MAY 20TH, 2020
Today’s Devotion written by Jill Cowan
Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:4-9
I recently came across a YouTube video of a portion of the sung liturgy for Maariv, a Jewish evening prayer service. It’s called Ahavat Olam. Ben Platt (the original Evan Hansen, for you Broadway musical fans) sings it with his brothers, Jonah and Henry. The beauty of the music and harmonies captured me immediately, but being a lover of text, I wanted to know what the Hebrew meant. The translation follows:
Ahavat Olam (Eternal Love)
Eternal love for Your people, House of Israel,
Torah and Mitzvot, laws and precepts have You taught us.
Therefore, 0 God, when we lie down and when we rise up,
we will meditate on Your laws and rejoice in Your Torah and Mitzvot forever.
As is typical when one googles, I kept exploring other sites, listening to other arrangements of the song, and soon found myself reading an article by Rabbi Rachel Isaacs about Ahavat Olam and it’s parallel blessing – Ahava Rabbah, recited at Shacharit, the morning prayer service.
Rabbi Isaacs writes, “Both prayers are not only proclamations of God’s abundant and everlasting love for Israel, but also educational tools and theological polemics that affirm a deep and loving bond between God and the Jewish people.” She speaks of God’s love that is shown by giving instruction and the commandments that show people how to live, and goes on to say “God expresses love for Israel not only through setting and enforcing appropriate boundaries, but also by providing a Torah that begs for creativity, reinvention, and lifelong engagement. The passionate love between God and Israel is kept fresh and fragrant through manifold opportunities for reinvention and negotiation. The many layers of Torah allow our relationship with the divine to stay perpetually relevant because the complexity of our text demands constant engagement and personal investment.”
What a powerful expression of the Living Word and living in the Word – reading it again and again, discussing it, challenging it, sharing it, and reminding ourselves that God is not just in the text on the page, but in ALL of the doubt, debate, revelation, struggle, and of course, joy.
Rabbi Isaac ends by saying that these prayers “serve as daily reminders that God loves us in so many ways, and that the Torah is the physical and eternal evidence of that love. It is our challenge to embrace and speak of that love openly, and to keep the relationship with the divine alive through passionate interface, novel reinterpretation, and attentive listening.”
As Christians, we believe that Jesus IS the living Word – God’s Word made flesh – He is our physical and eternal evidence of that love. Jesus has shown us how to live out the Great Commandment (Deuteronomy 6:5), to which Jesus added the second commandment – You shall love your neighbor as yourself. What an honor and blessing to share that love and live out this commandment.
This recording of Ahavat Olam, arranged by Gabe Mann & Piper Rutman and sung by the Platt Brothers, has become my morning prayer during this season. I listen to it and/or sing it almost every morning and find myself humming it throughout the day. My hope is that it will be a blessing to you as well.
When we lie down, when we rise up, this joy will last forever.
*Quotes from Ahavat Olam and Ahavah Rabbah: How God Shows Us Love by Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, myjewishlearning.com
MAY 19TH, 2020
Today’s Devotion written by Pastor Dave Olson
Jesus prayed for his disciples, “ Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” John 17:11
This past Saturday night, we went in search of a good comedy to watch as a family. We chose the 1991 movie “City Slickers.” The movie, starring Billy Crystal as 39-year-old Mitch, is built around the theme of three middle-aged men whose friendship becomes the place where they try to put together the pieces of their lives. The three main characters are Mitch, who has lost any semblance of interest or passion for his life, his work or his family and becomes obsessed with the thought of growing old and dying; his friend Phil, who has spent his life doing what others told him to do and who is in the process of losing wife, job, family and home because of an affair; and friend Ed, whose search for ever-greater and more-dangerous adventures and ever-younger women never succeeds in filling the void left by his abuse and abandonment through his father. They have been friends since boyhood and have forged a strong bond of trust and loyalty through sharing their best and worst days together.
As he turns 39, Mitch becomes depressed as he discovers hair growing in his ears and more on his back and less on his head. His wife, weary of his fears about growing old, reminds him that when he turned 30, he thought he was going blind. When she asked him what he wanted for his 38th birthday, he said a CAT scan. When friends Phil and Ed give him the gift of a two-week vacation driving cattle from a ranch in New Mexico to Colorado, it conflicts with a preplanned family vacation. But his wife tells him, “I don’t want you with us. You’re not happy here. You’re not happy at work. Go and find your smile.”
On the cattle drive he is riding alongside the old trail boss, Curly, when he confides that he feels lost and trapped in his life. Curly shakes his head. “What are you, 38? 39? You all come up here with the same problem. You spend 50 weeks of the year getting knots in your rope and you come up here thinking this’ll untie them. None of you get it. Do you know what the secret to life is? This.” Curly holds up one index finger. “Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean nothin’.” “That’s great,” says Mitch, “but what’s the one thing?” Curly smiles, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.” Through a series of missteps and dangerous misadventures that follow, Mitch does.
These last months, we’ve gotten a lot of knots in our rope. More knots than a Scout troop earning their merit badges. More knots than my back muscles after three sit-ups and a push-up. More knots than a Las Vegas wedding chapel on a holiday weekend. So, what’s the secret? And what can we do about those saddle sores developed while sheltering in place? Like Mitch, Phil and Ed, we are all trying to orient ourselves to our lives together alongside those with whom we have shared our best and worst days together.
There was a trail boss from Nazareth named Jesus who once told his friends Mary and Martha that there was only one thing necessary (Luke 10:38-42). Poor Martha, he said, you are anxious and troubled about so many things. There is one thing needful that having chosen it, it will never be taken from you. What did Jesus mean? What is that one thing chosen that gives us the wisdom, comfort, hope, and purpose that will guide us through everything else? That’s for them and us to figure out.
Prayer: Lord, protect and guide us through these days. Bless our trails with companions we love and trust. You know our best days and our worst, you know each, and every, knot in our ropes, gift us with help and hope. We hold on to your promise that, at the end of the day and the days to come, you will bring your herd safely home. Amen.
MAY 18TH, 2020
Today’s Devotion written by Ketti Spehar
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.Joshua 1:9
Is it morning….? Is it Monday…? or July..? It’s still 2020… Did Amazon deliver the 50-pack of Snickers yet…? Where are my friends…. ? Is it bedtime… ? The snacks are gone… I need more chocolate… Is my state open or closed… ? Where am I? In this season, yes we are still in this season….
Do not be discouraged! It’s hard not to. I mean we are living Groundhog Day, the movie. It’s hard not to be in that icky place, you know that place, that place where it’s always the worst-case scenario all the time, where everything that can go wrong does. Where time stands still. It seems like overnight our world changed, Plexiglas dividers everywhere, masks, hand sanitizer, and FEAR. So much fear.
I have sheltered our children from going out into the world. It’s something that was easy for us to do. But as the weeks went on it became more difficult and they needed to get out as well. We decided that it would be OK for our eldest to venture out. We prepped him with a mask and social-distancing protocols. His big adventure was the hardware store. My husband brought him and I stayed in the car with the other kids. When he got back to the car after visiting the store, his whole mood had changed. He went from my sweet, fun, loving, always-positive, happy pre-teen to a sullen, confused, overwhelmed, child. I asked my son what happened, and he couldn’t put into words. It took the rest of the afternoon to process what happened and here’s what it was. His world, our world changed. It changed overnight. Our peaceful, trusting, happy, germ-filled world, changed. We went from silent smile exchanges to holding our breath and when another person walked by. We wear masks now and I never know how anyone is feeling. No one smiles, no one’s celebrating birthdays or babies, or graduations or anything. This is hard! This is heartbreaking and the fear is overwhelming and everywhere. But we are the lucky ones. We are lucky because we have our faith and we know God with us always. That’s what I told my son, as we sat down and processed his feelings after venturing out. We discussed that, yes, this too shall pass, and to be strong, and to not live in this fear place. That place where you let fear win and you lose sight of the good. Have faith that our world will be faith-filled and not fear-filled once again. Have faith that soon we will pass the plate in real-life, shake hands with one another and even worship together.
Do not be discouraged. He is with us always and He goes with us wherever we go. We are the lucky ones because we have Him. Imagine going through this without Him? Imagine the fear then? I have a panic attack just thinking about that. God is getting me through this, and He will get you through this as well. I will not be afraid, and I will not be discouraged.
In one of my Zoom meetings a colleague of mine said that she was having a hard time finding Him. Here’s the deal, He is out there; you just have to look a little harder (maybe behind a mask). Don’t be discouraged, just look; it’s the people making masks, it’s the guy who cashed his stimulus check and gave it to people walking into Aldi. It’s the hearts on the windows, it’s the kindness rocks, it’s the care calls we are making to seniors. God is everywhere. He is holding us strong and steady. Without Him we would be crumbling, but, my friends, we are holding strong and we are courageous for we have Him.
MAY 14TH, 2020
Today’s Devotion written by Pastor Lane Doerring
“Let us know, let us know the Lord; his going forth is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the Spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3
Anyone who does not believe in the resurrection of the dead, has not seen what rain can do to the desert or dry lands of Africa. Most of Africa has two seasons; the rainy season and the dry season, and there is no greater contrast than the contrast between these two.
During the dry season out on the plains everything dries up, turns to dust and blows away. When you drive across these areas you get dust in your eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Everything gets covered with it. You can’t pass the car in front of you because you can’t get close enough to see it in its cloud of dust that follows. Meeting another car is equally hazardous. Huge twisters or dust devils suck up dust from the ground and funnel it skyward. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Nothing could be deadlier.
But then a miracle happens. A miracle only God can perform. The rain comes! Already the next day the brown parched earth begins to bloom and turn green. The air becomes clear and sweet. Now you can see for miles. The plains are alive again. In the season of confinement, we too may feel dried up and dead. We long for a hug or some face-to face contact. We pray for rain – rain for our soul; and we can live in the hope that indeed God will bring us the water we need. Hosea says here that God will come! As the spring rain resurrects the dry plains, so God will put new life into our dry bones and raise us up to new life. The rain will come; wait patiently for God. I believe in the resurrection. I have seen the miracle of God performed upon nature and I know God can do that for me. So as Hosea says,”Let us press on to know the Lord.”
MAY 13TH, 2020
Today’s Devotion written by Heidi Busch
If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Although the disciples may not have understood at times, Jesus prepared his friends to walk through life without his physical presence. He knew from the beginning he would leave them to finish what he started, but he never intended to leave them alone. He promised a Friend, a constant Companion, a Counselor to guide them on the journey. The Holy Spirit was his parting gift to them, given in love, and with a promise of clarity and a life-giving force within them.
Whenever I reflect on the gift of the Holy Spirit, my mind immediately turns to Galatians 5. The fruit of the Spirit has always seemed both overwhelming and awe-inspiring at the same time. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…and without fail, my inner critic begins the dialogue. “I lost my temper this morning…self-control needs work. Patience has never been my strong suit…or gentleness. Joy? What even is that?!”
John, however, reminds me the Holy Spirit is a gift; given in love to those Jesus loves – me included! He knows personally the trials of human life, the temptations and struggles of the day-to-day, and he blesses us with a part of himself that abides with us in every moment. From this perspective, the fruit of the Spirit looks less like an impossible to-do list and more like a list of superpowers. When we turn inward to that small voice inside that reminds us we are not alone, encourages us when strength is running low, and compels us toward love, we radiate the peace, joy and kindness of His Spirit and grow closer to our fullest potential of Christ’s intentions for us.
Lord, remind me daily of the gift of your Spirit within me – the constant Companion that quietly abides. Tune my ears to the quiet nudges and whispers of your voice so that I may bear good fruit for the world.
MAY 12TH, 2020
Today’s Devotion written by Pastor Dave Olson
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
Psalm 139 is a psalm for our best and our worst days. Pay attention to all the words that have to do with knowing, being known or knowledge in the first grouping of verses. You have a God who knows you…KNOWS you even better than a parent knows you. Knows you, abides with you, loves you. Desires you to know, love and abide with Jesus. Desires us to know, love and abide with each other in the same spirit and boldness as God shows towards us.
Look next to the second grouping where the poet/songwriter is saying that “not only do you know me, God, but wherever I go and whatever I do, even when I feel like running away from you or life is so dark that you seem to have run from me, there you are…pursuing me, seeking me, abiding with me, shining light even in my darkest moments.”
Here’s what I love about this psalm. I can be at the ends of the earth, the end of my rope, the end of the line, the end of all hopefulness and “even there God’s hand shall lead me, and God’s right hand shall hold me fast. When it’s lights out and the darkness is surrounding me so thick and complete, God has no trouble seeing me and showing me the way. When I have resolved to run away from God or just wandered away, God came for me. Stayed with me, abided with me. And miracle of miracles, still loved me. Miracle of miracles, God knows me at my best and my worst, and God will not let me go.
We make it clear to our Confirmation students that our goal over these three years is not to know information about Jesus, but to know Jesus. To know, not like a scientist knows science, but like a child knows her parent, the God who has created them, knows them, loves them…even when they are not lovable…forgives them even when they are convinced they are not forgivable…and a God who may let you run but who will never let you go. It is the heart and soul of what Jesus said was the Good News.
God, you know us and you know all the distractions, distortions, and dysfunctions in our lives and in our world. Show us your nearness and your care. Open our eyes to all who may feel separated or abandoned by you or by the world. Put us where you need us to be. Let any darkness in these days find Light and Hope from you. Amen.
MAY 11TH, 2020
Today’s Devotion written by Pastor Brenda Legred
Jesus said: God will give you another Advocate to be with you forever—John 14:16b.
When 13-year-old Natalie Gilbert stood up to sing the National Anthem at an NBA playoff game, she belted out the first verse and then her mind went blank. Her eyes filled with tears, and the coach for the Trailblazers, Maurice Cheeks, got up and began to sing with her and then invited the whole crowd to sing. Cheeks said afterward, “I really can’t hold a tune and I didn’t know the words, but I just didn’t want her to be alone out there.” (Gilbert went on to study at the American Musical Theatre Academy in New York.)
As Jesus said goodbye to his disciples, he promised that God would send another helper so they would never have to live life on their own. Just as the coach came along side Natalie, God’s Spirit (the Advocate) comes alongside us.
Our high school choir director loved the song, You’ll Never Walk Alone. So you can imagine that we sang this song at almost every concert.
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone.
Whether we are experiencing a storm or a time of peace, God’s Spirit lives in us, abides with us, and walks alongside us. You will never walk alone.
MAY 7TH, 2020
Today’s Devotion written by Kara Paulson
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14: 6,7
I, rather famously, have no sense of direction. I can go into a building and when I come out again, I will not know which way I came in. Don’t bother to tell me that something is east, south or west, because you’ll be wasting your time. Yet, in spite of this deficiency, I can really only think of one time when I felt utterly and completely lost.
I must have been six or seven. My neighbor, Shawn O’Halloran, and I were playing in our little town of Plains, Montana (population about 1,000) when we suddenly realized we had traveled beyond our boundaries to a part of town we hadn’t been in before. We were lost! After a few minutes, Shawn decided to take off in a direction that did not seem right to me, so I stayed where I was, alone. I can still see Shawn walking away, pulling his sweater up over his head like a hood, and I can still recall that feeling of not knowing where to go, what to do, or which way to turn.
Lucky for me, I didn’t have to stand there long before one of the high school girls I knew from church came by, recognized me, and brought me home, but the fact that this still is so clear in my mind after all these decades tells me that it was a pretty significant, emotional event – the fear and desolation that come with being lost and the joy of being found.
The news keeps telling us this is an “unprecedented time.” We’re beyond our boundaries and traversing terrain that’s unfamiliar. Some days it’s easy to feel lost, like Thomas, and to need that reassurance that we will find the right path. May we find joy today in knowing that when we are lost, God goes looking for us. May we remember that when we don’t know what to do or which way to turn, God is there to show us the way, to call us by name, and to lead us safely home.
Almighty God, your love never fails, and you can turn the shadow of death into daybreak. Help us to receive your word with believing hearts, so that, confident in your promises, we may have hope and be lifted out of sorrow into the joy and peace of your presence. – LBW p 84
MAY 6TH, 2020
Today’s Devotion written by Brenda Lund
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
(The Message) Psalm 23:6
I love that vision. I am a child of God, and He will pursue a relationship with me whether I return those feelings or not. Whether my actions are worthy of his love or not – He will not let me go. I find peace in those assurances – I am one of His beloved.
I’ve been thinking about Easter a lot lately. Not so much the one day, but the Easter “season.” When I looked up the definition of Easter, I was delighted to learn that it is the Latin word for dawn. “In spring, dawns mark the beginning of days that will outlast the nights and those dawns erupt in the east” (Time Magazine, 4/15/17). I’m an early riser and eagerly open the blinds each morning to see what colors and sunshine God will display. Knowing now that each dawn is actually a daily Easter is a beautiful way to start my day. A little reminder from God that I am worthy and to find ways to share love with those around me.
Easter is also a time of transformation in my mind. The season of Easter resides firmly in the Gregorian season of Spring – both “seasons” signaling new birth, new beginnings, and new life. As I reflect back on the past year, I see that my husband and I have been traversing an Easter season of our own as our boys have moved away from home. About a year ago, we sold our family home of 20+ years and jumped into empty nesting. Realizing we needed some time to transition to a new reality and wanting to keep our options open, we decided to rent a house instead of buying something different right away. What a journey it has been!
After initial disappointment with our rental searches, we tried our luck on Craigslist. On a cold, dreary, overcast March morning, we took a drive. The first house we looked at had a brief description and no photos (should have been a sign to us), but it was in an area we thought we might like. From first sight we knew it was a sad, sad, sad little house – dark, covered windows, unshoveled walkways, and the remains of a dead animal in the screened porch proved to be only the beginning. A sad, sad, sad little man introduced himself as the property owner. I didn’t even consider taking my coat or my shoes off. Every indication said “RUN!” And we did – for a day or two. But something kept drawing us back to the disheveled little house in the wonderful spot with large pines out front, water views from three sides, and the narrow meandering streets filled with an eclectic mix of humble family homes, shiny new lake homes, seasonal cottages, and more than a few fixer uppers. But we weren’t sure it was “worthy” of housing our family.
Long story short, we worked out a deal with a hesitant, disbelieving landlord and got to work painting, cleaning, and hauling junk away. A few months later the unworthy, unloved, and badly mistreated house had begun to evolve into a home. A place where our family and friends can now gather and relax together. A year later, we are happy we took the leap and worked to transform the sad little house into a place where love lives again. It will never be a builder’s dream creation or even a diamond in the rough, but hopefully this little house will continue to be “worth it” for a young family or another empty nester couple even after we no longer live in it.
I think that’s how God works in our lives. His spirit lives within us – he “chases” us – whether we acknowledge Him or not, and every Easter season He reminds us that He loves us so much that He gave His own son to die for our sins. His world is there for us to transform and reveal to others whenever we’re willing to give something of ourselves and “do the work.” It’s certainly not required in order for God to love us – that’s the amazing thing about grace – but it sure makes our world a more beautiful place. And isn’t that what we all need a little bit of every day?
My prayer for you this day:
Let it be here
that safety will rest.
Let it be here
that health will make its home.
Let it be here
that peace will show its face.
Let it be here
that love will find its way. (Jan Richardson “The Year as a House: A Blessing”)
MAY 5TH, 2020
Today’s Devotion written by Cassandra Morgan
John 14:1-6 (NIV)
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
When my daughter, Emerlyn, was turning seven years old, my ex-wife decided to move home to Iowa to be closer to both of our families. The choice was given to Emerlyn to stay here in Minnesota or move to Iowa. She chose lovingly to move to Iowa to be nearer to her baby cousins and to be in the larger family’s community. I knew I had a big choice to make – move back to Iowa to be closer to Emerlyn or stay in Minnesota and continue building my life here. The truth is, I never have had any intention of moving back to Iowa; not because I didn’t love my life there, but because I had chosen to move to Minneapolis for specific reasons, and I am still fulfilling those paths. My work here isn’t done, yet.
I have been in different states from my daughter for three years now, and it has been a huge time of growth for me. In the beginning, weeks would pass between visits and my heart would ache uncontrollably. I constantly battled with judging myself as a bad parent, selfish for staying in Minnesota. It was so hard on ME. I missed her so completely and those emotions spilled out into anger, frustration, anxiety, resentment and self-pity. As time passed, I began to see things in a new way. Emerlyn LOVES living in Iowa, and even though we miss each other terribly, she is happy and healthy and where she wants to be. She is thriving as a vivacious ten-year old young lady and she loves life. I had to step back and appreciate her happiness even if it caused me sadness from time to time; I had to allow her happiness to be “enough” for me. This is a selflessness that many parents struggle with, and it is tough to handle from time to time.
Throughout this quarantine, new levels of time apart have come to be. I have not seen Emerlyn since January of this year. We had a long visit scheduled over spring break in March, but plans changed when the world stopped. We are currently living in a stasis of unknown length and we encounter each day with wonder of what comes next. For a couple of weeks in March, I survived each day filled with anxiety, worrying about when the next time I would get to see Em would be. I had to let that planning notion go; there are other plans at work. My eyes have been opened to a few different things. One of them being accepting and appreciating the unknown. I am a planner; I always have been. Not being able to plan creates stress deep in my bones. However, I AM starting to find the joy in sitting still and being silent. I have found that while missing my beloved Iowans so dearly, I am doing my part for the greater good by just being still. This is something I can handle, and I have control over this.
I have been asked by a few people, “Can’t you just go see her?” and while, yes, I suppose I could, I am not going to. I am helping teach Emers what it means to sacrifice for others’ well-being. Emerlyn’s isolation bubble includes those blessed baby cousins she loves so much, as well as grandparents, and I will not sacrifice any of their well-being for my own desire to see my daughter. Once again, I am trying to be selfless in a time I want nothing more than to be with Em. This is a strange place to find myself.
During this time at home, I have found myself praying more heartfelt, thoughtful prayers than ever before. I find myself laying down at His feet each day, giving up control in a time full of unknown and worry. For the first time in my life, the idea of “giving it up” to God makes more sense than ever before. We don’t have all the answers, but we sure do have a lot of guidance in Scripture: Be kind, help your neighbor, feed the poor, shelter the homeless, give to those in need… stay home to help protect those who are susceptible. These are things we CAN do right now; We are given direction, and we are given support. If we work each day to be Christlike in thought, word and action, WE ARE the way, just as Christ is the way! We have everything we need right here and now to do what is asked of us. We must trust and look up to the One with answers, giving up the desire for control.
As our hearts fill with trouble and worry, grant us your peace. We do not always trust in the path we are living; help us to trust you without fear or doubt. Help us to know what is good and right and push us to stretch our boundaries wider. When the world feels chaotic and overwhelming, help us to see your light in the darkness. Help us to be more like You each day, showing others the way.
And all God’s people say, Amen!
MAY 4TH, 2020
Today’s Devotion written by Mark Abelsen
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
When I was growing up in the 90s, a very popular movie at the time was A Few Good Men. Many of you might remember the iconic scene when Tom Cruise, a military lawyer defending two U.S. marines, is questioning Jack Nicholson, a respected Colonel on the witness stand – the tension is rising through the questioning and finally Tom Cruise yells “I want the truth!” and Nicholson yells back – “You can’t handle the truth!” Maybe it is weird or it tells you how much my mind wanders, but I kept thinking about this scene the other day in our staff, text study when we were reflecting on the Scripture passage in John 14 when Jesus says; “I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life…” – Jesus is “the truth” and I guess sometimes I can’t handle that! I also think we are shown over and over again in the Gospel stories that a lot of people Jesus crossed paths with couldn’t handle him or the truth he was spreading. He pushed the envelope and did things he should not have done with people he should not have been doing them with in the name of love and grace and life. To me, there is a certain degree of discomfort and a challenge in some of the truth that Jesus is calling us to be a part of.
One of the things I appreciate most about what Pastor Dave preaches over and over again here at Mount Calvary is the idea that if you ever hear someone claiming they know for certain or have all the answers or own “the truth” when it comes to faith, religion, spirituality, etc. – you should turn and run the other direction. There is only one truth we talk about at Mount Calvary and that is Jesus: The one who became flesh and demonstrated a life full of grace and truth. I imagine we are all seeking truth on some level, I know I am for sure. When I find myself getting bogged down with regret, overthinking choices or fretting the future, I try to remind myself that nothing I possess or achieve, none of the mistakes I have made are what is important. What’s important is the truth that Jesus points me to. That truth which allows me to live freely, to love large and to give myself and others a little bit of grace once in a while. What a relief to rest in the assurance that Jesus again and again shows me the way to go, the way to be. Although it can be hard to handle and uncomfortable at times, thanks be to God that truth is a stubborn thing.
I first heard the Chris Rice song Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus) when I started leading the MC Saturday Band several years ago but it has been awhile since I pulled it out of my file. I sat down at the piano and recorded this last week and it struck me how beautifully this sums up and reminds us that throughout our life from birth to death, through joys and sorrow as sinners and saints, it never changes that Jesus IS the Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen!
So, I offer a few lyrics and this recording to you as my prayer today – hope to see you soon.
Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and Live!
Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!
O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!
MAY 2ND, 2020
Today’s Devotion written by Pastor Brenda Legred
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (John 10:3b).
Every day the shepherd leads the sheep out of the sheepfold. The more accurate translation for leads is “kicks.” The shepherd “kicks” them out so they can find food and water—abundant life. They have to leave what is safe and secure in order to be fed.
Do you know that most spring birds “kick” their offspring out of the nest when they are teaching them to fly?
Sometimes you and I need prodding and persuasion to leave the cozy and convenient spaces we have made for ourselves—both physical and spiritual. It was certainly true of the disciples. We know of times they hung out in locked rooms or ran to the security of their boats to escape the crowds and the needs of the world.
Jesus knows we will find abundant food for our souls when we trade in old habits and old-hat routines for new ventures.
This time of year we celebrate graduations with or without ceremonies. Seniors will step into unknown futures and the world will still turn. Young people will show us how to move into uncertain days with energy and expectation. Perhaps together we’ll “dream of a future so fitting and so just that our desire will bring it into being” (Praise to the Rituals that Celebrate Change, Poet Dana Gioia).
Dear Good Shepherd, Fill us with a Spirit of adventure and trust in how you are leading us to new learnings and horizons. Amen.