Spring, for my turn for a COVID vaccination, for the world to seem less grumpy, for a swirl of looming, undone things (large and small) that fail to resume or subside. I have lost perspective on priorities and practicalities and am stuck just staring at the ceiling, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Covered up, but not snuggled down, I am counting burdens as they pile up and weigh heavy on my heart---my inner world mirroring the snow outside piling on the tree branches and testing their strength.

 

“I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,

    and in his word I put my hope.

 I wait for the Lord

    more than watchmen wait for the morning,

    more than watchmen wait for the morning.” Psalm 130:5-6

 

All the drifts of life’s drama and worry has slowly overtaken the space I had reserved for God.  Not once, in the murky awareness of my waiting state, did I keenly reflect on the coming solemnity of the passion of Christ’s suffering and death or the pending celebration of his triumphant resurrection. With the drone and pace of 2020 still set in my heart, I fear I have become neither watchful nor ready. I long for the morning, but not with a sake of longing for my God.  My hope has grown overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the undone and unknown.  Such then is my Lenten journey this year; a quest for perspective and priorities and a return to waiting on the Lord with my whole being.

 

Prayer: Jesus, I feel weary and worn from the pace of the world. I am covered up; waiting for motivation and perspective. Stuck in rut on my Lenten path, my vision seems narrow and shortsighted. In your mercy and grace, recharge and renew my drooping spirit. Open my eyes and my heart to the power of your plan. Grant me an Easter morning where I clearly see the tangible promises manifested in your sacrifice and commit to better build your kingdom.

Amen

__________________________________________

Thursday, March 25, 2021

God’s Way--Genesis 50:20

Sydney Shrimpton

 

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

 

The story of Joseph is a famous story from the bible, one that is told so often that it’s easy for the story to lose its impact. Joseph was a teenager when he was sold into slavery by his brothers. He worked hard and maintained his faith but was thrown into prison after refusing a relationship with his boss’s wife. Things seemed to keep getting worse for Joseph, who was forgotten in the prison for many years.  He had a pretty rough youth. It would have been easy for Joseph to become angry and bitter, blaming God for all of his problems. Yes, despite everything, he didn’t.

 

Eventually Joseph was released from prison and rose to become one of the most respected officials in Egypt. When his brothers came to ask him for help, Joseph didn’t turn them away. He put them through a series of tests and ended up bringing his entire family to Egypt to be protected and cared for. Joseph never questioned his faith. He never looked at his circumstances in anger, never blamed God for the traumatizing events in his life. He never turned his back on God. In fact, after becoming reunited with his family, he responded with a statement of faith – certain that, even though his brothers meant all of these things to be harmful, God used them for good.

 

Take a moment to reflect on this. Joseph, in his teenage years, had his entire life ripped out from under him, yet never blamed God. How many times have things gone differently than you expected and, instead of believing that God had purpose in it, blamed Him, questioned Him, complained to Him?

 

If you truly believe that God has your best interest in mind, wouldn’t it make sense that even when things are difficult, even when the road seems treacherous and everything seems to be falling apart, God is using it for good?

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep me from turning on you when circumstances don’t go your way. Help me see that you are working for my good. Help me trust in that, give me the strength to put one foot in front of the other, and support me as I keep the faith. Please take my every situation and use it for good.  Help me lean on you – I know you hear; I know you know.

__________________________________________

 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Embracing a Confident Expectation

Romans 5:1-5

LaMoine Tatum

 

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5

 

Our first benefit of justification (right standing with God). I am justified by faith and because of this, I am made whole and I am not at war with God through Jesus. There is nothing missing, lacking, or broken because it is Jesus who fills in the gap.

Our second benefit of Justification is our new positioning in grace and enjoying all of whom God is.

It is also through Jesus that I have “access by faith” (Greek) prosagoge; this phrase implies 2 things:

1. The introduction into a relationship

2. Ongoing access in an already existing relationship

Within this text, it refers to the second implication referring to an already existing relationship. So, in other words, in this already existing relationship, I have ongoing access through Jesus to grace for the glory of God or for God to demonstrate His glory (all of His greatness) within me through Christ. I can stand on this promise and I rejoice in HOPE (hope means having a confident expectation).

We rejoice in our suffering, not necessarily just because it’s happening, but it is in our suffering where we produce the posture and the ability to endure. Endurance is the place that reminds us to keep pushing forward. It allows space to grow as we address/experience hard situations that come by living life.

 

As we endure the pressures of our sufferings, we develop proven character. Since God has not just called us to be good but to be a transformed, our character must be called into question through testing. The more endurance occurs, the firm and settled we become in our identity and confidence in Christ; thus, we move closer to the eternal purpose of what God has for us to do because we are immovable in who we are in Jesus Christ. This developed character through testing increases our capacity to hope or our confident expectation.

 

This hope in Jesus does not disappoint us nor does it put us to shame because of the love that God has for us; He pours that love into us and fills our heart by Holy Spirit who is the deposit or down-payment God has put in us to ensure and assure that He will keep His promise. This love not only refers to what Jesus did on the cross or his resurrection alone, but rather a subjective sense of God’s love that we experience personally through Holy Spirit.

 

Prayer: Father, I thank you for who you are, and I always acknowledge you especially during this time of refocusing. Thank you for always hearing me when I pray. Thank you for your living word

__________________________________________

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Sharp Words

Hebrews 4:12

Kurt Hamilton

 

"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword,

it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;

it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12, NIV

 

Have you ever responded to a comment too quickly? Maybe you have overreacted to a comment that you took out of context? I think the best way to describe this is being human. As we interact with other people, it is common that we are going to run across different opinions. Our words carry more weight than we realize. We share our stories, experiences, thoughts with people but sometimes we do not understand how they affect the other person’s day. I could be expressing that I am excited about an upcoming promotion while talking to someone who just lost their job. Or share how thrilled I was to take an exciting getaway when someone has never left the city. These statements are not meant to hurt the other person’s feelings; however, they can affect their mood, anxiety, or feelings.

 

So now let us take the human conversation to the next level. The bible shares stories and experiences for us to enjoy. As we read, we start to learn more about his image, and purpose for coming to Earth. When Jesus talked to his people, if they responded harshly, he did not take it personally. Instead, he spoke in parables to make it easier for them to understand his purpose. Sometimes, I think that we speak in parables to people without even knowing it; we wrap up the meaning of our conversations in this imaginary paper. One thing that we can all do better as human beings is to slow down, think, and then speak. When we are angry or frustrated, I feel as if we use our words as whips to just hit anything in our path. Instead, we can breathe, take a pause in the moment, and realize that the world is not attacking us. Jesus is the perfect example of this as he remained calm and collected no matter who he was talking to. This is impossible for us to attain; however, it is something that we could strive towards. Jesus used his words instead as a tool that equipped him for his faith. He taught us words to pray when we are angry and showed us how to forgive and move on when others have spoken out. Use today as a reminder that our words carry more than just letters on a page. Let us pray. 

 

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, we come to you. We say these words not only for ourselves but for the people around us. Let us look at conversation differently today as we speak with a calm, collected presence. Help us understand the weight of our words and remind us that they are being spoken through you. Lead us to your words, as they remind us of your teachings. Remind us that you gave us a path to follow and that we hear your voice each day. We are thankful for your gifts and vision as we start this day. We say this in your son’s holy name, Amen. 

__________________________________________

 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Verbs--Psalm 96: 11-12

Trish Dowd Kelne

                                                                                                                

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;

let the sea resound, and all that is in it.

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;

let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.” Psalm 96: 11-12

 

By chance I heard an interview with a native plant ecologist who is also a linguist, she mentioned how her native language is composed of 70% verbs and in comparison the English language is composed of 70% nouns; she spoke of her native language as one that was filled with action, doing, being, creating—the verbs; where as much of our English language focus on the passive nouns.*

 

It is an interesting interview much more about plants than words, but it struck me that so often the “nouns” of our world keep us stuck, especially all the stuff.  It is time for spring, to freshen and lighten and shake off; let us set forth from the weight of winter into the doing of spring. 

 

Give yourself a list of doing words for your spring rebirth; let Easter carry you into the dawn of doing.  Just three - freshen, lighten, shake off, those work for me and will take me into the crowded closets, the mucky windows, and the covered garden.  What words of action work for you and where will they take you?  As Christ again enters our hearts anew, let us make space by letting go and giving away, clear the dust and let the light shine in, plow the ground and plant new seeds.  Alleluia.

 

Creator God, let us hear your voice and be moved to action, called to your Easter spring.  Amen, amen.

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Sunday, March 21, 2021

Called to be Different I-- Luke 6:27-30

Lynn Burkhart 

 

“Payback is a…. !” How many movies have we seen where the theme is payback for some misdeed or treachery? We think, yeah! They got what they deserved. And a sense of satisfaction comes over us when the bad guy gets what is coming to them.

Our lives are sometimes filled with inner turmoil over the actions or words of others. Emotions erupt or boil under the surface. Hurt and anger simmer. How we react to these situations and handle them is important not only for our well- being and that of the one who has offended us, but as a witness to Christ.

Jesus’ command to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, is counter to all our instincts. It seems unfair, even unrealistic. It has become part and parcel of our culture to relish seeing enemies (political or otherwise) humiliated, punished, even destroyed. And yet in our passage today in Luke 6, Jesus changes our whole approach and thinking about payback on its head. 

In the old TV series, “Kung Fu” a martial arts priest wanders the old west. Because  he is Chinese he often finds himself at odds with different people. Caine, as his character is called, always tries to deal with each hostile situation guided by his Buddhist training, only using Kung Fu when necessary.

Caine lived by a different set of principles than those he came into conflict with based on detachment within his Buddhist beliefs. We as Christians are guided by a completely different approach than the worlds based on the worth of every individual we meet because they are created in God’s image.

Jesus calls us to bring the Kingdom of God into this world in very radical, yet practical ways. Not to be part of the worldly system of revenge, and payback. Or at the other end to sulk, and stew over what happened. But to bring God and his love into the picture to try and resolve the conflict and do what is best for all concerned.

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Saturday, March 20, 2021

Read the Fine Print

Isaiah 53.9

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

“He was assigned a grave with the wicked,

and with the rich in his death,

though he had done no violence,

nor was any deceit in his mouth.”

Isaiah 53.9

 

How often do we skim over what seem to be meaningless or unimportant details, only to discover that they are needed to complete the picture? The opening words of today’s verse appear to be a matter-of-fact description of Jesus’ death and burial. But when we contemplate the significance of our Lord’s death and resurrection, we find them a source to strengthen our faith in God’s Word because we realize that any and all detail—no matter how seemingly insignificant—enables us to grasp the message of God.    Along with Isaiah we trust in God’s Word: “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” (Isaiah 46.10).

 

Jesus was crucified along with two other criminals, probably insurrectionists. In the minds of those who condemned him, his body would have been assigned to a mass grave along with others who had been executed. It would not have come as a surprise for Jesus’ body to have ended up on a pile of other crucified people.

 

That Jesus would be buried with the rich is a surprise. Quite astonishing. How could someone who was considered a criminal be afforded some measure of honor in burial? Again, the details speak volumes. We are told in the gospels that Joseph of Arimathea took responsibility to give Jesus’ body a proper burial, for he was a secret disciple of Jesus (John 19.38), a rich man (Matthew 27.57), who placed the body in his own new tomb (27.60).

 

In all of this we must not forget Jesus’ love for sinners. While Jesus was on the cross, one of the criminals expressed belief in him as having a kingdom. Upon hearing this Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23.43). The criminal got in “under the wire,” and “confessed Jesus when there was still time” (R. T. Kendall, Why Jesus Died, p. 155). Perhaps there are some reading our devotional who feel they have waited too long to become a Christian. Now is the time to heed the apostle Paul’s proclamation: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10.9-10). The one assigned a grave with the wicked and buried by a rich man is the one who receives all who believe with open arms,

 

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your patience. May we all take advantage of it. In the Name of the One who was “assigned a grave with the wicked” on our behalf. Amen.

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Friday, March 19, 2021

Sound Teaching--2 Timothy 4:3

Gene Shawano

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”  2 Timothy 4:3

 

Greetings brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

I hope this message finds you well and full of the Lord’s spirit.  I am hoping that the words that I've written will be of some comfort and get one’s mind thinking. As I think of where we are at as a country I listen to all the noise coming at us from every direction and it really has us confused about what is true or false. I read a verse recently that made sense to me but yet was confusing. 2 Timothy 4:3 I encourage you to read it as I did and I hope that after you do this will make some sense to you.

 

As I pondered, I was very confused about the message. I understood that sound teaching will evade us as it has so many times before. We would like to believe that we have a firm grip on reality and even if we didn't, why would we admit we didn't. So therefore, we look somewhere else for the answers of like minded people. This is fine as long as we put things into the context in which they were meant.

 

Today we find separation in the world because we don't like what we are hearing. We want to be right, so we look for teachers who are going to tell us right from wrong regardless if we are or not. It makes us feel good when we are on the winning side and today there is no losing.

 

When we see so many fighting against each other, we believe that we are on the right side and we are not. Satan is winning, he is doing exactly what he wants us to do. He is allowing us to not be more Christ like and divides us for his pleasure. I'm not saying we are all good or all bad, but it is important to keep in mind what our Lord wants us to be. Now in the world if the law was put into place to love your neighbor, can you imagine the debate! God doesn't want us debating this; he already explained from generation to generation his wishes for us.  As we turn the page let’s not follow the teaching of false prophets but the sound scripture he provided for us in his good book. He wants us to follow him and no one else! 

 

Father bless us as we search for peace through our life. May you guide us and we keep you close to our heart. May your word continue to guide our path and may you continue to forgive us always for our sins.  

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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Isaiah 52:7 --Come and Walk with Me

Michelle Simpson

 

“And then they shall say, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings unto them, that publisheth peace; that bringeth him that bringeth good tidings unto them of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, that God reigneth!” Isaiah 52:7

 

As people all across the globe are seeking their Creator in this season of Lent, Passover, etc., I am reminded of my young son asking ever so sincerely, how to hear God’s voice.  As I prayed and pondered on his question, I reflected on my life.  When have I heard God’s voice?  Does He seek us as much as we seek Him?  Beckoning to His creation, longing for a closer relationship where we walk with Him through life’s journey?   Does our Father and Creator call, “Come and walk with me.”

How often has He called and I did not recognize it?  Did I hear His voice on the first day of school when I felt lost and alone and a kind stranger said, “Hello and welcome to your first day!”  Was it when I heard, “STOP!” before pulling out into an intersection only to see a car running the red light and no one was in the car with me?  Was it when I prayed for my daughter’s life in the hospital and I heard the words, “I have sent my Son.”  Maybe it was the soft breeze that cooled my brow at my Grandmother’s funeral or the gentle cooing of the pair of morning doves that wait for me in the parking lot when I arrive at work. 

His voice is everywhere.  He is everywhere and woven throughout our lives.  I know His voice.  His voice brings peace to my soul.  This season, this day, let us respond to His call and answer, “Here I am Lord, I am ready to walk with you.”

Prayer:

Oh Lord, Father and Creator.  Hear my humble prayer.  Let me hear and recognize your voice.  Guide me in all I say and do.  Let me walk with you today.  Amen.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Imposter Syndrome--Exodus 4:10-13

Sydney Shrimpton

 

“Then Moses told the Lord, “Please, Lord, I’m not eloquent. I never was in the past nor am I now since you spoke to your servant. In fact, I talk too slowly and I have a speech impediment.”  Then God asked him, “Who gives a person a mouth? Who makes him unable to speak, or deaf, or able to see, or blind, or lame? Is it not I, the Lord? Now, go! I myself will help you with your speech and I’ll teach you what you are to say.” Moses said, “Please, Lord, send somebody else.”  Exodus 4:10-13

 

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern of doubt in one’s self. This syndrome takes place when an individual constantly feels like a fraud, contributing their accomplishments and characteristics to nothing more than chance, to good luck. They don’t believe they possess any of the qualifications required to carry out a task or to do a job and consistently undersell their value and worth.

When God asked Moses to free His people, Moses was hit by a wave of Imposter Syndrome. He immediately threw all of his shortcomings at God, telling him there was no way he could carry out the feat God was asking him to. There was no way Moses was big enough or good enough or qualified enough to do what God intended him to.

 

Can you picture this? Moses, a transient man, made up of dirt and breath, arguing with the creator God, the one who sculpted Moses, who planned out his every day, who tailored his existence into what He desired? This is similar to a clay pot telling the potter that it wasn’t fit to grow plants, that the potter had better choose someone else because it wasn’t made to carry out the task that was asked of it.

God made Moses. And Moses was telling God that he wasn’t fit for the very job God had prepared him for.

 

It sounds ridiculous. Yet how many times have you done this with yourself? How many times have you felt the tugging on your heart strings, to volunteer somewhere, to become a missionary, to say a certain thing to a loved one, to apply for a particular job, to give more money to a cause, yet have turned away from the calling because you didn’t feel qualified? 

 

Granted, the Lord doesn’t typically speak to us through a burning bush. But he does speak to us from within. Shouldn’t that voice echo even louder? We have the Holy Spirit within us, directing our paths, prodding us, pointing us in the direction that God wants us to go. Shouldn’t God’s direction be louder, more convincing when the voice is coming from within?  Somehow, that makes it even easier to turn away from. What action are you rejecting? What desires seem too big? What do you feel led to, yet completely unqualified for? What is stopping you from chasing after that voice in your heart? That prodding in your soul? What is keeping you from following God’s orders?

 

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please guide me. Let your voice to be louder. Let your prodding to be obvious. And, when I know what I’m supposed to be doing, please help me to just do it. Keep me free from doubt. Increase my faith so I can see that God is pointing me in the direction He wants me to go. Give me faith that He will help me, that He will speak through me. Let me serve as a vessel for the Most High – let it be known that this is what He made me for

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Tuesday March 16, 2021

I Will Face My Fear--Deuteronomy 31:6

Kurt Hamilton

 

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

 

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me” – Frank Herbert (Dune Chronicles, #1). I love the book Dune. I think it’s a great mix between sci-fi and realism that transforms the reader into this creative functional environment. This is one of the best quotes from the book and when I read it, I instantly thought of something else. Fear affects more than just when we are faced with life-altering situations. Instead, fear is something that resides with us every day. Sometimes we are afraid to take risks. Maybe you are afraid to speak up about something that is bothering you? Whatever your fear is, it is something that stops you. Fear is something that will never stop, but it can be assisted. Think back in your life to a moment that you were afraid. Did you feel alone? Trapped? Fear causes us to feel every hair on our arms and shocks us to the core. Was there anyone there to assist you?

 

If you answered no, don’t forget that God’s love never leaves us. Sometimes we feel as if no one can help us overcome our fear. God invites us to pour our fears onto his shoulders. Think of something that you fear and start to decipher it. Can your fear hurt you? What are the consequences of not standing up to your fear? Take some time and do an audit of your fears, and see what you have already overcome. Fear is something that can stop you in your tracks. Don’t let it derail God’s amazing plan for you. You are always in control. God gives us the self-control to make our own decisions. Don’t let fear be your mind-killer. Instead, let your fears inspire you to accomplish more. Let us bring our fears to God in prayer.

 

Prayer:  God let us express our fears to you. Comfort us when we are afraid. Let us know that you are always with us when we are at our worst. Lord remind us today that you gave us the power to do anything. This amazing gift of life is one that you shared with us so we can inspire others. Let our fears today transform into amazing memories for the future. Guide our hearts on this wonderful journey of life that you gave us. We say all this in your son’s name, Amen.

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Monday, March 15, 2021

Just in Case--Psalm 55:22

Trish Dowd Kelne


“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.” Psalm 55:22

 

The school suggested all students start “hybrid” learning with a plastic tub for their books and other supplies.  The week before the return date, we purchased a red and white tub- which was about the size of my daughter.  We added a few pencil bags and dividers to help keep it tidy. And then she lugged it to the first day of “in person” classes along with the backpack heavy on her back.  I thought for sure she would topple on the stairs up to school.  She was steady and determined and made her way, mask and all.

 

That was in November, and each week on the last “in person” day of the week, she would lug her red and white plastic tub out of school.  I kept saying, “Just bring home the books you need, leave the tub at school.” And she would inevitably arrive at pick-up loaded with pack and tub…”Just in case,” she would say.

 

And indeed, in December – one week before holiday, the principal tested positive, we went to remote- all online classes, for the remainder of the year.  She did have her tub at home and did not need to go to school to get anything.  So even now, in January, in February, in March-- the lugging back and forth punctuates the start and end of the week, just in case.

 

We are carrying our cares, heavy laden.  There have been so many unexpected required changes.  There is some comfort in the things we can be sure of—just in case—if we carry them with us.  Yet, we are tired, and what works of hearts and hands have we not lifted, as we are full to brimming, overwhelmed, and wearied by the weight of worry? 

 

God help us to “cast our cares” on you, we know you will sustain us, yet we are human and we see so many ways that the unexpected can leave us without what we think we need.  Open our eye to your ways, grant our hearts the trust needed to leave behind the heavy burden and walk in your ways with light hearts and ready hands.  In your name, we pray.

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Sunday, March 14,2021

Molt --Micah 1:16

Chaplain John Holzhüter

 

Long story short, about a year ago, my neighbor ran over to tell me there was an owl attacking my house. I had thought I heard a banging on my window, but assumed it was just the wind.  When I went outside, I saw a huge, bold and exceedingly frustrated owl, tearing at the old screen on my big dining room window.  I couldn’t figure out what would possibly motivate him and didn’t want him to go through the window glass, so I decided to scare him away.  This proved much harder than I anticipated! Reluctantly, in response to my most menacing ninja warrior cries and prods from a long stick, the owl, grudgingly left to perch in a nearby cedar tree and glare at me.

As a surveyed the damage to my screen, I realized that there was a little baby-bird  chick stuck between the screen and the window. Featherless and with an injured leg, he had been the target of the owl’s protracted attack. He was lucky enough to have gotten through one of the rips in the screen and far from being meek and quiet he was scolding and taunting (me now that the owl was gone.)  And that is how I met Grayson (as I didn’t want to just call him ‘bird’).

When the kids were young, we would rescue injured birds or the really young ones that found themselves, a bit prematurely, on the ground. Our neighborhood was always rife with feral cats and our own dogs would heavy-paw anything that moved.   A couple of weeks in a cardboard box with thorough, but strategically detached tending, and they would be ready to fly off to their next chapters. I thought that Grayson was a very young, male, Grackle bird (hence my naming choice).  Two weeks later, I surveyed Grayson, now healed, and liberated from his box as he hopped towards the front door of the house-- screakily demanding that I come back and retrieve him. I realized on less detached inspection, I had inadvertently established a permanent relationship with a young, female European Starling and my prodigal  was demanding immediate entrance to the house.

Micah 1:16

Make yourself bald and cut off your hair,
Because of your precious children;
Enlarge your baldness like an eagle,
For they shall go from you into captivity.

Truth be told, this passage from Micah was not one I much contemplated. This week, as Grayson entered the full stage of her first adult molt, I was pondering 1:16.  I had read that eagles are their most vulnerable when they molt…hungry and energy depleted; the young ones unable to hunt for themselves.  I had decided that Starlings must be the same, as Grayson scolded and pleaded with me to tend--to her make her feel better (with the two human phrases she has learned…”you’re so weird” and “you’re so cute”). She has transformed from wild, fierce and independent into a willing yet bossy captive. I do find her precious and lately have spent much time and money trying to find something she will eat that will boost her fat levels for growing new feathers. She has decided to be really picky and to take all her meals from my hand again.  She is both too dependent and demanding for her own good.

With the pending anniversary of Jesus’ crucifixion , I ponder if I fully appreciate the weight of His sacrifice.  One much greater then tearing out your hair because of someone you love and care for. I fear I’m not always interested in the good things He has set aside for me, and want mostly to be hand-fed.  Perhaps I do forget the depth of the sacrifice He has already made for me, so that I might have wings? Narrow in my passive/aggressive demands for care and assurance, do I want to be strong enough because of His care or strong enough to show Him mine? And so my Lenten ponders continue as Grayson and I both molt.

Prayer: God, thank you for loving my paradox, as I want to be tended to and I want to be free. I want to boss you, even and you work to lovingly give me what I need.  Help me to be more appreciative and less problematic as I snuggle in your palm. Grant me the strength to soar up to You as a willing and appreciative captive.  Amen

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Saturday, March 13,2021

Unmet Expectations --Isaiah 53:8

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

“By oppression and judgment he was taken away.

Yet who of his generation protested?

For he was cut off from the land of the living;

for the transgression of my people he was punished.”

Isaiah 53.8

 

Isaiah 53 contains three questions. We encountered two of them in the opening verse; in today’s verse we find the third one, “Yet who of his generation protested?” This question is preceded by the description of how Jesus was taken away in the Garden of Gethsemane. We must not fail to appreciate that although Isaiah authored today’s verse 700 years before Jesus’ arrest, he wrote as though the events leading up to Good Friday had already occurred.

 

The answer to the question should come as no surprise; no one protested. His family was powerless to resist Pontius Pilate, his disciples too frightened and the rest of his generation simply rejected Him. The Messiah was expected to come and free Israel from Rome but Jesus—the so-called Messiah—was turning out to be an impostor, for he was not leading a rebellion against the foreign rulers. But the problem was that the real enemy of Israel was not Rome…but itself! God’s chosen people were led astray by sin. As a result, the rightful king of Israel was considered a criminal, cut off from the land of the living because anyone dying on the cross was cursed by God (Galatians 3.13). Yet he was innocent, for he was suffering for the sins of Israel.

 

Before we pat ourselves on the back and say that we would have spoken out against this injustice, we must remember that we have the significant advantage of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a result of the resurrection. Rather, we should honestly ask ourselves if we are ready to speak out now for Jesus. Do we show our true colors when his name is insulted and slandered? Do we remain silent as those mentioned above or do we boldly continue living as the salt of the earth and light of the world? Both our actions and our witness should demonstrate that we are his brothers and sisters (Matthew 12.49-50). Moreover, when we become a child of God, we become his descendant. Though he had no physical descendants, yet we are his spiritual descendants, his offspring. When we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, we “become one of the family!” (R. T. Kendall, Why Jesus Died, p. 143). But in doing so we must recognize and accept that his place as Lord is on his terms, not ours. We must see that what he expects of us—and not what we expect of him—determines our walk with him.

 

Prayer: Dear Lord, may we share with others that you were cut off because of our sin, and as a result there is hope in this world. Amen.

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Friday, March 12, 2021

"Lost and Found"

Rev. Matt Sturtevant

 

I remember when my kids were younger, we were regulars at the school’s Lost and Found. Often gloves, hats, lunchboxes and jackets failed to return home until we made that trek to the corner of the classroom where the lost items were kept. There was always a measure of joy and relief when we were reunited with what was lost.

 

Our church is studying Jesus’ stories of losing and finding in Luke during the season of Lent. A man is beaten and robbed of his possessions, left by the side of the road. A shepherd loses a sheep. A woman loses a coin. A man loses a son. A tax collector loses his way. But in each of these stories of losing, there is also the joy of finding! Lost items recovered. A son returns home and is celebrated. One man is returned to health by an unlikely helper…another climbs a tree to find what he had been looking for all along.

 

This past year, it feels like we have lost so much: family gatherings, graduation and birthday celebrations, economic stability, even the loss of loved ones to a terrible disease. And yet, my hope is that we might also ask what God has restored in us, what blessings we have received, and what it is that have we found. Perhaps we might even celebrate the ways that God has sought and found us! Grieving what is lost and celebrating what is found is an important spiritual activity, often associated with the introspection of Lent. This season, I pray that you will faithfully name your grief, and also find ways to celebrate the joy of finding and being found!

 

God who seeks and searches for us, we name both our grief and our joy, in this season of losing and finding. Amen.

  __________________________________________   

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

When God’s in Charge--Isaiah 53.7

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

“He was oppressed and afflicted,

yet he did not open his mouth;

he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,

and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.”

Isaiah 53.7

 

A difficult truth to deal with when reading Isaiah 53 is the realization that the Father’s plan to redeem the world required a “lamb that was led to slaughter.” In fact, this was his plan before the creation of the world. Our salvation was bought “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1.19-20).

 

We may experience mixed emotions when we contemplate the actions of God as depicted in Isaiah 53, especially in light of the belief that he is in control. Did he have to do it this way? It can be confusing that an all-loving, all-good, and all-powerful God would let his Son be treated shamefully. The idea that God is sovereign—that is, in control—should look more like someone using a bulldozer to clear the landscape in order to build the perfect world. No doubt something to that effect will happen at the end of the world. But for now, to recognize God is in control is never clearer than in Jesus’ life and death. Can we find another example of someone who was under the control of God to the extent that Jesus was during his arrest, trial, and crucifixion?

 

It is astounding that Jesus’ life and death are God’s way of demonstrating he is in control. And he has left it to us to model our Lord’s death so that the world can see that a life lived for him is the one by which he “controls” the world” (See N. T. Wright, God and the Pandemic, p.25). In his wisdom “God did not abolish the fact of evil; He transformed it. He did not stop the Crucifixion; He rose from the dead” (Dorothy L. Sayers, “The Greatest Drama Ever Staged”). The one who turns the other cheek is the one who shows what it looks like when God is in charge, and the one who denies self is the one who God controls and uses to change the world.

 

Prayer: Lord, it is great that you trust us. But do you have to trust us so much!? Amen.

__________________________________________  

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

When God’s in Charge--Isaiah 53.7

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

“He was oppressed and afflicted,

yet he did not open his mouth;

he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,

and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.”

Isaiah 53.7

 

A difficult truth to deal with when reading Isaiah 53 is the realization that the Father’s plan to redeem the world required a “lamb that was led to slaughter.” In fact, this was his plan before the creation of the world. Our salvation was bought “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1.19-20).

 

We may experience mixed emotions when we contemplate the actions of God as depicted in Isaiah 53, especially in light of the belief that he is in control. Did he have to do it this way? It can be confusing that an all-loving, all-good, and all-powerful God would let his Son be treated shamefully. The idea that God is sovereign—that is, in control—should look more like someone using a bulldozer to clear the landscape in order to build the perfect world. No doubt something to that effect will happen at the end of the world. But for now, to recognize God is in control is never clearer than in Jesus’ life and death. Can we find another example of someone who was under the control of God to the extent that Jesus was during his arrest, trial, and crucifixion?

 

It is astounding that Jesus’ life and death are God’s way of demonstrating he is in control. And he has left it to us to model our Lord’s death so that the world can see that a life lived for him is the one by which he “controls” the world” (See N. T. Wright, God and the Pandemic, p.25). In his wisdom “God did not abolish the fact of evil; He transformed it. He did not stop the Crucifixion; He rose from the dead” (Dorothy L. Sayers, “The Greatest Drama Ever Staged”). The one who turns the other cheek is the one who shows what it looks like when God is in charge, and the one who denies self is the one who God controls and uses to change the world.

 

Prayer: Lord, it is great that you trust us. But do you have to trust us so much!? Amen.

__________________________________________  

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Lenten Prayer --Philippians 4:6-7

Mary Alice Grosser 

 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

 

Dear Lord, as we enter this season of self-reflection, we strive to strengthen our relationship with you.  Help us set aside the fear and anxiety of this past years medical and political concerns, in order to fully commit ourselves to enhancing a personal relationship with you, our Savior. We must remember that the problems that affect our mortal existence are minimal compared to the rewards that await us in your Kingdom. 

 

Therefore, let us take the time during this sacred season to seek a renewal of our spiritual selves.  Through prayer and sacrifice, may we find your forgiveness for our human weaknesses and find the strength to better serve you in the future.  It is through your presence in our lives that we will find joy and contentment. 

 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

 

 

This Lenten season gives us the opportunity to seek that presence more fully.  Help us find the willingness to seek your guidance on this journey of renewal.  We know your love is ever present if we but take the time to seek and feel it.     Amen

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Monday, March 8, 2021

Psalm 3: 3--Held within Protection

Fredrikson Center Team

 

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me,

my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3

 

There are moments when we must build ourselves up- the pep talk we give ourselves as we stare at the reflection in the mirror (“you got this!”).   We’ve all been home so much more; the outside world seems a bit more daunting.  A practice for Lent might be to imagine the shield around you- the protection of the Lord resting with you.  When each step seems to be a challenge, feel that shield. When you are heavy and weighted by the worries of the day, allow your head to be held high in your prayer to the Lord.

 

As you begin your day, may a prayer wrap you in the shield of the Lord and lift your head to face the service and work of the day.  May the Lord be your glory in the good you do for others in your community. 

 

God of Protection, be with us as we re-enter the world and with us as we shelter in your strength; keep us safe as we offer our work to you and to our community of brothers and sisters.  When we grow tired of being alone, or tired of helping others, help us to wear your shield for your glory, help us to lift our heads high knowing your spirit is with us in this world.  In you name we pray, Amen
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Sunday March 7th 2021
"Run Run as fast as you can"
Jonah 1:3
Fredrikson Center Team 
 
“But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.
He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port.
After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”
Jonah 1:3
 
Jonah really, really didn’t want to go to Ninevah. Enough so that he hopped on a boat and tried to outrun God. Those of us who know of His imminence and omnipotence are aware that this is, in fact, an impossibility. 
 
Yet how many of us still do it? 
 
Jonah was a prophet. He knew what was expected of him, was considered a man of God, and generally did what God told him to do. But the moment God sent Jonah to do something out of his comfort zone, Jonah shut down, decided what God was asking was too big, and did his best to take himself out of the equation. 
 
Have you ever been interrupted in your life? Has God asked you to do something, called you to a mission, a purpose, a task that seemed way outside your comfort zone? Have you ever been surprised with something that happened outside of your “five year plan”? How did you respond when you life suddenly took a turn down this unexpected path? Were you angry? Upset? Confused about how a loving God could ask you to do something so different than what you had asked for? 
 
Did it ever cross your mind to thank God for this interruption? 
 
You were created for a purpose. Only you can do the things God is calling you to. Only you can play out your specific role in His plan. Yet how often do we put our own plans above that which God has for us? How often do we decide that we know what  is best and everything else is an inconvenience? 
 
God uses you to do extraordinary things, even if, at the time, these things seem too big or scary or unexpected. Even if these things weren’t planned for. 
 
The bottom line is, this life is not your own. It was bought at a hefty price by Jesus. Your essential purpose is to fulfill God’s will, to play a part designed for you alone. Next time you’re surprised by a turn of events, take a moment to think before reacting in anger or frustration. Realize that God plans your steps, that His Will is bigger than yours. When you hold this perspective, you may find yourself thanking Him for giving you a part to play in His plan. 
 
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for choosing me to carry out your will. Forgive me for all the times I’ve become angry or bitter about an unexpected turn of events. Help me to see these interruptions as divine intervention, and to play out my part in Your plan willfully and joyfully. Thank you, Father. Amen.
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Saturday, March 6, 2021

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener==Isaiah 53.6

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to our own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53.6

 

As I pondered what to say about today’s verse, it dawned on me just how often the Bible refers to sheep. There are over 500 references, with most of them referring to the literal animal in the Old Testament, while most in the New Testament are metaphorical. From all these we can learn of God’s love for us as well as our tendency to wander away from our Good Shepherd.

We recall that the blood of a Passover lamb shielded the Israelites from death in Egypt (Exodus 12.1-13), just as our Passover Lamb protects us from God’s wrath (1 Corinthians 5.7). Lambs appear as the main animal sacrificed for Israel’s sin (Exodus 29.38-42); for us it is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1.29). Furthermore, God’s people are seen as his sheep, those whom he lovingly cares for and protects (Ezekiel 34.31).  John reminds us that Jesus is our Good Shepherd (John 10.1-30).

 

However, sheep are prone to wander, simply ignoring their shepherd. While many references to a lamb makes it crystal-clear what God has done for us and how much he loves us, that picture is incomplete without the balance of our sinfulness and lack of submission to our Father. R. T. Kendall considers the words “We all, like sheep, have gone astray” as some of the “most tender, gracious, and moving words that are to be found anywhere in the Bible” (Why Jesus Died, p. 109). Yet the end of today’s verse— “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”—is needed because like sheep we simply follow our own will.

 

Our iniquity includes those times we ignore the urging of the Holy Spirit to reach out to somebody who needs the touch of God. A simple phone call or text is seen as an interruption as we seek to protect our sacred schedules, all at the price of wandering off the path of discipleship. We fail to appreciate God’s grace and that his will is the path we are to follow.

 

Prayer: Dear Good Shepherd, may I never wander too far, and may my prayer at least be that I am willing to allow you to make me willing. Amen.

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Friday, March 6th, 2020

The Secret-Sauce for Impossible Victory

Matthew 5:43-47 NRSV

David J. Grummon

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" Matthew 5:43-47 NRSV

 

Ironically, if there is any one thing uniting all humans on our planet at the moment we're living in now, it may be disunity--a feeling of division, separation, isolation. Even attempting to name a cause for our winter of discontent is likely to cause more strife. This isn't to say that there is no right or wrong, or that there is always moral equivalency in all arguments. Indeed, should I not regard anyone who questions my human value as less of an academic debating partner and more like an existential threat? And who could expect me to respond to such an enemy with anything other than anger and fear, fight or flight?  

Jesus does, actually--but not in the way most people think.  

 

Most people know that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and assume (with more than a little encouragement from the powerful of this world) that Jesus was all about passivity.  Yet according to Walter Wink, Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary, one cannot really read the entirety of Christ's ministry and conclude that Jesus lived or preached that way.  Nor did Jesus preach violent opposition.  Rather, Wink concludes, Jesus articulated a third way of militant non-violence.  

 

This was the great truth demonstrated by Martin Luther King, Jr. throughout the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s:  Non-violent resistance is actually far more powerful and effective than acts of violence against an evil such as Jim Crow.  Segregation expected a violent response--in fact it counted on it.  Segregationist politicians constantly raised the specter of a violent Black uprising to keep the support of poor whites--voters who otherwise might have been lured away by policies favoring a more progressive, pluralistic society.  But when voting rights marchers from Selma refused to react violently to the violence perpetuated against them in broad daylight on the Edmond Pettus Bridge, a shocked public quickly shifted its support and the Voting Rights Act was passed and signed into law a mere 5 months after the attack. By refusing to react violently, the battered and beaten marchers exposed the weakness of Segregation.

 

Some cynics would later try to paint the successes of the Civil Rights Movement as merely proof that a victimhood narrative has the power to move public opinion, but King knew there was something much deeper to the power of what they were accomplishing:  When our enemy thinks we are their existential threat, Christ's commandment to love our enemies is the secret-sauce for an otherwise impossible victory.  King preached at length about it in 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church:

 

"Now there is a final reason I think," said King, "that Jesus says, 'Love your enemies.' It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption....  There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive."

 

Of course, nobody claims that loving those who might wish you ill is particularly easy.  Very little of discipleship to Christ is.  It may take time. You may get hurt. In some cases, like King, you might even get killed. Yet nevertheless there is Christ's command--unambiguous and clear--to love our enemies. Whether it is one particularly vile individual in our lives or a whole group of people who seem to support and benefit from an oppressive system or trend, the command to love our enemies requires us to recognize their humanity and in so doing force them to recognize our own. Militant non-violence powered by love for our enemies may just be the only way, against all odds, to finally liberate both the oppressed and the oppressor.  Indeed, in a moment like the one we're living in now, wouldn't that be something of a miracle?

 

Prayer:  O Lord, your call to love my enemies is not easy.  In fact, it feels impossible.  I don't have enough wisdom, strength, patience and grace to do it.  But you do, Lord. Change my heart, grant me your wisdom, strength, patience and grace to love those who do not love me.  Only you, Lord, can transform me and achieve the impossible.

 

  ____________________________________________

Thursday, March 4, 2021

God’s Providence -John 15:5

Sydney Shrimpton

 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 ESV

 

In the Christian faith, we’re big on the assertion that we are made for a purpose. We’re told we’re special, that God designed us for one fantastic adventure, that everything in our lives leads up to this one pinnacle point, this one holy reason for existence.  So we search and we seek and we try to find our passions, our callings, the reason we’re alive. We become frustrated when we don’t feel fulfilled by our jobs, believing a certain career path to be the reason we’re on this planet. We drag our weary bodies from day to day, adding in volunteer opportunities, signing up for more meal trains than we can handle, piling on the bible studies, seeking, searching, determined to figure out why we’re alive. 

 

However, as time goes on, we find that seeking our one true purpose is fairly limiting. If we’re on the lookout for a singular task that we’re to do, one pathway we’re supposed to travel along, one calling we’re supposed to fulfill, are we not missing out on every other good thing?

 

What if, instead, we’re made to fulfill one purpose a million different ways? We’re to bear much fruit. Not a singular piece. What if we aren’t supposed to do one thing in one area, but are supposed to be on the lookout for a million purposes every single day?

 

If you believe that the Lord plans out your steps, that He determines your paths, that He is in charge of all creation, then doesn’t it make sense that every single thing you do has worth? That every phase of life and every action, no matter how small it feels, no matter how mundane it seems, bears weight. Each thing you do is filled with purpose.

 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

 

The next time you look at your life in despair, wondering how you matter, feeling lost and directionless, remember that you are a child of God. You are filled with kingdom purpose—called, ordained, granted a place in heaven with your eternal Father, so long as you’ve accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

 

 

Lord, help me live as though each moment of my life holds weight. Help me to believe I am capable of bearing fruit every moment I’m alive. Guide me to fulfill the million small purposes you have for me each day.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

That Should Have Been Me!--Isaiah 53.5

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53.5

 

Today’s verse clearly teaches the concept of a substitute. This notion was entrenched in the Mosaic law. Animals, such as lambs, were sacrificed as payment for sin against God. The death of the animal was a substitute for the person who deserved punishment and death. The idea of payment or atonement was familiar to Isaiah’s readers as the way to restore the broken relationship between the one offering the sacrifice and God.  But what was unique in the prophet’s description here was that the sin offering was actually a person, the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. Jesus was our Lamb who takes away our sin (John 1.29).

 

This wonderful truth can easily roll off our tongues with little or no thought. But a close reading of Isaiah 53.5 should give us reason to pause. The verbs are striking; he was pierced and crushed in our stead. Christ was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. Such a picture reveals the sobering truth that Jesus suffered physical, mental, and spiritual pain on the cross for something he didn’t do! In an action that is beyond human understanding, “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5.21, NLT).

 

Even more convicting is the term iniquity. The sacrificial system of Israel recognized two classes of sin. There was the unintentional sin for which sacrifices could me made (Numbers 15.22-29). But there was also intentional sin, the “high-handed” sin, when we deliberately and willfully show our distain or contempt for God’s commandments; for such sin there was no sacrifice (15.30-31). Jesus was crushed for our intentional sins, our iniquities.

 

And because of that we have peace, the shalom that describes wholeness and completeness, life lived to fullness in Christ. We are now children of a loving Father and not his enemy. Unlike the animal sacrifices that had to be repeated, we now have peace with God on a permanent basis because of Christ’s death (Romans 5.1). Furthermore, we have access to the peace of God (Philippians 4.7), a conviction that “it’s going to be okay” despite circumstances. Christ’s punishment brings us peace and his wounds heal us of the sickness of our transgressions and iniquities. The resurrection of Christ (not yet referred to in Isaiah 53) heals our sinful heart (1 Peter 2.24) and allows us to receive love and comfort as children who have been united to our estranged Father.  

 

Prayer: Dear Father, may our prayer be that of Graham Kendrick: “For us he was made sin, Oh, help me take it in.” In the Name of the great Healer. Amen.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Luke 2: 41-49---Everyone Gets in Trouble 

Fredrikson Center Team

 

“Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.  And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances.  When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him.  Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.  When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.”  And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”  Luke 2: 41-49

 

I find it utterly amusing and incredibly relatable that Jesus, God in human form, had at some point gotten in trouble with his parents. Often overlooked throughout the entirety of scripture is the fact that the men and women recorded were never the most upstanding citizens. In fact, it’s almost part of the point being made that all are imperfect and have faults. 

 

Though that isn’t the case in this instance, where it seems Jesus misbehaves. With him being completely sinless, the misunderstanding is with his parents, not him. Growing up that’s how every situation feels as the child in trouble. Obedience, for us who are faulty and prone to disorder at times, is key and incredibly important in our growth. So important it made one of the “Big Ten”.  This has always fascinated me how his law is perfect, and every bit is for our benefit and truly freeing.

 

Prayer:

Lord God, we thank you for keeping us, even though we are sometimes at fault. Please continue to guide us to your virtue, leaving behind the faults, unloading the baggage that we add, and give us clarity as we wash away all that isn’t pleasing to you. Amen 

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Monday, March 1, 2021

Psalm 61: 1-2--On High

Fredrikson Center Team

 

“Hear my cry, O God;

listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,

I call as my heart grows faint;

lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:1-2

 

As Lenten reflections continue, a change in perspective—literally—might offer a chance to chart a path toward Easter.  Have you ever taken in a view from a higher perspective?  Maybe the only parking spot left is the one on the top floor in the garage, or you look out the window of the top floor at an office or classroom, or even the choir loft at church, or outside, at the top of a hill in your neighborhood? 

 

Take time to change your perspective—physically, even if it is just in a stairwell or looking over the edge of your bed.  Do something tangible to change your view.  With this change of sight line, reflect in your time of prayer on what shift God might be placing on your path this Lent.  What has made your heart grow faint, what has made you weary?  Where would God lead you to make a shift?  Small changes lead to great heights.  As we call to God to hear our prayer, may we listen too and seek new perspectives. 

 

God on High, lead us to you, through our prayer and reflection, give us eyes that seek to see your path, help us to quiet ourselves and hear your call.  May we seek you, call to you and find you.  We look out into this new perspective, we are quiet, we give thanks for our breath and your spirit ever present, in your name, we pray, Amen.

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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Dread Naughts---2 Cor. 4: 17-18

Lee Stadler

 

Of all the words on all the tongues of the world sit few of higher esteem than those in proclamation of tomorrow’s end. So loud. So determined to prophecy either side of a coin flip that would usher an age of new dawns or reticence to continually bleak-streaked skies. What drama! And what for? To rail against what may never be? To cast long shadows on what has already been given to this and yesterday? Words flailed from errant tongues fleeing from tomorrow, desperate to escape its effort. Hopeless.

 

Yet this is the weight of hope. Its duty. The burden of knowing our shoulders may be too narrow to heft it. Knowing the struggle of backs thought too old to balance the load and knees too worn to move it forward. Acknowledging both sun and cloud and readying the mind and body. Steadying the soul. For what tomorrow brings is determined by those who bring it. Like loose threads at the end of a cloth waiting for the weaver’s hands. Completed. Shoulders narrowed, backs old, knees worn. We bring tomorrow…Hope.

 

2 Cor. 4: 17-18

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 

Prayer: God help us to fuel the flame of Your eternal hope!

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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Who’s Pulling the Strings?  Isaiah 53.4

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

“Surely he took up our pain

and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,

stricken by him, and afflicted.”

Isaiah 53.4

 

As we continue our look at Isaiah 53, you may find yourself thinking that there is something going on which you can’t see, someone is moving the pieces around. And in the process, Jesus appears as the victim of all the behind-the-scenes activity. Any honest assessment of what Isaiah is describing in this chapter leads us to choppy waters as we come face to face with the possibility that God was behind all the mistreatment and eventual death of Jesus. It appears that that the earliest Christians believed “that God was ultimately responsible for Jesus’ dying on the cross. It was absolutely, irrevocably and unmistakably predestined” (R. T. Kendall, Why Jesus Died, p. 87). At the crucifixion, the Jewish leaders and Pontius Pilate “did what [God’s] power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4.28). Could it be that God is the one directing this story?

 

No matter how we answer the question, we must not forget two important truths. First, we will never know the depth of our sin or how grievous it is to God. Because of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden, we all became natural enemies of God. When we sin, we don’t just break his commandments; we break his heart! But the second truth is we will never comprehend the extent of God’s love for us. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us, showing our infinite worth to him (Romans 5.8). Despite our wrongdoings, he loves us unconditionally.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is helpful here as he reminds us there is no such thing as grace without the cross. To think otherwise cheapens God’s grace, for it is costly; it cost him his Son, as there was no price too dear to pay. This is what we have seen so far in this chapter and there is more to come. Isaiah 53 is not for the faint of heart.

 

Prayer: Dear Father, may we take to heart the lyrics that read, “Lead me to the cross where Your love poured out.” 

Walk with us on this painful yet sanctifying path through Isaiah 53. In the Name of the One who gives us everything. Amen.

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Friday, February 26, 2021

Gratefulness has an ability to Prevent Discouragement over Our Sins and Weaknesses---Psalm 118:1

Rev. Justin D. Gnanamuthu, C.S.C.,

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;

For His loving kindness is everlasting”   Psalms 118:1

 

We are in the holy season of Lent during which we are called to reflect upon our sins, vulnerabilities and human aberrations, as well as God’s unconditional love and mercy. The difference between Judas and Peter: Peter got up again. What continual fault, failing or sin do you let discourage and stifle you?  When you let it or them discourage you, you’re yielding to the nefarious designs of the devil. The Christian attitude is: It’s not how many times you fumble and fall; it’s how many times you get up to walk in the path of righteousness and holiness.

 

Remember in situations like the above you are in good company. It was St. Paul who said, “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want,” (Romans 7:19). As we fall over and over again we have a choice: To be discouraged and subdued or to be grateful. Yes grateful!  We can gratefully choose to see that God is creating a deeper level of humility in us.  We can also gratefully realize that we cannot make ourselves holy. We can gratefully choose to realize we cannot do anything without His assistance. We realize that God (Love) does not keep a record of our wrongs but a record of our attempts to free us from the clutches of evil. Such realizations can help us to believe God will change us in His time and in His way. Our job is just to keep getting up. Our job is to keep trusting in His undiminished mercy. That’s why God sent Jesus who revealed the Father’s love and mercy to us.  Peter, unlike Judas, believed in the Father’s love because of Jesus. Is there anything in our lives from which we need to depart and walk in the path of God’s mercy?  Let us pray for the courage to be like Peter who resolved to get up and walk.  

 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your mercy. Your love for me is real, personal and everlasting.

Lord, grant me the grace and the strength to rise from the grip of my sins and return to you forever.  

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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Plans--Job 38:4

Nicole Hamilton

 

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand." Job 38:4

 

As a newlywed, I’ve been asked the standard relationship questions more than a few times. For example, when I was dating my husband, it was “when are you getting engaged?” Once we were engaged, it shifted to “when are you getting married?” After we were married, it was “when are you going to have kids?” I’m sure we’ve all heard these questions a million times and are guilty of asking them just as many times. I love that I have people in my life who care enough to ask, but after reflecting, I pondered why do we worry so much about the timeline of our life?

 

I believe it’s because there’s comfort in feeling in control, but the book of Job is a good reminder that our lives can change in an instant, and we can learn a valuable lesson from that. Near the end of the book when Job had lost his family, his farm, and was diseased he confronted God. He demanded that God give him an answer as to why his life had crumbled. God answered Job by taking him on a journey of his creation in a way he had never seen it before. God showed him the minute details of the creatures of the Earth all the way to the immensity of space. Job was stunned and overwhelmed. God never told him why he had to suffer, but he was trying to give Job perspective as to how much God creates and controls and how many moving parts there in the universe.

 

God said in chapter 38:4 "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” We weren’t there when God created the beautiful earth and the all mind-blowingly details in it and we can’t view it as he does. As much as we try to plan our lives, God knows more and loves more deeply than we could ever comprehend. It’s hard to swallow that we aren’t in control of our lives as much as we’d like to be, but the matter of the fact is God is simply better at it. We have to just breathe and trust in his plan.

 

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

God, you are bigger and greater than we could ever imagine. Help us find comfort in your vast knowledge and love even if it feels like our life is out of control sometimes. Open our eyes to your plan for us and give us the courage to simply go and follow it. Let your peace wash over us today as we release our worry for the future to you. 

Amen

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Worst-Case Scenario ---Isaiah 53.3

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

“He was despised and rejected by mankind,

a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

Like one from whom people hide their faces

he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”

Isaiah 53.3

 

Mother Teresa considered loneliness the greatest problem in the world. Everyone has experienced loneliness to a certain degree. Some of you reading this devotion have been devastated by the death of a spouse, or close friend or family member. There are no words to describe the pain and sorrow of carrying on without the person who made life worth living. When C. S. Lewis lost his wife to cancer he remarked, “The death of a beloved is an amputation.” Something is missing.

 

At the risk of sounding insensitive, there might be an even more painful loneliness, that which materializes because of rejection. Such loneliness stems from the decisions of others who make known to us that we are no longer welcomed in their lives. This is heartbreaking because it is personal; those we love and consider special people have taken it upon themselves to tell us that we are no longer important to them. Our Lord endured such loneliness because he was rejected by the world as a whole (John 1.10) and his people in particular (1.11).

 

Our Lord endured the cross even though it “not only meant rejection by his own people but as we shall see, the ultimate rejection, namely by his Father” (R. T. Kendall, Why Jesus Died, p. 54). Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (KJV). When Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27.46), he took the ultimate rejection so we wouldn’t have to. In other words, my sin, which put Jesus on the cross, resulted in the Father rejecting Jesus so he wouldn’t have to reject me. Jesus took the worst-case scenario of God’s wrath so I would not have to live without him forever; Christ endured separation from God, which is hell, and in love and mercy justified me in his sight.

 

Our Lord knows the pain we feel when we suffer loss, when we are in the midst of numbing loneliness. He comes to us to offer his presence and comfort. He is with us even as we read these words, knowing that life can be difficult. Even more, he is with us when people reject us for our faithfulness to the Gospel, for our Lord faces rejection even today. But because of his death on the cross, we never have to be alone in this world, for Jesus Christ is close to the brokenhearted and the rejected.

 

          Man of Sorrows! What a name
             For the Son of God, who came
            Ruined sinners to reclaim.
            Hallelujah! what a Savior!  Philip P. Bliss

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Walking in the Faith--Matthew 14:28-41

Sydney Shrimpton

 

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

 “Come,” he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-41

 

Faith is one of those cover-words. One of the words we use that has a vague meaning without any real bearing on our lives.  So what is faith? What does it mean to live a life full of faith?

 

When Peter stepped out on the water, he was acting out of faith. He didn’t know what would happen or how he could possibly manage to stay afloat. Keeping his eyes on Jesus, he suspended his disbelief and stepped out, walking on the water without having any idea how such a thing could be possible.

 

Only when Peter looked around, saw the storm raging around him, felt the wind and started to think about how deep the lake was, how dangerous the lightning, did he began to sink. Jesus reached out and saved him, taking him gently back to the boat, asking why he had doubted. Peter had everything he needed to continue to walk on the water, but he began to think, let reason and fear get in the way of his faith, and he sank.

 

To live a life of faith, you have to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. If we can plan and control every bit of our lives, faith becomes irrelevant. It’s only when we take that step out onto the water that faith becomes necessary. Only when we’re able to let go of what we want to happen, let go of what we think should happen, let go of the fear of what could happen, are we living a life of faith.

 

When you ask the Lord to increase your faith, things may get scary. The wind may begin to rush around you, the storms may rage, but it’s only then that what seems impossible becomes possible.

 

God, help me to realize I have everything I need to live a life of faith. Help me not to become discouraged when things become difficult. Keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, help me not to doubt, and give me the faith to move mountains.

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Psalm 37: 23-26---Fredrikson Center Team

 

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.” Psalm 37: 23-26

 

“Failing forward” – a term discussed to encourage growth mind-set and progress not perfection.  These concepts are not new, though forgotten and left outside our focus.  The good person will fall, yet not be utterly cast down; it is similar to the saying, “Give yourself the same grace you would give another.”  If we get so lost in the idea of having made a mistake, then we focus on ourselves rather than the opportunity to learn, to be upheld within the Lord’s hand, to be planted and to be blessed. 

If you have fallen, seek God’s hand, rest and recover in that grace and merciful love.  Return to the steps of good and delight in the Lord. 

 

Dear Lord, we come to you having fallen, we seek your hand to uphold and heal us; grant that we might learn and begin anew the path you have set before us.  In your name, we pray, Amen.

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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Itching for Promises---Isaiah 40:31

Chaplain John Holzhüter 

It is bone chilling, subzero cold again, here in the Midwest.  My furnace is working overtime to keep my space mostly warm. Thus far, my pipes are still unfrozen (not so for my neighbors, my mom, or my workspace). Admittedly,  I feel more lucky than blessed.

My biggest problem is that, presently, I’m an edgy, twitching, bundle of itch!  My aging, forced-air furnace has mostly accomplished its heating of the house and fully succeeded in drying said abode into dessert level humidity.  The air is so dry, it is a labor to breath though my nose. I have humidifiers going upstairs and a pan of water on the  kitchen stove, but my skin is dry, to the point of cracking.  My face is chapping, and my hands and feet are literally splitting in rebellion.  When no one is around, I rub the itchy part of my back on the door jam, like a grouchy bear on a knotty tree. I am frantically pacing, focusing on the promise of damp Spring smells and rain thick air; growing past weary, I am fixating on this arid-dwelling waiting game. Uncomfortable, in my thin skin, I’ve grown past watchful to mostly preoccupied--on not passing out in pain from re-scratching or going bonkers exerting strong will not to keep rubbing myself raw.

Isaiah 40:31   But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

The Hebrew word “qavah” which is translated as “wait” in this passage from Isaiah has a literal meaning of “to bind together like a cord.” or, “the twisting or winding of a strand of cord or rope.” My Lenten ponder then; is there a way I could transfer my itchy, fleshy bundle of craves for the promise of Spring-moisture into a prayerful braiding of resurrection assurances and God’s promise of abundant, living water? There must be a way to reset my perspective from a seasonal countdown to a beneficial, even if crazed wait on the nearing anniversary of resurrection of my Lord.  To soar above my itchiest times like an eagle and run to emulate His living works (not pace or faint in the confines of my living room). I know that would renew my strength. I must pray and do and watchfully wait on what really matters…

PRAYER:  God, I have grown unfocused by small discomforts which I have let loom large. Please, balm my itchy spirit and renew my perspective towards your deep, abiding love. Help me to joyfully countdown the celebration of your resurrection and afford me the grace to soar above petty problems and run towards its springs of new life.   Amen

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Saturday, February 20, 2021

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep---Isaiah 53.2

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

“He grew up before him like a tender shoot,

and like a root out of dry ground.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,

nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

Isaiah 53.2

 

Often when Hollywood makes a film on the life of Christ, the actor cast in the lead role brings a certain attractiveness to the screen. We soon find ourselves unconsciously adopting the idea that those who follow Jesus in the movie are partly inspired by his physical appearance. But our verse for today teaches something far different, something we must reconsider.

 

“We all like our leaders to ‘look the part’—that is, to the give the aura of excellence, dignity and prestige. So what a disappointment Jesus was” (R. T. Kendall, Why Jesus Died, p. 43).  The term for beauty in 53.2 includes the idea of good looking and is found in 1 Samuel 16.18, where David is described as handsome.

 

Isaiah is quick to say that Jesus’ attractiveness was not based on shallowness. He didn’t stand out as someone who gained a following that was created by external expectations that were met. Rather, as we continue in Isaiah 53, we will be confronted by a person who is appreciated by only those who accept the cross and discover what he did for them. This can be a painful journey because his attractiveness comes in the form of what he suffered and accomplished for us. David’s one desire was “to gaze on the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27.4). This beauty is an attribute or characteristic of God whereby we see in him all that is good and desirable for us. But we only see and discover this beauty when we accept his work on the cross and place our faith in the one who taught that the way to glory is through suffering. Those who see this beauty are to reflect it in their daily walk. When we sow love and mercy and peace and joy as a result of the cross and resurrection, we prove that what is on the inside is more important than what is on the outside. 

 

Prayer: Lord, perhaps some of us are like the root out of dry ground, waiting to surprise onlookers with abundant growth and beauty. May we allow you to produce such transformation. In the Name of the Spirit who changes us. Amen.

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Friday, February 19, 2021

Prioritizing our Preparation--- Mark 6:8-10 (NRSV)

Pastor Jason Folkerts

 

“He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.”” Mark 6:8-10 (NRSV)

 

Lent in its most basic form is about the posture of preparation – 40 days of readying yourself because something important is coming our way. Getting prepared in our American culture is not all that profound or earth shattering of a concept. In fact, lets be honest, we are immersed in a world that is dictated by always getting prepared – for many of us it begins the very moment we rise from our slumber and start our day. We prepare for a meeting on zoom, for school, for the kind of healthy breakfast we should be eating. We prepare for another meeting and some more meetings; we prepare for weekend plans; we prepare for a multitude of projects that need fixing, such as house repairs or car maintenance; we prepare our shopping lists and upcoming parties or events. And we know the list just goes on and on.

 

But here’s the thing about lent and preparation – it should remind us of our priorities. You see we prepare all the time, what we don’t do in that process very well is prioritize the preparations in order of importance. For many followers of Christ, setting up a zoom meeting with a friend to talk about clothing choices for a party next week is on the same level or higher than contemplating and preparing our hearts and minds to think on what Christ did for us at the Cross. In all our noise of busyness and endless preparing, Lent and its value of spiritually deepening our journey is necessary, so that from Ash Wednesday to Easter the relevance of our relationship to God is put into the proper perspective.

 

Jesus himself knew the importance of proper preparation – in a multitude of situations he reminded his followers, us, that ordering your prep time spiritually is a major bene in following after him. For example, remember the time Jesus called his disciples to go out two by two with clear instructions on how to prepare for this specific missionary journey (Mark 6:7-13). He wanted to get them mentally prepared to deal with individuals and their acceptance of who he was and his mission.

 

During this season of Lent we have the opportunity once again to listen to the path of Christ, who he is and his mission, to get ready appropriately to experience the risen Lord at Easter.

 

Take a moment and think about all you are involved with and how much energy you put forward in preparing for these varied moments. Maybe this Lent, from the onset, you should write down these many preparations and consider prioritizing them in the light of your faith and spiritual walk. I think by doing this you will have a more meaningful outcome at Easter and you may find that the daily journey and the 40 days to get there has opportunities you didn’t notice before.

 

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Colossians 3:12-17 --- Love: a Lenten Challenge
Fredrikson Center Team

 

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17

 

This passage sets forth clarity and calls us to love, specifying qualities and ways to manifest love, as God has loved us.  As a Lenten Challenge, write these words down (or type them, or text them to yourself):

Love

Compassion

Kindness

Humility

Gentleness

Patience

Forgiveness

Thankfulness

 

Throughout this season, contemplate these words and attempt to write your own definition, or better yet, write down an example of each and go out and do as it is written.  Share your accomplishments with your loved ones.  Follow God’s command to love.

 

God of Love, you have commanded us to love, this Lenten season manifest in us the spirit and drive to go out into your world and demonstrate your love.  In your name we pray, Amen.

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Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Passing a Hearing Test---Isaiah 53.1

Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

 

“Who has believed our message

and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Isaiah 53.1

 

Isaiah 53 is the greatest chapter in the Old Testament if not the Bible itself. Charles Spurgeon called it “the Bible in miniature, the Gospel at its essence.” The New Testament refers to this passage more than any other when citing prophecy that speaks of the Messiah. Of note, the Ethiopian eunuch was reading from this chapter when Phillip the Evangelist sat down with him and proceeded to share the gospel (Acts 8.32-35).

 

However powerful this chapter is, the key to accepting it as true is our verse for today. Two simple questions identify those who find the twelve verses in the chapter life changing and those who see no significance in them. Those who believe what is said about God’s Suffering Servant in the chapter are simply those who have faith to do so, for faith is a gift (Ephesians 2.8); the one to whom God reveals himself is the one who wants God to.  As R. T. Kendall says in his book Why Jesus Died, the answer to the two questions is “Those whom God is seeking” (p. 22).

 

There is nothing attractive about crucifixion and our natural reaction is to be put off when the topic is raised. But this event is exactly what we are to embrace. Perhaps we need to recall the troubling comment of Paul when he recounted his first visit to the church in Corinth by reminding his readers that “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2.2). What today’s verse teaches is that if anyone desires to take Isaiah 53 to heart, they must accept the offensive truth that the crucifixion of Christ is the only means to salvation. We can’t accept this truth on our own; we are sinful, prideful, and weak. Rather, we come to accept it “because God [is] sovereignly at work”, that is, he is actively seeking us and we accept this pursuit (Kendall, p.24).

 

So please join me in our look at each verse of Isaiah 53 and remember the challenge of our Lord, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11.15).

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the truths of this great chapter of Isaiah. We seek to be shaped and transformed during this season of Lent by what You wish to share no matter how offensive or painful we find it to be. In the Name of the One whose Word penetrates to the core of our being. Amen.

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Advent Devotionals 2020 Archive

 

 

 

 

 

"Hopefully Waiting"

Matthew 24:37-49

Chaplain John Holzhüter

“As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man.”

It is Christmas, but this year I am not in my normal holiday rut. I would like to say it is because I had determined to be more Christ-mindful and holiday-meaning-aware, but abandoning my usual routine was a forced choice, of course.  The continued impacts of COVID-19 have caused yet another disruption in my traditions and routine. And I have decided that…this is probably a good thing!  I fear I would have been one of those folks, in the days of Noah, eating and drinking and doing all the rest--taking things for granted and mostly oblivious to the pending loom of the storm. Instead of the normal hubbub and plans, I feel much more mindful, this year, of the anniversary of the miracle of Jesus coming into the world for what it truly was.  Remembering His gift of hope, I feel compelled to hopefully wait for the new normal of the new year.  To work to be more open to God’s plan and less prone in the comfortable lull of my old grooves and set ways.  And so I pray…

God of great expectations and unceasing wonders, the new groove You set, through the miraculous birth of Jesus, afforded a new world-path for grace to manifest.  Help me to be watchful and ready and not take You lightly or for granted.  May this Christmas’ quiet celebrations deep-root in my heart and may I live them daily going forward; well into the new year and focused on beyond. 

 

 

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Thursday, December 24th, 2020

"Now and Forevermore"

Matthew 1:23

Dr. Rich Menninger

 

An interesting thought about the gospel writers is that none of them “ever remembered Jesus.”  This quote of James Denney usually comes across as puzzling until you recall that you only remember someone who is not with you. The gospels are living books. The words that Matthew wrote are alive, for he experienced the presence of God as he wrote and believed that his readers could likewise sense the same Jesus that he walked and talked with for three years.

 

It has always been God’s desire to live with humanity and no doubt His heart was broken in the Garden of Eden when He had to ask Adam, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). After He called Israel out of Egypt, God fashioned the tabernacle ("place of meeting" or "tent of meeting") where He would live among His people (Exodus 40:34-38).This idea was carried on with the building of the Temple but sinful people were never able to overcome sin and experience the continual presence of God. That is, until the coming of Christ: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means God with us)” (Matthew 1:23).

 

Both his given  name and the title Immanuel (or Emmanuel) reveal much about our Lord:  Jesus specifies what our Lord will do “(He saves us”) and Immanuel identifies who He is (“God who comes to reside with us”). He is “the Word who became flesh and made his dwelling (lit., ‘built his tabernacle’) among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). 

 

Although Jesus is never again referred to as Immanuel in the New Testament, Matthew’s insight is not to be overlooked. Jesus is “God with us,” who is in our midst (Matthew 18:20) and promises to be with us until the end of time (28:20). Today, because of the Holy Spirit living within us, Jesus is God with us everywhere and through all time. As the apostle Paul writes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

 

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for being the Son of God who is the Lord who saves; thank you for being the God who is with us, now and forevermore. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.

 

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Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

"Christmas – A Time to Celebrate God’s Merciful Love for Humanity"

Romans 12:10

Rev. Justin Gnanamuthu, C.S.C.

 

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:10

 

During my high school years in India, I once had gone home for my Christmas vacation from the Jesuit run boarding school. While staying at home, on a fine, sunny day a vagabond came pleading for some food. My mother gave him some leftover food. An hour later, to my surprise, I found that the vagabond had vanished with that fine plate and a silver cup. Understandably, I flew off the handle and vowed to bring the person back to the spot.  Soon, he was brought him back to my house. I could see the plate and the silver cup hidden in his bundle of rags, so I chided him with the harshest words for his dishonesty.  

 

My mother seemed to have watched the commotion in front of the house. When I realized she was there, I froze but she went back into the house. The vagabond feared that she had gone to inform the cops, so he grew worried and entreated me to show him mercy and appeal to my mother not to inform the cops. Minutes later, to my utter surprise, my mother returned with another plate and a few more silver cups and gave them to the man. The man stood speechless, moved to uncontrollable tears. He raised his hands in humble salutation and asked forgiveness.  Since my mother had shown mercy and treated him with dignity, the vagabond went away a changed man, resolved to steal no more. 

 

My mother’s response helped me alter my perspectives on people, things and the world. She had a choice either to react or to respond to that vagabond. She had also an option either to punish and humiliate him or to restore his dignity and let him go as a liberated human person with his honor intact. She chose the latter and thereby turned the vagabond’s heart from the materials things of plate and cup to God, the giver and everlasting forgiver. In his life, it was a notable transition – from evanescent rags to perpetual riches. 

 

How do we act when confronted by such situations in life? By reacting, we can demean and denigrate the other, but by responding mercifully and generously, we can restore the person’s rightful relationship to our loving God. By becoming a man, Jesus has shown us the way to become truly human in our lives. Christmas is all about the commemoration of that indelible fact.    

 

“It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.”

Mother Teresa  

 

Prayer: May the Christmas – 2020 make us happy to be thy children, and as we come to the close of this year, may we be filled with grateful thoughts for what God has done to us through Jesus. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

"Gowns and Good Tidings"

Luke 2:9-14 (KJV)

Janice Trigg

 

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:9-14 (KJV)

 

This passage of scripture is one that I personally treasure because it is one of the first passages I remember memorizing as a child. You see, I was given the opportunity to play the angel of the Lord one year for the Christmas pageant at First Baptist Church of Overland Park, Kansas.  The memories surrounding the whole event are rather fuzzy. I don’t remember exactly how old I was or who played the other roles. I know I was probably selected for the part of the angel because I was the tallest one in my class. I do remember a long white gown, a golden rope belt to wrap around my waist and a gold tinsel halo for my headwear. I also remember practicing, over and over, the words that I would speak and memorizing the words that came before so I would know just when to make that proclamation, 

 

“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

 

To this day this King James Version plays in my mind no matter what version I read or hear – nothing else sounds quite right. Isn’t the power of memorization amazing?

 

I’m sure as underwhelming as all the costumes were that night in Overland Park, the message of the Christmas story rang loud and clear in that small sanctuary, just as it does all across the world in all the Christmas pageants. For the humblest to the grandest Christmas pageant the costumes will fade away but the word of the Lord stands forever.

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord, thank you for your word stands forever. Please seal up your word in our hearts and bring it to mind when we need to remember.  

 

 

 

 

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Monday, December 21st, 2020

"Deep Peace"

Psalm 85:8  

Fredrikson Center Team

 

“I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly.”  Psalm 85:8  

 

Have you seen Kung Fu Panda – the 2008 animated film?  Strange question, but there is a scene where the Kung Fu Master and teacher repeats over and over to himself in his meditative efforts: “deep peace, deep peace, deep peace…”  yet he allows himself to be irritated by his student’s shortcomings and pestering silliness.  He seeks acclaim and reward rather than humility, acceptance and diligent work.  

 

So often we long for “deep peace” and yet the every day work is scoffed at—the necessities of getting rest, avoiding unhealthy distractions, nourishing our bodies with healthy food, drink and exercise, disciplining our minds and hearts through structure and commitment to serving others and challenging ourselves to reach for connection beyond Netflix, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Games...  

 

This Advent let us seek the peace that comes after a hard days work; let us find the motivation to push the power button and do the extra chore; let us take steps outside to see the peace in God’s majestic natural wonders; let us reach out in letter or in call to connect with the brothers and sisters around us longing for connection; let us understand the deep peace God grants in our weary days when we seek first to serve each other and find we have seeded peace in our own depth through the grace we give another.  

 

Prayer:

God of Peace, your light awaits us, if only we turn to you and take the hard fought steps that tire us and yet enliven us with your deep peace.  Help us in our efforts, in your name, we pray. Amen

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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Pay It Forward

Matthew 1:22-23

Dr. Rich Menninger

 

When Matthew sat down to write his gospel under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote in his own words not only what he had observed during his three years with Jesus, but also what he experienced in his walk with Christ after He ascended to the Father. As a man who treasured the Old Testament, Matthew was convinced that the hope of Israel’s salvation had been fulfilled in the work of Christ. And what better way to convince the Jewish people of his day that Jesus was the Messiah than by showing the connection between the Old Testament and all that Jesus said and did while on earth.

 

We see from our passage for today that Matthew was quick to cite prophecy to show that Jesus’ Messiahship—so unexpected—was what had been God’s plan all along. He writes, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’  (which means ‘God with us’).” The prophet Matthew quotes is Isaiah (7:14). The formula “All this took place to fulfill” or its equivalent frequently shows up in his gospel (Matthew 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17: 13:14, 35; 21:4; 26:56; 27:9). Isaiah 7:14 refers to the days of King Ahaz of Judah when Jerusalem was threatened by Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel. Isaiah offered a sign to ensure God’s rescue: a virgin will become pregnant (naturally) and give birth to a Son of David to rescue Ahaz. While the king foolishly rejected Isaiah’s proposal, nevertheless the prophet saw God promising to save the political kingdom of His people. Isaiah trusted God to keep His word even if he was unsure of the timing of future events. Unselfishly, Isaiah knew he was serving us (1 Peter 1:10-12). 

 

Likewise, Matthew sets out to serve future generations by writing his gospel. He did so because of the events that had happened in Jesus’ life following his birth. He surely heard of the story of the virgin birth during Jesus’ ministry but Isaiah 7:14 wouldn’t make sense until after Jesus’ resurrection: The ultimate proof of Jesus’ divinity was the cross and empty tomb, not the virgin birth.

 

Isaiah and Matthew were convinced of God’s trustworthiness and took it upon themselves to serve future generations of God’s people.

 

Prayer: Dear Lord, may we serve others—including generations to come—by sharing the good news in such a way that its influence continues throughout time. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday, December 19, 2020

"Be Still and Know"

Dr. Dorothy L. Smith

 

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 NIV

 

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” Exodus 14:14 NRS

 

This has been the most unusual year I have ever seen. I have never been in a pandemic. I have never been in or seen a worldwide shut down. The whole world shut down for the year 2020 and we have not returned to life the way we remember it yet. This maybe the new normal but I hope not. But before we panic and begin to say things we will be sorry for, let's look at something positive that has come from this event. We have been forced to slow down or stop and evaluate what is important to us. Suddenly relationships are first in our lives. We value people more than things; we realize things can be replaced but people cannot.

 

We realize and understand what Romans 8:28 is saying; “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Two things we must put into prospective are: God did not cause the Pandemic but He is using it. God is not the author of confusion as stated in 1 Corinthians 14:33, “God is not the author of confusion but of peace as in all the churches of the saints” KJV.   The next thing is we can see clearly who is the author of this problem, Satan. Now we can stop fighting and demeaning each other and join forces to fight the real culprit, the Devil.  When we combine our effort to fight a common enemy, with the help of God, we will be victorious. We no longer can use the excuse we do not have time to pray because we have plenty of time and reason to pray with and for each other. We even have time to call and see how each person is doing. Now, that's a new normal worth keeping.

 

Now as we concentrate on Christmas, we can focus on “What shall I give Jesus this year?” Jesus only wants one thing from us for His birthday gift; He wants all of us, our heart mind soul and body. Something we can each afford to give.  Will you give Jesus Christ this wonderful present this year and make him happy?

 

Prayer:

Let us pray.  Lord, we love you with our whole heart and we know that you love us. Help us to remember we may be the only Christ many may see; therefore, we want to live lives so transparent they can see you within us and want you in their lives. As many come to you in this time of crisis, help us welcome them into the family and help them grow to be more like you in every way. For Christ and in His name we pray, Amen

 

 

 

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Friday, December 18, 2020  

Watched Out and Unready
Matthew 25:10-13

Chaplain John Holzhüter

 

The evening after the presidential election was called, I watched on the evening news as crowds of people went out to celebrate in the streets.  The results were not official yet, but they seemed compelled to come together, in anticipation of what loomed on the horizon.  They were watchful and ready for new chapters and next steps. I realized that I was feeling mostly frazzled and overwhelmed.  I was well-numbed by the protracted vote tallying drama. I was weary, stunned and scarred from the frequency and vitriol-levels of the barrage of political commercials. Vote counting and angry ads kept repeating, like unwanted songs that you can’t seem to get out of your head.  I was unprepared for any next chapters and just wanted to sleep until the present one was over.  I felt like the ’unprepared bridesmaids’ in Matthew 25…drowsy and running out of fuel!

 

“And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut.  Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’  Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (25:10-13)

 

I thought about how tired the firefighters must be in California, Colorado and other places facing wildfires; laying their clothes out to the ready before they went to bed and parking their vehicles road-facing and near when they went to get supplies at the store.  I had no real excuse to not be full of Christmas expectations and new year anticipation. I had allowed myself to get tuckered out by the drama of watching real-world TV…yikes!  It is Advent and my life is well-filled with helpings of redemption, blessings and joy.  Sorry God, thank you for everything. I will get my perspective righted and priorities straight.  I will be watchful and ready and not let my brain be subsumed by fruitless,  political funk. 

 

Prayer:

God, you have given my so much that it is easy to take your blessings for granted. Help me to stay mindful, grateful and watchful. Ready for Your next steps; immune and untouched by perceived slings and arrows of the world’s endless drama.   Amen

 

 

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Thursday, December 17th, 2020

"A Unified Force"

Colossians 3:14

Nicole Hamilton

 

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:14

 

As a teacher, I see my kids do a lot of interesting things. As I watch them stick a pencil through their orange, eat an apple with a spoon, or drink from their water bottle without taking their mask off, I can’t help but think why. It’s hard for me to put myself in their shoes and imagine their thought process. Even though my seven and eight-year-old students might not be making the best decision from my point of view, they had a valid reason in their minds to do that action. In today’s stressful world people are having to make more impactful decisions than ever before. It’s easy to sit back and judge their choices from an outside perspective, but the truth is we don’t fully understand their situation because we’re not in their shoes. All we can do is offer support, gentle guidance, and compassion because they’re trying their best. 

 

Colossians 3:14 speaks words of wisdom in these uncertain times: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” With so much distance and division right now, we need a unifying force and that force is love. When we love one another we create a strong bond that is not easily broken, we shed light in dark times, and most importantly we show who God truly is; love. Today, I challenge you to look beyond someone’s choices and simply view them as someone to love.

 

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

We cannot thank you enough for your all-encompassing, overwhelming, unconditional love. Because of your powerful love, we have the strength to love others regardless of the choices they make. Help us, as Christians, be a unified force to live out your greatest commandments and be a light in difficult times. We know you are in control and leading us every step of the way even if we’re unsure of the future. Thank you for all you have done, are doing, and will forever do. 

In your name, we pray,

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

"The Season...The Struggle"

Isaiah 58:10

Treasa Toland

 

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” John 3:18

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.” Peter4:1

“and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10

 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the LORD Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:15-17

 

My personal life experiences have given me a firsthand taste of hunger, pardon the pun, as well as holidays without presents, decorations, or family celebrations. My heart breaks at the thought of children not experiencing these things, or parents agonizing over the choice of being responsible, if that is even a possibility in today's times. Parents want to share their past traditions or dream of better provisions, as some may carry a burdened past with them. I do understand the reason for the season as many of them may also. Understanding as well that life experiences help mold the wonderful hearts of future difference makers, but in the moment, the struggle is real.

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, Thank you for my struggles as in them I have grown closer to you. I ask that in this season you continue to guide us as we try to assist our neighbors, to introduce you into the lives of those who struggle with knowing you and to grow in their hearts the desire to welcome your son Jesus. To guide us in the direction we must go so that all who hunger can be fed, and to keep us safe in our endeavors. In Christ's name, Amen.

 

“But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the LORD. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the LORD has told us about." Luke 2:10-15

 

 

 

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Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

"Trusting God"

Psalm 62:8, Proverbs 3:5-6

Hailey Gonzalez

 

“Trust in him at all time, oh people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 

 

For me, trusting God was something I always focused on, my whole life. When something wasn’t going the way I wanted it to go, I would just tell myself “God has a reason” and maybe I don’t understand or see it now, but one day I will.  As it says in Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all time, oh people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” 

 

It’s easy for us to be calm and trust in God when everything is going your way and good, but we must believe in him at all times — good and bad. God knows everything we are going through and everything we will go through in the future. We have to know that all things are possible with God. He knows the desire in your heart and if you trust in him with the things that you want most, he will take care of it and never leave you alone. 

 

“If you can?” said Jesus, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23). When I was in my junior year of college, something happened to me that I never thought would happen. It broke me, made me feel so many different negative things. It was hard for me to believe that God would let something so awful happen to me. It took me a little bit to realize and understand how God would never give me something that I couldn’t handle and that no matter the situation I have to trust in him and know that with pain comes strength. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  I used this verse a lot during that time and it helped me realize that I do have to trust in the Lord with all my heart and know that he will make my path straight.

 

After realizing all this it helped me grow closer to God and helped me fully trust him in more ways than I ever did. You have fully devoted yourself to him and his way to fully be able to experience the life he has created for you. 

 

Prayer

God grant us the courage to trust in you and follow the path you make for us, the strength to look to you in our dark times and the willingness to share your light we others. In Your name we pray, amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday, December 14th, 2020

"Song of Joy"

Psalm 98: 4-8

Trish Dowd Kelne


“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
    burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
    with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
    shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
    let the mountains sing together for joy;” Psalm 98:4-8

 

My daughter plays the Ukulele and recently learned a short snippet of Ode to Joy.  She plays it for my mother when we visit at the memory care community.  The music reaches through the window that stands ever present in our visits; we are on one side and mom on the other.  Music seems to be the joy of each visit, giving us a connection where touch is not possible, words get lost and masks cover our smiles.  So she plays, mom taps her foot and sways; I sway too.  It feels like old times, at least for a moment.  We find each other.  

God of Joy, bring us new moments of joy within the unknown of this time.  Where there are barriers to love, let joy lift our hearts and guide us through.  May your Spirit be the music that brings us together. Your Son comes to us anew, bringing Joy to the World.  Let our hearts hold true to this sounding joy.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

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Sunday, December 13th, 2020

What’s in a Name?

Matthew 1:21

Dr. Rich Menninger

 

When children are given names today the meaning of a name is usually not foremost in the parent’s mind. Normally what motivates the parent is whether the name carries on the memory of a family member or simply if it has a pleasant sound to it. This was not so in the time of Jesus. Names were more intentional than today, for they often expressed the essential nature and character of the person named.

 

Matthew’s name means “gift of the Lord” and little did his parents know when they named him that his most treasured gift to the world would be his gospel. Matthew shared the Gospel by writing a gospel. That is, his gospel contains the Gospel, the good news that God came to Israel in order to save the world.  Matthew was Jewish, a man who accepted Jesus as the Messiah and followed him in discipleship, most notably when he wrote the gospel which bears his name. The Gospel began with Israel, for the good news revealed that the long-awaited Messiah had come.

 

The importance of names in the time of Matthew is not lost on the Christmas story. Joseph is commanded to name Mary’s son, Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew), “because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21, NIV). Jesus, a popular name, was a variation of Joshua, which means “the Lord saves.” Early on in his gospel, Matthew describes Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth. Joseph is a Son of David, as is Jesus (1:1, 20) and this title reveals that Matthew believes Jesus is of the line that will produce the Messiah or Christ. The Messiah was popularly believed to be the warrior-king that would free Israel from its enemy Rome. Such a view of salvation was something Jesus encountered throughout His ministry, especially at His triumphal entry on Palm Sunday (21:9).

 

What was not popular at the time was that the Gospel presented salvation in terms of redemption from sin not political oppression (Psalm 130:8).  That is, Matthew understood Israel’s’ greatest enemy was not Rome but itself, not foreign invaders but the sin that separated it from God. Matthew will later remind his readers that Jesus “will save His people from their sins” by giving “His life as a ransom for many” (20:28). The manger Jesus was placed in at his birth was seen by Matthew to be at the foot of the cross.

 

Prayer: Dear Father, may we not make Christmas all about the sentimentality of a baby, no matter the miracle of His birth. Rather, may we see that when the child was named Jesus, the work of the cross was set in motion. In the Name of the One who came as a child and left as a King, amen.

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Saturday, December 12th, 2020 

"An Advent Mash-up"

Daniel 6: 26b

Rev. Matt Sturtevant

 

“For he is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end.”  Daniel 6:26b

 

I recently watched a video that created a mash-up trailer of The Hobbit and Mad Max: Fury Road. Someone had the idea that these two vastly different movies could be interwoven, and the result was surprisingly logical. Somehow, it all made sense to see Gandalf driving a post-apocalyptic battle vehicle, or the Mad Max desert replacing the mountains and plains of Middle Earth.

 

I had the same thought when I saw the text the Narrative Lectionary chose for the first week in Advent: Daniel and the Lions’ Den (Daniel 6). Talk about a mash-up! Surprisingly though, the result made sense. The people of the Christmas story waited under the thumb of Empire (Rome) in the same way that Daniel served under the Empire of Babylon. They experienced the jealousy and fear of King Herod, just like Daniel and his friends were victims of King Darius and his edict prescribing who they could worship. And most importantly, in both the Christmas story and Daniel, God intervenes in unexpected and life-giving ways: in one story saving a life, and in the other creating One.

 

Perhaps this year feels like we are living in a similar mash-up: global pandemic, economic collapse, and political chaos…alongside of the twinkling lights and piped-in music of Christmas. But maybe this is the year that the waiting of Advent makes the most sense. We wait with anxiety in the midst of Empire, hoping for justice and peace. We wait while leaders battle from places of fear and cynicism, and we long for a Prince of Peace. And most importantly, we wait upon the unexpected and life-giving actions of a God who still works in our world today.

 

God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, grant us wisdom to see your work, and courage to join it afresh this season. Amen.

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Friday, December 11th, 2020     

Deep Ground of the Soul

Luke 1:49-55

Dr. Paula Artac

 

"...The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.   His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.   He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.   The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.   He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."  Luke 1:49-55 

 

DEEP GROUND OF THE SOUL

My soul stands vulnerable in the barren desert,

the divine hidden from my eyes in the darkness of unknowability.

Waiting and watching,

all exterior recognition is cast aside.

My heart breaks open pouring out all sense of self,

longing for water to quench the thirst of my seeking.

I have journeyed long into this darkened ground of my soul

only to find not myself.  Only to find…nothing.

Where can I run?

Where can I run

but to run beyond myself,

only to find abundance in my soul sanctuary,

the empty bowl, filled with God.

Temenos.

 

Humble maiden, empty and expectant,

unencumbered and bare,

you stand in service to the mystery of the darkness,

the expectant guest loved without question.

There is nothing between you and God.

You are immersed in God.

In not knowing, your heart is purely in the Oneness,

forgetful of self sinking to your knees in receptivity.

Sinking and letting go,

Sinking deep and letting go.

You are truly blessed with understanding,

infused by grace, abundant with new life within you.

Transformed.

 

Enter into my soul, speak to my heart.

Impart the words that angels celebrate.

Be audible to me in the stillness of my soul’s silent cave.

Lead me from the wilderness of my ignorance.

Make me whole,

filled with light transparent.

Infuse my being.

Fill me with grace

to be in God,

Transparent.

 

 

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                 Thursday, December 10th, 2020                     

                     Preparing or Passing?                       

Romans 12:9-21

Jacob Martin

 

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. …If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12: 9-10, 18 

 

There are many Christmas traditions I remember being a part of growing up - putting up and decorating the tree (we usually used an artificial one), changing the advent calendars every day, making cookies of all kinds, shapes, and sizes, putting up Christmas lights, being with family, lighting the advent candles. There’s plenty more, but you get the point. I’m sure you have your own Christmas traditions. Many might even be the same. Yet, no matter the tradition the reasons are the same.

 

We are preparing for the coming for the Lord, Jesus. We are preparing to share the hope, love, joy, and peace that comes with the Light of the World. The longer I live the more I understand why preparation is needed to experience, let alone share, such magnificent things with the world - hope, love, joy, peace. I won’t speak for you, but in my limited and expanding experience each takes an incredible (uncomfortable even) amount of effort. I think each year we are at risk of taking the gift of Christ and all he provided for granted. We treat Christ’s birth story as “X-mas”. We treat God’s gift and the life of Jesus as a day each year to mark off the calendar until next year; making it just another day to X off.

 

I encourage you to do the hard work - take intentional time to be with God - this Advent. For, as the world is ever reminding us hope, love, joy, and peace is preceded by hardship and takes action to create and sustain. How can I, you, we be prepared to receive hope, love, joy, peace, and Christ this Christmas? And everyday day after?

 

I share these words from a wonderful hymn as a possible answer to such questions, and as a prayer to let change, let peace, let Christ be on earth with, in, and through you and me.

 

Let There Be Peace on Earth

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Let There Be Peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father, brothers all are we.

Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony...

With every step, I take let this be my solemn vow.

To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Amen.

 

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 Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

    Christ Among Us

Matthew 25:31-40

Jan Lee

 

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25: 40

 

Óscar Romero served as the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador in El Salvador. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture amid a growing war between left-wing and right-wing forces in his country. In 1980, Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence in San Salvador. 

 

His words written in 1978 reminds us of Christ’s words in Matthew 25:31-40.

 

Advent should admonish us to discover
in each brother or sister that we greet,
in each friend whose hand we shake,
in each beggar who asks for bread,
in each worker who wants to use the right to join a union,
in each peasant who looks for work in the coffee groves,
the face of Christ.

Then it would not be possible to rob them,
to cheat them,
to deny them their rights.
They are Christ,
and whatever is done to them
Christ will take as done to himself.
This is what Advent is:
Christ living among us.

--Oscar Romero, December 3, 1978

 

Prayer: Loving God, remind us always to treat all we meet as Christ living among us. Amen

 

 

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Tuesday, December 8th, 2020  

Spiritual Medicine 

Proverbs 17:22

Kurt Hamilton

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

What happens when you don’t feel good? You go get some medicine, right and start to try to feel better. You slow down, don’t go to work, and recover from whatever it is. We never know when we are going to get sick, it just always hits us.  Medicine, sleep, and home remedies all help take us back to normal. However, what happens when sin creeps into your life? Or a sudden life change that you didn’t see coming? What is the medicine for our hearts when sin has taken control of the wheel?

 

 As I was reading through Proverbs the other day, I came across this passage. “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” Proverbs 17:22. I feel as if sometimes we don’t look hard enough for the medicine. Instead of running to the store to get “the good stuff,” we decide to stick it out. Or we will state that we are fine and that it is only a little cold. However, we aren’t taking care of ourselves. We are neglecting the fact that we have endless supplies of spiritual medicine on the shelves. Our bible, prayer, meditation, and many other resources are constantly available; yet we look for other outlets. We create voids in our lives to relieve the pain that we are experiencing, because it’s easier. Replacing our pain instead with human sin. 

 

There is another resource. God. God is always in our lives. He is constantly leading us to new opportunities, people, and outlets. God is constantly seeking us even as we become distracted. God is showing us people with a cheerful heart to become our medicine. He is showing us his love without asking for payment. God is our medicine. So I challenge you; the next time that your human instincts kick in, look for some spiritual medicine. Instead of heading towards your next deadly habit, turn to prayer. Rather than reaching for something destructive, look for a bible instead. Turn to medicine instead of wicked thoughts. See what God’s spiritual medicine can do for you. 

 

Prayer: God we ask you today to remind us of your love. That you are the creator of all things that we are surrounded by. You care for us as your children and remind us of better things. Today let us remember that we fight sin with love. That we do not give up. That when things get tough- we remember you are always fighting for us. Let us not give up on this fight against sin. Instead, let us turn it into power for your name. We say this and all things in your great name, Amen. 

 

 

 

 

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Monday, December 7th, 2020

"Flexible and Adaptable"

Proverbs 29:1

Community Contributor

 

“A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.” Proverbs 29:1

 

With many parents, I share the weight of being a “first year teacher”  and straddling the realities of education and work within the walls of home.  Grateful for the option to “work remote” even with reduced pay, we have juggled—and are just doing the best we can.  At the first Zoom parent teacher conference, we lauded the teachers for their flexibility amid the changes and the teacher responded, “Flexibility and adaptability.”  It is a pattern I’ve practice, and yet forgot.  So focused on the constant change of this past year, I forgot the second part of that couplet—to be flexible and yet also to adapt.  It seemed our need to change was so rapid and continual, that we never paused for adjustment or to adapt before the change required flexing again.

Entering the winter now, and likely another round of change to come and to continue, let us prepare, – not just to be flexible, but to adapt and to repeat.

Prayer:

Lord be with us in the changing, grant us nimble minds and steady hearts rooted in our faith in you; guide our actions that we might follow your path, with turns and twists, keep our faith strong as a steely silk by which we are ever tethered to you, bending and adapting as we continue on toward the light born of Mary, your Son.  In his name, we pray, Amen.

 

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Sunday, December 6, 2020 

Behind the Scenes

Matthew 1:18-25

Dr. Rich Menninger

 

Our earlier look at this passage revealed that Matthew described Jesus’ birth in a style much like a reporter, simply relaying the facts surrounding this history-changing event. In the process he describes the actions of Joseph, a model of obedience.

 

Upon learning that Mary, his betrothed wife, was pregnant, Joseph follows the law righteously but with compassion. He plans to divorce her because of her “adultery” but to do so in a way that would not draw attention to her unfaithfulness. But he is informed in a dream that he should keep Mary as his wife because she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, he is to take her home and when her son is born give him the name of Jesus. This he does.

 

But my description of Joseph’s actions is not really the main point of this passage. Despite the attention Joseph receives from Matthew, these verses are really about Jesus, even though he does not appear until the final verse (Matthew 1:25). In our passage, Matthew informs us as to how Jesus entered history, who He is, and his role in the salvation of humanity. Yet, today as then, only the eyes of faith can see God working in the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. In fact, this passage should guide our reading of any story in any gospel. God is always working behind the scenes to bring about what needs to be done to ensure the protection and salvation of His people.

 

This truth becomes apparent in the story of Herod the Great searching to kill the infant Jesus and how Joseph acts to protect the child and keep Him out of harm’s way (2:13-23). God’s providence, His involvement with humans in accomplishing His will, should never be far from our mind when we read a story in the Bible (especially for the first time!). The mystery and suspense should not turn our attention away from the fact that God is working in all situations and all people to accomplish His will. Matthew is teaching you to “have faith in your journey. Everything had to happen exactly as it did to get you where you’re going next” (Mandy Hale). Joseph is an example of that truth as he was used by God to ensure our salvation through His Son.

 

Prayer: To the God who hides Himself that we might trust Him to get us to where we are supposed to be. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Saturday, December 5, 2020 

Advent- A Time of Gratitude to God at All Times 

Rev. Justin Gnanamuthu, C.S.C.

1Thessalonians 5:18

 

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” 1Thessalonians 5:18

 

We are in the holy season of Advent which prepares us to receive the Lord in our hearts and minds. Our preparation to receive the Lord is a conscious and prayerful activity. One way of preparing ourselves to receive Him is to become ever grateful, even in adverse situations, for the numerous blessings we have already received. It is counter intuitive to give thanks when something bad happens, but the life of faith is beyond logic. So, take the plunge. Pick an event in your life that you wish did not happen or is not happening. Thank God for that over and over and over and over again. God’s ways are inscrutable. He has some plans for us even in the worst situations.

 

There was a villager whose sole means of support for his wife and family was a horse which helped him work in the land. One day the horse ran away. The other villagers came by to commiserate with the man. “Oh, what a terrible thing to happen,” they all said. He said, “We’ll see.”  The next day, his horse returned with 30 other horses. His fellow villagers came to visit to celebrate with him. They all said, “What good fortune you have!” He said, “We’ll see.”  The next day, his son was trying to break in one of the wild horses and fell off and broke his leg. The villagers again came by to commiserate. The man again said, “We’ll see.” The next day, the army came to town to conscript all the young men for war. They did not take the man’s son because of his broken leg!

 

Bottom line: Thank God in all things, for we trust He will eventually bring good out of each.

During this season of Advent, let us wake up and ask ourselves these pertinent questions in order to become grateful beings: What good has come from some bad things in my life? What have I learned from some bad things in my life? To be more compassionate? To trust Him more? To pray more or differently? To try harder? To not try so hard? A greater appreciation for family and friends? To live the serenity prayer?

 

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” (R. Niebuhr)

 

Grant me the attitude of gratitude.  

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Friday, December 4, 2020 

 "Faith in the Lord"

Isaiah 41:10

Eugene Shawano, Jr.

                  

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

 

Good day, in this Advent season as it always is brothers and sisters in Christ:

 

I say thank you to our Lord for all that he has done for us. He gives us a strong shoulder to lean on! Helps us understand that he is always that great counselor when we need an ear. Most importantly, he has all the answers we need, if we are willing to listen to what he is saying to us.

 

Faith in our Lord is not just talking, but practicing every day, especially now, when there is so much fear in our world.  Practicing our faith does give us a sense of strength that He is with us, right by our side. I believe the world needed a wake up call; we started to believe in man more than we believed in Him.

 

Our Father who reigns over us all deserves our praise and thankfulness every day, minute and second of our beautiful days. Without Him, I believe this time would be almost unbearable, but with Him all things our possible.

 

So if there is one thing I can share during this beautiful season of Advent, it’s all about Him and we should be ok with that because we owe everything to him for all that we are.  He tells us we will never walk alone!! That in a crazy world is all the comfort we need.

 

May our Lord give you peace and joy during this unusual time but remember that he is only a whisper away whenever we need him. That is always!!  Amen

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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Where Do I Sit?

Luke 14:7-8

Kurt Hamilton

 

“When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.” Luke 14:7-8

 

This is just the beginning of a great parable and lesson from Jesus. In the lesson, Jesus is explaining to his disciples a lesson on humility, that we should take the lesser seat at an occasion and let others sit in the best seats. What are the best seats? Maybe it’s front row at your favorite sporting event? Or possibly the end of the dinner table so you don’t have to stretch your neck? As followers of Christ sometimes we don’t always get the best seats in the house. However, we all get a seat next to Christ if we believe in him. I think this idea of humility gets lost in the culture of the 21st century. Sometimes, humans get distracted with greed, technology, or time-wasters instead of finding a way to their seat. We are all trying to get to better seats, when we all already have one. The parable continues with verse 9 “If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.” Again, this idea is being taught of giving up your seat for others. The parable continues in verse 10-11 saying, “But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 

This is the part that caught my eye. I don’t need to compete for a better seat in my life, because I am waiting for God to come to me and invite me to heaven with him. This parable does a great job of reminding us that we don’t have to compete to get into heaven. We are not more important than our other fellow brothers and sisters. Instead, we are all created in his image. That is why we are all unique. God uses each of us and our individual talents to glorify his world. We don’t have to compete to be at the end of the table, or to have a front row to God.

 

Instead, we have to work at getting people to sit at the table. We have to show our lost friends the open seats.  Instead of playing a game of musical chairs, why can’t we go out and find more chairs so everyone has a place to sit? The parable concludes with Jesus talking to the host about inviting the poor, crippled, and blind to the party instead of rich neighbors. Today instead of working on someone who already has a seat at God’s table, go and help someone else who needs help seeing their chair.  

 

Prayer: God, we are grateful that we live in a place where we can worship you freely. That we can speak your name freely and talk about all the good that you do. We are grateful that you use us to speak your name to others. That you lead us to find your lost sheep. That you teach us your word so we can continue to share it with others. Today, remind us of your humility that you share with us. Show us our lost brothers and sisters and help us bring them to your table, to have a seat next to you in heaven. We are grateful that you give each of us a chair. We just thank you for this day, and every day that we get to be with you. We say all of this in your Son’s Holy name, Amen.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Miracles

Psalm 77:14,  John 4:48

Virginia Pine

 

“You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.” Psalm 77:14

“So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe”. John 4:48

 

The Bible is full of miracles.  Miracles from creation in Genesis to the promise of a new heaven and a new earth in Revelations.  The birth of our Savior Jesus Christ is one of the biggest miracles because His life gives us eternal grace.

 

Just think about Jesus’s birth.  It is full of miracles.  Born to a virgin as promised from the line of David.  Born in a stable with his birth announced by Angels to shepherds in the field.  A star guides wise men to see the King of the Jews.  Joseph being told in a dream to flee with his family to Egypt because King Herod seeks to do Jesus harm. Born to be our savior.

 

The miracle of birth happens every day and we take it for granted.  What other miracles do we take for granted or don’t even see?  Have you ever received unearned financial gain?  How many times has a parking space become available when and where you need it?  Little things in life that just happen to come your way through no action of your own.  Then there are the big miracles.  Have you ever been in a car and see a serious accident about to happen and you somehow come out unharmed and you have no idea how that happened? 

 

Take time during this magical season to see all the miracles in your life.  It is amazing.

 

Prayer:  Thank you dear heavenly Father for the miracle of the life of our savior Jesus Christ.  Help my eyes to open to see all the miracles that happen around me every day.  Thank you for your grace.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.

 

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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Hand of the Lord

Job 12:7-10

Rosemary Holzhuter

 

 “But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:  Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.  Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?  In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10

 

One of my students mentioned her family raised and tended horses on their farm.  After talking with the family, we arranged for a field trip, and all the students joyfully loaded the bus and off we went for a day at the farm and a chance to see the horses. 

It was nearing the end of our trip and the owner of the farm had given a tour and then allowed the students to take their lunch sacks and sit outdoors to enjoy before the bus ride back to school.

We happened to be standing near the corral where their prize white stallion stood – tall and regal.  I took the apple from my lunch and offered it but was rejected.  The stallion neighed and sauntered away, uninterested.  It was then that the rest of the horses in the corral began to head to pasture, following the stallion.  But there lingered a young filly, she was the color of a new penny, glimmering in the sunlight, beautiful beyond my imagining.

She took my breath away and I leaned into the fence, but the owner just smiled and said, “Oh you’ll never get near that one.”  Undeterred and awestruck by her radiance, I slipped through the fence and walked toward her.  She shook her mane and paused.  I spoke to her as if to a heavenly creature, “You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”  Perhaps she understood, she knew the gifts of God’s creation.  She stepped toward me; I stood motionless as she came closer and finally, she placed her head upon my shoulder and rested there for a long moment before turning and galloping off toward the open pasture.

It was a gift, that remains in my heart, her beauty such a reflection of God’s creation and grace. 

May we wait, in this Advent season, undeterred by those that might discourage or lead astray.  Let us look to God’s creation for beauty, for purpose, for the glory of God in our midst.  May we find rest in in the hand of the Lord.  Amen

Monday, November 30, 2020

Second Planting in Hope

Psalm 33: 20-22

Trish Dowd Kelne

 

“We wait in hope for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
  In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
    even as we put our hope in you.”

A deluge of spring rain fell in the few days after our pumpkin seeds were planted.  They seemed swept away, the ground flooded.  We replanted, with the remaining seeds: some pumpkin, some winter squash, some just the last ones without label.  The second planting was unplanned and rushed, yet hopeful that something would come up.

We discovered, in about 10 days, where the flood waters flowed.  A bundle of little sprouts came up, all tangled together.  The plot was a bit of a mess, mingled types and all vines once the summer took hold.  We did some transplanting, but mostly just went with it.  Vines were growing everywhere, some even  wrapped round a Rose of Sharon bush nearby.  By harvest time, the bush looked like a Christmas tree with small pumpkin ornaments-an unexpected delight!  The hopes of our world turn up in places unexpected and in variations unplanned, yet food for the table and gifts from God’s earth. 

As we begin this Advent, we may not know what has been planted, or where, nor what weather holds; yet “we wait in hope for the Lord,” and in that hope- our help, our shield and unfailing love. 

God of the Unknown, gift us with hope, planted in our hearts, felt in our moments of flooded and barren ground, keep our eyes turned to you Lord and the hope of your Son.  May we tend the fields of our hearts, replanting and transplanting, and setting roots in you toward a bountiful harvest through Christ.  In you we hope, Amen.

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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Just the Facts Ma’am

Matthew 1:18-25

Dr. Rich Menninger

 

The title of this devotion is a quote incorrectly attributed to sergeant Joe Friday of the detective series Dragnet, which aired on television in the 1950’s. Nevertheless, they aptly describe the Christmas story as presented in the gospel of Matthew. As a reporter would write about what he or she investigated, Matthew simply jots down the key details he learned.

 

Mary and Joseph were betrothed, a legal arrangement that bound the couple to each other as husband and wife, though the marriage was not to be consummated until a year later. So strong was this contract that sexual relations with another person other than the betrothed was considered adultery. The relationship could only be dissolved through divorce.

 

In this account, Matthew matter-of-factly states that Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. He offers no explanation or embellishments to make it more attractive. Like the writer who penned the opening verse of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” Matthew assumes his statement is true. If you want more proof, I am afraid none is forthcoming at this point: you simply must deal with it as is.

 

While the virgin birth is beyond scientific explanation, its necessity is crystal clear. This unique birth teaches us that Jesus is divine, and at the same time, human: he was born like us (Matthew 1:25). Jesus, the eternal Word of God, appeared in human form (John 1:1, 14). Simply put, God became human: this belief is referred to as the Incarnation. The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary with such power that Jesus came into this world truly human yet without the inherited sin of Adam; he was born holy, the Son of God (Luke 1:35). As a result, our Lord was able to remain sinless (Hebrews 4:15) and became the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

 

Just stating the facts.

 

Prayer: Lord, help us see that we will not come to faith by understanding everything, but we can come to a clear understanding of truth by coming in faith. In the Name of the One whose miraculous birth leads us to faith that is embraced by our reason, amen.

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Concluded Events

“Living Christmas Cards”

Thanks to all who were involved!

Fredrikson's TAU participants and OUTheatre is presenting “Living Christmas Cards” (a holiday ‘production’ where homebound folks or those in nursing homes can look out their window and see a Christmas show and hear some carols (and then we give them a Christmas card:>) if you would like to ‘play’, let me know (or just show up on Dec 2nd) check out a rehersal:>)

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"Musical Christmas Cards 2020"

Let us know what your 'educational barriers' are (time, support, 'stuff' or funds...)

As there are a limited amount of funds each month, completed Applications will be considered on a case by case basis, as assessed and scored by the Barrier Reduction Committee and the University Chaplain. All requests are subject to the following requirements:

1. Services are available to students enrolled at an on-ground installation only (Ottawa, Kansas City, Phoenix or Surprise).

2. Current student status (can be less than full time).

3. If the student lives ‘off campus’, the “per household” rule with apply.

 

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Come visit our food bank on campus! After you fill out this order request, we will contact you to go over details and availability after the order is completed. If you would like faster service and direct information on current selection please contact us at Contact us at (785) 248-2461. Please feel free to stop by Atkinson Hall's Basement to contact us!

Need a jacket? Suit for a big interview? After you fill out this order request, we will contact you to go over details and availability after the order is completed. If you would like faster service and direct information on current selection please contact us at Contact us at (785) 248-2461. Please feel free to stop by Atkinson Hall's Basement to contact us!

Have some extra time? Volunteer with us! We always need volunteers to help in the following areas:

Food Bank Volunteer

Solve world hunger! Slow and steady wins the race, as they say. Come volunteer with TAU as we work together to provide food for those without. Help sort and restock the pantry, assisting in organization and distribution to help end hunger one small step at a time.

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In California, it doesn’t get this cold; many students come to Ottawa unprepared for Kansas’s frozen tundra. Bring some warmth back to winter and volunteer at TAU’s clothing bank. Here you can help sort clothing, take inventory, and spread the word about the resources we offer. I mean, who doesn’t like free clothes?